terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s terse answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. How can I best manage sick leave for my growing business?

I run a small Florida-based business (around 35 employees). Our company is growing and as the company grows, so do the HR problems. My current issue — We offer employees 80 hours of vacation leave (planned time off) and 40 hours of sick leave (unplanned time off). I have a few employees who have already used up their 40 hours of sick leave, and my concern is that now they will want to use vacation time if they’re sick. Some people may think it’s not a big deal, but there is a big difference in scheduling time off and calling in 30 minutes before your shift. From a management perspective, if I know someone will be out, I can allocate resources as necessary ahead of time. But if an employee calls in sick, then it creates a little more havoc with shifting around lunch schedules or finding someone to open/close the office. I’m not complaining about the 40 hours of sick leave that’s been allocated to an employee, but my question is, do I have to let them take time off from vacation leave if they exceed those 40 hours?

I would like to change our company’s policy and insert the following language in our HR manual to deter employees from calling in when they just don’t feel like coming to work and really use sick leave for its intended purpose (when they are sick): “Employees who call in sick after they have used up their allocated 40 hours of sick leave (unplanned time off) in a calendar year must provide HR with a doctor’s note. If this documentation is provided, the employee may use vacation time (if they have it available). Unplanned time off used in excess of the allocated 40 hours per calendar year AND if the employee does not provide a doctor’s note will not be paid (vacation time cannot be used).”

Sure, you can do that. In fact, since no law requires that you offer paid time off at all, you can put any restrictions on it you want. Most employers do not allow vacation time to be used as sick leave, or only do so with restrictions on it — for exactly the reason you say, the fact that unplanned leave is more of an inconvenience than planned vacation time.

However, be aware that you cannot dock exempt employees’ pay in a week in which they do any work. So if they’re exempt, unless they’re out for the full week, you can’t make them take that time off unpaid. You can charge it against their future leave accrual, or you can discipline them for excessive absences (up to and including firing), but you can’t legally dock their pay.

By the way, if you have multiple employees out of only 35 who have already used up 40 hours of sick leave after just five months of the year and still need more, you might take a look at whether people are abusing your leave policy. Certainly people get sick, and sometimes it requires more than five days in five months, but if it’s happening with frequency on such a small staff, I’d wonder if something else was going on.

2. Letting my boss know I’m interested in a new managerial role that might be created

I work for a relatively new department in a much larger organization. The boss is currently having some ideas about reorganizing the department – not changing our individual job duties, but just reorganizing the way we are lumped together on the org chart. I actually made the suggestion for one of the changes that is going to be made. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this would make it possible for there to be a new manager position. One of my colleagues mentioned that the boss had said something along those lines to him, but this is all very vague at this point.

My question then, is this: Is there any way I can or should bring this up with my boss and tell him that if there is a manager position created, I would like to be considered? I would love to just wait until it’s more official, but considering the track record of this department, by the time it’s mentioned in any sort of “official” way, my boss will already have decided who he wants to promote. The reason I’m afraid of not being considered, although I think I am uniquely qualified for this imaginary position, is that unfortunately, another of the managers here has told my boss that I am not comfortable with the idea of supervising, which is not true at all. What do you think I should do and if I do approach him, any tips on how to do it?

Yes, you should tell him, and you should tell him now. If someone else told him — wrongly — that you’re not comfortable with the idea of managing, then it’s all the more important that you talk to him now so that you can proactively correct that misperception. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to passively allow to be out there — talk to him and give him correct information.

3. My friend is dating my boss’s boss

A friend of mine recently started dating my boss’s boss, and I am hoping for advice on how to handle this. I am content knowing as little information about this as possible to maintain my professional relationships, but our mutual group of friends often have social get-togethers where significant others are welcome. I could see this becoming awkward on several levels, particularly given the age difference between us and him.

Don’t drink too much around him, and ask your friend not to share any information about you with him. And if either of them ever attempts to involve you in any relationship drama, no matter how slight, refuse refuse refuse to get involved.

I’d also probably attend fewer get-togethers where the friend is likely to bring the boss (and if she’s any kind of friend, she should understand why), but aside from that, there’s not much else you need to do (or could do).

4. My promised bonus didn’t show up in my check

My boss, who is the owner of the company, was really excited about some work I’ve been doing and told me that he would be extending a $1,000 bonus to me on our next pay period. I received my check today with no bonus. Do I say something? If so, is there a good way to say it? I know it’s not ungrateful to let them know that something didn’t go through, but I have an uneasy feeling about it anyway.

“I wanted to check with you about the bonus, since it wasn’t in my check this week. I wasn’t sure if I needed to follow up with payroll or if we needed to do something else.”

5. I don’t like the way my new boss is addressing me and another team member with the same name

I have currently the senior member of my team. Recently, a new supervisor took over for my prior manager. This is her first experience as a supervisor, and she is also new to the the type of work that she has to do, so I have been spending time training her.

There are two of us who work for her who have the same name. She will address emails to us by using our names in the plural, as in, “Hey Cathys – [some request].” I find this very annoying — like we are interchangeable and not individuals. I not sure if I am off base and this is an acceptable method of correspondance or if I should say something to her about how it offends me. Thoughts?

Let it go. I’m quite sure that she doesn’t intend to signal that she finds you interchangeable. She probably just intends it to be a light-hearted alternative to writing “Cathy and Cathy.” You shouldn’t read anything more into it than that, and it isn’t worth complaining about.

6. Taking a personal day when I’m new to the job

I started a new job five weeks ago, and my boss recently emailed me to let me me know I have a personal day that expires at the end of June. Our HR director had told me separately to think of personal days the same as vacation, but I think it may look bad to take a day just for the hell of it before I’ve even been here three months. Is there a way I can ask my boss if this is part of the company culture without seeming overly focused on days off, or should I just let it go?

Your boss reminded you about it, so it doesn’t sound like she’d care if you used it, but since you’re feeling uncertain, just ask. Say something like, “I generally try not to take any time off during my first few months on the job, but do people normally take these when they’re as new as I am? If so, I’d be glad to use it!”

7. Should I withdraw from this hiring process?

I’m going through a tough interview process. It’s for an internal position in a different department that is known to have difficult staff members. I have successfully completed three rounds of interviews and I was expecting to receive a job offer, but then I was informed that a fourth round of interviews will happen. The position would include increased responsibilities and pay, but I am starting to feel anxious about the pressures of working in the department, especially given the abrupt changes in procedures as I go through the interview process. Also, my department would like me to travel soon for a project, but I feel that it would be unethical of me to say I will go when I may put in my two weeks shortly for a new position.

