my boss snooped in my personal email account, my employee quit smoking and is being a pain, and more

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

1. My boss snooped in my personal email account

I recently got a text from the director of my department saying that I had left my personal Gmail open on my work computer and that there had been unkind things written about the assistant director, with whom I work most of the time. Needless to say, she was not impressed. However, I read back through my chats and couldn’t find anything like that, except for a mild expression of frustration at having been accidentally locked out by the assistant director a few days previously. I genuinely like the assistant director and have a great deal of respect for her, and I really wouldn’t talk shit about her. The director would have had to scroll through several days worth of chats to find this — i.e., she was definitely snooping.

I know that it’s perfectly legal for bosses to monitor their employees’ computer usage, but this feels really icky. Is there a good way to defuse this situation? Is there any way to say that I really don’t appreciate having my personal things gone through?

Actually, I wouldn’t be so sure that it was legal. It’s true that employers can monitor and view anything sent on their servers, but you’re talking about your manager looking through your Gmail account at everything that’s there — not just looking at data that’s gone out via the company’s server. That’s a murky legal area at best, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually illegal. (Hmmm, a quick search turns up cases with a variety of rulings, so there doesn’t appear to be a single answer here — although there are a bunch of rulings that if you left the email account logged in, you had no legal expectation of privacy. I don’t think the legal approach is your most effective approach here anyway, but I wanted to flag it.)

Legal issues aside, it’s a huge invasion of privacy and not one that’s justified by any work-related reasons. It was absolutely over the line and not okay for her to do. (And it’s especially weird that she owned up to it.)

But whether or not you should take that on depends heavily on what the director is like — how reasonable and how open to dissent she is — and what your relationship with her is like. But in most cases you could say this: “I genuinely like Jane and have a great deal of respect for her. I’ve been racking my brain to figure out what you might have been referring to, and all I can think of is that I was mildly frustrated last week when she accidentally locked me out. But I certainly wouldn’t trash-talk her or speak disrespectfully of her, since that doesn’t reflect my feelings.” And then you could say: “I don’t think my personal Gmail account is fair game for anyone here to go through, regardless of whether I leave it open on my computer. That seems like a real invasion of privacy to me. Is that something that the company will do as a matter of course?”

2. My employee quit smoking and is being a pain

I am the general manager for a retail location. I have an employee, “Joy,” who is a lifelong smoker. She’s been smoking for longer than I’ve been alive! Joy is a member of my leadership team, and has been a great asset for the three years I’ve worked with her. Recently, she decided to quit smoking. As far as I know, this is the first time she has attempted this since I have known her. I’m really proud of her, and she’s been doing an awesome job — she quit cold turkey over two weeks ago, and hasn’t had a single cigarette since.

However, while the first week was great, this week I have noticed a sharp dip in her performance/attitude. Joy admits that this is because she is severely craving a cigarette, which has always been her main form of stress relief. While I sympathize, and am still proud of her for taking this step towards bettering her health, I am getting frustrated at her performance. She actually called out sick today, and again, told me this was directly due to the fact that she is craving a cigarette so badly. The team has noticed her change in attitude, and are getting frustrated as well. How can I approach this as her manager, while still remaining supportive?

How cranky is she being? If she’s a little cranky, cut her some slack — everyone goes through things in their personal life that impacts their demeanor at work now and then. But if it’s extreme — if she’s being rude or hostile to people — then articulate that for her and tell her she needs to rein it in. (As in, “I know this is a tough period for you and I sympathize, but you’re starting to be openly rude to people here and I need you to stay civil.”)

Same thing with performance — if she’s slipping a bit but is still doing an overall okay job, cut her some slack since you know what’s causing it and you know this is short-term. But if it’s more serious, then you need to say something like, “I know this is a tough period for you, and I don’t expect you to be at 100% right now, but you’re making some pretty serious mistakes in your work. What can we do during this period to help keep your work quality where we need it?” (And since she’s normally a good employee, you should try to find ways to accommodate her for the next week or two, like moving deadlines around if you can or giving her projects that require less mental presence if that’s possible.)

And if she wants to use sick leave to help her get through what should be a relatively short-term withdrawal period (it’s supposed to last about two weeks, right?), let her do it. As long as it’s not impacting any crucial projects which she absolutely must be there for this week, that’s a pretty great use of sick leave and it means she’s keeping the withdrawal impact out of the office.

3. My boss wants me to drive him to the airport in my own car, without reimbursement

I’ve been on my job for about four months. My boss travels out of town infrequently (6-12 times per year) and opts to use the airport furthest away from his house (9 miles versus 30 miles). The issue is that he has worked out an agreement with two legacy managers to drive him to and from his trips at any time of the day or night, week day or weekend. The two managers don’t see any issue with this and recently inferred that I am expected to participate and if I cannot, I should assign the task to lower level member of the staff.

The boss and two managers have vehicles assigned to them full time and fuel, insurance, maintenance, and parking are provided by the company at no out-of-pocket cost to them, roughly a $4,000 annual savings. They claim that the company travel policy is too restrictive and anyone traveling to the airport would not be fully reimbursed for the expense. Although the same level, I am not assigned a vehicle. I drive to and from work in my personal vehicle at full cost to me. I have traveled for work in the past and have used public transportation.

I’m not sure how their travel costs are my issue or that of lower level staff members. Even if I were assigned a vehicle, I would take issue with this poor resource management and disregard for opportunity cost. If I say no, is that grounds for discipline? I reviewed our personnel rules, but cannot find any mention of abuse of power, but is it? How do I protect lower level staff?

In theory, they can make anything they want “grounds for discipline,” as long as it’s not specifically illegal (e.g., discrimination, retaliation, harassment, etc.). But whether they’re likely to treat this that way is much less likely.

Regardless, though, the first step before you even start worrying about that is to explain that you’re not able to do it. Say something like this: “I realize you both have company cars that makes this much easier for you to do, but my staff and I don’t. We’d have to use our personal cars and it sounds like we wouldn’t be able to get mileage reimbursed for these trips.” If you still get pushback, you can try this: “If the company will pay for the cost, I can do this some of the time — although not always on weekends or at night because of family commitments. But I can’t do it at personal expense. Given that, what makes sense here?”

Also — it sounds like it’s the two managers with the company cars who are pressuring you, but you don’t say that the boss himself has. He may not even realize that this is an issue, so if you get push-back from the other two, it’s worth talking directly to him, particularly if he has otherwise seemed reasonable to you.

4. My boss caught me off-guard with questions about an internal job I applied for

I work for a school district as a part-time substitute teacher and recently applied for a full-time secretary position with the same district. While at work, I was confronted by the principal about this and asked if this was true. I couldn’t lie to her, of course I need a full-time job to pay my bills. She asked me if my plans were to still become a teacher and I said yes (because ultimately that is the goal). She then went on to explain that I was a highly qualified candidate but that they are looking for someone who will work in this secretary position for longer than a year or two. I asked her if I could even expect a call back for a real interview and she shook her head no.

I’m wondering if it is even fair for employers to conduct a preemployment screen so spontaneously like this?

This wasn’t a formal screen. This was just a conversation with your boss about what your plans are, which is a normal thing for managers to do. I understand that you were caught off-guard, but from her perspective it’s pretty straightforward — they’re looking for someone who will stay in the secretary position long-term, she knows that you’re working to become a teacher, and so she wanted to check with you to make sure her understanding was still correct. It was, and so she explained to you that the secretary role isn’t the right fit since your goal would be to move out of faster than what they’re looking for. This isn’t really about what’s “fair” (although this doesn’t seem particularly unfair to me); it’s just them being practical about what they’re looking for.

5. What does this message from HR mean?

After two phone interviews (HR and hiring manager), I was invited for an in-person interview. It went well and we seemed to get along. After almost two weeks passed, I thought about reaching out but didn’t. However, the HR department reached out to me and said that I’m still being considered but they still have a few more interviews to go and will make a decision soon.

Usually, if I had reached out to them and they told me that, I’d think that they are talking with other candidates who match and they are not very much interested in me. However, since I did not reach out, and they mentioned to me that they are interested, should view this as a good sign? Or is that protocol for some companies? From my experience, unless a candidate reaches out for status, HR wouldn’t send them a message unless it’s a rejection email (and that’s only if they even decide to reach out).

Nah, I send messages like that all the time. If our hiring process is taking longer than I said it should, or just longer than feels optimal, I’ll often reach out to candidates who we’re still interested in to give t hem an update on what’s going on or at least what the updated timeline is. That company is being polite and considerate (and acting in their own interests as well, since they don’t want to lose good candidates).

Also, when you reach out on your own and get a message like that, you shouldn’t assume it’s a polite brush-off. You should take it at face value: They’re still in the midst of their process and don’t have anything to report yet. That’s it.

In general, try not to find signs in any of this stuff. Much of the time, the things that candidates try to mine for meaning don’t actually mean anything at all.

{ 314 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, if she’s grouchy or a little less productive, but not egregiously so, I would give her a little more time. I remember quitting caffeine cold turkey, and the first two weeks were awful. Around week 3, my body recalibrated, and I was no longer cranky or experiencing withdrawal. I suspect it takes longer with nicotine, which is more addictive.

    If she’s being rude or problematic, then of course bring it up. But if it’s general testiness, lack of focus, or slower productivity, I would gently flag it and observe if it improves over the next 2 weeks (i.e., 1 month post-quitting).

    Reply
    1. Exsmoker

      Nicotine withdrawal is *miserable* in a way people who’ve never smoked don’t always understand. It turned me into a terrible awful person. And support from others is so important. Cut the poor employee some slack. Quitting smoking suuucks.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        Nicotine actually has pretty powerful antidepressant effects. In the long term it’s not good for your mental health and can correlate with increased depression but in the short term? Coming off it makes you super cranky.

        I smoked on and off for 18 years. I finally quit for good almost six months ago and it was really hard. She’s doing you a favour by trying not to take her moods out on those around her.

        Given the letter mentions retail, it’s wise of her to stay away from customers right now.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          My dad went full honey badger when he quit smoking. He’s normally a pretty sweet guy with a tendency to snark when he’s hangry or stressed, but he was, like, 100% snark for two weeks. He tends towards depression, and I think that amplified it.

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            1. Reinhardt

              I’m picturing Robert Downey Jr’s character from Tropic Thunder: “You went full honey badger. You never go full honey badger.”

              Reply
            2. Snark

              “go full X,” where X is a referent to some behavior, is just generally a funny construction in general and I heartily recommend it. “Never go full Fergus.”

              Reply
          1. AndersonDarling

            Same here. My husband smoked from age 14 to age 38 when he quit. He’s a nice guy who can get frustrated every once in a while, but he was a monster jerk for a month while quitting. The funny thing is that he didn’t realize how big of a jerk he was being at the time. I guess it’s like being sick, you don’t see anything that is going on around you, you just want your popsicle.
            I’d deal with this like the employee was taking a month of anti cancer drugs that made her cranky. It’s just for a month and the health benefits are so profound that everyone should be as supportive as possible.

            Reply
            1. Bunny

              I think I killed six people when I quit smoking two packs a day.

              That would be six people a day for two months straight. I regret nothing.

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                1. Bunny

                  It’s been 20 years and I still have dreams where I’m just walking down the street or driving around with my late grandmother, smoking.

              1. Elizabeth West

                Hahahaha!
                I used Chantix to quit (it blocks the nicotine receptors in your brain). I had to. Cold turkey did NOT work. It was very strange when it finally kicked in after a few days, because I was still in the habit of smoking, but it did absolutely nothing for me. So basically I was just inhaling and exhaling smoke with no discernible effect. Took another two weeks to break the pattern even though I couldn’t get the high.

                Cold turkey was the worst. I don’t ever want to resume smoking, because what if we have a zombie apocalypse and I can’t get my cigs and I have to go through that all over again?

                Reply
        2. OP #2

          I wish keeping her away from customers was an option, but short of forcing her to take a leave and getting her shifts covered, there would have been no way to make that happen.

          Reply
          1. Clinical Social Worker

            I think the commenter is pointing out that her taking time off on her worst days is a blessing, you were portraying it as quite annoying and not worthwhile use of her time off. We’re saying it probably is very useful for her to do so.

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            1. OP #2

              That is fair. I made a longer comment/update below, but essentially, I do see why it was unfair for me to be unhappy with her calling out.

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              1. Kyrielle

                I think it’s entirely reasonable for you to be unhappy with the situation (that she called out) but not with her for taking the action of calling out. Her calling out was reasonable. Being unhappy about the situation that resulted for you (which is a product of staffing decisions your corporate made, as well as her calling out) seems reasonable; that’s a pretty unhappy-making situation! It’s just not reasonable or useful to “aim” that feeling at her. Her calling out was the proximate cause of the situation, but not the root cause. (Not that there’s probably anything useful that you could do about the corporate policies, either. But being frustrated by them and the situations that result from them is not unreasonable, even if it’s not really useful either.)

