my company promised me benefits that I haven’t been allowed to use

A reader writes:

I’ve worked at my current job for 14 months. There are 17 people in my division: 4 managers, 4 admin assistants, and the rest are professional staff. I am professional staff.

It goes without saying that it is the job of the admin assistants to cover the phones during office hours. However, years before I started here, the managers decided that the admin assistants, as the lowest paid in the office, should have the additional benefit of leaving between 3:30 and 4:30, when the office does not close until 5. The reasoning is because they have families to care for and long commutes and need the additional time. I have no problem with this part of the arrangement.

I was not hired to answer phones…at all. I’m an analyst. I work with numbers, not people, and I like it that way. I also have no skill for customer service. Knowing this, I asked during my interview if I would need to answer phones. I was told no. Also during the interview, I asked if I would be able to work from home 2 days a week. I was told yes. I was also told I would have flexible work hours. I did not get this in writing, but none of the three people I interviewed with are disputing my claim.

Flash forward to my first day of work: I was told by my manager that I need to temporarily cover the phones from 4:30-5 until they could hire someone to take over. So, I have to cover phones and my “flexible work hours” must cover 4:30-5, which I wasn’t planning on. I also can’t work from home, but that was because of policy that says all teleworking employees must have one year of service.

I’ve been covering the phones all this time and I finally have my year of service, so I decide to revisit the issue with my supervisor. All I’m getting is “this isn’t a good time for that.” He’s not wrong. Everyone is strapped for time and resources. But from my point of view: I left my previous job solely for those three benefits. My pay is the same. My work is the same. I wanted greater flexibility with my time and to never need to talk on the phone as part of my job again.

What should I do? I’ve told my manager that I’m unhappy with the arrangement and that I expect a timeline on when I can use these benefits that I was guaranteed in my pre-employment period. Other than this, I like where I work and who I work with.

Grrrr.

Despite the fact that they probably didn’t intend to pull a bait and switch on you, that’s what they’ve ended up doing. They lured you into switching jobs with promises that they’re not keeping. It’s really unfair — and it’s also not good management, because organizations need a staff that believes managers will keep their word. Moreover, getting a reputation for making promises during hiring that they don’t keep once you’re actually working there will impact their ability to attract good candidates in the future.

In any case, the basic steps in a situation like this are to: (1) explicitly say that you were made promises that aren’t being met, (2) see how the organization responds, and (3) decide how much of a deal-breaker it is to you if it doesn’t change.

I can’t tell from your letter how much of #1 you’ve done so far. You’ve met with your manager and asked to stop covering the phones, but have you been explicit with your manager about the fact that you were promised these benefits before taking the job, that you left your previous job specifically for these three benefits (this is key to say), and that you haven’t been allowed to use them in the year since starting? If you haven’t spelled that out, it’s an essential part of addressing this now. You’d want to say something like, “I specifically asked about these areas before being hired, and I left a previous job that I was happy with in large part because of these three benefits, which I was promised. Everyone agrees that I was indeed promised these things; that’s not in dispute. I appreciate that there’s no easy solution for this and so I’ve been flexible in helping out in this area. But it’s been a full year now, and I’d like someone else to cover these areas, so that the company can honor the original agreement it made with me.”

From there, though, it’s up to your manager to decide whether to act ethically or not. If he refuses to change anything, then you’ll need to decide whether this is a deal-breaker for you or not.

{ 111 comments… read them below }

  1. Christine

    While I completely agree with Alison’s response, I’m afraid the OP may not have much of a leg to stand on since she/he admits not getting it in writing (was there ANY sort of written offer letter?). I know the promises are not in dispute, but I think only having verbal promises in play may be making the managers think that it’s okay to kick the can down the road.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      Completely agree, unfortunately.

      OP, are there other things that would make you happy besides being able to telework? For example, would a raise make you willing to deal with not getting the hours you were promised? It’s often easier for an employer to hand out money (which is, at least officially, done privately) than to allow flexible working arrangements, which are seen by everyone. (Management may feel that if they give one employee flexible hours, others are going to ask for the same treatment — and it looks different to your coworkers if you start doing that after you’ve been with the company for a while from if they know from the get-go that this will be the arrangement.)

      Similar principle with not having to answer phones — are there other analysts whose job is just like yours, who also have to cover the phones? If so, you are going to have a harder time convincing management to get you off the phones than if you’re the only analyst who has to do it (but others from other departments have to; if you’re the only person who has to do it, period, good luck!), because of the visibility issue.

      FWIW, I think management should have arranged the flexible schedule for the admins such that there’s a rotation for who has to be available till 5, rather than dragging people with unrelated job functions into it.

