tiny answer Tuesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Sending work emails during a tragedy

(Sent on Monday.) I’m in Boston, but many of my colleagues work out of our Boston office. Can you think of a good way to handle work emails today? Our office was far away from the explosions, but that doesn’t mean that some people weren’t out there today, or that they don’t know someone there today.

I have a lot of business I need to address, and I don’t want to let it fall behind. That said, I also don’t want to come across as callous or insensitive, and I am genuinely concerned that people from my office (or somebody they love) might have been affected. Can you think of a good way to be empathetic but still professional? Or should I just wait until later to send these emails? For what it’s worth, everybody in the Boston office has probably left for the day and will not see any communication from me until tomorrow.

I think that’s entirely up to what you’re comfortable with. Different people respond differently in these situations. There’s nothing wrong with putting things on hold that can be put on hold, and there’s nothing wrong with continuing with your normal work, either. That said, if you can wait a day to send those emails, it’s probably a good way to go.

2. Employer requires internal interviews to be done on unpaid time

I work for a large (1,000-2,000 employees) nonprofit in Texas. At our department’s staff meeting recently, we were informed that all internal interviews were going to be off-the-clock as a cost savings measure.

While I understand that an interview with an external candidate would be unpaid (though it sure would be nice!), these positions are almost always filled internally. Of the 30 positions filled in the past five years, only two were by outside candidates. So, is it legal?

You know, I have no idea; I’ve never seen this addressed before. My hunch is that it is indeed legal, but that’s nothing more than a hunch. Of course, if you’re exempt, they can’t dock your pay (but they can make you use PTO for the time). It’s a pretty silly policy though — it’s a good way to make people feel nickel-and-dimed while not saving the organization very much money at all.

3. Should I suggest to my boss that she work out her differences with my coworker?

My boss (Jane) and coworker (John) have a terrible communication problem. They are both telling everybody, except each other, what the problem is. Since they haven’t talked, I sense a blow up coming. It is review time, and I have indications that this will be when Jane tells John everything she is unhappy with. Unfortunately at that point Jane will have already sent it to the big boss for approval which will make it very hard to take back. I know John has valid reasons for some of the actions that he will be graded harshly on but since they are both too proud to speak, John won’t get to discuss those reasons until its too late. They used to be coworkers, and Jane was recently promoted to now being John’s boss. We all keep hearing from Jane how John also applied for Jane’s job and that he might have hard feelings. They used to be friends.

Should I suggest to my boss that she and my coworker and a bottle of Reisling need to sit down together and talk before she does his review?

These are grown-ups and this has nothing to do with you (in fact, it’s hard to imagine something that has less to do with you), so you should stay out of it and leave them to resolve it on their own.

4. Employee wants to work from home while caring for a baby

I have an employee I supervise who is pregnant, and we are discussing her options for work after her child is born. Our company is very small, with only 6 employees (so FMLA doesn’t apply), and this is the first time we’ve had a pregnant employee. This will be her first child. One of the options is her working from home part or all of the time. I told her that we would expect her to still have childcare while she was working from home, and she’s being a bit resistant to this (probably because of the expense, not because she’s an unreasonable person or problem employee), and asked where I heard this was the norm. Do you have any links from additional sources I can point her to that shows this happens at other companies? I thought it was pretty obvious that you can’t do your job and look after a newborn and do both 100%, but since I am also not a mother, I can’t speak with authority on how difficult I believe trying to do that would be.

Also, I would appreciate any advice you/your readers have on balancing compassion/understanding for an employee who’s about to be a new mother with the fact that we are a really small company that will really feel the pinch of an employee being gone for awhile. Since FMLA doesn’t apply, we’re just trying to figure out what is most fair for everyone (including those of us who will have to pick up her work while she is gone), with regards to maternity leave (including length and pay), what happens when she returns, etc. I don’t think her and her husband can afford to not have her work at least part time, so her just leaving altogether isn’t a possibility.

I would be very, very worried that she thinks she can work from home without any child care for an infant. And you are absolutely right that most teleworking policies require that teleworking employees have separate arrangements for child care. You can find confirmation of this here or here, or in any of the numerous policies from the many companies and government agencies that post their teleworking policies online, like this, this, or this. (Search for “child” in all of these.)

As for figuring out her leave, I’d come up with a policy that will apply to all parental leaves going forward, not just hers. Paid maternity leave in the U.S. is unusual, although some companies do offer it. Generally employees use any accrued PTO they have, which they can supplement with short-term disability insurance (which you should have; if you don’t, now’s the time to get it), and take the rest unpaid. As for the length of her leave, regardless of pay, figure out what you can reasonably offer without undue hardship to the business or other staff.

5. Should I start job searching if a jerk is hired to replace my manager?

My boss recently left our team. She was fantastic. I’m learning more and more that good bosses are hard to come by and she really was a rare breed. Making the transition more difficult is knowing that of the final 2 candidates, one of them is a real jerk. This person would likely make my life at my current job (which I really like!) near hell. I’ve been at this place for 1.5 years after a really difficult 4 year stint at a job I hated. I interviewed for jobs for 3 years until I found this one finally. I like it, and I had intended to park myself here for a while. It’s a great organization with a ton to learn.

What can I expect from a new boss coming in to manage a team that’s already set in place? I’ve been warned that if this jerky person gets hired, I should not waste anytime and get the heck out of dodge. When do I know if I have to jump ship? I really did not want to be doing a job search yet. (By the way, I’m 30, 7 years of experience.)

Wait and see how things play out. Don’t make any decisions prematurely; if this person is hired, give her some time and see what happens. You might find that things are much more bearable than you thought, or you might not. But there’s no reason to leave until you know for sure that you want to.

6. Employers ask to schedule interviews and then never get back to me

I’ve been job-hunting for a while now, and on multiple occasions I’ve been contacted by a prospective employer I’d applied or sent an inquiry to, saying they liked my work/resume/etc., and would like to set up an interview/meeting/chat. If they don’t suggest a date or time and leave it to me, I try to respond back promptly and politely, generally saying something along the lines of: “Thank you for your reply, and I would be happy to meet with you. How does (I suggest a date and general time of day — usually 1-3 days away) work for you? Otherwise, I’ll be available any time (give them a time range, usually the whole next week or the remainder of the week) at your earliest convenience.”

Then all of a sudden, I never get a response. Even if I responded to them 5-10 minutes following their email to me. This has happened to me two or three times now, and I’m starting to really worry that it’s more than a string of bad luck. Am I going about this all wrong, coming off too demanding or aggressive? Could this even be a sign that a reference or past employer is giving me a bad reference? Or is this a problem on their end? Either way, I’m unsure what I should do in a situation like this — should I try to follow up again after a few days or a week, or just move on?

This is actually pretty normal, believe it or not. You’re either dealing with people who are horribly unorganized, or they’ve already booked their desired number of phone interviews for the position before you get back to them. Either way, it’s really rude, but it’s also really, really common.

You can certainly try following up after a couple of days, but then I’d move on.

7. Asking an interviewer to put in a good word for me for another job

I had a very successful couple interviews with a city government office for “Congressman Jim.” I was one of the final three candidates for the position (and the only one they were considering without a Master’s degree). The interviews were friendly and warm — we got along great! They didn’t wind up hiring anyone because their budget was downsized due to the sequestration, but they assured me they really liked me and hoped to be in touch when the budget is normalized. Now I see an almost identical position posted at another city government office, for “Assemblyman Steve.” Jim and Steve are close but not coworkers: Jim was a mentor to Steve, but now Jim works in national politics and Steve works very locally. Would it be appropriate to ask the director of Jim’s office, who managed the hiring process and interviewed me, to put in a good word for me at Steve’s office?

Yes. Normally I would say no, your interviewers don’t know you well enough to do that, but in this particular case, you built a great rapport with them and they want to keep in touch.

{ 171 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessa

    #1 – I’m with Alison on this one. If it can wait, let it wait. If it can’t wait, send it. If you know the people personally, say you hope they’re okay. But some business has deadlines. People understand that.

      1. Nichole

        Also agree. Depending on your field, someone who was strongly impacted in some way (beyond the sadness of the event in general) is likely to be out of the office, so they won’t see your message until they are prepared to deal with work-related contacts anyway.

        1. Jenn

          I agree, but figured out a solution on my end for sending emails. I work in California and was reaching out to new contacts today, including people who could or could not have been in Boston (I couldn’t individually verify). So, in those emails I included this line after the boiler plate of looking forward to hearing from them: “In the meantime I hope any of your family members, friends or colleagues in Boston are safe and well today.” I did in fact get a couple of responses with people verifying they had been there or other similar experiences, and still replying to my original questions. And it made me feel a little less like a jerk for reaching out on a day like today. It’s also something to keep in mind that some people feel the need to work even when disaster strikes, just in the interest of keeping their mind off of it.

  2. Ali_R

    The ability to focus on work with a newborn is an entirely different situation from working with a 6 month old, 1 year old, etc. Newborns are significantly easier to work with. A main issue would be noise issues if she’s going to be dealing with clients on the phone.

    I have personally known it to work, even a new mom working a call center from home!!!

