should we fire an intern for extending her vacation without permission, coworker makes rude remarks about my quietness, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should we fire an intern for extending her vacation without permission?

I’m a mid-level manager at a medium-sized startup. We recently hired a very young intern who just graduated from college. She took a three-day trip to New York, and had asked for the time off in advance. This morning she emailed me telling me, not asking me, that she would be extending her trip by one day: “I’ll be extending my stay in New York an extra day and will be returning to work on Wednesday. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

My boss was livid when he found out and wants to fire her. Our office has a flex-time-off policy, but other workers have to cover for your assignments while you’re out, and we ask for advance notice. It’s unprofessional and unbelievable, sure, but is it grounds for termination?

Your boss is overreacting and being unreasonable. In many offices, people manage their own time and this would be perfectly fine. It sounds like that’s not the case in your office, but then you just need to explain that to her when she gets back. She’s an intern; explaining this kind of thing is part of the deal.

Unless her unexpected one-day absence is causing some kind of massive problem that she should have been able to foresee (like it’s the day of an event she has key responsibilities at), your boss is off-base.

2. My coworker makes rude remarks about my work and my quietness

I started in my current workplace doing quite a technical job which involved very little interaction with colleagues (I am the only person working on that area and it doesn’t cross a lot with others). I am quite quiet and not very assertive.

After about a year, I got a new manager and a promotion to a job that involves, with my old duties, substantially more working with colleagues across our organization. I think my new manager and I have a good relationship and she has invested time and effort into my development, particularly around taking on a leadership role internally.

I get reasonably good feedback (I am not there yet but have improved), but a member of my team who does not report to me comments a lot about my quietness, etc. For example, if I am about to go into a meeting, she will comment about whether I am going to talk enough. Or when I chaired a meeting recently, she seven to eight times pulled up that I wasn’t moving things on as quickly as she would have liked and afterwards commented to the whole team that some people “just aren’t cut out for it.”

I don’t really know how to handle this; it’s going against the grain for me to speak out anyway, and I think this makes it a more challenging environment. In our hierarchy, she is more junior to me but older. I would be really grateful for any advice about deflecting this or if I am being over sensitive. I don’t think she knows the background but I am struggling to improve.

Your coworker is a jerk — seriously. Even if she has legitimate concerns about the things she’s raising, she’s raising them in a rude and obnoxious way. Her comments aren’t okay, and someone needs to shut them down, either you or her own manager. Ideally it would be you, because it will strengthen your standing if you take it on yourself. Ideally, you’d do two things: First, in the moment when she makes a rude comment, call it out — for example, “Jane, your comments aren’t constructive. If you have a concern, please come talk to me after this meeting.” Second, talk to her in private and say this: “You’ve made a number of comments questioning my work. If you have a legitimate concern, please raise it directly with me or with your manager. Can you do that?”

If it continues after that, let her manager know what’s going on. She’s way over the line, and her manager should want to rein her in. (And if the reality is that you can’t bring yourself to talk to the coworker directly — which I realize might be the case, although I hope it’s not — then go straight to the manager. But do get it shut down.)

3. Am I obligated to give a birthday gift to a coworker who gave me one?

If one of my coworkers purchased me a birthday gift, am I required to purchase her one for her birthday? I know this sounds cruel, but this coworker has been attempting to become closer with me than I want. She has caused problems in the office for herself and others, and while I don’t mind the occasional call in which she tends to rant about her job, I don’t really want to be that close with her. In other words, while I know her from working with her, I do not want to be friends outside of work, at least not while we work together in the same office.

She purchased a gift for me for my birthday (a small bottle of alcohol) and she knew that giving me the gift made me uncomfortable, but she did it anyway. (She knows how I feel about workplace relationships and keeping things relatively professional. She actually said she knew it would make me uncomfortable but did it anyway.) I thanked her for the gift by saying it was thoughtful and didn’t really know what else to do. To my knowledge, she has not purchased any other coworkers gifts.

Now her birthday is coming up. Am I required to return the favor? My concern is this will set precedence for not just birthdays, but other holidays as well (Christmas?) and I do not have the extra cash to spend on someone I don’t know that well and I don’t want to know that well. Frankly, the whole thing has made me somewhat uncomfortable. I don’t want to have to purchase coworkers gifts, but I feel like if I don’t get her something, she will think of me as rude or downright mean. I feel like I’ve been pushed into a tradition that I don’t want anything to do with.

Nope, you’re not obligated to buy her a gift. This is actually made somewhat easier by the fact that she said she knew it would make you uncomfortable; it sounds like you’ve already explained to her that you don’t want that type of relationship. Plus, the easiest way to convey “I don’t want a gift-giving relationship with you” is … to not give a gift.

It would be nice to wish her a happy birthday that day (and that should keep the lack of a gift from feeling mean). But also, keep in mind that you can’t control how she feels. You’re not obligated to give her a gift, you’ve made your stance on boundaries clear, and you’re not doing anything wrong; if she’s upset, that’s not caused by you, but by expectations on her side that you’ve already asked her not to have.

4. Pregnancy when employer has a self-funded health care plan

I have recently found out that I am pregnant (currently about five weeks) with my first child. My first appointment isn’t until around the eight-week mark, and I wouldn’t normally even consider telling my employer until around five to six months.

However, we have a self-funded health care plan. What makes it worse is that I work in HR and my boss is the one who receives all the medical paperwork that includes the cost, employee name, and what was done. Does the fact that she will see I’m attending prenatal appointments, having ultrasounds, etc. just through the fact that we’re self-funded change when I should tell her myself? I really don’t want to tell her so early, but I don’t see many options when she’s going to find out herself regardless.

I don’t think it needs to force you into announcing your pregnancy before you’re ready. Yes, it’s true that if your boss sees that paperwork, she’s likely to figure it out, but if she has any discretion at all, she’ll know she needs to engage in a polite fiction of not knowing. And because your employer has a self-funded plan, they’re covered under HIPAA, which means that your boss can’t legally share the information she’s exposed to from administering the plan or use it for any employment-related action. So, proceed the way you would if it weren’t a self-funded plan, and announce when you’re ready to announce.

5. Can I push back on this inconvenient meeting time?

I am a remote employee who doesn’t get much face time with my boss. He often cancels meetings.

I’m developing a big proposal for my department which I thought was due early next week. We had quickly mentioned last time we talked that we could perhaps review in person. I reminded him and he suggested 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning. That means I have to kill a day to get there for a very early meeting when, if it were a few hours later, I could fly in and out in one day.

Can I push back on this? I don’t see why it can’t be later and fly in and out same day.

He’s probably just not thinking about the logistics the way you are. It’s really normal for this to happen — managers don’t always think as deeply about logistics for this type of thing because they assume that if there’s an issue, someone will say so, whereas employees often assume that if the manager is suggesting it, that must be the way they want it and there’s no room to push back.

Just say, “Any way we could do it later in the day so that I can fly in and out the same day?”

{ 385 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. TeaPotDesigner

    #1 – I second AAM’s comments. As an intern, it is quite understandable that she is not aware of standard office practices. Just take her to one side when she comes back and warn her about doing it again (might help to mention that the boss is quite upset about it). I could still remember when I interned myself 10 years ago and did stupid things that I was totally not aware was bad in an office setting (left office to go to library to do research without asking boss’s permission. I thought it was okay because boss wanted a report, didn’t know I should at least tell him HOW I was going to do the research)
    #3 – to OP I give birthday gifts sometimes as a thank you to coworkers who helped me a lot through the year. I don’t really do it to expect a gift in return. Also in my old office, what we did to reduce the pressure was to have everybody chip in to buy the birthday guy or gal a cake (then sing the birthday song). That way everybody doesn’t pay much (10 person sharing a standard sized cake), and we managed to convey the birthday joy.

    Reply
    1. Rob Lowe can't read

      Re: #1 – I agree. This is a pretty egregious intern mistake as intern mistakes go, but unless it’s part of a pattern of pretty egregious intern mistakes, I’d treat it as a teachable moment. Between the flexibility that the intern might have enjoyed in college (ability to skip class on short notice, etc.) and examples of working people in the intern’s life outside of work (parents, etc,), I can see where this error could be made. (My dad had a professional job at a senior level when I was growing up and had a fair amount of flexibility to set his schedule – I could certainly see where this might have led me to conclude that working people in general had that kind of power over their own schedules!)

      Reply
      1. Sans

        Agreed, this is a big mistake for an intern, but for a more experienced employee, it might be no big deal at all (depending on the corporate culture.) I know that if I was on vacation and wanted to extend it a day or had to (flight mishap), I could send an email explaining, and it would be fine.

        It’s possible the intern saw more experienced employees (parents?) do this and thought it was okay. It’s not ok when you’re just beginning, esp. as an intern. But I think it’s a teachable moment, not the end of the world.

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        1. Bea W

          That actually happened to me recently (heavily loaded international flight vs. flock of geese, not pretty!), and I was given the option to extend my trip a day or 2 to make up for it. I knew it would be totally okay, but I still cleared it with my manager (and the pet sitter) before giving the OK to the tour leader to count me in because that’s how things work. Even if you know it’s okay or you physically can’t be back at work because mother nature dumped 18″ of snow on you the night be before, and then your back-up flight was leaking vital fluids from the landing gear (true story) most people will need to explain the situation the same way you’d still call to explain if you were sick, rather than just saying “I’m extending my trip by a day”, and expect the boss to be cool with it.

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          1. Parker24

            I agree that if there’s a flight emergency – it’s more of a “there’s nothing I can do” situation. (I’m the one who asked the intern question). However – she said in her email that it was because a family member who lives there wanted to see her and she “couldn’t pass up the opportunity”. I think that was our biggesst WTF moment – like.. there are other people covering for you while you’re out… how can you not be more considerate? We’re going to pull her aside when she gets back and basically tell her her actions were unprofessional.

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            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

              I’d focus less on “professionalism” (which is subjective) and more on the actual impacts on the company/other people and on her.

              On the company: Other people had cover for your work. That meant that project X got delayed, and Coworker A had to stay late.

              On her: The big boss was angry — and even wanted to fire her. This is an internship and learning experience, so while she’s not getting fired she might if she did this elsewhere.

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              1. Parker24

                Oh wow -so you recommend letting her know he wanted to let her go? I do want to tell her that it is possible that in many other positions this would be a fireable offense. … but I don’t know if I should terrify her or make her feel defensive. She does have a bit of an “entitled” attitude sometimes, as she’s had no problem letting us know she comes from a family that has not wanted for much.

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                1. Bea W

                  It might drive home the potential seriousness of the impact doing this can have to her own job, in addition to the impact on other people’s jobs. Some people have a hard time putting themselves in the shoes of others, but will immediately get it when they understand the impact to themselves personally. Some employers would have fired her. I think this is important to talk about, so that she fully understands all the possible ramifications.

                2. Kyrielle

                  I wouldn’t tell her because that could make things hugely awkward and also tick off your boss. But I would absolutely say that it _could_ get you fired in many offices, and while it might be okay in some, coverage requirements or an overloaded team picking up your work are both strong signals that it won’t be in this office. And that even in offices without those signals, it may not be okay.

                  And then I’d also cover how she could have approached it that wouldn’t tick people off as much, and would let her try to get what she wants without risking the job (but, admittedly, risking not getting what she wanted).

                3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

                  Yeah, I actually agree with Kyrielle (and not myself!). You shouldn’t bring in your boss’ overreaction — you can just make it clear the kinds of effects it could have had elsewhere.

                4. M-C

                  I’d totally recommend it – there’s no better cure for entitlement than to let you know that it doesn’t necessarily extend to other people’s attitude toward you :-).

                  And if she reacts badly to your telling her all the above, then you should consider really firing her, because you don’t want a defensive intern rehashing how unfair life is all over the company..

              2. TootsNYC

                I’d focus on the “professionalism.” Seriously, it’s the bigger issue. Sure, it’s subjective–but I think there are some pretty universal standards, and this violates them.

                I do think it was a big mistake–but that’s actually part of what internships are for, mistakes.

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            2. Bea W

              Oh wow. I am glad you are choosing to talk with her instead of just firing her. She probably has no clue this kind of behavior is just not okay. Please send AAM an update after you meet with her to let us know how it went.

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            3. Rusty Shackelford

              Considering that people are covering for her, and that your policy requires her to give advance notice, I would have replied to her email with something along the lines of “Unfortunately, since your vacation approval only extends to X date, any days you miss after that will have to be considered no-shows.” And then do what you’d do if she just didn’t show up.

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              1. Anna

                Meh. It’s not the end of the world and as Alison said, good employers let you manage your own time. The more important thing here is the lesson in when a thing is appropriate and when it is not.

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                1. Rusty Shackelford

                  Yes, but it sounds like there was a known policy that she chose to ignore. It’s too late to tell her what I *would* have told her, but that doesn’t mean ignoring the policy should go unaddressed. I think this is just a baby step beyond “intern doesn’t know any better.”

                  And I disagree with your blanket statement that good employers let you manage your own time. It depends on your role. In her case, others have to cover for her while she’s gone, so what she’s actually doing is managing her coworkers’ time. And that’s not appropriate.

                2. LD

                  Yes, and it is more usual with employees who’ve demonstrated a good work ethic and built up some trust equity with their managers and coworkers. It sounds like she’s too new to be managing her own time or she’s demonstrating that she’s too new to understand that she even needs to acknowledge, beyond the “sorry for the inconvenience” statement. She’s acting more like she’s entitled to flexibility, than like she’s requesting it be extended to her under the circumstances. Again, Alison’s advice to use it as a teaching moment sounds like the best option.

                3. Honeybee

                  @LD – Well, I think it depends on the job. I work for an employer that lets all employees manage their own time from day one. Of course if you’re new to the job you want to leave a good impression, but people extend their vacations by a day all the time here and just send an email to the team letting us know.

          2. Jayn

            Even if I didn’t want to reveal the reason I would probably at least word it as “I can’t come back until…” (Assuming that was indeed the case) What jumped out at me from the letter wasn’t so much that she’s taking an extra day–stuff happens–but that her wording implied she was doing so by choice rather than necessity. If there’s a good reason she can’t/won’t make it back on time then presenting it as a fait accompli makes sense, but that’s not what her choice of words implies.

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            1. Parker24

              I’m OP for #1. She did give a reason: something along the lines of “My family member, who I never see, reached out. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.” I apologize for not including this in the original question, very silly of me.

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              1. Anna

                It’s a little wishy-washy, but then again if a family member I rarely get to see is making an effort to see me but has very limited time, I might extend my time off too. Basically it’s not the best way to handle it, but it’s not the end of the world either.

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              2. irritable vowel

                If I were the supervisor in this situation, I wouldn’t focus so much on that it was “unprofessional” to extend her vacation like that (because professional means different things in different workplaces and at different levels). I’d remind her that vacation time needs to be approved in advance, and that this is a situation where she should have first e-mailed to ask if it was okay to take an extra day. Explain that while this is almost always going to be a pro forma thing, she at least needs to acknowledge that there’s a policy for requesting time off rather than just doing it, at least at her level.

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                1. Lemon Zinger

                  And, ideally, that this isn’t an option for every trip. It should only be used in case of emergency.

            2. Stranger than fiction

              Not only that, she told not asked. Most adults in that situation would say to their relative “let me check with work if I can extend my stay and get back to you “. But I agree with others she may not be aware that’s the norm due to what she sees parents and others do.

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              1. TootsNYC

                I had my flight completely canceled, and I still sort of asked permission, and managed my tone when I alerted people. And I wasn’t a rookie or low-level employee!

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                1. OhBehave

                  I agree. The fact that she told you she would be gone another day indicates that she has no idea how that would impact her coworkers. In her mind she probably thought it was no big deal. It’s just a day! Her additional day may not have made an impact in the office but the way she went about taking that day was inappropriate.

                  You can bet that she wasn’t waiting for the ok to stay.

                2. Yup

                  Like Alison said, it really is a culture thing. At my first office job, when I asked permission for things (I have a doc appointment, do you mind if I leave early; I’m ill, do you mind if I stay home today) I was treated as though I was behaving unprofessionally. Got a lot of tight smiles and verbal prods to toddle off and stop bothering the adults. I didn’t start getting treated like a fellow coworker until I began *informing* people of what I was doing rather than asking. *Informing*, not telling. For example, if I were going to take a sick day, I’d email: “I’m going to be out of the office today due to illness, but I expect to be back and on time tomorrow.” And I think this worked because it presented it as a scheduling issue (Out Today) that also included a solution (Expect Me Back Tomorrow).

