my mom says that using FMLA will prevent me from getting another job, requiring advance notice of requests to use time off, and more

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

1. My mom says that using FMLA will prevent me from getting another job

Two years ago, my father ended a career that had us living in Hawaii and relocated for a new job in Utah. For financial reasons I had to tag along, and the short version is that I’m miserable. I already had health issues, but in Hawaii I had great friends, mostly clean air except when the volcano blew over, plenty of things to do outside, and a job that I liked pretty well although it wasn’t glamorous. Now I’m in a freezing, polluted desert. The only job I was able to find that I could live on was in a call center. I’ve stuck this job out for almost a year and a half now, but I hate it. I’ve had worse jobs before, but I have a degree and am so frustrated with this work after being rejected again and again for other jobs better suited to me. Two years in, I still haven’t found friends – there’s an enormous culture difference and I’m really struggling to meet people, even in my same church. I also don’t have as many options for getting fresh air and sun because half the year we don’t have either.

Basically, my depression/anxiety/insomnia worsened to the point where I needed to start medication, and I then was approved for FMLA for a set number of days each month, which I’ve never even thought of looking into before.

Well, my mother has taken to calling and asking me if I was late to work any given day, and if I say I was, she starts yelling about how I’ll never get a good reference from my current job and what do I think they’ll say about me and how do I expect to move anywhere else if I’m the worst performer on the team? (I’m not, by the way. I struggle with some of the phone stats, but I’m great with the people who call in. I work for an insurance company and I’ve helped a lot of distressed people feel better because I bend over backwards trying to find any possible way we can meet their needs).

But I am not being hired anywhere else. Would my manager really tell people I was a bad employee for using my FMLA? The company has a pretty good culture overall, but after being shouted at so much and rejected so often I’m really starting to worry and wonder…it’s one more thing keeping me up at night.

What?! No, and your mom is being really awful here.

It’s 100% illegal to hold an employee’s use of FMLA against them. Your employer can’t consider it in their assessment of your performance, and it can’t impact the reference they give you. Using FMLA does not make you a bad employee; it’s there for you to use when you need it.

Something’s up with your mom — not only does she have incorrect information about how this stuff works, but assuming that you’re the worst performer on your team (!) is incredibly toxic and, frankly, really crappy of her. Your problem isn’t that you’re taking FMLA; your problem is that your mom is berating you and yelling at you. I really hope you’ll tell her that you’re not going to discuss work with her anymore, and then decline to do so in the future. If she starts in, calmly say, “As I said, I’m not up for discussing this with you, so I’ll talk to you another time” and then hang up. Seriously — this would be terrible for anyone, and must be even more destructive for you with the stuff you’re already struggling with right now.

2. Am I being too rigid by requiring advance notice of requests to use time off?

I am a manager of a staff of 12 in at a government agency. I have always had a policy that staff request leave (annual or sick) at least 24 hours in advance, with the provision that if they or their children are suddenly sick they certainly can request sick leave at the last minute. I particularly have a pet peeve when people make an appointment in advance and then request leave at the last minute.

Again this morning, one of my staff sent me an email saying, “I remembered that I had to put leave in for this afternoon as I have an appointment.”I told her that I would approve the leave, but reminded her that she needs to provide at least 24 hour notice in the future (unless she woke up sick and called off).

I don’t have an issue approving leave for appointments. We earn our leave and should be able to use it as we need (although I could write a whole other letter about how poorly some people manage their leave). I would, however, like the courtesy of letting me know in advance. I should note that this employee taking leave will not impact any projects or deadlines. We did have an issue with her doing this when I was on vacation. She took leave without requesting it in advance, emailed me rather than my fill-in about it (even though she knew I was out), and then was upset when the person filling in for me (who didn’t know she was out for an couple of hours at an appointment) tried to reach her while she was at her appointment and couldn’t find her. I’ve shared my expectations with the entire staff and directly with this person several times now. The next time it happens I won’t be approving her leave. Am I making too much of this?

In general, you want to err on the side of giving your employees as much freedom and autonomy as their work allows. Is there a work-related reason that you need 24 hours notice, or is it more the principle of the thing? If there are truly work needs in play here (like that you need to arrange coverage), then explain that and hold people to the policy.

But if it’s more about the principle or an idea of what’s “courteous,” then yes, I think you need to be less rigid and give people as much flexibility as you can, all the way up to the line where it starts impacting their work. However, you could certainly remind people that if they wait until the last minute to request leave, there’s more of a chance of a work-related thing having come up that will make you need to say no (if that’s true; in many contexts it would be) and more of a chance that you’ll be out yourself and thus not able to approve it.

3. I think my coworker’s work problems are side effects of a drug he’s taking

I wear the HR hat in my small company, but it’s a minor part of my job. A colleague is in some hot water over issues like consistently coming in late, taking personal days without advance notice, and occasionally snapping at others.

Here’s the problem: I know, from my HR access, that he takes medication for a mental illness. (The staff submits receipts for medical expense reimbursement. Usually it’s just a register receipt that says “prescription,” but sometimes people submit the full information that the pharmacy staples to the outside of the bag.) Since I have a relative who takes the same meds, I know that the issues my colleague is having are common to this drug.

Now I’m hearing rumblings that my colleague might be formally reprimanded, his annual performance-based salary increase reduced, and maybe even eventually let go due solely to the attendance thing. He is good at his job. I don’t think anyone but me knows about his health issue. I’m not sure HE knows I know about it. Because HR is such a small part of my duties, people tend to forget that I know all their business.

What’s my play? Keep quiet, as I do about all the personal information I have access to? Encourage him to speak up about his health, knowing that it will buy him some indulgence from the bosses, who are good and kind people? Say something to his boss? None of it feels right.

You definitely shouldn’t disclose personal health information that you only know about from processing a receipt. What you can do, though, is to encourage his manager to ask the employee if there’s anything going on with him outside of work or health-wise that might be leading to the issues he’s having. That’s not an unreasonable thing to ask regardless, and it will give him the opportunity to speak up if he does want to share anything. But if he chooses not to, that’s his call.

And even if he doesn’t realize that the drug can have these particular side effects, you don’t really have standing to point it out to him; it would be too much a violation of his privacy, would get you into talking about health stuff that you’re not qualified to advise him on, and would be a misuse of the information you see when you’re processing medical paperwork.

4. Interviewers videotaped my job interview

I recently interviewed for a senior-level job in a company I really wanted. Due to some weather issues, the interview kept getting cancelled last minute because of snow storms in the area. When it was finally rescheduled, I showed up for my full day of interviews with people from around the company. When I got there, they informed me that because of all the reschedules, a couple people couldn’t be there to interview me and wanted to have all my interviews recorded.

I really didn’t like the idea. #1, it means people will be watching me interview and not able to actually engage with me. #2, it means everyone will be able to pick this apart over and over again. #3, I am pretty sure I am the only candidate who had this treatment.

However, in the moment I said yes, because they sprung it on me at the interview. What was I supposed to say? Now I am just worried that every little mistake or issue is magnified because it is recorded and they can review it in great detail.

Eh, it does put you at a bit of a disadvantage with the interviewers who weren’t there, but you’re right that you didn’t have a choice other than to say yes. And really, I think it’s more of a “not great, but so be it” situation than a disaster. It’s unlikely that they’re going to watch the recording more than once; people don’t have that kind of time (or, frankly, interest). It’s more likely that they won’t watch it at all, or won’t watch all of it (which is a problem, but a different sort of one). I’d just write it off to bad luck, which we all run into now and then, and not worry too much about it.

5. Employer wouldn’t hire me because I’m leaving for college in eight months

Is it legal to not hire somebody because they will be going to college in eight months? I’m highly qualified for the position I was trying to get and when they did a small interview on the phone they said they could not hire me because I was planning on going out of state for college. Is this legal? This has happened to me twice before too so it isn’t uncommon for me.

Yes, that’s legal! Employers are allowed to decide that they want someone who’s likely to stay in the job longer-term if they want to. And there are lots of jobs where it really wouldn’t make sense to hire someone knowing that the person will be leaving in eight months; in many jobs, it takes six months or even more for you to really learn the job and start being productive enough to justify the investment in training you. And even in jobs where that’s not the case, it’s reasonable for an employer to prefer not to have to go through the hiring process again in less than a year.

{ 421 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, I’m so sorry that on top of a difficult transition, your mom is heaping all sorts of craziness on you. This might be cold comfort, but I want to reiterate what Alison said: it would be illegal for your company to ding you or badmouth you for taking FMLA leave; like, very very illegal. So say rest assured that you’ll likely be judged on your performance, not your medical leave. But I’m more worried about the impact of your mom’s calls. Has she always behaved this way toward you? Calling you for the express purpose of finding you not at work and haranguing you is really awful. And in light of the fact that you’re struggling with the move to Utah, I’m not sure why she’s being so unkind to you.

    OP#3, be very careful, and definitely do not approach your struggling colleague or his manager. Unless your colleague is notifying HR of a disability for accommodation, then it’s a massive boundary-crosser to divulge that information (or hint at it) without his consent. I also want to push back gently on trying to diagnose your colleague’s struggles as symptoms or side-effects of his medication; that may well be true, but most folks grappling with mental health management have to figure out how to perform their job and meet standards/expectations in spite of their treatment plan. It may be that something else is going on in his life that’s leading him to the specific challenges he’s facing. It could be helpful to note to his manager that your colleague’s current mistakes seem uncharacteristic of his usual conduct (if that’s true), but otherwise I’d err on the side of non-disclosure.

    OP#5, it’s super normal not to hire someone who’s going to be leaving within a year (and definitely legal). For some jobs, it’s simply not worth the time they spend training you, while for others, it’s not worth it to them to have to do a job search for the same position twice in such a short time. I know that might not feel awesome to hear, though.

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    1. Lord of the Ringbinders

      “most folks grappling with mental health management have to figure out how to perform their job and meet standards/expectations in spite of their treatment plan”

      Yes, but sometimes they need – and are entitled to – accommodations at work to be able to do this.

      It took me and my manager some trial and error to work out how best to support me with my PTSD and OCD (I was previously a home-based freelancer for years so didn’t know what would and wouldnt help until I tried). I didn’t have issues with attendance or punctuality but I did get snappy sometimes. I was doing my best but needed some adjustments at work – it wasn’t about me not figuring out how to perform as I did my actual job really well. And we don’t know if the subject of this letter is actually capable and performing well otherwise as the LW didn’t say.

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          1. Bad Day

            But if the manager is discussing it with the OP (in their position as a type of HR) the OP could suggest asking the employee if there is an underlying issue. They would not be disclosing anything by saying it is a conversation worth having.

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            1. Jadelyn

              My team makes that recommendation to managers in quite a number of situations anyway – a manager comes to us and says “This previously-reliable employee is suddenly having trouble (not balancing her drawer, coming in late, taking long lunches, etc.)! I want to write them up for it.” Our response is always first, “Have you talked with the employee to find out what’s going on? There might be something going on outside of work that’s affecting their performance, so give them a chance to let you know that and then we can work accordingly.”

              So simply saying to the guy’s manager “Before you write him up, have you talked with him about what might be happening recently to cause these issues?” isn’t a breach of any confidentiality. It’s just HR coaching a manager on dealing with a performance issue.

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              1. sstabeler

                bingo- for one thing, it’s entirely possible the employee hasn’t mentioned their mental illness to their manager for a reason. It’s regrettable, but considering the stigma that attaches to most mental illnesses- particularly the ones at issue- it can sometimes ironically be worse if your employer knows details.

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        1. Federal Procurement Analyst

          This is a common misconception, but it is not true. Under the ADA, a supervisor is at liberty to bring up performance issues and ask if there are workplace changes that can be made to help. It is not necessary to mention possible diagnoses.

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          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            But OP isn’t the supervisor; he’s a colleague whose portfolio includes some HR. A supervisor can certainly bring up a performance issue and ask if there’s anything going on in the employee’s life that’s making things especially challenging (as Alison noted), but OP should not raise a coworker’s health issues.

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        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Agreed! This is the point I was trying to make—that the employee has to raise if there’s a health reason for underperformance, not OP.

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      1. Sunshine

        Of course, but the employee has to ASK for the accommodations. The employer can’t make concessions if the employee doesn’t tell anyone about the problems.

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        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl

          This exactly. You can’t accommodate an issue you are unaware of. ADAAA and FMLA are great benefits for employees, but it is incumbent upon them to initiate the interactive process.

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          1. fposte

            Might be worth differentiating a little between the two, since it’s incumbent on the employer and not the employee to identify FMLA-qualifying leave and interactive process isn’t an FMLA thing. (Apparently there’s currently a debate as to whether a request for FMLA leave can count as a request for accommodation under the ADA, to make things more exciting.)

            Obviously it’s usually the employee who requests the leave, but it’s the employer who’s on the hook for making clear it qualifies for FMLA.

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            1. Mononymous

              It might be worth a conversation with the manager to check whether the employee has asked for “help” or “changes” or any other type of assistance, in case the manager isn’t well-versed in this sort of thing. IIRC, a request for ADA accommodation doesn’t have to use either of the words “ADA” or “accommodation” to still be valid and require the interactive process.

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              1. Mononymous

                Submitted too soon. Meant to add: it’s possible the employee has asked for accommodation but the manager didn’t recognize the request as such. I’d want to be sure that base is covered first.

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                1. fposte

                  Sure, but make it about all the employees, not just the one she happens to have medical information for. In a small workplace, periodic coaching wouldn’t be a bad idea.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              Very much agree with fposte, and agree that it’s important to know that the employer’s responsibility is different under the FMLA and ADAA.

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          2. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

            +1
            Also a dangerous situation a lot of very kind employers find themselves in is you can accommodate an issue that doesn’t actually exist. If you accommodate because you think there is a disability you can be sued under the ADAAA even if there wasn’t an actual disability. Good employers can really get bitten here as the reg states (paraphrasing/not an attorney) if you treat them as if they are disabled, then they are. This is one of the reasons most guidance says address the issue (performance, jerky behavior, etc), not the cause.

            In this case the manager should be addressing the bad behavior only and let the employee bring up the need for any help.

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            1. fposte

              That’s true whether you accommodate or not, though–it’s illegal to discriminate based on perceived disability (or even association with the disabled). There’s no special gotcha in accommodation.

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            2. Jessie the First (or second)

              ” if you treat them as if they are disabled, then they are. ”

              Yeah, that’s not really how that works. It is not a problem to accommodate an employee for any reason whatsoever, and you do not have special liability because you have decided to accommodate them. I’d hate for an employer to pull away from accommodating because of that misunderstanding. Offering accommodations does not put you in a worse position legally than if you did not offer accommodations.

              The issue, as fposte says, is that an employer cannot discriminate against an employee based on the employer’s perception of disability (so, whether an employee is in fact disabled or not is not the issue – it is employer’s perception of it that matters, and as fposte says, that is true whether you accommodate or not)

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            3. Retail HR Guy

              That’s outdated advice. After the amendments to the ADA, “perceived as” cases have dropped away to practically nothing.

              Basically, it used to be the case that courts spent a lot of time arguing about what is and what is not a disability. So if an employer “perceived someone as disabled”, then, they were throwing away their first line of legal defense. After the ADAAA, though, the focus is less on who has a disability and rather on which accommodations are reasonable. So just throwing up your hands and treating anyone with a medical condition as “disabled” is much less risky than it used to be.

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            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I think you might be misunderstanding what behavior is prohibited. It’s not wrong to accommodate; it’s wrong to presume an employee has a disability and to treat that employee differently because of your unsubstantiated belief.

              This is why the ADAA process is supposed to be interactive. You wouldn’t get sued for accommodating an employee; you get sued if you’re inappropriately treating someone differently because you perceive them to have a disability that they may not have.

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            5. sstabeler

              I think you’ll find that what the legislation actually says is that if you offer an accommodation, you can’t arbitrarily withdraw it- which IS a good thing.(it would gut the protections of the ADA is employers were able to say “we’ve decided you do not actually have a disability, so we’re withdrawing your accommodations” without needing to offer proof of the disability not actually existing.

              in short, it’s NOT against the ADA to withdraw unnecessary accommodations if they are truly unnecessarily, but you DO need to be ready to prove it. This is not a bad thing.

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              1. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

                Thank you, sstabler. In trying to stay brief, I think part of my comment was misconstrued. I was just trying to show that there is another side of the coin in ADAAA situations and both sides have liability. Treating someone as if they have a disability because you perceive it (e.g., assuming the medication is causing the behaviors) can create unintended issues for the employer. This is why the guidance of addressing the behaviors, not what you think the cause is, still stands. It allows the employee to solve for themselves (Hey Doc, these meds are affecting my work or Hey I hate this place which is why I’m always late and am snapping at everyone so I’ll find a new job) or ask for the accommodation (Hey employer, the meds make it hard to get up at 6am, can I start my day at 9am). I’ve seen too often managers make accommodations without even talking to the employee first (no interactive process = bad outcomes) usually because they are trying to be kind and compassionate or are uncomfortable addressing these issues. But, when it doesn’t work/help or the employee doesn’t need the given accommodation, the manager gets mad/frustrated and at worst, unreasonable. Now I’ve seen the other side too where the employee asks for the schedule change and just shows up late for that time as well or files an accommodation requests solely to postpone a termination when they had three other warnings to bring up their X behavior was due to Y disability. And the worst, employees won’t say anything because they have had previous bad experiences and think it will cause them to lose their jobs eventually anyway. Any of those situations can create legal liability as well as morale issues, additional financial costs, etc. If a manager deals directly with the behavior and interactively works with employee to find solutions to improve the bad behavior/performance then the interactive process has started before you even know there is a disability. But just accepting bad behavior/performance or putting in random accommodations because you think they its medically related is not a good idea (which is the situation I was trying to address originally). Back to the no interactive process = bad outcomes.

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    2. Renna (OP #1)

      Thanks for the kind words, everybody. I feel a little better, but I somewhat expected that coming in because this is a very nice community as far as they go. I’m doing a big reply up here so it will be easier to see for anyone who might want to know more.

      First things first, my mom isn’t normally like this. I think she has what the Reddit community calls “FLEAS” – traits picked up from abusive parents that she isn’t fully aware of. She was really bad with some things when I was little, like shouting a lot and hitting, but at some point she realized that her children were frightened of her and worked to change. She is MUCH better now and I’m proud of her for how far she’s come, I’m almost 30 and it’s been at least 15 years since she’s hit any of us. Shouting is also significantly down, although there does remain a ‘tone’ that is probably never going away (she’s from Brooklyn, what can I say). For most things she’s incredibly helpful and supportive, so I was surprised and hurt to be told that I wasn’t going to get a job because I wasn’t putting in a full 40 hours. I think in this case it’s outdated, incorrect info about mental illness and the modern workplace, plus fear for my well-being, that’s been leading to these outbursts. She doesn’t understand mental illness well at all, which is a crying shame because our entire family has problems with it. Her father is Polish; during WWII he was a slave laborer for Germany (took the assignment in place of HIS father, who was too mentally ill to survive the work). He has trauma that was never addressed or treated, which at one point became alcoholism and abusive behavior toward his family, and I’m sure also fed into his racism. He’s mellowed out some, but when my mom was trying to get him into a doctor and the nurses were trying to lead him into a room, he started panicking thinking the Germans were back. Her mother is Slovakian and was ostracized from her community for being a child born out of wedlock, they also had some times of near-starvation, and then she was married to an abuser. Mom herself has apparently had panic attacks. So THAT side isn’t good. Dad’s side, he has a brother that everyone avoids because he’s so toxic, and then a very sweet sister who committed suicide in her 50s-60s. Mom was able to educate herself out of abusive behaviors and being racist, but for mental health, she’s still out of the loop. (So’s Dad, actually, he wasn’t the one saying all these things, but he was on the line and he didn’t disagree with her so I’ve got to say that he’s in trouble too).

      I guess if my own mother, who genuinely loves me, would assume I was the worst performer at my job for using FMLA and coming in a bit late most days, it scared me more into thinking my manager would punish me for it. I was nearly certain it was illegal but this whole thing had me majorly second-guessing myself, so thanks Alison, and thanks everybody else as well.

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      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Renna, I’m so sorry that your family has had to face these really difficult situations. I know this may sound selfish, but I think it could be helpful to insulate yourself a little more from your mom’s comments and reactions. Based on what you’ve shared, it sounds like she doesn’t have the grounding/perspective she needs to know when what she’s saying to you is reasonable or unreasonable. This means that even when she thinks she’s being supportive of you, she may do things that are really destructive. So if there’s a way to remind yourself in the moment that your mom may not have the best perspective on your situation, I think that could help you weather her freakouts.

        With respect to coming in a bit late, that could grow to be a real issue if it matters to your boss/job. My job gives me a lot of flexibility about when I show up, but when I worked hourly, being on time was a really big deal. So before you worry about it, I would double-check to see if punctuality is something important that would come up in your job review. So for example, if you know the metrics you’re being judged against, you’ll be able to monitor your own performance (which you’re already doing with respect to hitting certain performance targets). That can also give you a “neutral” perspective that can help you evaluate your mom’s advice (and how accurate it is/isn’t).

        Please keep us posted, and good luck!

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        1. Renna (OP #1)

          Oh, that doesn’t sound selfish, I think that’s -great- advice. It fits right in with what I know of Mom; ‘accidental destruction’ has been relatively common. That just made something click. She’s not intentionally harmful, but for some things she definitely doesn’t have the right perspective to really be helpful. I’ll keep that in mind.