    Is there a way to measure her output vs. hours put in? I would think a new mom would be grateful for the opportunity to be allowed to work from home and would even continue to work in the hours when Dad’s home to help with the new baby to ensure she kept up her obligations.

    The trick will be when the home time would end. Really, the “majority” of newborns don’t require a lot of focus. An infant in a sling with a mom reading her work emails out loud seems like a pretty ideal situation for all, really. That said, there are those colicky exceptions.

    Is there a probation period possibility?

    1. Anon

      Having worked as a maternity nurse I would argue that the “majority” of newborns are not that easy, particularly for first time mothers. Even with a newborn that’s gotten into a good sleep schedule quickly and is not colicky, or other otherwise crying a lot, a first time mother is likely to be exhausted and unable to concentrate as well as she usually would. Mothers of newborns are often encouraged to sleep when the baby sleeps and there’s a good reason for that.

      Of course, for some first-time new mothers working with a newborn could work out just fine. It’s going to be extremely difficult to tell if that’s going to be the case until this particular mother has her baby and tries it. I would say odds are it’s going to be a lot harder than she is expecting. Her employer is small enough that they may not be able to afford for her to try it and it not work at all. It may make more sense for them to have something less risky set up.

    2. AnotherAlison

      After a week or two off to recover from the birth, for some babies it is not impossible to think that the mom could maintain a part-time schedule at home with the baby and no childcare. This is a brief window. For me, I remember being at home with my second son and just when I was getting ready to go back to work around week 7 is when he started to stay awake more during the day. Before then, it was just eat & nap for him & me sitting at home watching the Price is Right. I could easily have gotten 4 hours of work in during his naps, but probably not 8, and by evening when my husband was home, I was too tired to have shifted gears to work while he took care of the baby.

    3. Lily

      One of my children slept a lot as a baby, the other did not. I don’t think you can make any predictions.

    4. Cat

      Maybe I’m wrong but I got the impression the employee was looking to make this a permanent arrangement rather than 2-4 month one.

        1. AnotherAlison

          Well, that’s just impossible! When they get more active – which is soon – forget it. You would have to work 15 hours to get 8 hours of real work accomplished.

          And even when they’re 8 and 15, forget it. Apparently, me sitting at my computer with the (glass) office doors shut screams “Mom wants company” to my kids. No, I would not like to order you something online right now. No, I would not like to help you make a rubber band ball right now. No, DH, I do not want you in here eating a bowl of ice cream and looking over my shoulder while I work. [sorry for using this for my personal venting session – I had a tough deadline last week and no consideration at home]

          1. Judy

            That’s one of my fears for this summer. I usually work from home on Mondays, just to do more long range thinking. My husband won’t be teaching this summer, only doing the administrative side of his work, so he’ll have the kids (7 & 9) M,W,F and work Tuesday & Thursday with the kids in daycamp. I’m pretty sure I need to change my work from home day to Tuesday for the summer. Which means moving a few standing meetings. Argh.

          2. Lynn

            I got my family to respect my WAH time. I had to be a really grade-A bitch about it, but they finally accepted it.

          3. Anon

            LOL, AnotherAlison. I freelance from home, so I mostly set my own schedule. But it is a nightmare on snow days, early dismissal days and other random days when school is not in session and I try to work with a 7-year-old bouncing off the walls to get my attention.

        2. Ashley

          I agree that childcare is a must. I have a 3 year old and he has been taken care of at home by his uncle while I work in another room since he was three months old. I love it because I can see him whenever I want and intervene if there is ever a problem. I have been lucky because my son generally wants to spend time with his Uncle and is happy to leave me alone and we have never had separation anxiety issues.

          There was a brief period in my pre-partum break with reality and post-partum haze when I thought I could handle a newborn while I was working, but the reality is it would never have worked. Honestly, a perfectly happy and quiet baby would still be too much of a distraction for me to work the way I need to because HE IS SO DAMN CUTE! Also, I need to be able to schedule meetings and such and I could never count on him to be eating or sleeping or quiet when I wanted or needed him to.

          Trying to work from home without childcare is absolutely not possible for me and I would guess for most people.

      1. Lynn

        I could see it temporarily as a gradual transition from mat leave to part time at home to back in the office. My husband did this for a few months after each baby was born, and our pre-mobile babies were sufficiently amused by things like “music appreciation hour” (sit in a swing and listen to music) to allow him to get about 4 hours of work done in a day. He’s self-employed, so he didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to work at half-speed for a few months.

        Once they can move, though, FORGET IT. You really, really need someone who is just in charge of watching the baby. If you try to work and take care of a mobile baby or toddler simultaneously, you will end up doing a bad job of both.

    5. Anonymous

      I agree with all the others who have already said that babies are unpredictable. Child care, even for infants, can be hard work. (There are people whose get paid to look after children because it is work.) I sympathize with the new mother’s financial concerns, however, it’s unlikely that she can do both effectively. (That doesn’t mean that taking care of a child isn’t rewarding and often fun, but it is exhausting and unpredictable, as well.)

      1. Anonymous

        I think that’s the major issue. Even if you can somehow get on a schedule where you’re getting work done, work is not going to be your first priority. When you’re in the office or have child care, work is the focus, but if it’s only you and the child, work takes a back seat if the child is making noise or needs any little thing. And you can’t take a call while the baby is napping then have to end it or put it on hold when she wakes up.

      2. Janet

        Everyone I know who works from home full time does so with paid childcare. Either a nanny in the same house or they drop their child off at daycare. A close friend of mine asked to work part-time from home and planned to have the baby with her and after just 2 months of this, she has put the baby into daycare during those work from home days because she wasn’t able to get any work done.

        Since having kids I have worked at flexible organizations and I’ve been able to take a random “work from home day” here and there if one of my children is sick or if daycare is closed for weather. Working from home with young kids around is close to impossible. I usually feel doubly stressed and I feel like I’m simultaneously being a crap employee and a crap mother since I can’t devote my full attention to either work or parenting. And those are just on those random days. I can’t imagine signing on for that kind of stress full time.

    6. Elizabeth West

      How are you supposed to work on so little sleep? I don’t have any babies, but I remember well when my friends had them, and they were like zombies for that first few months, until the babies finally started sleeping through. Mom needs naps too, apparently.

  3. bob

    #6: More and more company HR departments and recruiters are just unprofessional aholes because the economy is still bad with a huge supply of people so they apparently don’t feel it’s necessary to treat applicants professionally anymore. Yea I’m looking at you GeoEye and Intrado.

    1. Anonymous

      It’s probably not cool to name names, but I agree with you. I don’t think the jerks realize they are giving their companies a bad name. I, too, still remember the names of the companies that jerked me around when I was job searching two years ago. It would take something super duper compelling to get me to apply to their jobs again.

        1. Sarah

          I work for a mid sized company ~ 80 employees. People get pregnant like CRAZY here! Seriously, its 3 at a time, all the time. Anyways, we have the PTO and short term disability and all that. They average being gone 6 weeks and come back to work. One of the attorneys opted to come in PT and work from home the rest of the week for months 2-6. Her husband is a doctor though, so I’m not sure what her pay was and probably didn’t matter much. But my point is, that may be an option. And getting someone to come out to watch her child, if necessary, will be MUCH cheaper than bringing the baby to a childcare facility (those places are insanely pricey). But if her job is one where she can telecommute easily and can feasibly do it from home indefinitely, I don’t see what the huge problem is if she seems responsible and has been a dedicated employee. We have quite a few people who telecommute. They will call in for meetings and listen and then go about their business. They currently don’t even live in the state. The real factor is would that be completely possible and easy for the OP to let her work from home? If the answer is yes, then I say do it and see how it goes on a probationary period. If its awful, tell her she has to get childcare or come back in to work inside the office.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I keep notes, so I don’t apply to them again. As I went along this time, I checked them against my notes from the last time I searched and found a couple to avoid.

  4. Aimee

    #4 – I just returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave. Last week, on my third day back, I had to work from home with my baby there because my daycare lady had an all day medical appointment. There is no way I could do it regularly. After the first couple weeks, she was awake more and wanted to be held a lot. And while she generally is a good napper, there are plenty of days when she just. does. not. sleep. Generally, those are the days when I really need her to sleep so I can get things done.

    It’s one thing if an employee needs to work from home in rare instances when the regular childcare is unavailable, but they should be very rare, because not much will get done that day (and obviously, that only works for some types of jobs that are driven by longer term results).

    1. Zahra

      Aimee, please, please look at babywearing as your gateway to sanity. Find a carrier where your baby will be seated with knees slightly higher than bum (Ergo is a popular brand, and you won’t find much that is comfortable and will work long term under 100$ or so). Your baby may resist it at first, but try when she’s happy and fed and she should get it at some point. There are lots of used carriers on thebabywearer.com (and some kinds of carrier are actually better when used: wraps become soft and floppy, which means easier to use and more comfortable).

      My son probably would have been labeled as high-needs for another parent (always wanting to be held, colics every night for 2-3 hours starting at 6 weeks for I don’t remember how long, still not sleeping through the night [but we do co-sleep on a safe surface], etc.). I actually found him pretty easy because I had babycarrying options. My hands were free to do other stuff (even cooking with a back carry so he was away from the stove and I could see when I was using a knife). I still grab my wraps from time to time when I cook, because he’s trying to climb up my leg.