                  So I think the advice I would give the intern is not Ask Don’t Tell, but rather Inform Of Problem And Include Proposed Solution To Problem.

              2. Anonamoose

                See, and where I work it would look really weird if I asked for permission. Hence, why saying it’s a professionalism thing is incorrect. It’s a policy/culture thing.

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        2. Elizabeth West

          Happened to me too, coming back from the UK in 2014. The flight out of LHR was late because of a medical emergency and we missed our connections in Atlanta. The airline put us up at a motel. I called my boss and told her and she said it was fine. I did go to work for a few hours the next day, after I got in, but BOY was I tired. At least I got my inbox sorted and a few things cleared.

          Never again! Next time I built in a day between getting back and going to work. I’ll be doing that from now on anytime I travel!

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      2. AnotherAlison

        Also, depending on the reason the trip was extended, she may have been stuck with that arrangement. (Say she was traveling with 3 unreasonable people who all “voted” to extend the trip, and she didn’t have a ride back earlier.) She could ask permission, but if permission wasn’t granted, then what? She would still be stuck in NY.

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        1. KellyK

          That’s true. Part of talking to her should definitely be finding out why she needed to extend. Since your office culture is such that she’s expected to ask permission, you should also let her know how to handle being stuck somewhere due to a missed flight, a car breakdown, or what-have-you. That’s probably as simple as including it in her email so the boss knows she’s stuck, rather than just unilaterally extending her stay.

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        2. SophieChotek

          agree also; this did seem like a pretty big mistake for an intern (and AAM was pretty gracious about the entire thing), but it’s a good teach-eable moment, as everyone pointed out, and better to learn about it now, instead of an in an actual job…

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        3. sstabeler

          It depends on how she asked. If she said “I am travelling with other people, and they decided to extend the trip. I can’t get back without them, so can I take an extra day’s vacation to cover the extra time I am away?” then arguably, it should be granted with a minimum of fuss. ( this is assuming that the intern isn’t doing anything important enough for the company to arrange- and pay for- the trip back, since the intern can’t. (and frankly, why give work THAT important to an intern?)) if she merely calls up to ask for an extra day’s vacation, that’s not quite the same.

          Ultimately, what I would do is not fire the intern, however, I would explain to her on her return ” it’s not a problem this time, but in future, it’s not a good idea to extend a vacation on short notice. In some jobs, it can actually be a firing offense.” and outline how the situation should be addressed if she is in a similar situation.

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        4. Parker24

          She basically told us it was because a family member asked to see her and she “couldn’t turn down the opportunity to see them”. That was our biggest problem – there was no emergency – and there are several team members taking on her extra work while she’s out. Really inconsiderate for sure but I couldn’t believe my boss’s reaction. He wanted a formal warning at minimum. I think we’re just going to take her aside when seh gets back and let her know her actions were not professional.

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          1. OhNo

            Well, that could be an emergency, if the family member is not expected to live long, or there are other extenuating circumstances. But I think it would be generally expected to explain that when asking for the time off, because without that context it just seems like a whim. Either way, though, it’s not professional behavior for an intern.

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          2. Tex

            If she is on critical projects/has a role with responsibilities that need to be covered then it sounds like she is more of an entry level employee and not an intern. The line is hazy and I get that internships are try outs for full time positions, but in my mind if someone told me I was classified as an intern I wouldn’t think that my role in the office was critical for the business to move forward.

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            1. SusanIvanova

              Yeah, we try to give interns projects that would be nice to have but not critical, so if it works, great, and if it has to be scrapped, we haven’t lost anything.

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            2. Intrepid

              That’s the ideal, but I’ve had several internships where my work did have a significant impact. I’m thinking of one where I not only acted as receptionist, but then every other member of the office left for an industry conference (in the same city), KNOWING that the media would be calling our org for comment. The internship-as-learning ideal has become quite corrupted in many, many places.

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          3. myswtghst

            I’m glad you’re planning to do that, and I think it’s a great opportunity to help the intern understand how she communicates this type of stuff in the future is important. In spite of having worked with my manager for 9 years, and knowing she trusts my judgement, I still pose it as a time off request, not a statement, and typically give some indication I’ve figured out my workload for the time to minimize the impact to my teammates.

            Helping her understand that this is about how it impacts her teammates (they have to cover extra work while she’s out) and how she communicates the request will help her going forward in a way having the big boss melt down at her would not.

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          4. TootsNYC

            I might go for the formal warning–it would sure drive it home, and it sounds (from your other comments) that it would be good for her.

            I might even be sure it was someone like HR making this point to her, so it’s less something she can brush off.

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      3. Bwmn

        I don’t see the request on its own as egregious – more so the language of the email not hitting the correct tone. Maybe the intern was sick, maybe the intern’t travel plans back from New York feel apart or aren’t working well – these are all things that happen to many employees on their return from holidays.

        Now maybe the intern is just having the best time and doesn’t want to come back – ok – these things happen. But had the email said “I’m sick and hope to be back on Wednesday” – then I doubt the email to AAM ever happens. Also, maybe the intern thought a ride was happening from person X, then they fall through and say “uh, I’m leaving tomorrow instead of today , sorry”. Maybe the intern just doesn’t have the language to vaguely say that her planned return trip was disrupted without it turning into “my friend is a flake and left me hanging”.

        At the end of the day, this is just one day late and while the tone of the email could use improving – and if this intern was my friend/relative – I would have just told her to say “I’m sick, sorry”. But I’m having a hard time ranking this among AAM’s ten worst intern behaviors by a long shot.

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      4. Bwmn

        I have a hard time seeing this as egregious beyond the tone of the email. Had the intern stated they’d be a day late due to illness or disruption to travel plans that would be completely standard notification and the reality of what that happen to numerous employees when traveling.

        The tone of the intern’s email is bad. But that may just be because the intern was planning on a friend driving back, the friend just said no, not leaving Monday, Tuesday instead. And to the intern it may not have sounded any better or worse to say “my travel plans have been disrupted, but I can guarantee making it back to the office by Wednesday, I’m sorry for the inconvenience”. Now, had the intern asked me for my advice, I would have just said to err on the side of “I think I caught a stomach bug, so sorry but hope to feel better soon”.

        To me this is just a completely teachable “this is what is professional and this is what isn’t” as opposed to ranking among AAM’s top ten worst intern behaviors ever.

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        1. Parker24

          She basically told us it was because a family member asked to see her and she “couldn’t turn down the opportunity to see them”. That was our biggest problem – there was no emergency – and there are several team members taking on her extra work while she’s out. Really inconsiderate for sure – I think we’re just going to take her aside when she gets back and let her know her actions were not professional.

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      5. Bea W

        I can totally see how someone new to the working professional world might not know what she did was not okay, and this is what internships are for really, a chance to learn both practical skills and how to behave in the workplace.

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      6. Office Plant

        Yeah, and sometimes younger people are given bad advice and don’t know any better than to take it. I remember at my first job, I used to get there early, before my manager. Another early arriving co-worker came in one day and told me that it’s a laid back office and most people arrive late, and that people would think I was weird if I kept arriving early. So I started arriving late. Until one day, my manager broke down and yelled at me about it. These days, I wouldn’t listen to a random co-worker telling me what to do, but when I was fresh out of college, I didn’t know any better.

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    2. Vicki

      “stupid things that I was totally not aware was bad in an office setting (left office to go to library to do research without asking boss’s permission.”

      I have not yet, in 30 years, worked anywhere that I would have had to ask “permission” to leave the office, let alone go to the library to do research.

      SImilarly, in my first job, when I asked my manager “is it ok if I take vacation on these dates” I was informed “You don’t need to ask. Just make sure your projects aren’t affected.” And again, in _every_ job I’ve had since, I could have sent a note to say “I’ll be out one more day” and no one would have even considered firing me.

      Every office is different.

      Reply
  2. Engineer Girl

    #3 She’s trying to buy your friendship through obligation. She also bought you something she knew would make you uncomfortable. Who wants a friend like that?
    Don’t add to the drama by buying a gift. Let her get mad if she chooses. You’re not obligated to be her friend.

    Reply
    1. AJ

      I think the OP meant that any gift from her coworker would make her uncomfortable – not the alcohol in particular. It sounds like the coworker in question is probably causing issues – “this coworker has been attempting to become closer with me than I want. She has caused problems in the office for herself” – but maybe it’s possible she is just a person who enjoys giving gifts and her unfortunate penchant for drama is a separate issue? Either way, as a person who enjoys giving gifts (someone mentions something they like, but rarely buy for themself, say – Nutella) I’d like to say there are those of us who give without expecting anything in return. I don’t think the OP should worry about it. Or maybe as a compromise she could send the coworker a free e-card? Or even easier, a “Happy Birthday” email with a picture of a cat wearing a birthday hat attached.

      Reply
      1. Engineer Girl

        But in this case the giver knew it would make the OP uncomfortable and did it anyway. That is not the action of anyone you want to have a relationship with.

        Reply
      2. Christopher Tracy

        There doesn’t need to be a compromise – OP doesn’t like this coworker, she didn’t want the gift the coworker gave her (and told her beforehand to boot), and she doesn’t want to have a personal relationship with her. Alison was right – OP is not obligated to get this person a gift in return, and she’s certainly not obligated to compromise to try and make this coworker feel good about herself.

        Reply
          1. OP

            Thanks all! I am the OP on the birthday gift question. To be honest, it almost felt like it was a weird passive aggressive move on the part of the coworker or something. Very strange. I feel a lot better after hearing everyone’s views on it.

            Reply
            1. Sadsack

              If it makes you feel any better, I have no idea when my co-worker’s birthdays are. There is a birthday list that gets distributed in my department, too, and I still don’t keep track. We don’t celebrate them as a group here, fortunately. One year my coworker gave me a little something on my birthday and I was really surprised. I think she just happened to realize that it was my birthday and was being nice. I like her and I really appreciated that she thought of me. However, I still didn’t reciprocate when her birthday came around (I have no idea when it did). We’re still friendly and it didn’t impact our working together. Not sure how things will turn out with your coworker, but I don’t think you should feel bad for not reciprocating.

              Reply
      3. Elizabeth West

        Hmmm, no. I know people like this–they give gifts so you’ll be emotionally beholden to them. The fact that she did it even though she knew OP would not welcome it tells me she’s forcing the issue. The gift is about HER, not the OP.

        If she wants to be cordial, the birthday email is fine, but I would not let myself be dragged into a gift exchange with someone I don’t like, don’t want to be friends with, and who cannot respect my boundaries.

        Reply
        1. Office Plant

          In “The Gift of Fear”, it’s called “loansharking”. When someone gives you something or goes out of their way to help you out so that you’ll feel indebted to them.

          In social psychology and marketing, it’s called “the door in the face technique” (play on “foot in the door”). You lure in customers by giving them things. Like free samples.

          Classic manipulation tactic.

          Reply
    2. T

      A mean part of my brain, reading #3, wants to see if coworker asks about the lack of gift and if so reply “oh, I knew it would make you uncomfortable to not get you a gift, but I did it anyway”…

      Of course, that’s terrible advice,but it’s a fun thought.

      Reply
      1. OP

        Ha! I’m the OP. I doubt the coworker will say anything about it, but if it comes down to it, I’ll be as polite as I can.

        Reply
    3. Rob Lowe can't read

      Yeah, that letter could have been written by me a couple of years ago. A by then former coworker – who I didn’t have a great relationship with when we did work together, although I think she thought more highly of me than I did of her – sent me a restaurant gift certificate for Christmas, and I was like, “WTF does she expect me to do with this?” We hadn’t worked together in almost a year by that point, and had only exchanged a single email regarding a work issue since her departure. I couldn’t afford to reciprocate, even if I’d wanted to, and I chose not to acknowledge the gift at all. (Maybe that was rude, but I really didn’t want to give her any opening to try and reestablish contact with me.) Since we didn’t work together anymore, I have no idea what kind of reaction this prompted, but frankly I didn’t and don’t care.

      Reply
  3. Engineer Girl

    #2 – You need to push back yourself. She will continue to make an issue because you let her get away with it. You can let your boss talk to her but then she’ll only shift her tactics. She’ll just get sneakier in her tactics and attack when the boss isn’t looking. These types sense any lack of confidence and go for it like a jugular.
    If you want to be in leadership then you need to learn to diffuse situations like this. Alison’s words are great. I’d also suggest “Crucial Conversations” as good read.
    Her words are inappropriate and a snide passive aggressive attack. You aren’t being overly sensitive. She’s a bully Shut her down quickly for the best results.

    Reply
    1. Engineer Girl

      PS – when you do shut her down make sure it is without emotion. Like you are correcting a 2 yo child – be the one in power. These kinds love to poke the emotion buttons to “prove” you aren’t worthy of a leadership position.

      Reply
      1. Sherm

        Agreed. A mature approach by the OP will make the coworker look childish by comparison. (However, the next time the coworker said “Some people aren’t cut out for it,” I’d be so tempted to reply “Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get the hang of your job!”)

        Reply
      2. Mike C.

        They’re going to call any response emotional so just ignore it and stick to your guns. Or they’re going to pull out that old killing word “unprofessional” (thunder cracks in the distance). Be firm, don’t back down and don’t accept any excuses or “good intentions”.

        And f*ck your co-workers for not sticking up for you. If I saw this happen to someone I work with, they’d get the first shot and if they didn’t feel like it I would have jumped in and ended it. I have before and usually ends the problem right then and there.

        Reply
        1. Rusty Shackelford

          Or they’re going to pull out that old killing word “unprofessional” (thunder cracks in the distance).

          You could beat her to the punch. “Jane, your personal attacks are inappropriate, and I’d prefer that you handle your opinions in a more professional way.”

          Reply
      3. TootsNYC

        Let’s write you some scripts. In situations like this, I always think about “channeling my inner daycare worker.”

        Daycare workers (good ones) are da bomb! They NEVER doubt their own authority, and they never get mad, bcs they never lose sight of the idea that their charges are simply behaving in a developmentally appropriate way. It’s never a battle, because they know that they are the winners always.

        Always start w/ her name. That’s an authority move.

        “Jane, that’s enough.”

        “Jane, we can take that offline.”

        “Jane, let’s talk about this privately.”

        Reply
        1. Marisol

          this is a really good way to frame it. I also like it because it’s a simple strategy that you can apply universally to bad behavior, rather than having to remember “if he says x, then I say y.” Although scripts are great, I find it can be a struggle to maintain my composure and say them in the moment I actually need them. This way you can just tell yourself to “switch on the daycare worker” and go from there.

          Reply
        2. Lana Kane

          The director of my son’s preschool told me that she learned to deal with adults by teaching preschoolers. I totally believe her.

          Reply
    2. Sami

      Totally agree. Decide on a few lines you feel you can use and go for it. Perhaps you could rehearse it with a (non-work) friend or family member. Even if you don’t get it exactly right in the moment, it is good practice and you’ll get stronger over time. Good luck!

      Reply
    3. Purple Dragon

      OP 2 – My jaw dropped whilst reading your letter. I don’t have any advice to add but wanted to reiterate that you are not being overly sensitive. Alison called her a jerk – I’d personally go further but I’m not sure that kind of language is appreciated here. Good luck.

      Reply
      1. Christopher Tracy

        I’d personally go further but I’m not sure that kind of language is appreciated here.

        It is – well, at least by me :)

        Reply
      2. RVA Cat

        Also – she is making these cracks 7 or 8 times (!) during the meeting?! OP 2 isn’t the reason things aren’t moving along, it’s Bully McMeangirl’s constant interruptions.

        Reply
    4. AnotherAnon

      If this bully isn’t shut down, she’ll not only continue to do it, other people might start joining in as well because they’ll think it’s okay to treat the OP this way.

      Reply
      1. SebbyGrrl

        Especially if she is saying these things DURING the meetings –
        (she goads you about not being able to run the meeting or are letting it get off track)

        “You mean me wasting others’ valuable meeting time like you are doing right now?”

        If she tries to pounce after the meeting – “Yeah sure (as you are quickly walking away), will you table that for our next meeting? You could start the agenda notes right now.”