          Also, for the work stats, it’s actually gotten better! The company realized that they were measuring our availability on a metric that wonked out any time someone wasn’t there a full day, for any reason, so they’ve switched to an 8 Hour Average . It analyzes call data and averages it all out to show how available any person would have been during a full 8 hours, whether they were there or not. So people still can’t sit around not answering calls because they’re seeing how hard we’re working, but employees also aren’t penalized for working a partial day. We have the chance to earn monthly payouts based on all these stats and I think a lot of people were struggling to meet them, not even with FMLA involved, just things like appointments and vacations.

          The other one that was giving me a hard time was being told that 80 percent of my calls had to end in a doctor’s appointment for my customer, but management realized that one wasn’t being analyzed correctly either and for the moment it’s completely nixed. People were getting penalized for not scheduling appointments at times when offices were closed, or they were getting the appointments but not credited for them, so that was a total mess. I managed to hit 75% one week but typically it was about 65% I could get scheduled, so I’m glad that one’s out the window. A lot of people really struggled with it.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I’m so glad it’s gotten better! And fwiw, I, too, have an accidentally destructive mother who means well but ends up saying things that are emotionally manipulative or abusive. She’s not a bad person, but until she gets the counseling, etc., that she needs, she’s never going to be able to fairly evaluate my situation.

            When I was first figuring this stuff out, it was really difficult for me and felt like carrying a massive, invisible, emotional elephant with me all day. But I sought counseling and had a great therapist, and even though I don’t really need to use my therapist very often anymore, having a chance to speak with someone really helped me develop the mental coping mechanisms I needed to separate my mom’s dysfunction from my own life.

            So I’d encourage counseling, if you haven’t sought it, already. And in the meantime, I’m so glad your performance has been improving and that you’re feeling more empowered about your next steps. :)

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      2. Christina

        Fellow daughter of difficult mother here:

        Just a thought: it’s OK to lie when you are asked a question that oversteps boundaries that you’d like to have in place.

        I do it all the time when I know a truthful answer will get me an earful about stuff my mother has no business meddling in. For me, this has meant not telling her how much I make, who I’m spending time with (because she will stalk them), what medical issues I may have, what my plans are for the future, and many other things. If a person is going to behave badly with the information they are requesting, they don’t deserve the information.

        It may feel wrong at times, but it also is wrong to be berated and belittled for no good reason. I don’t think anyone would fault you for answering “yes” if your mom asks you if you were on time for work, even if it’s not true. If she isn’t going to be kind, it’s none of her beeswax.

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        1. D.A.R.N.

          Also, if she asks if you’re on time, and your boss has no issues with your starting time, even though you’re ‘technically’ late, it’s not a lie to say yes. Because in that case, you’re “on time” for what your boss expects of you, and are still meeting Boss’s requirements. So if you’re nervous to lie, think of that. :)

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      3. Venus Supreme

        Sending hugs, Renna! I come from a difficult household, too. Mom is a baby boomer and Dad is an immigrant from Europe who grew up in a family with strong old school traditions. I was hit with sneakers, a belt, etc. over poor grades and a messy bedroom. It is very much a generational thing in my family. When I was at ToxicJob (which sent me to the hospital for stress), Mom told me to suck it up because, in her world, people stayed at the same job for their whole lives.

        My family is a big fan of sweeping issues under the rug. And mental illness is the first thing to be swept. Dad is a hard drug addict and after one stint in rehab, Mom never addressed it again… and he’s still not better. I genuinely think, based on their generation and how their families function, mental illness was never a thing to be spoken of. Sure, we have the ‘crazy’ uncle, but it’s something generally ignored. My parents are big fans of “sucking it up” and that’s just letting the toxicity fester and grow into something more malicious.

        I’m sorry again, Renna. More hugs. It sounds like your mom’s intention (looking for the best for you) is well, but her delivery is toxic. I hope at some point you’ll be able to move back to Hawaii and sort things out with your parents.

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      4. PurpleNovember

        Renna, if you’re not already, you might peek in at the /r/raisedbynarcissists forum. It started out being for people who had been, well, raised by narcissistic parents, but it’s widened over time, and now supports anyone whose parents were / are toxic or, as you note, have fleas. There’s a lot of venting, but also a lot of discussion about coping mechanisms, how to set boundaries, etc. Boundary-setting can be especially useful in situations where you don’t want to cut ties, but do need to establish what behaviors are and aren’t helpful, and what you are and aren’t okay with.

        Take care. :)

        Reply
        1. Gadget Hackwrench

          Super late, but I’d like to second this. I lurk there and it’s been a lot of help. I’m not sure if my mom has fleas or is a narcissist herself, but… it’s been horrid and that information is really helpful. I’d also recommend the book “It’s My Turn,” by Tina Fuller. It’s super helpful about this sort of thing.

          Reply
    3. TootsNYC

      #3:

      I think that often people don’t take good care of themselves, or ignore obvious stuff.

      But the OP does need to be careful.

      I think she can say to the manager: “Please do have a conversation w/ the employee in which you stress how important it might be to take these work difficulties to his doctor and make sure there isn’t any medical thing that’s making this harder for him than it needs to be.” I think the OP can even say general stuff like: “Sometimes hormonal imbalances or medication side effects or physical conditions can manifest themselves in workplace problems, and I think it would be good if we gave him a reminder to look into that sort of thing. Sure, he should know–but let’s do him the kindness of reminding him to see a doctor.”

      She can even say, “In HR, we see that this sort of thing often happens, medical issues surfacing in behavioral ways.”

      For that matter, if HR is involved in the PIP process, can’t HR call someone in to say: “You have an EAP, and we encourage you to use it. We have health insurance, and we encourage you to make sure that no medical or health issues are exacerbating your difficult situation.” Without being specific about anything.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Whoa! I strongly disagree with the idea that OP can say “stress how important it might be to take these work difficulties to his doctor,” or that medical issues surface in behavioral ways, or any other medically tinged comments re: hormone imbalances or side effects.

        Right now, it sounds like the manager has no idea of his employee’s health challenges. And if that’s the case, then OP absolutely should NOT flag a medical/health issue without the employee’s consent, and certainly not with commentary so specific that it refers to side effects from medication.

        I think it’s possible to coach the manager on probing if there are non-work reasons for the colleague-employee’s underperformance, but OP doesn’t have the authority or the authorization to divulge a different employee’s private medical/health information to that employee’s manager.

        Reply
        1. chomps

          Agreed. I think it would be very out of line for the colleague/HR person to mention medications or any other medical or health issue in any way.

          Reply
  2. PollyQ

    LW#1: For the non-work issue of how to deal with your mother, I highly recommend Captain Awkward, which is an advice blog (with some frequent commenters overlap here). She’s covered difficult parents many times, so there may be some help for you in the Archives.

    Reply
    1. BuildMeUp

      Seconding CA – she gives great advice, and I know there have been letters in the past about family members with boundary issues (including situations where the LW was in some way financially dependent on said family member).

      She has also given advice about meeting new people – I found some good tips about halfway through CA’s response to this letter: https://captainawkward.com/2014/04/29/566-my-closest-friend-broke-off-our-friendship-and-now-i-dont-know-how-to-stop-feeling-lonely-and-isolated/

      Reply
    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Nthed — this is exactly what I was going to say. Captain Awkward has fantastic advice on boundary-setting, and a phenomenal commentariat.

      Reply
    3. A. Non

      This is exactly what I came here to say– also, LW1, my mom might be a lot like your mom just from your letter, and the Captain’s boundary setting advice has worked some serious wonders. Their commentariat is WONDERFUL and helpful and amazing, I can’t recommend enough for feeling like you are not alone (and you aren’t, really you aren’t!)

      Reply
    4. A Teacher

      Another good resource is the “All in the Family Board” on BabyCenter. The posters there have dealt with all kinds of crazy family situations and are great for support, advice, and venting.

      Reply
    5. Marillenbaum

      Agreed! Also, I feel you on struggling in Utah–my family moved to Provo when I was a teenager, and the weather (especially in winter) and the culture can be really isolating. Salt Lake City is typically a little more open and relaxed, which can help.

      Reply
  3. Al Lo

    We film auditions all the time. At my organization, we audition in front of a panel, and while the panel in the room usually makes the core decisions, there are times when we need an additional producer or creative team member to weigh in on casting. I know that interviews are different, but the context of being able to go back to a specific answer or revisit a particular part of the conversation is similar to being able to compare performances side by side.

    The downside may be that additional people can’t ask questions and see a static presentation; the upside is that there is a solid way to refer back to what you said, rather than having your answers run through the game of telephone that is conversation and memory.

    Reply
    1. OP #4

      The difference is it is not common at all in my period. the position is senior level and the people missing weren’t key players in the decision process. Alison is right that there isn’t much I can do and glad i at least made the right decision to let it happen in the interview.

      I literally had flown out there twice and had snow storms cancel my trips. So by the time I finally got to interview, I was very eager for it to go well as I had invested a ton of time in the process now. Then I realize a handful of people couldn’t be there and I would have a camera in their place – it killed the energy a bit.

      Reply
      1. OP from the other day on flaky interviewers

        OMG – I was feeling like cancelled interviews resulting in unnecessary babysitting expenses was inconsiderate. To have interviews cancelled TWICE after FLYING OUT FOR THEM is insane. I get that we can’t control the weather, but oof. I hope the company was paying for the flights!

        Reply
    2. chomps

      Right. It’s very uncommon to film interviews. I think filming auditions makes more sense and is probably much more common.

      Reply
  4. Sparkly Librarian

    #1, I wasn’t clear from the information in your letter as to whether your mother even knows you got approved for FMLA. She might be concerned about tardiness/absences without that bit of info — although I certainly agree that she is out of line to be calling and grilling you and then yelling at you! Maybe one part of deterring her is to include, “Mom, I have approval from my boss to be out a few days or come in late. I arranged this ahead of time.” And then add the “It’s between me and my doctor / me and my boss and I’m not going to talk about it with you.” Good luck!

    Reply
    1. JessaB

      Another option is to simply not answer calls from your mother during what would normally be work hours. It’ll give you some time to de-stress before calling her back at YOUR convenience. Just because someone calls doesn’t mean you have to talk to them right then.

      Reply
      1. Danielle

        +1 to not picking up mom’s calls unless OP feels like it. And I’ll also add not giving out more information than is necessary. Mom asks about work? “work is fine. How are YOU?”

        Reply
        1. D.A.R.N.

          Even better, ask about something specific. “Work is fine, how are the new flowers growing?” or “Work is fine. I heard Dad caught a cold, is he ok now?”

          Reply
    2. sstabeler

      the issue with that- saying it’s fine with your boss- is that the kind of person who will tell you that being absent even occasionally will result in being completely unable to find another job is also the kind of person that will say that having permission to doesn’t make a difference- they might even call it “abusing your boss’s generosity” ( note- I DON’T see it that way, just that it’s hw the mother might see it)

      Reply
    3. Retail HR Guy

      Depending on Mom’s age, she may have left the workforce before FMLA became a thing (or, at least, a widely understood thing). If so, she may not realize that things have changed and a lot of what was common practice before (letting employees be accountable for their own attendance and performance regardless of any health issues) is socially unacceptable and flat out illegal now.

      Reply
      1. ilikeaskamanager

        this is a good post. I think things have changed a lot and sometimes people who were in the workforce years ago don’t know that.

        Reply
  5. Mary

    OP #5: I go to college out of state, and wasn’t hired for a job at restaurant at home this past summer because they didn’t want to train someone who was only there seasonally! I’d imagine if it can happen in food service and retail, it can definitely happen anywhere.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne

      But I think OP might have the best chance in food service or retail. Many of those jobs have higher turnover and the managers accept it. Any job in or out of retail with significant hiring and training costs will not want to hire you for 8 months.

      Reply
      1. SophieChotek

        I agree that food service or retail tends to be more likely to be willing to hire for long-term. (It’s unclear to me what sort of job OP#5 was rejected for.)

        But honestly, given the economy, even my manager will balk at less than a year commitment (at the coffee shop where I work); it does takes about 3-6 months for someone to learn all the drinks well and be up to speed making them. She’s more willing to re-hire back old employees over the summer, than new ones, because of this.

        I mean something like a garden center (that pops up across parking lots) is totally seasonal — but that might only take care of 3-4 months.

        Reply
        1. Bad Day

          A temp agency might be a good idea. Two of my cousins did that and it worked well. They would typically get placements for for positions that would last several months. They were both in college and could not commit to jobs that lasted longer than the semester because they did not want to have scheduling restraints when picking classes.

          Reply
          1. Ama

            Yes ! I did clerical temping in summers between college, and some of those temp jobs lasted a few weeks at a time (I might have been able to get longer assignments if I’d been available for more than 12 weeks). Not only was it a good fit for my schedule, but it also meant when I started looking for a full time job I had a lot of work experience that was particularly useful for entry level office jobs.

            Reply
            1. Whats In A Name

              Yup! This was going to be my suggestion, too! I worked as a bartender nights during semesters AND during summer but also worked with a temp agency over the summers to get professional/office experience. It worked out really well and I didn’t put any additional hours in working 2 jobs since classes were on break.

              Reply
      2. Retail HR Guy

        Honestly, even in retail unless it happens to be Christmas season and we need a few temps, there’s not much reason to hire someone we know isn’t going to stick around vs. someone who might. Long-term employees tend to be better at their jobs, and having a lot of them widens the pool to recruit new management from.

        Reply
    2. AMG

      I’m curious why OP #5 would think that’s illegal. Just looking for a loophole? I can’t think of anything even remotely related to their situation that would be considered illegal.

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        Some type of discrimination, I presume – a misguided assumption that people who aren’t going to be here long enough to bother training them are a protected class.

        Reply
        1. Allison

          Or more realistically, a presumption that students are a protected class, and that people should receive accommodations so they can work and go to school.

          Reply
        2. BPT

          I don’t think most people (not trying to pick on the OP) even think that far into it about “protected classes.” I think most people’s thought process is: fair=legal. So if something isn’t fair, they think that it’s illegal. And to them, fair means giving them the exact same chance as anyone else, not realizing that there are different factors jobs can look at (such as the length of time they’ll be able to work, or talking to people for references that they didn’t list, etc.).

          Reply
          1. Retail HR Guy

            I think this is absolutely right, but it is still very foreign thinking to me. I can’t imagine being so sheltered growing up that I could honestly think it is government’s role to make businesses be nice to me (even if it isn’t in their business interest to do so). Cultural differences, I guess? Or maybe a social class thing?

            Reply
            1. The Anonymous One

              IMO, it’s less cultural or social class and more just inexperience. When your only life experience is teachers and parents telling you to “be fair” you may grow up thinking that’s how the world works.

              Reply
                1. Retail HR Guy

                  Oops, I misread. I was told that I should try to be fair. But I was never told to expect anyone else to be.

      2. Leatherwings

        OP is probably young, and it’s not like they teach employment law in-depth in high school. These things can seem mysterious and unfair, it’s not a huge leap to “illegal.”

        Reply
        1. Leatherwings

          And OP, please don’t take offense to this. It’s just one of those things you learn with a ton of experience (and I should’ve said “inexperienced” instead of young).

          Reply
          1. Jessie the First (or second)

            And honestly, I think plenty of experienced people jump from unfair to illegal as well. There seems to be a pretty common idea that laws are here to make everything fair, and that they regulate far more behavior than they really do.

            Reply
            1. Zombii

              I have witnessed the jump from “unfair” to “illegal” by an experienced, adult human more times than I care to think about.

              It was especially strange when that experienced, adult human was in management, and upset he had lost out on a promotion to a less experienced collegue–which was, obviously, illegal, since they based the promotion on interpersonal skills and cultural fit, instead of [things that he was better at], and he planned to sue the company to force them to promote him too (all this according to him in a rant during our weekly team meeting (I can’t imagine why they didn’t promote him)).

              Reply
        2. Bwmn

          I will also add that when I was in college, I would usually say that I was in college and on break, but be vague about when I was returning. Basically say something to the effect that I didn’t have a departure date yet. My brother however was far more direct and honest around saying “I’m going back to college on X day and will be available for Y time”, and he too found that challenging in regards to people saying they didn’t want someone just for the summer (until he started going for strictly seasonal work).

          So I also imagine part of the fair/unfair issue is that there are people who are being intentionally misleading or vague (hey – I might not go back to college, who knows the future!) in a similar boat whereas direct honesty results in more immediate disqualification.

          Reply
      3. TamiToo

        Similar would be perhaps pregnancy. While that is technically sex discrimination in the eyes of the EEOC, many employers wonder if a woman will come back to work after giving birth. If a women interviews while pregnant, many employers may wonder if they should hire the pregnant woman wondering if they should invest the time to hire and train the person if the woman may not return after giving birth. Of course, the employer is not allowed to ask that question. So, I can see how perhaps the person may think that it may also be a similar situation for a student. While it isn’t the same, because it isn’t related to having a family or a protected class, that is the only thing I can think of that could be remotely similar.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          The other difference is that more often than not, women DO come back to work after the baby, whereas someone who is leaving *is leaving*.

          Reply
        2. LoiraSafada

          Pretty sure this extends to most women of child-bearing age, pregnant or not. I’ve definitely had interviews where it’s clear I was being treated like a ticking time-bomb even though they didn’t say it outright (and I actually don’t plan to have kids).

          Reply
        3. Retail HR Guy

          It’s a myth that it is illegal for an employer to ask questions about pregnancy. It is allowed, it just isn’t the greatest idea because it could be used as evidence that they will factor the pregnancy into your decision-making process (and that’s the illegal part).

          Reply
  6. Dan

    #2

    Since you’re a government agency that presumably has sick and vacation in separate buckets (an assumption on my part, but that seems to be a standard), I think your policy of requiring 24 hours notice for vacation is fine, especially if you approve all vacations with advance notice.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      But if the work doesn’t require it, why do it? If someone manages their work well and realizes on Friday morning that they could leave at 2 without impacting anything, you want them to be able to do that — especially if you’re dealing with more senior or skilled employees, who are more likely to be annoyed by rules that don’t seem to have any actual work purpose. You will have an easier time retaining good people if you only implement restrictions on how people manage their time when you have to, and try to maximize how much freedom and autonomy you give them.

      Reply
      1. Dan

        I suppose it depends on the culture and what not. At my job, leaving at 2pm on a Friday doesn’t even require leave, let alone approval or even notification. I have one of the most flexible jobs around, and take my leave very seriously. A boss who wanted me to notify them the day before that I wouldn’t be in just doesn’t register on the pet peeve scale. (To be clear, we’re talking about “discretionary” time off, not “something urgent came up last minute”.) And, well, it just seems to be common courtesy to me, to both the boss and the team. If I worked with someone (who I needed to interact with) and they always took their leave with no notice, it would tick me off.

        All that said, reading between the lines a bit, the OP seems to be having an issue with a particular employee, and if I had to wager, is having other problems with said employee beyond just the leave thing. To which, I’d give the advice “manage the REAL problem, don’t try to enforce a questionable rule that will just drive other people nuts.”

        Reply
        1. Lord of the Ringbinders

          “All that said, reading between the lines a bit, the OP seems to be having an issue with a particular employee, and if I had to wager, is having other problems with said employee beyond just the leave thing. To which, I’d give the advice “manage the REAL problem, don’t try to enforce a questionable rule that will just drive other people nuts.”

          +1

          Reply
        2. Sled dog mama

          Because it’s a government job and laws require that government employees not be paid for time they aren’t working, leaving at 2 on a Friday would require using leave for this LW.

          Reply
          1. Exempt Gov Employee

            Depends on the State/Municipality the employee works for. My state employer doesn’t allow exempt employees to use partial days of leave. Whether you leave early or late you simply mark down eight hours of work, with the assumption that it averages out for exempt employees. Frankly, the state employer I work for has a hard enough time getting employees with the wages they pay, I couldn’t imagine what would happen if we started getting nickeled and dimed for every time we left a little early to deal with a personal issue.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Sled dog mama might be talking about the feds–they are crazy with the hours. They had a bureaucratic crisis in my sibling’s workplace after 9/11, because they’d sent the staff home early and couldn’t figure out an absence code.

              Reply
            2. always in email jail

              To provide a different perspective, I’m an exempt government employee in a culture where exempt employees are still expected to use leave regardless of how short the absence.

              Reply
          2. OP#2

            OP #2 here – Sled dog mama, you are right. I work for the Fed and we have to use leave for any time off – sick, vacation, need to be home for a repair man, etc. Luckily we receive a generous amount of leave once you have worked for the Fed more than 3 years and even more generous once you’ve worked for the Fed more than 15 years. We also have the flexibility to use as little as 15 minutes of leave at a time (although I can’t recall anyone ever doing so).

            Reply
            1. Dan

              Damn… I work for a very large non-profit that provides professional services to the federal government, and while we have to account for our time, we just need to account for 80 hours in a two week period. I can work 80 hours over 9 days and take Friday off, and I need not put anything in the time keeping system other than an accurate recording of my hours worked.

              Reply
              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                But that’s probably because you’re a contractor, so what matters under the contract is the number of hours worked, not how you worked them. That’s not the case for a regular federal employee.

                When I worked for the feds, leave was as tricky as OP#2 describes (and I worked in an administrative unit that was pretty loosey-goosey about tracking this stuff for exempt employees).