      1. Lisa

        Would you take this if, they said well Admin X is going on maternity leave or Admin Y needs 6 months for some medical reason and you had to cover the phones FT. They changed the job description, they have a right to. It sucks, but you have no recourse. It isn’t about what was written down, cause it will NEVER be the right time to give those benefits to you. Cut your losses, look for another job that has those benefits in writing that start immediately or within 1-2 months without a year long wait.

  2. Joey

    30 freaking minutes? You only cover the phone for 30 minutes and its a big deal? And if a specific flexible schedule was a big deal did you outline before hand that beforehand?

    Sorry, but those two gripes sound a little over the top.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      But it means that she can’t work from home, ever, which she was told she could do 2 days a week. It also means she can’t have a flexible work schedule, which she was also promised.

        1. AdAgencyChick

          Honestly, if I were told I got to work from home half days, when I was expecting full days, I wouldn’t bother working from home. Commuting and all that.

          And if my job function were nothing at all like customer service, yeah, I’d be pretty freaking annoyed at customer service suddenly being part of my job every day, even for half an hour.

            1. Lisa

              I would love this. Going home in mid-day is still a better commute, so who cares if you still are commuting. People work from home for more reasons that removing a commute. I have elderly grandparents that are sufficient but need reminding to eat and take pills and make sure they don’t fall, which is often. Working from home would be good since I can keep an eye on them, but not really do anything that means that I wouldn’t be doing my job. Same with kids over a certain age. a 7 yr old can play by themselves, but cant be left home alone. You can still work, but be home for those reasons.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Most companies that allow working from home on more than a occasional basis require that you have child care there if children are at home; it can’t be used as a substitute for child care.

                But more to the point — while you personally might be perfectly happy with this compromise, lots of people wouldn’t. If the OP asked to telecommute because she can focus better at home, or wants to avoid a long drive to work 2 days a week (regardless of time of day), or just likes working in her pajamas 2 days a week — well, that’s her prerogative. She was promised it, and she’s not getting it.

                1. Jamie

                  I’ve been working from home afternoons since the beginning of the year (getting in at 5:15 am and doing 9.5 hours in the office first…don’t ask…it’s almost over) and absolutely being able to work in jammies and slippers, being able to work with the dogs and kitties assisting by providing in person cuteness (and the occasional typo string by walking across the keyboard), and being able to swear loudly and not have to worry about a co-worker overhearing me.

                  Downside…everything else…I’ve seriously grown to hate my VPN and I’m never not working now. It’s supposed to be over as of EOB Friday…if not I’ll just embrace the burnout.

                2. Letter writer

                  It’s a focus thing. I work in a cubicle farm that is noisy and full of people who, while trying to be friendly and inclusive, distract me to no end.

                  I’ve been diagnosed with ADD for 10 years and this working environment has really triggered my disability into full gear. I currently see a psychiatrist for my condition. She suggested teleworking as a way to control my inattention nearly two years ago while I was working at my old job. Teleworking was completely forbidden there, so I started looking for a new job: this one. I’m thinking of involving her further in this issue. No one at work knows that I have a diagnosed disability that I am trying to manage with allowances from my employer.

                3. Joey

                  Op,
                  Tell them you have a medical condition that’s interfering with your ability to do your job. You don’t need to involve your psych at this point. Wait to see if they ask you to provide medical documentation for the need for an ADA accommodation.

                4. Joey

                  Now, now Jaime don’t question medical advice.

                  I’ve seen similar- the rationale is that reducing the frequency will reduce the overall impact of the condition.

                5. Jamie

                  I wasn’t questioning medical advice – I was asking a legitimate question about a topic the OP raised as part of the issue.

                  And I was asking as someone with a diagnosis myself – as well as all my kids and ex-husband so I’m pretty up on the advice for managing this so I’m interested when I hear something new.

                  If someone states something as part of their topic of their post I fail to see why questions relating to that would be an issue.

                6. Letter writer

                  @Jamie

                  I have a wide variety of tasks to complete at work. Some would be better to do at the central location like data entry, filing, and meetings with the programmers that are redesigning my software. Others, like data analysis, would be 1000x more efficient at home in private. What Joey said is true too though: 2 days in private to organize would make the three days in the office more productive even if I did have to analyze data in the central location.

                7. Joey

                  The question is relevant. It’s just frequently people question medical advice. No harm intended.

                8. Jamie

                  @Letter Writer – that makes a lot of sense in the context of your job. And it makes me wonder what I could get done if I could be left alone a couple of days a week to do development and behind the scenes stuff…I bet it would make the chaos easier to deal with when I did come in.

                  While it’s not a strategy that would work for every job, it’s a viable and interesting one for positions like yours.

