Shoveling out a Colleague

Q: I work for a small start-up. All of us do everything all the time! Recently there was a snowstorm. Our building maintenance team did a poor job of plowing. There were a few employees who had cars that got plowed in. Our CEO asked us all to chip in to shovel out the plowed in cars so people could get out. I think we should have just paid for cabs for them to get home. Have you ever heard of employees being asked to shovel out the cars of co-workers?

A: Many of us have been stressed by snow storms this winter. The snow has created chaos with travel schedules, work commitments and the challenges of working at home when you are typically not a telecommuter.

As you mention, some employees have had their vehicles plowed in. I know some of my clients received mandates, which came from commercial landlords. In short, the mandate is “move all employee and visitor cars by X time or they will be towed.” I am wondering if your CEO received such a message but perhaps did not communicate this instruction. Plows struggle with clearing parking lots if many cars are left there, especially for several days. As I recall, during a recent blizzard, there was a parking ban in Boston and cars were towed if they were left on the street overnight. My guess is that your CEO faced a similar situation.

I have heard of co-workers pitching in to ensure a colleague can move their car. Usually the shoveling is done on a volunteer basis and those with bad backs or other physical challenges are exempt. Often there are not enough shovels to go around so the effort is shared among many. Depending on the number of employee stuck and where they lived, cabs could get expensive. Additionally, cab service may have been hard to come by since cabs are often in great demand during storms. Start-ups are usually watching every penny so cab rides for all are unusual.

I just hope the groundhog is wrong! Go Pats!


Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.