is this work-from-home set-up unfair, my schedule means I can never attend office happy hours, and more

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

1. Is my boss’s work-from-home set-up unfair?

My office has a really flexible work from home policy — during the winter, for two months, my boss will “work” from his ski cabin, usually three days a week. He is available by email and phone, but I know he gets ski runs in during the day as well. This doesn’t bother me and his boss is fine with it, so that’s not a problem.

Of course, I can *never* work from home. Which sucks, but I am an administrative employee, so I guess them’s the breaks (even though there’s essentially nothing I couldn’t do from home except print).

My issue is that the boss and the other person I support always “work from home” on holidays we don’t actually get off, or days before long weekends. I think it’s kind of unfair and doesn’t set a good example if the bosses won’t show up on holidays/days when commuting will undoubtedly be difficult but everyone else is expected to do so or else they have to take a vacation day. The same is true across departments, honestly, and most people at least mildly resent it.

Do you think this is good practice in general, like it’s just a perk of being higher-up in the food chain/exempt, or am I right to be somewhat resentful that this is a regular occurrence? I always show up on the holidays because it isn’t worth it to me to take a vacation day when I’m essentially just being a warm body at a desk with nothing to do but read articles online.

In many cases, this would be perfectly reasonable — because they work long hours, have to be available for urgent stuff that comes up in the evening or on weekends or even while they’re on vacation, and/or because of the level of responsibility that they have to shoulder. When people are dealing with more stress and responsibility than others, it makes sense to give them as much flexibility as possible. On the other hand, if none of that is the case for them, then yes, it comes across as a double standard — that they’re holding others to a bar that they’re not meeting themselves, and without good reason for the disparity.

But I’d urge you not to put “work” in quotation marks, like you don’t think it’s really true. Unless you know for sure that they’re not working any of those days, it’s bad for everyone to disparage telecommuting arrangements like that. We want more of those, not fewer.

2. My schedule means I can never attend office happy hours

I am part of an eight-person customer service team at a small start-up. We have different shifts, with most of the team working 9-5, and two of us (me included) working from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

The company has happy hours every few weeks, and they are always scheduled from 6-8 p.m., when the other staff member and I cannot attend. Usually they are at outside venues, but this week they had the happy hour IN the office. They were loud and we could hear everyone having fun and chatting, while meanwhile it was such a slow night that we handled inquiries from maybe three customers.

My coworker and I feel left out and upset. I would like to bring this up to my manager, as I am concerned that we will not be included in holiday parties and other events. I feel like this is keeping me from getting to know other members of our company and forming meaningful relationships. I want to bring this up to my manager, and see if there is a way we can include everyone, but at the same time it feels like something so petty! I have only been here a few months now.

Any suggestions on how to proceed? I have read on your site previously that not including all employees in events is terrible for morale and productivity. I would like to include this information in a way that doesn’t make it sound like I am telling my manager what to do.

Yes, it’s thoughtless of them. And it’s not petty for you to feel left out!

It’s a reasonable thing to bring up to your manager, who may not have realized how it’s impacting you. Say something like this: “Because of our schedules, Jane and I are never able to attend the company happy hours. I’d really like the chance to be able to get to know colleagues in a less formal setting. Is there any chance we could figure out a way to make that happen? For example, would you be open to one of us occasionally leaving work at 7 so we can attend, while the other person covers the phones? Or even swapping those two hours with one of the 9-5ers on occasion, just so we’re able to be included sometimes?”

3. Am I not cut out to be a manager?

I was recently internally promoted to a new role to manage a team that I was previously part of. I have taken on a lot more responsibility than an external employee would have, purely because I have the knowledge of processing the day-to-day work, as well as trying to learn the ropes of being a first-time manager. It is a very fast-paced office here, and every time I attempt to direct the team to do something or suggest approaches that will help, they say they are too busy to do it so I end up doing it myself. My helpful nature means they have been able to take advantage of me and I, in turn, have been neglecting the duties required of my new role due to constantly being bogged down in so much processing work. (Note: I definitely have not gained the respect I deserve, despite multiple attempts to do so, which I think stems from the fact that I was a colleague and there is saltiness over the promotion.)

Does this mean I am not cut out to be a manager? Is managing staff a skill that will come in time?

Well, it means you’re currently not doing the job you were hired for. The test of whether you’re cut out to be a manager or not will be if you throw yourself into turning that around and commit to course-correcting the path you’re currently on.

It sounds like you need to figure out what your biggest priorities should be and restructure your time so that you’re focused on those — and be vigilant about sticking to that plan, which will mean resisting the urge to do the work you’re most comfortable and familiar with. It also sounds like you need to be clearer with people about when you’re assigning work or giving them direction, since currently they’re responding as if you’re giving them optional suggestions. I’d also read these posts on authority and new managers (1, 2, 3) and possibly my book for managers as well.

4. Creating goals for an un-measurable job

My company has recently implemented a new performance management system that requires all employees to make annual SMART goals. My role, however, does not really include things that are measurable – basically, I tidy up common areas, set up and clean up meeting rooms, and do a bit of reception coverage. I also do some odd jobs as needed, like helping with events or running simple errands. I quite like what I do, and don’t have any ladder-climbing career goals. Do you have any suggestions for measurable goals a person in my situation could make?

Goals don’t have to be quantitative; they can be qualitative. The trick is to describe what the outcomes of your job look like when the job is performed well. For instance, for the job you’ve described, one goal might be “ensure that meeting rooms and common areas are clean and organized, with all needed supplies stocked and well-orgaized.” Another might be “at special events, ensure that all sessions and logistics run smoothly, and that we present a highly professional image of the organization.” Another might be “be a highly responsive resource to the staff by quickly and cheerfully running errands or answering database questions.” And so forth.

5. References when you’ve been at the same company for a long time

How should candidates handle references when they’ve been with the same company for a long time (10+ years)? The employee has done well, showed progression, has good relationships with colleagues, etc.

Should the references still be from previous employers (after so many years, the previous managers might not even be there anymore!)? Several people at the same company? Previous supervisors who may have left the current company? Or, do they just list one employer reference and the rest personal?

Don’t list personal references; those are generally worthless and most employers won’t call them. You want to stick to professional references. If you have former managers who have since left the company, those are ideal. Otherwise, colleagues, clients — anyone who’s worked with you in a professional capacity. It’s fine to list multiple people from the same company, and since you’ve been there for 10+ years, employers will understand why you’re doing that.

{ 150 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Jeanne

    #1, It’s not about whether a boss can do that or if it’s fair. Of course a boss makes the rules and those rules don’t have to apply to everyone. But bosses should make some attempt to realize they have actual humans working for them. An admin worker might have 1/4 of the vacation time that the boss does. Yet, the boss doesn’t have to use it for these days off. Ok, his job has different responsibilities. But is he truly ignorant of the effect that has on morale? Does he have no memory of being the peon? If you make an effort, you can make employees feel appreciated. Maybe buy lunch for those working that day, or let them come in early to leave early, or just use your words to say you appreciate their dedication. Would he truly be able to work from his ski cabin (!) without the support of this admin? I doubt it.

    Reply
    1. Gaia

      I think some of it comes down to jobs not peon vs boss.

      For example, we have a shipping team in house. They cannot work from home because, well, they need to pack and ship our products. I can work from home because all of my work takes place on a computer. I don’t feel bad or think it needs to impact morale – it is just different jobs. They have some perks I don’t. For example, if we have the office closed due to weather, they are paid without having to use PTO. I have to either use PTO or work from home. They get every single federal holiday off paid. I get the big 7.

      For what it is worth, I’m not entirely sure why an admin can’t work from home? Especially on days the people the admin supports are working remotely. In this day, it really is just a matter of changing minds. Most work can be done from anywhere with the right equipment.

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        She says she can “do everything except print”- well, it’s easy enough to solve the print problem. She may been to collect or deliver what she’s printed, though.

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          1. Jessesgirl72

            I can print remotely, but anything I print will sit on the printer until I am there to collect it. So I assumed the real issue isn’t so much the printing, but what needs done with the printouts!

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            1. Elizabeth West

              You can save documents as PDFs and email them to people. No printing needed. CutePDFWriter is free and does the job as well as Adobe. You can’t edit them, but they look fine.

              They can be printed out (for filing or whatever) when you get back in the office. Is this a viable alternative?

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              1. Glen

                I use cute regularly in an engineering office as a designer. It’s perfectly functional, +1 from me! Generally PDFs are a good choice for situations where you’d usually use a hard copy – our clients expect to receive documents and drawings in PDF. (Yes, hypothetical interlocutor, I have concerns about PDF, too – but it’s the de facto standard as thing stand, so we haveta live with it!)