                Reply
      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)

        Seriously. This person is trying to break an insidious addiction and one that has been an integral part of their life for a long time. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do.

        Is there any way to put Joy on duties that are a little less demanding for a few weeks? It would be a kind thing to do.

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        1. Blah

          In retail? I doubt it. I can only think of one non-customer facing role in my store (HR desk). If the store has an overnight stock team (not a guarantee, my larger company usually doesn’t), maybe, but I doubt this employee is trained in that, and that’s an issue for a temporary reassignment where she’s gone as soon as she figures it out.

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      3. Knitting Cat Lady

        From what people tell me the physical withdrawal is bad enough, but the psychological withdrawal is even worse.

        For many smokers smoking is part of their self soothing techniques. And compensating for that is very difficult.

        Especially for a life long smoker.

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        1. Jesca

          It really is though. It becomes part of your routine. Also, the whole aspect of smoking is what people are addicted to. It is somewhat like what heroin addicts describe when shooting up. It is sooo tough to quit because it is stressful! It is the ultimate stress.

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        2. Chief Strategy Officer

          This is absolutely correct! Women who quit smoking often go through bouts of depression that can show up months after the initial “cold turkey” phase. This was the hardest part for me – I was battling clinical depression for over a year after I quit. This is on top of removing the self-soothing technique you’ve grown accustomed to.

          There’s a reason people say quitting smoking is the hardest thing they’ve ever done – it’s a bear all around!

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          1. Anion

            I started smoking again because last time I quit, I spent three months essentially feeling suicidal. I cried all the time. I didn’t want to get out of bed or do anything. It was awful, and I finally decided I’d rather do harm to my health but be able to care for my family etc. than to constantly feel like I wanted to die. Even my dad, who hates my smoking, agreed with me that it was the lesser of two evils there.

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            1. Anion

              ETA: At the time I lived in a place where antidepressants were not common, and when I asked the nurse about it, or about Chantix, she told me that my state of mind/depression at the time meant I was not a good candidate for medication. So that wasn’t an option for me, in case anyone wanted to suggest it.

              Reply
                1. Static

                  An ass? There are clinical contraindications for certain medications. I sincerely doubt a trained healthcare professional denied the poster meds that could have helped her just to be a dick.

                2. Koko

                  I mean…telling someone that being depressed disqualifies them from anti-depressants seems pretty…ass-y.

                  I’ve had plenty of experiences with arrogant doctors who didn’t listen to me, put me through unnecessary medical procedures, etc. Doctors don’t always make the wrong call; malpractice is a thing that sometimes happens. I’m sure none of those doctors acted that way “just to be a dick.” But they were still pretty ass-y from my point of view. A lack of malicious intent is not the same as being considerate or compassionate.

                3. Elizabeth West

                  Not sure about the antidepressants, but Chantix does have a warning that it can exacerbate suicidal tendencies. So a person who is already depressed and who may be suffering from suicidal ideation should absolutely not take it.

                1. Elizabeth West

                  This is why it took me so long to break the physical tendency to get up after I ate and go outside and smoke. It was ingrained behavior. Even though at that point, it was just inhaling and exhaling.

          2. Kat M.

            My mom doubled her antidepressants for a year when she quit smoking (with shrink’s approval, of course). It’s a super rough process!

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        3. nonegiven

          For several years before I quit, I kept my cigarettes in my desk in the bedroom, when I spent most of my time in other rooms. I thought if I had to go all the way in there I might cut down and if not, at least I’d get a little exercise.

          For several years after I quit, I kept finding myself in the bedroom, pulling open the drawer where I used to keep them.

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      4. Mags

        When I quit smoking I couldn’t stop being happy. I had achieved what I wanted to achieved – to be a non-smoker. And every day meant I was getting my health back. What’s to be cranky about that?

        The physical symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine only last 48-72 hours so they’re over quickly. Anything else is in the mind, the psychological crutch you’ve lost. But again, if you wanted to quit, why be upset about losing your crutch?

        I went from a pack a day to zero in 4 hours – and, having never felt the need or desire to be a smoker again, I remain very happy about it.

        I think OP#2’s coworker is milking it. For one thing there is NO downside to quitting smoking.

        Reply
        1. tigerStripes

          I think that quitting smoking is more difficult for many people than it was for you, Mags. I know someone who quit and took up and quit again several times, and he didn’t even smoke that much a day! I remember listening to a couple of co-workers talking about quitting smoking, and one even sounded nostalgic for smoking.

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    2. Susanne

      OP, I am not sure what you want her to *do* at this point. Go ahead and have the cigarette and quit her smoking cessation efforts just so she’ll be less cranky? It’s obvious that this is temporary and the end goal (not smoking) is a laudable one on many regards, so this falls under the “suck it up” category for me.

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      1. kittymommy

        Truly, if she’s been a smoker for decades then withdrawal will be a nightmare. I have no doubt that cranky and difficult is just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe I’m particularly sensitive (over-sensitive) since most of my family died from smoking related illnesses, but what she’s doing can literally save her life, maybe giving her a little leeway is in order

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      2. OP #2

        I never once said I wanted her to start smoking again- I made a point to say how happy I was that she was quitting. But unfortunately, in our industry especially, regardless of the reason, being aggressively rude to employees and guests is borderline termination worthy. And she is a great assett, I don’t want to lose her over something that I knew was temporary, but if things got too out of control, that could very well have been the direction my boss and corporate would have asked me to take. The good news is, things have gotten significantly better in the last couple of weeks since I wrote Alison, so I’m hoping we’re out of the woods at this point.

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      3. Anna

        I don’t think that’s really appropriate. The OP is trying to figure out how to deal with the employee’s issue impacting her work situation and “suck it up” isn’t gonna cut it. I’m pretty sure that even reading between the lines, “how do I convince my employee to start smoking again so she’ll stop being cranky” isn’t in there.

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        1. The Supreme Troll

          Absolutely; OP#2 never said or implied that. The concerns that she has about her employee or very valid, and they are not something that can go on indefinitely.

          Reply
    3. Linzava

      Something else a lot of never smokers don’t realize, the physical withdrawal symptoms can make you feel very sick. I know sometimes people who felt like they had the flu, I personally had severe coughing fits.

      I know from the outside, it can look like it’s just a temporary change in mood, but it’s so much worse. People who are understanding and supportive can make the difference in this situation.

      I would personally give the employee a month slack to support them saving their life, though it usually does only take a couple weeks for the worst of it to pass.

      Reply
      1. BillieGoat

        I agree that a month seems reasonable – the two weeks thing is just for getting the nicotine out of your system, but a person quitting smoking will spend much more time recovering physically and rewiring both physically and mentally. Weeks 3 and 4 were actually horrible for me in a ‘whyyyy am I being punished for doing something good’ kind of way. I had staggering headaches and could barely summon the will to live. It wasn’t until I figured out how to replace some of the mental habits that I started feeling better, and that can take time, both to troubleshoot and to actually form the new healthy habits.

        If you want to be even more helpful, point her to her health coverage’s smoking cessation program (if she has health care), and ask her if anything helps (but let her bring it up). For example, she might tell you that she’s discovered drinking plenty of water is helpful, which seems like a simple enough accommodation. Some people do better with having something to hold in their hand, like a cinnamon stick or a fidget of some kind. But other people might find these suggestions idiotic, so I recommend asking and not suggesting.

        Reply
      2. Bunny

        I was an undiagnosed epileptic and I had increased seizures and shook like an alcoholic quitting cold turkey.

        Because I WAS, just switching out the substance.

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    4. Slow Gin Lizz

      And if she continues being super grouchy past the three- or four-week mark, maybe recommend that she see her doctor? I dunno, I’m not a doctor nor am I or was I ever a smoker but I should think a doctor might be able to give her some help with the withdrawal symptoms if they go on too long.

      It sounds like you’re pretty understanding, OP2, so forgive me if this already occurred to you, but it’s not only withdrawal symptoms that are likely messing with her but also the complete change in routine. I believe recovering alcoholics have to deal with this too, that they’re no longer able to spend time with their friends in the ways they were used to, that the morning drink (or cigarette, in this case) is no longer a thing, and that’s got to be pretty stressful too.

      Reply
    5. INTP

      If she is being excessively grouchy or unreliable, to the point of impacting business (since this is retail, I’m assuming that someone calling in sick last-minute or being grouchy with customers is a bigger deal than it might be in other environments), maybe OP could suggest she take a week off? I’m not saying to force her to take the week if she doesn’t want to or can’t afford it, but if she’s amenable, that could be a good solution for everyone. She gets time to rest and avoid stress, and other coworkers don’t have to get called in at the last second because she called out or pick up her slack while she’s unproductive or can’t deal with customers, and OP doesn’t have to mediate between the two. (If it’s not severe enough to impact business or her coworkers of course, I agree with patiently waiting it out.)

      Reply
    6. OP #2

      It was quite a lot worse than a slight lack of productivity unfortunately. I gave a longer update below, but the good news is, she has drastically improved on her own over the last couple of weeks without too much intervention on my part.

      Reply
  2. A fly on the wall

    Re: OP4

    Two things (at least from my perspective):

    1. The principal is being extremely silly. School secretary/clerk/receptionist positions are amazingly good experience for an admin role – especially a public facing one. Every one that I’ve know that wanted to move up was able too, and not just within the school system. I’d say 2-3 years is about right for a “careerist” in that role. After that you’d be in the running for more senior “office manager” type roles anyway.

    1.a. Assuming the environment for teachers is anything like it is in my region, silly is the least extreme word I’d use. Given how hard it is to fill teaching stations, having someone waiting for one that clearly likes to school culture enough to want to be a part of it is a blessing. He should be focusing on what’s harder: refilling a secretary position or filling a teaching station next summer.

    2. Depending on your district’s policies, legal environment, and the type of position, you may be entitled to an interview no matter what.

    Reply
    1. The IT Manager

      In my experience, school secretaries stay in the position forever. As in working mothers happily finding a job that allows them to care for their school age children outside school hours and still work never leaving the job until retirement forever.

      Your point #1 isn’t valid in all schools.

      Reply
      1. SAHM

        Seconded. Mrs D, the secretary at my elementary, is still there, and I just turned 30. She was a fixture long before I went to school, she’ll be there forever…

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth the Ginger

          Thirded. My school’s secretary/receptionist has only been there about 5 years, but the woman she replaced retired after something like 35 years with my school. Also, you want someone in the role that wants that kind of role. There’s always a chance that the person you’ll hire will move on – a secretary’s spouse could get an amazing job opportunity in another state, say – but while they’re there you want them giving the job their all and being satisfied in it. You don’t want someone (for most roles in most companies) that actually wants to be doing something else and is spending their time trying to move on.

          Reply
        2. blackcat

          The receptionist at the school I worked at just retired. She had worked there, in that role, for 63 (!!) years.

          She only stopped working when she had a stroke. She started at the age of 24. In at least one case, she interacted with three generations from a single family as students.

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        3. CMF

          my elementary school secretary started when my friend’s mom was a student there. She retired when my friend’s mom was pushing 60.

          Reply
      2. A fly on the wall

        Certainly not, if a person doesn’t want to move up/out they won’t, and I’m sure the area and school system have a lot to do with it.

        In the elementary schools I’m familiar with (secondary being a different beast entirely), there are generally two “office support” roles. I’m assuming we’re referring to the junior one, here. The senior (the “office manager” I mentioned) one is definitely as you describe, they stick around forever – and thank goodness for it! The other role is a bit catch as catch can. Out here it pays a bit better than a classroom aide, but isn’t as flexible, because it’s still a 40 hour position, so many move on to the higher levels quickly as they aren’t giving up much.

        I can only give my perspective, and it’s not going to be universal.

        Reply
        1. TL -

          My town had one admin assist/receptionist person per school – so one in the elementary, one in the junior high, one in the high school and they were all three definitely there for the long haul. I think the admin in the district office was the same way.
          I’m sure the principals there would also discourage someone who was only going to stay for 2-3 years. It wouldn’t be silly; they just want continuity in the sole admin position in the school.

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      3. Susanne

        Right. It’s a job that corresponds with their children’s hours, it’s not particularly intellectually demanding (which is not to say it can’t be hard), they can leave their work behind when they leave and a lot of the value in the position is being the kind of person who gets to know all the families and makes connections — if I were in a hiring position for such a job, I, too, would want to be hiring someone who intends to stay for a long time. It’s really not about “fairness” to you.

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      4. MJH

        Agreed. I got a school secretary job just out of college, but only because they were desperate. I promised I would stay a year and I stayed two. I know people who applied for that job after I did who were young, recent college grads who didn’t get it, because clearly the school was looking for a long-term person. They got someone who stayed more than 10 years.