        “Hmm, there was only one time the meeting seemed off topic…” She has to ask when “When you interrupted to say I’m not effective.”

        Be ready to turn her words back on her. Practice, write things down (like a rant on your memo app on smart phone) be prepared to calmly sink her battleship.

        Reply
  4. Mags

    I would be a bit annoyed that an intern just *told* me they were going to extend their vacation. Even if it’s just a formality, I feel like it should come as a request. But your boss is way overreacting. Isn’t the point of being an intern to learn?

    Reply
    1. snuck

      To me this would boil down to whether she’d asked for more days and been denied (formally or informally), whether it was a miscommunication vs an intentional standover push (what does past knowledge of the person say?) and whether there was other issues.

      I find it odd to think of a twenty something old as being so experienced in the world that they think they can talk like this – sure, they are in their first professional role, but they wouldn’t talk like this to their mother (or maybe they would, but do you really think a warm fuzzy coaching session is going to change their attitude?) … so they shouldn’t talk to you. I was catching up with a friend a week ago and her (almost) sixteen year old has just started at Subway… and was scheduled for her 16th birthday party … and miserable… We talked her through it, explained how to ask for a shift swap (contritely, with an obvious “if it is ok” and now, soon, before the date is a rush, with the excuse clear – it’s the date she planned her 16th birthday, and if they said no, then to suck it up and think of hte money). And then worked through with her alternatives for her party that wouldn’t mess with her schedule…as plan B. Sixteen year olds need help with this… By the time you graduate uni you should have had to negotiate with lecturers and tutors a range of different things and learnt the finer art of this stuff, at least a little.

      Sorry I’m ranting. TLDR. I think the intern should know better. And if nothing else was going on I’d pull them aside and chat, but if there was a hole pile of small annoyances and issues it’d be formal warning time. I would only sack them if it was clearly understood before they went on leave they were needed back on a particular date and the intern ignored that.

      Reply
      1. snuck

        Correction:

        I find it odd to think of a twenty something old as being so INexperienced in the world that they think they can talk like this

        Reply
      2. Jeanne

        Sure, it seems odd that maybe we knew that at age 22 but this worker doesn’t. But people are raised different ways and we all know from here that there is crazy job advice out there. I would talk to her and get her to understand why this was inappropriate. It probably wouldn’t hurt for her to apologize to the boss and accept her lecture.

        Reply
      3. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed

        Interns don’t know what they don’t know.

        Yes, the telling, not asking, part work irk me too, but if the company isn’t going to collapse because of her absence, just explain the faux pas and move on.

        My first year in a Real Job, I didn’t ask for the day after Thanksgiving off because I just assumed it was a holiday, as it had always been when I was in school. I only realized a few days before and apologized and explained to my boss, who was so mad and made me feel like a total shitbag. I didn’t know any better!

        Reply
        1. alter_ego

          And that’s totally company dependent. I’m assuming it wasn’t retail where yeah, you should probably realize you’re working the day after Thanksgiving. But in my office, day after Thanksgiving is a holiday. I’d be pretty surprised if I worked somewhere it wasn’t.

          Reply
      4. Backwoods Ranger

        I guess I’m not knowing the intern and their overall work I am not reading any attitude into it? I mean, not all of us came from families or situations where we got job coaching at 16. And many colleges don’t exactly teach business norms, believe me.

        I made several blunders in my first professional job at 21, but I worked hard and had a manager who coached me. When I made a misstep, I would be horrified and never do the thing again. I hate to think that someone read so much into it.

        We also don’t yet know why the intern had to stay an extra day, sometimes things happen. Flights get canceled, delayed, family members get sick, slips trips falls and ER visits happen, from this vantage point we simply don’t know. I can see an intern using formal sounding wording if something personal happened and they literally cannot make it back in time.

        Reply
        1. Sara

          I can’t think of a job where I could just tell my manager I was coming back at a different time that wasn’t approved/agreed to. Am I missing something? I’ve worked in senior management roles and still wouldn’t just announce I’m returning from leave later than agreed to/scheduled while on leave. I can understand if something happened like a flight delay so you’re not really asking for permission but rather explaining an unfortunate situation that will impact your return. I’m not suggesting the intern be fired, and agree with everyone that this needs to be explained. I’m just surprised by Alison’s comment that saying that people manage their own time (I agree) but with regards to set vacation time? Surprised to hear this!

          Reply
          1. NJ Anon

            Meh, we do it where I work. We are senior level and know whether taking that extra, unplanned day is going to be a problem or not. Boss does it as well.

            Reply
          2. Rusty Shackelford

            I could easily do this in my job, because I don’t have the kind of job where someone has to cover for me when I’m gone. It doesn’t sound like the intern is in that kind of position.

            Reply
          3. KR

            I just tell my manager I’m coming and going whenever. He trusts me to manage my time and I’m in a pretty junior role. Honestly I’d have a problem with phrasing it as a question when theres really nothing that can be done (flight delayed, whatever).

            Reply
            1. blackcat

              I think in the case where nothing can be done, the right thing to do is phrase it as an apology.

              “I’m so sorry, but [my car was stolen/my flight has been canceled/I got norovirus on my cruise/other thing out of one’s control]. I’m afraid I won’t be in tomorrow. I hope to be in on [Day], and I will update you if that isn’t the case.”

              Reply
          4. mskyle

            Yeah, this is pretty standard at my work – I tell the team when I’m going on vacation rather than asking my boss, and it would be acceptable for me to say that I was extending a trip (assuming there wasn’t something important happening). Our schedule is pretty transparent so I can generally make as good a decision as anyone about whether it’s ok to take time off.

            We even allow interns to do this, although I’m not sure it’s a great idea because it can give them weird ideas about what’s appropriate at future jobs, and I’m not sure they have as good an idea of the big picture.

            Reply
          5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            My experience is the opposite of yours. Once I get into my career-track jobs (so, after grad school) I’ve never had to ask for vacation — I’ve always just let my boss know when I was taking it. I don’t think I’ve ever extended a trip in this way, but others have and I wouldn’t hesitate to do so.

            Reply
          6. LQ

            My first post college job was like this. I was exempt and salaried and pretty much expected to fully manage my own work and schedule. I definitely would look at the calendar and make changes last minute and just tell my boss, or really just let my boss know. Where I’m at now it wouldn’t fly at all, but that job it was expected. It would have been weird to ask for permission for something like that. Either my schedule made it possible and I could do it, or it didn’t and I needed to find a way to handle that.

            Reply
          7. SystemsLady

            I’ve had to extend PTO by a day due to travel problems. I use similar phrasing though add an apology of some sort and it gets treated like a sick day (though it’s all PTO here).

            When I know my schedule is light on deadlines and have something I need to do, my manager wouldn’t mind me sending that kind of email, either.

            Reply
          8. Kore

            At my job we all pretty much manage our vacation time, and we all cover each other. It would be considered kind of rude to do this, but not 100% a faux pas. It’s pretty frequent for people coming back from a vacation to say “I might also take Monday off, we’ll see” and then have the person providing coverage to keep on that for another day. What the intern did would be considered kind of rude but not reprimand-worthy.

            Reply
          9. justsomeone

            I’ve done it. Entry level here, but I knew my workload well enough that I knew another day wouldn’t mess anything up. I just texted my boss and said, “Hey, I’ll be in Wednesday instead of Tuesday.” and she texted back “Okay, see you Wednesday!” It was nbd, even for my fairly conservative office.

            Reply
          10. Simonthegrey

            My friend can text her manager day-of to change a half day to a full day off, etc. Her job is completely self-contained (no one has to pick up her slack and she doesn’t answer to anyone day to day, only at a couple crunch times per year).

            Reply
          11. Honeybee

            At my workplace this is totally allowed. People do it all the time, actually. You just drop everyone who needs to know an email in the morning saying you won’t be in. People are up front about extending their vacation by a day too :)

            Reply
        2. Temperance

          Honestly, I really disagree with this – speaking as someone who came from a very low-class environment and had no “job coaching”. This is so bizarre and entitled to me, especially for a low-level employee.

          Reply
          1. Another Mel

            I tend to agree with you. I went to Uni at a school known for co-op (paid – kind of like interning but not quite) and this kind of thing is unheard of. If this is a paid internship I would be really, really ticked off and shocked that this person didn’t know any better or care (because it reads like s/he thinks its no big deal). I probably wouldn’t fire him / her over it if everything else has been good – but they would know that the only reason they aren’t being fired is because he / she is an intern and anything else like that would result in getting fired. And if the intern wasn’t very contrite, if there were any other issues along these lines chances are the person wouldn’t be getting a great reference from me at the end. I’ve managed interns before (unpaid – Advertising) – and I was a paid co-op student (not advertising) and just no, not acceptable.

            Reply
          2. mondegreen

            I agree with you: even when I was in grade school babysitting, or in my first “real” job at 15, I was ready early and didn’t even think of missing assigned days. It was obvious to me that every responsible, stably employed person I knew showed up on time and did their work. I’m pretty surprised by the responses saying this isn’t a huge offense–maybe this is a professional vs. blue-collar culture thing, and the intern’s parents/role models have flexibility around vacation and PTO? (Yeah, I should probably question my own assumptions more.)

            Reply
          3. Honeybee

            I guess I don’t understand – how is it entitled to very matter-of-factly say that you’re extending your vacation by one day? I think this depends more on the workplace’s culture and isn’t a universal.

            Reply
      5. Sans

        I just spent quite a bit of time yesterday coaching my 19 year old, who had to call in sick for the first time ever at her job (she’s been there five months). She was nauseous and throwing up, so it wasn’t just a matter of gritting your teeth and getting through the shift, even if you don’t feel well. Doesn’t help that she has a nasty boss. These are the lessons work teaches us, one way or another.

        Now I have to remind her to thank the person profusely who pulled a triple shift to cover for her, and offer to cover a shift for her ANY TIME.

        Reply
      6. Pwyll

        Having run an internship program with a ton of interns with a wide array of backgrounds, I can tell you that this isn’t that strange at all. I’ve seen it from both extremes: 21 year olds who went from high school to college and never interned anywhere else because their parents wanted them to “focus on their studies” and maybe, maybe lifeguarded once when they were 16. In the early days of the internship, we often had to explain norms like, no, you don’t get to just show up whenever you want or choose which projects you’re working on. We also had an intern from an extremely volatile home environment (and, I suspect, abuse) who quite literally had no frame of reference for what real, professional office work was supposed to be like except from watching TV. Single parent didn’t work, not much by way of other role models, and college itself was a challenge. The poor kid was scared to death in the beginning, he actually thought he’d be responsible for bringing in his own office supplies and computer and spent the first week (classroom-type training) trying to figure out how to explain that he didn’t have the money for a computer and things like paperclips.

        Keep in mind that in many colleges, students can simply skip class without notice and it goes unaddressed until the final exam or assignments are due. Some students don’t realize that’s not how professional jobs work. Depending on the structure of the internship program (we ran both the entry-level and also a MUCH higher level internship program where interns effectively did paid, unsupervised production work), this is the stuff they’re supposed to be learning on-the-job.

        Reply
        1. Ama

          I worked with a lot of student employees during my time in academia, and at least at the university I worked at, departments with student workers were strongly encouraged to give the students a lot of leeway in asking for time off. It was supposed to be so students wouldn’t start feeling more obligated to their job than to their studies but it did lead to widespread acceptance of students emailing ten minutes before their shift to announce that they had a big test tomorrow and were skipping their shift to study (I tried to coach mine to let me know at least the day before but was not always successful). So if the intern has only had jobs like that, I could see her not fully understanding that just announcing an extra day off is not done at every job.

          Reply
          1. Pwyll

            One time I overheard new-intern ask old-intern once how many “skips” you get in this internship. Old-intern, who had worked extensively throughout college, thankfully explained that “skips” aren’t a thing in real life unless you’re sick. She quit 2 weeks later when we wouldn’t pay her to let her study for her midterm at her desk instead of doing the work we assigned (because, she said, work study lets her do that all the time!)

            So, I completely see how that can happen.

            Reply
            1. ACA

              Yeah, in my first work-study job in college, I didn’t actually realize that I wasn’t getting paid to…study at work. (I figured it out after the first time I tried and my boss side-eyed me pretty hard.)

              Reply
              1. Pwyll

                The most sought-after work study job at my college was “desking”, basically just checking in visitors in each of the residence halls, because you could study and/or watch movies.

                Reply
                1. Kelly L.

                  I had a boyfriend back then who got fired from the world’s easiest job. I was so mad, because I would have appreciated it!

                  It was 1995. The reason that’s relevant is that huge swaths of people knew nothing about HTML or web design. His job was, during the course of an entire semester, to create a super simple web site for a department, along the lines of those awful Geocities sites we all had back then. (You know the ones. Under Construction logo, five or six links, maybe a few paragraphs of text.) That was ALL they wanted. And they gave him the whole semester because they had no idea it was easy.

                  …So, naturally he skipped work like five times in a row and got canned.

                2. Oryx

                  Ahhhhh, yeah, those were the days. The first semester I worked the 4 am – 8 am shift on Friday and Saturday nights (or, well, Saturday and Sunday mornings). All the bars closed at 2 am so pretty much everyone was already back and asleep by then and nobody was getting up earlier than 8 am on the weekends. We were the only shift allowed to watch movies, it was great.

              2. Kelly L.

                This was a huge bone of contention back when I helped supervise work-study students! Some of the professors in the department were fine with studying during down times, others weren’t, and sometimes this led to people getting told off for something that another authority figure had okayed. One of the things I’d do over in my work life is that I’d stand up for those students better.

                Reply
            2. Rusty Shackelford

              “Skips.” I feel a palpitation coming on.

              By the time I interviewed for my last part-time position as a college student, I’d actually been in the workforce for years, and had worked full-time for a while while going to school part-time. The questions they asked at that interview (such as “do you think you’re going to have a problem coming into the office as scheduled?”) told me a lot about the students who had worked there before me. (My answers was along the lines of “I have a reliable car and I live within walking distance, so I don’t foresee any problems” and they were all, “no, we mean, are you going to come to work even if you have a lot of homework?”)

              Reply
      7. Parker24

        I’m the OP for #1 – and I’ve always agonized over last minute time off requests unless it was something that was truly an emergency… like once I got stuck because of a tropical storm. Another time a family member passed away WHILE I was visiting my hometown. Even those things I felt bad about. But this employee said it was because she wanted to visit a family member who she “never sees” and “she couldn’t pass up the opportunity”. I was pretty surprised. She knows there are other team members taking on her extra work while she’s out, too.

        Reply
        1. Pwyll

          As you mentioned below, I think you’re right to sit her down when she returns to explain how inappropriate her message was, that it’s a serious performance issue, and that she could absolutely be fired for such a thing. I also like the idea of bringing up how her not being there has affected the work of others, as while she might theoretically know that’s the case, she may not entirely realize the “chain reaction” that can cause. And then I’d explain how she should have approached the situation.

          Good lock!

          Reply
        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          Everything about this sounds like such classic intern shenanigans, right down to her officious language about passing up the opportunity to see her family member. It’s worthy of an eyeroll, a chat with her about why this wasn’t acceptable, and a reminder to yourself about why interns may not be worthwhile.

          (I’m reminded of my intern who called in to watch the news because “as a political science major” it was more important for him to watch the news than come to work. And the many interns and applicants who called out or asked to reschedule due to “flu-like symptoms.” Hee. I loved that one — the intentional over-seriousness of their language.)

          Reply
          1. Biff

            At my job you often get emails that say:

            “I feel gross. I won’t be in.”

            End of story. Gross allows us all to come up with our own version of events, uniquely suited to our squeamishness, or lack there of.

            Reply
          2. zora.dee

            omg, I love your political science major story.. I totally remember you telling us that one before. It’s the best.

            Reply
          3. Willis

            Yeah – the “I couldn’t pass this opportunity up” language basically sounds like a fancy way of saying, I know I’m doing something crappy, but this other thing is more important to me.

            Reply
            1. Kelly L.

              I was thinking that about “reached out” too–like she feels like she has to use business jargon because it’s an email to her boss. It feels like it was filtered through a semi-understood layer of “work-ese.”

              Reply
          4. Pwyll

            Yeah . . . I definitely used the “Couldn’t submit my term paper on time because this incredibly important world event happened and I needed to watch it live” excuse in college.