I’m considering removing myself from the consideration for the new department given my anxiety. Would you recommend waiting out the process if it will be resolved in the next week? I’m not sure what to do.

Well, if you know for sure that you don’t want the job, then you can certainly withdraw now. But if you’re not 100% sure, why not wait to see if you get an offer? If you do, you should have an opportunity to ask any additional questions you have about their culture and any concerns you have. Nothing says you have to take the job if you’re not able to put all your concerns to rest, but you might find that you’re able to.

As for your approaching travel at work, this stuff happens. You can’t refuse travel because you MIGHT get an offer; you have to continue along as if you don’t until you actually do. That means that sometimes people book travel that they end up not doing because they change jobs; that’s just part of how all this works and not something you should base your decision on.

{ 167 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric

    Your answer to #1 re: docking pay seems to imply that they are exempt employees, which I don’t see the OP saying anywhere. Am I missing something?

    1. Nikki

      She typically adds that info as an FYI. So the person knows this policy cannot be across the board, or applied under this set of circumstances..

  2. GeekChic

    #1: Before you conclude that your staff are abusing their sick leave I’d ask you to consider whether there is something in their environment that is making them sick.

    I once had a long-standing problem with sick leave use solved when the air handling system for the area was finally cleaned and a heavy black mold infestation was removed. I’ve heard of similar cases with causes ranging from new carpet fumes to excessive indoor use of pesticides.

    #5: My current boss and I deal with this issue. In addition to “Lynn and Lynn” and “the Lynns” we also get called:

    – Lynn Squared
    – Lynn and her evil twin
    – Jedi Lynn and Darth Lynn (I’m Darth Lynn of course…)

    It was a bit awkward at first, but now we have fun with it.

    1. Jessa

      I like Jedi Lynn and Darth Lynn, but honestly, I do think that if one of the Cathys does not like being lumped together, then they shouldn’t be.

      If it’s noticeable enough to them that one of them has written AAM, then there may be other subtle clues going on that the boss in question is NOT considering them as separate people all the time. And I’d hate to be one of them at review time if the boss is not paying attention.

      Also it kind of looks unprofessional if someone else reads that email.

      1. Sydney Bristow

        I think one way to solve this if the OP and the other Cathy are ok with it is to pick nicknames to go by. I say this as one of 3 Jennifers in my circle of friends who has regularly worked with other people with my name. I also have 5 friends named Sarah. We’ve dealt with it in both personal and professional contexts by either shortening out name (i.e. I go by Jen, someone else goes by Jennifer) or using our last initials (i.e. Sarah A., Sarah B., etc).

        I know the problem with this is that people deserve to be called by their preferred name, but maybe one of the Cathys would be ok with a slight change.

        1. The IT Manager

          I agree. If LW is bothered, she should do something about it. And bonus – it makes things less confusing for everyone.

          Until recently I rarely encountered anyone with my same name as me, but it happened a three times in the last few years. I hadn’t gone by a nickname or shortened name, but for a softball team I just told everyone to call me “something else” (related to my initials) to avoid confusion. For a work project team, I did not want to end up using a nickname my entire career at this job, and the other woman and I ended up going by First_Name I and First_Name J (the initials of our last names). Now there’s another woman with the same first name working with my new project team, but she’s not on my team so I’m not sure if we are going to have to do something about it to avoid confusion.

          Additionally a cousin picked a new nickname (derivative of his name) different than the one he has gone by all his life for a new job. Confused the heck out of my dad because he did not realize “Leo” was actually his nephew “Lenny” when someone else mentioned it.

          If a nickname antithetical to you, pick Cathy LI, old/new Cathy, Cathy 1/2, etc.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I go by Liz, and never really met many other people with that name. Then I was working at a cafeteria in a factory in my hometown (separate company than the factory itself). There was a Liz in the factory who got pregnant with twins and for days after this news broke, I kept getting asked when I was due. “That’s not me; it’s the other Liz.” “ARE YOU SURE??” Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m not carrying twins. :P

            When she started to show, that killed the inquiries.

            1. Judy

              At one place I worked, with only about 400 people in the same location, there were two guys named “David S Johnson” and “David W Johnsonn”. The last name was a name that was ethnically german, but the difference was the doubling of the last consonant. They were 3 years different in age, and they had gone to the same high school.

              My husband and I were looking at cars and when talking to the salesman, we mentioned where I worked, and he said his cousin “David S Johnson” worked there. So it was fairly well known that there were two of them.

              Most of the time at work, we knew then by “tall/short” or the department they worked in. I did congratulate the wrong one after a baby announcement, no photo and the secretary didn’t put an initial. The next one of them who had a child, sent out a photo of them holding the child. ;)

                1. EM

                  We have a lot of duplicated names at my tiny company. Two Scott’s, two Kathy’s, two Karen’s, two Tim’s.

                2. Chinook

                  Nothing was more frustrating than having a caller ask for “Dave in accounting” when I was a receptionist at an accounting firm with 9 of them. We joked that we had reached our limit and they weren’t allowed to even interview anyone named Dave.

      2. GeekChic

        Oh agreed completely. It works for my boss and I because we are both comfortable with it and also because the people addressing us have always been clearly respectful (we actually came up with the Jedi Lynn / Darth Lynn thing ourselves). I could easily see tone changing any or all of the above to be dismissive or uncomfortable.

        1. Jessa

          Exactly. The main point I think that can be taken from everyone’s responses is that whatever naming convention is used it has to have the agreement of the people BEING named by it. And if the person being called x doesn’t like it, it behooves others to find something else to use. And to not make fun of them or be annoying about it either. Names are a very emotional and powerful thing in most societies.

          I’m actually Jessa because of this. I was part of a gang of four with the same first name, all of us used our middle names to differentiate. Heck two of my other middle names are probably THE most nicknamed names in the world. One is Margaret and one is a form of Elisabeth. And I’m not too name-fussy, so I’ll answer to everything from Jessa to Peg to Bessie.

    2. The Snarky B

      Yeah, I think OP’s manager is just being awkward. She’s new to supervising and is probably just using it as a (admittedly annoying) way to come across as light hearted, approachable, funny, whatever.
      I’m a super direct woman but I’m also sometimes awkward – I think I do dumb things like this to mitigate my directness instead of being meek and self-apologetic about having opinions.