                  (And I know it’s none of my business and people need to define their own terms and I KNOW what the official line is…but between you and me I’ve never seen ADD/ADHD as a disability or deficit. Just a trait that needs to be channeled properly and once channeled I think it gives us an edge in a lot of things. I wouldn’t trade it actually – for myself or my kids…I think it’s far more gift than burden. I know it’s an unusual POV – but wanted to throw that out there.)

                9. Letter writer

                  @ Jamie

                  I’m giving you an over-the-internet-fist-bump on your analysis on ADD/ADHD. I agree entirely. I didn’t like typing disability when I commented and I don’t like thinking of it as a disability, but rather, a different set of abilities and challenges that other people don’t have. I think many people with “disabilities” would describe themselves in that exact same way too. I think that’s why people say “differently abled,” instead of “disabled” now.

                  However, if I want to use my “disability” to my advantage in this situation, then I will have to use the language that statute provides me, which unfortunately, is “disability.”

                10. BeenThere

                  Yes. It’s entirely up to the OP to decide what she prefers.

                  Joey I bet you wouldn’t be happy if you were told you had to stand outside the front of your place of employment a greet everyone while dressed in a pink dress and sparkly tiara.

                11. Jamie

                  @ Letter Writer – No implied criticism on my part for use of the word at all…I know it has to be used and have used it myself for the kids’ accommodations, doctor’s, etc. They can call it whatever they like and I’ll go along with the official verbiage to get stuff done – I just tend to kick out my opinion on that when the subject comes up.

                  @ Been There – I would totally sign up for the dress and sparkly tiara duty. Where would I go to apply for something like that?

              2. Jamie

                I would argue that it’s not a solution I would find acceptable for a 7 year old. They may be able to play by themselves, but the level of interruption will definitely impact productivity. And if they aren’t interrupting you, then they are being told to amuse themselves for the entirety of the work day and that’s not what I consider adequate care or supervision of a child.

                I wouldn’t find that acceptable for anything other than the occasional day home sick/babysitter called out where work will know you’re not at full capacity.

                My rule of thumb would be once the kids were old enough to be home alone could you do that.

                Elder care would really depend on the situation for me.

                1. Lisa

                  Well I was still thinking in terms of the 1/2 day working from home in order to pick up the 7 year old from school and work the last 4 hours at home. Some kids need constant attention, while others like mine feel as though I am interrupting them and prefers that I not bug her for a few hours after school. She does her homework, reads, plays wii, rearranges all american girl dolls / barbies / 2 dogs for a gymnastics tournament that she preforms in another room that I am then whined at if I enter before she is ready for a mommy audience.

                2. AnotherAlison

                  7 year olds are in school from 8:15-3:40 in my neck of the woods. That’s only an hour that you would have to have him entertain himself while you worked (40-hr week), not a half-day or full-day. On a snow day or in-service day, which would be a full day at home, the parent could make arrangements for a sitter or PTO day.

              3. Anonymous

                Except for if they need to cover the phones from 4-5pm they’d be coming into work at lunchtime to commute home at rushhour!

            2. jennie

              It negates the work from home benefits of no commute, no parking costs, working in your pjs and rolling out of bed and starting work without morning grooming. These are a big deal to lots of people who like to work from home.

        2. Just a Reader

          I wouldn’t bother working a half day from home. My commute is 80 miles a day. Not having to get up, get dressed and do that drive is the reason I work from home sometimes. A half day means you still have to do all that plus probably give up your lunch hour to drive home.

          NO THANKS.

          1. Meghan

            Same, Just A Reader. Working from home for me means saving a quarter of a tank of gas. Working a half day from home defeats that entirely.

            1. LJL

              Amen. that was my primary reason for wanting to work from home. While it’s nice putting the commute earlier, it does not signify any cost savings for me.

    2. Joey

      Before anyone jumps in, I’m not saying the complaints aren’t valid, I’m just saying that covering a specific task for 30min per day isn’t that big a deal.

      1. COT

        When covering that task requires you to be physically on-site (when you were promised otherwise) that’s a big deal. And given that most people who work “flexible hours” vary their start and end times, being required to cover a task at the end of the traditional workday really hinders that.

      2. AnotherAlison

        It’s also pretty annoying that you have to cover the phones because the 4 people whose jobs actually include covering the phones were granted flexible work schedules. . .like the one you are not getting as promised.

        To me, 4 admin assistants + the OP, 5 days in a week, if everyone had to work 1 late day per week, this problem would go away.

          1. Letter writer

            I suggested it to my manager and the director. The response was, “well, after all these years of flexible work hours and (mumble mumble mumble) kids at daycare…we can’t except them to change their routines.”

            I feel like screaming: NOT EVEN ONE DAY A WEEK SHOULD THESE PEOPLE BE INCONVENIENCED? The inconvenience is all mine to bear. Five days a week for as long as I work here? No thank you.