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      5. Koko

        This is how it was at my elementary school, too. The women who worked in the school office were an institution all their own.

        Reply
      6. Rovannen

        15 year Elementary Secretary here. Working in an elementary office is a one of a kind experience. I see kids come in as young as 3-4 years old, and watching them grow up year after year is so incredible. Elementary secretaries are data administrators, first/second tier tech support, front line for security, accounts payable/receivable and survive state audits. I maintain the school budget at my fingertips, know where all the students go after school and can unclog toilets with a single flush (normally, lol). In my area, our positions are sought after and with such a wide variety of responsibilities, we tend to stay.

        Reply
    2. JamieS

      This probably depends on a variety of factors like the town size and the school district but I don’t think it’s rare to have long standing school secretaries in a lot of places. Growing up my school secretaries were there my entire school career. Then again that was true of basically everyone who worked for the school district so maybe it is rare and my school was like the mafia. Once you’re in you’re in forever.

      Reply
    3. AcademiaNut

      I’m more used to school districts where there is a line of trained people waiting for full time teaching jobs (often working part time as subs while doing so), so filling a teaching slot is not a difficult task.

      Setting aside the school specific stuff, I can understand an employer not being keen on interesting someone who is open that they aren’t particularly interested in the job, and will move on as soon as they get the job they really want. And it’s generally not a good strategy to take one job at a company with plans to immediately be applying for other roles – you need to go in planning on staying in the job you were hired for for a year or more before thinking of even a lateral move.

      Reply
      1. Bookworm

        I agree and think in some ways this conversation may have worked out well for OP. If her goal is to be a teacher at this school, she might find that by getting the secretary position, she would have put herself in a position where she had to stay a secretary for several years or risk burning a bridge in the local industry.

        Reply
          1. Justme

            Generally I would agree with you, but that is not the case with admins at school. Districts often want to hire from within and the move from secretary to teacher (or teaching assistant to secretary) isn’t unheard of.

            Reply
            1. Julianne

              I would disagree completely. At least in the areas of the US where I’ve taught, it would be highly unexpected to move from a secretarial or lower-level administrative role in a school into a teaching role. (I will say that in areas outside the US where I’ve lived, it was more common, but still far from the norm.) While there may be skills that one would use in both positions, such as organization and communication, an administrative position such as a school secretary is not good preparation for a teaching job. Although this has never come up in any school where I’ve sat on hiring committees, I don’t think my school would be inclined to hire a secretary candidate whose long term goal was to be a teacher. For someone looking to become a teacher, there are much more logical paths to take to get into a school system, which actually involve instruction.

              Reply
            2. Starbuck

              Do they? I wouldn’t expect that most secretaries/admins are hired with a teaching certification, so this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. In my region anyway people who get teaching certifications do it because they want to be a classroom teacher, not an admin. They generally start out as subs like OP has done, but I haven’t ever known one to take a secretary position.

              Reply
            3. Callie

              I’ve worked for three different districts and never heard of anyone moving from a secretary to a teacher. Mostly because anyone who has the education required for a teaching license is often not going to settle for a secretary salary, and anyone who is in a secretary position will not be working hours that will let them go to school for a teaching credential.

              Reply
    4. Ramona Flowers

      It’s not unreasonable to want to hire someone who wants to be a secretary rather than someone who wants to be a teacher.

      Reply
      1. Tea, please

        I agree. I was a school admin assistant for a year while finishing up grad school. Because so many major responsibilities (testing, state reporting, etc) happen throughout the school year, that first year is basically a training year. This, along with relationships built with parents and staff, makes the expectation the admin will stay long term in this position very reasonable.

        Reply
      2. HannahS

        Yeah. When I was searching for admin jobs in health clinics, there were plenty of hints and signs that some of these were not jobs for students who want to be doctors, but for actual career admins. I don’t blame them at all. Training is a hassle, and in my location there didn’t seem to be a shortage of qualified candidates.

        Reply
      3. Allison

        That’s true of a lot of roles, really. It’s not that you want to hire someone who will be in that specific role forever, but you want someone who actually wants the job and the career path that comes with it, not just someone who will take any ‘ol job when it’s clearly just a “pay the bills for now” job.

        Reply
    5. Jesmlet

      I had to read this several times just to make sure I wasn’t misinterpreting it. I think the principal is being 100% reasonable. No one wants to hire someone who aspires to leave as soon as possible. Every school secretary I’ve ever been in contact with had been there for at least a decade. And at least in my area, there are far more teachers than teaching positions available. I’m curious where you live where it’s so hard to fill teaching positions. Last, I find it hard to believe that any school district would require a school to interview every sub who applies, especially considering they know OP is not a good fit, but maybe I’m wrong about that.

      Reply
      1. Julianne

        Unless the district’s collective bargaining agreement for teachers covers substitutes as well (which is unusual for per diem subs, the OP could be a building-based sub though), it would be unusual if they were required to interview all qualified candidates. My sense is that fewer and fewer districts have that requirement, but it certainly may still exist in some areas.

        Reply
      2. Callie

        Many low-income areas have trouble filling teaching jobs. Have you ever heard of the Corridor of Shame in SC? Many of those school districts have trouble finding teachers who are willing to work there because the pay is so low and the discipline issues so staggering.

        Reply
      3. calonkat

        Come to the Midwest. If you’re a teacher, we can find you work. If you’re a special ed teacher, we can DEFINITELY find you work. If you’re a school psychiatrist, you can probably set up a bidding war (kidding!, most school salaries are not flexible)

        Salaries look far lower than on the coasts, but the living expenses are also considerably lower :)

        Reply
    6. calonkat

      Depending on the role, some school clerk roles are extremely technical. Reporting to the state for federal requirements can involve a lot of training, and there can be real penalties if some reports aren’t completed correctly or in a timely manner. I can completely understand if they want someone who isn’t planning on leaving one of those positions within a fairly short period of time. (I may have some experience here)

      Reply
  3. Sami

    OP#4: As a K-12 public school teacher, a good secretary is worth their weight in gold. So they definitely want to hire well and for long-term. And being a school secretary isn’t a good way to get your foot in the door towards becoming one of their teachers.
    Keep substituting and find some other job if you need to. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Paquita

      I interviewed for an elementary school receptionist position last week. It was open because the person got a teaching job.

      Reply
      1. Oryx

        I don’t think Sami is saying that this sort of career trajectory never happens, just that it’s not something the OP should plan on.

        Reply
        1. Julianne

          Agreed. It’s not that it can’t happen or never happens, but it’s not a common route into teaching. Being a good teacher and being a good secretary require pretty different skill sets.

          Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      Yes, this story seemed a little weird to me. If OP can find a full time job NOW, they should take it – not keep a part time job in the hopes of finding a full time job “someday.” Jobs should pay in money / benefits, not promises!

      Reply
      1. Jesmlet

        But the argument is not whether or not OP should want to take the job. It’s whether or not the principal can and should be allowed to ask OP casual questions and turn her down for an interview without a formalized process. Most employers would not hire someone if they knew that person wasn’t interested in at least entertaining the idea of a long term future in that role. Granted, OP could have benefited from a little white lie in implying that she was open to either as a career, but the moment is in the past.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          Agree, I wasn’t quite catching the crux of the original question. You are right, there’s no injustice going on here.

          Reply
  4. kas

    1. A major pet peeve of mine is snooping. I don’t do anything personal on my work computer (check emails, banking, visit non-work related websites etc.) but if I did and someone had admitted to going through my emails, I would be quite upset.
    3. Why can’t your boss get a driver/taxi service to take him to the airport? This is incredibly inconvenient and I find him annoying for even asking/expecting this of people. I also would not feel right assigning this task to anyone else. I’d probably ask if anyone would be interested but if no one wanted to do it, I’d drop it and see if they can find another solution. Maybe see the cost of a driver compared to the mileage spent? A driver may still be more expensive but there may be options in your area that are cost effective that they can get reimbursed? I’m assuming this is a 9-5, Monday to Friday job so why would I want to spend part of an evening/weekend to sit in a car with my boss to drive him to the airport? I wouldn’t even do it with reimbursement.

    Reply
    1. JamieS

      Agreed. Unless I’m literally told “do this or you’re fired” at most I’d volunteer to help the boss download Uber (or the ride share app of his choice) on his phone and give him a five second tutorial on how to use it.

      Reply
    2. lokilaufeysanon

      Re: #3, I agree with you. I don’t know why this guy can’t drive himself and pay the parking, which sounds like he’d be reimbursed for. My dad travels A LOT for work and he always drives himself to whichever airport he is flying out of. I think a few times he’s taken a car service, but I’ve never heard about him getting other people he works with to drive him there.

      Reply
      1. Julia

        I’ve worked with people who were driven around for work trips, but we had actual drivers (as in, that was their job) do that, and they used company cars and were paid extra for any time worked outside of our 9-5.

        Reply
        1. Susanne

          I drive right by our (major city) airport on my route from work to home, so if someone in our office had an evening flight, it was literally 5 minutes out of my way to exit at the airport, drop the person off and continue on my way. So I was happy to do that if someone had an early or mid evening flight (and it was completely kosher to leave a bit early if you were doing someone a favor!). However, that’s no extra wear and tear on my car, no extra mileage, and no inconvenience to my day. I think the policy is just not right and the boss needs to figure out Uber, Lyft, or a cab system. You don’t “need” to be driven by the airport by a personal acquaintance.

          Reply
      2. JD

        Right. I live next to SNA so my boss will say “my flight is at noon so if you want to drive me you can go home then”. So duh I take advantage of that! Otherwise if he flies out of Long Beach or LAX he drives himself. I am not sitting in traffic both ways. I mean, I suppose since when I drive him he gives me that flexibility that if he was in some jam I would of course take him but not as a regular thing. Also, on top of reimbursements this would mean traffic of an hour or two both ways (for LAX). That is four hours min, more likely 6 for each trip, and the chances those flights are always during work hours is slim. That is asking A LOT.

        Reply
    3. Falling Diphthong

      Sounds like a case of “Frank always brought in doughnuts, and since he retired that roll has fallen to you, as the CPA who sits third from the door.” Rather than figure out some other method of obtaining doughnuts.

      Reply
    4. No Ride to Airport

      I am the employee that did not want to drive/pick up the boss from the airport. Ultimately, I said I could not do it, so a lower ranking employee was asked to do it. I told him to submit an edit for overtime, which I would sign, but he never did submit the schedule change. I am not his direct manager, otherwise I would have told him it is not the best use of his (or that of his family) time. We live in a city where public transportation is readily available, along with taxis, drivers, pedicabs, whatever you want and per day cost of remote airport parking is $15. In this day and age, I don’t feel anyone should be driven to the airport by anyone unless it is a specific job duty or an emergency. The days of Mad Men are over…or so I thought. Also, this job is 9 – 5+ (routine on-call schedules and unexpected calls to report). There is almost no regard for personal time and it is known we can be called in at any time, which is why this requests steams me even more. This doesn’t qualify as an emergency.

      Reply
      1. K, Esq.

        I’d worry about what would happen if there was an accident. Your company needs a specific rider on their insurance for employee’s personal vehicles to be covered under the office insurance.

        Reply
      2. Elizabeth West

        Nope, it sure doesn’t.

        I’ve only driven a boss to the airport once–but his wife had died at home while he was at our office and their daughter found her. My supervisor got on the phone and booked him a flight and then we jumped in my car and I drove him over. Within an hour of his daughter’s call, we had his butt on a plane.

        Thinking of my boss having to go through such a thing and your boss using his employees cavalierly like this makes me angry.

        Reply
    5. Koko

      OP #1 – assuming your company uses proper ITsec (which I realize is a big assumption) and therefore your boss doesn’t have your computer login details, I invite you to become intimately familiar with the Windows + L shortcut, which will instantly lock your computer and prompt for a password to unlock.

      At a previous job we worked with sensitive data so we were all required to Win+L every time we left our workstation to protect subjects’ privacy. It’s a habit I’ve maintained ever since then and view kinda like locking the bathroom door. Most likely nobody is going to come into the bathroom when I’m in it, but as Hank Hill says, “It helps prevent…embarrassing accidents.” Same goes for locking the computer. Probably overkill 98% of the time, but the other 2% of the time it prevents an “embarrassing accident.”

      Reply
  5. Zip Silver

    #2 – I had a roommate who quit his pack a day habit cold turkey. Living with him was miserable right up until it wasn’t. I sent and bought him a big package of Dum Dums, and kept them out where he could get them, as apparently a big part of it is the oral repetitivness, not just the chemical addiction. It worked pretty well. If Joy isn’t going to take time off for her withdrawal, maybe get a pack of lollipops and keep them where she can get them. It should make your life a bit more bearable.

