How do I handle this situation at work without looking like a jerk?
July 18, 2011 2:46 PM   Subscribe

How do I handle this situation without looking like a jerk? We have a new person at work. This person will need a laptop and the company will purchase it. I have a laptop purchased by our company, but it's about 2-3 years old. I'd like to get a new laptop as mine is somewhat outdated, but the if I get a new one, the company wants me to give my old one to the new person. How do I handle this? I'm going to be in charge of the transfer and this new person will see that I am getting a new one while he is getting my old one. I don't want to look like a jerk. What do I say? Help?
posted by focus to Work & Money (34 answers total)
$10 says the new person just takes the old laptop you give him/her and says, "cool, thanks!"
posted by mauvest at 2:49 PM on July 18, 2011 [15 favorites]

What situation are you trying to deal with here?

Is the problem that you are getting a new laptop and giving them your old one? That's pretty normal...
posted by devnull at 2:50 PM on July 18, 2011

Honestly, I feel like new people get hand-me-down technology all the time. In my lab we think of our computers as a "pool" (like a vehicle pool). They're assigned and reassigned as necessary, with new computers becoming available and old computers being phased out, with allocation fitting seniority and need.

If it makes you feel better, tell yourself that you're getting a new laptop, at which point your old laptop is unused/available. The new person gets the best available machine, which just happen to be yours in the past.
posted by supercres at 2:51 PM on July 18, 2011

That doesn't sound like jerk-territory to me. Every office I've worked in works this way - new person gets existing equipment (assuming it works and can handle the kinds of programs it needs to), more senior people get newer stuff. It's normal.
posted by rtha at 2:51 PM on July 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

I think it depends on who the new person is.

If they're young and it's an entry level-ish position, they get the hand-me-down laptop. No explanation necessary.

If it's someone experienced who you're excited to have on your team, suck it up and let them have the new laptop.
posted by auto-correct at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a sysadmin, so consider my perspective:

1) You are a jerk, somewhat. What you're saying is "I'm more important, so I should have a new laptop". It's ok, everyone does it, I do it, but that's what you're saying.

2) If your laptop is already 3 years old, it's got maybe 1 year of useful life left before it needs to be replaced anyway.

3) So, if this is a case of "use this until we figure out what you'll be doing day-to-day", that's fine. If you're going to have trouble scrounging up money to replace it next year, well, it's kind of a dick move.
posted by Oktober at 2:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't feel weird about getting an old computer, but I would want to receive it from an IT department that had wiped the OS and made it cosmetically look "like new". What you describe would feel almost as odd as being given a hand-me-down toothbrush.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:55 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is the new hire getting a used one no matter what? Or only if you give yours up?
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:56 PM on July 18, 2011

Last In, Shittiest Laptop. That's just how it is.

But yeah, clean it up and all first. (And my clean it up, I mean get your stuff off/reinstall it AND wipe it down with some cleaner and some paper towels. An old boss of mine and I still joke about the machine we got back from a salesman and dubbed the Snotbook.)
posted by Lyn Never at 2:58 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah, this is SOP at pretty much every job I've had. Unless New Guy is going to be doing something intensive that you're not (video editing versus word processing), he shouldn't be surprised.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 2:59 PM on July 18, 2011

"This is the laptop that you've been assigned." What more needs to be said?
posted by hermitosis at 3:00 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been low-man on the totem pole plenty of times. When handed the old tech, I've always assumed that's just the breaks. It's usually company policy. I just wished the person with the new tech well and enjoyed their enjoyment.

P.S. Enjoy!
posted by _paegan_ at 3:03 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, this is SOP at my workplace as well. You shouldn't feel like a jerk. Them's the breaks, newbie.
posted by Falwless at 3:13 PM on July 18, 2011

People with the greater need should get the better equipment. Usually, people with more experience are more productive anyway, so it makes financial sense to give it to them most of the time. At most companies, this is how it works. Often, newer employees get older computers, so this isn't shocking.