                Reply
                1. Anna

                  A lot of contractors tend to adhere to the Fed’s time keeping policies for accountability. The contractor I work for does, especially for hourly employees, but even exempt employees have much stricter guidelines than most other’s I’ve heard of. Example: Most exempt employees in private business put their however many hours in. Some weeks they do more than 40 and possibly other weeks they do less than 40 and nobody cares as long as their work is complete. The exempt people I work with have to use personal/vacation time even if they’ve completed all their work for the week and coming in would mean sitting at their desks watching YouTube videos all day.

      2. Willow

        Even if work doesn’t require it, people calling off suddenly can cause inconvenience and disruption. It’s reasonable to ask people to give advance notice if they make an appointment in advance. There’s kind of an in-between zone where it’s not a total disaster if someone misses a few hours (so time off for an appointment would be approved) but it still causes slight inconvenience that could be mitigated if the person gave advance notice so others could plan around their absence.

        Reply
      3. JHS

        Also it’s common for government employees to be able to use vacation time in lieu of sick time if they have no more sick time (but not the other way around). Having the 24 hour requirement effectively limits the ability of government employees to use vacation time for this purpose for no apparent reason except the manager’s preference.

        Reply
        1. Graciosa

          In fairness to the OP, she did note that she allowed use of the time for sickness (employee or kids) without notice, so it really isn’t having the effect you suggest.

          Reply
      4. doreen

        That really depends on the people – I once supervised a group of people where I had no problem letting people leave at 2 without advance notice. Everyone was already in the office and I could see what the day’s staffing looked like. However, there was a huge problem with people calling first thing in the morning and wanting to take the day off . It’s fine to say “the less notice you give, the better the chances that a work issue will interfere” – but some people tend to forget about that when they call in the morning with a last minute request that gets denied. They would complain that the painters were coming today, and I would respond with something to the effect that if they had asked for the leave in advance this wouldn’t have happened. (It was a coverage issue and if they asked in advance either I would not have approved a later request or they would have known soon enough to reschedule the appointment) Didn’t help one bit. They still asked at the last moment and still complained when it was denied. It only stopped when we merged with a larger agency that kept track of unscheduled absences. Because somehow, the thought of having an unscheduled absence was a big enough deal to ask for the time off in advance while the possibility of being denied the leave wasn’t – I truly don’t understand why.

        Reply
        1. Doe-eyed

          Because an “Unschedule Absence Tracking System” is a poorly hidden stick that can be used to justify many actions against employees. Presumably they didn’t feel like you were tracking the denied leave. (Not saying the company DID track it for any purpose other than just knowing, but the implication of tracking such things is that they’re a metric that will be used when determining things like bonuses, increases, layoff potential, etc).

          Reply
          1. Doreen

            Forgot to mention it’s a government agency so the tracking would not affect bonuses, increases or layoff potential. In fact , the unscheduled absence policy was sufficiently detailed that all of these people knew it would never be a problem for them as they never had that many unscheduled absences in 12 months. And while I certainly wasn’t tracking the denied leave – it did mean that people had to cancel plans when it was denied . Personally , I’d only have to have my leave denied once to begin to plan ahead when possible- but not these folks.

            Reply
      5. NotAnotherManager!

        I think it really depends what your work environment is like. In a customer/client-service job, requests come in throughout the day, and there has to be staff here to take care of them. My team’s job is not one where someone can finish up their work and leave without running the risk of someone else having to pick up anything that comes after. And I can’t let all of them come and go as they please. We try to be very flexible with the exempt people because they have mobile email and remote access and are expected to manage themselves; however, we will turn down requests off at a certain minimum staffing point. The non-exempt folks need to be here because once they are gone, if we call them back, it takes time and our policy allows for extra compensation.

        We do not have a formal notice rule, but one of my managers is driven absolutely crazy by the person who constantly wants to leave early or come in late because “their work” is “done”. Never mind that half the time the step out the door, one of their projects requires someone else having to step in to mop up and they have to be prompted to help the people who carry the mop and bucket for them.

        Reply
    2. A non

      Eh, if it’s government there is usually a MUMA which would often cover leave, approval, accrual rates, etc. If the personal policy described is not in line with the actual agency policy, employees may ignore it because they can.

      For example, in my case management cannot deny sick leave requests p the MUMA. I can put in leave equestrian for my semi-annual dentist appointment 6 months before on the day it is scheduled or 5 minutes before I have to leave the day of the appointment. Some do forget but I, and many others, will do the former. Usually when the former happens is when there are general issues within an area.

      But most Labor and Management Relations reps where I’ve worked wouldlaugh at this and put it down to interpersonal issues as it’s a personal policy of the supervisor that they may not be able to support if a grievance was filed is she did anything based on it and she said it didn’t have an impact on work.

      Reply
    3. Lily in NYC

      I work in a government office and OP’s rigidity would not fly here. I am very happy that my office is realistic about life. Please let me know how I was supposed to give 24-hours notice last week when I woke up to a flood in my apartment? It was stressful enough without having to worry about a manager’s admitted pet peeve. I took a vacation day but I certainly wasn’t on vacation.

      Reply
      1. Antilles

        Please let me know how I was supposed to give 24-hours notice last week when I woke up to a flood in my apartment?
        That isn’t even *remotely* an analogous situation. Flooding is a crisis that could not be predicted or addressed in advance – similar to having your child wake up sick. And OP explicitly says that she’s fine with unplanned things like sick children or employees waking up sick. Emergencies are emergencies.
        This was a pre-planned appointment that the Employee knew about in advance, but forgot/didn’t bother to let OP know.
        Not the same thing.

        Reply
        1. Lily in NYC

          This is what OP wrote: I have always had a policy that staff request leave (annual or sick) at least 24 hours in advance, with the provision that if they or their children are suddenly sick they certainly can request sick leave at the last minute.
          That’s sick leave. I’m talking about using vacation days at the last-minute. She mentions nothing about it.
          I do understand the frustration with people not giving notice in advance when it’s something that’s been planned. But something about OPs letter just makes me feel that she’s over the top about it. I can’t really articulate why; it’s just a hunch.

          Reply
          1. OP#2

            Lily in NYC – I hope I’m not over the top, but the comments here have me thinking about asking for a days notice which comes from an HR policy for our whole agency of almost 35,000 people that leave for planned medical appointments be requested in advance. Last minute sick or annual leave needs for the unexpected situation is fine with me. Life happens, your car won’t start, the furnace dies in the middle of the night, the cat needs a sudden trip to the vet, in any of those or similar circumstances I wouldn’t blink twice at a leave request. Alison is right to suggest I consider the impact on the work place, which I am doing.

            Reply
            1. Siberian

              Well, this is how I looked at it when I managed my own very small team as a business owner. I looked for any opportunity to make life better for my employees in ways that wouldn’t cost me too much financially or practically. That earned me a lot of loyalty–one employee worked for me for 6 years, even though I couldn’t offer benefits (this was a while ago), he would have been paid more elsewhere, and we worked out of a room in my apartment.

              I try to do that now with my student worker and temp worker in my public university job. Unless I have a time-sensitive assignment for them, it has no impact on me if they switch their schedules around, and it’s earned me lots of good will to be flexible.

              What does it really cost you to let people inform you at the last minute that they’re not coming in, as long as their absence is not directly affecting a project, meeting, deadline, event, etc.? You can always follow Alison’s advice and make sure they know that you might turn down their request one day if the timing is bad and they didn’t give you advance notice. Then it’s totally on them. But otherwise, you have a lot to gain by treating people like mature adults who can manage their own time.

              For an example of how it’s affected me as an employee: Our new supervisor recently set some new start/end time policies for two of my colleagues and it was unnecessary and extremely demoralizing for them. It really undercut all of our relationships with our new supervisor. In a related example, years ago I was upfront with a supervisor about needing to take a day off for a personal emergency (it really was an emergency) and she made me so miserable for asking that I immediately vowed I’d call in sick next time. In both cases my supervisors could have used a moment as an opportunity to create loyalty and good morale and instead used it to damage their relationships and discourage open communication. Not saying you’re doing this at all, just using it as an example of why I think flexibility pays off for managers.

              And if you have a problem with one worker, as some commenters have suggested, then I’d manage based on what the problem is specifically, rather than making a blanket policy for all workers.

              Reply
      2. Jessie the First (or second)

        OP was pretty clear that she expects that things will come up suddenly and if that is the case, a last-minute call out is fine. She states her issue is solely with those planned-ahead appointments that employees know they will need time off for in advance – she wants to get the PTO request the day ahead.

        Reply
      3. LCL

        I work in a government office and I don’t think OP is being rigid at all. OP is being professional, and employee is being kind of a jerk. OP says they will accommodate last minute things, and that stuff happens.

        The employees that demand last minute leave for scheduled appointments are frankly, a huge headache. It’s always “ha ha, this is medical so you can’t deny it”. They know their leave will be approved. They know because medical leave is always approved they can use it to ease their punctuality problems. OP, don’t disapprove their leave, you will lose this one. But you can tell employee that demanding leave at the last second for a scheduled appointment is unprofessional, and not courteous, and you expect them to do better in the future.

        And yeah, OK, correlation is not causation BUT the employees who demand last minute leave for planned medical appointments correlates 100% with the employees that have attendance, punctuality, discipline and can’t-get-along-with-their-coworkers issues. At my workplace. I can see why OP is annoyed.

        Reply
        1. Former Retail Manager

          I have to wholeheartedly disagree with you here. Unless the problem employee needs to be present for other employees/scheduled meetings/coverage, etc. I see zero problem with deciding to leave. I am a Fed, like OP, and my leaving abruptly doesn’t affect anyone unless I have scheduled appointments with outside individuals or my manager, in which case I’d keep those appointments and I’d agree that cancelling those without good reason is unprofessional. I don’t think it’s unprofessional to use your vacation time as you wish, when you wish, so long as there is no negative impact to anyone else.

          While I agree that some employees who behave this way can have issues in other areas, this is not always true. I leave abruptly at least once a month and I have no issues with any of the other things you mention and my boss has no issue with my doing so as long as the work continues to be finished timely. I am also not someone who likes to take large chunks of time off. I’d much rather take a few hours here or there, including some days in which I’m just exhausted and while I could stay and be minimally productive, I’d rather just take the afternoon off and come back refreshed the next day.

          And when it’s all said and done, if a co-worker taking time off with short notice doesn’t affect you, why do you care?

          Reply
    4. vpc

      OP2, I would recommend checking your agency’s leave policy to see if this is addressed. I know that my agency’s policy is that you need to submit leave of 8 hours or more (so a full work day) at least one business day in advance, however absences of less than a full business day do not require advance notice or an OPM-71 form, and so the policy just assumes each supervisor will set expectations with their employees.

      Our practice – which certainly may not work for you, and I’m not saying it should – is to enter upcoming appointments on our personal calendars as “out of office” time, and then give a heads-up to the supervisor at whatever point makes sense. Sometimes that’s during the regular 1:1 meeting a few days ahead, sometimes it’s morning-of. Putting it on our calendars ensures that nobody else tries to schedule us for a meeting we need to be at during that time. BUT I will say that most of what my office does is not time-sensitive, and my agency is one that’s very supportive of flexible and alternative work schedules.

      Reply
  7. aa

    2 – IMO you are being ridiculous unless there is some un-stated work reason for this.
    You are speaking of leaves of a couple of hours, not days or weeks. Not to mention, presumably people do not like being treated like children. What is the company policy on this? What do other managers do?

    Reply
    1. Trout 'Waver

      That’s a bit aggressive towards the letter writer. If you’re part of a team, it’s courteous to let your team members know when you won’t be available. It’s such a minor thing to tell people you’re going to be gone when you know in advance that you’re going to be gone. Why not do it?

      Reply
      1. aebhel

        It really depends on the context, though. My job is pretty independent, I’m not part of a ‘team’, and if I’m not needed for coverage (which I’m frequently not), me being out of the building for a couple of hours impacts absolutely no one.

        I’m currently dealing with a health issue that requires me to shuffle appointments around a lot at the last minute, and I’d be really aggravated if in addition to that I had to deal with a boss who denied sick leave for last-minute appointments on principle.

        Reply
      2. Triangle Pose

        Why do it? There is no stated business reason for requiring 24 hour notice. If there is, that can be considered but as stated, the LW’s position appears arbitrary and detrimental to retaining good people.

        Reply
        1. Trout 'Waver

          Because it’s courteous and considerate. If your work impacts anyone other than you, letting those people know your availability is a good thing.

          Taking the boss dynamic out of it, it’s annoying to need an answer from someone and for them to be gone unexpectedly.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            But don’t you need answers from people whose schedule you don’t know anyway?

            I’m in total agreement that people should let their employers know, but I don’t see the point of a 24-hour policy if there are no consequences for breaching it and no demonstrated (as opposed to possible) impact on the workflow if it’s not observed.

            Reply
            1. Trout 'Waver

              This is getting way from what I posted. Your own team is different than other teams at the company, other business units, or even outside parties that you might work with.

              And it certainly isn’t infantilizing or ridiculous to expect to know when team members will be foreseeably absent. And it’s not a good idea to call people who write in ridiculous.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                I would agree, and since I didn’t call anybody ridiculous, I’m not sure why you’re saying that to me.

                And I don’t think it is that different based on whether they’re your team or not; the difference is whether the workload makes that absence a problem or not.

                Reply
                1. Trout 'Waver

                  I was referring to the post I was originally replying to for context. I’m not sure why you’re arguing that because you don’t know everyone’s schedule, you shouldn’t know your team’s schedule.

                2. fposte

                  @Trout–okay, got it. But ” it’s annoying to need an answer from someone and for them to be gone unexpectedly” still seems pretty standard as a workplace experience; I don’t see why it becomes a management issue if it’s in the same unit. What’s a problem is if they knew you were going to need that answer and didn’t make arrangements for that.

        2. Whats In A Name

          Not always, but OP stated in letter than when she was out her fill-in was trying to find OP during the day and couldn’t because employee didn’t tell her. I am going out on a limb, but maybe not a far-reaching one, to say this isn’t the only issue with this employee.

          Reply
  8. Sherm

    Hey OP#1, I just wanted to say that you have a way with words that is highly entertaining. Although the situation is a bummer, you made it an enjoyable read (“mostly clean air except when the volcano blew over” — love it!) I hope that the world hasn’t beaten you down too much — you’ve got talent!

    Reply
      1. orchidsandtea

        Me too!

        OP, of course I think you should get back to Hawaii as soon as possible, but in the meanwhile take a gander at some online communities related to your interests. I’ve found friends on Facebook groups, Reddit, hobby-related fora, all sorts of places. Real friends, who cheer me on and support me, and who value my contributions. You are clearly awesome, and it will not always be this hard. You’ll find your people again.

        Reply
        1. Sans

          I was going to say as well – make getting back to Hawaii your goal. Save your money, make your plans, tell yourself that the job you have now is worth it because it will help you get back to Hawaii. I think it will help your depression to have a goal you’re working toward.

          In the meantime, don’t tell your mother any more than you absolutely have to. Be a good employee, follow the FMLA rules, and know you’re doing your best. I’m sure your mom cares, but she sounds like my mom, who doesn’t understand the modern workplace at all. I am exempt, make a good salary and have a flexible schedule. Yet my mom has never understood that I can leave 15 minutes early without making it up. Or that in some of my jobs, I can wear jeans, and in fact the CEO wore jeans, so it didn’t make me look bad. Don’t let her get inside your head.

          Reply
          1. Manders

            This is the perfect plan. Also, keep in touch with your old friend network back in Hawaii, because moving across state lines is a zillion times easier when someone local can let you crash on their couch or scope out apartments for you.

            Reply
    1. Mookie

      Thirded.

      And you don’t have to love Utah if you don’t want to, LW1. I know there’re great people everywhere and silver linings in the blackest, dourest of clouds, but sometimes where we are in life makes where we are, geographically, automatically crap, unworthy, and wanting. You’ve been through some life-upending events of late. It’s okay, for a while, to wallow a bit. You’ll either adapt to Utah or you’ll find some place else. You’re going to be better than fine. :)

      Reply
      1. Yetanotherjennifer

        I absolutely agree with this. Op, not every place is suited to us. You may be a square peg in this round hole but would be a smoother fit somewhere else. And some places have an extra layer of reserve, making it harder to find your community. You just have to keep showing up and trying new things.

        Reply
      2. Bethlam

        My brother has lived in Utah for 30 years and loves it! But that’s him. If you can’t get back to Hawaii, I hope you find someplace better suited to your needs, and far away from your mom. Good luck and hang in there.

        Reply
      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Yep. My ocean-loving New England family spent a few years living in Missouri so I could attend a particular school there — we all utterly loathed it. Some people like the Midwest, but for us… ugh, no. Even the school wasn’t worth it.

        Reply
      4. Kj

        Yes, this. I’ve lived in a couple of different states and some states that others loved, I hated and vis-versa. You need to find your people. Utah has a reputation for being for a certain type of person- you might not be that person and that is OK. Think about where else you might enjoy living- if you liked Hawaii, the west coast may be to your tastes. Can you visit some different areas or talk to people about them, then apply for jobs in the appealing areas? Can you cultivate a skill set that would allow you to return to Hawaii or move to area better suited to you other than Hawaii?

        Reply
      5. Violet Rose

        Seconding this – I very eagerly moved *away* from an area many people would LOVE to live, in large part because I couldn’t stand the “perfect” weather (I have a happy maximum of about 75F). Your recent move might be colouring your opinion of Utah, but it is still totally OK to say, “you know what? I am not happy in this state, and I’ll try to make the best of it but my eventual goal is to move to Florida/back to Hawaii/Spain/wherever else”. And good luck!

        Reply
      6. Tatertot

        I definitely agree – my fiance and I moved out of our country to a place we absolutely LOVED and fit our lifestyles perfectly, but due to a combination of work visa issues and him wanting to go back to school, we returned to our home area in September. While I found a job quickly that many people think I’m quite lucky to have, it’s not at all in the field I went to school for, and being back in my hometown feels… suffocating. I’ve been suffering from mild depression because of this and sometimes it works it’s way into feeling like we can never, ever leave. They only thing that keeps me sane is looking for jobs in other provinces and counting down the days until he is done school and we can move again. So I totally understand, OP, and my advice is to pick a place, whether that be Hawaii or somewhere new, and just make that place your goal. You are not stuck unless you let yourself be.

        Reply
      7. Karen D

        I would vote for “find something else.” And I do think there’s a lot of “something else” out there; it just requires a big leap of faith.

        Even if OP can’t make the move right now, there are things that can be accomplished that can build hope of getting out someday soon. One possibility: Getting a teaching certificate, which — depending on the degree OP already has — might be as simple as filling out the paperwork or maybe taking a few basic classes. I know my (sunny, friendly, youth-oriented) region is right now scrounging for good teachers, to the point where some local districts are putting up billboards, subsidizing classes for people who will agree to teach for a number of years and holding teacher-poaching fairs in other states.

        Reply
    2. Backroads

      As a Utahn born and bred, I am having a lot of fun trying to figure out which part of the state she is in based on “polluted desert.” And the most likely spot of culture shock.

      I guarantee she is in Utah County.

      Best of luck to you!

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        Do you think she would be happier in Salt Lake City? I’ve heard it’s Utah equivalent of Austin in terms of being a cultural oasis.

        Reply
        1. Trout 'Waver

          I don’t like the term cultural oasis because it implies the rest of state is devoid of culture. It has culture, just a different kind.

          Reply
        2. Backroads

          Maybe. I live in think in whole Ogden-Salt Lake City Metropolis and I think it’s =reat, though I’m more partial to Ogden.

          The job problem, however, is that Utah county is where the industry boom is.

          Reply
      2. Marillenbaum

        Same. I’m from Provo, and it’s HARD out there. The only place i think could be weirder is St. George, because then you get 1) random polygamists, and 2) retirees.

        Reply
      3. Renna (OP #1)

        Haha, sorry, you lost the bet! I’m in the south end of Salt Lake county. :) And you know what’s funny, I was born in Provo. Dad joined the Air Force and we’ve been bopping around all over the place since then, including one year in Kaysville when Dad did an internship with Intermountain (he was medical coordination in the military). I started college at BYU while my parents were still based in southern Virginia. So I’m actually LDS, that part doesn’t bother me, but I keep getting stuck back in this state and I absolutely hate it, mostly because the other church members here are weirder than in any place I’ve ever lived. Including Florida. With the legit crazy rednecks who tried to out-crazy each other, but at least they were self-aware; they knew they were crazy. I’m currently rooming with a very nice person who thinks Eragon is better than The Lord of the Rings and doesn’t believe in climate change (I can’t hate her, she really is super nice, but to me one of those things is actually sacrilege). I think it’s just very insulated. There’s not a large military presence in the state, and most people have lived here their whole lives and not been exposed to a wide variety of people. They already have their friends they grew up with down the street, and they’ve never needed to think critically because they’ve never been any sort of minority. My congregation in Hawaii was used to people coming and going, but instead of being jaded by new people they were so loving. My first Sunday there everybody asked my name, and hugged me hello, and got to know me – before I even moved there people were praying that I could find work soon once I got to the islands. I’ve also spent a good deal of time in the South and that was also pretty friendly, not quite like Polynesian hospitality but genuine goodwill. I just find Utah stuffy. People might care, but they don’t express it well and they’re hard to get to know. It’s very reserved.