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      2. A.

        Unless there is a written policy that explicitly states that employees classified as admins shall not ever work from home, I think it’s worthwhile for the OP to present a case to work from home on the holidays the managers are working remotely. Assuming the role is solely to provide support for specific employees, and the OP plans to actually work (not “work”) it is a reasonable case to make. But if the admins are supposed to cover in house tasks and phones for each other, or the company doesn’t want to provide laptops to admins and personal computers can’t be used at home, that wouldn’t work.

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        1. TootsNYC

          That might be harder to do your support work from home, when your boss is not physically there. Because the boss may need SOMEbody physically there.

          It would certainly be worth exploring and documenting, though. Even if you make arrangements for there to be another admin in the office to do some of the “put this in the mail for me” stuff.

          and planning might make some of that “in the office” stuff go away (maybe our OP/admin takes a stack of FedEx forms home, and drops stuff off near her).

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          1. A.

            If the boss needs the OP to be physically there on a holiday, the OP would most likely not be given the option to take the holiday off as a vacation day, which is what’s happening now. It sounds more like either an overly strict policy is being applied across the board or the job duties are actually more dependent on being in the office (more than just printing).

            But more concerning is the idea that there are multiple departments with rank and file workers who have the perception that working from home is not real work and that their managers are pulling a fast one on them. That’s very likely not the truth but it sounds like the management is doing a poor job addressing those perceptions.

            Reply
            1. KimPossible

              I’m in a similar situation at work and can understand where OP is coming from. Our organization allows us all to telework but for some reason our supervisor never lets us use it. We all have work laptops and have been approved for telework. We just aren’t allowed to use it unless it’s an emergency. Our manager however always works from home the day before a long weekend/holiday. He also gets more vacation time than us to start with. None of us, even managers, work out of hours/on weekends due to strict rules in our industry.

              We were allowed to work from home once in the last year when a bad snowstorm was expected to start during the work day. We were told repeatedly that we must be on the office chat system and reachable all day. Every time my manager works from home he does not log onto the chat at all and often takes hours to respond to simple email requests. He’s obviously not distracted by a meeting or chatting to co-workers so it’s hard to believe he is actually on his laptop and working. His rationale for not allowing us to work at home is that he doesn’t trust anyone to actually do work from home. Seems a bit like those people who are always suspicious of someone else cheating because they themselves are unfaithful. It has such a negative effect on morale.

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    2. MillersSpring

      OP, you seem to be judging “fairness” by comparing your situation to that of your boss. His work-from-home arrangement sounds reasonable, so drop your frustrations about that. Instead, focus on whether to address your own situation–if you could request the opportunity to work from home at times.

      You said that you actually choose to work on some holidays rather than take a vacation. Own that choice.

      Different situations (including ski cabins) are not inherently unfair. It sounds like he has earned his situation due to his tenure, expertise and responsibilities.

      Reply
      1. Candi

        “choose to work on some holidays rather than take a vacation”

        The problem isn’t the holidays, it’s that they’re being told to use Paid Time Off if they don’t want to come in and work.

        Previous discussion on the comment threads on this site have mentioned that someone in the OP’s position gets maybe 5-10 PTO days a year at many, many companies. And some companies make people accrue that through the year -so if accrual starts in January, by Presidents’ Day, they only have one or two.

        People at that level also rarely can afford unpaid time off.

        If working holidays is a company-wide expected thing, then that needs to be made crystal clear, whether the work is remote or on site. Right now, it sounds like it isn’t.

        But worse is that this company has a huge optics problem if the ‘rank-and-file’ sees remote working as ‘they’re goofing off’ by default. They might want to work on that.

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    3. MK

      For the past 8 years that I am in my current role I have worked from home approximately 2/3 of the time, “home” ranging in meaning from my flat 10 minutes away from the workplace to my home town on the other side of the country to vacation spots. And, no, it wasn’t the support staff that made this possible; even if I had been in the office, I would have been working on my computer with no interaction with them. So, I don’t see any reason to assume he owes the OP for working from home or that he is holding off because he is in his ski cabin.

      That being said, I don’t understand what the OP wants exactly. Do they want to work from home too? It’s not unreasonable for admin staff to be expected to be in the office, even if their presence turns out to be unnecessary nine times out of ten, because the tenth time is important to the organization. (And frankly, I would hesitate to allow someone who puts work from home in quotes to have that perk; it requires a lot of self-discipline to be productive from home and an assumption that it barely qualifies as work is not helpful). Are just annoyed that the boss is working from home on holidays the rest of the office doesn’t get off? Again there is an assumption that working from home is equivalent to having the day off. Do they want to also have those days off? That’s a separate conversation, though if the company doesn’t offer them, it doesn’t offer them.

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      1. Engineer Girl

        +1 on how hard it is to telecommute. Even with the best of technology it is hard to stay connected with co-workers, answer emails, and stay on phone conversations. It is quieter, but also disconnected. You have to actively work to stay on top of things, and be far more proactive than if you were in the office.

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        1. Colette

          How difficult it is depends on the job (as well as your self-discipline). In my last job, most of my coworkers were in India, so there wasn’t much difference between working from home and working at work – everyone was used to IM, email, and conference calls. Right now, everyone I work with is in the same building as me, so working from home would be a big adjustment,

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        2. Random Lurker

          This x 1000. One of the more difficult conversations I ever had as a boss was telling an employee that he needed to be back in the office, since the days he worked from home were not matching his productivity of when he was in the office. Some people thrive in a remote situation – the isolation can result in the remote employee to cultivate stronger relationships. For others, they become disconnected and succumb to the noise that comes with working from home. In the case of my underperforming home employee, he was completely disengaged. Not because he was a bad employee, but the temptation to do that load of laundry, get an early start on making dinner, or keep the kids out of day care that day all ate into time he’d normally be connecting with coworker’s and doing his job.

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          1. Kathy

            Agree, I am more productive because, one I don’t have the two-hour commute and can actually work instead of driving.

            There is nothing wrong with doing laundry or any 10-minute chores. I appreciate that and because I am not burned out by driving and having to rush home to do chores, I keep my laptop on until 9:00pm and can take care of any pressing email that may come in. I know my manager appreciates this.

            Although I will admit, if I had a young child at home (without a nanny), that is very difficult to manage both work and the child/ren.

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      2. sstabeler

        actually, I think LW#1 has a point about it being dubiously fair- the two people who are able to work from home from the ski cabin are the ONLY ones in the entire organisation allowed to by the sounds of it AND it sounds like there is at least a perception that the MANAGER considers it “working from home”- the manager apparently goes on ski runs during time they are supposed to be working.

        I should make clear that while the LW says there is a generous WFH policy, they also mention that everyone else has to use a vacation day if they aren’t in the office during national holidays- while the Manager and the other guy are allowed to work from “home” on those days as what appears to be a special exception. It’s the exception that is the issue- the Manager should really be held to the same WFH policy as everyone else.

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        1. Roscoe

          Even the ski cabin thing is a bit of a red herring to me. At my last job, I worked from home. During that time I would do laundry and go to the gym. So if you assume his few ski runs are about equal to going to the gym, running a few errand, etc, it really isn’t any different. Maybe it feels different to her, but it isn’t.

          And the point really is about if he is getting the job done or not. It sounds like he is, so she needs to let it be

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          1. AnotherAlison

            That’s what I thought, too. If you had an easily accessible ski-in cabin, it would be pretty easy to work from, say 6 am-10 am, another 2 hours in the afternoon and 2 hours in the evening.

            My former direct manager used to live full-time in Steamboat, which is a state and a half away from our office, so yeah. . .

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            1. michelenyc

              When I worked from home I would get up early to make calls to the East Coast, send e-mails, and do some research.. Then go to the gym run a few errands and then deal with my West Coast customers and whatever else popped up. I did work 8 hours a day just not in all one shot.

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          2. MillersSpring

            +1 I have worked from home and I was far more productive. Between conference calls at 7:30 am and working most evenings from 7-11, the company actually got well more than 45 hours a week from me.

            And due to the long hours expected, during 8-5, yes, I often showered, put a load of laundry in the washer or even grabbed a quick nap.

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            1. EmmaLou

              I seriously read that as you worked from 7-Eleven and I thought… “Wasn’t that really distracting? And kind of awful?” More mocha.. more mocha.