            So I suggested that, since it was the managers’ idea to institute this policy, that the four of them could divvy up the four remaining days to stay late. No go. Once again, the inconvenience is all mine to bear.

            And I hate it, because it makes me dislike both the admins and the managers when they are otherwise nice people. The admins in particular don’t deserve my scorn, but the managers are setting up a my needs versus their needs dynamic that probably won’t play out to my benefit in terms of office politics.

            1. Just a Reader

              It’s absolutely a big deal in that not only is it not in the job description, the LW was specifically promised that she wouldn’t have to answer phones.

              At one of my first jobs as a “marketing coordinator,” I was told there were no receptionist duties…fast forward to my first day when they put me straight into training on how to answer the phone and handle visitors.

              It’s a bait and switch. People who want to do admin work will apply for admin work.

              1. Jessa

                Exactly. I can no longer do a talking on phones job (vocal problems.) If I was promised a schedule with no phones, in my case we’d be having ADA discussions if they made me do phones.

                I just do not see what this trend is about companies lying about what the work is. There are SO many people who want jobs. So many unemployed and wanting to change also. If you’re honest up front, the ones who don’t want it, will either self-select out, or take it KNOWING they’re not going to like it. This bait and switch garbage is stupid. It really makes no business sense.

                It’s not like in this case they suddenly had two receptionists up and quit no notice, and they had to suddenly fill it in. It’s obvious from the OP that they knew going in what the job was.

                I just don’t get why they think that makes any sense.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I agree. I have never EVER worked any place where the person covering the phone was allowed to have a schedule like that. Your butt was in that chair until it was time to turn on the night ring. Yes, sometimes if there was a dental appointment or sick child or whatever, another admin would cover. But letting all of them go early? WTH?

          1. Kelly O

            I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking this is odd at best.

            With four admins, you would think that the schedule might rotate a bit – you two come in at 8 and leave at 3 this week, and you other two come in at 10 and leave at 5. Swap it up next week. Or whatever works for them and their schedules.

            Trust me, I’ve worked in all sorts of offices, and I’ve never seen one where the admins were the ones with the most flexible schedules, lower pay rate or not. (The vast majority of the time you wind up being the person stuck at the office because “someone has to cover the phones” while everyone else takes off.)

            1. Liz

              One company where I worked was open 9am-8pm, so we took turns with the different schedules: 9-5, 12-8 or a negotiable area in between.

      3. Beth

        Joey, I’m with you. I think answering the phones isn’t a big deal. I think a statement like “It goes without saying that it is the job of the admin assistants to cover the phones during office hours” is not so cool. It obviously DOES go without saying because they are leaving earlier than the office closes. I answer the phones at my job when the other staff is busy. I work the front desk if it needs to be done. I’ve even sorted food out of the shredding bin because the man who does our shredding is learning disabled and it would upset him a great deal if he found food in his shredding. You all pitch in.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          But not everyone feels that way, and it’s different to pitch in occasionally, versus having it be part of your regular job. The OP specifically asked about this before accepting the job and was told it wouldn’t be expected of her.

        2. Athlum

          Beth, I’m guessing neither you nor Joey are analysts. In addition to the other problems the OP mentioned (in post and comments), that half hour of being on the phones may totally destroy her ability to get her own work done in that time. It’s not the 30 seconds of having to pick up the phone and interact with someone, it’s the task-switching element — when you’re balancing a lot of data in your head, you need to do that in a quiet environment and without interruption (or the constant threat of interruption).

          OP, perhaps that’s another approach to take with your new sup — point out how much more productive you could be if your office hours were all spent on work appropriate to your level and position?

          (Former analyst here, now manager – and very protective of my own analytic staff because I’ve been there!)

          1. Joey

            So if that’s the case that’s the problem you address. But that’s not the problem she wrote in about. It’s that she made a deal with her old boss and the new one reneged. Unfortunately that comes with any position.

            All bets are off when you get a new supervisor. Expectations change and its not that crazy in the public arena to have to do other jobs that you’re capable of doing. I know it sucks, but this is why its a bad idea to count on deals that you made with your supervisor- they move on.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I don’t think this was about a new manager though; the letter doesn’t mention a new manager at all. It seems to be the same one. (I agree, though, that all bets are off when a new manager comes in.)

                1. Jamie

                  That’s how the follow up sounded to me, too. Like it wasn’t happening under the old manager, and when s/he passed it off to the new manager explaining what was promised it looked like the new manager might have trouble making good on it as well.

                  Although, they are upfront about what was promised and they are looking at the issue. That is better than a blanket denial/dismissal of issue would have been. It’s acknowledged and there is the potential of some kind of resolution.

                  And it’s the government and from what I understand things and terms can change based on who is in power and the spending climate. So even if they had made good right away it could be changing anyway…and as long as it changes across the board and it’s not just a denial for one person then that’s part of the deal with working for the government, imo.