            Reply
            1. Honeybee

              I actually had a professor encourage me to skip class in graduate school on that basis. It was September 2008 and John McCain and Barack Obama were both on campus having a debate/discussion about youth and service in the U.S., but I had an epidemiology lecture at the same time (and it was like the first or second week of class). I was talking about being torn about whether to go to class or to the debate, and the professor said “This is a once in a lifetime event. Epidemiology is always going to be here. Go to the debate.”

              So I did, lol.

              Reply
        3. What In A Name

          You shouldn’t’ really punish her because her behavior doesnt’ mirror your behavior. You can coach her as to leaving the others with work, explain professional expectations, or you can fire her. But you can’t really punish her because you don’t think she display the proper amount of agonizing over the situation, and your comments sound like that is just it. You really can’t expect her to prioritize work over family just because that might be what you do – you never know the situation. I have an aunt I never see and who is 85, if she changed plans to see me I would do it not knowing when I might have the opportunity to.

          Reply
      8. eee

        well, due to some things about the intern’s background given earlier, I would not be surprised if this was their first job. Plenty of people who come from money don’t have any sort of job until they’re out of college.

        Reply
      9. TootsNYC

        I don’t think my kid has ever had that much of a chance to work that sort of stuff out.

        And I’ve heard her say, “this is my boundary,” so I think she’s gotten all sorts of “stick up for yourself!” indoctrination. And of course, she’s 22, so now I don’t know anything, so I haven’t said much.

        And some kids have parents who forget that their child is in the working world, and they talk about taking time off as though it’s summer camp or something.

        In short: I don’t think you can generalize.

        Reply
    2. Peter the Bubblehead

      I know it wasn’t in the OP’s letter, but could this situation be more along the lines of something happened beyond the intern’s control (flight cancelled or something similar) and she cannot make it back on the originally agreed date and whoever received the phone call interpreted it as “I’m extending my vacation”?

      Reply
      1. Oryx

        Except the intern emailed the OP directly and the OP quotes the email in their letter. So, no, I don’t think it’s a matter of misreading what the intern was saying.

        Reply
      2. Allison

        That’s very possible, but it might have been a good idea to explain why she needed to do that. I’m sure she’ll be expected to give a reason when she gets back.

        Reply
      3. Parker24

        Hi – I’m the OP. She said in her letter (I should have included this, sorry) that a family member reached out and wanted to see her and show her his office. And she “never gets to see this person and couldn’t turn down the opportunity”. No emergency whatsoever.

        Reply
        1. nonegiven

          Still should have asked permission. If the boss wanted her fired, she really should at least be written up for that and also talked to about her entitlement.

          Reply
    3. Nervous Accountant

      Same. I’m actually surprised at the responses here.
      From what I’ve seen interns/those new to the working world go in the opposite direction of being so cavalier and are actually more super careful than those with a little bit more experience.

      Or maybe it’s just me? Even though I’m full time and get salary, not hourly, I still have to get vacation approval in advance. Calling out sick of course is the exception. I wouldn’t fire someone over it, but I definitely would not think it was appropriate or OK.

      I just can’t imagine being so chill about my job.

      Reply
      1. Spot

        Yeah, this is how I feel too. But then again, I grew up in a home where my parents worked blue-collar jobs and there was a real possibility of them losing their job if they were even two minutes late clocking in more than a few times. So I went into my first jobs being extremely cautious about everything.
        I’ve never had a job where you can just sort of announce when you’re taking vacation. Everything has to be approved in advance. Obviously if there are travel issues, you aren’t going to get in trouble, but if on the third day of my vacation I just announced I was adding an extra day, that would not fly.

        Reply
        1. SimontheGreyWarden

          Meanwhile, other than while I was full time in my retail job (and vacations were pretty regulated because I was on the management team and therefore could only take mine if no other manager/team lead was on vacation) I have never had vacation time. The position I am in now pays well and I have a lot of flexibility – I could call tomorrow, not come in, and make up that time an hour at a time over the course of the whole semester – but it will never be eligible for benefits because it is part time and grant funded (tutoring position). So if I did move to a FT position, that would be a huge change.

          It’s one of the reasons I haven’t been interested in moving to the company my husband works at. I would be FT with benefits there in a couple months, but there is almost no flexibility and vacations have to be scheduled months out (sick time is different and they do permit a couple emergency days per rolling time period so if the basement floods you could call in an e-day, but only twice in a rolling 4 or 6 months I believe).

          Reply
      2. CheeryO

        I don’t know, I’m tempted to give her a tiny bit of leeway. I did so many things in my internships that must have looked cavalier/too chill at the time, but they were really just blunders that came about from having literally zero exposure to office environments growing up in a blue collar family. In reality, I was really anxious about doing a good job, and I never made the same mistake twice. But boy, did I make some stupid mistakes. I could see shooting off what I thought was a nice, professionally worded email stating that I would be taking an extra day off, since that seems like the kind of thing that you should be able to do in a “grown-up job.”

        Not saying that’s the case here, but I would absolutely start with a talk and not go straight to firing.

        Reply
  5. FellowMoominFan

    #4 — If you work together with other people (so you meet them in person), I think it’s a bit optimistic to plan to only tell them around five or six months in.

    I realize body shapes and pregnancies vary, and that you can do a lot with what you wear. But that’s the thing: it’s hard to predict how obviously pregnant you’ll look from one week to the next, and most women do look obviously pregnant by that time.

    You could of course still simply not discuss it at that point, but that might get very awkward after a while. Of course, I don’t know if your particular job or situation is one where you will be effectively penalised by informing your employer at, say, three or four months, but this potential awkwardness could also count against you.

    Congrats, by the way!

    (I myself am five months along at the moment.)

    Reply
    1. roisindubh211

      You can mitigate this by saying you were worried about saying anything too early on in case it went wrong (even if that’s not a concern for you, it is for a lot of people and would come across as a completely reasonable thing to worry about.)

      Reply
      1. FellowMoominFan

        In a normal pregnancy (and I really do get that not all pregnancies go as smoothly as that!), the risk of something going wrong goes down dramatically after the first trimester, though.

        So once you’ve had your early ultrasound and any related bloodwork and possible other tests that show whether everything is going OK so far, there isn’t really a medical reason to worry that something will go wrong. Some expecting mothers may of course worry anyway, but it’s good to remember that that isn’t really a medical thing or something an outsider (like your boss) will necessarily see the same way.

        Pregnancies with specific risks are of course a whole other matter.

        Reply
    2. chickabiddy

      Congratulations, and I agree. It is possible that you may be able to wait until month 5 or 6. (I volunteer to teach water aerobics to seniors, and obviously wore a bathing suit in public, and people were very surprised when I “announced” at the six-month mark. I am a unicorn, though. And I have huge boobs that kind of overshadowed a tiny belly bump. So it could happen.)

      But it would be wiser to have a plan B. Some women carry in a way that they show early. And some women need to plan more doctors’ appointments than they expected, or come in late some days, or make other changes in their lives and schedules. I would tell your boss after the early ultrasound and explain that you are not ready to announce and you expect her to respect that, but you knew she would find out so you are addressing it in confidence.

      Reply
    3. Security SemiPro

      Until you officially announce everyone *should* be doing their best to keep their opinions of your body to themselves. (And after as well, frankly.)

      Three months is plenty of time to plan for a colleague taking leave. You don’t need to announce before that. Assuming your colleagues are reasonably professional.

      Reply
      1. J.B.

        And yet, when it comes to pregnancy people don’t keep their opinions to themselves. That is why I never officially announced my second pregnancy, I just let people gradually figure it out. The comments about how big I got were obnoxious.

        Reply
      2. FellowMoominFan

        “Three months is plenty of time for a colleague taking leave.”

        The chances that those three months will be cut short for one reason or another (early arrival, mom having to stop work because of either her health or that of the baby, etc.) are pretty high, though.

        Reply
    4. Rusty Shackelford

      I’m imaging the email to Alison from #4’s boss. I know she’s pregnant – I get her doctor bills, and I see her waistline expanding – and it’s driving me crazy that she won’t announce it! Hee.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        Heh, my supervisor at one job didn’t announce until month 4 or 5 because she didn’t want the bosses to give her any grief until she had all her plans squared away. She walked around wearing her shirt untucked, and it was starting to get pretty obvious by the time she told me, let alone them! I just pretended I saw nothing. When she told me, I said, “Oh, congratulations; I didn’t notice! Wink wink.” She knew I knew why she didn’t want to say anything.

        Reply
      2. fposte

        We did have one once from a manager who was hurt that the employee had announced to other people before the manager; I can’t remember the details, though.

        Reply
        1. Rusty Shackelford

          Yes, I remember that one. Seems like the manager was (a) not particularly nice or friendly to the LW, and (b) a habitual eavesdropper, which is how she knew the LW was pregnant before the LW told her.

          Reply
    5. Person

      When to announce a pregnancy is a personal decision. People quit with 2 weeks notice all the time, and companies deal with it.
      I didn’t announce until 5 months and it is absolutely nobody’s business why. Everybody needs to just leave pregnant women alone and not make them feel like they’re doing something wrong by taking care of themselves and establishing boundaries that are appropriate for them and their families.

      Reply
  6. Olya

    The intern situation is annoying, but her email is sufficiently terse and formal that I wonder if there was an embarrassing reason (health? family?) that she had to stay another day. Or maybe a minor reason– travel difficulties– that she didn’t realize she should explain.

    If any of the above, she should have given a better reason (or alluded to one) in the email, and regardless I think it’s appropriate to coach her on this. Just try not to be too upset if she’s an otherwise good intern.

    Reply
    1. Turtle Candle

      Yeah, the email is oddly-worded enough that I wonder if she had something like a flight delay/cancellation or similar and didn’t know she was supposed to spell that out.

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      It reads to me like the sort of email interns often send because they don’t yet quite realize the tone/content that’s appropriate, and thus often ended up sounding stilted/terse.

      Reply
    3. chickabiddy

      Early in my career, way back when I rode a dinosaur to work, it was drummed into me not to talk about my personal life or problems at work in any way. I think I could have extrapolated that it would be inappropriate to talk about a missed/cancelled flight, or a sudden illness where I could not leave the hotel bathroom and certainly could not get on a plane, or a sticky family situation that absolutely required me to stay for one more day. So if I felt that I couldn’t actually say any of those things, I’d be left with “staying here, see you tomorrow”.

      Reply
      1. Ellie H.

        Same. I have a huge thing about not wanting to sound like I’m making excuses (I don’t like to sound like I am) so I usually don’t say anything besides that I can’t come in/don’t have the homework/whatever and I am sorry. That’s what the intern’s email struck me as. Who knows why she was staying longer.

        Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          And there are people you encounter when you’re young who yell constantly about reasons vs. excused but never actually explain the difference.

          Reply
      2. Emelle

        My internship supervisor was so adamant that work emails are not for personal use and that work time is not for personal chat, my email to her would have been similar to #1’s intern. I would have probably said something about unforseen circumstances, but yes, it would have been a short, tense note.

        Reply
      3. SystemsLady

        I’m *still* uncomfortable only saying “I’m feeling ill”.

        When I have to explain a bit because it’s something I absolutely need to see a doctor for now (but can take an ibuprofen and go to work with it) it’s even more awkward.

        Basically, being sick and needing off of work is uncomfortable for me, hah.

        Reply
        1. (Another) B

          I’m an oversharer – I let them know why I’m out and what’s wrong with me haha. But I completely understand why most people wouldn’t say. I just get paranoid that they will think I’m making stuff up. I’m also the worst liar ever, but they don’t know that.

          Reply
    4. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed

      I’ve had people who handled all leave requests like this. One guy wanted to leave early during his shift and would only say “I have stuff to do.” Because I actually needed him there, it wasn’t a compelling enough reason to make me adjust the schedule at the last minute. Had it been some kind of emergency, I could have worked it out.

      Some people are just SUPER private about these things. I’d rather have that than the guy who called in last week to tell me he was having terrible diarrhea. Sigh.

      Reply
    5. What In A Name

      Or maybe she read Alison’s column yesterday on just telling the boss what they need to know without going into detail!

      seriously, thought, I was also going to comment that I think calling her entitled or anything of the like is jumping a bit. I think she is young in her career, likely accepted an internship to get experience – both technical and professional, and likely witness this behavior along the way somewhere (maybe even in a movie, who knows)…but I think the advice given is spot on.

      I see this as a teaching moment. Lord knows if my first employer had fired me every time I had a misstep in my year I would be upset but probably wouldn’t have learned. Having a conversation with me about the “why” and the perception vs. reality and acceptable norms went a long way to mold me and help me understand.

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq.

        I agree that there’s no need to jump to entitled or anything like that. What we know for sure is that an intern misjudged the appropriateness of an email and missed one day of work. In isolation, this seems like nothing more than a teachable moment.

        Reply
    6. Parker24

      My apologies everyone – I’m the OP and I should have mentioned that she said it was because she wanted to see a family member who reached out, and she never gets to see this person, and “couldn’t pass up the opportunity”. No emergency at all.

      Reply
      1. What In A Name

        I’m failing to see your point of view on this “seeing a family member they never see isn’t an emergency”. What if it’s an older family member they were once close to and may not have a chance to see again, what if it’s someone who has a short life expectancy? When I was an intern there is no way I would have disclosed that personal information to a supervisor, I don’t know that I would now.

        Reply
        1. Jayn

          I’m feeling a little torn on that reason too. On the one hand it’s hardly something you NEED to do, on the other my family is pretty far flung by now (and I’m one of the ones who moved away) and the person I rarely see could be anything from an aunt who lives down the road from my parents to a cousin visiting from another continent, meaning I have no expectation to see them again ever.

          Reply
        2. fposte

          When you’re asking people to cover for you unexpectedly, like this intern is, you can withhold information about why but it comes at a price. If you’ve been a reliable employee for years, have never done it before, and have gone out of your way for other people, that price is likely to be pretty low (“I’m sure What wouldn’t make us do her stuff today if she didn’t have a good reason”). If you’re new and have already demonstrated some problematic views, as the intern does, that price is going to be a lot higher.

          Reply
          1. What In A Name

            But I’m not getting a history of bad behavior from the email.

            OP states “we have a flex-time off policy” not “we have strict permission only policy”

            Reply
            1. fposte

              I didn’t say she had a history of bad behavior–however, the OP mentions in a followup that she does have an attitude of entitlement. It’s not a combination that’s going to make people go “Sure, I don’t mind doing an extra day’s work on top of my own for reasons I might understand if you told me but you’re going to withhold from me.” In general, if you’re close enough to them to expect them to cover for you, you’re close enough to fill them in.

              And a flex time off policy doesn’t mean you’re automatically allowed to tell people the day before that you’re not coming in–the OP explicitly says that they require advance notice. What kills a good flex time off policy is when people stop giving their colleagues notice and just start taking the time.

              Reply
          2. Lana Kane

            I agree. In my experience, you can be opaque, but there are usually repercussions depending on how well people know you. Fair or not, when people only get perfunctory explanations it can make it seem like you are being purposely evasive. And when you’re being opaque with a supervisor/manager, even more so.

            Reply
      2. nonegiven

        Maybe she should have said, “I’m terribly sorry, but due to unforeseen circumstances I need to extend my vacation one more day. I expect to be back in the office on X and I hope this won’t cause too much disruption.

        Reply
      3. Office Plant

        I think that makes it more clearly inappropriate, but I’d still consider it a teachable moment and not a reason to fire someone. Unless it was part of a larger pattern of inconsiderate behavior and you had already had a conversation about it.

        Reply
  7. I'm not a lawyer, but ...

    #1 I would also say that is a very stilted email for a young intern to write. They may think their tone is appropriately professional. Or they may have no idea how (or if) to mention an emergency that might’ve come up. But either way, if your boss fires everyone who makes a mistake, that entire office should be empty soon :( unless your coworkers aren’t human.

    Reply
    1. Bookworm

      Agreed. With people new to the workplace, it’s helpful to remember that sometimes the behavior you’re seeing is reflective of what their friends and family (parents especially) have taught them is normal. My father was my guide for writing business correspondence and what was reasonable for the first few years of my career. I remember asking him nervously if I needed permission to call my coworkers by their first names, or how to ask for time off.