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      3. Roscoe

        Yeah, I’m not sure either. It almost seems like she just wants validation that it isn’t right. But if she wants to be out on holidays, use vacation. But concerning yourself with what other people are getting instead of what you aren’t getting just leads to resentment. If you want to work from home, make a case for that. But as the above person said, its not unheard of to want admin staff in the office

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      4. TheCupcakeCounter

        I know people who work from home and people who “work from home”. If someone says they are working from home I still expect to be able to get a response from them in a reasonable time frame. Most likely not as quickly as if they were in the next cube but I shouldn’t have to send email, IM, call the listed cell, and then ask several others if they are working from home or have the day off. At OldJob we had 2 people who frequently worked from home and one you could always count on to be responsive and get you their deliverables and the other could never be reached and everything was always late “because the VPN connection wasn’t working well” or the wifi was too weak to communicate (which always cracked me up because if you can’t email you definitely cannot open one of our massive finance files from the network). He was also able to have his IM show as online from 8-5 no matter what.
        I am guessing that the reason she put it in quotes was due to the timing and location of the working from home vs her actual idea of what working from home should be.

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      5. Lily in NYC

        An admin know when his/her boss is slacking. There are days when my boss “works” from home, and there are days when she truly works from home. Maybe that’s why OP put the word in quotes. Why assume the worst about someone when you could just as easily give them the benefit of the doubt?

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        1. MK

          A PA probably knows if their boss is slacking, yes. General admin staff, not necessarily. In my role there are 100 of us, supported by a whole department of clerks. We are lawyers and they have zero legal training. If I e-mail a 100-page document at the end of 3 days of working at home, they can have no way of knowing that it dealt with an application I had handled 100 times before, so all I had to do was an hour’s work and copy/paste and then go shopping. Same with a 2-page document that might have taken three weeks of research to compile.

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      6. Koko

        Again there is an assumption that working from home is equivalent to having the day off.

        I think that’s more at the crux of this than Alison’s response suggested. OP’s complaint would make sense if the bosses were taking these days off without PTO, but they aren’t taking the day off. They are doing their job, just somewhere else. The location someone does a job in shouldn’t really have *that* severe of an impact on morale, unless they are not answering their phones and going hours without answering email and it’s obvious they really aren’t working.

        Shoot, most people I know who work remotely with any regularity – including myself – actually work MORE on the days we work remotely. You often start earlier, and it can be really tough to get yourself to stop at the end of the day. On days I come into the office I don’t want to be there all evening so I leave as close to 5 as possible and I’m very unlikely to open my laptop again once I’m home unless there’s something critical. But I rarely stop working before 7 pm on days I’m at home, and often I don’t stop until 9 pm, because there’s still work that needs to be done and I’m already sitting at my computer and hey, I can make dinner or turn on the TV while I’m working so what good reason do I have to stop?

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    4. EA

      I don’t think it is entirely fair. But I don’t think she should focus on it.

      This has occurred in every job I have had, I have been mildly annoyed, but not to this level. Admins can usually work from home based on the word they do, but from my experience, a greater stigma exits and it is harder to get those benefits. I think it has something to do with old stereotypes of assistants being at the bosses beck and call. This doesn’t mean she won’t get it, I just think it is harder to convince your boss than other lines of work.

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      1. casino LF

        I really get a ton of vacation and many holidays, this is just an organization-wide occurrence that I think is bad for morale and reflects kind of poorly on management.

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        1. Engineer Girl

          This doesn’t make sense. “I have to be in the office so you should be too”. You frame it as morale, but I wonder if that is the real issue.
          I think you really need to consider that the jobs are vastly different and have different requirements. Some jobs are butt in seat and others are measured in deliverables. if the boss is getting the deliverables done then that’s that. One advantage of butt in seat is that you actually get to disconnect when you are away from work.
          Really – this is coming off as “I have to suffer so everyone else has to too.” If you have specific problems then address those specifically.

          Reply
  2. Seal

    #5 – Academic librarian here. I’ve worked for the same institution for 10 years and am currently job hunting. Two of my references are fellow department heads at my current institution; one other reference is a former colleague who now works at a different institution. No one has ever batted an eye at that, although if necessary I have other people I’ve worked with in professional associations and the like I can use as references as well.

    Reply
  3. Gaia

    #3 – I was you a few years ago. I was hired into my first role as a manager and had to hire on a brand new team. Because of my previous work, I was really well positioned to just, uh, pick up the slack where I found it. So, instead of focusing on managing my new team to make them better I just enabled mediocrity by doing things myself.

    That didn’t last long. My manager caught on and had a nice talk with me. He was great about explaining to me why this wasn’t sustainable, helping guide me towards what my day should look like and gave me resources on how to coach my team so they could perform better instead of encouraging them to rely on me doing their job.

    Three years later, I have a highly performing team, my focus is on bigger and more exciting projects and tasks and everyone is happier. You can turn this around. But you may need the help of a mentor or your manager. Also, while it is important that your direct reports give your professional respect, I wouldn’t focus on that. Do a good job, be fair, open and work to make them better and work to make their work life better. They’ll come to respect you for being competent, fair and transparent.

    Reply
    1. NW Mossy

      This is a lesson I was fortunate to learn by counter-example from peers who were promoted into management positions before I was. I saw how much they stressed themselves and how hard it was for them to actually manage when they were still doing individual contributor work that I vowed not to do it when I found myself in the same position a year or so later. I definitely didn’t get everything right in my first year as a manager, but that’s one I did get.

      Reply
  4. paul

    I’m confused by Letter One: Does the OP mean that they don’t get any paid holidays at all while the bosses get most of your standard holidays?

    I mean that’s certainly legal but if that’s the case it’s crappy and would definitely sour me on a place. Work from home is one thing; that’s very dependent on job duties (but I admit I’d be kind of skeptical of someone remoting from a vacation home regularly)…but if they’re getting Thanksgiving and Christmas and the 4th and whatever else off paid while no one else does that really does suck.

    Reply
      1. casino LF

        you are correct

        we get a lot of holidays. i honestly don’t really have a horse in the race; i have just noticed that none of the senior people are ever around on these days and i think it’s kind of crappy even though i 100% get enough vacation time.

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        1. Sadsack

          Have you ever asked about working from home?

          It is a bummer to be the one or the few who are in the office around the holidays. However, everyone has a choice as to how to use their own vacation days. There are many people in my department who are able to work from home (including me) or who are senior to me, so they get more vacation time. If I end up in the office alone, it is due to how I used my days. The place is empty around the holidays, but I wouldn’t say it looks bad that there are no managers here. Why do you think they should not plan their time however they see fit to get their work done?

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        2. Electric Hedgehog

          Why would you want to take away something nice that they have if it won’t get you anything and you are content with what you do have? Why are you resentful of their good fortune, if it doesn’t affect your work and their bosses are happy with it? Genuinely asking.

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          1. casino LF

            I asked 100% because of office morale. The absences are noted. I love my boss and don’t begrudge them their time off, btw. I am copied on nearly all work they do off hours and know how crucial they are to the organization. I do think some of the WFH going on here is legitimately PTO abuse though, honestly.

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            1. Electric Hedgehog

              So, if work from home isn’t an option (which it honestly sounds like it might not be, since you are in the office surfing the web those days and wouldn’t, it seems, be able to contribute meaningfully other than by being physically present), and you don’t want to have to use your vacation days, is there another morale building thing you and the in-office staff can do? Off-campus staff lunch paid by the company, office party/potluck/Olympics, getting flex time for those hours, something along those lines? Because it doesn’t sound like a winning proposition to take away a perk from those who legitimately work, and it also doesn’t sound like you’re in a position to do anything about possible PTO abuse unless you had hard proof.

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              1. designbot

                I like that solution–it addresses morale without being a 1:1 exchange of time off or work from home, which won’t be appropriate for people in every role.

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            2. Natalie

              If the issue truly is other people’s morale, you have to let that go entirely IMO. Office morale isn’t actually your problem to solve, nor is it possible for you to solve it. You’re only going to frustrate yourself (and possibly your co-workers) if you mentally/emotionally take responsibility for it.

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              1. Justin

                Yeah, if it’s bad enough, then find a new job. If there isn’t a lot of turnover, then you probably don’t really have a morale issue.

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            3. JessaB

              The thing is if they’re exempt management, their WFH doesn’t have to look like a full workday ie 8-5 always available. The question to ask is are they not available when actually needed. If they’re not then that’s an issue, if they are, then that’s them managing their time like adults.

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    1. Rusty Shackelford

      Yeah, it sounds like on holidays when the office is open, like MLK Day or Presidents’ Day, everyone else has to either show up at the office or take a vacation day, but these two take it as a work from home day instead. Or “work from home,” as the case may be.