        3. COT

          Yes, everyone needs to pitch in… within reason. I don’t mind doing things outside my official list of job duties (I work at a small nonprofit, so this happens a lot). But when I’m doing something every single day that interferes with my ability to accomplish my own work duties (not to mention interfering with promises made), I point it out to my boss and ask if we can come up with a solution together. Even worse, from OP’s comment below it sounds like she is of ZERO help to these callers. So her covering the phones isn’t helping many people at all.

        1. Letter writer

          Exactly. Our performance evaluations (prior to being filled out with personal evaluations) are public record. I can read the admin assistant’s list of expectations and in several places phone duties and customer service are listed as expectations. On mine: no where. I have a TON to do that is listed on my performance evaluation that I’m not getting done in that 30 minutes a day, which is 2.5 hours a week and 6.25% of the time I spend working a week. That’s huge. I need that time back to do things that I am being evaluated on…not to mention I have a statutory obligation to provide (I work for the government).

          1. Anonymous

            I expect that the “government” part is causing most of the issues. For some reason, there’s a certain type of government worker who believes that they have a right to determine what their job is ,when they will do it and that once they are given something ( like a schedule permitting them to leave at 3:30) it can never change. I’m not talking about the OP here, but the admins. And in combination with that, there’s a tendency for government managers to cave to them and place the burden on the person whose least likely to complain, rather than where it belongs. It makes no sense to have the people responsible for answering the phones all leave before the office closes down, but my clerical staff profess not to understand why they can’t all work 7:30 to 3:30 – after all the professional staff can answer the phone between 3:30 and the office closing at 4. Well, they can and so can I , but it’s neither their job nor mine, so one of the clerical staff will simply have to work until 4. Of course, the one who must work until 4 hates me and believes I’m harassing her – but it’s still her job, and I’m not switching the responsibility to the professional staff. Many of my peers would if their perception was that the admins would kick up a bigger fuss than the OP.

            Jamie’s correct – things change in government based on who’s in charge ( and often at a much lower level than the mayor or governor) , budget and public opinion all the time. It is often not completely across the board- things may change for one agency or title while remaining the same in others. But it should almost never be that only one person can’t telework while the others in the same title and agency can.The almost is there for people in the same title doing very different work,which doesn’t seem to be the case here.

          2. Joey

            C’mon LW,
            I don’t know what kind of govt office you work in, but I’ve never seen a govt job description that didn’t say “other duties as assigned.”

            If you’re gripe is that it’s taking away from your core tasks that may be legitimate, but if your boss adjusted those priorities i bet that still wouldn’t satisfy you,right?

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Wait, wait. She specifically asked in her interview about this stuff and was given answers that don’t line up with what’s happening now. And it’s been that way from the start; it didn’t change just when a new manager came in. And she’s the only one in her role being asked to do this.

              1. Joey

                True, but that was a previous supervisor. I just think that really the only argument that’s compelling enough to get her anywhere is that her medical condition is interfering with her ability to do her job.

            2. Letter writer

              I do not have that sort of clause in my performance evaluations. There is no “all other duties” category. My job explicitly states all my job duties because I demanded that before I took the job. I didn’t want the “other duties” coda because what was expected in the job description of the posting was already 40 hours of work a week, if not more. The person who left the job before I started worked in that position for 25 years and picked up all the duties expected of him over the course of 25 years, not all at once like me.

              1. doreen

                Joey’s not talking about performance evaluations-that would be specific to your role. He’s talking about the job description , which typically includes all of the duties that anyone with your title might be expected to perform. It’s the document that determines if the work you are being assigned is “out-of title work” and it nearly always includes something about “other related duties as assigned” or specifies those other duties (for example mine says “serves as acting (my manager’s title) in his or her absence”), otherwise. I couldn’t assign professional staff to answer the phones even if the entire clerical staff was out with the flu.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  F0r what it’s worth, there’s no law that prevents you from assigning other duties to people whether or not they have “other duties as assigned” in their job description. (You don’t even need to give someone a job description at all.)

                2. Jamie

                  I couldn’t assign professional staff to answer the phones even if the entire clerical staff was out with the flu.

                  Right – and almost no one in my office from the owners of the company on down has a problem pitching in on the phones when our OM is out for the day or at lunch, etc. They are ringing and they need to be answered and it’s interesting that when the cooperative tone is set there are a lot fewer issues over things like this. I have worked in places where some people thought they were too good for to help out in a crunch, so it was like a status over who was too important to be asked for phone duty. Stupid.

                  That said – I think any organization that structures it so presumably higher paid personnel (the OP) are consistently and regularly on phone duty it’s not just weird (because it’s only her) it’s a bad use of resources. Even worse when it’s the government.