    Reply
        1. Liane

          Back in the ’70s my dad used starlight (pepper)mints. He always had a pocketful. My middle school friends and I loved asking him for a “cigarette.” He had the mint habit for the rest of his life, like 30 years.

          Glad to know the mints still help people.

          Reply
    1. OP #2

      OP#2 here- that is AWESOME advice, thank you! I am going to pick up a bag of dum dums later today. This is exactly the type of advice I was looking for :)

      Reply
      1. Jesmlet

        The oral fixation is such a huge part of quitting smoking. The dum dums are pretty popular but you can also try bringing in flavored toothpicks and twizzlers too… those worked for someone I worked with.

        Reply
      2. Marthooh

        Well, that might be appreciated, or it might not. I always took a quick walk (even just for a minute) when the craving struck. Maybe permission to do the same would be better.

        Reply
      3. Samiratou

        My mom went through cases of Extra gum (or whatever it’s called) when she quit. I know neither gum nor suckers are great for customer-facing stuff, but gum can usually be a bit more subtle.

        Reply
  6. Elizabeth the Ginger

    It seems incredibly valid for Joy to use a sick day for dealing with withdrawal. She was feeling awful, AND the awfulness was caused by her taking action to improve her long-term health. It seems akin to someone taking a sick day after having some kind of uncomfortable preventive medical care, like an allergy test or a colonoscopy or something.

    Reply
  7. MommyMD

    I don’t do a single personal thing at work. Employers are allowed to monitor anything on their system. Assume anything personal you do at work is being seen by another pair of eyes. Never presume it is private.

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      Not everything is this absolute. Alison made a really interesting point about the transfer of data. But in any case, how do pronouncements like these actually help the LW?

      I’m wondering how the director was able to view the computer – it sounds like there isn’t a password on it, which seems like a serious security issue. I’m also wondering if you’re having personal google chats on your work computer. If so, I’d stop doing that, though I realise this is a bit of a know your office thing.

      Reply
      1. Brett

        The chats could have been on an entirely different computer (or on a phone) and outside work. Once you have access to someone’s gmail, you have access to all of that person’s google chats on any device.

        Reply
      2. Antilles

        I’m wondering how the director was able to view the computer
        My guess would be it’s a semi-innocent scenario like this:
        1.) The computers don’t auto-lock themselves or turn off the monitors automatically, so anybody walking by sees what’s on the screen.
        2.) OP leaves Gmail running on the monitor.
        3.) Director is walking by OP’s cube/office for whatever reason, sees the open gmail window and starts clicking out of curiosity.
        While the director was 100%, absolutely out of line in Step #3…OP can prevent 1 and 2 in the future by password-locking the computer* and also by never leaving any windows open that aren’t work-related when you aren’t at your desk.
        *Note: Some IT systems don’t allow you to change the settings required to have it automatically self-lock, but if that’s the case, you *should* still be able to manually lock the computer through the Start menu or Ctrl+Alt+Delete.

        Reply
          1. M is for Mulder

            On a Mac you can set up hot corners, so I just drag the mouse down to the lower right to trigger the password-protected screen saver.

            Reply
        1. mostly_correct

          Come on…

          I’m very careful with my laptop, always lock it when I go out… Which in practice even in my case means I normally lock it but sometimes don’t. For example when I’m called on my mobile and need to leave the room quickly to take the call because taking it in my huge open space is frequently not an option. Or when I just have 2 minutes between two calls and need to run to the bathroom.

          Such situations happen, you can’t avoid them completely. But snooping is completely out of place.

          Reply
      3. Samiratou

        Does anyone else wonder if it was the director that snooped or the assistant? I originally assumed the assistant read it, found the mild criticism, and told her boss LW was saying nasty things about her.

        Reply
        1. LW #1

          They were both in the room to deal with a leak and saw it together.

          What’s especially weird is that she said that “that’s not what we do around here” even tho honest to god 80% of the conversations around here are gossip, incl. quite a lot of shittalking.

          Reply
          1. Lissa

            holy cats that’s obnoxious, especially since it sounds like nothing you said was even remotely close to shittalking…

            Reply
    2. Snark

      Your posts tend to be on the more rigid and absolute side, but this is more so than the situation warrants and doesn’t speak to the LW’s concerns. As someone who works on a government system, I understand that my activity is monitored and I bear that in mind – I don’t do banking, shopping, or recreational reading on that computer, for example. But there’s a wide gulf between “your internet activity will be monitored for operational security reasons” and “your boss will snoop deeply into your personal accounts for things to dress you down for, for no apparent good reason.” I still have the expectation that people will be professional and discreet.

      Reply
      1. MommyMD

        Just assume everything on your work computer can be viewed. There’s really no need to do personal stuff on a work computer with smartphones and tablets. I think people often forget there’s no such thing as privacy on work devices.

        Reply
        1. Koko

          There may be no need, but there are lots of unnecessary things that nonetheless impact quality of life/job satisfaction. Not being necessary isn’t by itself a reason not to do something.

          My personal laptop died years ago and since I’ve got a phone and a tablet, it has never seemed like a great use of my limited budget to buy a new one since I have a work one. That said, I prefer the full-size interface and full-size keyboard of working with a desktop machine, so I do plenty of personal stuff on my work laptop. I obviously don’t do anything illegal like file-sharing, or anything work-inappropriate like risque websites or pornography, and I don’t save any personal files to the hard drive (I maintain a Dropbox for personal files). But in the evenings and on weekends I play Flash-based video games and stream episodes of the Daily Show off Comedy Central’s website. I also check my bank accounts, pay bills, use Excel to track my budget, and have my Gmail permanently pinned in my browser.

          I wouldn’t be embarrassed or in trouble if my company needed to go through my computer and discovered I was using it this way. I routinely hand my laptop to IT for maintenance. There may not be a “need” for me to use my computer this way – I could deal with the tiny screen/keyboard on my tablet or buy a new laptop for myself – but there’s no “need” for me to do that either, when my work computer works just fine. I weighed my options and letting the work computer do double-duty for my personal life was the most agreeable to me.

          Reply
    3. (Different) Rebecca

      How delightful for you that you have that option! No snark intended, either. My life intrudes upon me at the most inopportune moments, and I’m just glad that my boss doesn’t care if I swear.

      Reply
    4. K.

      That’s not what the OP asked though – she asked what to do about the fact that her boss read her personal email. In the future she may opt to refrain from checking her personal email at work, but she’s already done it in this case.

      Reply
    5. NotAnotherManager!

      Good for you that you never have to do anything personal at work. A lot of people don’t have that clear a choice about whether or not to handle personal tasks during their business hours. I know I’ve used my lunch to deal with medical insurance issues because the office that I needed to speak to is not open evenings, weekends, or holidays. Am I supposed to take a day off to make a 20-minute call and fill something out on their portal with the rep?

      I think better advice would be for people to review their employer’s acceptable use policy and understand what the employer does and does not reserve the right to do so that they can determine whether or not they want to take that risk. I strongly discourage people from using their business accounts for personal communications because a big part of my profession is collecting and reviewing people’s business mail for for litigation (and I’ve seen it ALL – porn, affair rendevous coordination, off-color jokes, insults about other coworkers/bosses) and would rather have people hitting a private mail account for their personal work (though this carries risks, too, if people access malware that is sent via those accounts). It’s a balance and employers have to decide what works best for them, set a policy, and let employees choose how to work within that.

      I also think that there is a huge difference between network monitoring (e.g., blocking malware sites or work-inappropriate content like porn) and reading someone’s personal email that they left open by accident. This isn’t a question of does the employer have the legal right to do it, this is an issue of whomever read OP#5’s mail having some serious boundary issues – and behaving in appropriately by gossiping about it, it sounds like. I wouldn’t expect people to go through the files on/in my desk just because they’re not locked up (absent a specific business reason to do so) or rifle through my purse because it’s physically located in the office.

      Reply
      1. Alton

        Yep, just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean it’s okay. Or, for that matter, that it follows the rules of that particular workplace. Not all workplaces allow individual managers to monitor employees’ computers/accounts/web use directly, so it’s hard to know if the OP’s manager was actually in compliance with the office’s IT rules or not.

        I’m really cautious about doing personal stuff on work computers/networks, or doing work stuff on my personal devices. Maybe a little too cautious. But I definitely wouldn’t expect my manager to read my personal e-mail, and I would find that inappropriate.

        Reply
      2. M is for Mulder

        There are plenty of gray areas in this genre. For example, yesterday I used my lunch to shop online for an ergonomic mouse pad for my aching wrist, which I will be allowed to expense.

        Reply
    6. Jam Today

      There’s a material difference between monitoring web traffic, which is common and companies do it both for security reasons (don’t visit any naughty or malicious sites) and performance monitoring (don’t spend your whole day on Facebook), and actually going through an employee’s personal mail and reading content between her and private parties.

      Reply
    7. Statler von Waldorf

      Your position here seems far more absolute than is wise given that it is not universally true. This situation could subject the employer to a legitimate lawsuit under the privacy act of my province (BC). The employers right to monitor is not absolute in all jurisdictions.

      This comment also fails Alison’s be kind rule, IMO. This comment is in no way helpful to the letter writer, it’s a sanctimonious lecture. I’m glad you have the privilege of not having to do personal things at work, but not everyone does.

      Reply
          1. Emi.

            You really need two children, preferably the territorial kind in extra-bulky carseats, and unfortunately the passenger seatbelt is broken so your boss has to sit in between them.

            Reply
            1. KR

              And one of them has to be a child who is hell bent on having a full on conversation with this person who can’t really understand the kid, so he has to listen closely and humor the kid the whole way.

              Reply
                1. Koko

                  I’ve been rewatching Curb Your Enthusiasm lately and this situation would be perfect for Larry going on one of his never-ending rambling nervous stream of consciousness, completely oblivious to the fact that the other person is looking for an escape.

      1. LCL

        Or a sleeping dog. Make sure you don’t vacuum, and if possible put his luggage in the area where the dog hangs out so it gets dog hair on it. Stop on the way for a cheeseburger so dog will be drooly and gassy.

        Reply
  8. SacherTorte

    Quitting smoking is really hard, physically and mentally. The chemical addiction makes your brain go into panic mode – think about how you feel when you’re really hungry or thirsty, and how it builds until finally you eat a snack or chug a glass of water and feel the relief. It’s kind of like that only there’s never the relief, just your body and brain screaming at you that there’s something wrong and you have to actively deny the one thing that will make you feel better.

    On top of that you have to completely change your habits and coping mechanisms. For a large portion of her life she woke up for the day, rewarded herself, took a time out from a stressful situation, relaxed at the end of her day, etc by having a cigarette. She’s probably still reflexively reaching for her pack, and it’s a very lonely moment when you reach for that pack in a moment of need and it’s not there.

    This isn’t to say that there’s no responsibility on her end to be a good and productive employee, just to say she could use a bit of kindness. If you’ve never had an actual addiction it’s really easy to judge a recovering addicts behaviour as a being a reflection of them when it’s not, it’s the chemicals and the effect they have on the imperfect meat sacks that we’re all riding around in.

    I’d give her a couple of weeks to get it together and then if she’s not improving on her own sit down and find out what she needs to get back to 100%.

    Reply
  9. lokilaufeysanon

    LW who wants to become a teacher full time: I think your boss made the right call. They need someone in that position for a long time and you are not that person; you want to be a teacher. It makes no sense to hire you for that position only to have you leave the minute a full time teaching position opens up. Then they’d be back to square one.

    Subbing might not be ideal, but it is going to help you a lot more than becoming a secretary*. That’s how one of my good friends finally landed a full time teaching position as an art teacher at an elementary school. He subbed A LOT all over the place (different cities/districts), from elementary to high school, built up a good reputation and finally got hired on at a school. He had a few road blocks along the way, but he finally made it. It did take him a few years, but he did it.

    *I’m not trying to diss secretaries here. I think it’s a very important job, but it’s not the same as being a teacher. Subbing does allow people to see how you are as a teacher and will allow you to build up your reputation as one, as well. Plus, you will keep your skills sharp. They aren’t going to see you or your potential as a teacher as a secretary, because the work is different. And if you move out of teaching, your skills might not be as sharp if you ever can move into a full time position.

    Reply
  10. nonegiven

    After 6 weeks of white knuckling to keep from choking people to death with my bare hands, my doctor doubled my antidepressant and put me on a tranquilizer that I had to slowly raise the dosage on for 3 weeks. I was on that for at least 6 months before I was able to taper off and the antidepressant dose stayed up.

    I told him “Your nurse made a smart remark to me. She has no idea how close she came to dying. I go through the day with my fists clenched, with the fingernail marks to prove it, every day to keep from killing anyone that looks at me wrong. Something needs to change today or I’m buying cigarettes at the first store I come to when I leave here. I can not keep this up” This was like 20 years before Chantix and I’m not sure that would have helped me.