      Reply
    2. Joseph

      As I read it, everybody including OP gets the typical holidays that the vast majority of people get off (Christmas, Thanksgiving, and so on).
      However, the boss also gets to works from home on holidays the company doesn’t observe (President’s Day, Columbus Day, etc) and/or on days before holidays (e.g., working remotely on July 3rd before the Independence Day holiday).

      Reply
  5. Engineer Girl

    #1 – It sounds to me that the company doesn’t get all holidays off, and that people are expected to work on those days. It also sounds like the bosses work, they just don’t commute because they work remotely.
    One basic problem I see with the OP is that they think “fair” means treating everyone the same. That simply isn’t true. “Fair” is treating everyone equally, which isn’t the same at all. “Fair” would mean more perks for more sacrifices and more responsibility.
    Different positions mean different rules. I suspect that these telecommuting bosses also need to be available at night, or during weekends, which are outside of normal office hours. It isn’t about the hours so much as getting the work done. I wonder if the OP would mind having to be at work at 3 AM? Because that is what happens when you are at certain levels. And the people lower down never see it because they are snug in their beds. Oh, and lets not forget about weekends. Usually that means one day off, not two. But OP wouldn’t see it because they aren’t working.
    OP, you say your boss is available via email and phone. That means that they are at work and not out on the ski slopes. I’m also wondering if you understand what your boss really does. Do you know the true hours? Do you know the level of responsibility? Do you know how much money they generate for the company? In the end, those are the things that matter.
    In short, I think that the OP is making a lot of assumptions that just aren’t true.

    Reply
    1. mazzy

      In OP’s defense, I’m mid level and someone at the same level takes advantage of working remotely. Yet again he will be “working remotely” around a holiday, which means you won’t hear from him and he will be someplace lovely with his family. It looks like such a charade to see him lugging his laptop around when you know he is just going to log on here and there to check email. No, not everyone working from home is really working from home.

      Reply
      1. AnotherAlison

        To me, these situations are not the employee-taking-advantage’s fault 100%. I completely understand that this can be infuriating, similar to the coworker who spends all day chatting while you’re working, but the manager should manage it. We had a problem with this — we have generous PTO, but people wouldn’t take it and would say they were working from home. Management cracked down on it, and then no one was allowed to “work from home” while “waiting for the plumber” or anything. We also have to put in charge codes in time sheets, and if you charge to overhead (because it would be pretty unethical to charge a client if you weren’t really working on your time away from the office), the manager will ask you what overhead task you did. People have to be held accountable.

        Reply
      2. Koko

        That is definitely a risk and a thing that happens with some employees. But the problem isn’t that the employees are being allowed to work from home. The problem is that they aren’t working. Revoke the WFH privilege from people who are abusing it, by all means. But this doesn’t call for eliminating the option to work from home on holidays.

        BTW, I understand that OP’s company doesn’t do this on a widespread basis, but it’s extremely common at my office. At least in my department it actually becomes a snowball effect – we cross a tipping point where more than half the staff has announced they’ll be out on PTO or working from home, and then the remaining people realize the office is going to be a ghost town and their boss/reports/teammates are all going to be at home, so why should they come in? The night before you get a flurry of, “OK, I’m just going to stay at home too,” emails. And we are a very high-performing team that works at full productivity on those days. But who wants to commute, especially on a holiday when they don’t reverse the reversible lanes that ease rush hour congestion on normal workdays, the early wave of vacationers are already out on the roads, and the trains are running reduced service, just to sit in front of their laptop in the office instead of at home? We also generally close at 1 on the day before a holiday, so you’re dealing with that hassle for a lousy 4 hours. Working from home the day before a holiday weekend is definitely A Thing that is extremely common and legitimate here.

        Reply
        1. Koko

          Oh, and I will add – we fired someone a few years back who was always “working from home” but hard to reach and constantly missing her deliverable due dates and causing project delays. The rest of us still work from home whenever we want. (And amazingly, we went from a dozen delayed projects a year to maybe one a year after her dismissal.)

          Reply
    2. Oh no, not again

      Wow, EG, a little harsh. I trust the LW has a bit better grasp of the situation than we do. It’s entirely possible for remote workers to slack off, bosses included. Remote working from a ski cabin? I wonder how much is getting done by this boss based on that alone and the LW actually has more knowledge on the situation. It’s be great if the LW could elaborate.

      Reply
      1. casino LF

        literally people are sometimes traveling on these days, or I am 100% aware that they are checking email in the morning once and at like 5pm. the scare quotes were not out of spite. my boss is a genuinely good person that i like working for, i’ve just noticed this trend of the office being empty on certain days that i don’t think reflects well on the organization.

        Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          I know that even on days when I’m working from home and something interrupts me 9-5, I will then be working at 10pm trying to get the work done.

          In most healthy workplaces, salaried (exempt) people aren’t managed by the exact hours spent at their computers/in office. They are managed based on the quality and completion of their tasks- whether that takes 30 hours or 60. Alison is always reminding people to trust their reports to manage their own time responsibly. Only if work is not getting done is it something to address. In this case, you need to trust that your manager and coworkers can manage their own time responsibly. Unless there are things that aren’t getting done that you or others need from them when they are traveling or otherwise working from home and unavailble, then the issue only exists in your own perception.

          Reply
          1. Judy

            I’ve never seen that magical workplace. Everyplace I’ve worked, salaried meant that you worked the hours it took to do the job, or 40 hours, whichever is longer. (3 F50 companies and one small company)

            Reply
            1. Jessesgirl72

              People may have filled their office chairs in those companies, but spending an hour on AAM during their day in the office isn’t really that different than taking a run down the ski hill or starting dinner while working from home. In general, as long as the work is getting done, in the good workplaces, no one bothered too much about how I was spending every hour of the week. No one else was bothered about it either, unless they were making it really obvious to the managers that they didn’t have enough work on a regular basis. It was accepted that you may have time to chat or surf the net this week, but next week you could be there 80 hours!

              In the not healthy places- well micromanagers micromanage.

              I wouldn’t encourage the micromanaging mindset. And I say this as someone who, in between comments, is dealing with the fall out of someone who “worked from home” yesterday (with the quotes!), and didn’t give his direct reports information they needed, which is even more critical in this short work week! My focus is on the work slipping, and not the working from home.

              Reply
            2. Gaia

              Every place I’ve worked where there were exempt employees worked like Jessesgirl describes. I know that isn’t true for every company, but it also isn’t completely unheard of. In my current role, I work however long it takes to get my job done. If I get the job done in 30 hours one week – great. I work 30 hours that week. And that’s okay, because everyone knows December will be 70 hour weeks for me.

              Reply
    3. J.B.

      I absolutely had a boss who “worked” from home, who was a micromanager who didn’t bother to show up and approve the things she insisted needed her approval. I think in this case the best thing for OP1 to focus on is the impact on her/the office’s work. If boss is not available and it’s interfering with things going on, make a case for greater availability. If OP1 wants to work from home some, she should make a business based case for it.

      If the business based reasons (pro and con) don’t change things then the usual advice applies. Either live with it or move on.

      Reply
    4. AD

      It feels like you are making a lot of assumptions based on the OP’s situation that are not in his/her letter. I thought that’s something we’re not supposed to be doing on AAM?

      Reply
      1. Engineer Girl

        What assumptions are those? It’s common for exempt employees to be judged on deliverables, not butt in seat hours. It’s common for exempt employees (especially those high up) to work odd hours and weekends.

        Reply
    5. Sunflower

      I think what we also need to acknowledge is that LW is really only talking about holidays as opposed to normal work days. It’s pretty common for holidays/days around holidays to be reallllyyyyyyy slow. I’ll probably receive 5 emails tomorrow(day before Thanksgiving) that actually require a response/action and I’ll be sitting at my desk reading AAM most of the day. And yup if I was at home I could probably watch movies and TV all day and be doing the same amount of work I’m doing here.

      You really can’t compare those days to an average workday in the office and OP doesn’t seem to have any issue with the normal work from home policy.

      Reply
    6. Sled dog mama

      While I agree with OP that it sounds like this particular manager may be taking advantage of the WFH policy and that constantly being WFH before/after a holiday sets a bad example, I also wonder if OP really knows how different being expected to be available remotely during vacation is. I’m in the middle of my first two week vacation ever (most I’ve taken off in one stretch ever) and so far I’ve not had less than an hour of work a day to do, so even though I’m on vacation I’m not really switched off.
      So maybe this is something that has been worked out with upper management to allow the manager to recharge, I agree it sets a poor example but…..
      As a side note this is why I’m counting down the days until December 16th, my last day at current employer.