                  If you are paid at a certain rate to do a certain level of work than it’s silly to routinely assign work which could be done by someone for a lower rate – that’s just really overpaying for the sake of it and I don’t get it.

                3. doreen

                  This is response to Alison below- no, there’s not a law preventing me from assigning “other duties”. There’s a union contract and a months-long grievance process. And I’m pretty sure that there is a law requiring that the dept of civil service (not me ) provide a job description and list of qualifications for every title in the state. Government work truly is different.

    3. Anon

      If you don’t like customer service jobs and dealing with people, then 30 minutes can seem like a lifetime. Answering the phones is not her job and she explicitly stated she did not want to do this when she was hired and her managers agreed that she wouldn’t have to – plain and simple.

      1. Letter writer

        Oh, and did I mention that these phone calls are from taxpayers with questions they need our office to answer…and that I can’t answer them because that’s not my area of expertise…and that there is literally NO ONE in this office to transfer a phone call to because I’m the only one here. Talk about irate customers. I would be too. This is the most ridiculous arrangement I’ve ever seen/heard of.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule

          I frequently have to answer the phone and handle phone calls I can’t answer. My preferred method is to give them the email address of whoever can help them that’s out of the office. Your mileage may vary.

          1. Jamie

            I just take a message and email the recipient. I’m lucky because no matter how adamantly they want to talk to me about whatever they are calling about as soon as they hear I’m IT they go silent and give me their message.

            It’s humbling as it’s a reminder that unless you have a technical issue I’m considered completely useless…but it works for me so I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

            1. BeenThere

              I find comedians do the same thing when you sit in the front row of their shows. They ask a few questions and as soon as it’s discovered you are in IT they have nothing left to say to you. Gift horse FTW

        2. AG

          At my last job, they ended up pushing the receptionist’s end time (and therefore the time that the phone switches to nite mode) from 5 to 430 because so many of the managers left before then that there was nobody for her to transfer calls to. Maybe that’s a solution?

        3. Jennifer

          I hear ya. I got told I wouldn’t have to do phones too, because there are other employees assigned to it (supposedly we have about 10-12 part time and 3 full time people on it, 4 at a time have to work the phone). Then it was “you’ll eventually be backup for phones once you’re trained. Just when we’re low on people.”

          They weren’t overly concerned about the phone stuff with me until winter came. Then, no joke, every other workday this winter, has been “Oh, everyone’s out sick, we have to be on phones.” Allllllll day. Even me, who doesn’t know enough to be able to answer the extremely weird questions that come in (training went out the window, I got about 3 hours of it before I had to do it.) You don’t get anything else done when you are on the phone because if you start to do something, the phone rings and you have to drop everything to attempt to look something up. And frequently, the people I’d ask for help? Are either at lunch, out sick, or also on the phone. It is sucking my soul.

          Unfortunately, in my case it is a “nothing to be done short of quitting” situation, because people are gonna get sick. They’ve definitely put it in my new job description now to boot. They’ve also told me they don’t care if I don’t know the information–“just ask someone else,” but it bothers the crap out of me to always be doing a terrible job on the phone.

          Oh well, at least they aren’t demanding that I do Perky Voice! on top of that. That would be the end of me.

  3. Letter writer

    I wanted to offer an update because everything has become a little more complicated:

    First, I have been explicit in everything, exactly as you advised. This morning when I met with my former supervisor (more on that below), he restated what I told him to my new supervisor in the same explicit detail (I was promised benefits in the interview period that I have yet to use and that I’m unhappy with my current working situation). So, they are hearing me.

    We’ve reorganized internally and I’ve moved under a new supervisor. I have greater autonomy over what I do all day, which I like. Both my old supervisor and my new supervisor are extremely satisfied with the changes I’m making in data processing and my ability to manage my time and workload.

    This morning, I had a meeting with my old supervisor and my new supervisor. Old informed new of my expectations of teleworking and we set up a meeting to discuss what that arrangement would look like. So I’m pleased except…

    I work for the state. We got a new governor in January and are expecting changes, especially in revenues available to the bureaucracy. In the newspaper on Sunday, there was a story that said that the governor is expected to cut every budget and suspend new hires and travel and so on. I will need equipment set up at my home to work there. If this news story is true and not the same reactionary garbage as usual, then there might not be any money to prioritize my request. So I’m bummed.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule

      Is your job one that’s covered by a union? If so, you might be able to seek additional information, if not redress, through your union rep.

      1. Letter writer

        That’s a good suggestion and I may contact my union, but my experience with the union has been like this: good for collective benefits like health insurance, etc and terrible for singular worker’s issues. They don’t even have case workers to work on my problem. Plus the director/manager(s) are still trying to work this out. I’m going to give them the chance to do that. If they fail, then I’ll consider further action.