      1. Aimee

        I am a carrier fanatic. :) I have ring slings, a structured carrier, a mai tai, a homemade Baby K’Tan style…the only one my little one likes is the mai tai, which we use pretty frequently, but we just got that one a couple weeks ago. It has saved my sanity many times (as well as the gym mat and baby swing). But she will still only tolerate any of those for short periods of time. She will nap in the mai tai, sometimes, thankfully!

  5. likesdesifem

    number 1 – Sending an e-mail to ask if everybody is OK and any commiserations for anybody caught up in the incident may suffice. The employees themselves may have been unscathed, but they may have family, friends, spouses, etc. who were in the midst. At the least, it shows that one is aware there may be difficulties involved, and that people in the organisation care for their welfare.

    number 3 – I don’t think subordinates should ever give orders to a manager, and really it’s up to the manager in question to resolve. That said, a manager should really be able to sort out issues arising and manage/resolve conflict if needs be. This can be between co-managers (so to speak), subordinates, managers in other departments, senior/top management, etc. IMO, a manager who cannot negotiate or interrelate with others is a poor at his or her role.

    number 5 – “Good” and “bad” bosses can be subjective to a degree. A bad boss may have some fans in a unit/department, if despite a poor attitude/demeanour s/he can give praise where it’s due or sets good and attainable expectations. Even if others have found him to be a jerk, you may not, as for all you know you may meld well with his style. Nonetheless, I think as this new man is new, he may not seek to rock the boat too much. he also may need to feel out his new team, to see each person’s strengths and capabilities. It’s probably best to gauge his style, and if he turns out not to be conducive a decision to leave can be made.

  6. likesdesifem

    Another thing regarding question 1, I think (IMO at least) if no correspondence is sent, it could be interpreted as a sign of neglect and not caring about the issue. I’m sure that today plenty of people in Boston, who were not even near the incident, are shaken up and scared. It’s also good for morale and employee relations, since it shows others in the organisation have concern for them or their potential safety.

    1. TheSnarkyB

      I think that they were asking about sending business-related emails like “Hey what are the projections for X” not asking “Is it ok to send an email about the tragedy. So that’s why AAM is saying if it can wait a day, wait.

    2. LW1

      The first thing I did (within minutes of finding out) was email my Boston boss to make sure the office was ok! I was definitely thinking more along the lines of “here is this thing you asked for, can you give me answers on xyz”. I waited on those, and I’m glad I did.

  7. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog

    #5 Do you have the energy to look for a new job now? I was in a similar situation a few years ago, and I did end up changing jobs. For me, I need to be pretty dissatisfied with my job to muster the motivation to look for something new. Looking for a new jobs requires a ton of my energy. I wake up early to work on job applications, then once I start getting bites I need to sneak around to take calls from recruiters and go to interviews during office hours. I think best practice would be to start networking and sending out your resume now – by the time you start to get offers you’ll know exactly how you feel about the new boss. But if you’re like me, you might not have the motivation yet to go through the job search gauntlet.

  8. Andre

    #4. The first child is really, really hard! My wife and I went through this experience 1 year and 8 months ago and I tell you that the first 6 months the mother sleeps maximum of 6 hours a day, considering that in the first 2 months she can call herself as luckiest person in the world if she manages to close her eyes for more than 3 hours in row! Although I believe that working from home is tough, but not impossible, I also would say that you need to assess this lady’s capacity to cope with such environment (stress, sleepless nights, responsibilities, etc), which is something very difficult because she never had a baby before (neither you). I can’t say anything about maternity leave laws as I’m not in the US, but my advice is to hire a temp professional to assume this role while your employee will be on leave (at least for 6 months). But this also depends on your budget…

    #5. I don’t think that sending out some CVs would hurt you, but I wouldn’t encourage you to focus too much on it. My advice is to be careful to not turn your feeling towards this new boss into anger, what can make the relationship becomes quite nasty. This certainly will not help you, even because he might be the one who your next potential employeer will contact for references. Good luck!

    1. Daria

      ” I can’t say anything about maternity leave laws as I’m not in the US, but my advice is to hire a temp professional to assume this role while your employee will be on leave (at least for 6 months). ”

      Yeah, that’s a pipe dream in the US. That would be awesome, but it’s not going to happen here.

      1. Chinook

        I know that long maternity leaves are a pipe dream in the US, but change has to start somewhere. The advantage of a longer maternity leave for the company is that you can hire a temp to cover for the period and the mother really has the chance to realize whether or not they want to stay home (and if they do, you already have a replacement trained). For this employee, it would also give them the reality check of how much work a newborn is.

        1. fposte

          Two problems with the temp: first, many industries don’t have a temp category (mine doesn’t); second, in the US, most workplaces can’t fund a temp on top of paying the regular employee for six months. Some states have short-term disability policies, some offices have private short-term disability policies, but there’s no basic government-funded maternity leave.

          1. Jamie

            And that’s exactly the thing. In countries with mandated maternity leave (and I am deliberately not opining about that) those costs are not borne by the employer alone.

            It’s asking a lot to expect an employer to pay two salaries for this extended period of time – and fposte is exactly right in that not all jobs can be filled by a temp. Some jobs, like mine, require institutional knowledge in addition to the tech skills – a external worker coming in for a little while wouldn’t add enough value to be warrant the cost.

            1. fposte

              I was thinking when typing out my answer that Canadians may also not realize how much of a staffing budget line goes to benefits, especially insurance–for a regular staff hire like me, there’s close to 50% above my salary spent on me every year for my benefits. So our $50k positions require being able to afford close to $75k.

              1. Zahra

                Strangely enough, for all the Chambers of Commerce saying we’re the most taxed province/state in North America, that’s about the same thing as far as additional charges on an employee’s salary here. I made the calculation to see if it would be worth it to move to the US to work at my dream company… And, with a child and wanting to have another, if possible, it’s more expensive for me to work in the US than in “the most taxed province in North America”.

                1. fposte

                  Actually, I hadn’t thought about the tax differentiation that makes up for it. So I guess there we both are with our budget-pay gaps.

            2. Zahra

              Yup, the parental leave program in Quebec (which is 15 weeks for her, 5 weeks for him and 35 weeks to be shared as you wish: consecutive or simultaneous) is funded through a specific payroll tax: 0.6% for employees, 0.8% for employers and just under 1% for self-employed people. You barely see the difference on your paycheck, but the system is very generous. Employers are still expected to hold your position for you as long as it’s still existing at the end of your leave, and there’s no minimum number of employees or time at a specific employer to qualify (there is a minimum wage earned over the last year, though). I won’t rhapsodize about our wonderful 7$/day/child subsidized daycare program (which more than pays for itself through the additional parents going back to work since daycare is so cheap now).

              1. Tokyo

                I’m on a year’s maternity leave now. As you said, my company is not paying my salary. It comes from the social insurance program, which both employers and employees pay into. They hired a temporary employee, but directly rather than through a temp agency. We’ve found it easier to hire for 12 months instead of 6 and if it works out, the substitute employee may be hired permanently in a similar role. Win-win.

                In a tiny way I would like to be forced back to work right away as in the US because I feel much more competent at my job than at caring for a newborn! I know I am lucky to get this year though. And my child leave benefits can be extended for up to another 6 months if we do not get a spot in one if the excellent and affordable public nursery schools!

                I am American and in a lot of ways I would like to raise my son in the US, closer to my family. But I just can’t give up these kinds of social benefits. My friends in DC spend a fortune on childcare, sometimes of iffy quality.

                1. Kay

                  Yup. I’m currently pregnant (and lost my job the same week I conceived! talk about crap luck) and I might have to leave the temp-to-perm position I found when the baby’s born because the low salary it’s paying me (a 30% pay cut from my previous job) won’t realistically cover the cost of day care in this metro DC county, which is $20,000 – $25,000 for the first year. When child care is > 50% of one parent’s income, there are problems.

                  (And of course I have to negotiate leave here or anywhere else, because I won’t have been employed more than a year anywhere by the time the baby’s born, so FMLA and its 12 unpaid weeks don’t apply. I really, really hate the way the US handles family policy and leave.)

        2. Headachey

          “and the mother really has the chance to realize whether or not they want to stay home (and if they do, you already have a replacement trained).”

          Real change in parental leave comes with the awareness that a) not just mothers want to stay home with children if they’re able; b) working is not optional for many mothers.

        3. Andre

          I didn’t know that maternity leave was such an issue in the US! I’m quite surprised to be honest! Here in the Czech Republic my wife got 2 years maternity leave (used to be 3) which the first 3 months a full salary was paid by the company that she used to work for and after that the government started to pay 28% of her salary, so the employer doesn’t pay anything during the leave but is obligated to hire my wife back after 2 years. The employer doesn’t have to give her the same position, but the salary has to be equivalent to what she used to earn. I think that it’s quite fair, while the government show some respect and care about its citizens, companies have the time to re-organize themselves and, perhaps, even find a new good employee.

  9. B

    As a NY’er here on 9/11 you have my utmost sympathies. Might I suggest sending an email asking how everyone is, that you understand the trauma that was caused, how your thoughts are with everyone. As well, let people know they should come talk to you if they were directly affected.