      Reply
  6. cncx

    i am in a department of three, and my boss is 100% home office, and my immediate coworker’s job description lends itself more to home office than mine does- my job requires presence in the office due to admin/user support. they both do more home office than I do so I do understand where OP is coming from in terms of it seeming unfair. At the same time, in my case, my boss and coworker bust their butts when they are at home in terms of deliverables and both of them deal with a lot of after hours work i don’t deal with. in fact, because my job is a typical 9-5 that also means i can push evening stuff off on them. Like other commenters have said, it might be helpful for OP to really understand what the boss does, i know that helps me. I see their home office te time as a gift and a tradeoff for all the extra sacrifices to their personal time they make that i don’t make.

    I think it is important to separate the home office part from the job responsibilities part. If OP would like to home office from time to time, I think it should be reframed like she said “the only thing i can’t do is print, and here is how i would mitigate that.” my boss is cognizant of my office time and is extremely flexible with my work schedule in return- and maybe that is a discussion OP can have with her boss as well: “i know my job requires more presence than yours, is there any way i could some some flexibility for….”

    Reply
  7. Office Manager

    +1 to cncx and Engineer Girl. I can’t telework — there are things I do that require me to be in the office, and some days I’m almost the only staff in there. Many of my colleagues telework. Yes, there are some conveniences to them, obviously. But the major downside, as far as I’m concerned, is that because they “can” work from home, they’re expected to do so when needed — at night, on weekends, etc. (And no, they’re not much more highly compensated than I am.) One of the things I love most about my job is that, with a few regularly scheduled yearly exceptions, my work stays within core hours, and when the day’s done, I turn off my computer and go home.

    Reply
    1. Arielle

      Yup. At my old job, we had a ton of flexibility about where and when we worked, but the flip side of that meant that we were expected to be working at all times: checking email at night and on weekends, working from home when you were sick or when the office was closed during the Boston Snowpocalypse, for example. My new job has much more of a butts-in-seats culture, but it means that when I leave at 5:30, I get to go home and not think about work again until the next morning.

      Reply
    2. Jesmlet

      Yes to all this. My dad works from home as much as he’d like to on days that he has delivery guys or the cable guys stopping by or if he has middle of the day errands to run. All his work can be done from home which is a big plus, but the big minus is that because he has the ability to do this, there is the expectation that they are always available. This is probably true of OP’s boss. There are extra perks that should come with extra responsibility and availability. Not physically going into work on minor holidays shouldn’t be such a big deal unless minor holidays are when foot traffic is busiest in OP’s office.

      Reply
  8. Recruit-o-rama

    I roll my eyes when I get snide comments or quotation marks in emails from some of my in the field co-workers who cannot work from home. I work from my home office and work weird hours because of a coast to coast time zone spread that the facilities I support are in. I also work evenings and weekends and travel away from my family frequently. My job is extremely metrics driven ; my boss does not care if I work 12 hours a week or 60 as long as I hit my numbers and produce my deliverables. I do laundry, go to parent teacher meetings, work out in the middle of the day, etc…but no one who knows what my deliverables are questions my work ethic. Sometimes my in the field co-workers resent my flexibility, but it’s because they don’t understand my job. I think their may be some of the going on with OP #1.

    Reply
  9. Temperance

    LW1: I get why admin employees can’t work from home, but I agree that it stinks that you’re required to be in the office on holidays when your bosses aren’t. Even if they are working from home, the optics are bad.

    Reply
  10. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

    #1

    I’m sure that there are bosses who have cushy lives, not a lot of work, not a lot of demand on their personal lives, much time for skiing or whatever they want, but I don’t know any of these people. It might be my industry, or maybe the people I personally care to know, but, I don’t know any of them.

    The responsibility and time demands of being a boss, especially a Big Boss are huge. The pressures are huge. Bosses often don’t have jobs so much as they have goals and metrics that they need to figure out how to meet/surpass despite market conditions or whatever the hell else is going on. The bosses I know work like me, with work woven into the fabric of their lives, not much demarcation.

    How much office time your boss puts in doesn’t have any impact on your job unless it does have an impact on your job. We see letters here from workers who are struggling because they can’t get answers they need, bosses’ irresponsibility causing workers to have to cancel their own personal plans or work ungodly hours, workers who have bad, abusive bosses who run out for nail appointments and then come back and scream at them. How your boss chooses to manage his own time to complete the goals that he’s responsible for doesn’t have any impact on you and it’s not “if he gets to do X, I should be able to do X also”.

    All of that said, I agree with a poster upthread that nice gestures would be a good thing. Paying for lunch for people here directly before a big holiday (we always do this), an extra nod for holding down the fort, etc., I agree that’s important and good. But I can’t agree that if the things the bosses do aren’t impacting results negatively that they should change.

    Reply
    1. the_scientist

      I think this is a good take on this issue. As someone else pointed out, when the boss is at his ski cabin (which, boss is living my dream life so I’m probably a little biased here) he could be working from 6:00- 10:00 a.m., then for an hour or so mid-day, and then logging on again in the evening- don’t forget that at most mountain resorts, the upper lifts are closed by 3:00 or so because you lose the sun early in the mountains. As long as the boss is reachable/responsive in the event of an emergency, and isn’t preventing other people from getting their work done in a timely fashion, what is the issue with this?

      Reply
    2. bridget

      Agreed – I have a very flexible job when it comes to butt-in-seat time, but that is paired with high demands and high pressure. I squeeze work into every nook and cranny of my life. I pull all-nighters, I get on conference calls at 4:00 a.m. with people on the other side of the world, and almost all of my vacations include at least working a partial day remotely. I would be pretty miffed if someone who had totally different job responsibilities than I did, where it made sense to count work product in hours manning a phone or a desk, got annoyed because I wasn’t working remotely in the way or at the times they imagined I should be.

      Reply
      1. Gaia

        Last week I had a conference call at 4:30am and another one at 7pm. Here’s to working in the US with colleagues in both Ireland and Tokyo that needed to be updated same day on deliverables.

        Reply
    3. Gaia

      “Bosses often don’t have jobs so much as they have goals and metrics that they need to figure out how to meet/surpass despite market conditions or whatever the hell else is going on.”

      This. So much. Back before I was ever a boss, I remember hearing my Big Boss being told by her Big Boss that it didn’t matter that the market had crashed and people weren’t working and therefore weren’t buying things right now. My Big Boss needed to meet our revenue goals. Figure it out.

      Now, that was a pretty toxic job but it really brought a few things home for me. Mainly that my Big Boss and I had very different jobs. I was never going to be held responsible for the company’s revenue despite markets in my then-current role. I can’t imagine that stress!

      Reply
  11. Fun

    Is it just me or for #4 is Alison taking it in a direction that doesn’t match up with what management is looking for? To me it sounds like those ‘goals’ are things that are part of OP’s job description and are things that she is already doing – the only way I can see that flying is if OP is not doing her job correctly to begin with. It seems like saying “My goal is to come to work on time every day” when you are already coming to work on time…

    My suggestion would be to think of anything that you can change or make more efficient. You don’t have to say things like ‘reduce cleaning time by 12%’ but you can have a goal to reduce cleaning time by getting faster or using a new system to clean.

    Reply
    1. Pineapple Incident

      I agree to an extent- I think the OP should ask their manager what that should mean in the context of their role. An admin won’t necessarily have any objectives that fulfill the SMART criteria- for anyone who doesn’t know SMART objectives, it stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Like you said – stating things like “reduce cleaning time by 12%” or “increase number of satisfied inbound callers by 25% in 6 months” because you don’t necessarily have enough control over those things to appropriately measure them. This might make sense for sales staff or IT personnel, but not for this OP.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        OMG, I’ve gotten a headache and brain spasm just thinking about how much work you’d have to do to document a 12% improvement in cleaning time.

        There are times when the work of measuring is WAY more trouble than the improvement you’d get out of it.

        Reply
      2. RR

        But you could use time measures in a different way. You may not be able to reduce cleaning time (agree that is not always reasonable or within the employee’s control), but you can commit to making sure the conference room/shared break room/etc are cleared within X hours of an event, for example. Or all in-bound calls are answered within X rings.

        Reply
    2. anon and on and on...

      It didn’t seem like the suggestions were measurable, especially the one about events running smoothly — how is that measured? And none were time-based. So maybe something like this:

      Over the next year, will continue to perform errand X on a weekly basis.