    Two weeks? This is something that changes your brain chemistry permanently.

    Reply
    1. Kathlynn

      yeah, I had a coworker who quit smoking, and she became quite grumpy and hard to live with for at least 6 months. So much so that I had to go to my boss, because I was done putting up with it.
      This is not something that goes away quickily

      Reply
    2. KnittyInABrowncoat

      It took hubby having a massive heart attack to get him to quit. It happened at work and luckily his old job was close to the hospital or he wouldn’t have made it. He said the whole trip in the ambulance he kept thinking of how he was never gonna see his family again and if he made it through he’d never smoke another cigarette. We Both quit that day. We were motivated, but damn I almost killed him myself recovering from a heart attack or not and he said he almost left me on the side of the road a couple of times. Quitting smoking sucks sooooo much.

      Reply
      1. RaccoonLady

        My mom got my dad to quit by making him smoke outside while I was a baby, which doesn’t sound bad until you realize I was born in December in North Dakota. Apparently standing outside in -20 degree winds just to smoke is what made my dad realize it wasn’t worth it.
        Being a baby I don’t remember this but my mom definitely has said he was crankier than usual but we are all so glad he did quit!

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          I dont’ know for sure what made my dad finally quit, but we used to blow out his matches and lecture him incessantly. And all three of us smoked when we grew up, except I was the only one who got the monkey on her back.

          Reply
    3. Persephone

      My father claims his cold turkey quitting job was “easy! No side effects! Quitting’s a breeze! Why do ads make it sound so hard? Easiest thing ever!”

      Everyone else around him says the opposite and that he was an absolute nightmare while it was going on. “I thought his going off caffeine for lent was bad,” my mother told me. “This was horrible.” I’m a bit more inclined to believe the rest of the family, tbh.

      Also, I don’t envy anyone going through that, I had a hard enough time weaning myself off once-a-week sleeping pills. Nonegiven, not saying this facetiously, but I’m impressed you quit for good. Kudos!

      Reply
      1. Slow Gin Lizz

        Haha, that’s funny. My dad quit smoking when my older brother was young, so before I was born. And he’s been cranky ever since I’ve known him, so maybe it’s 40 or so years of withdrawal….

        Reply
      2. Samiratou

        My husband quit smoking because he forgot to buy cigarettes one weekend, but very much recognizes how freakish that is. Guy just has some crazy mind-over-matter abilities that I would love to be able to replicate.

        It was before we started dating, so maybe it wasn’t quite as easy as he claims, but most of his family credits me for it even though I came in a couple months after the fact (which is good, as smoking is a deal breaker for me).

        Reply
        1. Specialk9

          I give you 1,000 points for not murdering your husband for all the times he’s assumed everyone – you – should be able to quit things so easily.

          /just guessing, but am I right?

          Reply
      3. nonegiven

        Seriously, I had to keep telling myself, “I am never going through this again.” Over and over. For months. The drugs kept me out of jail.

        Reply
        1. nonegiven

          Also, coming up on 23 years since I had so much as one drag on a cigarette.

          It was so hard to quit, nothing would make me start smoking again.

          Reply
        2. Lissa

          This makes me wonder how many crimes are committed by people quitting smoking and if the judge might give some leniency in that case! I mean if most people doing it feel they are not that far off from doing something that might get them arrested then surely some must actually…..

          Reply
          1. Julia

            I don’t know. Sure, if all they did was break something in anger, have them pay for it and be done. But if they actually hurt someone, I’m not sure “they just quit smoking!” should be a reason for leniency.

            Reply
          2. nonegiven

            They need to find some way to sort out who will be cranky for a couple of weeks and who will border on psycho for 6 months without medication, before they try to quit smoking.

            Reply
      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        My dad is like that too, actually. Some folks don’t have the same addiction interaction as other folks. Just ask my mom when my dad gave up processed sugar cold turkey ;)

        Reply
    4. Liane

      A very good friend quit smoking after a heart attack. He had always been upfront about his past addiction to heroin and other hard drugs, but had stopped using years before we met. He told me that quitting smoking was much, much harder than getting off those drugs.

      Reply
      1. Statler von Waldorf

        I used to use heroin and was a daily user for about a year. Quitting it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I haven’t used it for over five years now, a fact that I take some pride in.

        I still smoke cigarettes and probably will until the day I die. Take that for what it’s worth.

        Reply
    5. A Non E. Mouse

      This was like 20 years before Chantix and I’m not sure that would have helped me.

      My husband tried Chantix and it was absolutely awful. Terrible. He was a NIGHTMARE to live with, with absolutely no self-awareness that HE was the nightmare. He had the audacity at one point to complain to me that “everyone” was being cranky.

      But: he did not want to smoke while on it. Didn’t even *think* of smoking.

      He picked the habit back up after I had a medical scare, but I always tell people that the Chantix ads, REALLY MEAN IT when they say “some people experience these side effects”.

      Reply
      1. Jersey's mom

        My husband tried using chantrix and was vomiting a few times a day. He kept using it for two weeks, to get through the worst of the withdrawal, then eased off it. That was the two longest weeks of our lives/marriage

        Reply
      2. Elizabeth West

        The crazy dreams was one effect I did not experience, and TBH, I wouldn’t have minded those. Mostly it just made me feel spacey. I didn’t like that much and was glad to finally go off it.

        Reply
    6. Anastasia Beaverhausen

      My mom has quit alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes (not all a the same time!), and says unequivocally that cigarettes were the hardest.

      Reply
    7. Bow Ties Are Cool

      Huh. I was fine after a month. The first two weeks were a beast, and the third was no carnival, either. Then I spent week 4 coughing up the detritus of a 15-year habit and that cured what was left of my cravings. I guess everybody’s different, but my handful of friends who have quit described their experience similarly to mine.

      Reply
  11. HannahS

    For OP 4, I get why the conversation felt bad, but I think the principal was trying to do you a kindness. By asking you a quick question, she saved both of you the time of interviewing, and spared you the emotional journey of waiting for an interview, then having an interview, then waiting to hear from her, then being rejected. Because you would have been rejected, even if she’d interviewed you formally; she’s looking for a career admin, and you’re not one, and that would have come out during the interview–you couldn’t have honestly talked your way into this job, and I’m sure you weren’t intending to lie. It sucks to be shut out of a job you feel qualified for (especially when you really need one), but at least now you know and can move on to other prospects.

    (Also, random AAM etiquette question: I noticed yesterday that there’s a Hannah S. commenting. Do I change my name? Do I ask her to change hers, the next time I see her? Does it not matter and and I’m overthinking things?)

    Reply
    1. Natalie

      You could add a gravatar – it’s attached to your email address so it would stay unique. That’s what I did since it felt strange to tell random Natalies to change their names.

      Reply
      1. Sylvan

        :O

        I have assumed that other Natalies and other regular-commenter-names-without-gravatars were you and others on mobile.

        Reply
    2. Mallory Janis Ian

      I was just “Mallory” and then another Mallory started commenting, so I appended “Janis Ian” and added a gravatar. You could do one or both of those things: Become HannahS Something or Other or just add a gravatar.

      Reply
        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Ha. No worries :-) I thought of Janis Ian after I thought of Mallory, so I was glad to stick it on there.

          Reply
    3. Jennifer Thneed

      I was starting to enjoy this place on the internet, but I kept seeing posts under my name that I didn’t remember making. Duh! It was someone else named Jennifer (and hoo-boy are there ever a lot of us). So I added “Thneed” to my name, because my name on Ravelry is YouNeedaThneed, and folks there call me Thneed and so it still feels like “me”.

      Reply
  12. SarahKay

    OP #3, Definitely explain that you don’t have a company car and therefore you (or your delegate) would be out the cost of the fuel. If they made this arrangement because they’re not getting fully reimbursed for the travel costs it’s wildly unfair of them to expect you (or your lower level staff member, who is presumably less well paid) to take the hit against your own personal costs.
    Also, wow! I am frankly amazed that they have the cheek to try and tell you that you have to be part of this.

    Reply
    1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

      Right?! That’s my reaction as well. “Oh if it’s an out of pocket expense for me, I’ll pass that expense (and inconvenience!) on to my staff so that I don’t have to deal with it.”

      Also, since when is business travel an out of pocket expense in the first place? I don’t think so.

      Reply
    2. Shadow

      How in the heck does that work for the other managers? If they have a company car and gas paid for how do they not get fully reimbursed for a trip to the airport?

      Reply
    3. Brandy

      Even with a company car and gas paid, a boss shouldn’t expect subordinates to take time out of their personal off the clock time to run the boss around. He should take a cab or Uber/Lyft. No inconvenience to anyone then. They have cars parked right there at the airport for someone to use, theyre called cabs and id rather take my own car and pay for it, rather then ride with someone. Plus isn’t this the same as a boss asking to borrow money, its not an equal asking so its harder to say no. I forget the correct word or phrase for that.

      Reply
        1. No Ride to Airport

          I ultimately said I could not do it. A lower ranking staff member ultimately drove my bosses car to his own home nearby the airport in the middle of the day, had another manager drive him back to the office, so that in the evening after work, he could drive to the airport to pick up the boss and then have the boss drive the him home before the boss drove himself home. Confused? Me, too! The cost for parking at the airport is $15/day. All of the time spent trying to save the boss money far exceeded the cost of parking! (Reimbursement at this company is limited, so it is true he may not receive the full cost of parking in reimbursement, but that is true for every person who travels at this company. Something we live with, not to be passed down to employees.)

          Reply
          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Wow, even if the boss doesn’t get fully reimbursed for parking, it sounds like he’s financially covered in a myriad of other ways for his daily transportation expenses. I don’t see why employees have to bend over backwards, at personal expense to themselves, to help him wring every drop of blood from the turnip. Hrumph!

            Reply
          2. SarahKay

            Good for you saying you couldn’t do it.
            But what is wrong with boss? Why doesn’t he just pay the fees and suck it up?
            To be fair to him, what is wrong with your company that they don’t fully reimburse travel expense, too? As it is they’ve ended up paying out far more than they saved.

            Reply
  13. Doe-Eyed

    #1 – take this as a warning sign and start with your exit plan. My boyfriend had a former boss who was just absolutely a hot mess. He managed the clinic because his wife owned it, showed up later, or not at all, would ask him to do illegal things, etc. After he left the clinic, the guy found my boyfriend’s Facebook still signed in (because he managed their Facebook page). He read through weeks of our personal messages, got mad that my boyfriend wasn’t happy at their clinic, and then made up multiple elaborate lies to unemployment to appeal his approval. At the time, my boyfriend had shipped out to a training camp for his new job and couldn’t get away to join the appeal so he lost by default.

    (He actually told them that my boyfriend had multiple writeups, none of which they had because my boyfriend had “stolen” them when he left. Also he somehow managed to steal his own firing paperwork. Since they fired him on a whim because an order didn’t get put in during a declared state of emergency, apparently part of that claim is that he’s also a psychic. Also he said that he was dangerously violent and everyone in the clinic was afraid of him because he was psychologically unstable.)

    As an aside, the same boss left his email signed in on the reception computer that my boyfriend primarily used during the day. He signed out and called the boss to let him know. The boss then thanked him for his integrity.

    All in all it was just a hot mess, and an employer grossly violating privacy like that has become the biggest red flag for me.

    Reply
  14. Employment Lawyer

    1. My boss snooped in my personal email account
    No matter what you say, or what she says, she will do it again if she can. Anyone with a brain would know it was inappropriate in the first place; you won’t change her behavior by saying how inappropriate it is. You should assume from now on that every email and activity is monitored; either learn to live with it or leave.

    Reply
    1. hypernatural

      I read the letter as the OP left the account logged in and Windows logged in, in which case she can and should develop the great habit of locking her computer when she leaves it and setting it to automatically lock very quickly (like 5 minutes) in case she forgets. Her boss snooping through her IMs is probably better than a malicious actor snooping through confidential information.

      Reply
    2. tigerStripes

      Or maybe create an extra e-mail account that is only used to say nice things about the boss, etc. and how great it is to work there. Then you can leave it open and not worry :)

      Reply
  15. Helpful

    #3, while I think it is dumb he’s mooching rides, there could be some benefits to the drive, once you sort out the company paying for it. To have your boss’s ear while doing him a “favor” may be a pleasant benefit. Just a way to frame it more positively.

    Reply
    1. No Ride to Airport

      You bring up a good point, but there are already so few boundaries in this situation, I don’t see how this could help, but I like the positive approach! I’ll have to think more about your recommendation.