    2. Joey

      See this is the problem with “deals”. When a new manager comes on board they frequently don’t agree with all of the little accommodations the previous manager had in place.

      And being in a govt entity with financial issues, its no wonder the deal has been reneged. I just wish they would have been more upfront about it.

    3. Ali_R

      Oh, but if the admin staff only got paid the hours they are actually working, seems like there would be a little extra in the budget. What about that?

      I just pray I am confused. I’ve caught crap in this forum in the past for feeling public employees not fulfilling their hourly duties is stealing… but if these admin are technically scheduled to work and being paid for hours they’re not there… That. Is. Theft.

      1. Joey

        For what its worth I’ve worked in govt and I agree that employees getti paid for time when they’re not at work is theft. But there’s no info to indicate that’s happening here.

  4. Jamie

    Ugh – OP you have my sympathies, and not only because the only think I hate more than the phones is being poked with sticks.

    I don’t actually have a problem with not allowing work from home until a year of service if that had been explained up front before you took the job. As a policy I agree – as a bait and switch I find it awful.

    Oh and just because I’m all curmudeonly today…

    The reasoning is because they have families to care for and long commutes and need the additional time.

    Huh? Many people have families, and even those who do not would still have use for additional time I would imagine. Few people hang themselves on hooks in a closet from the time they come home and when they leave for work in the morning. And people without families often also have lives.

    And assuming you don’t have co-workers who live in the supply closet and take sink baths each morning I’m assuming you all have commutes of various lengths. This seems like a system designed to create resentment.

    1. Letter writer

      Actually you’ve touched on the sexist layer of this that I decided to leave out of the original letter. All the admins are married women with children. I’m a single woman with no children. In fact, I’m the only woman in this office who is professional staff. All the managers and other professional staff are men. All the other professional staff have teleworking privileges. I’m the only one who doesn’t and I’m the only woman. I try not to read too much into that, but it’s still there and it irks me.

      1. AnotherAlison

        Are you also the newest professional staff member? How does your net years of experience compare to the others?

        (What you describe makes me mad. . .it’s sort of “well, she LOOKS like an admin assistant, so she can answer the phones” while the men aren’t asked to do the same. I would chalk up the teleworking thing to the needing to have 1-yr tenure, and then when you got it, you were already sucked into this phone-covering arrangement, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.)

        1. Letter writer

          Nope. I’m not the last hired. The last hired is male professional staff that worked here from 2000-2010 and came back in October 2012. So he had his year of service from back in the day. And therefore he gets to telework before me.

          1. A Bug!

            Who covered the phones for the admins when there wasn’t a woman on the professional staff?

            1. Letter writer

              She left two months after I started. When I first started here, she and I covered the phones together. Now I’m the only one.

                1. Letter writer

                  I really have no idea. I know that everyone in the office including her is between 28(me)-61, with the median at 50. If you consider me an outlier in terms of age, then the spread is 42-61. But that’s not very relevant because it’s age not experience.

                  I have a graduate degree that is related to my work. I have five years of research experience. I’m the only one in the office (my supervisors included) who understands what I do. Should I leave, they would have a difficult time replacing me, because there simply are not many analysts who want to work for the government for so little pay and no on-job training. They know it. That’s why they are scrambling to fix this now.

      2. Joey

        If you’re the newest that’s how most public entities make these kinds of decisions. If not, that’s what Id be pissed about.

      3. Hannah

        I had a feeling this was the case — that all the admins were women who had kids.

        That really makes me mad!

      4. Elle

        I feel like giving you a very encouraging and empowering yet serious kick up the backside. You work in govt, there’s a reasonable inference of sex discrimination here, you are in a union. What exactly is the hold up?

        Buy Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. Do it now. Seriously. You have to start advocating for your career and for yourself better.

          1. Letter writer

            I’ll buy the book; it’ll probably help a lot since I like Elle’s “very encouraging and empowering yet serious kick up the back side part.”

            I try really hard to skate the middle ground. We’ve had major changes in the duties that we’re all responsible for and everyone IS working really hard to the best of their abilities. I choose to not be cynical and believe the managers acted in good faith. But it isn’t working out for me, especially after 14 months.

            I’m trying to work out a solution from what I have now. I don’t know what that will look like for me, but this advice blog/blog entry has given me many good ideas.

      1. AG

        I agree. It’s one thing to be flexible to people with families when it doesn’t affect other people, it’s another to make it a burden on others who also don’t get the same flexibility. I had a coworker who worked 7am-3pm so that she could pick her granddaughter up from school. She didn’t have a job that had to be “covered” so it wasn’t a problem for anyone.