        Reply
        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

          I’m in the middle of Salt Lake County, and I’d be happy to meet up with you at some point if you’d like! I wrote my MA thesis on Lord of the Rings, so you know how I fall on the Eragon/LotR debate. ;) My email address is linked on my name.

          Reply
      4. Anon 12

        I think there was just an article in the media about Salt Lake City having some of the worst air quality in the country.

        Reply
    3. MissGirl

      OP, you mention not getting outside as much in the fresh air in Utah. I don’t know if you’re into the outdoors or hiking but there are several meet-up groups for this. In the winter we do have fresh air and sun–it’s just up the mountains a bit. I’m a member of one group and they’re really welcoming to new people since many of them are transplants as well. It’s amazing how much getting up and out on a Saturday can refresh you. With the proper clothing, the cold isn’t a deterrent and with the sun, it’s usually warmer in the mountains than the valleys.

      I agree that the problem is with your mom’s poor boundaries and not necessarily with your work. People who are boundary challenged need clear boundaries. Potential employees shouldn’t be calling your current job anyhow.

      I hope you’re able to make your time here work until you can live where you want. I worked in SoCal over the summer and everyone asked if I’d be staying. While I loved it, I need winter and summer far too much. I understand sometimes there’s no changing where home is.

      Reply
      1. Renna (OP #1)

        I have a love-hate relationship with hiking, I’m very slow and feel bad because someone always has to stay behind with me. But I feel great after I’ve finished a hike and I do love the mountains, I feel better about life when I’m in them. I’ll have to look into that and at least find an easy trail I can go on by myself, or look for someone else who is slow and doesn’t mind me holding them back.

        Reply
    4. Renna (OP #1)

      Thank you, I actually love to write and am trying to get going on a book…so that’s very encouraging. :) :) :) Best thing I could have heard today.

      Reply
  9. aa

    2 – If their child is sick at school and they need to pick them up would you say no because they did not give enough notice?

    Reply
    1. JessaB

      The OP already said that emergencies are not an issue, the issue is someone makes an appointment a month out and then tells them with nearly no notice even though they were aware.

      Now I agree that if it’s not a company necessity, it shouldn’t be required, however it’s common courtesy, especially in places that can’t have a bunch of people out at the same time. Also, someone might not know if that one time there’s going to be something that makes it a problem. The earlier management is told, the better able they are to juggle things if needed.

      Reply
      1. Antilles

        The OP already said that emergencies are not an issue, the issue is someone makes an appointment a month out and then tells them with nearly no notice even though they were aware.
        Exactly.
        I’m honestly stunned at just how strongly commenters and Alison have come out against this policy. If you have a pre-planned appointment, send a simple email/call/IM/text on the day before “Hey boss, I’ve got a dentist appointment on Thursday and need to leave at noon”. How long does that really take? 30 seconds?

        Reply
        1. Elemeno P.

          I am also very surprised about this. My team is only 6 people and we all have flex time, but we still give notice when we can so that usually at least one person’s in the office. We also have a little team calendar where we log our planned days off, which is convenient for other people to plan around.

          For instance, if I know in advance that three other people will be taking next Friday off, I will probably schedule my next appointment for a different day to make sure someone’s here. If I don’t know they’re taking next Friday off, I might schedule it for Friday and then we won’t have enough coverage. Accidents and emergencies come up, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with asking that people give advance notice on the appointments they know about.

          Reply
        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          Right, that’s simple to do. But if you forget, and you work independently and it will have no impact on anyone else, it shouldn’t matter. That’s the rigidity that I’m objecting to. If there’s a work related reason to require the notice, then great, do so. But otherwise, err on the side of giving people freedom.

          Reply
          1. OP#2

            OP #2 again… Thanks to everyone for your comments. You’ve given me much to think about. Our HR policy for our agency of 35,000 people is that prearranged medical appointments require advanced notice for use of sick leave. As a manager I have said that the advanced notice should be a day’s notice. Some of you think that is reasonable, others not. I think Alison’s advice that I consider the work impact is really the key for me here when this comes up again, which it will.

            Reply
    2. Drago cucina

      The LW referenced last minute needs and that this isn’t a problem. This is a question of not bothering to coordinate or communicate an existing appointment. It’s easy to say, “Hey, there are enough people in the office that I can just go to this appointment.” Then multiple people do it and suddenly there aren’t enough staff to do the work. 24 hours isn’t a big ask.

      Yes, it’s happened to me. One scheduled vacation, a sudden death of an uncle, and then the person saying, “Oh, I moved my teeth cleaning to this afternoon.” With 12 people it makes a difference.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        It really depends on the nature of the work. There are a lot of jobs that don’t require coverage in that way, and where multiple people can be out without it causing a problem because each person manages their work independently.

        Reply
        1. Dan

          I guess some of this comes from the fact that I’ve had jobs in the past where bosses have been real dicks about approving leave ahead of time, which just invites last minute sick calls. Never mind the jobs that give you paid sick time and then penalize you for using it.

          OTOH, my professional jobs have been some of the most flexible you can imagine — and if I’ve got a boss who always approves leave with a mere 24 hours notice, then this is an area where I’d happily earn some political points for when I need them.

          Reply
          1. Colette

            If they always approve leave, there should be no need to ask. Of course, if all employees were good at evaluating the impact of being out, there would also be no need to ask.

            24 hours doesn’t seem onerous most of the time, but her policy as described doesn’t allow for non-illness-related emergencies. If my furnace goes out, I’m not sick but I’m not going to be at work, either.

            And people forget about appointments sometimes, or people who are more spontaneous than me decide to take the day off because it’s beautiful out. As long as it’s not causing work problems, it’s good to accommodate it.

            Reply
            1. OP#2

              OP#2 here

              Colette – I really am pretty flexible about emergency needs so if your furnace went out, or you suddenly felt unwell, or your car broke down I wouldn’t have any problem with you using leave for that purpose (in fact all three of those have happened recently). Most of my staff also can work from home so in the instance where the furnace is out they can have the option to work from home or use leave (or some combination).

              Reply
              1. Elemeno P.

                I think your policy sounds fine, honestly. 24 hours isn’t a lot to ask, especially when you’re flexible when things pop up, and it sounds like your one employee is just being a jerk about it.

                Reply
              2. Ask a Manager Post author

                But again, if it’s not impacting work, why do you care? It sounds like it’s just for the principle of the thing, and that’s not a good reason when you’re dealing with responsible adults.

                Reply
                1. Dan

                  I wouldn’t call a person who “forgets” to go to meetings a “responsible adult”. Which brings us back to the real issue at hand, which isn’t the vacation policy per se, but someone who the OP is almost in BEC mode with. (OP more or less admits to such elsewhere in the comments.)

                  IMHO, that’s the biggest crime — when “policy” is written/developed/changed because *one person* is screwing around, and managers won’t deal with that person one-on-one. OP is writing in not because the office collectively isn’t on board with the policy, but *one person* is being a pain for a multitude of reasons, and she’s trying to deal with it via the policies that she can find.

              3. Colette

                I’m a planner, so it would bug me to have someone throw something unexpected at me at the last minute when they could have told me earlier – but if it didn’t matter, I would let it go.

                And at the same time, I often purposely don’t tell my manager about appointments far in advance, because it shouldn’t make a difference to him, and he’s more likely to remember if I tell him the day before.

                Reply
            2. Koko

              I agree. It’s exactly what Alison said – I chafe at the idea of hoops that my manager sets up for me to jump through because he can, and not because he needs to. Arbitrarily drawing the line at X hours when it’s not for coverage/work-related reasons just seems like a power trip to me, like the manager wants to deny leave just because he can or took it personally that I didn’t bring it up sooner. It’s not personal…to him. It’s personal to me.

              Reply
            3. Former Retail Manager

              I am one of the spontaneous people you reference and I LOVE IT! Nice weather….why yes, I’d love to meet my husband for a late lunch outside on the patio with fresh tortilla chips and refreshing margaritas! But then my work is entirely independent and none of my co-workers nor my manager are affected if I leave, assuming no scheduled meetings. I will say that my manager virtually NEVER questions anyone’s leave requests, assuming you have sufficient hours to take, and I find that to greatly contribute to my satisfaction in working for this manager.

              Reply
    3. OP#2

      aa – As I said in my letter, last minute, unexpectedly emergencies aren’t the issue. It’s the long planned appointment that you decided to request leave for at the last minute. In most cases that may not be an issue but if we have a deadline or a last minute emergency at work, it makes it harder to deal with those if one of our team is unexpectedly out.

      Reply
      1. Grits McGee

        OP#2, is this a problem with everyone or primarily just the one employee who has a variety of issues with time management, and then maybe it comes up every once in a while for the rest of your employees?

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Yes, this is my question. I don’t remember ever having a last-minute call-in for something preplanned from my staff in the positions where I don’t have butt-in-seat flexibility.

          And I do think you might be getting a little hung up on courtesy here rather than actual workflow, but if it’s one annoying staffer I can understand why this is biting a little deeper than the issue itself would suggest, and that is, I think, a different issue. Can you identify how often this has genuinely impaired the workflow and not just made you concerned about what might happen?

          Reply
      2. nonymous

        > In most cases that may not be an issue but if we have a deadline or a last minute emergency at work, it makes it harder to deal with those if one of our team is unexpectedly out.

        Can this just be addressed with some mindfulness and group brainstorming? I assume you have the tools in place for self-regulation of full coverage (e.g. shared calendars). If the team is expected to respond to emergencies, it’s reasonable to ask the team to come up with a workflow for those situations. As a manager, I really see your role to facilitate these discussions. It can come from a fairness perspective – e.g. “Fergus and Jill have stayed late the last three times we’ve had emergencies, how can we make sure that the work gets shared more fairly?” It can come from policy conflicts “As you know, OT is not allowed even when we are short staffed and facing an emergency. How can we shift coverage to make sure that doesn’t happen?”. Whatever phrasing introduces the problem without blame.

        Before going into this, I would recommend Allison’s advice, and taking the introspective time to assess what the minimum staffing needs are. Also worth exploring is the process when your team drops below that minimum – is someone on call? does OT kick in? is the team assuming that the manager covers (which may not be practical – I’m not sure my team lead could cover some of my tasks)? If the solution is an unequal distribution of labor, how will those who step up be rewarded? For example, Fergus and Jill may be awarded to a larger share of any performance bonus pool.

        Reply
      3. Making New Friends

        It sounds like you have a fair process in place. If the employee taking leave without scheduling it first will affect your team, then refuse the leave. You’re the manager and you have the power to do this. As long as you do it fairly and not out of need to be in control, then it isn’t a problem. The employee will learn to get their ducks in a row for the next appointment.

        Reply
        1. Trout 'Waver

          Denying leave is the nuclear option and will cause resent. I think the OP is trying to solve this issue without resorting to that.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            I don’t see any other option aside from staying where she is (reminding people and being annoyed that it doesn’t fix the situation) or letting it go, though. So to me that’s an argument for letting it go–if you don’t want to deny leave and you’re tired of reminders having no effect, that’s the best option left.

            Reply
          2. Making New Friends

            If taking off truly affects the team and workload, and the leave isn’t an emergency situation, then I don’t see the problem in refusing it. I’m not saying do it every time people forget to ask ahead of time, but these employees are adults who can take responsibility.

            Reply
      4. Tex

        OP#2 – I don’t think what you are asking is onerous at all.

        I think you have to shift the team’s perception from it’s a requirement to only let you know to a requirement to also let the team know; peer responsibility might make them change their behavior. I would use a team calendar that someone suggested above and say that time off is to be scheduled on the calendar and that you are going to check it at x time every day. If people can’t put it on the calendar in time, then please reschedule. OR, scrap the 24 hours rule and tell them it has to be on the calendar by Monday of that week.

        The only way to guarantee that you can make your policy work is to deny a couple of people when they ask last minute. Word will get around that the policy is not to be messed with.

        Reply
        1. Kate, short for Bob

          That’s not the only way at all – OP could also roll timely requests into a PIP if the employee in question is under performing in other areas.

          And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other weaknesses, given that they’ve sprung a long standing commitment on the office at the last minute repeatedly, no?

          Reply
      5. drago cucina

        I think the issue of deadlines and last minute emergency work gets over looked. 90% of someone’s work may seem totally independent, but actually be part of a whole. We recently had an email from a Federal office on a Friday afternoon and they wanted several items of information by Monday morning. It impacted a major program we are involved with. We were able to pull it together, but if everyone said, “Oh, my job is done” and suddenly the office is empty it can have consequences.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I don’t think it’s overlooked–the question is how much of an issue is it in actuality, and we don’t have the answer to that. Right now the OP seems focused on it as a courtesy issue and one that causes possible problems, but despite the fact that this seems to happen with annoying frequency the concrete impact seems to be pretty minimal. (I also think “Oh, I have a doctor’s appointment this afternoon” isn’t the same thing as “Eh, I’m calling it a day.”)

          If it is a concrete problem, then time to intervene with the employee who’s doing it and stop permitting the short-notice leave because it’s not fair to people who have to scramble. But if they don’t have to scramble, there’s not much reason to make this a thing just out of the belief that it’s courteous.

          Reply
      6. Uzumaki Naruto

        OP#2, I don’t understand the issue requiring the policy. If someone doesn’t request leave in advance for their planned appointment, and if you have a deadline or last minute emergency at work, then don’t approve their last-minute request to leave?

        Reply
  10. AJ

    #1 – This is outside of your work question, and I realize I don’t know the whole situation, but is there any way you can move back to Hawaii? Maybe not soon, but maybe you can make it a longterm goal? Or maybe there is an out-of-the-box idea that could get you back there.

    Reply
    1. AJ

      P.S. Perhaps an out of the box idea for dealing with your mother would be to pretend she is one of your callers. Pretend you don’t know her and turn on the customer service. “It sounds like you are very frustrated with your daughter. I would like to help you resolve this situation. I’m going to have to put you on hold until you calm down.”

      Reply
      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        That is an excellent idea, especially since I get the feeling that this OP’s mother is the source of much of their anxiety and depression. To have someone that toxic in your life is bad enough, but parents are usually central players in how you construct your self-image.

        Reply
    2. Artemesia

      Yes I would make job one figuring out how to move away from this toxic mother; it is hard to feel good about yourself when someone is hammering you like this. If you could move back to Hawaii and support yourself that would be great but I assume from your letter that that wasn’t going to work and Hawaii is very expensive. But you might be able to find some sort of work elsewhere. Just putting 500 miles between you and your mother would improve your life. I’d be stockpiling money in an account no one knows about with the goal to have enough to move and if you have friends or relatives in other parts of the country begin to explore possible options there. Any old college roommates or friends who might help out? Focusing on getting out of Utah and establishing yourself somewhere else and taking steps to save for it and identify strategies might make where you are more bearable.

      And make your mother a cordial stranger i.e. be pleasant but don’t share anything of your self. She should not know work details and don’t justify your decisions to her. Be pleasant and shallow and divert conversation — and if she is ranting or grilling end the conversation. If you do this consistently there will be a burst of worse behavior but in the end you will win this one. Sorry you have to go through this, but I’m sure you will find that first step that leads to great leaps later.

      Reply
    3. Grits McGee

      Seconding AJ and Artemesia’s advice about looking into moving. OP#1, you know better than a rando commenter on the internet about the realities of your living situation, but seriously consider whether it would be possible to even move to another part of the west/southwest where the natural and social environment wouldn’t make you sick and miserable. I was in a job that paid well, loved, and was great at and ended up leaving because the living situation was awful, and it was 100% the right choice. It’s just so difficult to shine and excel when everything around you is making you unhappy.

      Reply
    4. Channel Z

      When you are anxious or depressed, it is really hard to see that there are options. It keeps us stuck in inaction and hesitation. You mentioned you are good with customers, that is a really good quality! Maybe you can highlight this in your next applications, when you are looking for jobs further afield.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        Having a plan can help alleviate the misery of feeling stuck that can be depressing. If you are good with customers, surely there are jobs in customer service settings somewhere besides where you are. Making a plan and beginning to figure out how to get there may help you combat the depression caused by being where you are.

        And as for friends in new places; I am a big fan of meetups as they are usually groups of other people looking for friends. If the particular hiking group, or movie group or book group or whatever doesn’t pan out, at least you hiked, saw films, and read books so it isn’t a complete waste and you can sample a variety of groups till you find some that work for you. I did that when I moved to a new city where I knew no one. One of my favorite groups never resulted in a friendship outside the group, but the group activities were super interesting; other groups did introduce me to people that became my social circle.

        Good luck — it sounds like you have skills to offer and will be able to establish yourself in a new life if you work at it. And seriously — stop sharing with your mother. Be cordial and polite and talk only about trivia with her.

        Reply
    5. Trillian

      Yes, thoroughly explore your options. Moving to Utah doesn’t even sound like it was a good financial move, if you can’t find decent work and it is aggravating your medical issues. You have friends — they might be able to give you a place to stay while you re-establish yourself. Good luck!

      (I wouldn’t be surprised if your mother was having her own difficulties with the move, feels trapped herself, and you’re getting the fallout. Not excusing it, just recognizing a pattern familiar to me from personal experience.)

      Reply
      1. Whats In A Name

        You know, this point about the mom could be very real. I had not considered it before. I agree it doesn’t excuse the behavior but it might explain where it is coming from – mom could be equally frustrated. I mean Hawaii?!?!? I know it’s expensive but with the weather and beauty I could see coming back to the Midwest a bit of an adjustment, especially fi the family had not lived there prior.

        Regardless, my advice to OP is still to manage her mom and share as little work-related as possible and to find even an online community to share interests with.

        Reply
    6. eplawyer

      Just having a plan and beginning to save for the move (whether it be back to Hawaii or elsewhere) will do wonders for you. Even if it takes awhile, knowing there is an end goal can help.

      And definitely distance yourself from your mother. Just because you are related to someone does not mean you have to let them be a volcano all over unpolluted air.

      Reply
    7. Nobby Nobbs

      If you’re looking for a career path that’ll get you back to a tropical island, have you considered superheroing?

      (I can’t be the only one who read the question and thought of Mr. Incredible at the beginning of the movie, right?)

      Reply
      1. Renna (OP #1)

        Haha, guess I’ll have to start lifting weights.

        Also, don’t take my spoon. You should have one already. *runs away*

        Reply
        1. Hnl123

          If you can make it back to Hawaii, that would be great.
          But as another fellow HI resident, my GOODNESS it is expensive to live here, and the long-term career prospects are not good.
          Before living in Hawaii, I lived in southern California, which is really like Hawaii’s cooler older cousin.
          San Diego (and it’s neighboring cities) could be another good option? More affordable than Hawaii, but still has a similar vibe. Certain parts of Orange County could be nice, too.
          Hoping things go in your favor OP!

          Reply
  11. LadyCop

    #1. I’ve not been to Utah..but spent quite some time in Colorado. There’s a different kind of air pollution there, if you know what I mean…but imaging it to be polluted literally made me laugh. It’s also tropical compared to where I live, but at least I can understand that.

    Anyway, with a similarly crazy set of nosey parents, I second Alison that you should just stop telling mom about work all together. After how many years of shift work, they still can’t even conceptualize why I’m not available after 5pm during the week, or every weekend, or every holiday… let alone the nuances of life in general. Best of luck.

    Reply
        1. Ultraviolet

          Yeah, I did understand that about the “different kind of air pollution,” but I still have the impression they might have been claiming that the traditional type of pollution isn’t a problem in Utah.

          Reply
        2. MoinMoin

          OHHHH. Thanks for explaining that. (I’m new to CO so I was curious what she was talking about but that reference totally passed me by.)

          Reply
  12. Matt

    #2: 24 hours doesn’t seem too bad for me especially since you made it a point that this isn’t carved in stone when it comes to true emergencies.

    At my place there’s more of the opposite problem – I like to plan and book my summer vacation early and nobody grants a vacation request 6 months into the future – I always try to plan around the major projects and events, but things get shuffled around a lot and I almost always end up with a major release (SW dev.) just before, during or after my vacation – so far there wasn’t one denied or revoked, but every year the same uncertainty …

    Reply
    1. KellyK

      That has to be really stressful. There are a lot of situations where it makes sense to plan early. I go to a wildly popular steampunk convention every year. If you want to stay in one of the two main hotels, you need to book almost a year in advance. That’s an extreme example, but even for a regular vacation, airfare costs go up the closer you get to the date, and hotels can fill up.

      In your situation, I would probably just ask my boss what the earliest is that they’ll approve a vacation request and plan then if you can. If their timeline doesn’t work for the kind of trips you’re taking, you can at least explain the situation and ask them to make an exception.

      I do understand employers not wanting to book vacation too far out, because schedules can shift. A particular week might look great six or eight months out, but then Murphy gets a hold of the schedule and it falls right during a crunch time. But they should balance that with people being able to take the kind of vacations they want to take. Unless you’re planning a staycation or a local excursion, advance planning is usually required.

      Reply
  13. Lord of the Ringbinders

    #1 Sorry your mom is being like this. Definitely stop talking to her about work.

    #2 There should be a clear policy for all staff. What is the policy at your agency? Are you trying to differ from it? If so I don’t think that’s reasonable.