      Reply
  16. Tomato Frog

    #1 I don’t see the difference between this and the boss rooting around in your purse because you left it open. I’ve never had a boss who wouldn’t have considered doing this a huge violation. Unless you had a draft email open in which you badmouthed the assistant director, your department director really shouldn’t be commenting on anything in your personal email account.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      The difference here is the boss owns the actual purse and owns–what would be the equivalent of the internet, the money in the wallet? The boss was way out of line, but the fact that it is the boss’s computer and internet makes it a lot easier for her to justify looking deeper.

      Looking at the open screen is a downright given, but most bosses wouldn’t dig past that.

      Reply
      1. CM

        I disagree. Even though the employer provides the computer and Internet, it’s still extremely intrusive to snoop around in somebody’s personal email account. I think that’s like saying, “I own the office and the desk drawer, so I’m entitled to rummage through your purse that you left in the drawer.”

        I would check your Sent mailbox, OP#1, just in case — I think this boss’ behavior was so over the line that I’d be paranoid that she sent mail pretending to be you to stir up drama.

        I would probably have a stronger reaction than what Alison suggested and would be inclined to say that it was completely inappropriate for her to look through a personal email account. Alison’s wording is diplomatic — I just worry that it gives the boss an opening to say “Of course I’ll look through your email again.” Either way, it’s definitely worth it to make it clear that you did not in any way badmouth the assistant director. And consider only checking gmail from personal, password-protected devices.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          You’re not disagreeing with me :-). I totally agree that it’s intrusive; it’s just not the same thing as looking through a privately owned purse. That’s how a boss who wouldn’t look in a purse justifies looking in an email account.

          Reply
          1. Jesmlet

            Yes, this. I can totally see perfectly reasonable people with relatively normal boundaries looking at someone’s open page, looking through their drawers at work, etc. Not the same thing as taking personal property kept in the drawer and rifling through that. It’s also behavior that HR/the employer may back, but looking through a purse would not be.

            Reply
            1. sstabeler

              I think there’s a difference though- the boss basically was actively searching the email account. If it just needed the email in question opened, that would be on the OP for leaving their email open. However, actively searching the personal email that they had left open is a different matter. (To use an analogy, if someone’s purse is left open and a passerby can see something inappropiate in it, then they don’t need to ignore it. That’s the equivalent of glancing at the currently-open page. searching the account, however, would be the equivalent of hunting through the purse.)

              Reply
      2. Tomato Frog

        I guess it depends on what you think is analogous to the purse. You’re thinking the computer is, but I’m thinking of the purse as equivalent to the email account.

        Reply
      3. nonegiven

        This is more like the employer owning the desk and looking in your drawers, then finding your purse and rooting through it.

        Reply
    2. Jesmlet

      Obviously what the boss did was wrong, but it’s not the same thing. With a purse, that’s violating the employee’s personal property. Because it’s a work computer, it’s not as egregious. Once she started digging through, it became much worse, but still not on the level of going through an employee’s property because it’s the company’s server, network and computer that OP was using. Still, it’s crazy that the boss who call OP out on it because it’s essentially admitting to a massive amount of snooping and is definitely icky like OP says.

      Reply
      1. Lehigh

        But the email address is the employee’s personal property. I think it is the same as a purse – like CM said above, the equivalent argument is, “The boss own the desk the purse is on, the office the purse is in, and the time the employee uses to look through her purse for a cough drop.” It’s a privately owned email address.

        Reply
        1. Jesmlet

          Eh, I can sort of see that but my mind is having trouble wrapping around the idea of a physical object being as much property as an online list of every email you sent and received kept on company owned property. It just doesn’t feel equally wrong to me.

          Reply
          1. Koko

            I think the word “kept” is key in what you just said, though. It’s her personal email so presumably most of the contents were sent outside of the office, from other devices, and they’re stored on Gmail’s servers, not the company’s. The company just owns a computer that was able to access the Gmail server.

            It’s kinda like, if I could make portals, and I opened a portal between my home and my office and then left it open, my employer isn’t entitled to go through it into my home and start opening all my cabinets to see what I keep there. Just because there was an access point in the office doesn’t give them a right to what is behind the access point.

            Reply
    3. JH

      Ultimately, the employer is paying for whatever gateway device is accessing the internet, which in this case is using port 443 to trade information with Gmail’s servers. The employer is similarly paying for the bandwidth.

      Is it morally wrong for the employer to snoop like this? In my opinion, yes. Is it illegal? Not a laywer, but doesn’t sound like it to me.

      Reply
  17. Courtney

    #2 – I think you should take a harder look at your own views on people using their sick time. During my time in retail, nearly all of my managers used your language about so and so “calling off today.” In reality, that person was using a sick day for a valid issue, but in retail the expectation seems to be that you don’t use your sick days unless you’re super severely ill, and even then the focus is on how you’re letting down the people who are there and leaving them with less coverage. But that’s not fair towards your employees. I had just one manager who had nonnegative feelings when I had to take a sick day, and was very clear about the fact that our health and any family emergencies came first. I appreciated that SO MUCH; he was definitely my favorite manager. And feeling appreciated and liking your boss definitely improves the work environment and quality.

    Reply
    1. Stellaaaaa

      The notion of sick time in the retail world is its own animal so I’m willing to cut the OP some slack there. She likely doesn’t have any input into corporate’s sick day policy, and Joy might not actually have any banked sick time. If Joy’s efforts to quit smoking are causing issues with customer service AND are leading her to call out sick with little notice, it’s valid for the OP to perceive that as a problem. It doesn’t sound like OP is even blaming Joy for this. She’s just wondering what she should do about this entirely new personal-life element that Joy has introduced into the workplace. OP might also be looking ahead to the holiday season and wondering whether he can depend on Joy.

      Reply
      1. SarahTheEntwife

        But it’s sick time — how much notice do you expect people to have for that? I recognize that this leads to staffing trouble and one shouldn’t do it for a light headache, but sick time is generally a last-minute thing (other than scheduled surgery or something like that).

        Reply
      2. OP #2

        Thank you- you’re the only person that’s really hit the nail on the head when it comes to my concerns regarding her calling out.

        That being said, I do admit that I was being unfair to be upset that she called out the once- admittedly, it is wildly inconvenient for me when a member of the leadership team calls out. I ended up working 15 hours that day, when normally I’d get out in 8-10.

        Reply
    2. Maya Elena

      It looks like the LW is writing about an incipient occurrence that is going to be a bigger problem if it persists.
      I don’t think he is in “HOW DARE SHE TAKE A SICK DAY AND HAVE A BAD MOOD SHE MUST BE FIRED” mode.
      If quitting cold turkey does take months to recover from , that is a legitimate concern that will persist when Joy no longer has sick days to use.

      Reply
      1. Courtney

        But at this point it has been a week and she has taken one sick day, which OP is frustrated by. I’m not assuming that OP is on a rampage about it or anything – simply making a point that I don’t think a single sick day should be a part of the frustration here. Her attitude, sure, but taking a sick day for her mental health during the peak of the withdrawal process? Not so much.

        Reply
  18. Corvid

    However, while the first week was great, this week I have noticed a sharp dip in her performance/attitude. Joy admits that this is because she is severely craving a cigarette, which has always been her main form of stress relief. While I sympathize, and am still proud of her for taking this step towards bettering her health, I am getting frustrated at her performance.

    You’ve had a great working relationship with your employee for three years and you get impatient after one bad week? Not to mention that you know the reason the dip in her performance and it’s a legitimate one. Please don’t be too strict on your employee. It seems you want to be sympathetic and supportive and still get that 100% performance from the employee. That’s not going to happen and it would best to accept that – I’m sure your employee will be very grateful for the accommodation.

    She actually called out sick today, and again, told me this was directly due to the fact that she is craving a cigarette so badly.

    And that is a problem… why… ? She has an actually legitimate reason to call out sick.
    Nicotine withdrawal: “The most documented symptoms are cravings for nicotine, anger/irritability, anxiety, depression, impatience, trouble sleeping, restlessness, hunger or weight gain, and difficulty concentrating. Symptoms are usually strongest for the first few days and then dissipate over 2-4 weeks.”

    Reply
  19. Rusty Shackelford

    #3: The two managers don’t see any issue with this and recently inferred that I am expected to participate and if I cannot, I should assign the task to lower level member of the staff.

    Well, first off, I’d ignore any inferrences.

    Second, when they come right out and tell you that it’s your turn, I’d go straight to the boss. “Fergus and Wakeen have requested that I join the airport pickup and dropoff rotation, so I guess we need to see about getting me a company car.” And if that’s not forthcoming… “I’m confused. I know they provide transport for you, but their cars and fuel are provided by the company. It sounds like you’re asking me to do the same thing at my own expense. Obviously that’s not a fair solution, so how else can we handle this?”

    Conversely, I’d tell Fergus and Wakeen “I think you guys are mistaken. You’re given a company car, and the company pays for your fuel, to do this. I don’t have any of that, and I’m sure you’re not expecting me to pay out of pocket to do the same thing that you’re getting paid to do.” And I’d consider there’s a good chance the boss doesn’t know that Fergus and Wakeen even have this expectation of you sharing the duties.

    Reply
    1. Liane

      And don’t forget to bring up pay if you and/or your staff are hourly. “Since I am not salaried, how do we handle pay? So we comply with the law, time from call until I return home must be paid, including overtime.”

      Reply
    2. No Ride to Airport

      I included the boss in my reply to the manager when I told him I could not do it without explanation (taking the Jackie O advice of never explain, never complain). I hope that I’m not asked again, but more than that, I hope that those not in management positions feel pressured that they need to take time away from their personal lives to save the boss money.

      Reply
      1. No Ride to Airport

        Oops. I mean that I hope those not in management don’t feel pressured. Also, I told the person who did the pick up to submit overtime and I would sign it, but he never did.

        Reply
        1. SarahKay

          Good for you! If it’s something you feel you can do it may be worth specifically telling non-management not to feel pressured to give up their personal time for this, although I appreciate that may not be an option.

          Reply
  20. NewHerePleaseBeNice

    Re: LW1’s snooping boss: in my experience this is never a one-off occurrence. Snooping people tend to be snooping people, and I’d be surprised if said boss wasn’t rifling through desk drawers when staff are out as well. Be wary of your boss and do not trust her. And of course, decide whether you wish to work for someone you do not trust!

    I had a snooping boss, who used to look through papers, log on to my computer, and even look in the pockets of my coat or into my shopping bag. The only way to deal with snoopers is lock them out. Lock your drawer. Take your handbag with you when you go to the loo. Windows and L (or CTRL SHIFT EJECT on a Mac) to lock your screen even if you leave your desk for a second, and regularly change passwords…

    Reply
    1. Sunshine on a cloudy day

      Yup – same experience here. I would be very guarded when it comes to this assistant director. Which is very annoying – it’s kind of exhausting – but this sort of situation isn’t likely a one-off offense. This person snooped through your chats and then told the director what she saw – LIKE THIS WAS A TOTALLY NORMAL THING TO DO. It really sounds like their judgement (when it comes to boundaries, etc.) is way off.

      Reply
  21. Brett

    #1 While maybe not illegal, for the director to do anything other than immediately lock your computer was probably a violation of IT policies. Even at small organizations I have worked at, snooping through a direct report’s computer was a pretty serious violation of IT policy.
    For my current organization, it can get you fired. It is not unusual for an employee to have something work related on their computer that their direct boss and boss’s boss is not allowed to see or use (with certain confidential information, it is even possible for it to be illegal for the boss to access certain information on their direct report’s laptops).

    Reply
    1. hypernatural

      If the OP had information that was illegal for her boss to see, I would think she’d be fired for leaving the computer unattended and unlocked. I’m guessing from the casual attitude about information security that the OP isn’t working with much sensitive data.

      Reply
      1. Brett

        Yes, leaving the computer unlocked is almost definitely a policy violation, but normally one that gets you a warning, not terminated.
        Leaving a computer unlocked is a mistake in procedure, not a purposeful action. (If someone did purposely leave their computer unlocked to allow someone else to access information on it, that is definitely worth a termination.) Accessing an unlocked computer and then browsing through information on that computer is a purposeful action.
        Though in the case of the information that is illegal for the boss to see, yes, that would probably get both boss and employee terminated. I doubt OP is working with such sensitive information, but those situations is why IT policies like accessing another’s computer exist in the first place.

        Reply
    2. Jesmlet

      This is entirely company dependent and you’ll probably find both extremes are fairly common. I’ve never worked in the situation you described but have worked 2 places where it was expressly communicated that anything we do on our computers can be accessed by any higher up or tech person at any point for any reason. Depending on how small the company is, it’s also very likely for them to not have an IT policy.

      Reply
    3. ɹǝʇndɯoɔ ɹnoʎ ʞɔol sʎɐʍlɐ

      I had a boss who would flip our screens upside down (Ctrl + Alt + ↓) if we walked away from our desks without locking our computers. It was amusing the first time, annoying the second time, and then we all caught on. (Locking our computers was important as we frequently dealt with confidential client information.)