      2. Frank

        Yeah I’m surprised that this wasn’t touched on more. It’s as if people who do not have kids do not have important things to do that they could use an extra 30 or 60 minutes before normal office closing hours.

  5. Jubilance

    Wow some very interesting comments here…

    *I disagree with the assertion that having to answer phones for 30 minutes isn’t a big deal. Way to completely trivialize someone else’s concerns. Just because it isn’t a big deal to YOU doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impacting someone else in a negative way.

    * I suffered a bait & switch in my previous role, and after about 6 months I realized how absolutely miserable I was. I was killing myself & stressed out trying to meet insane expectations because I was covering work for 2 people when my only resource was myself. So OP, I sympathize with you.

    * It sounds like your only recourse is to look for another position. If your state’s fiscal situation is as dire as you state, your telecommuting may never happen. Are you willing to put up with never being able to have that benefit, even though the rest of your peers do (grrr) and having to complete a task you strongly dislike forever? Only you can decide that – but it sounds like it probably won’t get better.

    Best of luck, whatever you decide.

    1. fposte

      Yeah, I think “just for 30 minutes” is misleading when it’s actually for 30 minutes every freaking day of every week. And it sounds like that loss of 5% of her analyst job time isn’t being accounted for in her performance expectations to boot.

      1. Rana

        Yes. Especially if you’re a person who loathes answering phones. Everyone always acts as if it’s not big deal, but for some of us, it’s stressful. (And, really, you do not want me in charge of a multi-line phone; it’s embarrassing how many people I’ve hung up on when I meant to put them on hold.)

      2. Hous

        Also, this might not be true for the OP, but I always do my hated phone calls at the start of the day to get them over with. If I had to do my least favorite thing for the last half hour of every day, it would make me even grumpier and more stressed about it.

  6. The B

    Always, always get this stuff in writing. I worked at a place where I and someone else were hired with the provision that we could leave early two days a week. My co-worker got this in writing, with her acceptance letter. I got a verbal acceptance and confirmed it in an e-mail.
    Forward a year: old boss leaves, new boss comes in. New boss does not want to honor the provision to leave early. However, because my co-worker got it in writing in the offer letter, there is nothing she can do. Co-worker gets to keep her schedule. I, on the other hand, only have the e-mail. Boss makes me change my schedule. Had I had it in the offer letter, it would have been a different story.
    Make sure you get any benefits in writing and that they go in your personnel file. I learn that the hard way.

    1. fposte

      It’s good to get these things on record, but it’s not necessarily a guarantee . In the OP’s situation, nobody’s disputing that she was offered something different, and it doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of a contract just because it’s in writing; additionally, the odds of a breach of contract suit getting you want in a situation like this aren’t good.

      1. AnotherAlison

        Yep. All our flextime policies have a “subject to manager’s discretion” clause.

        I also had a few coworkers who were allowed to work from home due to moves (both of the office and of the individual), and that didn’t last for anyone long-term. They can change the position’s requirements anytime.

    2. Mike C.

      Uh, that email is “in writing”. It doesn’t have any less standing or importance as something written on a piece of dead tree. The fact that they are time stamped and may have other identifying marks can make them *more* useful, not less.

      B, you were screwed.

        1. Letter writer

          No offer letter. Those are not standard in state government in my state and I’ve never had one in the 3 government jobs I’ve had. It seems like a good idea in the future to demand one even if they aren’t standard.

          1. doreen

            You can ask, but if it’s not standard you won’t get one. My “offer letters” come after I’ve accepted the job and consist of who I am to report to where and when. Government agencies don’t handle requests for exceptions well, and it may not be a good idea to demand one,

  7. nyxalinth

    Oh gods, that’s awful! Bait and switch…in this economy why do they even feel a need to lie like that? I’ve had some bait and switch happen to me in interviews for jobs that were supposed to be customer service and receptionist/office work respectively. Both were actually phone sales, with a similar scenario:

    Interviewer (going on about the job and I realize quickly that it isn’t as stated in the ad).

    Me–I was applying for customer service/office work, like the ad said, are you telling me that this is really phone sales?

    Interviewer–Yes, the position is phone sales.

    Me–what about the advertised positions?

    Interviewers–those positions aren’t available.

    Me–So…you deliberately placed a misleading ad about the nature of the work in order to get people to come in?

    Interviewer (stammers and glares)

    Me–(leaves)

    Two different places, no less. Thankfully, it happened in the interviewing stage!

  8. Mike C.

    I just don’t get workplaces like these. Some folks (like myself and the OP) are focused on a particular area. That’s what we’re trained in, that’s where our experience lies and that’s (hopefully) what we enjoy doing. We seek out jobs that fit those needs, jobs which we will do well in given an honest chance. We don’t seek jobs outside of that area.

    WHY IN THE HECK DO YOU MAKE THEM DO SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT?!

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