      Luckily for me, he gave solid advice – but not all parents do. If she’s resistant to being corrected, that’s a really bad sign, but this one e-mail could just indicate easily corrected cluelessness on her part.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        Just generally, parents can be a great or weak or bad influence on people young to the work force. I can just hear a not-so-great parental influence telling the intern that it’s just an internship and she’s only getting paid $x and her father really want to see the Met on that extra day and just email work and tell them you are coming back a day later.

        Doesn’t mean that’s what happened at all. One million other things might have happened. But somebody new to the work force gets an extra shot. It’s what happens AFTER you’ve corrected their course that matters.

        Reply
        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

          And that was me, telling the son’s GF to “just quit that damn job already” because they were screwing with her pay and she was missing family dinners I wanted her to be at. ;-) And I was only half joking.

          Reply
            1. What In A Name

              I don’t really think it matters if she was working for the Queen of England if they are screwing with pay and you want a job that allows you more time with family. Just my $0.02

              Reply
        2. Oryx

          Ah, yes. Parents can be both good or bad (and sometimes can be both depending on the circumstances). In past professional jobs I’ve had to remind my family that I have to check with my manager before we can plan a trip. I can’t just take off whenever I want to, a flexibility they sometimes take for granted.

          Reply
        3. Anxa

          I think sometimes people underestimate just how hard it is to be an unpaid intern (might not be the case in this instance, but in general) dependent on your family for support, while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy.

          I lived at home during one internship and I constantly found myself subtly pressured into joining my family for things and skipping work events when I hadn’t reserved transportation early, etc. It was a very tense time at home because my family was not thrilled about an unpaid internship after paying so much money for college.

          Reply
  8. Chriama

    #3 – one thing I really hate is people spending my money for me. Telling me I should buy x or y or commit to a or b financial obligation t’s me off a lot. So I would shut this down as bluntly as possible. You can’t choose how she spends her money but by the same token neither can she choose how you spend yours. Don’t bother bringing up the lack of gift, but if she mentions this then be very clear that you don’t want to give gifts, and don’t apologize for not getting her anything. You’re not sorry.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      This. Don’t apologize for not getting a gift as that cedes the ground that somehow you are obligated. Rather say something like ‘I thought I made it clear that I don’t really mix my professional and social life, so exchanging gifts is just not something I do at the office.’ Only if she brings it up and tries to guilt you of course.

      Reply
    2. OP

      Thanks! I’m the OP for #3 and I plan to do this if it comes up. I doubt it will come up at all, but if it does, I do plan to be very blunt about it.

      Reply
  9. Chocolate Teapot

    1. To echo other commenters, it seems that the intern simply does not know how to handle this type of situation and coaching will help.

    Reply
  10. Panda Bandit

    #3 Do you still have that bottle of alcohol? Wrap it up and give it back to her ;D

    Just kidding on that suggestion, but don’t feel obligated to give her anything and don’t feel bad about it. She was rude to you from the start because she did something knowing that it would make you feel uncomfortable. That’s what bullies do.

    Reply
    1. Chriama

      Honestly, this is something I might do. I was actually thinking I would have left the bottle on my desk or something for months, just to kind of passive-aggressively indicate that I didn’t want it and it was a burden rather than a gift.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Thneed

        I wouldn’t do that because then I would have to look at it the whole time. I would probably have returned it later the same day, feeling irritated that I was put into the situation of having to say the awkward thing, and trying to keep that out of my voice.

        On the whole, I think the LW’s solution was the best: it got the stuff consumed and out of her life.

        Reply
    2. OP

      I’m the OP for #3 I actually considered this, but because I never wanted it in the first place, I brought it to a dinner I attended and let everyone have at it.

      Reply
  11. MK

    #1, I an not sure I agree with the “she’s an intern, you have to teach her office norms” attitude. The notion that you have to be there for work and that you can’t just grant yourself time off is not some obscure point of workplace culture, it’s a pretty standard feature that most people should know without having to have it spelled out for them. I don’t think firing is in order, but I would make it clear to her that her behavior was unacceptable.

    On the other hand, I wonder if this is actually on the OP’s company. It’s mentioned that they have a flex-time-off policy; could it be that they oversold this to the intern and that’s why she thought this would be ok?

    Reply
    1. Random Lurker

      I agree – I think the boss may be overreacting, but I disagree that he is being unreasonable. It is a perfectly reasonable expectation for someone to return to work when they said they were going to. I don’t buy the “we have to teach interns” explanation. Yes, you have to teach an intern appropriate office politics, how to do a job, etc. But this is something an adult should know without prompting. I don’t care if she is young. She’s out of college, and therefore an adult. Basic attendance is not something that should need to be taught at this life stage.

      However, as others have pointed out, there may be good reason she had to extend, and I think it’s important to discuss wth her. If she decided she was having so much fun that she just decided to stay another day, yeah, I’d fire her. It’s an indication of poor decision making as well as someone not taking the internship seriously.

      Reply
      1. myswtghst

        Basic attendance is not something that should need to be taught at this life stage.

        Honestly, I don’t think it’s that simple. Between colleges where you can decide to skip a day without any real impact to anyone but yourself, and a workplace where flex time is often used at the last minute by more senior colleagues, I can see where an intern might think it’s okay. And if the intern’s family member who she just couldn’t pass up seeing told her “oh, just tell them you’ll be a day late coming back, it won’t be an issue for an intern!”, I can easily see her trusting their judgement and sending the poorly worded email.

        People learn if we’re willing to teach them, and this is a great opportunity to help the intern understand how her unexpected extra day off caused extra work for her teammates, and how her email could have been phrased better (i.e. as a request, rather than a statement). Firing her could teach her not to do this again, or it could leave her thinking this particular workplace is just mean and unfair because everyone else gets to use flex time. I’m with Alison – taking on interns is taking on their professional development, so I’d be willing to give her a chance to learn and grow here.

        Reply
    2. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed

      OP could also have responded “No, we didn’t agree to that. Unless there’s an emergency, we’re expecting you back Tuesday as agreed” which also would have gotten the point across, although I think it’s a little harsh if she wasn’t responsible for anything major at the time.

      You also really can’t expect that people understand work norms. They don’t. You’d be amazed at some of the things new entrants to the working world don’t know.

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        *sees your revised user name* I…am so glad I swallowed that mouthful of tea just before I scrolled down, or I’d be cleaning my monitor and probably coughing up a storm. :)

        Reply
      1. Kore

        It’s 100% the point for unpaid internships, and a large part of the point for paid internships. I could go into my spiel about how much I loathe the concept of unpaid internships, but learning is what you are supposed to get out of the internship – it’s why you’re doing that and not a job, to gain experience and learn about working in business. Unpaid internships are supposed to be primarily educational, and not just to get entry-level workers without paying them. Paid internships are also supposed to be educational, though I’m not sure if there’s as much of a legal requirement to be such. But you don’t go into an internship knowing how to do everything, you go into it to learn.

        Reply
    3. Alton

      I think this is something that’s difficult to learn, honestly. My first jobs were hourly ones where no one had actual leave, and it was challenging to adjust to an office environment and learn what was appropriate for my position–especially when what’s appropriate for me isn’t always the same as what’s appropriate for other people in my office, based on different job duties and coverage needs.

      I skew toward being very over-cautious, but I can see how a person who sees their coworkers seemingly exercise a lot of flexibility in their hours and leave usage could get the wrong idea.

      Reply
    4. LQ

      I do think that’s a big part of the point of internships.

      When I was in college I talked to the local (in town) radio station about having an internship. They said they didn’t want an intern because they didn’t want to teach me the norms of business and the work place. But they would hire me (at minimum wage, but that was basically what everyone there got!) a couple years later when I was leaving they said they were really glad that they hired me as an employee. They felt like they could have fired me if I’d have screwed up. (Apparently they’d had several interns in the past and it had been a lot more handholding than had the capacity for.) I was just expected to learn on my own. Which was great for me, but maybe not for everyone.

      It’s ok to say an intern is too much work because you have to tell them things like if they have to ask for permission to go to the bathroom, or that they do have to ask for permission to take an extra vacation day. Part of what taking on an intern means is that they might not know all those things and sometimes you do have to handhold them. But I think that taking on an intern and assuming they know how to behave in business doesn’t entirely work.

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        Yeah, an internship is partly about learning that industry, but it’s also partly about learning work norms, usually – it shouldn’t be a surprise when that happens occasionally. As long as they absorb the message and learn, you’re good to go.

        Reply
        1. Jennifer Thneed

          I still remember a couple of cringe-worthy mistakes I made early on, because I had heard my mom talking about doing them. Of course, she was a licensed professional in the middle of her career, not a fresh grad in her first or second job. Doing things like saying “I need to be out of the office on Thursday for a dentist appointment” was fine for her, but I needed to be asking, not telling. And yes, I had to learn that the hard way. (Which is why I love advice columns. They validate the stuff I’ve had to learn the hard way, and often help me articulate *why* something is a good or bad idea, when I may have only a general idea *that* it’s a good or bad idea.)

          Reply
  12. Al Lo

    The notion that you have to be there for work and that you can’t just grant yourself time off is not some obscure point of workplace culture, it’s a pretty standard feature that most people should know without having to have it spelled out for them.

    That may be true in plenty of places, but the email outlined would be totally appropriate for me to send in my office. If I had a big event on, no– but it’s my job to know how to manage that part of my schedule. If my plans changed and I knew things would be fine in my absence? Sure. Maybe not every time I’m away, but it definitely wouldn’t be inappropriate behaviour. No one would bat an eye if I took a sick day or extended my trip by a day or just needed an extra day to get over jet lag.

    However, I’ve struggled with this as a manager of entry-level, part-time staff right out of (or still in) college. We have a flexible schedule, and even moreso for some of our part-time employees. There’s very little that I would legitimately say no to, but there were occasions with my last employee where she just made plans, and I had to work around them on the business end, because how could I say no to a month-long training course in a different city that was attached to her degree? Of course I, her part-time manager for her 12-hour-a-week job, can’t override that kind of educational opportunity.

    When I was that age, and I worked part-time at Starbucks, I always booked off 3 weeks during the Christmas black-out period — I was travelling over the holidays, and my thought was that if they decided to let me go over that, it was no skin off my nose. They never did; my managers were always willing to work with me.

    Having said that, it did make us realize that a 12-hour-a-week college student wasn’t actually who we needed in the role, and when her life and career stepped up, we didn’t bend over backwards to accommodate those changes. Instead, we made some changes to the role that will hopefully serve us better in the long run.

    tl;dr… It’s easy at that stage of life for other things to take priority, but the email she sent wouldn’t have been out of place in my office.

    Reply
    1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed

      I think I would have sent it more like:

      “Boss, we’re having such a great time in NYC and I’d really love to stay an extra day – would that be an issue?”

      It’s a minor wording change that makes a HUGE difference in how the message is received.

      Reply
      1. M from NY

        That suggestion is assuming the reason for the extension was positive. All the boss had to do was ask and make it a teaching moment. From the timing of the letter it could very well be the extension was not by choice (delays from airlines a few weeks ago). Unless there are other ongoing issues the OP should stick with sharing how to better write the request rather than justifying bosses reaction. If it was “better to ask forgiveness than permission” then deal with that. But this is an intern who is likely unpaid. Unless there is strict training program one extra day isn’t worth all this angst.

        Reply
      2. Parker24

        Katie, I’m the OP and I agree with you 100%. If she would have *asked* instead of *told me* it would have been a total non-issue. It’s the way she worded her email. I apologize, too, for not mentioning that she said her extension is to see a family member who she “never sees” and she “couldn’t pass up the opportunity”. No emergency at all.

        Reply
        1. Kore

          Isn’t this part of the internship training process? If it’s a matter of phrasing or asking vs telling, that’s a learning experience. I occasionally stumble when phrasing emails, and I’ve been in the workforce for a couple of years AND I do a lot of writing in my free time. This is the time to sit her down and talk about email /vacation etiquette, since internships are about learning.

          Reply
    2. Apollo Warbucks

      I would never send an email like that, I’m on my 3rd profersional job and if just would fly in any work place Ive been in

      I’m in complete agreement with Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed wording (awesome name by the way, is that a permeant change?)

      Reply
        1. Kyrielle

          I _love_ it, but I suspect in 3-6 months it will just seem weird to new-comers. Without the context of that letter (which you must admit was bizarre), it’s a “huh?”

          But it’s _really awesome_ with the context.

          Reply
  13. Sutemi

    #3, this sounds like “gift sharking”. She got you a gift you clearly didn’t want, hoping to guilt you into feeling obligation of friendship to her. Stand your ground, wish her a happy birthday to acknowledge the day but don’t give a reciprocal gift.

    Reply
  14. Trout 'Waver

    #5, I would prefer a 7:30 am Friday meeting because it would likely mean the flight home wouldn’t cut into my weekend. Doubly so if the meeting is in time zone to the west. It may also be that the remote worker wants time that day to immediately implement what you discuss.

    Wanting to fly in and out on the same day is a preference that isn’t immediately obvious. Just state your preference and the other person is likely to accommodate it.

    Reply
    1. Trout 'Waver

      Oops, got the relationship wrong. Remote employee traveling to meet with boss instead of peer traveling to meet with remote employee. Still, I stick with the last paragraph above.

      Reply
    2. Jennifer M.

      Agreed. If the other party isn’t a mind reader and might see this as more ideal because you could beat Friday rush on the way home. Boss might also be thinking that flying in right before the meeting is potentially risky because what if incoming flight is delayed and the whole day has to be restructured around fitting your meeting in 3 hours late.

      Reply
  15. Joseph

    #5: This is a much, much smaller deal than you probably think. People are focused on their own schedule, because they don’t know yours. And many managers tend towards tossing out a specific time that works for them, since an open-ended question of “what works for you” usually ends up with a much longer back-and-forth.
    You need to get comfortable with suggesting new times because as AAM pointed out, this happens all the time. Particularly once you get to mid-career, it’s practically a weekly occurrence to have senior management or clients suggest a time that conflicts with something that you absolutely cannot change (e.g., project deadline, client meeting, etc).
    One trick that I’ve found really helps is to be a bit specific in listing times that you can do rather than a vague ‘different time’. “I can be free any time between X and Y. Would anything in these times work for you?” It’s possible that the boss really, really is so swamped that 7:30 really is his only time available (in which case, sorry, but his time really is more valuable than yours). But it’s far more likely that the boss will pick a new time between X and Y.

    Reply
    1. EN from NY

      Thanks for your responses. I’ve never posted here before so this is helpful for pros to weigh in. I was feeling hesitant as I am now part of a very high level team after an abrupt change that occured in April. It could be a good opportunity but I’m still feeling it out. Let’s call my manager “quirky” as he admits in a self-aware way. My role has gotten very corporate, suddenly after years of reporting into creative teams. He reports directly into CEO so there is visibility. I’m really trying to find my way and navigate the corporate waters/politics. With very little interaction with him, I didn’t know if this is something that you can push back on.

      But thanks for sharing your thoughts. I imagine I will be posting questions here more often.

      Reply
  16. Real Life Leslie Knope

    Re #4. Are you sure that your boss actively reviews the claims information? I manage a self-funded plan, and I rely on our third-party administrator to deal with most of the daily claims-related work and only get involved in special cases.

    Also, don’t get too worked up about the timing. Again, unless your plan is really unusual, there will be a several week/month lag before any claims documentation would be running through the system.

    If I’m wrong on both counts, it’s probably worth having a general conversation in the context of the larger HR department that should probably be addressed regardless of this specific incident.

    I imagine a conversation like, “Hey boss. It occurs to me that because of the way our self-insured plan is set up, you learn a lot about the health of the department’s employees from the claims information. For those things that might eventually have a work impact–like an injury or extended illness, HR department employees might feel that they have to disclose information to you proactively rather than have you surprised when you see the claims. Can you clarify your position on that issue for the team? I would hate for employees to feel like they have to share private health information with you when it might be uncomfortable or operationally unnecessary to do so. “

    Reply
    1. Judy

      At least when my kids were born, the delivery fee covered all the appointments after the first one. There was separate billing for the ultrasounds and blood tests.

      Reply
    2. Retail HR Guy

      Seconding this because I was going to make a very similar comment. Self-funded doesn’t mean that your employer administers the plan. The TPA should really be handling the day-to-day claims processing and not disclosing PHI to the employer. It’s a great protection to employers to be able to say that they were never even aware of an employee’s health issues because the TPA doesn’t share that.