On the other hand, you could possibly analyze the situation to see what kind of business-sense this makes. If your computer is obsolescent (i.e., doesn't work anymore for its intended purpose or is unreliable) then it may not be fiscally prudent to do anything other than zero-out (or destroy) the hard drive and sell what's left while it still has at least some value. As part of this case, you should also consider the tax consequences. The business has probably already gotten the maximum tax benefit from your old equipment.
posted by Hylas at 3:19 PM on July 18, 2011


you get a new one. you give the new person the old one. end of story.
posted by violetk at 3:20 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

If it makes you feel any better, the new guy would (probably) feel even guiltier and more worried about resentment if he got the new one and saw that you were stuck with an old one.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 3:23 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I started my job, my boss moved out of his old office and I moved into it. My reaction was: "Wow, I just started here and I already have an office that was good enough for my boss! Cool!"

To directly answer your question, you don't need to handle this in any special way in order not to look like a jerk. You aren't a jerk. No one will think you are. More senior people at a job always get nicer stuff. That's life.
posted by John Cohen at 3:24 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, hand-me-downs are common practice and not a problem at all. In fact, at my job, I just got moved from a desktop to a laptop because I'm going out on the road more often. I'm a manager, I answer to the owner of the company and that's about it -- but the laptop I got is the old laptop of the tech who set it up for me, and is significantly less-powered than the desktop it replaced.

My reaction, internally, and not said out loud: "Well, it'd have been nice to get a new laptop, but this is what I get, and it does everything I need it to do, so...oh well." And then I move on.

There's no situation to be "dealt with" -- and, really, if the laptop truly prevented me from doing my job, I'd go to my boss about it, not the guy who set up the laptop for me.
posted by AzraelBrown at 3:25 PM on July 18, 2011

If I were in your shoes, I'd give the new hire the new laptop without a moment's consideration. Corporate SOP be damned. I want my coworkers to be as happy and productive as possible. Nothing worse for a new hire than to be reminded they're at the bottom of the pecking order. Plus, you're making more work for your IT dept -- they have to clean up your computer just to give it to somebody else.
posted by ldenneau at 3:29 PM on July 18, 2011

I start a new job tomorrow. (After 3 years of unemployment -- yay!) I will be shocked if they give me new equipment to start out with. Like everyone says, this is SOP.
posted by trip and a half at 3:30 PM on July 18, 2011

One more thought. When would someone who's new at a job complain about the equipment they're given? Only if it's specifically deficient in some way that makes their job harder: "This darn thing never does what I want it to!" In contrast, someone brand new at a job is not going to complain: "Yes this equipment is shiny and wonderful and does exactly what I need it to, but someone who's been working here for 5 years has an even more shiny and wonderful one of those!" Look, if the computer is not working right somehow, then deal with that, but that would be a separate issue and you've given no indication that that's the case.
posted by John Cohen at 3:33 PM on July 18, 2011

If someone joined you and your friends at breakfast, would you give them your half-drunk cup of coffee and commandeer the fresh cup the waiter provided?
posted by gyusan at 3:35 PM on July 18, 2011

I don't know what kind of policy your company or office has regarding employee purchases. Does everybody get a company-owned computer? Does your purchasing dept or whoever handles these transactions have to keep an inventory of what was bought and when? Does the company have a policy of "refreshing" employee computers after a certain duration?

At my office there is a 3-year "refresh" on employee computers, pending the availability of funds. Workers will make do with what they have until they are deemed eligible for a new computer. New employees will often require a brand-new computer, especially if the pool of older computers was sent out for e-cycling. When this happens nobody complains, because everybody else knows that they'll get theirs soon enough.

When I started, I got a hand-me-down from an employee who just had their refresh. Unfortunately, there wasn't any money to buy me a new one, so I had to continue using an older computer. I didn't mind because the machine still worked, and thanks to the established policy I knew I was practically "first in line" for the next eligible refresh.

I guess it all boils down to your work environment. If you have no policy on equipment and hand-me-downs, do you at least have a sense of how much money is available for new purchases? You say your current machine is "somewhat outdated," which can be read as "mostly serviceable," so maybe you let the new employee get his shiny laptop, and in another year request for yours? Models change often enough that you'll probably get something better anyway?
posted by CancerMan at 3:41 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are obviously not a jerk, and that will soon be apparent to the new person regardless of how you handle the computer issue.