      Reply
      1. SarahKay

        I work in finance/accounting and a co-worker and I used to do that to each other if we found the other’s computer left unlocked and unattended. For me it was great, as it got me firmly into the habit of always, always locking it – which since I’m not in a private office and can be working on payroll data, I absolutely must. Especially as I’m in the UK so Data Protection Act with big personal fines to offenders would apply!

        Reply
      2. Cherith Ponsonby

        Ooh, thank you for that! I work at a finance-adjacent company and it seems like everyone leaves their computers unlocked, even the sysadmins (!) so I’ve been looking for a harmless prank to play on the ones I’m friendly with.

        (At my previous company in the same industry it was drilled into our heads that we must never ever leave our computers unlocked, so I don’t know why we don’t have the same policy here. At least it’s not like the place I worked where locking your computer got you nasty looks and a conversation along the lines of “what are you trying to hide?”)

        Reply
  22. mcr-red

    #1 – I’m weirdly hung up on the “you said something unkind about the assistant director.” I’m pretty sure we have all said something “unkind” about a coworker or boss in our lives. I had a coworker passive-aggressively say “unkind” things about me just loud enough for me to hear but if I called her on it, would be all, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” I started doing it back at her, and weirdly, it stopped.

    I know have said unkind things to my boss about other coworkers who dropped the ball. It seems like something so mundane that I don’t know why she’d flip about it, so beyond on the snooping, that is also a huge red flag as well. Saying, “it seems you and Mary have some issues you need to work out” is one thing, saying “How dare you say something unkind about Mary to your mom/husband/Jill from accounting” is another. It sounds like something you say to a 2-year-old, “We don’t say unkind things about people, even when we’re frustrated that they locked us out.”

    Reply
    1. Marthooh

      I took it as a way of saying “You left your personal account open and that is a problem.” It sounds like the “unkind thing” was trivial, but if one of your coworkers sees something even trivially unkind about themselves or others, or something you’d rather keep private, that really could cause problems.

      Reply
  23. Observer

    #2 Why are you upset that she took a sick day off to deal with the withdrawal symptoms? You are acting as though she’s somehow pretending that she’s sick, but unless you have stupidly restrictive sick leave policies (ie only to be take if you are really sick this minute), this is what sick leave is FOR. She’s taking care of her health, by making it possible to get through the withdrawal period!

    If she had a really bad allergy attack, or broke her leg and the same thing were happening, would you be so frustrated? Perhaps you should start looking at this whole thing through that lens.

    Reply
  24. Matt

    #3: is this the famous “Airport Boss” who reprimanded his employee for being inappropriately dressed when called up in the middle of the night to fetch him? If he might be, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair ;-)

    Reply
  25. Lil Fidget

    Op #4- I would just watch out a little here. Were they intimating that if you’re not going to stay on part-time for several more years, you should probably just leave now? I would have sworn sure Alison has said in the past that, when you know a part-time employee really wants and needs full-time employment, it’s not really reasonable to be surprised that they’re going to take any full time job they can get. Your employer feels a little ick to me, that they’re basically stringing you along with this future full time teaching job, but … not yet. If they want people to stay longer in the secretary role they might consider making it full time and offering benefits, or other incentives!

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      I think you misunderstood the post. The OP is a part-time substitute teacher who was applying for the full-time secretary position. Her principal wasn’t tell her to leave, she was telling her that she wouldn’t be considered for the secretary position because they wanted someone who wasn’t going to leave to become a full-time teacher when she had the opportunity.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        Oh you know what, you’re right. As I reread it they’re basically saying they don’t want to hire someone who is looking for something else, which is reasonable. I still think OP may want to look for a full time position now rather than staying at a part time job that might become the full time job she’s ultimately interested in, but there’s not really any injustice here.

        Reply
    2. MCMonkeyBean

      I think you may have misread something in the letter. The secretary role *is* full time, which is why the letter writer applied for it. But they want someone in the role who wants to be a secretary long-term. They know that the letter writer wants to be a teacher, not a secretary, so it’s reasonable for them to think she won’t be fully committed to the secretary job.

      Reply
  26. Observer

    #1 You just learned something very valuable about your Director. As others have said, a snoop is a snoop. Get into the habit of logging out of EVERYTHING when you leave your desk, and not leaving ANYTHING where someone might have an excuse to “just give a look”.

    Reply
    1. Wannabe Disney Princess

      Yep. I have a coworker who thinks it’s “hilarious” to send “funny” emails/texts from your email or phone (personal or otherwise) if you leave them unlocked on your desk when you aren’t there. ANY TIME I leave my desk, I lock everything up.

      This doesn’t help what happened, of course. But at least LW #1 can be aware of the snoopage potential going forward.

      Reply
        1. clow

          This happens at my workplace too. I don’t leave my personal stuff logged in, but there are people who will change your wallpaper, send out emails from your work email etc. One guy sent out a meeting invite at my desk for a party where everyone laughed at me for leaving the computer unlocked (sent to the team, including the manager). Honestly, its stupid and immature, but it does teach a lesson in locking your computer.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            Maybe it does, maybe not. But one of these days someone who does this on a regular basis, especially when the messages are supposed to be “funny”, is going to cross a line. And it won’t make a different if that person didn’t know that the line existed because it wouldn’t have been an issue if they hadn’t been intruding on someone else’s equipment.

            And using someone else’s PERSONAL equipment? That takes the whole “it’s not your job to teach me lessons” to a whole new level.

            Reply
          2. M is for Mulder

            Same. The first time a noob leaves a work station unlocked here, they almost always come back to inappropriate pin-up style wallpaper. It’s weird and hypocritical.

            Reply
      1. Jules the 3rd

        omg. I just can’t even. I see glancing at a work computer screen, and kinda sorta understand why a boss might touch it and not think about the boundary violation (though that one’s a stretch). But touching a co-worker’s work / personal property to do a ‘joke’? o hail no.

        sympathy. That he can do that with no repercussions would be a job-killing thing for me.

        Reply
      2. Jesmlet

        We do this to each other all the time. One time my boss sent an email from a coworker’s computer to the tech guy asking how his goatee was doing. Another time, someone’s wallpaper was changed to the picture of Kathy Griffin with the Trump head. All pretty harmless stuff since the original wallpaper was saved just in case and we gave the tech guy a heads up. I can see how if it’s only one person, it’d get annoying though.

        Reply
      3. Lynn Whitehat

        At my workplace, it is actually a rule that you are fair game for pranks like this if you leave your computer unlocked. It is a humorous way to get people to take security seriously, and boy howdy, is it effective. Most people only have to “offer” to buy donuts for the whole office, or “request” everyone’s favorite cat GIFs, once or twice before the discipline is instilled.

        Reply
        1. hypernatural

          At my old office, we would always flip peoples’ screens upside down (Ctrl + Alt + DownArrow). The first time you do this and the person has to try to launch a web browser and google how to fix it while upside down is pretty funny. And yes, incredibly effective.

          Reply
        2. Epiphyta

          At Spouse’s employer (a network security/identity management company), it is made clear during orientation that if someone walks away from their desk and leaves their machine unlocked, it is acceptable/encouraged for another employee to use an established key combination that will lock the machine AND display a full-screen still from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. (Any other action taken will get you a nice shiny write-up.) It doesn’t tend to take more than two rounds of “Hey, Fergus got ‘Ponied’!” for the point to be made.

          Reply
      4. RedfacedAnon

        I’m embarrassed to admit I did this once. We worked in classified government space, though not on classified computer systems. IT security is a big freaking deal. One co-worker always left her computer unlocked when she stepped away. My roommate was big on pranks at his office, and shared a prank for people who leave computers unlocked: take a screenshot of their desktop, make it the wallpaper, and hide all icons. (Click, click, click, it’s not working!) I thought we were all collegial enough that it would be funny.

        It wasn’t funny.

        She was quietly embarrassed and mad, and became very distant from then on. In retrospect, I get it. I was essentially reprimanding her, publicly, and putting myself in a position of moral authority and sanctimoniousness.

        I was a jerk.

        PSA: don’t do this unless your actual job is cybersecurity.

        Reply
  27. Name (Required)

    OP1. (And Alison, sorry to disagree with you but there is a legal technical position here)

    If you don’t own the computer you are logging into, then you don’t own the data you send in a workplace. Most workplaces have policies where they won’t scam your internet banking data including passwords (even though they legally can if you log on at a work owned computer and if you work in a large organisation they will totally have the software to capture your passwords, but they don’t use them or no-one would work for them.)

    There is no legal expectation of privacy if you use a work computer for personal use. Even when workplaces allow for personal use, if you read their full IT policies, there is always a disclaimer and it’s mainly because dumb arses in the past have used their personal email accounts to sexually harass their colleagues from their personal email accounts (from work computers), done fraud etc from work computers on their personal accounts and the employers have been found liable legally for the damage they caused (including financially). Because the person or entity that owns the computer is liable for actions that happen on that computer whether you are breaching their policies or not.

    Your Director is probably a snoop, however the moment you start typing into your work computer, your work owns that output (and also has to pay out if you are nasty) . bottom line. Don’t ever write or send anything on a work computer that you wouldn’t be comfortable having the whole world see. Your workplace will be the final judge of what is publishable and where. The only exception is if you have an ironclad contract upfront that limits what your workplace can use (usually only R & D and high powered individuals hired for specific purposes involving IP and sharing the proceeds.)

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That actually doesn’t disagree with what I wrote in the post. They own anything that happens on their servers. It’s murkier when they go into a personal email account that was left logged in and start poking around and reading messages in it that weren’t sent from their servers. There have been cases that have been decided both ways, depending on the specific set of facts.

      Reply
      1. Brett

        I’m curious what cases decided that an employer could use account access to get to information not sent to/from their systems?
        I would think it would have to be pretty narrow as to what they could access?

        Reply
        1. Name (Required)

          Also to Alison below, yes the case law can be a bit murky but it is also totally legal for your employer to install a data (or keystroke) logger on your computer. ie every letter/key you you type can be logged. Encryption in this instance is irrelevant as your employer can log the keystrokes before encryption occurs and it hits the internet etc. It happens at the point you are physically typing. As long as your employer has a generic and relatively robust general warning in your onboarding, or you agreeing to their IT policies or your contract, it’s not murky at all. (It’s usually large companies but if you work in R & D or with sensitive data your employer’s right to do this will be buried in a policy you probably didn’t get round to reading because you were too busy doing your actual job :)

          Where it gets murky (in tha past couple of years) is when the small to midsize companies don’t have robust enough policies etc. In the past, bigger companies got burned when the computing law was still being shaped (and even relatively recently) but pretty much any large employer, any government employer, and at least half of the SME’s have taken this on board now. Sure, you could get lucky. (If you can afford to take them to court in which case you’ll need an amazing amount of money and something worth fighting for – and it could take you years)

          Bottom line, don’t use your work computer to do or say anything you wouldn’t be proud of your Grandma seeing on TV. Facebook can only get you once you post. Your workplace (depending on where you work) owns the drafts you wrote and then thought the better of posting up and can use this against you.

          Reply
    2. Brett

      I think this needs a few caveats. Nearly all web traffic now is encrypted. It can be captured in transit, but the content cannot be accessed, only the source and destination. So, to capture any actual data, it has to be captured at the computer, not in transit (e.g. a keylogger, screen capture, or even just mining a browser cache).

      If passwords are captured (like your gmail password), it is still illegal (at least in the US and Europe) for the company to use that password to access your other accounts and systems. The classic example is that if the company does capture your gmail password, they cannot then go to your bank account and use gmail to reset your password and then read your bank transactions.

      Based on what the OP said below, the chats did not take place on the computer the director accessed. Instead, the director used the captured account access to gmail to then access account information (gmail chats) that were not already present on the work computer and were not accessed from that computer by the OP.

      Reply
      1. LW #1

        So let me just clarify what happened- the gmail account was open in an incognito browser window which I forgot to close before leaving for the day. We have shared workstations, so they logged in for an unrelated purpose and saw it open. Don’t know if that changes anything.

        Reply
  28. LW #1

    Hi all, LW #1 here. Thanks for chiming in, I appreciate your responses.

    As some of you have surmised, it was indeed a “boss walks by a computer accidentally left unlocked” kind of situation. I work in a computer lab where I bounce around between computers throughout the day and I accidentally forgot to log out o one of them, which is not usual for me. You better believe I will be double and triple checking in the future, tho.