      1. Another English Major

        I ran across a couple with the last name Berry and I always wondered if they should be called the Berries or the Berrys.

    3. Liz in a Library

      #1 happened to me too. At my last job, I had severe, constant allergy issues and recurrent sinus trouble for years. I campaigned like crazy to have the vents cleaned (if you’d go away for a few days, you’d return do a fine dust of black crud underneath each vent). No avail…

      Now that I’m out of that environment, my allergies are almost non-existent.

      1. Jamie

        Happened to my son in 3rd grade. Kept picking him up from school as he was so sick and could hardly breathe, but fine at home.

        Unbeknownst to me (before this) he had a mold allergy and so showed signs before everyone else started getting sick.

      2. Jessa

        We had this in a huge building I once worked in, people were getting sick with this kind of thing. They didn’t want to deal with it. We made an OSHA case out of it. They came in and investigated and there was mould all over the place. There was a pond in the front of the building and something was leaking. The company then had the leverage to make the landlord fix it. Since they were renting they ended up having the landlords move them to another building they owned while they did mitigation.

        A “sick building” is an OSHA case. You can report anonymously if you want to. It’s totally a worker’s safety issue. Some moulds can kill people who are immunosupressed or allergic.

        1. Liz in a Library

          I’ve seriously considered that with my old workplace now that I no longer work there (because I was the loudest, though far from only, complainer, I was afraid of retaliation as it was a cost issue to fix it). Thanks for the info!

    4. "Cathy"

      Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! We also get “Cathy Squared” and “Cathy 1 & 2” or “The Other Cathy” I think that part of my annoyance is that professionally I prefer “Catherine” — “Cathy” is too familiar for someone that I just met. I am going to take what everyone said to heart and try not to let it bother me too much. We have mid-year evaluations coming up and I will take a process check at that point, making sure that she is tailoring feedback appropriately.

      I guess another component to this is that my co-worker Cathy is a suck-up and eats up “Cathy Squared” and introduces herself at meetings as one of the “Cathys.” I am just more reserved and don’t think that it sounds professional. Maybe my supervisor is just taking her cues from my coworker?

      1. The IT Manager

        That’s a tough battle to fight, but I would be insistent that you prefer to be called “Catherine.” It’s a lot tougher once people are in the habit of Cathy, but I think you should consider giving it a try.

        I agree that your co-worker is not making it easier on you.

      2. Sydney Bristow

        This could be perfect and you could tell people that to prevent confusion you are going to go by Catherine and your coworker will be Cathy. The you’re not only able to try and get people to call you by your preferred name but maybe people will be more understanding since its based on the potential confusion (although you should get to be called whatever your preferred name is anyway!).

      3. Parfait

        There you go, then. “Please call me Catherine.” “Actually, I go by Catherine.” “Oh, ha ha, I know it’s confusing, but she’s Cathy, I’m Catherine.” Repeat as necessary.

      4. Malissa

        I hear you. I have a coworker with a similar name as mine. Except that she goes by Missy. Unless you gave birth to me you are not allowed to used that name for me.
        When I came back from lunch the other day and a coworker looked at me and said, “Welcome back Missy.” She got a dead stare and an “Excuse me?” It’s not that I didn’t hear what she said, I was giving her another chance to restate what she just said. She didn’t catch that. The situation went downhill from there. But I remained professional and nice.
        Anyway, just keep insisting that people call you by the name you prefer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I would totally use the line that Cathy is that person and I am Catherine, and we do it this way to keep things straight.
        Unfortunately my boss has started dating someone who shares my name as well. The sideways glances from people who don’t have the whole picture are amusing. The boss gives no background info before he starts talking about his girlfriend Melissa. I’m sure that now I’m leaving for another job the rumor mill is going wild. :)

        1. Jamie

          Ha! I have a friend named Melissa who would never answer to Missy. I love the name so much my cat is named Missy-Lou-Who – which is not short for Melissa.

      5. CathVWXYNot?

        I go by Cath, and I absolutely hate it when people call me Cathy. It just doesn’t suit me. Catherine is OK, but if you call me Cathy then I am going to reply by adding a y to to the end of your name to see how you like it.

        To complicate things, as an undergrad I lived with a Catherine, a Cathy, and a Cate. My parents still call me Catherine, Catherine’s parents still call her Cathy, and Cathy’s parents still call her Cath, so it got very confusing when anyone called the house looking for one of us (pre-cell phones). I then moved to a new town and lived with a different Cathy, then to another country where I shared a house with a Kate, then a Katie, then a Kat. Now I just have two cats :)

        Oh and my sister-in-law has the exact same name as mine – I changed my name when I married her brother, but she kept her maiden name when she got married. His other sister and my sister have the same name, my husband has the same name as my uncle, and the other Cath Ennis is married to a guy with the same name as my Dad.

        The wedding was VERY confusing.

        1. Liz in a Library

          Yes!! My former sister-in-law and I shared the exact same name (common first, highly uncommon last) and it was perpetually confusing. My brother-in-law’s current serious girlfriend also has the same name. It’s like living inside the end of Being John Malkovich.

        2. Chinook

          Could be worse – I spent almost 2 years known as “Silly-chan” because my japanese friends insisted on shortening my first name. It is very hard to take yourself seriously when you keep getting called “silly.”

      6. AL Lo

        In my organization, I work with a Catherine, Katherine, Kathrin, Katheryne, Kathryn, Cathy, and Kathy. Absolutely no repeats on spelling, which makes it great to follow in writing, but not so easy in speech (and they’re all referred to by full first and last name in that context, to establish who we’re talking about).

      7. Jessa

        Okay, in this case you’re dealing with the wrong person then. This needs to be taken up with Cathy. That just because she likes this does not mean you do and she needs to quit it. And when boss does it, politely – you have to make sure there is absolutely no anger or snark in your voice for this to work. Matter of fact not whingey.

        “Boss, just like I keep explaining to Cathy, I don’t like being called Cathy^2 and I prefer to be called Catherine. Please help me make this point to her and stop calling me Cathy because you’re just encouraging her to keep this up with clients and I find it unprofessional.”

        But you MUST sound like a rational working adult. If there’s even the hint of anything someone can call “juvenile” in the way you say it or do it, you’ve made it worse. Because they’ll all start teasing you about how picky and a pain you are.