    That way you are there to help them, giving reassurance you are not ignoring it, and will also be aware how to proceed. Then when you send work emails it is more of a here is what needs to get done but with understanding.

  10. Sarah

    I feel for #3. When people aren’t getting along at work, especially in a small office, it takes a toll on the other employees. It seems to me that the OP should be able to say something if it’s impacting her work environment and productivity.

    1. likesdesifem

      And if her boss gets irate at being given orders by her subordinate, what then?

      It may be possible to go to her boss’s boss and explain the situation to him or her, but obviously going over an immediate boss’s head has risks.

      1. Cat

        I don’t know that she should here but you can certainly have (and often should) have conversations with your boss about courses of action you disagree with that don’t constitute giving orders.

        1. likesdesifem

          But this is not a work-related issue per se. It’s a tiff between her and a subordinate. It’s more than likely the manager will see it as an affront, in that a subordinate is telling them how to manage their work relationships.

          It may seem harsh to some, but perhaps the OP needs to suck it up and accept the manager in question is not a good one. A competent manager wouldn’t allow a subordinate to disrespect them or undermine them.

          1. just another hiring manager...

            or undermine herself by talking to other co-workers about problems rather than address them with John!

  11. Guera

    #1
    I will never forget how my company handled 9-11. I was with a different employer at the time. Everyone was scared, confused and it was impossible to get any work done. The last place any of us wanted to be was in the office. We felt lost and we wanted to be with our families and watch the news. The company owner, after remaining slient for several hours, finally sent an email reminding us that we are there for our clients and our clients need to know they can count on us.
    I thought it was the most insensitive, thoughtless email ever. I have never forgotten it. We were not in an industry that was essential.
    So my advice; you will be remembered for how you communicate. Be sensitive. Let what can really wait, wait.
    #4
    Oh, the biggest joke for me was thinking I could work from home after my newborn was born. I, too, tried to negotiate that with my employer. I wanted six weeks completely off and then four weeks working from home. HA! Once the baby came it was impossible. There’s no way this can be done without childcare. My employer was nice though. They knew it couldn’t be done but let me figure that out for myself and it didn’t take long.

    1. saf

      “I will never forget how my company handled 9-11.”

      Same here. I live and work in DC. At the time, I worked for a university. We were not allowed to leave. We were required to keep working. Told to treat it like a normal work day.

      Why? So the students wouldn’t be scared. I was not in a student-facing position. And gee, I think the students were already scared.

      I was worrying about my husband (who worked in VA, and ended up walking much of the way home, including across the 14th Street bridge), my friends who worked downtown, my sisters and their families, in NYC, my in-laws in PA….. I could see if they asked us to stay on campus, although I would have disagreed. I could not understand the expectation that we would be able to get our normal work done. I certainly couldn’t.

      I suppose I understand that the folks who lived in VA had no way to get home – getting past the Pentagon was impossible. Still…

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I lived in Arlington, and I got home mid-day! It took me close to 3 hours (vs a normal 15-minute drive), but it could be done. And I think I did take 395 to Washington Blvd past the Pentagon, but maybe I’m misremembering that.

        1. saf

          Could be – I don’t go to VA much. I remember being told that people from VA should avoid that area.

          And the husband was coming from Crystal City to Petworth, via metro. That was not working so well. Once he got into the city, he was able to get on a bus to get home. Slowly, but he did get home.

      2. T

        “I will never forget how my company handled 9-11.”

        Yes! This will leave a lasting impression with your employees. For us, it was Hurricane Katrina, so everyone was scattered. Within one week, the CEO had left his family to come back to Baton Rouge to regroup in a makeshift office. Our NOLA office had in fact flooded, so everyone was nervous that they would be out of work, so it was such a relief to have the CEO show us that we’d still have work.

      3. Laura L

        “I could not understand the expectation that we would be able to get our normal work done. I certainly couldn’t.”

        I was in the Chicago area and still in high school when this happened, but most of us were so shaken by it that many of my teachers didn’t even try to teach that day. We just watched TV. And then they cancelled after school activities.

        So, from my perspective, it seems weird that employers in the areas of the attacks would have expected anyone to get work done!

        1. Jamie

          I knew someone who was actually on a job interview when the news hit. The hiring manager turned on the news and they watched for a while. Good thing he turned out to be an excellent hire, since the hiring manager offered him a job on the spot without asking more questions.

        2. Sydney Bristow

          I was in high school when a school shooting happened at another school in our district. Most of our teachers just had the news on in the classroom and didn’t try to make us focus. My biology teacher, on the other hand, left the TV on but muted and proceeded to try and conduct class as usual. She wouldn’t even turn up the volume when the president was addressing the nation. I still can’t believe she did that and obviously haven’t forgiven her all these years later.

    2. Andrea

      Oh, wow, this is bringing up some stuff. I worked for SSA (Social Security Administration) in KC on 9/11, and I had only been there for a few months. I was in a training classroom that day with about 12 other people; our classroom was in the office. The training they had was a bad joke–all via satellite, very dry, impossible to glean much from, actually. Anyway, I can’t remember where the “trainer” was located on that day, but a few moments after it happened, someone apparently notified him and he was all, “Well, that’s neither here nor there, but you guys need to concentrate on how to do these disability investigations, more now than ever because it sounds like a lot of people just became disabled.” …Yeah, really. Fortunately, the entire office was sent home for the day shortly after, but when we went back the next day, we were all warned against getting online to look at the news. I mean, I get that it’s hard to know how to handle such a thing, and honestly, morale was always in the toilet anyway, but I still feel like many of the things said and done by officials (in that regional office, anyway, and by the trainer) during and shortly after that time were totally unforgiveable.

      1. Christine

        Wow. I have no words for how insensitive that was of the trainer.

        I had only been at my then-new job for about 4 months. I think the company handled the day very respectively (except for the super-crappy TV in the reception area). It was nearly impossible to get any work done that day; we were allowed to go home at about 3 p.m. that afternoon. You could kinda see the smoke in NYC from where we were (central NJ). I remember waiting for the train to get home the next afternoon, and there was such an eerie feeling in the air….I cannot explain it.

        But what I won’t ever forget was my coworker’s reaction; he had a cousin in one of the Twin Towers. When it became clear that it was a terrorist attack, he burst into another office saying “I gotta get out of here! My cousin’s there!” He spent weeks trying to help locate him. Ugh…I’m just tearing up thinking about it :'(

        1. Christine

          Sorry – I didn’t mean that having a crappy TV was disrespectful. Why did I put it like that??

        2. Elizabeth West

          What creeped me out was no planes flying over. There are ALWAYS planes flying around, but the skies were so quiet–even in Podunk City, MO, where I live. It was eerie.

          I wasn’t afraid to fly–I wanted to get on a plane right off and show those evil boobs I wasn’t scared. Kick some butt.

          1. Lindsay

            I was in marching band in high school, and I remember us all stopping and looking up at the sky and staring at the first plane to fly over after the airspace was opened up again. You never notice how much a part of your daily life something insignificant is until all of a sudden it is not there.

        3. Lindsay

          I was a sophomore in high school at the time, living in Central Jersey where a lot of my classmate’s parents commuted to NY to work.

          I felt my school horribly mishandled the whole ordeal. They tried to carry on business as usual and not tell us anything. However, people had enough contact with the outside to know something was going on and that it was bad that withholding information made us more fearful, more likely to spread rumors, and less productive. There were whispers going on in all of our classes that the world was ending.

          At the very end of the day the principal made a speech to the school about what happened and said the line, “Some of your parents may not be coming home…………. tonight.” I still don’t know what she was thinking – whether she didn’t consider what that pause would do when she was pausing, whether she decided to soften her comment at the last moment, or what, but apparently a decade later it still bothers me.

          1. Chinook

            I always wondered if I handled it well in my classroom and it sounds like I did compared to others. I was in a military town in Canada, so the kids are aware that it could mean parents going away and didn’t want to hide it but didn’t want to scare them either. One of the kids had brought in a small FM radio and was monitoring it, so I told him he could continue as long as he told me what he heard before telling the others so I could make sure everyone would hear while at the same time trying to continue on normally and keep the panic to a minimum.

            As I typed, I realized that there was another sign that what I did earned the kids trust. 2 weeks later the school burned down (literally had to explain to younger ones that we weren’t hit by a plane) and, after a safe evacuation, while we watched them fight the fire, some of the kids stood around me, asking questions. I was even able to swap a key for a door that no longer existed for a textbook a kid forgot at home that day.

      2. Kou

        I bet he had no idea whatsoever what he was actually joking about, and I wonder how far his foot managed to cram itself into his mouth when he realized later. You know how sometimes you randomly remember something you did that you shouldn’t have done, and your stomach suddenly falls out your feet? That will be happening to this guy foreverrr.

        Though as someone whose automatic defense to terrible things is to crack terrible jokes, I am now taking comfort in the fact that I have yet to cross the line that badly.

    3. Anonymous

      I was going to college at the time, but I remember how 3 professors there handled it – from the absolute worst to the absolute best.