      Or:

      By the end of the year, will combine errand X and errand Y into a single trip.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        At least with the coaching on goals that I do, goals don’t have to be quantitative, and there are lots of jobs where it would be hard and silly to come up with quantitative goals. You can have qualitative goals as long as reasonable people can agree on what the finish line looks like (and whether you met it or not).

        Reply
    3. lulu

      I don’t have the same interpretation of goals as you. If I produce 12 reports in 1 year, and it’s been a productive year, it’s perfectly reasonable to say that my goals for the next year will be to produce 12 reports. It doesn’t have to be something new. They just want a measure of achievement that you can look at at the end of the year, to see if you have done your job.
      But the M of SMART goals (Measurable) is the one that’s tricky for OP#4. One way to get around it is to use percentages (“100% of meetings set up to the satisfaction of X entity”) or absence of issues (“0 complaints regarding meeting rooms cleanliness”). Those are a bit artificial of course, but can be used if they don’t allow you to set qualitative goals.

      Reply
      1. Amy

        I don’t know about the OP but we are not allowed to reuse a goal from a previous year. And if doing 12 reports were part of my regular job description I wouldn’t be allowed to use that either. One of my past goals was to improve one of our monthly reports to make the information more meaningful when that was done I couldn’t use continuing to do that report each month as a goal. We’re told goals are something beyond our normal job duties. We have separate KPI’s that track the stuff that’s easily measurable.

        Reply
        1. Koko

          That’s interesting. Our goals are basically KPIs from our job duties, which are written to be challenging but achievable. Some of them might involve a relative improvement over a previous year, like increasing revenue, but others are the same every year, like keeping complaints below a certain threshold percent – we don’t just keep lowering the threshold every year, because after the 50 years we’ve been around all of our thresholds would be at 0 by now and that’s just not realistic.

          When performance review comes, if you’ve done your job well then you’ve achieve all your goals and would get a Meets Expectations, which about 75% of staff receive. A process improvement or other relative improvement that goes above and beyond your job would be considering outperforming a goal and would get you an Exceeds Expectations, which only about 10% of staff receive. The company does not expect most employees to be going above and beyond their core job functions – their core job functions are written in such a way that the company continues to grow and be successful just by everyone doing their regular job.

          Reply
    4. Tuckerman

      My thought as well (we are deeply entrenched in smart goal setting at work). It can be hard to come up with goals when so much of one’s job is routine.
      If I were, LW, I might make a goal of researching minority owned or sustainable business catering options, presenting the options to my manager by such and such date, and begin using them in time for the new business quarter.
      Or, track inquiries when covering reception, and create content for a FAQ page or recommendations for website modifications by such and such date.

      Reply
    5. AndersonDarling

      My first thought was to keep track of everyone you are assisting then send them a survey monthly, or at the ends of the year if there isn’t much activity. The goal would be to have a 95% event support satisfaction rate.
      There could be a goal around a new skill with supporting events. If the LW is doing set up and clean up, is it possible to handle the catering aspect, or opening slide show. The goal would be “Will expand event support skills by handling the catering on 3 events.”
      If there have been any complaints from these events, a goal could be to reduce complaints.
      I used to be an admin and these were the kinds of goals I had. I sent lots of surveys.

      Reply
    6. CAA

      I agree that Alison’s examples aren’t SMART goals, they’re just regular goals. If you google “SMART goals for x” where x is a job title, you will most likely find some that you can modify to fit your situation.

      Has anyone here had a good experience with SMART goals? If so, what kind of work do you do? Do your priorities shift during the time when the goals are in effect? Do you take on new projects that weren’t envisioned during the time you wrote the goals? I’ve been playing this goals game for years now, and trying to understand where this system comes from and for whom does it actually work well. I’d love to hear from people who are getting positive benefits from it.

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        I came searching for this post, to see if you had any takers from people who had good experience with SMART goals.

        Even I, who hate them, expected one or two defenders of them and wanted to hear their feedback.

        Reply
        1. JustaTech

          Maybe they’re great for sales or manufacturing? Or I could see them for some kinds of tech companies, like, “no more than 5 hours of unscheduled down time in the year”.

          In my job goals (SMART or not) are all kind of impossible/weird. Like, the department will have projects we would like to do in any given year, but our first priority is always “when something goes wrong, drop everything and fix it”. Some years that doesn’t happen. Some years it happens every month. And some years management dumps all our projects. So it’s hard to set goals at the beginning of the year and honestly expect that they will get done.

          Reply
    7. Unmeasurable

      That’s right, those things are all part of my job description – I’d be in big trouble if I wasn’t doing them already!

      I don’t really do the type of “deep cleaning” that could be optimized much – just things like unloading the dish machines, wiping up a small spill, or putting newspapers back on the rack when clients leave them lying around. But it’s definitely something to think about.

      Reply
  12. boop the first

    #2: Ugh, I remember the first few years of working at the restaurant, we had our staff parties on site and just closed down the business for the night so that there were no customers and everyone could eat, drink and have fun (and win prizes!)… Except for a few of us who had to hang back & cook all of the staff’s food and wash all of their dishes! Even later when I realized that parties aren’t my thing and I would have stayed home, it sucked having to stand on hard, filthy tile and wash dishes to the soundtrack of coworkers squealing and receiving gifts. Just the first notch in a looonnnggg line of morale-destroying crap. It doesn’t get better.

    Reply
    1. Ayla K

      Holy crap, it’s one thing to make you work (cover the phones/front desk/whatever) while others are partying, but to make you essentially wait on them is beyond messed up. I’m so sorry! I hope you’re out of there, or at least on your way out soon?

      Reply
  13. WellRed

    “I always show up on the holidays because it isn’t worth it to me to take a vacation day when I’m essentially just being a warm body at a desk with nothing to do but read articles online.”

    LW, take the vacation day.

    Reply
      1. Annabelle Lee

        Too harsh for this blog. Dial it back.
        OP 1, I’ve been where you are and seen exactly what you see. I trust you understand your business and management deliverables. I am now a manager and am very careful of this type of fairness issue. Perhaps you should work for people who actually care about staff.

        Reply
        1. Roscoe

          How exactly is it too harsh. She has an issue (doesn’t like having to work holidays), she has a possible solution (take vacation). She doesn’t want to use the possible solution. But you don’t get to decide who needs to dial what back just because you don’t necessarily agree with me

          Reply
          1. casino LF

            I actually don’t mind since not taking the day off, as I said, I’m literally being paid to read the internet without supervision (long lunch, woo), I just have been here a long time and it happens that almost all management types are always doing WFH before holidays or on local dumb holidays we don’t get off (we get off most holidays/office is closed between Christmas and New Year’s and stuff), and I just think it doesn’t reflect well on management and I was wondering about it.

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              Well, in a way, by not being there to give you work, they’re giving you a sort-of “day off.” It’s “sort of” bcs you’re trapped in the office.

              So, make better use of it. Plan ahead for it.
              Pick something you’ll do w/ that time and Internet access that benefits YOU.
              Like: use that time to plan or research a vacation. Or do some phone work to research a home improvement project.
              If you can get away with it, bring in some sort of home project. In a similar fallow period, I designed a Christmas caroling songbook; and once I put together a cooking primer for a friend as a bridal-shower present. I also once “practiced” the piano to learn some songs for a church thing (I brought in the music and the recordings, and listened to them over and over as I read the music and “played” the desktop with my fingers).

              Of course you’re being paid, so you want to do anything necessary at work, but if you’re not going to have anything crucial to do, you don’t need to waste the time if you can reclaim it for your own purposes.

              Reply
            2. camellia blossom

              I think the only issue then is that you have unreasonable expectations and are judging your management for doing something perfectly reasonable. Maybe the best solution here is to realise that this isn’t actually a problem and change your attitude.

              Reply
          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            I don’t think you were being especially harsh, but I do disagree with you. Taking vacation wouldn’t resolve her feelings of resentment — then her concern could be that she has to use a vacation day to have that day off, when her boss gets to “work from home” (her scare quotes, not mine) from his ski cabin.

            The solution to her frustration is to understand what Alison pointed out — different jobs have different responsibilities, and different benefits and challenges.

            Reply
            1. Roscoe

              You are right, it might not get rid of all of the resentment, but I was thinking at least it could for the day. Like I can see how being the only one in the office could make you mad (but according to the above comment that I think is OP, that isn’t the case). But yes, I do think it is just important to understand roles are different.

              Reply
          3. Lily in NYC

            It’s about tone. You asked for an exact example: just read the last sentence you wrote. “You don’t get to decide” That is harsh.