      8. JessB

        I totally agree with the other feedback, if you prefer Catherine, ask to be called Catherine! It’s easiest to do that as early as possible, so I’d get on it straight away. Be sure you aren’t being nasty or bossy about it, just say casually that you really prefer Catherine.

        I have a similar problem, where I’ll sometimes get Jess or Jessie from total strangers or people I’ve just met in a work context. There are times when I’ll say something, but when it’s from someone I know better or am friendlier with, I don’t mind at all.

  3. JoAnna

    Re: #1, I don’t use my sick leave only when I’m sick – I have to use it when my kids are sick as well. My husband and I try to alternate taking time off, but we have four kids, so if multiple kids get sick one right after the other, the days add up in a hurry. So that may be why some employees burn through their sick time faster than others.

    1. Anonymous

      This is a really good point and something that doesn’t really have any easy solution, especially since most people can’t afford at home care for their kids. One problem is that when a company realizes this and tries to accommodate, the conversation goes into the tricky territory of “what, parents get special treatment??” But the fact of the matter is that when people have young kids, they DO have to use their sick time for more than one person. So I’m not sure how to reasonably approach it. It’s tough!

      1. Lynn

        Does at-home care for sick children even exist? Who would take the job? I’ve seriously never heard of this service being offered for any amount of money, and I would be very interested in knowing about it.

        1. Anonymous

          I meant a nanny or an au pair. I had family members who had full-time nannies — and they would be the ones who would pick up my sick cousins rather than the parents themselves.

        2. Lore

          There are companies that provide backup and respite child-care; my company contracts with one of them as a benefit. You can get up to a certain number of hours per year of one-day at-home sitters at a discounted rate (I think it’s $10 per hour, maybe even less?) and also they have a drop-in daycare center for things like nursery school vacation coverage. I think the drop-in center may also have options for mildly sick kids (no symptoms but a low fever, for example) where they’re under a nurse’s care, but I could be making that part up. (I don’t have kids myself.)

          1. Judy

            The daycare my sister used, at a hospital, had a sick room, that had cots and quiet toys and would only accept 4 kids a day, for a higher rate. So if your kid was sick, or you got called to come get a sick kid, you could ask if the sick room was full.

      2. some1

        I have worked places that you can use sick time to take any member of your immediate family to a medical appointment. I used sick time when my mother was in the hospital.

        1. saf

          Yes – my husband has used his sick time when I was ill – thyroid treatments and orthopedic surgery.

        2. Anonymous

          Of course, but generally those are extenuating circumstances. Most people can’t and don’t stay home because their husband or mother has a run-of-the-mill flu. But when your young kid has the flu or food poisoning or pink eye or any variety of minor but contagious ailments, a worker either needs to arrange other care or use their own sick time because the kid can’t just stay at home and take care of herself (especially, say, ages 1-7). And then if THEY get the illness from their kid or their other kid(s) get(s) it or both? They have to use even more sick time because of that. Not saying they should get special treatment or anything, but it’s just an extra complication parents need to consider and work around more than the average child-free worker.

          It’s just a good argument for having overall PTO, rather than splitting it into sick and vacation days. Because there are going to be people who need to take more unscheduled leave than average, whether for general family emergencies or more frequent child sick (or otherwise) care.

  4. Chocolate Teapot

    3. It sounds like the OP’s friend isn’t a particularly close friend, just part of the same social circle. Even so, I can imagine drinks or similar situations could be awkward.

    1. #3 OP

      I consider him to be a close friend, and thankfully I only ever have 1-2 drinks. My friends tend to over-imbibe and I prefer to be in control so I don’t think that’s an issue but still awkward…

  5. karthik

    #5 — We have 5 contractors, all named Adam. They are all graphic designers. It’s even more confusing…

    1. TychaBrahe

      I went to school with three Asian students who had each chosen the name Amy to be her Americanized name. When addressing each one of them, we called them directly, “Amy,” but when referring to them, even to each other, we called them, “Chinese Amy,” “Hong Kong Amy,” and “Taiwan Amy.”

        1. The IT Manager

          I’ve heard tell of “girl Andi” and “boy Andy” who dated in college and, I think, eventually got married.

          1. Laufey

            My group of friends had “boy Aaron”, “girl Erin” and “other girl Erin” (year behind us)

          2. Meg

            I went to college with a guy and girl named Rob and Robyn, who had the same last name, and while they weren’t dating in college, they ended up dating and having a child together after graduation.

            1. The IT Manager

              And this is the solution to the “does she change her last name”/”what last name do we give the child” dilemmas. :)

              Unfortunately I have a very uncommon last name and all the people with the same last name as me are relatives. :(

            2. Andrew

              Evelyn Waugh’s first wife was named… Evelyn.

              Even though the names are pronounced differently depending on gender, they went by “he-Evelyn” and “she-Evelyn” for a few years, and then got divorced.

          3. Female sam

            I’m a samantha (sam) and I went by female Sam for a few years when I had a (male) friend called Sam.

      1. Chinook

        Serious question – would it be polite then to refer to the 2 Wakeens as “black Wakeen” and “white Wakeen” or better to refer to them as “Wakeen 1” and “Wakeen 2”?

        1. Nikki

          I wouldn’t mind being “black Nikki” but people might be uncomfortable with that (or think OTHER people, outside looking in would be uncomfortable) so I’d probably end up being “short Nikki”. Though my first name isn’t Nikki and I’ve only been in the same room with someone with my name just once.

        2. Jane Doe

          Wakeen 1 and Wakeen 2, or some other non-racial descriptor. I think there’s just too much potential for people to feel offended or like their skin color is being unnecessarily pointed out to people (which is not really a problem for white people because other white people don’t usually use their skin color as a descriptor in talking about them in every day life).

          If you can’t come up with anything except race, I think using last names is fine. I worked with someone who had a similar first name and whose last name started with the same letter (and also likely had the same origin), and our coworkers often just used our whole names if they wanted to be sure someone knew the difference.

        3. Anonymous

          In high school me and another girl has the same last name and a very similar first name. Like, Lisa and Elisa. They called us Black Lisa (her) and White Elisa (me). The funny part is I’m actually bi-racial. Once my father (black guy) came to pick me up and they called her down to the office. She came back up and told me my dad was downstairs. Laughs all around!

          BUT back to your story, I would avoid it if you don’t know them personally.