      The absolute worst, was someone who said nothing, because they were so self absorbed they didn’t even know about it. How this person ignored an entire class talking about it, I don’t know. (well actually I do; he was a drunk and likely either buzzed or hungover or just looking forward to drinking after class)

      The absolute best actually was from 2 professors with complete opposite reactions to it. One canceled class, and I don’t remember the exact thing he said, but it was about the aftermath after JFK was shot, and then used the projector in the classroom to turn on a news channel so people could watch what was going on. The other did NOT cancel, but started the class by saying something terrible has happened, and was having class so the terrorist couldn’t win by changing the way we lived.

  12. Joey

    #2. Sure it’s legal. Your interviews almost surely don’t meet the legal definition of work. It’s crappy though.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      Really? You’re conducting business on behalf of the company — I have a hard time imagining this wouldn’t legally count as work, especially for nonexempt employees.

      Even if this is legal, my eyes are rolling at this company so hard I’m giving myself a headache.

      1. doreen

        The interviewer is conducting business on behalf of the company. The interviewee is conducting business on his or her own behalf ( seeking a promotion , transfer, whatever) just as an external candidate would be. It might be cheap and short-sighted, but it’s almost certainly legal.

      2. Joey

        Think about it. If it was work employers would be obligated to pay every single person that interviewed. It’s a complicated and broad definition since there have been multiple court cases that modified the original definition, but generally its work if its required or if you are suffered or permitted to perform duties that are primarily and necessarily for the benefit of the employer its work.

        1. AdAgencyChick

          But…it’s absolutely work for the interviewer, right?

          Or am I misreading the question and OP’s company wants the internal interviewees not to bill time, but the interviewers can and should? This, I don’t so much have an issue with.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            No, I think they’re not talking about the interviewers, who would indeed bill normally for the time, because it’s clearly work time. They’re saying that the candidates can’t consider it work time.

          2. TheSnarkyB

            Yeah, I am similarly confused. I took the question to mean that they’re asking interviewees to clock out for their internal promotion interview (or whatever). I highly, highly doubt that they’re asking interviewERS to work off the clock.

          3. ThursdaysGeek

            I read it the same way AdAgencyChick did — the person conducting the interview for the company wasn’t being paid! Sure, the person interviewing for the job does that on their own time, but I sure didn’t read the question that way.

  13. Anonymous

    #1 – I’m in Boston, and while I didn’t get a whole lot done yesterday and I don’t think anyone else in my office did either, there were a couple emails I did need to send because of timelines. So I sent them, but made sure my tone was accommodating (like “I’m just checking in on this” vs. “I never got a response back from you, please answer” not that I usually phrase it the latter way anyway) and ending with “By the way, I hope you and your loved ones are safe after today’s tragedy and you get home safely this evening.” If you need to get something out, that’s okay, but I think not mentioning it/showing compassion in some way could come across as cold.

  14. Lily

    #3 I agree that giving the boss unsolicited advice about her relationship with her subordinate seems like a bad idea (unless you are friends, but you shouldn’t be friends!) but can’t OP give advice to his co-worker?

    1. fposte

      I don’t think that would help either, though–the problem here is that an issue between two workmates is splashing out and affecting other people, and the best thing the OP can do is say “You guys need to talk to each other, not to other people.”

      1. Judy

        Yes, it would seem during the vent fest, the OP should say that. Similarly to how we’ve discussed shutting down gossip.

  15. Anonicorn

    #6, it’s also possible your interviewer(s) had something urgent to deal with. In the midst of trying to bring in candidates to interview, my manager had to leave unexpectedly for a week and a half.

    Having read these types of questions on this blog, I immediately felt bad for those candidates in waiting. But even if my manager hadn’t been gone, it could still take a week to find a time when all members of an interview team can get together (this is at least true of our department; most employees are off-site for a specific number of days during a large initiative).

    1. OP #6

      I generally thought that this might be the case, that they or the person who’d be interviewing me were away sick or on vacation, etc. But at same time, why not email me back and just say: “I/so-and-so will be out this week, I’ll/they’ll be available during (timeframe)”

      I guess it would take a minute or two out of their day, but it would save them from more emails from bewildered candidates…

  16. EnnVeeEl

    #4: I have two kids myself. I stayed home on unpaid maternity leave, then made the decision I did want to go back to work. I found a daycare and placed them there. I cried both times I dropped them off the first time. They didn’t. And we all pushed on.

    I truly wish more employers would be okay with telework when you have a sick kid. My kids are older now, and while they are napping or playing I could be working away. But that being said…I don’t think what the employee is asking for is really fair to her employer. Babies are a lot of work and care. Everyone thinks a baby that young will be “easy,” until you find out your cute little bundle has colic or is a fussy eater, a bad napper or one of those kids who wants an ounce of milk every 45 minutes instead of a full feeding session.

    I think the employee needs to figure out what she wants to do and then come to her employer with her decision. I don’t think asking for a full telework situation with no daycare for an infant is fair at all.

  17. fposte

    #5: “I’ve been warned that if this jerky person gets hired, I should not waste anytime and get the heck out of dodge.” That sounds like somebody else’s opinion may be driving this train. Wait and see what *your* opinion is–you may be able to work with this person just fine.

    1. A Bug!

      Yes, absolutely. Unless you have personal experience with this potential new boss, wait and see what happens.

      A relevant anecdote: an assistant at another office in my town used to work for my boss. She literally cannot believe I still work for him despite having had opportunities to go elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is, while I can see that his personality wouldn’t work for everyone, it suits me fine. If I’d spoken with that assistant before I took my current job, I might have looked elsewhere and ended up missing out on a great fit.

  18. Patti O'Furniture

    I can appreciate you wanting to be compassionate with the new mother. But she’s had 9 months to figure it out. Child care is expensive – but this is not the employers issue. I’ve been there – my husband went to part time, we drove older cars and stayed in our small ranch house so one of us could full time parent.

    I do occasionally allow employees to work from home with a childcare / snow day or sick kid issue… but rarely. Thats why we have a generous PTO plan.

    I think it’s great to be flexible, but she’s not realistic about working from home with an infant.

    1. Anita

      “…she’s not realistic about working from home with an infant.”

      Agree! This is her first, so unless she’s been around a lot of babies, it is not something she COULD be realistic about. When I was expecting my first, I had all these plans for my maternity leave, like gardening while my son laid peacefully in the stroller next to me…um, yeah that’s not what happened.

      I think what Guera’s employer did (let her figure it out herself) is a good tactic.

      1. Aimee

        I had similar plans with my first (and thought I’d be able to work from home part time for a few weeks after my maternity leave was over. I realized quickly that was not happening, even though my boss at the time would have let me try it. There was just no way). With my second, my maternity leave goals were more realistic:
        1) Get baby dressed and drive to Starbucks. Go through the drive through so we don’t need to get in/out of the car.
        2) If baby is fussy/not wanting to nap, or if I’m too bored, go to Target and walk around. Spend too much money because the baby clothes are just so cute.
        (Bonus, my Target has a Starbucks inside, so I could either combine the two goals, or get another iced latte, because caffeine is what keeps me going these days).
        3) Watch Castle/The Mentalist/Bones while baby naps. Maybe nap myself (I’m generally not very good at the whole “sleep while your baby is sleeping” thing).
        4) Do 1 productive thing a day. Or at least every other day. Or a couple times a week.

      2. Kou

        I remember fondly when my youngest aunt was pregnant the first time, and she and her husband were regaling my mother and her older sisters with all the things they were going to do with their kid. They would never let her just sit and watch tv, or eat processed snacks. They read all the books and knew all the tricks, see, it would be so simple.

        The sisters all had just the faintest smile, and they all nodded at the appropriate moments, and not a one of them said a single word the whole time. My aunt had no idea why I found the whole scene so funny.

        1. Jamie

          Hee. I am the youngest in my family – younger than both my sisters by over a decade. When I was young and childfree I had the most scathingly brilliant parenting ideas. I was a perfect mom…until I actually had kids. :)

          I remember those smiles.

        2. Elizabeth West

          I don’t even have kids and I can see that is ridiculous. Yes, hours of TV is bad but 20 minutes of Spongebob while you fix dinner is not going to kill them. I grew up watching TV constantly and I kin rite reel gud. :)

  19. Bryce

    #1: You and yours, and all the people of Boston are in my thoughts and prayers.

    #5: Because finding a new job can take a long time,and because it’s so much easier to find a new job when you already have one, it’s wise to at least begin by updating your resume and LinkedIn profile, optimizing your online presence, gathering good references and reaching out to your network. Although things may work out, you’re ready in case things don’t work out. In other words, don’t wait until it’s raining to build your ark

  20. Anonymous

    #1, I think it really depends on so many factors. I live and work in LA, and most of my office watched the news at lunch and then went back to work-except the three people in the office who had lived in Boston, and we were wrecks for most of the day. Having worked near the location of the explosions, and knowing people running in the race, I kept checking social media all day to see if they were OK, and my co-worker was texting her friends as well. Luckily, our supervisors were very understanding and accommodating, but did not feel the need to send an email to the entire team. I think in situations like this you need to ‘read the room’ and then act accordingly.

    1. Turn off the TV/video news

      Don’t watch the news during events like what happened in Boston. Read if you want, but don’t watch TV unless you feel you need to get info relevant to your own safety.