    Also I think you need to differentiate between business needs and pet peeves. I’d be interested in why people aren’t letting you know earlier – have you asked them why they aren’t putting the request in when they book the appointment? Is it possible they’ve got a sense of your annoyance and ironically then fuelled it because they are worried you’ll say no? I would never wait until the last minute to book leave as I know my manager has no issue with it and will always approve it when possible. How is your relationship with your staff otherwise? Are you approachable?

    I am raising an eyebrow about requesting sick leave 24 hours in advance as I don’t know how anyone can know if they’ll be sick or continue to be sick. Our policy for sick leave is you contact your manager or another manager if they’re unavailable by 10am on the day. I am also raising an eyebrow about minding if someone has genuinely forgotten to book leave. If they forget, well, they couldn’t have done it differently. We also have a system for approving leave in our HR portal so you don’t have to pick a specific person to email. You put it through the system and your manager picks it up. When my line manager is off she leaves specific instructions of who to ask about leave and then formally approves it on her return even if that’s after the fact. Do you do that clearly enough? It’s not going to change just because you want it to. You need to be interested in what works for your staff.

    We also have a standing item on our one-to-one catch-ups about whether you need to book any leave coming up which reminds people to think about it. But that’s because some things we do need coverage every day and you might need to arrange cover, not because of courtesy.

    #3 You don’t know that’s what’s causing his issues. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. You don’t know as you don’t have all the facts. Some drugs are prescribed for a variety of reasons e.g. antidepressants are also prescribed to help with sleep problems caused by PTSD just to pick one example. Drugs affect different people in different ways. The issues you describe can be symptoms of a number of mental and physical health problems or might not be caused by health or medication issues – you just don’t know.

    What does strike me, however, is that you have an employee who may be eligible for reasonable adjustments (I think you call them accommodations over there) and may not be getting them. Do you routinely ask all employees if they need these and explain how to start the process? You could ask him that. You should be asking everyone. Our line managers all get training on this (how to ask, what to ask, how to support employees with health problems) but then I work for a mental health charity.

    One thing you should do is stop using words like indulgence. If he has a health issue then it’s not an indulgence to make accommodations – it’s ethically and legally required. And while some people may say his issues don’t sound excusable, it may be that accommodations could help. I occasionally snap at others. It’s because I have ptsd – being irritable is one of my symptoms and when it happens it’s a sign that I’m overwhelmed and hypervigilant and on the verge of a panic attack. But I also have access to short breaks in a quiet room whenever I need them, which means I mostly am not irritable at work. My manager knows all this as she has facilitated me disclosing and will ask if I need a day off if I’m clearly not doing so great and haven’t noticed myself.

    I don’t know how the law works there but if he is taking days off without notice and coming in late can you not refer him to occupational health to work out if/how you can help?

    #4 All decent human beings would understand that you would feel awkward in this situation. Rather than picking it apart, I for one would view your interview performance more favourably due to the pressure of being videoed.

    #5 Why would it be illegal to not hire someone who definitely doesn’t plan to stay in the job?

    Reply
    1. sstabeler

      I think the 24 hours notice is for medical appointments and vacation- in other words, the manager gets irritated when their subordinates know they will be taking time off in advance, but wait until the last minute to request the time off.

      Reply
    2. OP#2

      OP #2 here – Lord of the Ringbinders (great name, by the way!) You raise some good questions. There is a clear leave policy available on our intranet that states non-emergency leave must be requested in advance. This particular staff person tends to be forgetful about things that aren’t part of her regular work day. For instance she has very few meetings so she often forgets about the few that are on her calendar so she and I have worked together on strategies to help her remember to check her calendar for these rare meetings and to set notifications for them on her computer. You asked if staff might be worried I would say no. I have a very good relationship with my staff and am very flexible about their needs for leave. Our policy for sick leave in emergency cases (such as waking up sick) is similar to yours. In that case, of course we don’t expect advance notice, rather staff will email me to let me know they won’t be in. If I am out of the office, I always have someone acting in my place and the staff are emailed with that information so they do know who to contact.

      Reply
      1. Lord of the Ringbinders

        In which case it sounds like its less about whether your policy is reasonable and more that this person has issues with being organised and remembering things. Can you look with her at how she manages appointments and build in steps for her to follow, e.g. putting them in her calendar and requesting leave at that time? It sounds like the policy isn’t the problem – this is more of a symptom of other issues?

        Reply
      2. TL -

        Honestly, if her work is otherwise good and this doesn’t cause undue hardship for anyone else, I’d let it go. It’s annoying but it doesn’t sound like anyone’s being put out by it and if my manager denied me leave to go to a doctor’s appointment (some of them you have to book a few weeks or months out), that would significantly damage our relationship.

        Reply
        1. Emilia Bedelia

          But that’s the point…. if the employee booked the appointment weeks or months out, it shouldn’t be that difficult to let the boss know.

          I would be pretty put out as well to learn this the hard way, but I really don’t think what the OP is asking is all that much of an imposition for pre-planned absences. It’s pretty clear from the letter that they’re flexible with emergencies, so I don’t get the opposition here.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            I agree that it’s not asking much–my question is whether it’s worth doing anything about if you don’t get it. I have staff jobs where it would be a big problem for somebody to say “I forgot I had a doctor’s appointment and I’d like to leave early today”; I also have jobs where it wouldn’t matter, and where emergencies are rare enough that I wouldn’t put in such a policy just in case.

            If the problem employee is in the first category, then the OP should definitely take action, but if she’s in the second, I don’t think this is worth a battle, because it’s more about an abstract point of courtesy than it is about genuine work impact.

            Reply
            1. Emilia Bedelia

              That’s true, I agree with you there. I am definitely not surprised that the OP states that they are similarly forgetful in other areas, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the OP to take this habit as part of the bigger picture with her.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                Yeah, I think this is one of those “elbows on the table” breaches–Miss Manners talks about that proscription as being one that it’s delightfully easy to catch people at so it looks like a bigger deal than it is. If the employee is generally flaky, that’s harder to quantify, but this is an easy metric to point to–but that’s not the same thing as its being the important weakness.

                Reply
            2. Mephyle

              If she keeps granting the problem employee’s last-minute requests for appointments she knew about weeks ago, it will be demoralizing for the other employees who are courteous and professional about following the guideline. They may start to wonder what’s the point about doing it right if there are no consequences for doing it wrong.
              Yet it’s unreasonable to deny the requests, as many have already noted. The only solution I can see is to extend the coaching and semi-micro-management she is being given about schedules and being organized to also cover things like these appointments.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                But why would the other employees even know? And don’t most people notify because they think it’s the thing to do and not because there’s a cutoff rule anyway? I just don’t see this as a moral hazard.

                Reply
              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                I think people overestimate the impact of one forgetful/problem employee on the others in this context. Most people I know don’t start skipping out on timely notice just because their flighty coworker has always done it that way.

                Reply
          2. TL -

            It shouldn’t be, but if it’s not causing undue hardship for the office, it’s also probably not the hill OP wants to die on.
            If it’s inconveniencing others, sure, but if this a pet peeve instead, it’s a battle that’s only going to worsen the relationship – not being able to go to a doctor’s appointment would immediately send me looking for a new job.

            Reply
      3. MoinMoin

        I wonder if she’d benefit from a quick weekly check in- 15 minutes or so just going over what she’s wrapping up, what’s on her plate, what’s coming up, oh and by the way, any leave plans coming up? I work remotely and this has really helped me a lot with my boss. Generally it’s 10 minutes or so of just running down my to-do list, her adding in anything else or asking about specific status updates, and then it turns into, “so how are you? Any plans for the weekend?” It’s a nice way to catch up and get all the “Oh, by the way…” things out, just because my day has very few structure requirements and it’s pretty easy to push even simple things back otherwise. “Oh, that won’t take any time at all. So I’ll do it later.” I understand the flaw in this logic and yet… it always makes sense in the moment.

        Reply
        1. Halpful

          that sounds like a good idea! :) …unless she’s got the sort of forgetfulness where she’ll just draw a blank when asked about leave. (my brain is doing that a lot now – it can be physically painful to try to remember a specific thing, so I try to write down answers to expected questions when they spontaneously appear in my head. sometimes I even write them where I’ll find them again :P )

          another idea: maybe suggest that she follow a checklist when booking appointments (with “email boss” being on it)? she’s probably heard it before, but she might have forgotten that too. (really, the more I read here the more I suspect the forgetfulness is itself a medical issue)

          Reply
  14. MommyMD

    There is so much FMLA abuse now that it is affecting how employers view employees. Your managers are not allowed to bring it up. But if they feel it is being abused such as late starts frequently or call offs grouped with weekends they may decline to give you any reference at all. They may just confirm your employment. Use it judiciously and only for valid reasons. If you use it to the max days per month just because it’s there, that is not wise.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne

      I disagree in this case. She is in a job she hates with no relevance to her desired career in a place she wants to leave. She should take care of herself and not worry about the reference.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        For those not interested in clicking (and thanks for the link, Mookie!) that’s abuse under 2% and suspicion of abuse under 3%.

        I think sometimes people are just surprised at how FMLA works and haven’t quite gotten their minds around the fact that it’s not gaming the system any more than taking your sick days is.

        Reply
      2. Anon for this

        Anecdotal, but I definitely saw it at my last employer which was a call center. It wasn’t held against anyone (that I’m aware of) but HR did have to speak to employees that would talk openly about their plans (most memorable was two employees planning a trip to a casino for the afternoon) and then list FMLA as the reason they were leaving work. We had so many employees requesting FMLA paperwork from the clinic that was two blocks from our location that they posted a sign that FMLA paperwork would have an additional charge to fill out and it seems like it was a fairly hefty amount.

        I do believe that call centers bring this sort of issue on themselves with their time off policies. I had more PTO accrued while working there than any other job I’ve ever had. It was almost impossible to use it in certain positions though and if you called and said you were sick, someone would call you during the day to see if you were going to be able to come in at any point during your shift. It was ridiculous.

        Reply
      3. Retail HR Guy

        That’s like trusting a survey from McDonald’s on whether French fries are tasty.

        Here’s good feedback on that particular survey from a lawyer specializing in FMLA:
        http://www.fmlainsights.com/the-fmla-turns-20-today-the-dol-celebrates-with-curious-survey-results-about-the-use-of-fmla/

        Really, though, all you can do is survey people’s perceptions on the issue. Data just won’t exist on how much abuse is actually occurring. Add in to that fact that certain industries, professions, and regions are going to vary significantly in how common FMLA abuse is and you’re going to arrive at the fact that no one is going to have any good overall numbers. For whatever it is worth, there is certainly a perception within HR circles that the problem is growing.

        Make no mistake, though, that whatever the actually amount, FMLA abuse does exist and it is a very real cost to employers (and fellow employees who end up covering for them). I don’t get why so many commenters poo-poo the problem. Are we supposed to ignore shoplifters because they are less than 1% of customers? When a small percentage of companies misbehave by illegally discriminating, not following wage and hour law, or whatever, do we pretend like there’s no problem because most companies wouldn’t do that?

        Reply
        1. Jessie the First (or second)

          The point isn’t that abuse of FMLA never occurs, but that it is so totally not relevant here: OP is not abusing the system, she is using it as intended and there is no indication that she works in a toxic office that suspects its employees of misdeeds (she says her employer has a good culture). Therefore, giving advice of “abuse is rampant! It will harm your career!” is not only not helpful or even relevant, it is harmful given OP’s anxiety and misery.

          In general, if you have a valid reason to use FMLA, as this OP does, you should use it and not worry that it will harm your career because in general, it won’t. It is not helpful to call out the exceptions in this situation.

          Reply
          1. Retail HR Guy

            Follow the thread of conversation, and you’ll see that Mookie changed the subject to simply address whether or not there really is a lot of FMLA abuse now. My comment is relevant to that. I wasn’t addressing anything about OP’s situation.

            Reply
    2. xyz

      You’re probably not wrong as far as perceptions go, but I wish people wouldn’t leap to conclusions about ‘call offs grouped with weekends’, at least when it comes to mental health issues. Everyone’s familiar with the ‘ugh, Monday’ feeling, but when I have been depressed and anxious and hated my job, I would already start feeling nauseous and panicked on Sunday at the thought of having to go back the next day. Then you can’t go to sleep because you’re lying awake counting down the hours until you have to be at work, and Monday morning dawns with the week ahead feeling like a yawning abyss stretching into infinity and it’s just too hard to get out of bed and face it.

      Reply
      1. Mookie

        Right, also, it’s just statistically more likely to injure yourself, be exposed to viruses, or somehow wind up indisposed on a Monday if you work full-time and have weekends off. More opportunities outside of work to live your life means more opportunities for completely valid reasons for leave.

        Reply
        1. xyz

          Agreed. I was speaking from personal experience, but I’m sure there are also plenty of chronic illnesses where your body has just had enough by the time Friday rolls around, etc. etc.

          Reply
      2. Liane

        re: “call offs grouped with weekends”
        Isn’t there an ancient Dilbert strip about Catbert &/or Pointy-Haired Boss making some annoying new rule because 40% of the Sick Days taken by the underlings are Mondays and Fridays?
        I hate it when bosses or coworkers assume that because you called in for any illness the day before or after a regular weekend must be “fake.”

        Reply
      3. Renna (OP #1)

        Omg you know me. I was up until 7 am one night with my gut twisting.

        (I slept for two and a half hours and then dragged myself to work, staying home and sleeping was just going to keep me awake the next night).

        Reply
    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Whoa, wait, no, that’s really not true, and the OP is already anxious enough as it is; we don’t need to give her further reasons to worry. It’s illegal to give her a bad reference or only confirm her employment (if they otherwise give references for other people) just because she used FMLA. Any kind of penalty for using FMLA is illegal.

      Reply
      1. Megan

        That does seem like one of those things that’s difficult to prove, though. If a manager gets a bug up their butt about FMLA use, it could unfairly color their perception of the employee, and it can be difficult to be self-aware enough to see that.

        Reply
    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Whoa, whoa, whoa. What the H?! No, any manager who isn’t a complete and utter glassbowl is not going to start feeling that FMLA is being abused if the employee who has properly requested it actually uses it.

      And can you provide some deets on ‘so much FMLA abuse now’? Use =/= abuse.

      Reply
    5. TL -

      I’ve never heard any of my employers complain about someone using FMLA and it doesn’t seem like the OP’s boss is unreasonable. That’s a wild conclusion to draw – would you punish one of your employees for using all of her FMLA after having a kid?
      This is the same thing.

      This is the

      Reply
    6. Jessie the First (or second)

      If an FMLA leave has been approved, it means there has been documented medical need for it, so I am not sure how you go from “you proved with medical documentation that you need this specific type of FMLA and we agreed you could use it” to “it’s abusive to use that FMLA we just specifically approved for you.”

      Reply
      1. Jessie the First (or second)

        I mean, there are bad bosses out there, sure. There are bosses who discriminate illegally when they shouldn’t, there are bosses who violate the ADA and the FMLA and a host of other employment laws. But an employee does not need to live life as if she works in an office of evil bees. Most offices are not like that and make an effort to comply with the law. FMLA is a standard thing and employers are, in general, willing and able to comply with it. It isn’t a job killer – unless, again, you work in an office of evil bees, and it does not sound as if the OP has such an office.

        Reply
      2. Retail HR Guy

        It’s because a lot of FMLA abuse is from people with actual chronic illnesses who get the medical documentation and then come and go at their leisure, attributing everything to the illness.

        One of the common trends is an employee who has significant attendance issues for a long length of time: can’t get a ride to work, babysitter bailed on them, sore throat, hungover, heavy traffic made me late, forget the schedule, etc. Then, they hit upon something that gets them FMLA coverage such as migraines, and a light bulb goes on over their head…

        Now, every single absence or tardy is because of a migraine. Running late? That was a migraine! Called out on Superbowl Sunday? Migraine! They went from having horrible attendance issues to having absolutely perfect attendance, except, of course, for migraines.

        One of their coworkers sees this behavior and then starts thinking, “You know… I do have that chronic back pain…maybe I can start doing the same thing? Why shouldn’t I be allowed to come and go whenever I want also? Time to make a doctor appointment!”

        The next thing you know you have one store wherein half the employees have some kind of intermittent leave set up. Scheduling becomes a nightmare, morale drops from the employees that have to cover all the time, etc. Yet all of it was perfectly documented by doctors.

        Reply
        1. Jessie the First (or second)

          Wow, this is just entirely speculation. Plus, you’ve combined in this speculation real extremes — terrible management (chronic attendance issues for a long time – yet still employed? Bad management) with fraud.

          Look, if you have bad experience with fraudulent employees, deal with that. But fraud is a whole other level of bad employee and it is SO not relevant to this letter. And FWIW, I’m a lawyer and I do compliance for companies and I do not see this level of fraud on a scale that could be described as widespread, not by a (very, very) long shot.

          Reply
          1. Retail HR Guy

            It doesn’t even rise to the level of speculation. It’s an entirely made up scenario. But it is meant to be illustrative of what actually can and sometimes does happen in the workplace.

            And, no, my point is not relevant to the letter. But it is relevant to your comment, which you’ll note it was in reply to. You seemed to be implying that medical documentation precludes FMLA abuse. That hasn’t been my experience, and I was illustrating why.

            And that’s great that you’re an attorney! Good on ya. But I’m not sure why that means your experience should negate mine. This is a discussion about the facts on the ground, not legal theory.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              But Retail HR Guy, you just said you’re talking about a purely fictitious scenario. Do you have experience with employees doing anything remotely similar to the made-up scenario you provided, and can you explain how frequent you thought it was?

              There’s a lot of misinformation regarding FMLA abuse, and in my experience, it discourages employees who can and should avail themselves of medical leave from taking that leave. So I think it’s reasonable for folks to push back and request real information instead of hypotheticals.

              Reply
              1. Retail HR Guy

                Yes. I have a lot of experience with employees doing things similar. That’s why I used it as an example of what can and does happen.

                And, sorry, but I am not about to post real information about my employees’ FMLA use online. You’ll have to settle for fictionalized examples.

                Reply
                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  I wasn’t asking you to post real information about your employees’ FMLA use. I was asking you to contextualize (1) if something like your fictionalized experience has happened to you, and (2) if, in your opinion, it was frequent.

            2. Jessie the First (or second)

              “It’s an entirely made up scenario”
              Right – so you are just making stuff up. That is speculation (about how or why abuse of FMLA happens, its frequency, etc).

              “You seemed to be implying that medical documentation precludes FMLA abuse”
              No, of course it does not *preclude* abuse – nothing in the world can preclude abuse of any law or system. But it makes it less likely – because it’s not random. There is medical documentation and justification for the leave. It’s not an employee waking up one day and deciding “hey! I’m not working 40 hours anymore, from this day on!”

              “But I’m not sure why that means your experience should negate mine. This is a discussion about the facts on the ground, not legal theory”
              It doesn’t negate your experience, and I never said it did – though you didn’t talk about your experience; as you said, you made things up. I said I’m a lawyer just to note the context of how I know about this issue. I’m responding to this issue based on my experience (not abstract legal theory – experience). If you have experience, share it. But I don’t think making things up is helpful.

              Reply
              1. Retail HR Guy

                You’re being purposefully obtuse. You know very well the point of using hypothetical example.

                I worked three years as a LOA & Disability Administrator and have supervised that same position for two more years. I have personally handled thousands of FMLA leaves, most of which were above board but many of which were not. Am I allowed to comment, now, in your opinion?

                Reply
    7. Claudia M.

      I have depression and severe anxiety resulting in panic attacks that may require hospital visits/medication.

      I’ve had managers question my FMLA eligibility (despite that I have the papers already completed and approved and on record) because it was for a mental condition and not a physical one. I’ve been told I’m “making it up.” I’ve been questioned, drilled, and interviewed both while calling in and after the fact.

      I wish management would understand that this is NOT OKAY.

      Having a manager accuse someone of faking FMLA or assume abuse is possibly the dumbest thing I can imagine. It is their time, and they were approved for FMLA by a doctor.

      Frustration at extra workload, or having to cover? That’s understandable. But typically, a good manager will know how to soften the hit. As an employee in a unit where three other people also have FMLA, I’ve had to pick up their work as much as they have picked up mine. Thankfully, my immediate boss is amazing and fantastic, and never does any of the questions I mentioned above. I would be gone already if not for her. And she makes amazing calls for balancing the work.

      Reply
      1. Halpful

        *jedi hugs*

        I agree completely. I am so, so glad my doctors don’t question my pain. (there have been… misunderstandings over the severity of it, but even the outright incompetent one didn’t accuse me of making anything up.) My boss paid for ~2 years of health insurance back when we had hope I’d get better. … I think I was going to say something else, but, it’s gone. I miss being able to think properly. :(

        Reply
    8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      If you have managers who do this to employees who take FMLA leave, then please push back, as it’s illegal. Not just a little illegal, not a difference of opinion—full-on, completely illegal, and likely to open an employer to legal liability.

      And please do not advise people not to take the leave for which they qualify. There is no such thing as “invalid” FMLA leave, and there’s no need for an employee who requires leave to take fewer than the max days. And if you’re an employer and harbor these prejudices against FMLA, then please consider getting additional training to understand that regardless whether you agree with it as a policy, it is patently illegal for you to penalize someone for using their leave.

      Reply
    9. Taylor Swift

      You’d make a good lawmaker. They like to make a lot of decisions based on patterns they choose to see and not actual facts.

      Reply
  15. Mookie

    I really hope you’ll tell her that you’re not going to discuss work with her anymore, and then decline to do so in the future. If she starts in, calmly say, “As I said, I’m not up for discussing this with you, so I’ll talk to you another time” and then hang up.