          1. Kathryn T.

            FWIW I know that this is a terrible answer in real life, but I like the way it strikes back against the assumption that “white” is the unmarked status.

            1. Jessa

              I’m with you Kathryn. But I also think that last names or jobs are better -Wakeen in sales, Wakeen in fabrication.

        4. Laura

          Personally, I always super hated being referred to by my skin color or perceived ethnicity/race for a few reasons:

          1. Boils me person down to said skin color/ethnicity/race – which quite frankly, usually brings up negative connotations vs positive ones. In addition, I find it being a little dismissive of who I am as a person.

          2. Lets other people assume ethnic or racial makeup and perpetuate it in the workplace

          3. May lead people to say things they might not otherwise, with regard to race or ethnicity – potentially leading to an uncomfortable work environment. An acquaintance of mine shared her ethnic background, and then had to endure inaccurate and frequent “indian princess” comments by a coworker.

          Also, what Nikki said about other people having complicated feelings about it.

        5. Anonymous

          How about some other feature about them? One like sports, one likes to read, one has a really deep voice, something else like that? I personally wouldn’t like to go by name #1 or #2 because it’s seems to make someone less a person, and also, bathroom jokes. (This, of course, would never happen to me as I have a fairly uncommon name with a nearly unheard spelling of it). Also steer away from references about their hair, along the same lines Laura brings up.

  6. Jennifer

    LW1, you may be a little heavily focused on the reason someone is out of the office, as opposed to the impact. Not every sickness is going to warrant a doctor’s note, some doctors will write a note for everything, some won’t write a note for anything, and do you want to be in the role of evaluating whether or not someone’s absence is “worthy” of being excused or not? There also may be illnesses of a very private or personal nature, and you might not want to add the burden of disclosure to someone who’s already having a rough time.
    Have you considered just counting the number of unexcused “occurrences” regardless of reason? So people can have up to 5 unexcused absences (sick days) in a year, let’s say. If they go over 5 in a year (or 3 in a 6 month period, perhaps) then they have to take vacation time to pay for those hours, and there’s a performance management step (verbal warning, write up, etc.) This way your policy focuses on the impact to the business, not on the private details of your staff.
    If you’re worried about people abusing the policy to call out when they’re not really sick past the 40 hours, your current policy enables the same kind of abuse for the first 40 hours. Shifting the policy to a “you’re an adult, and we’ve got a business to run” message means ultimately it doesn’t matter why someone’s out. Your business still suffers if it’s not planned in advance.
    Your policy could include “manager discretion” beyond the 40 hours if there’s an extreme situation, but generally, you expect people to be there when scheduled, you get that this won’t always happen, you get that it’s not your business why someone didn’t come in, and your employees get that you expect them to be adult professionals.

    1. Another Evil HR Director

      I never question whether an employee is truly sick or not (well, almost never), but focus on pre-planned, pre-approved absences vs. unplanned, unexpected absences. We can almost always handle the pre-planned requests for time off. Unexpected, last minute absences throw our operations into some level of chaos. Therefore, excessive incidences of unexpected absences are dealt with. As you said, it’s the impact on daily business operations that’s really at issue.

    2. Cat

      That sounds like a recipe for getting people to come to work sick and getting all your other employees sick, which is just going to exacerbate the problem. (I might feel differently if we were talking 3 weeks of sick leave but 4o hours means that if one flu goes around the office, multiple staff members are going to hit the limit almost immediately.)

      1. -X-

        The limit is about reporting, not not taking sick leave. So it’s a hurdle to take sick leave, but it’s certainly not ruled out.

        If a person has a choice of seeing and paying a doctor and being able to not come in, or coming in, if the insurance was good I think most would not come in.

        1. Cat

          I was talking about the suggestion to treat all “unexcused occurrences” the same after a certain number which I read as suggesting not allowing doctor’s notes.

        2. Just Me

          Good point about insurance…I am on a High Deductible Health Plan, and a simple visit to the doctor can cost upwards of $100 out of pocket.

        3. Lynn

          I would be pretty unhappy about having to get a doctor’s note for something like a stomach flu. It doesn’t actually require any medical care, and it’s miserable to be driving around town, sitting in the waiting room, etc, while barfing periodically. It would be better than having to work all day in that state (completely impossible! and disgusting!), but still very unpleasant.

          1. Cat

            Yeah, there have been days where I would have preferred to sit holed up in my warm office instead of trekking to the doctor’s to get a note, but that doesn’t mean I was capable of working productively.

          2. KellyK

            Yeah, so would I. Even with good insurance, I don’t need to pay a copay and sit in a waiting room with other sick people to be told to rest and get plenty of fluids.

            1. Ruffingit

              That is the issue I’ve always had with the “get a doctor’s note” thing. There are illnesses that are not in need of medical intervention, but that will knock you out nonetheless. Food poisoning is a good example as is a really bad flu. You just have to suffer through them sometimes.

              Getting a doctor’s note requires (usually) a co-pay, sitting in a waiting room while you’re horribly sick already and thus your immune system is down so you can pick up all the germs in the waiting room from other patients.

              Ridiculous. There has to be another way. Doctor’s notes are not the answer. And, just as an aside though it doesn’t matter to the employer really, it wastes the doctor’s time. Sure, they make money from you while you are there, but they basically examine you so they can tell you that you’re sick, but there’s nothing they can do for you. I say leave the doctor’s time to those they can really help.

          3. Anonymous

            Not to mention that, for some illnesses, doctors don’t even want you coming in. When I had the norovirus, I was very explicitly told NOT to come into the doctor’s office because there was nothing they could do for me and I was so contagious that I could easily infect the staff and anyone in the waiting room.

          4. Elizabeth West

            Not to mention that some doctor’s offices are notoriously hard to get into. Mine will take you pretty quickly if it’s important, but it’s like the ER–you have to sit and wait through all the appointments who have priority. I would rather stay home and rest and get well than perch, miserable, in an uncomfortable chair waiting for a stupid note.

          5. Jill

            No kidding – I live alone and if I’m too sick to go to work, I’m often too sick to go to the doctor. When I feel well enough to drive myself to the doctor, I can go to work (assuming I’m not contagious). Encouraging people to come to work sick just causes more people to get sick.

        4. Anonymous

          I wouldn’t. If I already have to get up and go to the doctor, I might as well go to work and not lose anything. And if I had to have Doc’s note and it’s, say, food poisoning and going to the doc is unnecessary AND near impossible, I’d just be screwed.