      I didn’t watch TV at all on 9/11 or the rest of that week (was a few miles away on 9/11, but could see the clouds of dust from the building collapsing – and actually emailed someone who was killed earlier that morning). Not watching TV then was one of the best decisions I ever made.

      News in the middle of a violent crisis tends to be confused and chaotic, and is a recipe for excessive stress. Don’t watch. Don’t listen to the radio. Follow the news online if you feel you need to keep in touch for some reason.

      A few days latter if you need to watch, it’ll still be online.

        1. The IT Manager

          I get frustrated as the news continues to show the same video and repeats the same information over and over again. There’s little payoff in watching the news constantly right after an event once you get the initial story because they mostly just repeat themselves. I’d much prefer they’d stop, resume their normal programming until there is actually new information to report, but the modern 24-hour a day news cycle does not allow that.

          1. Jamie

            I personally find the 24 hour focus comforting in times like this – knowing that as soon as there is something new to know it will be available immediately.

            I totally get why others would find it makes them more anxious – even when it soothes my anxiety. This is a huge YMMV issue.

            1. KayDay

              This is how I feel as well (and I also understand it’s different for other people). Personally, I’m definitely less stressed when I have easy access to information and know that I will be updated about changes to the situation.

            2. Laura L

              I’m ambivalent. I find the constant information comforting, but only to an extent. Then I want to be distracted by regular programming.

              I agree that YMMV.

      1. Chinook

        I agree. That is what I did when the town I was originally from was burned out by a forest fire – I saw highlights to see if I could see what parts were gone to see if friends and institutions were affected but I knew that constantly monitoring would have been useless. It was the only time I checked Facebook at work as friends were using it to notify enmass their evacuation, which is really what I wanted to know, but even then info was changing on the fly and confusing.

      2. Laura L

        Yes! I had been texting my parents about it and I mentioned that I was upset, in part because of what I was seeing on television (I’m also a runner and lived in Boston for a short time, so that was adding to it).

        My dad told me to call him and he said he turned the TV off after 30 minutes and that I should too. It was definitely helpful.

      3. Christine

        I agree as well. All the ongoing news coverage gets me very confused and even a little anxious. I find it much easier to watch the regularly-scheduled network evening news to get a summary of what happened plus any additional reports about investigations and how people are coping.

        I’m a little nervous because one of my sisters lives in a suburb of Boston with her family, and she has yet to reply to my email making sure they are all okay.

        Keeping all AAM readers from that area in my thoughts and prayers <3

        1. Christine

          Just curious – why was my comment sent to moderation? Was it because of the heart emoticon?

  21. Ali

    With #1, it’s unfortunate for me, because I work in media. (I work from home, and neither me or my company are based in Boston, but we still knew about the news.) When pursuing my Twitter feed yesterday, I saw a comment from someone saying how could people just go on normally at a time like this? Well, unfortunately with the nature of my job, I had no choice. I followed the news, sure, but it was still business as usual in my role and at my company. I wasn’t trying to be callous by continuing my work and not tweeting that I was praying (I tend to think people do that to be trendy anyway), but unfortunately, you don’t always have a choice. Guess it depends on what industry OP #1 is in.

  22. Zahra

    #4: Adding to the chorus that it’s not realistic to work from home with a baby. She could have a very easy baby that lets her rest and work part time during naps, but I wouldn’t plan that it will be the case. 4th trimester is named that way for a reason: the first 3 months of a baby’s life are really an extension of pregnancy, it’s just that our bodies couldn’t deliver a baby that’s 3 months older, so they get out “early”. There were quite a few days during the first few weeks when my husband came back from work and asked me “What did you do today?” and the answer was “I breastfed the baby, went to the bathroom, breastfed, napped, ate, breastfed, napped, went to the bathroom, breastfed and you got home.” It is exhausting work: your body needs to recuperate from pregnancy and delivery (and that work is done during sleep), your baby needs to be fed every 2-3 hours or so, with a cluster feed around dinner time (I mean 2-3 hours of feeding every half-hour or so) that will give you about 5 hours free early in the night (and you should sleep then).

    Strangely enough, I find that I tolerate lack of sleep better now than before. It seems that breastfeeding hormones help a lot with this (and I still breastfeed at 18 months).

    1. khilde

      Yes!! I nursed my daughter for about 17 months (she’s 3 now and was a sporadic night sleeper and crappy napper for many years). I am expecting again at the end of June and I have found that I can tolerate waking up in the middle of the night and actually functioning MUCH better than I ever could before I had her. So I’m happy for that with this next baby – I’m sure I’ll be a zombie again for a while but I know now that I can survive it! It’s so weird what our bodies are able to get used to. I can’t even remember a time when I slept for 7 or 8 hours straight.

  23. Anonymous

    My employer let me work for the second 6 weeks of a 12 week maternity leave from home (the first 6 weeks I took completely off with short term disability). It was the kindest thing they have ever done for me. I wasn’t ready to leave my baby but I was ready to come back to work. And I should say, I never had childcare and it was not a problem. Newborns (at least newborns at that age) sleep constantly. I had to take no more breaks than I would have had to take at work to pump. He slept in a bassinet or in his swing and every few hours when he would wake up, I’d feed him. He’d be awake for a few hours a day, but being “awake” basically meant playing on his playmat or staring out a window. Not much else you can do when you’re 6 weeks old….

    Now that newborn is 14 months old and there is absolutely NO WAY I would be able to get a lick of work done at home. But as a newborn, easy as pie.

    1. Anonymous

      And I should say – I would argue my productivity would have been less had I gone back to work full time at six weeks. Waking up 4 times a night, then getting myself and an infant ready for work and daycare (including pumping, packing breastmilk, blah blah blah), driving and dropping off, working eight hours including stopping to pump every two hours (which takes longer than breastfeeding and can’t be done while I work whereas I could breastfeed the baby and work at the same time), driving home, picking up, doing it all over again. I would have been a wreck. Staying at home meant I could effectively combine work and taking care of myself. Even if that meant working in the middle of the night. You need to assess whether or not your employee is going to be able to integrate work into her home life in the gaps she has between caring for her newborn. It can be done.

      1. Joey

        In glad it worked for you, but most people aren’t nearly as productive when they are doing what essentially amounts to a 2nd job while they’re working.

    2. Jamie

      Newborns (at least newborns at that age) sleep constantly

      People need to be careful of making absolute statements about a situation that is highly variable.

      I have three kids, only one of whom took 10 days to start sleeping consistently through the night – the others were sooner. It was ridiculous how well and long they slept at night…so they made up for by being awake and eating far more during the day than most. When a newborn sleeps 7-8 hours straight through at night – they make up for the milk intake during the day.

      But I wouldn’t tell people to expect theirs to immediately sleep all night – just because mine were a certain way doesn’t mean other babies will follow suit.

      There is no one-size-fits-all for this kind of thing.

      1. EM

        This. My son was very high needs nursed every 45 mins. Was very alert almost immediately. (Seriously, complete strangers would comment on how unusually alert he was from a young age.) he would scream when we put him down until he could sit up on his own. Every baby is different, and that’s okay.

  24. Turn off the TV/video news

    ” I saw a comment from someone saying how could people just go on normally at a time like this?”

    We’re very lucky in the US that those sorts of events are rare. T
    There are certain parts of the world (Iraq, parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan are examples) where violent events like this happen with some frequency.

    The only “difference” was that the extent of danger was unknown.

    And I can work at times like that because objectively the risks to us in the US – even in NYC, Boston, DC are incredibly low. I’m surely more likely to be killed in a traffic accident, or by cancer, than by terrorism.

    9/11 was big enough that there was huge emotional cost that precluded work. I’d imagine that for people in and near Boston the feeling was the same, so I can understand not working. But outside Boston, for people w/o strong personal connections in the cit, it frankly didn’t seem like something to get super upset about. It was very sad, and I feel sad for the people involved. That is to say, sorry for them on an intellectual level. But on a visceral level, there are more problems all around us on an ongoing basis.

    1. Jamie

      I disagree that it’s not something to be super upset about, even for those of us not in Boston.

      You are right in that as a nation we’re not used to being attacked on our own soil (thank God) and that’s what makes it a very big deal when it happens. And it’s a reminder to all of us (maybe especially those of us who live/work in major cities) that we’re vulnerable.

      Of course the physical risk is low. Of course I’m more likely to be killed driving home today, or in a drive-by, or illness than terrorism. I’m scared of that shit, too…but that doesn’t nullify the horror and fear that there are people (whomever they are) who have no problem with wholesale destruction of people who just happen to show up at an event.

      I’m married to a law enforcement officer in Chicago. I am acutely aware of how lucky we’ve been thus far – but how much danger we could be in if this happens here. It’s the empathy that allows us to put ourselves in the shoes of others – this time the people of Boston – which also drives home the point that it could just as easily as have been any one of us.

      And I think for Americans, no matter where we live, being attacked on our own ground is a very big deal and I don’t want to live in a world where we become immune to that.

      1. fposte

        It’s actually extremely common for Americans to be attacked on their own ground, though. America is a very violent country. I understand what you’re talking about is an act that’s an attack on the country by people from outside the country, but we don’t know that that’s the situation (and the odds are that it isn’t, because we bomb ourselves more than anybody else bombs us). I also don’t know that that’s really what makes a difference as far as whether it’s a big deal or not, given that events ranging from the Oklahoma City bombings and the Atlanta Olympic attacks to Sandy Hook were pretty keenly felt as well.