      Reply
    3. OP#4

      OP here! They usually do come in a month or so delayed, and are coded at first. So the claim will be coded to the work location and whether they’re hourly or salaried. We are a small local business with only a handful of locations, and I’m the only one at my location who can even be in the realm of possibility for a pregnancy claim. So even if they don’t see my name immediately, it’ll be obvious just from the coding.

      Reply
  17. Bossy Magoo

    Re: #5
    This is not exactly the same thing, but I work at a satellite office with about 20 employees and our headquarters are a 2 1/2 hour drive away. When people at headquarters schedule meetings that include employees from our office that require them to be there in person, they either don’t think about the drive time required (e.g. scheduling an 8:30am meeting) or they do think about it but they think that coming the night before and staying overnight is somehow a *perk*!!! We’re not talking NYC or Chicago or something! Like we are dying to leave our families overnight and go from our crappy suburb to their crappy suburb.

    Reply
    1. EN from NY

      I hear you. That isn’t pleasant either. It’s funny, I am always considerate of those things for other people, maybe because I’ve been in the situation quite often. On top of that, the meeting was for this Friday, a holiday weekend!!! I guess he wasn’t paying attention much.

      Regardless, I declined and said I couldn’t do Friday in person. He suggested an 8am phone meeting. So there you go. I wanted the face time, but not under those conditions.

      Reply
  18. DCompliance

    #2- You mention this rude coworker is older you. Don’t let that intimidate you. She does not get to be rude because she is older and you don’t have to tolerate because you are younger.

    Just remember one of my favorite quotes: “I can never remember being afraid of an audience. If the audience could do better, they’d be up here on stage and I’d be out there watching them.”- Ethel Merman

    If she were so much better at chairing meetings, she would be chairing them. The fact that she isn’t says a lot.

    Reply
  19. Employment Lawyer

    1. Should we fire an intern for extending her vacation without permission?
    Sure!

    That doesn’t mean you should fire her; this isn’t the sort of thing where you are clearly making a mistake to keep her on. But you would do best if you take steps to signal that you don’t put an intern ahead of your boss. Just ask directly: “Boss, are you telling me to fire her? If so I will certainly do it; you’re the boss and I value our relationship more than I value this intern. If you don’t tell me to do so, though, I’ll probably keep her on–it’s not a huge deal for the department in my opinion.”

    In other words, if your “boss was livid when he found out and wants to fire her” then you can certainly fire her just for that reason. She’s an intern; she messed up; you don’t owe her a job. There is no obligation to give her wishes preference over those of your boss. I don’t know why so many folks keep acting like you need some sort of due process to fire someone.

    Reply
    1. J.B.

      People are generally reacting that it’s a pretty harsh thing to do to a (presumably naive) intern, in a flexible office, without knowing how time off requests were explained. Also, the fact that the manager wrote in probably means she’s hesitating about firing. Talking to the intern and going back to the boss would make sense. I think the intern at least deserves an explanation. If boss still wants to fire then yes fire.

      (Tempered by the experience that bosses sometimes get really mad about things in the moment that…eh, aren’t really that big a deal.)

      Reply
    2. Parker24

      Thanks so much for the information. My boss said he would have told me to fire her except we really are understaffed and can’t afford to be without another person. Her reasoning for extending her trip was to see a family member who she never gets to, and she “couldn’t pass up the opportunity”. She also is well aware that there are team members who are already overworked taking on her extra work while she’s out. This is a paid position, too.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Thneed

        Maybe suggest that she apologize directly to those co-workers for doing this unexpectedly?

        And I wonder how much pressure she got from her family member to take that extra day? They’re probably still thinking of her as a college student, and she may not have had the language to tell them “This is my JOB and I can’t just stay 1 day later, even though I want to”.

        Reply
  20. Orangefreent

    With all these “should I fire” and “I was fired” intern stories it really should not be a surprise when these same young people enter the workforce still behind on office norms. Stop abdicating your responsibility to teach young people these norms and watch how quickly your entry level workers grow.

    Reply
    1. Pwyll

      This is one of those things that drives me absolutely insane. Internships aren’t “yay, low-cost labor!” They’re a significant amount of work, if done right. And potentially a lot more work if done wrong. If you’re looking to bring in lower-cost labor to simply get things done, and don’t want to spend time teaching professional norms, hire a temp.

      Reply
  21. crazy8s

    The number of high school and college students who have paid employment experience seems to be far less than in previous generations. They come to the workplace with far less understanding of work than their older siblings, or their parents had. We have to remember this and adjust our management and expectations accordingly.

    I have seen a shift in hiring managers giving a lot of weight to any kind of paid work experience during high school and college, far more than they give to internships. I think it is for this very reason—someone else has absorbed the learning curve on these young people entering the workplace.

    Reply
    1. FD

      I agree with that in general–I saw it even with my peers when I was in college about ten years ago. A lot of people were getting their first jobs in college, or sometimes even after it. I’d started in high school and it definitely gave me an advantage.

      However, the type of experience matters a lot too. The sort of behavior you learn in customer service or retail doesn’t always map properly into an office job (if that’s what you’re trying to transition into).

      Reply
      1. the gold digger

        Although customer service and retail teach you that you have to show up on time every day and stay until your shift is done and that sometimes, you have to do work that is crummy that you might think is beneath you (like cleaning the bathrooms) but guess what? Sometimes crummy work is part of the job. You also learn that you cannot mouth off to your boss – that she might not care what your opinion is and that work is not a democracy.

        Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          There are things you learn, and things you don’t. Just a few examples:

          You’re right, you learn that you have to show up on time and do the crummy work.

          What you don’t learn: how to put together a professional outfit (you’re either given a uniform or you provide it yourself, but it’s totally dictated), professional conversation at work (our conversations in food service were so vulgar, for whatever reason), whether you can go to the restroom without permission, and the one that was the hardest for me, saying no. In customer service/retail, no matter how epically wrongity wrong the customer is, you have to bow down to them anyway. In my current job, sometimes the job is to say no to people. Sometimes you have to gatekeep. Sometimes the person is wrong and you can’t let them do their wrong thing because it’s illegal or unethical.

          (There was a period of about three years where I had both an office job and a retail job, and switching “personas” was the hardest part, other than the physical exhaustion. In my office job, I had to be assertive enough to keep people from walking over me, and in my retail job, I was expected to be walked over, and I was forever messing it up and applying the wrong philosophy to the wrong place.)

          Reply
          1. Temperance

            In my high school service job, we used to bring in romance novels … and read them aloud to each other. I kind of miss it.

            Reply
        2. What In A Name

          Customer service/retail/service industry also teaches you that if you call off the morning of or the day before there is generally a long line of people waiting for your shift or an o/c person so there is usually no punishment unless you actually no call/no show a shift. That’s how it was in my 16 years of part-time work in that industry, through middle & high schools and then into my early 30s.

          Reply
          1. FD

            Interesting! For me, I find that it’s a lot easier to call off now; when I was working in customer service, it was usually a much bigger deal to call off and I usually had to find a replacement.

            Reply
            1. Kelly L.

              So much of it depended on (a) how desirable the shift was vs. how desirable the day was as leisure time, and (b) how popular you were. Everyone wanted to ditch their shifts that were on Friday or Saturday night, or that coincided with the nearby college’s football games. Everybody wanted to pick up shifts that were on, like, Tuesday, when there was nothing fun to miss and you needed money because you’d asked off back on Saturday. And there were some people who always seemed to take favors but not return them.

              And like Alton said, sometimes you couldn’t get coverage when you were legitimately sick, and you’d go in anyway, because everyone wants their food prepared by a sick person! /s

              Reply
            2. What In A Name

              Interesting! All different depending on company/situation, etc. That’s why I love this site, reminds me not everything is the same all over!

              Reply
          2. Bea W

            Not where I worked in retail, which was at small shops with limited staff. A couple of service jobs I worked had high turnover or trouble hiring enough people to cover all the work, and shifts abandoned last minute were a burden. I learned it was a big deal to call in last minute, even if you were truly so sick you couldn’t possibly work, and it should be done only in dire circumstances because finding coverage was difficult, and often times it would fall on the manager to cover for you either by coming in on their day off or covering his/her duties and yours at the same time. It was been really hard to relax what I learned in the office environment, and I am totally bad at judging when I should come to work and when I should take a sick day or even making full use of working from home and flex time as much as some of my co-workers do.

            Reply
        3. FD

          For sure! There are a lot of really useful skills you can learn that way, not to mention just generally learning a good work ethic, which you may or may not learn from school.

          There are just some skills that you won’t quite pick up until you work in an office environment.

          Reply
        4. Alton

          In my experience, while working in customer service/retail can help you learn punctuality, time management can be very different.

          When I started working, I mainly worked weekends and my job was part time. It was easy for me to plan for doctor’s appointments, Jon interviews, and even most fun things because I had and average of three weekdays off a week. Then things got a little crazy and they needed a drastic increase in coverage, and suddenly I was getting scheduled on my days off, sometimes with only a few hours of notice. So I had to learn to be assertive about marking days as unavailable or saying that I couldn’t come in.

          Meanwhile, calling in sick was a nightmare because it created legitimate coverage problems. There were so many times when I worked even though I was really too sick and it was a bad idea.

          Now, in my current job, calling in sick isn’t a catastrophe but I still have that instinct to avoid it at all costs. Working full time, M-F was a big adjustment because it was no longer possible to do some things without taking at least a couple hours off work. I feel like I’ve had to learn from scratch, because my hourly customer service survival skills don’t apply well at all.

          Reply
      2. anon times infinity

        For me, the difference was I needed a job when I was 16 to help my family and a lot of people I went to school had jobs as “learning experiences for the real world”. That distinction is also a big difference in preparing someone for office norms.

        I will say that I think customer service and retail does give you the experience of having to ask for time off. It taught me that sometimes I’m going to have to miss out on vacations because I can’t get time off or that if I don’t show up, I might get fired.

        Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          Well, I think you still get the learning experience, no matter what your original motive for taking the job was.

          Reply
      3. Bob Barker

        I have a very strong memory of working retail at age 19, and being required to stay late unexpectedly (a no-show, maybe — I disremember). And it really screwed with my own plans, notably it was going to make me have to walk home 2 miles in the dark and the rain, since my ride wasn’t going to be available. And I was Very Crabby about it, and made my situation clear to anyone with ears.

        I count out my cash till, realize the supervisor on duty is still hanging around, and… he drove me home. He absolutely didn’t have to do that; we were off the clock by then. But that was the first time I realized that being a supervisor isn’t just having power over your employees, but that with great power comes great responsibility, so to speak. He literally went the extra two miles for me! I don’t even remember his name, but I remember he drove me home because he’d required me to stay late (I wasn’t even gracious about it). I’ve always quietly judged my supervisors against that standard, long after I left retail behind.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Ugh, when I worked days for a food service company that managed cafeterias in factories, I got called in the middle of the night several times when one person didn’t show up for third shift. My boss had three kids, two of which were too young to be left alone, and no partner. So I dragged myself down there and did the entire meal service alone. It sucked, but there was nothing else to do. I did get the next day off; my boss came in and worked it for me. They fired the stupid third-shift guy.

          I still have nightmares where I’m trying to get everything set up before the first wave of workers comes in. Oh no, the salad bar needs ice! Gotta get the bacon in the oven! Sh!t, it’s almost lunchtime and I haven’t made any sandwiches!

          Reply
          1. Kelly L.

            Mine are usually about horrible cash registers. The line’s all the way around the building, and there are no words on the register buttons, and there are like 4 screens of these blank buttons, and people are getting irate…

            Reply
        2. Jean

          Wow, what a kindness! Your long-ago supervisor was a good person. I’m inspired to pay it forward on his behalf, just to introduce more good vibes into the universe.

          Reply
    2. Orangefreent

      I worked from the age of 12. Mowing lawns and later flipping burgers did not prepare me for the office world.

      Reply
      1. SystemsLady

        +1

        I guess Target was kind of close but that taught me customer service more than office norms. The fast food place I worked was completely dysfunctional.

        That and you can’t really blame the teenagers themselves. I was lucky to work those jobs while there was a need for teenagers to work summers.

        Reply
      2. Bea W

        Same. I had even worked in an office as a work study, and was still unprepared. I was assigned my own cube, computer, and phone, in my first real office/professional type job, and was it surprised me! No one thought to tell me to set up my voicemail, never mind tell me how to set it up. I had no idea I had voicemail to even be checking it until someone mentioned something a month into the job. *facepalm* I used to answer phones all the time at previous jobs, but had no idea what to do when given my own phone. It seems so simple, and yet I totally failed at it!

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Current Job has lots of tech I never used before–at Exjob, webinars were for managers. I never scheduled conference rooms in Outlook, never had a headset even. I felt so dumb when I started here. I still feel really dumb.

          Reply
      3. SimontheGreyWarden

        For me, managing my babysitting clients and presenting the right image to instil parent confidence while still getting buy-in from skeptical kids that I would, indeed, be fun did teach me many skills.

        Reply
    3. MegaMoose, Esq.

      And I think we need to recognize that the job market for young people has been much worse than it was even a decade ago – many young people might want a job but not be able to find one until they get a college degree. My understanding is that things are better now than peak recession, but still not back to pre-recession norms.

      Reply
  22. FD

    #1- Oh man. This reminds me of myself.

    I had an internship during college, and it was my first office experience (I had worked in customer service a lot before that). I had noticed that when other people called off, they just emailed out that they were going to work from home that day because they weren’t feeling well, so I thought it was just the rules for everyone, not the rules for people senior enough to be trusted.

    Of course, I was wrong, and I was 100% in the wrong. However, I will always remember how my supervisor yelled at me for fifteen minutes, even after I was sobbing.

    Your intern is young, and she’s probably still learning office rules and norms. You should certainly have a serious talk with her, but bear in mind that there’s a good chance she’s trying to model other people’s behavior without fully understanding the complexity behind it.

    Reply
    1. Bea W

      This was the most confusing and frustrating thing to me when I started out in the working world. I naturally learn by example, but had no idea there were examples that I shouldn’t be following and did not apply to me either as a new employee or in a lower position. If someone had explained this to me, it would have saved me some embarrassment and frustration along the way (and possibly still in the future, because when lacking knowledge of the unspoken rules of conduct I tend to default to “when in Rome…”, and there’s always that one person that is totally doing everything you should not be doing!)

      Reply
      1. Judy

        In my first job after college, they assigned an engineer who was 3 years out of school to be my trainer for certain systems. Apparently, he was using wrong processes, but the purchasing clerks didn’t correct him. They certainly corrected me.

        Reply
    2. AnitaJ

      I see that happening in my office as well–people are often granted a lot of flexibility, but that can lead to new coworkers thinking it’s the norm to tell and not ask for the time off/the remote working privilege. We’ve had a few new people start and, within weeks, email to say they’re working from home, when we in fact really need them in the office to continue learning the day-to-day. They’re taking their cues from the more senior members of the firm, who may not have the same constraints as they do, and frankly, it makes the new employees look bad. When it comes up, I try and gently explain that our positions need more in-office time than others, and that we should try and be here as much as possible.

      I’m also taken aback at how many people don’t seek approval from their supervisor for PTO. It would never occur to me to just tell my boss that I’m taking time off without clearing it with her first, but recently one of my coworkers told me that’s what she’s always done. That seems inappropriate to me! Unless it’s an emergency and I cannot be in the office, I assumed you’re always supposed to work with your boss and coworkers to make sure PTO is acceptable. Maybe I’m old and stuffy…

      Reply
      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        I don’t think you’re old and stuffy — but you should realize that lots of places do it differently from you/your employer, and not overreact when someone behaves in ways that their (perfectly normal) experience has taught them is appropriate (by “telling,” not “asking” for vacation).

        Reply
      2. zora.dee

        I don’t think your workplace should wait until it comes up to set expectations, though. Maybe that would make you feel less irritated about it.

        I had a job, which was not my first by any means (directing my own program) where there were wildly different expectations for different people, in a very small company. And my boss was terrible about telling me anything explicit in response to questions, she would just always be super vague and shoulder-shruggy, so I started trying to go by what seemed like the prevailing norms among my coworkers. Well, THAT’S when my boss decided to be more specific about how I wasn’t allowed the same privileges as my coworkers, but in super passive aggressive emails, because she just really did not know how to be direct. Example: I had a 6am phone call, so emailed that I was planning to work from home after the call. “Well, it’s sort of an unwritten rule that working from home is earned after many years of being here. So, it might be better if you come into the office for now.” It led to so many awkward and uncomfortable exchanges until I finally figured out where all of the (many, many) various lines were on different things.