          Then what if they can’t get you in the same day? I had this issue once, I went in the next AM but then the doc wouldn’t write a note for the day before (!) and my boss wouldn’t take the next-day note because it wasn’t on the first day I was out. As if they both thought I decided to slack and then magically got the same illness I lied about within 24 hours.

  7. B

    #1 I would suggest adding the doctors note if they are out more than 2 or 3 days in a row. That seems acceptable.
    But the way you are thinking you need to consider most of the usual suspects: what if they get food poisoning for the day, can’t get to a doctor, and are better the next day. or a really bad cold that would otherwise infect the entire office and make more people take off.

    If you are seeing a lot of excessive sick days taken because people do not want to come in then perhaps look at your organization through a different lens. Are people taking off because they are unhappy with the work environment? Is there something going on to make people nervous about the state of affairs? With such a small business you should always be looking at this.

    1. Jane Doe

      Also, during flu season this is going to be a problem, because you’d be requiring employees to drag themselves out of bed, possibly trek across the city (unless you’re taking receipts from the CVS minute clinic as proof) and sit in someone’s waiting room just so the doc can tell them what they already know and give them a note.

      1. Natalie

        If the doctor will even see them. During flu season last year clinics in my area were explicitly asking people not to come in for flu unless they had specific, severe symptoms, because the facilities were already overtaxed.

    2. some1

      This is what I was going to suggest. There are plenty of common illnesses that mean staying at home is preferable to coming into work, and not just contagious issues. If one of my co-workers had a random bout of insomnia, I’d rather have her stay home (even if I have to cover), then have her come in if she is going to be worthless all day long, and assuming it’s a rare occurrence. And I wouldn’t expect a her to have to go to a dr to get a note saying she is tired.

    3. fposte

      But this doesn’t answer the “what do you do when they overdraw?” question. I suspect people would rather get a doctor’s note than, say, take the day unpaid.

      1. KellyK

        I’m sure a lot of people would, but I also don’t think it solves the actual problem. That day is just as inconvenient for the company and for the other employees whether the person has a piece of paper stating that they’re really, truly sick or not.

        1. fposte

          But it’s not just about that day–it’s about how people choose to take their sick leave all year in light of the policy. I don’t like the doctor’s note thing myself (though it’s quite common–I’m surprised so many people here aren’t currently working under it), but I think the underlying dilemma is a real one.

  8. Joey

    #1. Here’s an easy solution. Let them know that you will allow ee’s to use vacay as sick days, but if they do it will be counted against them. Then you’ll have to decide how many times its reasonable for them to do it before it triggers something more serious like a write up or a term. I guarantee you if they’re abusing consequences will make it stop.

    1. Joey

      By the way requiring a drs note has its downsides also. What if they keep bringing them in? Does that make it less of a pain to deal with? And really, it feels sort of elementary to brig a drs note into the teacher.

      1. KellyK

        This is another good point. The note gives you some confidence that it’s legitimate, but it doesn’t actually make it any less of a business issue.

        1. annie

          Plus, a lot of people have friends who are doctors or nurses who will just write them a note. If I had to do this for something silly, I’d just call my friend and have her send one to me.

          1. bo bessi

            Exactly. We have a doctor next door who “consults” for our various health issues. It would not be difficult to get a note from him.

  9. Sydney Bristow

    LW1, do you offer health insurance to these employees? Getting a doctor’s note may not be a feasible task if you don’t.

    1. some1

      I’ve had insurance where you have to pick a primary clinic, and if you go to another place you pay more. This could be a hardship, too, for employees who can’t a same-day appointment at their primary clinic.

  10. Your Mileage May Vary

    #4 — This happened to me once, except it was a raise I was expecting to see on my next paycheck instead of a bonus. I asked my manager, who turned out to be as flummoxed as I was. She investigated and discovered that even though she had submitted the raise change request to Payroll immediately after my review, it had fallen after the cutoff for the next paycheck. (Payroll cutoff was not something we generally thought about in my department since we were all salaried.) She verified that it would be on the next paycheck and it was.

    I bet that something like this has happened to your bonus. Just check with your boss.

  11. Ask a Manager Post author

    I realize now that I should have made #1 its own post — there’s much more to say! I answered the direct question being asked, which was “can I do this,” but I do want to add that I think requiring doctor’s notes in general isn’t a good policy. There are plenty of illnesses that don’t require going to the doctor, and making someone get out of bed when they’re sick and don’t need to, just to get a note, is bad policy (and bad for our health care system too). It’s also infantalizing and unnecessary, and if you think people would lie without that policy, the office has bigger problems.

    Decide how many absences are reasonable and how many you can’t deal with, and set a policy accordingly, but don’t make adults get doctor’s notes.

    1. Just Me

      Our policy is a doctor’s note after a 3 or more days absence. What are you thoughts on this?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I used to say that you could get X hours into the red in terms of accrued sick time (can’t remember what X was — maybe 2-3 days?), and then it was something that had to be talked about, to figure out what was going on, if it was causing problems, and how to proceed from there. If it’s a good employee with a good track record, you try to be accommodating. If it’s not or you suspect someone is abusing the system, you have bigger problems to address anyway.

        1. Heather

          Yes – address it with the individual who’s having the issue instead of making a blanket change!

          1. Anon

            If this helps – our policy allows sick time to be taken for unplanned absences, but we get a point for each absence period. We get a half point for tardiness in excess of 15 minutes (I should clarify that this policy was for hourly staff, im not sure about other depts). If we want to use vacation time, the absence needs 48 hours notice. If we exceed our sick time, we don’t get paid. But, if we accrue 6 points, we are put on an action plan. Points have a rolling expiration.

            In a different company, we just had PTO rather than vacation and sick time. IMO, this is better, bc you better believe I’m not wasting precious PTO unless I’m truly ill.

          2. ThursdaysGeek

            Yes, yes, yes! I worked at a place that put in cameras because they suspected a person was stealing, and added a time clock because a person wasn’t working the hours they were supposed to. Just deal with that person and don’t punish the rest of us!

        2. Elizabeth West

          That’s a good point. It may be that they DO have a legitimate issue, but are embarrassed of talking about it, afraid of it causing other issues, it’s not them that is sick, etc.
          Don’t punish the class because one kid threw an eraser!

    2. OP #1

      I can see that asking for a doctor’s note isn’t the best route to go. I do not want my team to feel like they are not being treated like adults.