        I don’t begrudge anybody the right to be upset by an event, especially if they have loved ones who are in harm’s way. But I think Turn off is making a legitimate point about the practical impact of such events and how we do work through events of greater tragedy largely unaffected most days, because we all have our own filters of what makes us feel personally affected.

        1. Jamie

          I actually was not referring to an international attack at all – it could as easily be a domestic incident. I am not presupposing one way or another.

          My point was a response to the comment that it didn’t seem like something to get super upset about. That’s fine, but my point was just that it’s not uncommon for people to get upset even if it’s not local when tragedies affect innocent bystanders.

          Life and business go on – of course – no matter what happens. But I wasn’t referring to the practical impact at all – just that people are going to feel what they feel and how upset any individual is by anything is dependent on a lot of factors – not just proximity.

          1. fposte

            I think that’s fair enough, but what I was taking from Turn’s point wasn’t so much lack of concern for Boston as an acknowledgment that there are equally tragic but less media-covered events that affect people on a regular basis, and they matter too (globally speaking, often much more).

            1. The IT Manager

              “there are equally tragic but less media-covered events that affect people on a regular basis, and they matter too (globally speaking, often much more).”

              Well said, this articulates something I feel whenever something like this happens and there’s a huge outpouring of emotional and monitary support for victims and families of victims. On the same day that tradegies that garner the media spotlight occur, there are equally innocent people who are killed or injured in car accidents or by drunk drivers or whatever. These people and their families aren’t showered with money and support like victims of events that end up in the media spotlight.

        2. Turn off the TV/video news

          Perhaps I wasn’t clear.

          Crime, including hate crimes or random shootings for “fun” are not rare, sure.

          Terrorism, even the Oklahoma City Bombings or health clinic bombings within the country by Americans, is extremely rare. I have near zero fear of those things (and I worked in the World Trade Center for a few months in 1982).

          I’m not aware of any Sandy Hook terrorism or even violent crime spike with that. And almost every person killed by flood water in that incident defied the evacuation order for the most-affected areas of the city.

          Traffic accidents kill 30,000 or more Americans a year. Flu kills thousands. Terrorism? I’m guessing less than 50/year average within the US.

          “especially if they have loved ones who are in harm’s way.”

          Here’s the thing: most people are not in harm’s way from stuff like the Boston bombing. We’ve spent a lot of time in the last 12 years thinking we’re in harm’s way, but we’re not. Statistically, we’re not. We’re far more likely to die in many other ways. But those are not reported or treated the same way so they don’t stress us out. I refuse to be terrorized. Wish more people did.

          1. Turn off the TV/video news

            Oh, I’m sorry, I was thinking Hurricane Sandy, not Sandy Hook.

            Yes, shootings are a huge problem in the US. Perhaps this bombing was similar in that it was done by a nut, and not terrorism.

            But the most alarming part about Sandy Hook was that it wasn’t really a huge outlier. It’s going to happen again and again and again. 1000 people or so killed by guns since then? Horrendous for sure.

            Bombings? Not so much.

            1. Turn off the TV/video news

              “an acknowledgment that there are equally tragic but less media-covered events that affect people on a regular basis, and they matter too”

              Exactly. Thanks.

  25. Hlx Hlx

    I’m the only person at my work from Boston. My brother was volunteer ing at the marathon. I was a total wreck yesterday until I heard whether he was okay. (He is). But yesterday was a mess – really difficult to get any work done, and I didn’t get a lot of understanding from coworkers.

  26. nyxalinth

    #6 Happens to me way more often than it should.Most recently it was with a temp agency (most of the time when this happens to me it’s when I’m dealing with a temp agency). the client’s needs had changed, and the recruiter’s boss had left him out of the loop about it. I was just pleased that he’d actually bothered to get back to me on it!

    As a side note, what happened to the “Email Your Interviewer” thingy? Did it take up too much time, or were people getting snotty over it? I probably missed the announcement somewhere.

      1. Evan the College Student

        Was that because you were forwarding each email manually? If that was the problem, have you looked into writing a program to do it automatically?

  27. Lora

    The thing about Boston is that since parts of the MBTA are shut down, it might be extremely difficult for people to get to work at all, depending on where they live and whether or not they have a car., regardless of whether or not they have a personal connection to the event.

    Emails I would like to see from my employer (a medium size pharma) are:
    -Please let us know if you need time to grieve
    -EAP is available to assist anyone and their families
    -We will be organizing donations to (charity: Red Cross, whomever), please see (person) for ways you can help
    -If you are affected by the loss of mass transit, we will be providing (shuttle service, carpools) to help you get to and from work, please contact (person); alternatively, work from home may be arranged with your supervisor.
    -There is a Google People Finder available to help connect you with loved ones who may have been affected by the event

    Maybe something about a moment of silence, if desired? A reminder that if you hear/see anything, please send tips to (BPD/FBI hotline)?

    Email I actually got from my employer:
    Terrible tragedy, senseless violence, more info to come.
    Errrr…*scratches head*…okaaaaayyyy…

  28. Natalie

    Question 1 was interesting to me because our corporate office is in Boston. However, they are always closed on Patriots Day and almost everyone in the office actually takes the day off, so we hadn’t heard much from corporate even before the explosion. So it didn’t even occur to me to worry about sending work emails, as I assumed most people wouldn’t get them until Tuesday anyway.

  29. Brandy

    #4. If the employee is looking to do something like extend a short maternity leave by working at home with baby around, I would weigh the type of work she does. Is it client facing and/or time sensitive (things must be one at X time every day)? If so, this siutaitno is impossible. if your employee needs to have X, Y, and Z done within a week’s timeframe, perhaps it would be reasonable to at least to a 1-month trial-run. Give her clear deadlines and expectations from the outset, if she meets them, perhaps considering pressing on. That’s a fairly unlikely situation, though.

    As others have said, childcare is really her problem. However, if you value this employee and would like to see her succeed, perhaps suggest things like working at home a few days a week with some flexible childcare- eg. work from 6am-8am, nanny/mothers helper from 8-12, work during baby’s afternoon nap and wrap up by 3. Or move the schedule later in the day so it can overlap with her husband/partner’s arrival home. All this totally depends on what exactly the woman’s job duties entail.

    My comapny has a work at home policy. I’m also pregnant. I am going to be putting the baby in daycare from 11-4 or 5. My office is on the west coast, so the majority of my day happens after noon. i’ll pick baby up at 5, come home, and work from 7-10 or so (which I do now anyway). If baby needs something, my husband is home around 6. My work is mainly client-facing, so I can’t have a crying infant in the background–it’s hard enough as it is with a barking dog!!

  30. Rose

    In regards to #6. I would suggest following up, but first check your junk e-mail. I have had candidates tell me numerous times that I never got back with them, when in fact, I did and the e-mail was in their SPAM. I dont have much experiene with staffing companies, but from everyone I read from various forums, it sounds like often times they do not treat their candidates too well. I think going directly through the employer is the way to go, unless they require you to go through a staffing company.

  31. Rose

    Regarding #4 we have an issue with an employee with my organization that is similar. This individual has several small children and cannot afford summer childcare and therefore wants to work from home for the summer. Who can work for 8 hrs with a bunch of kids running around? AND how can you watch you kids while focusing your attention on work? I think that these people have good intentions, but ultimately either the work isnt going to get completed or the children won’t be properly cared for….. I just think that usually these situations are a bad idea. A better solution would be a flexible schedule, leave of absense or extended maternity leave, or daycare assistance…

  32. Joanne

    Speaking of short -term disability, does anyone know if that’s possible to get as an individual? my employer doesn’t offer it, and i’ve called at least 7 companies, and none of them offer short term disablity insurance to an individual (probably because they know it’ll all be twenty- and thirty- something year old women who want kids). I wonder if that’s something I should have been screening for in my potential employers’ benefits packages.

    1. fposte

      I just Googled “short term disability individual” and got several hits. Some of this depends on your state, because insurance writing is generally licensed on a state by state basis. (Also check to see if your state offers anything like this itself.)

    2. Jamie

      If you are going to screen for short term disability with future employers you need to check that it covers maternity leave, not just that they offer it in general.

      Particularly if employers self fund their short term disability they can have odd coverage gaps. If it’s not required and just a perk they can do what they like – just something to keep in mind. Probably less of an issue if they offer a plan with a third party carrier.

  33. Tiff

    New mom needs a sitter. It was always very clear at my family friendly job the telework was not a replacement for child care.

  34. Mel

    #4 I think she needs to be a little more realistic about the amount of work a baby is. I have two kids, one still a toddler, and there is no way I could work from home while adequately caring for them.

    Kids need attention and interaction, especially as they get older. Does she really think that leaving the baby in the crib (or later, in front of the TV) so that she can get some work done is a viable option? If she gives the kid the time it needs, she’ll be short-changing work. If she gives work the time it needs she’ll be short-changing her kid.

    She needs to find childcare.