    We’ve got some abusers / emotional incest-ers in my extended family and circle of interrelated friends-through-partnerships. One of their gambits for evading catch-22 trick questions is: “I’m doing good at doing me / I’m very happy / I’m taking care of myself.” No specifics, because you’ll never be doing enough and even if you are, somebody’s grandson is bound to try to teach you a new egg-sucking method and if you refuse you’re Being Difficult.

    Hang in there, LW1. You know what you like and don’t like: hold onto those preferences and the things that ground you as an individual independent of your mother’s judgmental conception of you.

    Reply
  16. Jeanne

    I’m a little horrified at #3. I think you mean well but there are so many ways this can go wrong. Not everyone wants to discuss mental health issues (or physical health issues) at work. It feels very invasive and rude to say “I saw what meds you’re taking and I know why you’re acting like a putz.” And finally, you don’t really know if the meds are causing these issues or the illness or if this is just his baseline personality shining through. He’s an adult and will have to figure out his own job.

    Reply
    1. Koko

      Yeah, I felt this a little bit too. Especially when the issues seem to tardiness and irritability. This isn’t something uncommon like bouts of vertigo or sudden flushing where you could pretty reasonably attribute it to a prescription’s well-known side effects. There are plenty of medical and non-medical reasons for irritability and chronic tardiness. To jump straight to the medication as the culprit seems unwarranted and a little bit disconcerting. I’m sure OP didn’t mean it this way at all, because they sound like a nice person who is feeling for her coworker and genuinely wants to help, which is admirable and rare–but jumping right to mental illness as the explanation for bad behavior when it’s only one of many possible explanations contributes to the negative stigma around mental illness.

      Reply
      1. Newby

        I think that saying it is definitely a medical/medication issue is premature, but it can be important to let people know that if they are having medical problems there are resources available to help them. When I was a TA, I had a student who was suffering from some severe medical problems that I only found out about when I met with him to discuss his poor performance in class. He had not told any of his professors or seen student health services or tried to see if he qualified for accommodations from disability services. He didn’t even know that those resources were available to him. Instead, he was failing all of his classes. Sometimes people really don’t know they have options.

        Reply
  17. Mookie

    Not that it changes much after the fact, LW4, but how’d the interview fare otherwise? Was the discussion easy- and free-flowing, rather than rote and mechanical? How did the interviewers do their job?

    I ask because video-d segments of even highly interesting, otherwise engaging, intelligent, commanding, and charismatic people speaking on a subject they know and love can end up dull (I recall attending an on-campus outreach event while completing a technical course where an instructor made students, staff, and faculty sit through a video of an excruciating 90-minute Q&A with an industry professional, filmed in one, overexposed take, on a golf course, wind at their backs, using a faulty mic, with the interviewer off screen and un-micced*); but dull isn’t so bad in the scheme of things. Cameras add dull, rather than weight, I find. I think most people will be very understanding, particularly if this isn’t commonplace in your industry and none of the other applicants had to, out of necessity, participate.

    And Alison’s so very correct that the level of scrutiny you most fear is mostly improbable. Team members and management involved in the hiring process won’t have the time or inclination to dock you style points for anything other than the obvious (lying, displaying obvious ignorance, conducting yourself rudely). That you fear otherwise, though, is completely understandable. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt that you handled the situation well.

    *the man interviewed was a saint, and in person is an incredible speaker, but part of applying that skill successfully entails engaging an audience directly, reading and listening to cues in real-time, reading and responding to audience (dis)interest, et al

    Reply
  18. AdAgencyChick

    #5, try to think about it from the employer’s perspective. It’s going to take time to train you, and even once official training is done it’ll probably be a few months before you’re performing your job functions fully up to speed. Few bosses want to do that knowing that very soon after that, they’re going to lose the employee they’ve spent all that time training.

    So, not only is it legal, it makes perfect sense. As someone else noted above, retail and food service can be exceptions, since training periods are short and shorter stays are more common.

    Reply
    1. Lord of the Ringbinders

      And the job is to meet the employer’s business need to fill that job. That is the ultimate purpose – not to meet your need to get a job.

      It costs money to hire and train someone new. Why would they do that if you’ve openly said you are not sticking around?

      Reply
    2. Mookie

      Yep. Try to align your needs with that of an employer, LW. If you’re qualified for work outside of service, retail, or seasonal labor — and, perhaps, you’re looking for some entry-level experience related to your future major or degree — narrow your focus to short-term contracts or freelance gigs. If you’re a little less proficient or experienced in a technical skill you know you’ll need to fully master later on in your career, look for something where you suspect you’ll get some exposure or a touch of ad hoc training (or an opportunity to network, improve public speaking / interaction, etc).

      Reply
      1. Liane

        Check with temporary agencies, one that focuses on your field or general area (e.g., sciences) if possible. A good agency will look for assignments that fit your timeframe.

        Reply
  19. Zip Silver

    #5 – it might be best to not disclose that you’re planning on going away to school in the fall, especially if you’re looking for work outside of a high turnover place

    Reply
    1. Lord of the Ringbinders

      Might not go down well with potential future references when it comes out though. Why not join a temp agency?

      Reply
      1. Zip Silver

        I suppose it depends on what level of income OP is looking at making.

        Plus in 6 months, op can just say “I’ve decided to go back to school” and to the deed then.

        Reply
        1. SarahTheEntwife

          Most school applications processes take more than two months. That’s both unfair to the employer if you present yourself as a long-term hire and a particularly transparent lie.

          Reply
          1. Megan

            Depends on the school. My experience has been that you can walk into a community college and, if you’ve got the paperwork they need, be enrolled in an afternoon (I’ve moved around quite a lot so I’ve got a very piecemeal education).

            Reply
    2. KellyK

      It’s kind of a crappy thing to do to an employer, though. If it’s a choice between putting food on the table and not, then do what you’ve got to do, but if you can temp or get a job in retail or fast food that will hold you over until college, that’s what I’d recommend.

      Reply
    3. Jubilance

      Came in just to say this. It may not be “right” but I did it when I needed a job between undergrad and grad school – being unemployed wasn’t an option. I was also at retail jobs where the training was minimal and turnover is high.

      Reply
      1. Leatherwings

        I had to do this once too, and I still feel badly about it. But I had bills of my own to pay (had no parental support at the time) and literally couldn’t eat if I was unemployed.

        I think it’s really important to acknowledge that this isn’t a great thing to do and will definitely hurt any chance at a reference, but in certain circumstances sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

        Reply
    4. Not Karen

      I’m going to ask you the same question I asked my mother when she made the same suggestion – and what are you supposed to say when they ask you how long you plan on staying? Some of us are not capable of lying.

      Reply
      1. Tatertot

        Well, sometimes you just have to lie. Even in jobs with high turnover, everyone expects you to say that you will stay a couple of years (unless it’s a seasonal job, of course). I worked at a call centre in the five months before moving to another country, and even though they had insanely high turnover (most people were gone within the first two months), and they knew that for most people it was a stopgap kind of job, they always said they wouldn’t hire anyone who wouldn’t at least try to pretend they’d be there a while.

        But it all depends on the job – I only applied to the call centre because I knew of the high turnover and knew it wouldn’t actually be a real issue when I left. I would not have applied to career-track jobs for that short of a timeframe, unless it was a short term contract position.

        Reply
      2. fposte

        You asked somebody downthread to find a solution–I think the problem is that there isn’t one here. Sure, try fields with higher turnover, but if you don’t lie, you may not find a job. That doesn’t mean I’m recommending lying as a practice–I’m merely saying that this isn’t a situation where there’s an easy resolution.

        Reply
  20. Channel Z

    Hi #1, I sympathize with you about the overbearing mother. I have one too, and it has taken me 40 years to realize her negative view of the world is not reality, and how much her influence has factored into my own anxiety and depression. Having anxiety makes work and making big decisions very difficult. You have taken positive steps by getting help and getting time off, and your mother, by interfering with your time needed to rest, is blocking your ability to heal and ultimately improve work performance. I hope as you are feeling better, you are more able to make independent decisions about your work and personal life, decisions separate from the want of others.

    Reply
    1. saminrva

      #4 – I think I’d be most concerned with what they’re planning to do with the film and I hope they explained that to you proactively (“we’ll put this on our dept intranet and will only share it with the hiring committee and then will destroy it at the end of the process”). I’m probably overly paranoid about things like this, but I’d want to know that the company wasn’t going to be careless with my privacy. I could easily picture a scenario where someone thinks they’re being helpful and posts it more widely (then forgets to take it down).

      Reply
  21. Temperance

    LW1: your mother is the one with the problem, not you. I also have a bad mom, and my advice to you is to lie. You don’t owe her an explanation if you are late to work. She doesn’t get to insert herself into your professional life.

    My mom believes that working at home means no benefits, and that you lose your insurance if you work at home. No matter how many times we tell her otherwise, she gets bent out of shape if we mention WAH.

    Reply
    1. April

      Yes. My mom thinks WAH isn’t work. I work remotely about 20% of my time and my mom is convinced this is a ‘time-off’ perk that I receive and that these are days that I watch DVR and lay around.

      Reply
    2. Lora

      That’s how I deal with my mom. Either I make some vague comment about “work is OK, discombobulated the whatchamacallit today” or I just flat out lie. Mom worked in an EXTREMELY different industry than me, and her bosses valued face time more than productivity: to her, being a Good Employee is showing up at 8 am and leaving at 5:10pm because then you came early AND stayed late, and that’s how they know you are diligent and a hard worker. Your actual output has nothing to do with it. Nothing anyone says will convince her that I have to show up when I have an actually important meeting scheduled and will leave when my set of experiments is done even if that’s 10pm. She imagines that every time I tell her I am working late, it’s really a secret code for “I have a hot date”. I think she tells herself that because it makes her feel hopeful about grandkids…

      She didn’t believe I was a real honest-to-goodness scientist/engineer/professional nerd until she met some of my colleagues at a BBQ I was hosting; I had been working for 10 years in the field at that point. I was on LinkedIn, which she could see, including the reviews from colleagues. Don’t ask me what she thought I did all day, I have no idea.

      You have my sympathies, I know it’s very weird to people who have had good parents: anyone who can’t imagine their own mom being nasty to them and saying hurtful things, treasure your ignorance! It’s no fun being able to relate to this stuff.

      Reply
      1. Renna (OP #1)

        My mom is mostly good, honestly, not nearly that awful, but boy does she share a similar view of the workplace. Get there on the dot, or earlier, and stay late when you can (she was a teacher though, teachers HAVE to work overtime to get everything done). My dad isn’t much better with that, but he’s ex military. So I think I’m dealing with two parents who have very different experiences with work environments and also outdated information on what’s acceptable. I’ve been able to rely on them for pretty much everything else, so having this one major problem they don’t understand has been frustrating and, obviously, anxiety-inducing.

        Reply
  22. AnonforThis

    LW#3- Please please please do not butt into your coworker’s business and disclose his personal medical information to other people at work. As someone who had to be hospitalized due to a mental health episode that happened at work, it is so infantilizing and humiliating to be put in a position where people at work unilaterally decide to take responsibility for “helping” you manage your condition. In my case, it would have been kinder if they had just fired me; I wish they had.

    If your coworker wants that kind of relationship with his boss, please allow him the autonomy and dignity of making that choice himself.

    Reply
    1. Wheezy Weasel

      +1 on the ‘helping’ even when it’s not at work. My wife doesn’t understand why I don’t disclose my asthma when we visit people with pets…I can’t stand the 15 minutes of misguided but good-hearted speeches about how their pet really isn’t allergenic, or how often they vacuum and it shouldn’t be a problem, and having everyone gasp in concern each time I cough louder than normal.

      Reply
  23. Thefuture

    #2

    I sincerely hope you don’t make people call 24 hours in advance if they will be sick? People dont plan that…

    Paid time off / vacation notice I can understand. At my current role we need to give a month notice should we need 2 weeks plus off (we have unlimited policy). Other periods of time we are expected to give a week out of courtesy but it’s not strictly enforced.

    Reply
  24. Call Center Chick

    #1 As the others have pointed out, FMLA could never be held against you. That said, since I work in a VERY similar atmosphere as you (call center work with a nice company who treats us good – but its still its call center work), I have a few extra insights. In a call center, its a numbers game. So attendance, punctuality, quality, break time, etc – all of that really matters and they can easily track it. Those are all things that can play into your future promotions and recommendations for other jobs. I work with several people who have FMLA claims opened. I know for a fact that supervisors don’t mind if they actually use that time – BUT – supervisors still take notice if your other monthly numbers are not making the grade. More than once, I’ve had a friend think she was fired because of her FMLA use, but what she didn’t realize that her other numbers really truly were the cause. So do the best you can to follow the rules they give you (and yes – they’re a lot of rules!!) Try to stay optimistic, take care of yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask your team leader for help! And yeah – stop taking calls from your mother !

    Reply
  25. TheAnnoyedOne

    For number #5, this has happened to me. I went to college an hour away from my hometown. My last year of college I was planning to commute 2 days a week because I had managed to fit all my classes into those two days. My local grocery store was hiring new cashiers and they didn’t pay badly. The summer before my senior year I applied. I had a great interview with the manager who said she primarily needed weekend people, which fit my schedule perfectly. She said she would love to offer me the position but what about me leaving in a year? I was confused. I told her my plans for two years of grad school and living at home. She said she doubted I would be around long and she needed someone long term. Again, this was a weekend cashier position, a dollar above minimum wage. I had a friend who worked there who said training only took two weeks plus they had a high turnover rate. I really never understood.

    Reply
  26. DCGirl

    If #3 can see what prescriptions a person is submitting for reimbursement, it sounds like the company may be self-insured. If it is self-insured, it is covered by HIPAA, and divulging anything that she learns in her HR role is illegal.

    Reply
  27. Roscoe

    #2 This does seem a bit much to me, especially if its not impacting coverage. Do you have different buckets for time (personal, vacation, sick) or is it all PTO. If you have different bucket, I could understand having that policy for vacation time, but personal and sick time, the point is that if something comes up suddenly, you can take it. I think you are a bit too rigid.

    #3 I think you are being very considerate, but Alison is right, bringing up his prescription medications is overstepping. He may not be aware of how he is coming across due to these side affects, but bringing up a mental diagnosis he didn’t tell you about is just too far.

    #4 You are overthinking this. I highly doubt anyone is going to watch your interview over and over and pick it apart like game film. Its just to give people a chance to weigh in who couldn’t make it.

    Reply
    1. OP#2

      Roscoe – We have two buckets of leave: annual and sick. My issue isn’t about the things that come up suddenly. I approve those requests all the time without any concern. Life happens. My issue was that this was an appointment long planned that this person told me about at the last moment, something that she has done frequently. Lack of notice is contrary to our agency policy (not my personal policy) for requesting leave for preplanned appointments, but I think some of the commenters have good points I am pondering about whether or not I should make an issue of it.

      Reply
  28. AthenaC

    Hi, OP#1! I think you and I must be siblings. Let me guess – when you try to tell your mother “It doesn’t work that way,” she pulls the, “But I’ve lived longer than you and therefore I know everything and you know nothing” card. And then when you find current information (like from Alison and everyone here) that contradicts what your mother is saying, she plays the “Well, they don’t LOVE you so they aren’t thinking of your best interests” card. Am I right? Am I close?

    Unfortunately, you are in the position where you can’t ask your mom for career advice. It sucks, because part of how humanity is set up is for the younger generations to get advice and resources from the older generation. Sorry you’re going through this – we’re here for you to bounce ideas off of!

    Reply
  29. Ally

    LW3: Seriously no no no no no. No no no no no no no no no no no. Someone above mentioned HIPAA, and I’ll second that, not to mention general personal information privacy rules and regulations. Without knowing more information I can’t specifically state whether you’d be violating any laws or company policies, but there’s a darn good chance you would be. Just, no. Don’t do it. Even if it were totally legal and not a workplace policy violation (which, let me stress, there’s a very good chance it is), it’s just wrong.

    Reply
    1. Is It Performance Art

      I think you’re right that saying something is probably against company policy. Seeing something like this and saying nothing is part of being in HR, just like saying nothing when you’ve been handed a list of people to be laid off and told to start the process.
      As an aside, many psychiatric medications are used for other purposes. Antidepressants are used for pain, some doctors prescribe antipsychotics for sleep, and one of the older antipsychotics is used for migraines. You don’t want to make that mistake.

      Reply
    2. DCGirl

      I think people tend to think that HIPAA applies to more than it does. It generally only applies to employers if they are self-insured. The fact that she can see his prescription receipts leads me to believe this employer could be self-insured.

      Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      HIPAA likely doesn’t apply, but as a general practice, folks should not be divulging confidential medical information about their coworkers or employees.

      Reply
  30. Andrea

    OP #1, I have lived in both Utah and Hawaii. If at all possible, get thee back to Hawaii, stat! The air in Utah is pretty toxic, especially during inversions. Are you job searching in Hawaii? Can you move back by yourself? My company has positions open on Oahu right now. I’ve linked my email to my name, if you want to reach out.

    Reply
    1. Zombii

      Heads up: Trying to link your email in your name by way of the website field doesn’t work here. I’ve seen it multiple times now, and the website field cuts off the beginning of the addy so it just goes to Gmail(dot)com. :)

      Reply
    1. Channel Z

      My sons are collecting mine.
      I admit to pulling the In My Day, I walked/cycled a mile to school . UPhill both ways. In the snow.

      This is actually true, since the school was on the far side of a big hill. Recess was awesome cuz we could go sledding!

      Reply
    2. Emilia Bedelia

      Unrelated to job searching, but my mom suggested I ask my coworkers where they go to church (at a secular office where no one talks about religion) to get suggestions for churches to check out. So many levels of no!

      Reply
      1. KellyK

        Is your mom from the South? I know there are definitely places where, “So, what church do you go to?” is a standard question (which is “fun” if you don’t go, or aren’t Christian).

        Randomly, apropos of nothing, in a secular office, that just seems like an odd question to me. Definitely in the “Nope!” category. Plus, if you don’t talk about religion, and don’t know whether your coworkers’ religious beliefs are remotely compatible with your own, church recommendations from them aren’t going to be worth a whole lot.

        Reply
        1. Emilia Bedelia

          Nope! I’m in the wild and liberal Northeast, “What church do you go to?” is not a normal opener by any means. My mother works at a Christian school so I will allow her slack for not understanding normal corporate behavior, but still, terrible advice for getting to know my new coworkers.

          It is definitely an odd question. 1) “what religion are you?” is not a polite question to ask, in my opinion. 2) Why would I want to go to church with a coworker? 3) What if I did go to their church and didn’t like it? Explaining to a coworker why I don’t like their church seems like an awful conversation 4) I really don’t want the reputation of “new co-worker who is weirdly curious about people’s religions”. 5) Practically speaking, my coworkers are geographically spread out- chances are good that if they go to church, it’s far away.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Wow—asking about church is definitely not ok in the (liberal parts of the) northeast! Has she worked at a Christian school forever? This sounds like such wacky advice that I’m having a hard time reconciling it with your/her location.

            Reply
    3. (different) Rebecca

      Persistence! Call the office and ask to speak to the hiring manager! Show them you’re serious about the job! *sigh*

      Reply
    4. Temperance

      My FIL thinks the best way to get a job is to a.) show up in person or b.) walk up to men in suits on the street and give your resume.

      I bet you are not shocked to know that he has had no luck with either strategy.

      Reply
      1. ZNerd

        Wow. The assumption that every man in a suit has hiring authority (but no women, and no one more casually dressed) is ludicrous!

        Reply
  31. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    I think just because employers can’t use FMLa use against you to fire or demote you, doesn’t mean it’s not bad for your career in terms of promotions and how you get along with the people you work with.

    My wife used 2.5 months of a combination of FMLA and disability leave, and is still using intermittent FMLA. I know she can’t be fired, but I worry that it damaged relationships and kept her from moving up.

    I don’t have these benefits, either, nor any PTO, so it just sucked to see her sleeping in while taking time off for her mental health; while I was having panic attacks at work and having to work with a badly bone-bruised wrist (those feel like a fracture, but one can still use the hand, as I had to). But, I’m being petty. I’m so glad I get a day off tomorrow.

    Reply
    1. animaniactoo

      I’ve seen you talk about this some, and I get that you’re frustrated right now – but I think that you need to take a step back and find an al-anon meeting or something (I know you’re short on funds and seeing a therapist is probably out of the question at the moment) that will give you some relief and support about being the partner of someone who has a chronic kind of illness. Because your worries here are reasonable, but you’re slipping into a view that is going to damage *your* relationship with your wife. If she’s not putting in her end, that’s one thing – but sleeping in while actively pursuing therapy and having filed for FMLA and done everything she can to protect her/your livelihood while she manages something that has fallen out of her control? Is recovery for her. It may even be something that she didn’t even have much of a choice about at the time. Yeah, it triggered a bunch of bad stuff for you too – but a large chunk of that sounds like it was a lot more to do with your work setup which leaves you more scrunched than you necessarily should be. I’ve seen you come at it from that point of view as well, so I know it’s in there – and maybe what you wrote above here is more poor wording than an active POV, but I would really encourage you to try to find something that can get you emotional support when you need to be her backup and there’s no one left for you. I hope it all gets better for you soon.

      Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      overcaffeinatedandqueer, I had the same reaction as animaniactoo. I’m worried that because you’re in a really difficult place re: personal health and financial stability, your frustrations are beginning to color how you’re seeing situations… and it’s happening in ways that are really uncharacteristic of your usual empathy and warmth. I’m rooting for you and your wife, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you can both find the kind of social/emotional support you need right now.

      Reply
      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer

        Thanks, but I wouldn’t know where to start. Our families don’t accept or deal well with these kinds of problems, and my only local friend moved cross-country a while ago. We go to church, but only attend sporadically because it’s so hard to get up in the mornings. Plus, I’m embarrassed. If I didn’t have the incredible luck of two very discounted classes next week and next month, I wouldn’t even be able to afford to do CLEs and keep up the needed credits.

        I guess I just feel invisible. I don’t have any work friends and work is managed via email; so I’ve literally gone a week straight without talking to anyone but my wife, and I’m a pretty quiet person at home too. The word count of these posts is about as much as I end up saying per day.

        Not to mention we can’t afford a second opinion to look at my hand, which really should feel better by now. I have a condition linked to a higher risk of arthritis and I don’t want to get it after an injury.

        Reply
        1. animaniactoo

          Invisible is not good. I’d also like to apologize, because my comment came out somewhat blunter than I meant it to and less compassionate than I wanted it to.

          Al-anon was my first suggestion while I was reaching around for a free face-to-face support group, and I know it was a reach. But I know there are some support groups online for partners/caregivers, and I’d be willing to research those for you and post in the Saturday open thread if you’d like? I have therapist people I can tap for recommendations/advice for finding a group that may be on the better side. Not sure what NAMI has (nami.org), but it might be a good first step to start looking for you.

          Any shot you could work with a doctor who would agree to put you on a payment plan so that you could be seen now for your hand? University teaching clinic? I’m just spitballing here, and if you’d rather I don’t, please tell me “thanks, but no thanks”.

          Reply
        2. Halpful

          *jedi hugs*

          where to start? here’s some reading material:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compassion_fatigue
          as I told my husband recently, he deserves good mental health as much as I do! :)

          …I intended to find something on making friends too, but ended up on some post about ADHD tips. *facepalm* anyways, humans generally need social time – when I was working from home, I ended up bartending for a friend’s parties. These days I do nice quiet social things like board games, or of I’m not well enough, I end up here and on Captain Awkward and the reddits. (nice well-moderated supportive subreddits, though, no frontpage)

          As for the anxiety, I use a mix of CBT and mindfulness strategies… and I’m finding that my emotions really need more attention than I used to give them. Learning to acknowledge them and sit with them without feeding them… probably came from mindfulness and/or meditation skills? I wish I could remember, it’s been really important lately when me and my husband are both stressed out… oh, I still had this tab open at least: http://staymarriedblog.com/four-types-of-supportive-behavior/

          (as for the hand: ugh that sucks. :/ when I’ve hurt small bones like my pinkie where there’s nothing to be done, it’s taken about a year for them to stop hurting when squeezed. hopefully it’s just that kind of pain? and you’re wearing some kind of wrist brace?)

          Reply
  32. TotesMaGoats

    #1-Your mom is way off base on a lot of things. Alison is right. You need to do some short term boundary work with mom and then some long term planning to get you back to Hawaii. I the meantime, find some ways to enjoy Utah. I’m sure the culture change is a big one but from my friends who live(d) there most folks are really nice and there is lots of wilderness and outside things to do. I’m sure it’s a big jump from sun and sand to Utah but lots of people seem to love living there. Maybe find some ways to enjoy it until you can go back home.

    #2-So, I get why you want a heads up. If one of my employees had scheduled an appointment weeks or even months in advance and didn’t tell me until the day of, I’d be irritated. Why do that? Of course I’m going to approve a doctor’s appointment. We all know how hard those are to get. And annual leave kind of falls in the same boat, if you know you are planning a vacation in July, tell me now. However, you should take Alison’s advice and dial back the aggravation. If someone is abusing the system, talk with them or change the system but don’t let it get to you if it’s just a personal pet peeve.

    #5-I wouldn’t hire you knowing I’d only get 8 months. Certainly not for a FT job. Why would I do that? I need someone for the long haul. I’d get you trained and you’d leave and I’d be back to square one. You need to readjust you expectations and your plans.

    Reply
    1. Tuckerman

      #1 Utah makes me feel crazy (have family there) but Moab is rad, if you get a chance to go. Very different culture.

      Reply
    2. Jessesgirl72

      OP1 is referencing something that happens in SLC, specifically. In summer and winter, there is something that happens with the pressure systems and the mountains that surround SLC that holds the pollution down on the city. It gets really bad and sometimes there will be a week or more straight where they warn anyone with breathing or health problems to not leave their houses. So it isn’t that there aren’t outdoor things in Utah- there are tons- but the OP needs to get up the mountain, or to the other side of them, to be able to do outdoor activities, because it’s not safe to be outdoors in SLC itself.

      Reply
      1. TotesMaGoats

        I know next to nothing about SLC. And didn’t know about the valley smog issue. Obviously that going to limit things. But I’ve seen people move to a new a place and not give it a chance. And that really colored a lot of their life. Former church member was moved with her husband and kids from TX to MD. All she ever complained about was A)nothing to do B)the weather. Yes, our weather is…special. But there is tons to do here within a days drive. But she didn’t want to be happy here. I’m not saying that’s the OP’s situation but you can find ways to help yourself be happier in the short term which might make the job search and move planning process easier.

        Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        In a prior life I was a Clean Air advocate, and I just want to reaffirm what OP#1 and Jessesgirl72 and others have noted—air quality gets very bad in most cities in Utah, particularly in summer/winter. If you’re from the area, it’s harder to notice because you’ve grown up with it and probably have dealt with it just fine.

        But if you’re coming from Hawaii, which has some of the cleanest air in the country, the change can be much more intense than it is for someone moving from a city with a “usual” level of air pollution. I know it sounds strange, but the hard data backs it up, as does anecdotal experience. It’s possible that OP isn’t giving Utah a fair shake, but I think we should take her at her word and help her figure out ways to transition back to Hawaii, where she was happier and felt healthier.

        Reply
    3. Not Karen

      #5: Okay, so what plans do you suggest? Do you have temporary employment suggestions for the OP? Are you going to be helpful or just mean?

      Reply
      1. TotesMaGoats

        I didn’t feel that my response was mean at all. That’s the hiring manager perspective. Many other commenters have suggested temp agencies or retail/food service etc. Part of my response is resetting her expectations. Which was basically what Alison said as well. I think she should also consider whether a FT graduate program is the right track for her. Perhaps she should go ahead and move to the location where her school is, get a job there (probably part time). College towns are generally more welcoming of part time or seasonal employees anyway. By and large, most graduate students AREN’T doing the “traditional” graduate school format anyway because it’s not really conducive to paying bills and living.

        Reply
      2. BF50

        Advising someone to adjust their expectations is very good advice, even if it’s not what the poster or you would want the hear.

        If she does that, it might prevent her from wasting her time applying for jobs which she will not get.

        Reply
  33. Nan

    #2 – I think that’s reasonable. We require 48 hour notice for time off, unless, of course, you woke up sick or your kid woke up sick, or something unforeseen. I tend to be a little flexible. If someone wants Thursday off, I consider requesting it any time on Tuesday to be 48 hours notice. I know some of the other TL’s aren’t as accommodating. However, I feel that if you give a little, you get a lot back in return.

    If my teams knows they will need extended time off, a week, for example, I ask that they request it as soon as they know/have booked the vacation/scheduled the surgery/whatever. It makes planning to cover a long absence easier. And I try to do the same for my boss, and not pull time off out of my hat on short notice.

    Reply
  34. April

    OP 1: I feel you. I am 35, the director of my division at work, and my mother still makes attempts to actively parent me and we have serious issues about her boundary crossing when it comes to my work. At times I will call her on the way in and she we snootily ask why I am late for work. I had to have her pick me up from their airport once after a series of delayed flights and she spoke to me like a child in front of two of my staff members. It is very, very hard to create the boundaries. I am with Alison on one huge part of her answer – you may need FMLA for your well-being, but your main issue here is your parental boundaries, not your time off. I wish you the best and hope things ease up both personally and professionally.

    Reply
  35. Jessesgirl72

    OP1: If your job gives you access to counseling, can I suggest that you use some of it? What your mother is doing to you is not okay, and a good therapist (and if one doesn’t work, find another!) would help you get tools to deal with that. That, in turn, would likely help you be healthier and happier.

    And as I more practical thing, I have a friend in SLC with asthma and know all about the inversions that hold the pollution down over the area. If you have transportation, on the weekends, escape it by traveling up the mountain! If you can ski, there is a volunteer program in Park City where they team you up with a disabled “buddy” who you help up and down the slopes, that allows you free runs that day. They have activities in the summer too. If you at all can, don’t just sit in the smog in the Valley!

    Reply
    1. nonymous

      scrolled through the comments just to find this one. +++ on the counseling recommendation, even just a couple sessions.

      OP#1, if your insurance allows it, please do find time for a couple sessions of counseling. I personally found it enormously helpful to have a confidential ear that could “yes, normal”/”no, this is odd” with respect to my family experiences. In the first session she was already able to identify some of my behaviors that were unhelpful (and explain how this a routine outcome of my dysfunctional family worldview). I see it as a game of catch up to learn the healthy patterns that some people are lucky enough to experiences as routine. If you enjoy religion, perhaps it’s time to find a different church? It’s okay to look around for one that is a good fit, and in this particular case I recommend against going to the same one as your parents.

      Reply
    2. BF50

      agreed.

      OP – quite frankly you mom sounds down right abusive. Maybe she’s not, but she’s definitely out of line. No one deserves to be yelled at (even if she were, right, which she isn’t). She’s setting you back on recovering from your depression. The counseling can help you establish boundaries, as well as help your depression, and ideally help you work towards a plan where you can get out of Utah.

      Reply
  36. KellyK

    OP #1
    Your mom is being ridiculous and way out of line. Can you mute or turn off your phone when you’re not up for talking to her? I think that would be a real stress-reliever. I also wouldn’t get into arguing with her about whether using FMLA is going to screw you over in terms of a reference, or how much time is reasonable to take off. By calling and yelling at you, she’s shown she can’t be trusted with those details of your life.

    Could your company give you a bad reference or otherwise make things difficult because they don’t like how you used FMLA? Sure. They probably *won’t* both because it’s illegal and because it’s petty and vindictive. And despite what you read here (which focuses on the horror stories), most people aren’t that cruel and don’t have that much emotionally invested in wanting to ruin an ex-employee’s life.

    Also, if you got approved for FMLA without asking, that points to a company that wants its employees to take care of themselves mentally and physically. If your boss were a vindictive jerk, that would probably already be apparent to you. So, the odds that they would turn around and use that against you seem very slim to me.

    The best way for you to get a good reference when you’re ready to move on is to do a good job. Be helpful, be friendly, and work hard. And, because you have medical stuff that makes that more difficult, take full advantage of FMLA time to rest and recover and allow yourself to do that.

    OP #3
    Add me to the number of people saying that sharing medical information from an HR context with someone who doesn’t need it in that context is a really bad idea, a huge violation of privacy, and possibly illegal.

    *If* your coworker had talked to you about the meds they’re taking, even generally, and the problems they’re having at work, it would be reasonable to say, “Hey, you’ve probably considered this already, but it might not be a bad idea to check with your doctor or pharmacist about med side effects,” or, “If you’ve got medical stuff going on that’s affecting work, you may want to mention it to your boss. Fergus would probably cut you some slack, and there might be legally required accommodations that would help.”

    But it doesn’t sound like you have that kind of relationship with them. If the only reason you know they’re on psych meds is the receipts, you’re not in a position to say anything to them about it.

    Reply
  37. Allison

    #2 – it’s not unreasonable to want advance notice when people plan to take time off, even when coverage is an issue. To me that’s a respect thing; it’s rude to wait until the morning of your doctors appointment to tell your boss you’ll be out that afternoon. I can see being annoyed that people are constantly telling you, at the last minute, they need a day or part of the day off for stuff they’d known about for weeks, but there’s a difference between asking for and actually requiring 24 hour notice. The latter is unnecessarily restrictive, especially if coverage isn’t an issue. Requiring implies that any request for non-emergency time off will be denied. Asking for advance notice means you can say “all right, but next time, please don’t wait until the last minute to request this” or “Jane, I’m happy to allow that, but please give me more advance notice next time.”

    #8 – even though it’s not uncommon for a (full time, office based) job to last less than a year, no one likes an employee with an expiration date unless it’s for a temporary role or short-term contract. It may not be fair that they can make the role temporary and you can’t, but the hiring process, onboarding process, and training does take time, and those processes generally aren’t worth it for someone who doesn’t even plan on staying a full year. Employers want people who are in it for the long haul, even if there’s a chance it doesn’t work out.

    Something service related like food service or retail might be a different story. There’s usually so much turnover that 8 months might not be an issue. You also wouldn’t necessarily need to mention going back to school until you get to those last couple of months.

    Reply
    1. Allypopx

      I think this is a really good way to handle #2. I completely think OP is in the right to ask for more notice, it’s only the “next time I might deny it” part that comes off overly restrictive to me.

      It’s not what OP is writing in about, but I also think it’s problematic if the OP has asked for something that people are regularly not following through on. Perhaps the impulse to be rigid comes from frustration with that? If so, that’s the thing to focus on, not stricter policies.

      Reply
  38. yo yo yo

    #3 – I have to disagree with everyone. I once was on medications that had nothing to do with mental health issues, but they messed with my head. They weren’t a recognized side effect of the drug, but I have since found another person who had similar reactions from the same drug. I knew something was wrong with me, and I thought I was going crazy. *After just 3 weeks on the drug, I almost tried to kill myself. The one thought that saved me was “what if I survive?* It never occurred to me that it was the medications until 3 weeks of pure mental health hell and a series of lucky events that led me to draw the right conclusion. If someone had said to me, “hey, you have been acting different lately, is everything okay? Blah blah… Are you taking any new medications?” It would have saved me so much anguish. It has been almost 8 years since that incident and I am crying just typing this.

    OP – Please say something. You don’t have to say it as an HR person. You can just say it as a concerned coworker. You may be saving a life.

    Reply
    1. Grits McGee

      I think it wouldn’t be out of line as a coworker (and, if OP#3 is close to this person, as a friend), to say something directly to the coworker. What gets my (and probably everyone else’s) hackles up is the idea of OP#3, in her capacity as HR and with her access to private medical information, sidestepping coworker to talk to the boss.

      Reply
      1. yo yo yo

        Yes, I mean to the coworker, not the boss. But Alison’s advice suggested doing neither, which I am strongly disagreeing with. Again, it doesn’t have to come from an HR standpoint or knowledge of his medications. If she has noticed the coworker acting off of his game, that is enough to say “Hey, you are acting different. What have you been doing differently that may be causing this?”

        Reply
      2. Bend & Snap

        I would be livid if someone in HR approached me because they had access to my private medical info in the course of their job. And I would escalate that all the way up the ladder.

        This is just a huge no. Noooooooo.

        If anything, HR can start communicating better internally with the employees as a group about their benefits, including things like EAP and medical accommodations.

        Reply
    2. Temperance

      I’m very sorry that you went through this. That being said, this could get LW in hot water. I do not advise that she should take your course of action, because it could have consequences for her. Her colleague needs to ask for accommodations.

      Reply
      1. yo yo yo

        How is the OP going to the coworker and saying “Hey, you seem to be acting different. Is everything okay?” And leading her to ask the OP if they have any changes to their medications going to get the OP in hot water? Any time someone acts differently, I always ask that. Not because I know, but because I have been there and it is something for them to think about. It’s a generalized statement; not an accusation and not because I know for certain. What policy of being concerned is she violating? She isn’t necessarily asking because she thinks she knows. She could be asking because she knows that it is a possibility, which it always is.

        Personally, if I had the chance to help a coworker, I would prioritize it over my job. Because I would rather lose my job than live with the guilt knowing that I could have said something when someone could lose their life.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Asking me if I’m okay and reminding me of resources is fine, but if you asked me if I had any changes to my medications I’d complain to your superiors; that gets into risky ADA territory as well as being obnoxious.

          Reply
          1. yo yo yo

            I am not telling the OP to get into detail about the coworker’s health. It is something for her to ask to get the coworker to think of the possibility. It can be a fully rhetorical question.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Not with that level of detail and the OP’s exposure to PHI, it can’t. Nobody will be fooled by the “I just happened to want to ask this question, nothing to do with the pharmacy receipt I saw.”

              Reply
    3. NoMoreMrFixit

      Having mental health issues for a large part of my life I appreciate it when I’m told by folks who know me that I’m acting out of sorts. Sometimes it’s the only way I have to know I’m not doing well. I’m pretty open about having the health issues I am cursed with so it’s no secret to those who know me. Somebody from HR approaching me about unusual or inappropriate behaviour would be welcomed. As long as it’s because somebody is basing it on observations. Telling me to go see a doctor solely because you are aware I take antidepressants would result in that person being told bluntly to mind their own business.

      Try to frame it as showing concern for them. A relative of mine had problems with a past job when the HR rep told the boss they were on major league painkillers. Caused all sorts of problems as boss assumed the worst. Relative ended up retiring due to medical issues.

      Reply
      1. yo yo yo

        Thank you for sharing this perspective. People don’t realize how difficult it is to see your own changes in your behaviors. It is so much easier from the outside looking in. I cannot believe the lack of sympathy people are having for the coworker to protect the OP, not realizing that her inaction could have devastating consequences.

        Reply
      2. Bend & Snap

        I was diagnosed with a couple of different mental illnesses about 18 months ago, but think I’ve had them most of my life.

        I do appreciate when people close to me bring this up. This includes my boss because it’s a “hey are you ok?” plus gentle performance feedback.

        But if someone who wasn’t close to me and/or didn’t worth directly with me tried to start up that conversation, I would not be open to it. At all. Feels like prying.

        Reply
      3. TL -

        Yeah, I think the fact that she’s in HR and is (maybe) hearing about the issues secondhand is a huge barrier here. If the manager wants to talk about it – and it sounds like they are maybe talking about it? – that’s different.

        If a close coworker wants to ask, or if your friends/family mention something, that’s all really different than an HR person pulling you in and saying, “Hey, so I heard through the grapevine that you’re being a jerk. What’s up with that?”

        Reply
    4. Kate

      Agreed! Mental issues, medication side effects, etc are so insidious. Even if you know about them, you can be surprised. It isn’t like having a broken arm or a cut, when you can see that something is wrong. OP needs to speak to the coworker. Even if they aren’t suicidal, she might be saving them from a lifetime of misery and confusion, especially if these are the rarer side effects of that medication.

      Reply
  39. Jubilance

    #2 – do you just want to be informed or do you want to approve the requests? I think being informed 24hrs in advance is fair, provided the person knew they needed to take leave 24hrs in advance. Of course there are those times where you don’t – emergency at the house, you’re able to get a last min appt with your doctor, etc. Do you make it easy to inform you and the team? The convention in my office is to send an Outlook appt to the team saying “Susie out of office” for the time that I’ll be out. It’s easy and everyone can refer to their calendars to know who’s in the office. Maybe an easier system will help?

    Reply
    1. OP#2

      Jubilance, I both would like to be informed and I need to approve the leave in our leave administration system. It’s pretty easy for my team to find me. My door is open 99% of the time and they can call, email, or instance message me as well. We also have a shared office wide calendar so at a glance we can see who is in, who is teleworking, who is at training, or who is off.

      Reply
  40. Bend & Snap

    #3 please forget you know this information. I doubt anyone would like to know that someone at work not only sees everything they do and take for medical reasons, but is actually thinking about it.

    Do whatever you have to do for the health plan (has there ever been a better case for insurance not tied to employment?) but really, if you’re paying attention to who’s doing what to the degree that you’re playing connect the dots between meds and performance, it’s time to mentally take a step back.

    I’m completely horrified by this whole question. It sounds like it comes from a place of concern, but you’re presumably not a mental health expert, not this person’s manager and not empowered by your role to step in on these types of matters.

    Reply
  41. Sunshine on a cloudy day

    For #2 – I don’t think requiring 24 hours notice is completely out of line, but if there’s no actual business/coverage need for the notice then I would really urge her to be flexible on this. It really does sound like she might in BEC mode with this one particular employee.

    Another thought – in my role, I definitely need to alert folks if I will be away. It’s not a coverage issue – I can be manage my work as I see fit, but people that I support do need to know that I will be away if that it is to be the case. I always give 24 hrs (+) notice if I’m going to be out a full day (aside from emergencies/sickness), but when it comes to leaving early or stepping out for an appt, I NEVER say anything earlier than the morning of (unless its regarding coming in late). No one would remember that and I’d be in trouble for “not alerting” them.

    Sounds like LW2’s agency is a bit more rigid about leave (sounds like the lw actually needs to officially approve the leave), but its possible that this particular employee is coming from an environment similar to mine.

    Reply
    1. OP#2

      Sunshine – I love a good acronym. What does BEC mode mean? I do have to officially approve leave in our leave system. The employee has been here 30 years so she is familiar with the process, she just doesn’t always remember to request her leave when she makes appointments.

      Reply
      1. Anna Pigeon

        A…dog…eating crackers. It refers to being so fed up with someone that even their innocuous behavior irritates you.