      1. HR Pufnstuf

        I think that’s the right call too for all the stated reasons.

        I’m a big supporter of PTO, my present and a previous company have used it and have seen much less abuse then companies with a separate sick leave policy.

    3. Anonymous

      I think OP#1 is more concerned with the impact on the business than with people taking time off. Have you talked to these employees about the impact or potential impact of taking a lot of “sick” time off? Maybe they don’t realize how it is or could be a problem, or maybe they have a solution that would work, like ‘if I’m out x,y and z need to be done but not a,b,c, and Jane can do x, Joe can do y, and Jose can do z’.

      It becomes much more of a problem when only that person can do the work. There isn’t much of an effect if my coworker takes a day off for a migraine, but multiple people are completely unable or severely hindered doing their jobs if I take a week off because I’m sick with the flu and need to sleep 12 hours a day. (yeah I got other people sick, who in turn got their coworkers or spouses or kids sick coming into work that week, resulting in a probably a negative net gain, but not all that impacted my manager.) In those cases either someone else needs to knows how to do that task, which might be you (this might not be possible in a small or very specialized business) or have other mitigating tasks to cover for that person and that task being undone. I’ve got an emergency back-up plan of the things that need to done, that basically anyone who can read can do, that will keep things going until I can get back to work. It’s something strictly for short term, like illness but also for things like weather cancellations, and it’s in an accessible place that all my coworkers can get to (in this case printed.) And for some tasks, the option I have is just not to do them.

    4. HRAnon

      Late to the comments here, but some of your answer to #1 is incorrect. You CAN dock exempt employee’s pay if they take time off for sickness or disability AND you have a “bona-fide” sick pay plan AND the employee has exhausted their sick leave bank. (There are other times this is allowed as well, but this is the rule relevant to this particular situation.) http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/fairpay/fs17g_salary.pdf

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        The DOL says, “Deductions from pay are permissible when an exempt employee: is absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons other than sickness or disability; for absences of one or more full days due to sickness or disability if the deduction is made in accordance with a bona fide plan, policy or practice of providing compensation for salary lost due to illness; to offset amounts employees receive as jury or witness fees, or for military pay; for penalties imposed in good faith for infractions of safety rules of major significance; or for unpaid disciplinary suspensions of one or more full days imposed in good faith for workplace conduct rule infractions.”

        I think you’re referring to the part in bold, but my understanding has always been that it means that you need to have a short-term disability plan in place that the employee is drawing salary from instead during that time, no?

        1. HRAnon

          Just wanted to add- I’m not advocating that deducting from pay is necesarily the best way to go in this case- just that it is in fact legal :).

  12. Natalie

    #1 – Your plan honestly sounds unnecessarily punitive towards people who may or may not be doing anything wrong, as well as future people who have definitely not done anything wrong. If I was a new employee and read that policy it would give me the impression that you really don’t want anyone calling in if they are sick. And really, with only 5 days of sick time (which often covers doctors appointments and children’s illnesses) it seems far more likely that a few people are actually using their sick time for sickness. If you’ll forgive the modification of Hanlon’s Razor – never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by something mundane.

    As others have mentioned, I would let go of the idea that you can police why someone has called in, and focus on the result of calling in on your day to day operations. It sounds like you have one or two employees who have called in more than you feel is appropriate. Have you talked to those individuals directly? You don’t need a policy written in your HR manual to have a discussion with an employee about absenteeism.

  13. KellyK

    #1 – For the sick leave thing, there are a lot of factors to consider. I think that if you have a separate bank of sick time, letting people use vacation if they need it, but stressing that going into vacation is for urgent situations only is reasonable.

    I’m not sure requiring a doctor’s note is the *best* way to go about that, but it has its advantages. It will cut down on people taking unplanned absences, definitely. It does have the disadvantage that people who can’t get a doctor’s note for whatever reason will come in sick rather than take an unpaid day, and get the whole office sick. It can be a morale killer if people get the impression that you don’t trust them or aren’t treating them as adults, although requiring a doctor’s note to use vacation as sick time is very different from requiring it every time someone calls out.

    If I were you, I would try to attack this problem from multiple angles. First of all, I would talk to the people who are burning through sick leave quickly, both to stress to them that you need them to be there and to possibly get a better idea what’s going on. (Admittedly, this might be tricky to do without prying into personal health details, but I think you could have a general conversation about attendance, make your expectations clear, and ask them if there’s anything going on health-wise or life-wise that they’d like you to know about so you can work around it.)

    If a bunch of people are coming down with the same thing, then it’s likely to be either something environmental, or a bug that’s going around. If people are calling out frequently with what sound like minor issues, it might be that they’re taking advantage and that’s something you need to address with them. And there might also be people with chronic health issues who are either in positions that don’t mesh with those issues or who you could make some kind of accommodation for. (Yes, if someone has such an issue, they should be proactively bringing it up with you, but it’s also good to give them an opportunity to do that.)

    There might also be people whose jobs would allow working from home or flexing hours, who you might want to give that as an option if it seems like it would help the overall situation. (Better for the person who can get their stuff done at home to do so, than to come in sick and infect the people whose absence will cause problems.)

  14. some1

    I have a pretty common first name for women my age. I graduated with 7 or 8 girls with the same name, and at every job I have had with more than a dozen employees there has been another “some1”.

    In school and at work, we were always just referred to by our full names, or if we were on different teams, it was “Accounting Some1” and “Some1 in IT”. At my first office job, when I was 21, I was referred to (not to my face, at least) as “Little Some1” to distinguish me from the other “Some1” — don’t get me started on that.

  15. Colette

    #7 – If I understand the situation, you’re interviewing for an internal position. In most companies I’ve worked in, you wouldn’t give your two weeks notice – your current manager and your new manager would work together to find a mutually agreeable date for you to start your new job. So if your current manager needed you to travel for the project, you probably wouldn’t start your new job until you got back (unless it’s 3 months travel or something – I’m assuming it’s a week or two).

  16. some1

    For #1, what kind of increments are employees allowed to take sick leave? At my current job we can take them in 1/2 hour increments so I always try to schedule doctor and dentist appointments as early or as late in the day as possible because I have an incentive to save the time in case I get seriously ill. At my last job, where I was an hourly employee, we HAD to take sick time in four hour increments. So if I had a dr appointment at 8:00 AM, there was no motivation for me to come to work immediately following my appointment, because my sick time “expired” at noon. Or if I did come to work by say, 9:30, that meant leaving for the day at 1:30 if I wanted to use the sick time for the appointment.