            Reply
              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Eh, I don’t know about that. Loads of people here manage to communicate frequently and effectively without people bristling at their tone. I didn’t think Roscoe’s tone was an outrage but it struck me as a bit prickly.

                Reply
        2. Engineer Girl

          I’m going to disagree with you. I have had admin types make comments to me about my hours. They say “it must be nice” when I stroll in at 11 am. What they don’t know was that I was at work until 2 am, went home for a few hours sleep, and then came in at 11 am.
          Many admins do NOT get visibility into how exempt employees work. Focusing solely on hours in office or even hours on line won’t tell you anything about the number of hours worked.
          It also doesn’t reveal the key issue – that the worker is accountable to my manager, NOT the admin.
          People keep saying “optics”. Then make sure you use the right lenses.

          Reply
          1. seanchaigirl

            This is spot on. I travel frequently, and work a deadline oriented job. Quite often, I take the last flight back home after a full day of meetings and use the flight time to write and edit major grant applications. But if I walk in at 10 instead 9 the next morning, the comments start. Maybe it looks like easy street from the outside, but no one else saw me eating a crap airport dinner while reworking a budget for the 10th time, or rolling up to my house at 11:30pm after having been awake since 6:00am ET.

            Reply
    1. Christy

      This is good advice! I used to go into the office on, say, the day after Thanksgiving, because all I had to do was stop the place from burning down. Now I just take the day. Sure, it would have been an easy day, but it’s so much better to just take the time off. (I’m lucky that I get enough leave to allow this.)

      Reply
  14. Joseph

    #1: I actually had these same feelings of unfairness/jealousy at one point, but am now on the other side of the fence, so I want to just share my experience.
    When I was a green Junior Teapot Maker, I looked at the big boss and envied some of his perks. He regularly left early to pick the kids up from school, he worked from home when an electrician was rewiring his house, he consistently took the Monday off after a long holiday. And yeah, it seemed like that was awesome. I was actually quite jealous of his flexibility, when I was basically 8-5 every single day unless I took one of my (more limited) PTO days. If only I could get to that level and get all those perks…
    Well, now I am at a more senior level and get those same perks – flexibility to leave early, work-from-home privileges, extra days off, etc. But you know what came along with it? So many reports to review that I actually read them at home. Phone calls in the evening or weekends while relaxing with family/friends, 3 AM calls from overnight field staff, emails on vacation. I love my current role and appreciate my perks, but there’s definitely a part of me that misses the junior staff perk of being able to walk out the door at 5:00 PM and basically not exist until 8:00 AM the following day.

    Reply
    1. Anon Again

      Well put.

      However, I do think it’s worth noting that in some organizations, employee’s who do not have those perks also have the same expectations as senior people. Where I work only a handful of staff are permitted to work-from-home during core business hours. However, everyone who has the ability to do their job remotely is expected to work-from-home outside of core business hours or when the office is closed. The disparity naturally causes resentment.

      Because it’s one thing to have that level of expectation and pressure, when you are provided additional flexibility, perks, and pay, it’s another when you don’t get any of those things, but you still get the expectation and pressure.

      Reply
      1. paul

        Under our last CEO that’s how it was and it was lethal for morale. She’s been gone probably 4 years now, thank goodness. She had no problems working from homeo r letting C level staff do so, but no one else could. But she also thought nothing of calling junior people at 10pm at night either.

        Reply
  15. k

    #2 sounds exactly like my husband. He’s in customer service at a formerly small start up, and as the company has grown they have gone through more schedule changes than I can count which often resulted in people missing their company happy hour. I know that it was brought up and they’ve worked on ways to make sure everyone is included somehow. They now do things besides happy hour such as group lunches, monthly birthday celebrations, etc. so that there are multiple opportunities to socialize with coworkers.

    Reply
  16. Sue Wilson

    The same is true across departments, honestly, and most people at least mildly resent it.
    Assuming that you’re correct and that most people do actually hold some resentment, I would actually say the problem isn’t just the WFH but something about the way the Admin staff feel the company supports and values them (or doesn’t), which the WFH policy is bringing out by its obviousness.

    If you don’t feel like you’re important or that your company cares about you, the optics of this (especially since you are probably missing some of the stressors of the people you support) are going to bug you. I would think about what would make you feel similarly valued, but which is commensurate to your position, and ask for that. Would having late starts on snow days help for instance? Maybe having a trial of WFH for support staff?

    Reply
    1. casino LF

      Yeah, I basically wrote in because we do have a bit of a morale problem at work. The compensation here is low for the area, though we all love the organization as a whole. I’m debating broaching this, possibly anonymously, because I really do think it looks bad when there is skeleton staff every Friday before a long weekend, even though we get great vacation/holiday time off and flex time is common and stuff like that.

      Reply
      1. paul

        Having a skeleton crew before a long weekend isn’t abnormal *at all* in a lot of industries. We have one at work this week ourselves (and a really light workload to go with it–those of us that are here are bringing chips and dips tomorrow).

        Reply
      2. Purest Green

        I guess I don’t understand the morale problem regarding holidays. A well-liked organization that offers great vacation/holiday time and flex time usually isn’t one with morale problems unless something else apart from that is going on. Because while I would somewhat resent being part of a skeleton staff on days like that, I wouldn’t think it would go so far as to cause me to have an overall morale problem.

        Reply
      3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        I’m not hearing you say thing one about work being impacted. Is there any impact to work because the office goes light directly before a holiday?

        If there’s not a significant impact to work, what you are describing is an office that’s more normal than abnormal. That’s what offices look like directly before a holiday. (We sell business to business, meaning all of our customers are business folks and we expect 20% of the activity on a day before a holiday because most offices across the country are light.)

        From everything you’ve said, I think pointing yourself to actual issues (low compensation) and not issues that are common to many businesses will do you the best service.

        Reply
        1. Arielle

          I was once one of three people in my office the day before Christmas. It was incredibly fun. We drank mimosas while we finished up some emails, my manager helped my coworker wrap presents, and we all went home at noon.

          Reply
  17. peachie

    Related to #5: Anyone have any advice about what to do when you don’t really have any other relevant references to use? I’m thinking about going in a different direction career-wise, and while what I want to do is a core function of my current job that I am fully trained and qualified to do, it’s not reflected in my educational background or work experience at all.

    I’m not fresh out of college, but I spent a bit of time in various contract-like jobs all over the board, so I only developed a few relationships with folks I could reach out to for references, and the skills required for that field are worlds away from what I’m doing now. It doesn’t help that my educational background doesn’t reflect my current field — training and working have compensated and I feel secure in my skills, but I’m really unsure how to get that across. Help?

    Reply
  18. Sara M

    OP 1: it’s also possible there’s arrangements you can’t see. My husband took a 25 percent paycut in exchange for a job with 100 percent work from home plus no on-call (he’s a sysadmin).

    Reply
  19. Moonsaults

    I think it’s easy to be envious of other people’s perks and jobs without knowing exactly what they’re expected to do.

    My boss is often away and at various vacation homes. I had someone snap awhile back about how they’re stuck “doing all this work” while he’s away on another trip enjoying life. It infuriated me on multiple levels because I know he’s constantly making deals no matter where he’s located at any given time.

    We really underestimate how hard other people work at any given task because it’s not ours. Some people have accused me of having an easy job, how it must be great to sit at a desk and just do paperwork. Only then they cry when they have to do a single piece of paperwork, how hard and unfair and tedious this is, how do you do this all day long? I think it’s really a case of thinking the grass is always greener on the other side.

    Others thought my previous boss had an easy job, until he was unable to do it and we had to split up his tasks. They all cried their heads off when they realized that supplies weren’t delivered by the nail and screw fairies >:(

    Reply
  20. not so super-visor

    #2 – are these officially company sponsored/organized events or just events that involve coworkers getting together on their own? There’s a big difference. If it is a legitimate company-sponsored event — speak up. They might be able to shut off the phones early every once-in-a-while to let you join. Unfortunately, Customer Service is usually the first department left out of these events, and I remember the feeling very well of being left out of fun times. If your CS dept is set-up anything like the ones that I’ve worked at in the past, you’re probably on the closing shift because you’re on the lower end of seniority, and that makes it even harder to get to know people some times.
    If these aren’t official events, you can say something if you want, but mentally gird yourself that your manager may not be able to do about it. Sometimes, those are just the breaks.