        Reply
      2. ExceptionToTheRule

        B!tch Eating Crackers. Basically, when you’ve reached the point with someone that anything & everything they do pisses you off.

        Reply
      3. Elsajeni

        (If you’re wondering why the heck this phrase carries that meaning: it comes from an image meme with the text “Once you hate someone, everything they do is offensive. ‘Look at this bitch eating those crackers like she owns the place.’ “)

        Reply
  42. Arizona Ho!

    OP1, I’m assuming that you are LDS – I am too. I also can’t stand the culture in Utah (and Idaho, actually), and I have found that in the collective experiences of me and my family, living in those states is profoundly bad for your mental health. I don’t know what it is exactly – perhaps the cultural push to hide all your (perceived) failings (to be clear, a mental health issue such as depression is absolutely not a failing!), maybe the climate, maybe something else. It really sucks though.

    I strongly recommend leaving the state. Maybe head south to Arizona for now – it’s cheaper than Hawaii, and warmer and less polluted than Utah. There’s still a strong LDS presence, but the culture seems healthier. There’s jobs to be had, too. And, it would put some physical distance between you and your mother – who is not treating you appropriately.

    Reply
    1. MoinMoin

      Agreed on AZ, if nothing else there are plenty of call centers in Phoenix that would be easy to get into (or maybe transfer with your company?), and likely more opportunities for whatever your preferred industry is as well. The population size facilitates more culture so you might have more luck finding your niche, and San Diego and Rocky Point are both easy weekend trips when you need a beach fix. Whether you stay in UT or go to AZ (or elsewhere), I’d also recommend meetup.org. I’ve had a lot of luck finding good people, good conversation, and an easy way to start doing the things that I’ve always wanted to but hadn’t because I didn’t know anyone else interested/didn’t know where to start/etc.
      OP, I’d also say that I’m probably a few years ahead of you and if I were you, I’d try to go back to HI. You have friends there and support system coupled with already knowing the area can be a huge help making that kind of leap. If it’s at all conceivable for you -saving some money to make the move, staying with a friend for a bit, taking a whatever job just to establish yourself and going from there- I think it’s worth it to try. I feel like I wouldn’t have done this as a 20-something because I felt like I had to keep my call center job for my resume to help me get into a career, but the emotional toll of being miserable in the job and location held me back at least as much as the job helped. At best I was probably treading water. I think even if you took a “demotion” in career to get somewhere that helps your mental/emotional health, you’ll see more progress in the long run- it’s a lot easier to network, job search, volunteer, participate in industry events, continue education, etc, when you’re happy than when everyday feels soul-sucking. And if you still end up treading water, at least it’s warm water with the sun on you and a coconut drink in your hand.

      Reply
  43. always in email jail

    #2. I see what you’re saying, I really do, because I feel the same way. It’s a matter of simple courtesy- it takes just as long to let me know about your appointment the week before as it does the day of, so give me a heads up. However, I can’t justify putting that into policy. I realized when it was really annoying me, it was because it was part of a larger problem of an employee not taking work commitments seriously, calling in last minute when there were giant meetings, just plain failing to show up to meetings despite being in the office, etc. Once I realized it was bothering me because of a larger issue, I was able to address it directly with that employee and not impose something on the entire division.

    For the record, I too work in government and it is actually fairly standard in the work culture of the places I’ve worked to expect advanced notice of planned leave. So, in my experience, it is not out of the norm.

    Reply
  44. NW Mossy

    OP #4, you mentioned that one of your concerns about having your interview taped was the thought that “everyone will be able to pick this apart over and over again.” I don’t think you need to worry about that at all, because the interviewers themselves are on tape too! Many people really don’t like watching themselves on tape and won’t spend extra time scrutinizing your performance if it means that they have to relive that part where they stumbled over asking a question, hated their hair, thought the camera angle gave them a double chin, or spent 10 minutes talking with a big chunk of kale in their teeth.

    Reply
  45. Smiling

    #2. I don’t find this unreasonable at all, but also understand it’s often not enforceable. I’m often amazed how people often forget appointments until the morning of, or text at 7:30 (right before 8:00 start) to say they’re taking half a day off because the cable guy has to come over today.

    In our office culture, teamwork is a must. One person’s role is entirely dependent on another doing their job. In some cases there is no one else to do that job. Thus if someone takes off with little or no advanced warning, it becomes a real setback.

    Reply
  46. Miscellaneous

    #2
    You’ve said in a couple of your replies that there’s one employee in particular who forgets to tell work about long-standing appointments, and that they are forgetful of other things too, like meetings. So, is your issue really with everyone’s sick leave, or is it this one employee being forgetful as a general pattern of behaviour? Do you really need to talk to all your coworkers, or just this one person?

    If it’s mainly this one person, is it a personality mismatch (maybe you just need to let that go), or is it unprofessional enough to be a real problem at work? You said you’d tried talking to them about their forgetfulness before – did they improve afterwards, and did the improvements last? Do they maybe need to be moved onto a disciplinary process or a PIP?

    If it’s mainly this one person, and you’re not willing to go through a disciplinary process with them because they’re a good worker apart from this one area of annoyance, then I think you need to put this down to a personality/brain function/attitude mismatch and let it go.

    Reply
    1. OP#2

      Miscellaneous – It really is this one person. I don’t think it rises to the level of a PIP, although I do think it is unprofessional and a lack of common courtesy to her co-workers. Several people have suggested letting it go and I’m certainly considering that.

      Reply
      1. Dan

        You know what? I’m not quite so understanding… at least not when it comes to skipping meetings. I mean, WTF? These days, don’t all of us office folk have software that tracks our schedule for the day, and tells us when our meetings are? It’s not like we looked at the paper calendar and promptly forgot. Skipping meetings isn’t a “personality mismatch.”

        BTW, I’d consider some step in the disciplinary process — you don’t want this person’s very real behavior to go unaddressed, and put you in the position you are in now (trying to use a different policy to “get” a person because you can’t/didn’t/won’t “get” them on what’s actually bugging you.)

        Instead of letting it go, I’d have gravitate toward some sort of documentable step in the disciplinary process — paper trail my friend, paper trail. You want one.

        Reply
      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        You really, really need to drop the thing about it being discourteous. Either it causes work impact or it does not. If it does, you have reason for the policy and can enforce it. If it doesn’t, you have no reason for the policy and need to drop it. Keep the focus on work impact, if any.

        Reply
      3. Just Me and My $0.02

        It doesn’t need to be part of a PIP to give feedback. If you wait until it reaches that stage, they haven’t had a chance to change their behavior.

        Reply
        1. OP#2

          Just me and My $0.02 – I complete agree with you. As manager I think I have a responsibility to provide feedback, both positive and negative, as things happen. I had a manager years ago wait months to tell me some negative feedback that someone else had shared with her about me. The managers feedback was vague and when I asked for more information so I could understand and address the problem, she had nothing. My co-workers had similar experiences with her. She didn’t make any effort to understand our work and wouldn’t manage the staff. She lasted less than two years and is no longer in management.

          Reply
  47. cataloger

    OP #1: As many have said, your mom is being unreasonable here. I work with someone whose mother warns them that they’ll be fired if they use any of their vacation or sick time. Also not true!

    Reply
  48. Dot Warner

    OP1, if you can’t get back to Hawaii, consider the Pacific Northwest. It gets cold here but it’s not nearly as bad as Utah, the air quality is much better, the culture is pretty laid back, there’s lots of great outdoorsy stuff to do, and the cost of living is less than Hawaii’s. I know quite a few Hawaii natives who love it here – maybe you will too!

    Reply
    1. Manders

      Another person who moved to the PNW here! Living in a city does get expensive, but you’re right that the air quality is good and there are lots of outdoorsy activities available year-round. Plus, there are tons of meetup groups for just about any hobby, so don’t worry too much about the Seattle/Portland freeze.

      And it sounds like it might be a good thing to put some physical distance between yourself and your mom, even if going back to Hawaii isn’t an option right now. There’s no shame in having a relationship with your parents that doesn’t involve telling them everything or seeing them every week.

      Reply
    2. periwinkle

      Quite a few of my coworkers at SeriouslyHugeCompany near Seattle are LDS and there seems to be an extensive & well-established community in the area. There are also a surprisingly number of Hawaiian restaurants if you need regular access to Kalua pork with a big scoop of macaroni salad.

      Reply
    3. Candi

      From a financial standpoint, WA has a law that state minimum wage has to be a percentage above federal minimum wage. Which affects other hourly wages. (And servers have to be paid full min., none of this crap + tip garbage.)

      You can also work in Seattle and bus in from the outlying cities or even surrounding counties, reducing cost of living expenses. (Parking in Seattle is expensive and limited.) Sound Transit runs express buses for that purpose, and employers often buy the passes for their employees.

      The winter rains might be a turnoff, though. :)

      Reply
  49. Cleopatra Jones

    #1,
    Tell your mother what my adult daughter told me, when I was a little too inquisitive about her job. She said, ‘Mom, I got this. Trust that you raised me to be a responsible and professional adult.’ And it was all delivered with a smile.

    I was taken aback at first. Then, it hit me that she had been raised to be responsible and professional adult so I needed to take a step back. Now, I tell myself that even if she makes a mistake, it’s her mistake to make and learn from. :-)

    Reply
    1. Renna (OP #1)

      :) That’s a great answer. This one issue aside, she actually did raise me to be responsible and professional, which is why I’ve done well at most of the jobs I’ve had (I sucked at early-morning food service work and cleaning dorms, but honestly, who cares). Might have to use this one.

      Reply
  50. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    #1 – If someone is being a jerk to you (and holy hell is your mother being a jerk!!) you are under no obligation to continue making nice with them. If your mother can’t be kind and civil with you, then she doesn’t deserve for you to be an audience to her gluteal haberdashery.

    Take the time you need. There are people chiming in upthread about how taking FMLA can be worrisome, but look at it this way — getting FMLA and using it looks a lot better than coming in to work and half-assing your way through the day because you’re feeling too crap to function. Take the time you need, and then come in refreshed and ready to kick butt!

    #3 – It’s your coworker’s decision whether he wants to loop in management about the issue or whether it is even really related to his medication. You can certainly suggest to his manager that they start the ‘is there a reason for this behavior?’ conversation, but absolutely no more than that — I would not even hint that you have a reason to think there’s an issue, but rather frame it as a general “cover all possibilities” strategy. Medication and medical issues are deeply, deeply personal!

    Reply
  51. yarnowl

    Fellow Utahn here, and I totally sympathize with OP#1! The pollution and weather here get to so many people, especially in some parts of the state. I grew up in an area that was recently found to have some of the worst air quality in the nation, and when I moved further north to a much smaller city, a bunch of allergies and breathing problems I had went away!

    I hope things work out for you and that you can figure something out with your mom.

    Reply
  52. Almost Pregnant

    OP#5 – Hey “The Real Ali G”, isn’t this the same argument for not hiring pregnant women? They’re going to leave (temporarily or permanently) once their due date approaches, so why would we hire them?

    Reply
    1. fposte

      A couple of key differences: one, it’s illegal to use pregnancy as a reason not to hire; two, the majority of women do return to their jobs, so it’s very different than the certainty that they won’t.

      Reply
  53. Observer

    #5, you really need to reset your expectations. For one thing, you seem to be jumping to “No fair” very, very quickly. As for “is that legal”, you really, really need to step away from that. Yes, there are illegal things employers do, and in those cases it’s often reasonable to take legal action. But, “I don’t like it” or “No faaair!” is not close to “not legal” and you need to get used to that. You also need be less adversarial in your approach to employment.

    Reply
  54. Just Me and My $0.02

    For #3, aside from the fact that you need to follow HIPAA regarding his medical care, it sounds like no one is giving this guy the feedback that he needs to change his behavior. Jumping on through to “He’s eventually getting let go” as a foregone conclusion is a pretty big jump if he hasn’t heard how big of a deal this is from his management.

    Reply
  55. strawberries and raspberries

    OP #1, not that this in any way excuses her overbearing and boundary-crossing behavior, but what’s your mother’s experience of the move been? It sounds like she’s hella projecting a lot of her own stuff onto you. Even though you’re not doing well right now, I think it says a lot about you that you were able to find employment in a new state in a relatively short space of time, keep it for a year and a half, and build enough rapport with your manager that you could advocate for yourself to have your FMLA. From what you’ve described, she’s not doing anything except browbeating you, and if it’s because she herself is feeling disconnected or isolated or anxious, that’s entirely on her to manage.

    I’m not saying this to get you to feel sorry for her, of course- but it could be helpful to remember so you don’t have to internalize the crap she’s saying.

    Reply
    1. Manders

      That’s a good point. And it might actually make the eventual “Mom, I’m moving away from here” conversation less uncomfortable than OP may be imagining right now.

      Reply
  56. Not Karen

    #5: Hi friend, I understand your frustration because while you are going to college later, you need a source of income in the meantime. Sounds like you may be applying to career-track positions that expect long-term commitment. See if there are any internships, temporary positions, or seasonal work in your area. If needed try retail and food service that may be more understanding to short-term stays. Alternatively, perhaps consider delaying college for a year (schools usually let you delay your admission for a year for free) – that way you can tell interviewers you plan to go back to school “sometime in the future” and not be lying. Thirdly, just throwing this out there, would it be possible (and worth it) for you to move to your college location now and get a job there? Maybe at the school? That way you can work full time for now and go part-time come fall, which places can be amenable to.

    Good luck.

    Reply
  57. Brogrammer

    I’m a little baffled by the pushback to LW#2. I think it’s pretty clear from her letter that she doesn’t have issues with emergencies and requiring 24 hours of notice is only for things that the employees have scheduled in advance. And she also gave an example of it negatively impacting the business when she was on vacation, because the manager on duty needed the employee for something, but the employee wasn’t there.

    It does seem like a relatively minor issue and “let it go” is legitimate advice, but I don’t think LW#2’s policy of requiring 24 hours notice for non-emergency leave is unreasonable at all.

    Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Really? I don’t see that here at all. I’m pointing out to the OP that she needs to figure out if there’s a work impact, and if there isn’t one, she shouldn’t have a rule for rules’ sake.

        Reply
        1. Brogrammer

          No grievance with you, Alison! I was mostly surprised at how many comments (only a handful, but still) assumed OP#2 expected notice for emergencies even though her letter clearly states that’s not the case. It does sound like the work impact is limited to “someone in the office will be temporarily inconvenienced if they happen to need this employee on the day she leaves early” which is not a huge deal.

          Reply
        2. OP#2

          Alison, you have a good point about rules for rules sake. On the other hand I work for the government and we have tons of HR rules, many of which may not work well in specific offices but cover a large number of people. For instance, the rule about advance notice for leave covers all 35,000 people at my agency. But as a manager I can certainly take your advice to consider work impact when deciding how that rule plays out for my staff.

          Reply
    1. HRish Dude

      Although it just occurred to me if they’re just starting college #5 is potentially a high school student with no knowledge of how employment laws work.

      Reply
  58. DC

    #3, Make sure before you do or say anything, you check on the HIPPA laws that impact you revealing private medical information that you have access too. Not saying you shouldn’t do anything, but just makes sure that you say what you’re allowed to, and not anything that can get you in trouble as well.

    I’m not an expert in them, so if someone else, please offer #3 more advice than I can.

    Reply
  59. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    #1 – your Mom may not be all wrong about this. It depends on the attitude of your employer toward “family leave”.

    Yes, they cannot instigate retaliatory action against you for taking family leave, and yes, protections are in place, you are entitled to it, let’s spread the rose petals, etc.

    WHAT REALLY HAPPENS IN MANY CASES – IF YOU DO NOT HAVE UNION PROTECTION, ETC.

    You put in for family leave. Let’s say three weeks.
    You go out for the three weeks. “I wish you luck, hope everything works out.”
    You come back.
    You’re at your desk working , catching up.
    Once you’re caught up, you get a tap on the shoulder.

    “Due to economicconditionsneedtoeconomizeandstreamlineinternationalizationandglobalizationohrealrealbadthedirectorssay…. blah blah blah”

    Pink slip time. Seen it happen too often. The best way to gauge your safety factor on FMLA – what has happened to others in your firm who have taken it? Be careful.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Seriously, that’s incredibly unhelpful to the OP who’s already struggling with anxiety over this.

      Most employers do not get rid of people for using three weeks of FMLA. They just don’t.

      Reply
      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        Many don’t. Some DO. Which is why I concluded with “what has happened to others in your firm who have taken it? Be careful.”

        And I discern FMLA from sick time / short- or long-term disability.

        I disagree – it’s not “unhelpful” – just , advice to be aware of what CAN happen. I have several friends in management who had employees who went down the FMLA path – to take care of Mom and Dad, etc.

        JUST BE CAREFUL. That’s what I am pointing out….

        Reply
      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        And FMLA for maternity / paternity is totally different than what it sometimes is used for….

        Reply
    2. Kyrielle

      Too risky for most employers.

      And at the opposite end, you have one like where I used to work. I’m in Oregon – OFLA gives additional protections beyond FMLA, even, including for maternity leave. Our headquarters were in California – no stranger to employee-favorable rules, but OFLA wasn’t their usual headache.

      Nonetheless, while I had to make sure they were *aware* of its provisions with both my pregnancies, never did they hint at doing anything but honoring them. My youngest was several years old when I left – because I’d resigned after accepting another job.

      In spite of the fact that I conceivably could have ended up with 24-36 weeks of protected leave (didn’t, but could have), and *had* to take all 12 to invoke the extra 12 after (and thus took my full maternity leave because hey, I’d be a double fool not to).

      Some companies may be really awful about it. Some companies are really awful about lots of things. Most companies are going to be middle-of-the-road; happy or not, they will abide by the terms. And some (rare) places will be genuinely great and give more than is needed. Never worked at one of those but I have known a couple people who have.

      I don’t think OP needs to worry about it. I do think OP should be aware, if it happens, that FMLA retaliation isn’t legal, which at least means they have a chance at getting something out of the mess in the unlikely event that it does go bad. But I wouldn’t expect to need to invoke that; most companies have a sense of self-preservation, legal and reputational.

      Reply
  60. Gadfly

    #1, as a UT native, I am so sorry. For those who don’t know, this is inversion season, where Salt Lake usually has the worst air in the country for a few months (and tries to argue air quality should be averaged and they shouldn’t get in trouble for seasonal bad air…) I can’t imagine leaving anywhere even halfway decent and moving to UT (at least the Salt Lake valley) this time of year.

    Reply
  61. Professional Merchandiser

    I think it’s funny that this OP wants advance notice of appointments because my company will not allow us to “schedule sick days ahead of time.” This was not a problem until I got a new boss. My last one would just remind me that it has to be for illness (me or family) or doctor’s appointment. If you assured him of that and that your work would be completed (or appropriate coverage arranged) no problem. My new boss says no more than 24 hours ahead. I asked her what about if you’re having surgery (and won’t be able to request each day you’re out) I didn’t get a good answer. I feel like a jerk waiting until 24 hours ahead to request a sick day for a dentist’s appointment that I have known about for six months, but if that’s what they want. Conversely, if you wake up sick as a dog and need a day off, guess what? The system will not allow you to request a day on the actual day off. So unless you know before midnight that you can’t go in, you have to call the boss directly. For those of you going “Huh?” I do merchandising work, I am not in an office where me being out a day impacts anyone else. But I still wish I could schedule some things ahead.

    Reply
  62. Cassie

    #2 – I see no problem with asking staff to request time off 24 hours in advance, especially if the policy is made clear to the staff at the beginning and leave isn’t unreasonably denied, and there’s an understanding that special circumstances do arise and last-minute urgent/emergency requests are granted. All those conditions appear to fit the LW’s practice.

    I don’t see it as micromanaging or treating the staff like children. The policies are clearly stated – I know what is expected of me. Is the 24 hour notice necessary? Maybe not, but it’s not my job to police what seems to be a fairly reasonable policy. According to our university’s policy manual, “Employees will coordinate their vacation leave in advance …” – it’s not specified what “in advance” means, though. For use of sick leave for appointments, it states “30 days advance notice or as soon as possible”. Do our employees put in for doctor’s appointments a month in advance? I highly doubt it!

    Reply
  63. Just wondering

    Op 2 – What if it is 18 hours? Is that okay? Or are you going to tell them they violated policy? Do you require your employees to explain the purpose of the PTO so you can decide if it is “good enough” before you approve it?

    Reply
    1. OP#2

      Just wondering – really notice the day before is what I was looking for and what is required by our HR leave policy. I wouldn’t quibble about 18 or 24 hours. Employees do not need to tell me why they are using leave. If they have earned it and have it available to use (meaning they haven’t already used it), it is theirs to use. I trust that they are adults who can manage their leave and use it as needed. Now we have separate buckets of sick and annual leave. Sick leave should be used for your medical care or the medical care of a family member (spouse, children, parents, siblings, in laws) per HR policy. Annual leave is for everything else and in the event you don’t have enough sick leave you can substitute annual leave for sick.

      Reply
      1. Halpful

        I’m not sure if this is a good idea or bad idea, but… if it turns out the notice is *not* required for work reasons, what if you rephrased it as something like “I’d appreciate advance notice whenever possible”? That communicates your preference without turning it into an arbitrary rule. Then when there isn’t advance notice, you do your best to assume it wasn’t possible (but you could still have a conversation about skills for managing constant forgetfulness)

        Reply

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