        UGH. It would have been so much better if she had made them WRITTEN rules, or at least just been more upfront about all the “unwritten” policies before they came up, instead of acting like everything was whatever, we’re flexible. These are good things to write down as you think of them, and then make them part of the training week discussions for interns or first job hires.

        Reply
  23. What In A Name

    Everyone keeps saying it’s a stilted email. But email is just that email. Words on paper that are read the way the receiver interprets, not always the way they are intended.

    For all any of us know it could have taken her 20 minutes to compose that sentence and it may have started as..
    “I am really really really sorry but I have to extend my trip by a day and there is no way around it. I am so so sorry for the inconvenience!” but she just decided to condense it.

    I agree a reason might have been better received by boss, but I also think everyone is just being way to hard on this poor intern. “She should be fired!” “She unprofessional!” “She’s entitled” “She a world class biatch!”

    Good lord people, she is 22 and new to the work world. I am sure none of us stepped in perfectly. I might not have been in this manner but I am sure we all had 1st year moments that someone either overlooked or coached us on!

    Reply
  24. Aunt Vixen

    #1 – I’d have felt a lot better if she’d said “I’m going to have to extend my stay in New York by an extra day.”

    #3 – Not only do you absolutely not need to get the co-worker a gift but you also don’t need to accept any gifts she gives you in future. Regift in the break room at a minimum, although that can be a challenge for bottles of booze.

    Reply
    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Isn’t it interesting how a tiny change in language has such a different tone? This is why anxious people obsess over every word in a text. :)

      Reply
  25. What In A Name

    #2 – I really hate that you are going through that with your co-worker. But I think to get her to really stop you are going to have to go to her directly and explain you’ve picked up on the behavior, it’s unprofessional and downright rude, and it won’t be tolerated. For her to take you seriously as a leaders you’ll have to confront this head-on. Going to her manager will only make it worse. I know this from experience, which I won’t get into here.

    If you really aren’t comfortable with a one-on-one, maybe you can request a meeting between you, her and her supervisor. But what I think can’t happen (if you want to gain her respect/nip behavior) is you talk to manager then manger talks to her.

    Good luck! I truly feel for you and the position you are in! It can make work quite unenjoyable, and I hope you find a resolution (or jerky co-worker finds a new job).

    Reply
    1. Voice from the wilderness

      I had a similar situation with a co-worker.

      I spoke with them privately and told them that I had given them a pass, in order to avoid public conflict. I also said that they shouldn’t confuse quietness with fear and that the next disrespectful public comment would receive a strong response.

      In my case, that was sufficient.

      However, I was prepared with a statement, which I’ve watered down. “I think we should discuss this privately. I’ll see when your manager is available to meet”.

      They will probably immediately promise to cut it out, because a meeting with her manager in the role of babysitter is an embarrassing prospect.

      Reply
      1. EddieSherbert

        +100

        I really love this response – because I’m a very quiet person by nature, but I definitely will disagree or voice my opinion when needed. And it can be really frustrating when people assume you’re kind of “a mouse”… a lot of other animals are quiet too, you know (like a jaguar. that thing’s silent as all heck and no one assumes he’s scared of other animals)!

        Reply
  26. Mrs. Smith

    I was insured through my employer with a self-funded plan when I was pregnant with my first child. That was in 2009-2010, so this may not affect anyone in the US any longer, but in case it does, let me point this out: the terms of the plan allowed my employer to expressly deny coverage to my newborn THE INSTANT HE WAS BORN. When he was still inside, anything was covered. The very moment he was pulled free of my body (it was a C-section), absolutely nothing was covered, from the eye ointment to the visit by the hospital pediatrician. Everyone, including me, was shocked that there was nothing in place to provide coverage for the first six weeks until we could buy a policy for him elsewhere. I don’t want that to happen to anyone else – it was truly awful and I had no recourse, and it’s only good fortune that he was born healthy and I could insure him later on, back in the days when a pre-existing condition would have shut him out of any plan.

    Reply
    1. the gold digger

      Your company didn’t let you buy dependent coverage on their plan?

      It’s been a while since I worked for an insurance company, but I think the way our plans worked was that even if the parents didn’t sign the baby up right away, there was a month of coverage for the baby automatically. That gave the parents time to add dependent coverage to one or both of their plans.

      And yes, we did ASO (administrative services only) for self-insured plans. Self insured doesn’t mean that the employer does all the work processing the claims and running the plan. It just means that they assume all the financial risk of claims and pay an insurance company (or other administrator) to process the claims and do the other services.

      Reply
      1. hmm

        Yes, under HIPAA, parents have to enroll the newborn in the plan within 30 days, after which coverage is retroactive back to the date of birth.

        Thankfully, pre-existing conditions are no longer a thing.

        Reply
  27. animaniactoo

    […] she will think of me as rude or downright mean

    OP#3 – When we are young, we are taught that we should work very hard not to be rude. Or mean. A lesson that escapes many of us – sometimes until much later in life – is that *being* rude or mean is not the same thing as being *thought* of as rude or mean by a particular person or even group of people.

    Most especially in the case of a singular person, as long as you have been as fair and respectful as you can, then it is quite okay if somebody thinks you are rude and mean. That they think it does not mean it is true, and it does not mean that you need to bend over backwards to avoid them thinking it. Particularly when it paints you into a corner that you have explicitly made clear you don’t want to be in. Sure, double-check yourself just to make sure that you’re not just being dismissive. Are you actually being rude or mean by your own definitions of those terms in this situation? If not, then do what’s right for you and don’t worry so much about how this one person sees you.

    You don’t owe her friendship, a gift, or reciprocation. The most you owe is consideration of those things. And fwiw, if it gets bad enough, with her repeatedly getting you gifts, you can reject her gift too. “Oh, thank you for thinking of me, but really I can’t accept another gift from you.” and hand it back with a smile. “No, really. I just don’t feel comfortable receiving gifts from co-workers, I can’t accept it, thanks.” If she’s managed to get it into your hands and won’t take it back after two attempts, let it go and leave it in the break room for somebody else to take if they’d like.

    It’s uncomfortable to deal with in the moment, but never as uncomfortable as continually finding yourself stuck conceding to what somebody else wants simply not to be thought of as rude or mean.

    Reply
    1. OP

      I’m the OP for #3. Love your response and I love the line you used. If it comes up again, I might bust out that line.

      Reply
  28. Landshark

    #4, just a thought… depending on your relationship with your manager, I’d also consider privately meeting with them and, only if you’re comfortable with it, bringing it up one on one and asking that it not be shared until [date] so that they are on your side and may be a bit more understanding in the case of having to take a bit more time off or changing days off because a doctor moved your appointment (hopefully your doctor won’t do this, but I’ve heard horror stories). If your manager is any good, they’ll understand discretion.

    Reply
  29. Parker24

    Thanks all – I’m the one who submitted the intern issue. She actually gave us her reasoning for needing to extend her trip, and it was because “my cousin, who I never get to see, reached out.” So – there was no emergency and it was basically for extended leisure time. We’re going to meet with her when she returns and basically tell her that this is just not professional and it would have been a lot better if she would have asked, not told us. She’s 21 and very entitled, based on what I’ve heard her tell other employees.

    Reply
    1. Bea W

      I hope it’s a learning experience for her. She’s probably used to being able to operate that way at school and with parents, and hasn’t quite learned how not okay it is at work. She may not even realize she comes across as “entitled”. That may be another useful subject for discussion at some point.

      Reply
      1. Anon Always

        Ditto. I also think it would be useful to have a conversation with her about how she comes across. She may not realize that she is perceived by others as being entitled. And a conversation now, where she can work on these things before she joins the work world full-time would be valuable.

        However, before this gets addressed with the intern, I would try and observe her behavior yourself, so that you can provide some specific examples.

        Reply
    2. DCompliance

      I just want to add, reminding employees to ask, not tell is not just limited to interns. I have seen many people, even those in the workforce awhile, make this mistake. A lot of it depends on your boss’s preferences and the corporate culture. If I told my boss, she would cool. If my co-worker told her boss she was extending her vacation, her boss would be angry.

      Reply
      1. Anon Millennial

        I recently told my boss (who works in a different office – I’m in a satellite office) that I need to leave a few minutes early for an upcoming doctor’s appointment. Should I have asked? Knowing when to ask/tell has always confused me and everyone at my company has a different answer.

        Reply
        1. Anon Always

          I think every office culture and every boss is different.

          Where I work we have to have all time off requests approved in advance (the exception being for when you are sick). I use the inform and consent model. I tell my boss I have a doctor’s appointment or that I was planning on taking a certain day off, and then ask if he has any objections. He never has objections, but he still has the option to veto my plans. So I get to manage my own time, but he still feels in control. It works for us.

          Reply
        2. Perse's Mom

          My previous supervisor would be fine with a tell. “FYI, I have an appt at X time today, so I’ll head out at Y time and should be back around Z time.”

          My current supervisor works better with an ask. “Would you mind if I took off half an hour early today?”

          Reply
      2. sometimeswhy

        Yep. I just had a staff member attempt this. I spent a good long while agog at my screen with steam shooting out my ears and took a whole day to temper my reaction before I responded. It was SO outside the bounds of acceptable or respectful communication in our organization. Didn’t specify the sort of leave, just said, “I will be out on x day for y hours.” I nearly chalked it up into a miscommunication based on language fluency but all the other requests have actually been, you know, requests.

        Sick leave, both unplanned and for scheduled appointments warrant notification rather than a request. But PTO? Nope, that requires approval. Like, written approval. Which works to their benefit/protection so they can’t be called in for mandatory events during their approved time off. (I can. They can’t.) It’s actually written that way in our employment code. Which is mandatory reading upon hire. Oy.

        Reply
        1. DCompliance

          Sometimes when people like their manager, they think they no longer have to ask because they feel that comfort level. Even though I adore my boss and could just tell, I feel the need to ask. It’s just the professional thing to do.

          Reply
  30. Bea W

    #2 I am a quiet person by nature, and get a number of one-off comments from people who just don’t know I’m more of a listener than a talker, don’t tend to speak unless I feel I have something substantial to contribute, but I think I’d be hard pressed not to open my mouth and allow some regretful snark to come flying out at your co-worker. Alison’s advice is much better of course!

    Reply
  31. seashell

    #3 — Birthday gift, my coworker who was still new at the time and also the assistant to our group brought me a birthday gift and I was taken aback. I told her that she didn’t need to get me anything and felt guilty about it. I ended up getting her something small for her bday the next month but hoping I didn’t create a cycle or anything.

    Reply
  32. Q

    I’d probably be ticked off at #1 too. As in intern I expect you be on you best behavior and be present. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to fire her. I’d explain that emailing you are taking an extra day is not the way not works in this office. Her response and attitude (apologetic vs entitled) would determine if it’s a lesson learned situation or if this would be a reason not to hire her.

    Reply
    1. Parker24

      I’m the OP for #1 – great point, Q. We’re meeting with her to discuss this upon her return and I will definitely be paying close attention to her attitude, body language, etc. to determine if we want to keep her on at the end of her contract. This is a paid position, and she is doing the work of the full-timers (it’s an entry-level position). Also if it helps, she did give a reason: something along the lines of “My family member, who I never see, reached out and wanted to get together. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.” I apologize for not including this in the original question, very silly of me.

      Reply
  33. Libervermis

    Regarding OP1, to me the lack of any reason is what makes the email read as rude. If she’d worded her sentence “I will be remaining in NY until x day due to [illness, family emergency, travel disruption, etc.]” I wouldn’t even give it a second thought, but the terse statement that she’d be extending by a day rubs me wrong.

    I tell my students to email me before class if they won’t be there, to give one of a very short list of reasons (the illness, family emergency, travel disruption, etc. I mentioned), and to indicate how they’ll be fulfilling that day’s responsibilities (getting notes from a friend, emailing me their paper, etc.) As an intern generally she wouldn’t just be trusted to manage her time like salaried employees would, so offering up a vague reason communicates that she knows this and isn’t being cavalier about skipping a day of work.

    Assuming her email isn’t part of a larger pattern of problems, a quick “thanks for letting us know, here’s how we do this” when she gets back should be all that’s needed. She’s learning, and I far prefer coaching a too-terse email than a play-by-play of someone’s GI distress, for example.

    Reply
    1. Parker24

      Hi, I’m the OP and she said it was to visit a family member who she “never gets to see” and “couldn’t pass up the opportunity”. Definitely not an emergency – this is also a paid position, shes’ basically got the same responsibilities as the full-timers, and she knows very well that other team members are handling her work for her while she’s gone.

      Reply
      1. TL17

        Ooh – I could go either way on this. Is the family member deployed and home for a short time, or perhaps otherwise lives overseas or something? I know when my brother comes to the US I move heaven and earth to go see him because he lives very far away otherwise. Of course, I always explain this and people understand.

        Reply
        1. Parker24

          I’ll be honest – it didn’t sound like it… and if that was the case, you’d think she’d say so to really make me want to give her the extra day without issue.

          Reply
        2. Spot

          I mean, I get to see my best friend (I don’t have siblings, she’s basically like a sister to me) maybe once a year or once every 18 months. If I was back home on vacation for a few days, and then she told me she had time to come see me, I would have to turn her down, because I didn’t get that time cleared with work. I wouldn’t even *think* about asking to extend my vacation. We’d just have to work out another time to see one another.

          Reply
      2. Libervermis

        Ooo, that starts to look not so good. Visiting a relative is a perfectly legitimate reason to take time off, but since it sounds like she needs to get time off okayed before taking it, simply informing you that she’s extending past the okayed time for a non-emergency comes off as pretty cavalier.

        I would still lean towards coaching, just because she is an intern. Maybe something a little sterner than my original breezy “this is how we do things”, and watch to see if there are more problems. My experience is that people make it abundantly clear how you should respond to them given time – some just made a stupid mistake and will be great with a second chance, and others keep up with bad behavior so you can let them go without feeling guilty.

        Reply
        1. Parker24

          Thanks, I agree. Will definitely be paying close attention to how she reacts during our meeting when she returns (HR will be there as well) and how things go in the next few months. It’s hard for me to understand this – I’m one of those people who agonizes over last minute time off, even when it’s a legitimate unavoidable emergency. Which is why I was understanding of my boss’s anger, but since she’s so young… wondering if he was being too harsh.

          Reply
      3. Mustache Cat

        You’ve mentioned the reason quite a few times now in this thread, and it makes me think that you’re just really stuck on the perceived flimsiness of the reason. But it really doesn’t make that much difference to me. I’d treat the situation no differently than I would if I didn’t know the reason she extended her stay. Regardless if its a bad reason or a good reason, your fundamental problem is still the same: the intern is unaware of the professional norms in your office surrounding time off. You should kindly but firmly correct that ignorance. The reason she gave doesn’t matter.

        Reply
        1. Aurion

          Eh, a lot of times commentors miss out on additional info from the OP because the OP posted it in one place only. Then everything derails because later commentors are missing the context of the update. I really wouldn’t judge the OP for putting the update in multiple places; they just want us to see it and take that information into account.

          Reply
          1. Parker24

            Thanks Aurion, you’re exactly right. I feel a bit embarrassed for leaving that important detail out, so I’m trying to get things back on track and make sure that commenters have the info they need before they form their opinion.

            Reply
        2. What In A Name

          I agree 100%. Coaching needs to come from a place of professional standing only. OP mentions several times her own agonizing over time off and it seems she is faulting the intern for appearing to not be the same. That’s not really fair.

          Reply
    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I like the structure you lay out for your students. That will serve them well going forward! (And not just with regards to calling in sick — but more generally stating the problem, the reason, and the proposed solution.)

      Reply
      1. the gold digger

        I am smiling at this. :) My college and grad school profs could not have cared less if I showed up to class, did my homework, turned in papers, or took the tests. Their attitude was that we were adults and it was on us to do the work. It never would have occurred to me to tell them why I was not going to be in class.

        (Unfortunately, when I was not in class, it was for stupid reasons like I wanted to sleep late. Which might be why I did not do so well in college my freshman and sophomore years. I did a lot better later once I realized that it really, really helps to go to class every day.)