    Reply
  21. Billy

    For OP#1, I was a bit confused by your letter. You say your company has “a really flexible work from home policy” but then imply that your two bosses have special privileges that cause resentment. Likewise, you were clearly bothered by the situation enough to write in, so I’m not sure it’s correct to say your boss taking ski trips is not a problem.

    But I will try to address the question of “exempt vs nonexempt” and “admin vs non-admin”. Working from home has a larger number of issues for non-exempt employees than it does for exempt ones. Your boss taking a mid-day skiing trip is presumably matched by weekends spent preparing for presentations — or even something as precise as working 8AM-10AM and 2PM to 8PM rather than 8AM to 4PM. For non-exempt employees it is much more critical to track actual hours worked. There are systems that do this, but if your company doesn’t have “track hours from home” set up, it’s not terribly unusual for working at home to be reserved for exempt employees.

    You being an admin adds a unique complication: At my place of work, admins are needed in part to handle drop-in issues. So a physical presence is more important for your work than for your bosses. Even if you have a slow day with only a few people — those few people need someone to handle / forward their issues, and it may preclude work-from-home for you.

    The best advice: Go ahead and take a vacation day. Relax at home and don’t think about work or what your boss is doing.

    Second best advice: If you haven’t explicitly asked whether you will be able to work from home, give it a try and see what people say. You’ll be more likely to get a positive answer if you don’t imply that your bosses are slacking off when “working” from home.

    Reply
  22. Jadelyn

    #2 – it might be worth seeing if they can bring in temp support for those two hours once in awhile. I used to work for a temp agency and I will never forget the time that I was brought in for a single day as receptionist, because the company was having their holiday party and they didn’t want to leave out the receptionist. So they hired me for a day, and the receptionist went to the party with the rest of the staff. That might be a solution for you guys once in awhile – work a half day and have a couple of temp people cover the other half.

    Reply
  23. Justin

    When you’re the boss, that’s just kind of how it is. I don’t care what kind of schedule my boss keeps because she travels a lot and I know she works nights and weekends frequently and has a ton on her plate. I can work from home sometimes but she can get away with doing it a lot more often because she’s the boss. And administrative staff often have physical tasks that mean they just can’t work from home usually. I don’t know the exact nature of your job but it just might not be possible to do it from home. Do they need someone to be there to do reception/ answer the door? Answer phones? Set things up?

    As for the two months in the mountains issue, how is this different from a boss who lives in another city or state? That’s pretty common these days.

    And bringing this up as a “morale” issue could really get you on the wrong side of your boss or other higher ups, especially if you frame it as them slacking off or whatever. You’d probably get better results if you framed it as giving admin staff the chance to work from home sometimes, something positive, rather than a negative, which is trying to ruin the setup that the bosses have. That sounds like a culture issue and generally not something you can change unless you are at their level.

    I will say that them staying home for local holidays that no one else gets to take is pretty lousy. And they should try to give people more options on snow days.

    Reply
  24. Billy

    For OP#3, I can’t say whether you are capable of managing, but you aren’t doing it at the moment. You definitely need to off-load the work you did before your promotion. How you do so will vary slightly depending on what happened to your old boss. If your old boss got promoted / retired and you were promoted but no new people were hired, your team has fewer people now, and everyone is going to have to help with the slack (identifying tasks that can be offloaded would be great, as would be lobbying for a new hire). Hopefully, you either did or will hire a new employee, meaning the aggregate team size is the same. It’s more difficult if your old manager was demoted and you are now supervising them as they may not be an ideal employee.

    If possible, set up a group meeting to assign work tasks. It’s not too late to set one up – you can start by saying something like “As you know, this is my first management role. I learned something I should have known immediately: I can not perform 40 hours of managerial duties while still doing the same tasks that took me 40 hours as an employee.” And then proceed to divvy up the work. If there are no volunteers to take over one of your duties, assign it to someone. If they object, say something like “Yes, I know how time consuming the Jones account is for you. Is anyone able to help _____ with the Jones account?”. By the end of the meeting workload has been mostly equalized, and more importantly everyone has a clear expectation of tasks.

    This next bit is important: hold people accountable. If something assigned to them did not get done, this is a performance concern. Ask them why it did not get accomplished and when it will be. Be politely firm at first. For example, if a customer is checking the status of an unfulfilled order you can email a reply saying something along the lines of “Please accept my apologies for the delay. Your account was recently transferred to Bob who I am cc:ing. I am sure he will process your order as soon as possible — if you have not heard from him by the end of the week, please contact me again so I may investigate the issue.”

    Reply
  25. CuhPow

    At my job upper management works M-F 8-4 (times pretty strictly). Never works a weekend or holiday. And don’t get in trouble for calling off sick. They also aren’t required to abide by our snow policy: you’re required to show up for work, even when no one is allowed to be on the road per government. You must find accommodations if you’re far away, which means staying and and paying for your own hotel up to two days before and two days after to make sure you can reach work. You also must work until relief comes or 12 hours, and sleep at work to be available the next day for another 12 hours if you have no relief because of the snow. Management never comes in if it snows. Employees also have to work every other holiday (or some every holiday that falls on their workday), get written up if you call in sick, and are required to work every other weekend no matter how many days you put in during the week. Sooo yeah, management is pretty unfair. If it were normal expectations of employees it would be no big deal but because we are open every day of the year and have crazy expectations, it seems unfair management has to do none of the un-glamorous stuff.

    Reply
    1. Gaia

      The only way any of that could be even remotely reasonable would be if you were working in First Responder fields (firefighters, EMTs, hospitals, police, etc). Even then, bah that sucks.

      Reply
  26. Volunteer Enforcer

    OP 4, I can understand as I am currently working, and have worked in fields that are all qualitative in terms of achievements. I’d definitely agree with Alison’s advice, but I’d add this: think through the lense of “what have I done in this job that is better than an ordinary person?” or “how has my approach been better than a mediocre employee’s?” Keeping a written list of achievements that I update as soon as I achieve something helps as well.

    Reply
  27. Leslie

    Regarding working from home, I’d agree with Alison’s opinions especially that don’t put “work” in quotation mark. I work in an organization as a manager most of the time, while my employees are working on tactic tasks with clear guidelines, I have to think about pressing issues like how to expand our market, get more clients, mitigate risks and others…to me job is not 9-5, it’s 24/7 simply because my performance metrics isn’t tied up with near-term tasks but long-turn results which too many factors – both the controllable and uncontrollable – play a role in. To fulfill my responsibilities well, I HAVE TO have the flexibility so that I can be focused enough without wasting time on the traffic or feeling stressed at formalities just for the sake of formalities. I also need to meet a client in Stamford CT without having to drop by the Manhattan office as a rule.

    However, as a boss, there’s one thing I do to make sure my close subordinates know my schedule and keep the communication line open anytime when possible. So far it has been working great.

    Reply
  28. DragoCucina

    #3–See if there are one day seminars your company would pay for. There are some good ones that cover transitioning from staff to supervisor or management basics. One of the things I have to constantly nudge is for my managers to use the authority I give them. I send them to the training so they can hear it from someone else. Sometimes people do step down. I had one person do that. It can be okay in the right environment. You just have to be sure it’s not what you want.

    Reply
  29. snorkellingfish

    I’m trying to articulate why I can empathise with LW1’s comment on why a boss working from home (etc) might have an adverse effect on moral even though different jobs genuinely have different requirements and what I’ve come to is:

    If the boss who’s working from home is the same person who’s not authorising reports to work from home (whether regularly or just for particular occasions like snow days or holidays) even when their work would allow it, I can understand why that would be galling. Like, judge by the same standards: if business reasons allow the boss to work from home and business reasons allow the subordinate to work from home, then it’s gonna affect moral if the boss refuses to authorise the subordinate without any justification. In this case, LW1 is saying that she could do her job from home, except for printing. It might not be reasonable to allow her to work from home every day or for extended periods, but it sounds like it would be fine to give her extra flexibility on certain days (e.g., the example given is around holidays) so long as she’s able to keep up with her work on those days. If the boss is the one saying no and he doesn’t have any decent reason, then I can imagine that would feel like a galling double standard.

    There’s a certain degree of extra flexibility that comes with being the boss, but it’s gotta come with empathy for the reports, especially if they’re dealing with, e.g., fighting extra traffic to come in to twiddle their thumbs on a holiday. That doesn’t necessarily mean authorising working from home… but a little bit of extra recognition or alternative perks (e.g., providing lunch or treats) or allowing more casual clothes than usual on slow days or giving them a bit of extra flexibility to leave early if things are quiet can go a long way to make employees feel appreciated, even if they’re not treated exactly the same as people in positions with different requirements.

    Reply

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