  35. Penny

    #6- the only time I’ve ever done this to a candidate was when, after leaving them a message I looked her up on LinkedIn and the picture was so inappropriate for that venue that it made me question her common sense and professionalism. I didn’t answer her return calls because I didn’t really know what to say. I was an external recruiter, so I would have been sending her to my clients to represent us which I didn’t feel good about after that.

    1. fposte

      But doing a sudden silence is harsher than just saying “I’m sorry, we’re no longer considering you for the position.”

  36. Marina

    Chiming in to agree with everyone else on #4. Childcare will most likely be a necessity.

    But I do think there are a few things the employer could consider if they want to be flexible. The first would be to look at how the employee has worked in other stressful situations. For instance, when traveling or at a conference, was the employee able to keep up with regular work or did it get put off? Has the employee successfully worked from home before? Or even just plain multi-tasking–is this someone who’s highly skilled at keeping ten projects going at once? If so, that would seem to me to be a sign in favor of trying out the working at home arrangement.

    Which would be the second possibility–a trial arrangement. Like other commenters have said, so much depends on the personality of the baby. If the OP wanted, they could set up some specific output and performance goals, and do a week-long trial period. If the employee has a baby that’s content to stay in a sling while mom works, or naps consistently, or the employee is extremely skilled in working productively in 15 minute chunks, it might just work. The main problem with this arrangement is that if it doesn’t work the employee will need to find childcare very quickly, which can be very difficult depending on location.

    Another option would be to allow the employee to work from home one or two days a week. I brought my daughter to my office once a week from about 3 months to 8 months and it worked out pretty well. Because it was only one day a week I was able to arrange my workload so that I didn’t need have urgent phone calls or major meetings on those days.

    All that said, though, I do think it is absolutely the employers prerogative to say that childcare is 100% required for any employee working from home. The above suggestions are only if OP really wants to go out of their way to help the employee.

    1. Jamie

      But the temperament of the baby only matters in the very early weeks – and that’s not what the person wants. It reads as if she wants to do this after maternity leave as a longer term thing.

      If that’s the case, then Mel upthread said it beautifully:

      If she gives the kid the time it needs, she’ll be short-changing work. If she gives work the time it needs she’ll be short-changing her kid.

      1. Marina

        I do think the temperament of the child matters beyond the early weeks. Some babies nap in consistent 1 hour chunks at the exact same time every day. Some babies are content to play independently from very early on. Some babies are perfectly happy as long as they’re in a sling. Many (maybe most) babies don’t, but it is a possibility.

        I do think it’ll stop working once the child becomes mobile (although my daughter did have a glorious period when she was learning to crawl when it took her 15 minutes to get across a room, which was 15 minutes I could spend doing other things… then pick her up and move her back across the room and get another 15…) but a) that’ll be at least 6-9 months out, and b) childcare is a LOT cheaper once you get past the infant stage.

  37. KellyK

    #4 – I do know people who have successfully worked from home short-term with a newborn, though one (a previous boss) mentioned that it took her all day long to actually get eight hours of work in between caring for the baby. That’s not to say it’s common or easy, and it probably depends on lots of factors you can’t control or predict.

    If her job has a lot of very quick-turnaround tasks and a lot of immediate responses necessary, I can’t see it working. On the other hand, if your job tasks are more long-term, and she’s good at multitasking and willing/able to catch things up when her husband gets home, it might. Particularly if it’s a creative job where she can have project ideas “on the back burner” while she’s feeding or changing the baby.

    Personally, I like the idea of setting task or result-based expectations (which will include availability & response time), rather than dictating how she handles childcare. That is, the company’s concern should be the work itself rather than the childcare arrangements.

    (All of that is assuming she’s exempt, because it’s most likely going to take more than 8 hours to get her work done *while* caring for a baby, and it would be really unreasonable to have to pay overtime for that.)

  38. OP #4

    Thanks so much for all the responses. The employee does indeed want to do the full time or part time work from home thing with the child permanently. I am getting the sense here that neither I, nor she has any idea of what is going to happen after the baby is born. For example, she only wants to take a month off of work, and then resume work. This doesn’t really seem too realistic based on your responses. She also was surprised (as I said in my letter) when I said it was common for employers to request childcare for employees working at home with kids, and said she had never heard that anywhere.

    My initial thought was that she wasn’t being practical about how her life was going to change after the baby is born, but didn’t feel I could say that without sounding ridiculous since I don’t have children myself, even though I’m her manager. She speaks on the phone to clients regularly as well, though usually via scheduled calls, and I used this as an example of it being a problem if she’s the only person at home caring for a child (what if the kid starts crying during a conference call?). While we are very flexible on people shifting hours and needing time off for family stuff and doctors’ appts, we also do not have any full time employees telecommuting.

    For now, she has only suggested options that include her working at home part or all of the time. The more I think about it though, the more I think this would be tough for us to accommodate based on the way we work. I think it would end up with her being left out of the loop of what’s going on, and projects we normally would have assigned to her being given to others. We’re going to meet with her to discuss options later this week. I feel much better having heard from other parents and people working at small companies. I think I need to be prepared for any possible scenario, including a much more extended maternity leave, or the possibility of her not coming back at all, since it sounds like she’s going to get a whole new perspective on things in a couple months. Thanks again for all your input.

    1. Jamie

      but didn’t feel I could say that without sounding ridiculous since I don’t have children myself

      I really want to commend you on your thoughtful approach to her request. You didn’t just dismiss it out of hand, you confirmed that your concerns were valid and are weighing the circumstances. I think that’s really great…and kind of rare.

      And regarding the quote above – I’ve never lived with 17 howler monkeys, but I can still assume some things about the challenges that would pose. :)

      You sound like a great boss.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree with Jamie that you’re being really thoughtful about this.

      One thing I’d add though — make sure you don’t frame the discussion as “you don’t know what you’ll want after the baby gets here.” That’s her call to make. Frame it as what your business needs are, regardless of what she thinks she can or can’t do after the baby is here.

      1. Lynn

        God, it drove me insane when people did that when I was pregnant with my first. “You silly thing, you don’t know your own mind, so I’ll just project my own biases and preferences and imaginings all over you, and do that. No, don’t bother trying to change my mind!”

        1. khilde

          Yes. I have become WAY less judgy about nearly everything after having a child that has humbled me to the core.

      2. Jessa

        Also, remember, that whatever you end up working out with her (even if you have to tweak it a bit at first,) you are probably going to have to do for anyone else who gets pregnant, has another huge life altering thing happen etc.

        It’s going to end up being policy. So make sure it not only works for THIS employee but for the company as a whole.

    3. Kou

      The month leave may or may not be realistic depending on her, the baby, and the overall experience. I know women who’ve had a baby at night and gone to work the next morning, and I know women who couldn’t stand to go back after months of leave. She won’t even know which of those she is until she’s in the middle of it, from what I can tell– though I also don’t have kids, just from an observer’s standpoint the only thing I will guarantee you is that situations are different and difficult to predict. A month may or may not be totally fine.

    4. Daria

      One more thought- I would consider the other employees, now and in the future. If you did decide to let her work from home full or part time, is that something you would be willing to extend to your other employees? Having a special policy for one parent is a great way to breed resentment. If you’re willing to write it in to your policy and extend it to all of your employees if they wanted to/could reasonably do it, it may be worth considering. If not, I would not open the door.

  39. Laura

    #4: Anyone clueless enough to think that her employer will allow her to work from home and also care for an infant is probably not someone I’d want working for me in the first place. Had she asked me where I’d heard that was the norm, I would have told her that I heard it from the Good Fairy of Common Sense.

    I took 12 weeks off when my daughter was born, and due to some other personal stuff, ended up working half days from home for the last 4 weeks. My boss was happy to have me back because we were swamped with project deadlines, but even getting 4 hours a day in was a challenge. Yes, newborns sleep all the time, and that’s when I also got much of my work done, but they also need to be fed, changed, and as a new mom you want to spend as much time with your baby as possible to bond, and just enjoy the time you’ll never get back. But never once did I think that this would be an acceptable arrangement on a permanent basis. I would have been laughed out to the street.

    If you’re going to have a child, then you either have to find the money for daycare, stay home to take care of him or her, or make other arrangements. Neither option is superior to the other (everyone has to make their own decisions about this stuff) but those are the alternatives. Expecting your employer to serve as a de facto daycare provider is always out of the question.

  40. Mishsmom

    i remember not knowing AT ALL what i was getting into when i became a mom. you think you’ll be able to do things (or at least i did) but it never works out that way at all. i LOVE my son – but i could never work with him around and unsupervised, because well, someone needs to supervise him and other kids below the age of 27 LOL. i can’t even be on facebook for more than 5 minutes without an interruption. if nothing else, it would be hard because if he’s being extra cute, i could not keep working – i’d have to be there!!

  41. Athlum

    #5 – You don’t mention what kind of industry you’re in or how large your organization is, but is there the potential to transfer to another area or department if things get bad? I agree with AAM’s and others’ advice thus far to stick it out long enough to form your own opinion of the new manager (whether it’s ultimately the jerk or the other leading candidate). Whoever gets hired, though, it can only be to your advantage to make connections with other people in your company. If you do wind up miserable and needing to look elsewhere, a transfer within your own company may be considerably easier than braving the external job market right now — and even if you stay, maybe having contacts in other departments could still come in handy within your current role.

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