        Reply
        1. Landshark

          I like the method and may have to steal it. Usually all I ask is advance notice when possible and for them to catch up (usually it’s “resource is on Blackboard, come to me with questions, you’re responsible for knowing resource.”), but I like making them give me a solution themselves.

          Reply
        2. Libervermis

          Part of me would love to just let students do or not do what they want, but that always seems to result in students freaking out at the end of the semester and me being put in the position of having to decide whether their particular situation merits some kind of allowance and what that allowance should be. I don’t like being in that position (and it’s a lot of work!), so I’ve put more “check-ins” in place during the semester. Bonus is that it tends to mimic the expectations in the kinds of jobs they’ll (hopefully) get after graduation.

          Reply
        3. Spot

          I had more than a few professors tell me I would fail the class if I missed one unless I was missing it because I was dead.
          One of those classes happened on 9/11/2001 and the guy insisted on teaching the class as if nothing unusual at all was happening that day.

          Reply
      2. Libervermis

        Aw thanks! I like your distillation of “problem, reason, solution”, that’s a good way to explain the principle.

        Reply
  34. Dust Bunny

    I don’t get the intern one: If she’s 22 . . . what, has she never had a job before? I’ve never had a job, no matter how menial, in which this would have been acceptable.

    Reply
    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      And it has been acceptable in nearly every job I’ve had. Which is what makes it confusing — ESPECIALLY if the intern comes from a background of more strict jobs, and now is working in an office where folks set their own schedules.

      Reply
    2. LadyKelvin

      Its entirely possible that she hasn’t had a job before. OP mentioned that she comes from a very well off family so she has probably never needed a job before. I went to a “rich kid” school where it was not uncommon for most of the graduating class to have never had a job before because mom and dad paid for everything, why work?

      Reply
    3. Act

      To follow up on this… I went to a private school so maybe things are different in public, but we also had a set amount of days off we could take (without doctor’s notes) before we started getting docked, and our parents had to call us in sick to make sure we didn’t, say, get into an accident on the way to school and not show up because of that.

      It wouldn’t have occurred to me at 12 or 16 or 22 to just not show up without checking about the policies.

      Reply
    4. a

      I’m 20 and have had several jobs before. But I haven’t worked in an office before. I wouldn’t do the same thing this intern did, but without reading this blog I might not have realized just how big a deal it is.

      Reply
  35. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    I’m a little surprised by how many folks here feel that the intern made a “big” or “egregious” mistake. From my experience with interns, this seems totally standard. They don’t know how to operate in a professional environment, almost by definition. Some of them (like me!) will err on the side of caution, driving their bosses crazy running every email past them. Some will err on the side of arrogance (like this intern) and will give themselves more leeway than they should. (And some will overdo it on caution and get coached to take more ownership, and will respond by swinging way too far to the other side — also me.) In any case, the manager just needs to manage them.

    Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        I don’t find it egregious, but it does bother me that there was an existing policy that she seems to be blowing off. I can absolutely understand her assuming it’s okay to notify instead of ask – this is completely appropriate in some settings. But in her case, there was already a policy that time off had to be pre-arranged, and also, she knows people are covering for her. So I think she has to be a little more clueless (or thoughtless) than a normal new-to-the-working-world person to assume there isn’t an issue.

        Reply
    1. leslie knope

      i’m not sure how i feel about the tone of this comment. interns aren’t all clueless idiots who need hand-holding just because they’re young.

      Reply
  36. Newby

    Giving a gift is supposed to be a thoughtful gesture. Giving a gift that you know will be unwelcome is incredibly thoughtless. It is to bad you were not able to say that you appreciate the gesture but were uncomfortable accepting the gift.

    Reply
    1. OP

      I’m the OP for #3. Believe me, coworker already knew it made me uncomfortable. It ended up feeling like a weirdly passive aggressive move on the coworker’s part, but I’m not totally clear what the end game was supposed to be.

      Reply
      1. Marisol

        I think this coworker should be discouraged, no question about it, and I hope you’ll be able to shut her down, but in the interest of promoting understanding: is it possible she thought it would make you uncomfortable in the way it can be uncomfortable to have the waiters in a restaurant come up to your table and sing happy birthday for you? That her intent was more playful/teasing than manipulative?

        Reply
  37. TL17

    #1 – Ooh. I have been in exactly this same spot. I got stuck in NYC on a trip with my then-boyfriend (now husband). His grandfather, who lived there, died during our visit. We ended up extending our weekend by 2 days, and I had to call out from my school and internship. I did not want to over-share his personal information. Also, as a young adult, I was uncomfortable saying my “boyfriend” although that’s what he was. So, I just said something had come up and that I had to be gone longer. Later, when I knew my colleagues better, I explained, and people were understanding. In hindsight I should have just said I had to stay longer for a funeral and it would’ve avoided all this. But it was awkward, and maybe the LW’s intern finds herself also in an awkward sort of spot where sharing seems inappropriate.

    Reply
    1. Parker24

      I’m OP for #1. She did give a reason: something along the lines of “My family member, who I never see, reached out. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.” I apologize for not including this in the original question, very silly of me.

      Reply
      1. Michele

        How good has her work been? If she’s been a superstar. That’s one thing. If she’s not, then you have your answer.

        Reply
  38. bemo12

    #1 is so weird to me. At my job we just set our email to “out of office” if we are going away and possibly let people who we contact with regularly know. I’ve never asked if I can have time off before booking a vacation or anything. I’m really surprised by the reaction to this as in my company (which is my first post-college job, albeit 4 years in) it would be weird to ask.

    Reply
    1. Roxanne

      This really, really, really, REALLY depends on where you work – the industry, what you do at your workplace, the office culture, the company culture and your manager (and his manager). There is no just one way of handling time off, as you can clearly see from all of the replies.

      But generally, if other people truly relying on your presence, then you have to make sure you can take the time off or plan accordingly. If there are seniority issues, then you have to make sure you can take the time off. If there are projects ongoing or due, or critical, then time off is not a given.

      I’ve had to run monthly vacation reports for HR based on entered time sheets and if there were no pre-approved vacation requests to match the time sheet, there was an issue.

      At your company, it’s great that you can come and go as you please – I don’t think it is that common (but I could be wrong). And, you never know, one day, you may very well be told you can’t go.

      Years ago, a younger admin left for her honeymoon. On her last day before she was to return, she called her boss and told him she was taking two more days. He said, no problem, but it was a problem for the rest of us who was shouldering her work load on top of everything else going on (and we were busy) and we were counting the days until she returned so we could get back to “normal.”

      Reply
    2. doreen

      And in the 30 years since I’ve left college, I’ve never had a job where I didn’t have to ask for time off. I can’t think of a time when it’s been denied but my field is one where every job requires coverage – all the way up as far as I can tell. It really does depend on a lot of factors.

      Now in some sense, I don’t have to wait for approval to make plans. Once I’ve arranged with my coworkers for coverage I might make plans without waiting for approval- but only ones that wouldn’t be costly to cancel. Because it’s entirely possible that I could have chosen the week of the statewide mandatory teapot training (which is being announced on the day I sent my vacation request) and my request will not be approved.

      Reply
  39. Roxanne

    #5: Based on the way you described things, the manager just made a suggestion based entirely on “I need to get this off my plate so I can move to the next crisis.” And I suspect he fully expected you to say something if 7:30 was not going to work for you. Absolutely, get back in touch with him and propose a new time/date. And for the next face time meeting, propose the times best for you and ask him which of them, if any, could work for him.

    I had a boss described as above. Email me to remind me; would never read emails (over 1000 unread). Call me instead to organize and discuss. He would not be available. No need for a weekly touch base phone call. Then things would not get done because I could not track him down for his approvals. Okay, well then a weekly quick touch base phone call. And then he would forget, or cancel, etc. Good luck.

    Reply
    1. DoDah

      I work for this guy. He’ll answer something that’s 3 months old and doesn’t require a response just to avoid THE FIRESTORM raging in the department.

      Reply
      1. Roxanne

        Exactly. Or, without telling you, send a technician to fix the problem you flagged weeks (or months) ago and then be surprised that you wanted a heads up before someone shows up. I am sooooooooooooooo glad I no longer work for him. In fact, the day I was laid off, I was really upset but also really happy I would never have to deal with him again.

        Reply
    2. EN from NY

      I definitely plan on doing that next time. I also feel he threw out that time so we didn’t have to meet. Which also makes you question how important you are in his eyes a little bit. He’s super busy and in the past 3 weeks, has asked the team to do the same thing in 3 different ways, with a tight deadline, then push out the meetings to review for 2 weeks. Not pleasant. He starts things he thinks are important than drops the ball. I no longer jump when he says. Wait and see.

      Reply
  40. Norman

    #5 makes no sense. How do you lose a day by coming to a 7:30 meeting? Take the last flight in the night before, stay in a hotel, do the 7:30 meeting and, depending on how far you’re going, you may even be able to get back to work at your regular office the same day. What #5 really means is he wants to travel on his employer’s time (i.e., when he’d usually be working), not his own time. That’s perfectly valid, but he’s trying to mislead us in how he describes the situation. Since he was trying to mislead us, I advocate for a 5:30 am meeting.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Whoa, hey now. There’s nothing here that indicates the OP was trying to mislead anyone, and I ask that we take letter-writers at their word; if it’s a hostile experience, no one will write in.

      The OP clearly says that for an early morning meeting, she’d have to fly in the night before and kill much of that day.

      Reply
      1. EN from NY

        I’m OP. Thanks for your response. To clarify, direct flights are at convenient times. I would lose 3/4 day outbound to get to the city the night before – direct or connection. The following return is the same. If he suggested the meeting later in the day, I could theoretically do it in a tight day. But the meeting could have lasted several hours. An unknown. This is a new boss reporting into CEO so I’m trying to navigate how he works. It’s been interesting.

        As a side note to other posters, I consistently fly on my own time and spend weekends overseas working. So that’s not the issue. Well maybe it should be because I do that too much and it would be nice for people to empathize, but I know that won’t happen.

        I ended up telling him I can’t make it in person on Friday (this Friday right before the holiday weekend, which was another issue). He suggested an 8am phone call. SO there you have it. But great advice, I will suggest times up front going forward.

        I also wonder, is there anything personal in this? Like I’m low priority? I don’t want to think that, but you do start to wonder….

        Reply
    2. Sadsack

      Why should the employee have to travel long-distance on her time to make a meeting set by someone else? I’d want to do the same thing that she is requesting, if possible.

      Reply
      1. Norman

        I completely agree — she shouldn’t have to travel on her own time. That seems to be her issue, but it’s not what she says the issue is.

        I give, she is probably not intentionally misleading anybody. But her question doesn’t make much sense. If it wastes the day to fly in, then she won’t be able to fly in the same day — the day will have been wasted and she’ll miss the meeting. What she means is she will waste her time. Again, that’s fair, but the way the letter is written is causing most people to misunderstand what she’s saying. It makes the advice not-so-great, too. If her issue is she’d rather fly during business hours, that’s what she should tell her boss. If she tells him she’s wasting a day by flying in the night before, he’s not going to be receptive.

        Reply
        1. animaniactoo

          If the only reasonable flights that go from her city to his city are at 6:30 am, 10:15 am, and 1:45 pm, then yeah, she’s going to waste a day flying in the day before. For that matter, the last flight out could be 3:45 pm and she lives an hour from the airport, still meaning that she’s got to leave her house by no later than 1:00 pm in order to make sure she’s on that 3:45 pm flight.

          Not everything is on a major flight path with multiple flights going in and out at every hour. Not every schedule is coordinated to be the same from both ends. (ex JetBlue’s last flight of the day Orlando to LaGuardia (NYC) is 7:15 pm. Last flight LaGuardia to Orlando is 9:30 pm.)

          However, if she can fly in on the 6:30 am flight, and there’s a 4:30 pm return flight, she absolutely can be in and out on the same day.

          Reply
    3. Turanga Leela

      If the last flight out the previous day is at 2:30 pm, there’s no way to fly out without losing the day. If OP is in a smaller city and there aren’t many flights between the two cities, this could absolutely be the case. In the western US especially, it’s common for the eastbound flights to be concentrated early in the day.

      Reply
  41. DM

    OP #1: In my office, unilaterally extending one’s pre approved vacation would be a huge deal. I disagree a bit with Alison on this, but just a little. I think it is a bigger deal, but I do agree that firing her is overreacting. Have a stern talking to her about that when she returns and let her know that’s not acceptable in your office. If you have any handbooks or policies she received that talk about vacations and approvals, make sure she reads those and remind her she received them — but firing is an overreaction.

    Reply
  42. Timssphere

    #1: The intern’s cavalier attitude about work norms is similar to the dress code petition post from a couple months ago. Taking an extra day of vacation without approval should warrant more than a “sorry for the inconvenience.” If the dress code petition warrants immediate termination, so should this.

    Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        Actually she said she might have if it was just one more thing in a chain of issues.

        The major problem in that case was that the interns had already questioned the shoe policy and gotten multiple answers from different people that all indicated there wasn’t going to be room for leeway or change on it. So the petition was not an isolated incident on that subject.

        Reply
      2. Timssphere

        Right. I was thinking more about the comments. The general tone of the comments seemed to be that the dress code petition was totally out of line, whereas I saw it as just tone deaf and indicative of inexperience. I see this intern’s behavior as totally out of line and not explainable by inexperience.

        Reply
  43. Marisol

    Re #3, I’m actually surprised about the reco to wish the coworker a happy birthday. I guess it would depend on the office culture–in my department, we don’t celebrate birthdays, and to my knowledge no one knows when an individual does have a birthday. So a birthday could go unacknowledged without incident.

    Unless it is an inviolate rule in your office culture that coworkers’ birthdays must be acknowledged, I wouldn’t say anything. And I’d also nip the ranting calls in the bud by telling her it’s not a good time to talk or something like that.

    Reply
  44. BjBear

    RE #3- I hate these sort of situations where you feel uncomfortable and obligated.

    I’ve been dealing with something similar myself. A coworker who I was friendly with, but who turned out to be somewhat crazy, and I had a birthday gift tradition. My birthday is a week before hers, and she’d get me a gift, and I’d get her one. These started out quite nice gifts, but as the years went on, and we thankfully grew apart, the gifts became more and more token value. This year, we had a reasonably large falling out, and she now only speaks to me when she’s forced to, so I was shocked to receive a gift from her and one of our HR people (who is her roommate, which is a whole other issue). I felt really uncomfortable, and like it was a lose-lose situation. I could either buy her something, and have her think we were friends (which is what I think her goal was), or not get her anything and have her complain to our supervisor and HR and various people how mean I was.

    I solved it by buying her a bottle of alcohol at a price point that I’d find reasonable, and would drink myself, but was far lower in quality than what she would choose for herself and what I’d purchased her in the past. She sent me a terse email thanking me for the ‘decent gift’ and that was that. Hopefully by Christmas (which is after I will ‘accidentally’ forget the HR person’s birthday) she’ll have gotten over any attempt to be friendly.

    Reply
  45. Anon Guy

    #5, this advice is spot on. Early in my career, I assumed that anything a boss said was gospel with no flexibility, to the point where when she scheduled a meeting during a week I had previously booked for vacation I was afraid to even mention it. When I finally did, my boss apologized(!!!) and said she had simply forgotten, then rescheduled the meeting with no issues.

    Bosses generally just schedule things and I’ve never had one give me a hard time if I select the “Propose a new time” option as long as the time I propose is free on their calendar and I have a legit reason.

    Reply
    1. EN from NY

      You guys are really helping me. I will feel more comfortable now that I can speak up and propose another option. As I said in a few other comments, new boss, very corporate and I am trying to navigate. I’m used to reporting into creatives, so this is a whole new ballgame for me.
      Thanks!

      Reply
  46. Jack the Accessibility Guy

    I actually fired an intern who “extended” her vacation by a week without any notice. I was completely livid, as was my supervisor.

    (Granted she had done and ignored several warnings about other work boo-boos as well.)

    Reply
  47. emma2

    OP 2: Your co-worker is definitely being a jerk. It actually sounds like she might be jealous that a younger person is in a more senior role, and is trying to undermine you by pointing out your supposed flaws (which are not really flaws.) Also, I might be particularly sympathetic to this because I am also the quiet type, and for some reason, some people feel compelled to behave like jerks towards quiet people.

    Reply

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