But I would give them the new computer, and use this as an excuse to buy a laptop for myself I could use at work and assert privacy rights over should it ever come to that.
posted by jamjam at 3:42 PM on July 18, 2011

"Welcome to the company! Here's your laptop!"
posted by The Deej at 3:45 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take this easy quiz to find out if you are being a jerk by giving the new person at work and old lappy!

1. The new person is...
A. Superior to me
B. Equal to me
C. Subordinate to me

2. The new person's job is...
A. Techier than mine
B. Just as techy as mine
C. Less techy than mine

3. The new person experience level in the field is...
A. Veteran
B. Decent
C. Rookie

4. Our company is...
A. Lucky to have gotten the new person
B. A decent fit for the new person
C. Doing the new person a favor by hiring them

5. The decision to give me a new computer and shift my old one to the new person was...
A. Totally mine
B. Influenced by me
C. Not up to me

Give yourself 2 points for every A, 1 point for every B, and 0 points for every C, then consult the chart below!

10 - 7 points: You are being a selfish jerk, and you should reconsider what this decision will do to the new person's morale.

6 - 4 points: Could be awkward. Play it off to the new person like this is just the way things are at your company, and that it was IT's decision to give them the hand-me-down.

0 - 3 points: Not a jerk! They are probably happy to get their own computer at all, so don't sweat it!
posted by Rock Steady at 3:52 PM on July 18, 2011 [15 favorites]

What do I say?
"Seniority. Welcome aboard!"

That's just how it goes. If he new person stays with your company long enough, s/he can look forward to the day when they get to hand the newb his/her old computer. Don't sweat it.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 4:52 PM on July 18, 2011

Can you stall?

* new person comes in, gets new lappy
* 3 months from now, yours 'gets weird' and you get a new one.
* old lappy goes to the 'loaner' pool.

(assuming the company's back won't be broken by one extra laptop, of course. YMMV)
posted by gregglind at 4:55 PM on July 18, 2011

If someone joined you and your friends at breakfast, would you give them your half-drunk cup of coffee and commandeer the fresh cup the waiter provided?

Yeah, totally analogous.

Look, this is standard. They're new, they don't get the latest stuff, you do. Don't feel bad about it, and don't be weird about it, just act casual.
posted by Dasein at 5:13 PM on July 18, 2011

Wow. I'm actually a little surprised. At my company, all new employees get new equipment. The only people that get old shit are contractors (sad to say).

We also have a refresh program. When your computer/phone/whatever gets to be around 4 years old, you get the latest and greatest.
posted by SoulOnIce at 6:03 PM on July 18, 2011

In my IT Dept., we try to avoid this, as transferring data and licenses is a pain. However, you can ease the pain by asking to have extra RAM installed, and asking IT to reformat & reinstall, which will make the old laptop behave as well as possible. Adding RAM is usually pretty cheap and easy. Also, an older laptop almost certainly no longer holds a battery charge, so ask them to replace that, as well.
posted by theora55 at 6:14 PM on July 18, 2011

This person is brand new in the office? Surely they won't complain in their first week!

This is standard. The new person is not your friend, you don't have to work hard to please them. The new person doesn't even really know you.
posted by dave99 at 7:40 PM on July 18, 2011

If I was newly hired, I wouldn't find it weird to get an old laptop while a coworker with more seniority and responsibilities just got a new laptop.

I would, however, find it very weird and insulting if my laptop still had the coworker's login and data on it, and that coworker emailed me every time to send them a file on the old computer that they forgot to copy on the new computer. So when you switch over to the new computer, copy everything over and reset the old computer completely.
posted by meowzilla at 8:57 PM on July 18, 2011

The relevant question is - If this person were not newly hired, would you be getting a new laptop on the company's dime anyway?

If not, then you're taking advantage of the situation. Wait until it's your turn or your laptop is out of commission.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:07 AM on July 19, 2011

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