    I never did find out what the “unkind things” were, btw. I’ve asked a couple of times and the subject has been quickly changed, which to me signals that in hindsight whatever it was they were reacting to is probably pretty petty. It feels like a thing that maybe got blown out of proportion because there happened to be a lot going on that day (a ceiling dripping onto a spinning ceiling fan in a computer lab is never a good day). Which I get, but also feel like responding in the heat of the moment wasn’t a great move on my boss’ part. Time will tell if she was just having a bad moment or if this is going to be a regular thing. In the meantime I’ve set it right and we’re back on track –
    although I didn’t have the nards to tell her that snooping in my personal email is not ok. I’m just going to be more attentive and see how this plays out.

    Reply
  29. Manager-at-Large

    For OP #4 (driving boss) I think you have to sort out what your real objection is here and then address it directly.
    If you would have NO ISSUE doing this if you have a company car + expenses like the other 2 managers, then you can go that route.
    If you wouldhave NO ISSUE doing this if you were reimbursed for mileage, then you can go that route.
    If this is something that you would on principal push back against and/or greatly resent the off-hours time committment, then you need to know that is your position on the matter and it doesn’t change EVEN if they offer to reimburse you or give you company car.
    I’d advise against saying “I can’t do this because *something they can alter*” when you mean “not in a million years” because if they do remove the named obstacle, you are not in a strong position to refuse.

    Reply
  30. OP #2

    Hey guys! OP#2 here.

    Lots of people are getting really upset over the fact that I was unhappy that she called out sick- that’s fair. I’ll be honest, when one of my leaders call out sick, it forces me to go from working an 8-10 hour day to working a 14-16 hour day, and as a salaried employee, I don’t get compensated for that. But you guys are right, even if it personally inconveniences me, she was completely within her right to do so. I do want to emphasize that when she called out, I didn’t express displeasure to her- I’ve been making an effort to be as supportive as possible through this whole thing- that’s why I wrote Alison in the first place! I wanted to know how to approach her in a way that would be fair and supportive, but still help direct her away from the poor performance she was giving. That being said, I think I was valid to be concerned that her attendance could keep being an ongoing issue- in our industry, call outs are really debilitating. And our corporate policy is very strict, so if it kept happening I would potentially have to terminate her which I really, really don’t want to do.

    I’ve also had people telling me I need to cut her some slack- I have been. Thus far, I have made an effort to be nothing but supportive and positive to her. I have called her out on a few of the more inappropriate comments she’s made to employees and guests. But again, I think I am within my rights to be concerned- in retail, the culture really is “you need to leave your baggage at the door.” Which I know is hard to do, and I definitely didn’t expect her 100%- but I did expect to see at least some effort, which frankly I didn’t for that week. Our location is very sales heavy, and the way she had been acting was hurting employee morale. I actually saw a dip in our percap the days she worked, and I genuinely think that part of it is that her bad mood and lack of effort in a leadership role put everyone else in a bad mood and caused their own effort to drop. Which corporate noticed, and I personally took a beating for. I didn’t use her as an excuse though, because frankly I didn’t want them to ask me to let her go. It’s unfortunate, but in the retail world, pretty much everyone is seen as replaceable.

    Now for the good news: I wrote in to Alison about a week and a half ago. And since then, I have seen a huge improvement in Joy’s performance. She isn’t back to her old self, which I totally get, but the inappropriately rude and snippy tone she’s had with the team and the guests is for the most part gone. She’s stopped telling employees she doesn’t care when they bring issues to her, and has stopped being overtly difficult with guests needing assistance. So more or less, the problem has sorted itself out- and she’s now going on about a month without smoking, which is awesome! Thanks for the advice, Alison- if she falls back into the poor behavior, I’ll take the route you suggested. But I’m hoping at this point it won’t come to that :)

    Reply
    1. CM

      It’s great that you’re being so supportive toward Joy and that this situation is resolving itself with time.
      The situation you’re describing where nobody can get sick or have an off day without a huge negative impact on everybody else seems untenable. I don’t know if there’s much you can do about it, but it seems like there’s not a lot of room to be human in your workplace.

      Reply
      1. OP2

        It’s not great, but it’s also very typical in the retail world unfortunately.

        For front line employees, I due schedule excess staff to account for call outs. But for leadership, there’s not much I can do unfortunately. I myself haven’t called out sick in the 3 years I’ve been here because if I don’t show up, the store doesn’t open :/

        Reply
        1. Broadcastlady

          I completely relate. In some jobs call outs are just impossible. I’m a broadcaster at a very small radio station. No holidays off and very little possibility of sick time. There is literally no other body to cover for you. If there is a blizzard, I still have to go to work, so that I can tell everyone else not to go to work. But I love it, and I knew it when I we go into the business.

          Reply
        2. Lissa

          Yup, I think this situation is much more common than some people are aware of. I read about jobs where people are able to call out sick with any frequency and am boggled/jealous!

          Reply
    2. Jules the 3rd

      Good luck to you, and her. My husband quit, and it’s tough, but he’s healthier and happier now. His favorite was Ricola instead of dum dums, so you might check what flavors she likes.

      Reply
    3. Observer

      I’m glad it’s working out, but in the long term I think I’d be looking for a new job. Even in retail, it seems to be that the level of under-staffing you are describing is high. And while I get that staff are seen as replaceable, your corporate seems to be on the worse side of this – I don’t get rid of computers as quickly as your corporate gets rid of people.

      This is not your fault, but it’s a recipe for skewing your world view and view of what is reasonable.

      It’s also a bad business model. But, that’s not your problem unless you have a good reason for wanting to stay with this company.

      Reply
      1. OP2

        It wasn’t relevent to the original post so I didn’t include this, but I actually accepted a new, non-retail position elsewhere. I’m super pumped :)

        Reply
        1. Alton

          Oh, that’s great! I’m glad you found something you’re excited about! Hopefully it will be a big improvement over what you’ve been dealing with in this current job.

          Reply
        2. SarahKay

          Yay! And Congratulations.
          I was horrified when you said you haven’t called out sick because otherwise the store didn’t open. Sounds like you’re better off well out of there.

          Reply
    4. Alton

      I definitely have sympathy for your position. Retail can be really bad at putting this type of burden on management sometimes, and in my experience, perfectly reasonable managers end up getting put in a position where they feel like they have no choice but to ask for stuff that isn’t possible or reasonable.

      I’m glad things are better now, but it might not be a bad idea to think about whether the current situation is sustainable, and whether you want to try to look for something that is. I worked for a company for a while that had really serious coverage problems, and I saw a lot of turnover (I think I had 11 managers in roughly five years). I saw how managers would go from being very organized and communicative to existing in panic mode.

      Reply
      1. LCL

        Fast food restaurant work is like this also in regards to how they treat their managers. Managers are expected to work the floor and do all the duties of regular shift people, and manage on top of it, and somehow the company gets away with calling them salaried and not paying them any extra for 16 hour days. It’s why I don’t patronize fast food; the way they treat their employees should be illegal.

        Reply
    5. Ex-Retail Manager

      Thank you for the follow-up, and the clarification of how retail works. I was in retail for many years, and am constantly frustrated at the “one size fits all” approach when it comes to company culture, sick/leave policies, and project based workloads. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but the deepest respect for Alison and this column, but so much of the time it applies to office culture only.
      Having been a manager, I remember having to work many doubles when my key holders called out sick. Especially when I knew they’d been out partying the night before and were too hungover to work. But if I didn’t come in, the store didn’t open. It’s frustrating, and we were required to run so thin that there was never an option to double up on staff.
      Is this kind of life untenable? Yes, to most people. I know some folks who have been in retail for 20+ years, although I could not hack it myself. It’s difficult to change the culture within, especially in our current world of Amazon vs. All Other Retail. The best way to make it workable? Leave, as the OP2 and I have both done. (Congrats, btw!)

      Reply
    6. nonegiven

      > but I did expect to see at least some effort, which frankly I didn’t for that week.

      You were probably seeing an effort and didn’t realize it. It probably took a great amount of effort to not slap someone instead of making an inappropriate remark. The day she called out, she probably didn’t have it in her to make that effort.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Hey now, let’s take OP at her word. I get that folks want to push back on her expectations for someone experiencing withdrawal, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame a manager for expecting their employee to show up to work and not slap someone.

        Reply
  31. OP#2

    It’s not great, but it’s also very typical in the retail world unfortunately.

    For front line employees, I due schedule excess staff to account for call outs. But for leadership, there’s not much I can do unfortunately. I myself haven’t called out sick in the 3 years I’ve been here because if I don’t show up, the store doesn’t open :/

    Reply
    1. Observer

      Did you know this before you took the job? Do they claim that they provide paid sick leave? That’s a huge lie right there – leave that you literally cannot take without closing the business is not leave.

      Also, what happens if you get sick such that you literally cannot come in – quarantine, too dizzy to stand, etc? Having no backup in the structure is stupidity. Not yours – your employer’s.

      Reply
      1. Alton

        It’s really stupid, but I think it’s a common problem in retail. When my mom was working retail, she had to go in when she was really sick with the flu, once.

        Reply
      2. VintageLydia

        It’s inherent in the industry. Big companies and small both discourage calling out for any reason, even occasionally side-eyeing hospital stays, especially for non-emergency (but still medically necessary!) reasons. I came into my old store with norovirus a few times because if I didn’t, the truck wouldn’t be unloaded until 7 or 8am which pushes back the next store’s delivery by 5 hours screwing with THEIR schedule. I really didnt want to be responsible for messing with TWO stores staffing because I called out and couldn’t get a hold of other managers at 3am (scheduled at 4am.)

        Retail management is brutal and exploitive. And usually salaried so when you break it down they are often working for $5 or less an hour with no usable sick time, maybe a week or two of vacation you can’t actually take, and shitty medical benefits.

        Reply
      3. OP2

        When I took the job, I was not offered sick time, and I was given 10 vacation days a year- and this number never increases, which is frustrating. However, it’s also pretty common in the industry.

        I would try to have one of my hourly leaders come in early to get things up and running if I truly couldn’t come in.

        Luckily, in the last three years, I’ve only been debilitatingly sick twice- once was on a prescheduled 4-day weekend, and once was on my honeymoon (so I guess I use luckily subjectively lol)

        Reply
      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        What OP has been describing is super common in retail and in restaurant/food-chain work. It’s not a fair or smart policy, but—as a general rule—retail is ruthless about treating people as if they’re disposable. (Of course there are exceptions, but there seems to be an industry slant toward rigidity and no sick days.)

        I remember having to call out because I caught bronchitis (which later became walking pneumonia), and despite 2 years of perfect attendance, volunteering to assist others, and excellent performance reviews, I had to have a disciplinary conversation about my (single, half-day) absence. It sucked for everyone involved, including my manager, but it was also corporate policy.

        Reply
  32. bab

    OP #1

    Most employee-employer privacy laws are state specific, so might be helpful to understand what your protections are there. Many states have enacted laws prohibiting employers from forcing access to employee personal email or social media under most circumstances. This is helpful too if your supervisor responds that there is a company wide policy for allowing access to this information–that policy may well not hold up under any kind of legal scrutiny. Typically employer oversight extends to company communications, not personal email.

    Reply
  33. Jennifer Thneed

    Pet peeve:

    > While at work, I was confronted by the principal about this and asked if this was true.

    Was the principal angry and accusative and challenging you? That’s what you mean when you say “confront”. But I suspect that the principal just asked you some questions.

    People use the word “confronting” all the time, and it’s really quite a harsh word. I see it in advice columns all the time: “Should I confront him/her?” and my personal answer is always “Sure, if you want to start a feud”. It really possible to just ask someone a question and want to hear the answer.

    /peeve

    Reply
  34. Mallory

    these “ride to the airport” scenarios drive me INSANE. have these people not realized that there are roughly 1,000 other ways to get to an airport besides cajoling your staff/loved ones/friends into giving you a ride? soooo ridiculous and lazy.

    Reply
  35. Thegs

    Maybe it’s because I work for the DoD, but #1 is just to be expected for me. Our logon banners state that all communications using the computer are subject to monitoring, with exemptions for things like communications with doctors and lawyers of course. However, the boss was a jerk for bringing it up in such a manner because everyone is allowed to have opinions on their coworkers, so long as it is not impacting work.

    Reply
  36. Lissa

    I don’t get why someone who snoops will then also bring up what they discovered! I mean, unless what they found is objectively way worse than their snooping, like if they snooped and found out you were plotting to stab a coworker for excessive sniffling or something.

    I am a very nosy/curious person. I could see that if I were a less (good person/anxious about being caught, insert one here!) I might snoop into something I really shouldn’t if it were in front of me. It is a temptation I have faced. However, I’m aware this is really bad behavior and if I were ever to actually DO it (I haven’t!) that this would be a Bad Thing and I should keep anything I learned to myself until I die. And if it was a bad thing about me, then lesson learned me!

    Reply
  37. Jim

    #3, your car insurance very probably won’t cover you for this, since it’s business use. Let me guess, your employer won’t cover cost of the extra insurance?

    Reply

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