    1. OP #1

      We are very flexible when it comes to doctor’s appointments and allow employees to take time off as needed. They can also make up time if they choose rather than take sick leave.

  17. OP #1

    Thanks to everyone for their feedback. We do have excellent health insurance (paid for by the company…including family coverage) and overall we have great benefits. I do feel like I’m creating a policy due to a couple of problem employees. Our company is growing (we’ve gone from 7 employees to 35 in the last 5 years) and I want to create good policies that make sense. It’s a bit of a struggle as we go through these “growing pains”. We have talked with each employee that we have an issue with and have let them know that their absenteeism is unacceptable. We really want employees to succeed at our company and try our best to work through problems. All of the employees that have used up their time are young (early 20s) and they may need a little more mentoring. Thanks again for the comments, they have been very helpful.

    1. Omne

      Sounds like you are already doing what you should be doing. I would save the doctor’s notes for when you have specific reasons for suspecting someone of abusing sick time. When we run into that we give them a memo requiring notes until further notice. It’s pretty rare, I’ve done maybe 3 in the past 9 years.

      For other situations, unless it’s FMLA, we don’t allow vacation for sick time and they are not paid for that day. If they go off payroll it’s treated as a performance management issue and can result in discipline. We are pretty lenient for new employees since our system allows employees to accrue 4 hrs per pay period in sick leave and obviously they have very small balances at first. They go unpaid but we don’t look at discipline unless we suspect abuse.

    2. LCL

      What is your policy re accrual of sick leave? How many hours can be left on the books? I have heard of places that have a ‘use it or lose it policy’, at least that’s what the employees call a policy where you can’t carry over any unused sick leave to the next year.

      Where I work (large company) sick leave accrual is unlimited. Which is good, because people work here for a long time, and often end up using up all of the hours they accumulated when young during some middle aged health/parents crisis.

      One thing to consider for the long term is whether you will allow employees to donate sick leave. Opinions on this vary.

      1. OP #1

        At the beginning of each year, 40 hours of sick leave is deposited in the employee’s account. Whatever is unused at the end of the year expires and they start fresh January 1. That being said, the owner of the company is great when it comes to an employee with a serious medical condition. He allows them to take whatever time they need and pays them. I’ve had employee’s offer to donate time when they hear someone is seriously ill and he says it’s not necessary…he takes care of them.

      2. Editor

        I’m actually not in favor of unlimited accrual of sick time, but I’m also opposed to keeping it to a few days per year.

        A lot of companies don’t permit rollovers of sick time or vacation because it accrues as a liability in the accounting records.

        A business would do better, I think, to figure out how much it wants employees to max out at, and then allow them to roll over sick leave until they get up to some number of days, whether it is 12 or 30 or whatever. I do think the sick leave banks some large employers run are nice, where people can donate days to a large bank of sick days that can be used for people with cancer, difficult chronic illnesses or other medical crises. For a small business, I would think management discretion would work better.

  18. Annie The Mouse

    LW1 – I think getting an environmental check is a good idea- I’ve also seen what eradicating mold can do to reduce allergies and other respiratory illnesses. But I think there’s another issue here. You say your company is growing, and unplanned absences cause problems. Is it possible you need a couple more staff people, specifically trained to fill in when people call off sick?

    I think your benefits are wonderful; I haven’t had a paid sick or vacation day in over ten years, and I’d love to work for someone like you!

  19. Scott M

    #6 – You could just have him use last names. There are several Scott’s here, but lots of times we are referred to by last names. So instead of referring to “Scott Smith” or “Scott Johnson”, it’s “Johnson” and “Smith”.

  20. danr

    #6…take the day. It may seem odd, but if your manager mentioned it, then it’s okay and there are probably underlying reasons to take your personal days.

  21. Anonymous

    #5 – in a similar vein, any advice on when a boss or coworker calls you by a coworker’s name? For example, let’s say Alyson has a co-worker named Alice. Boss call Alyson “Alice.” When Alyson corrects Boss, Boss doesn’t apologizes but instead jokes “your names are so similar, I can’t tell you apart.” Or worse, what about when HR introduces new employees to Alyson and Alice and outright says, “this is Alyson and Alice but I can’t tell them apart. I try to remember that Alice is the shorter name and the shorter person, but I always forget.”

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Two options:

      1. Decide it’s not worth making a big deal of and just live with it — unless you truly see it impacting anything beyond what he calls you.

      2. Say, “I know it might seem minor, but I’d really appreciate if you’d call me by my correct name.” If this fails, conclude your boss is an ass.

      1. Anonymous

        Good advice (as always). Now that I’ve read it, I think I know the answer. Thanks.

      2. Editor

        In the “boss is an ass about names” category: A woman I knew was named Clarice. Her boss left for another job. The new boss informed her there was no such name as Clarice, and insisted on calling her Clara. Her protests were to no avail.

        Yeah, the guy was an idiot.

      3. Jessa

        Um, I don’t think it’s minor however, if I were the the new employee or a client, I’d hesitate to work for or hire a group that could not remember the names of the people they work with every day. It’s disrespectful and strikes me as lazy. I mean they’re going to introduce people and they couldn’t take 2 minutes before I got there to remind themselves which person is which?

        And I admit I’m lousy with names, I make a strong issue to make sure I get them correct as quickly as I can with people I see every day. And if I have to fudge I don’t fake it, I say “this is our best salesperson,” and let them fill in their name and apologise later rather than embarrass them in front of strangers.

        Not to mention what happens at review time. If they can’t remember which person is which is Alyson going to be reviewed with Alice’s performance in mind?

      4. Anonymous

        I had an ass boss. Referred to all four of her direct reports with my name because I was hired first and she couldn’t be arsed to remember more than one name I guess. Our names were all totally dissimilar, too! Whenever they corrected her she’d just shrug

    2. Judy

      In my first professional job, I was one of two young women hired within 6 months of each other, about the same height, shoulder length brown hair. We were in the same overall department, but different groups, different functions. (Teapot strength analysis and teapot documentation)

      Several of the older guys would call me Bridget and her Judy. Often. I think they were just trying to get a rise out of us.

    3. "Cathy"

      Cathy here again — I replaced someone named Karly. One of the people I work with always calls me Karly, since I took over her role. Am I that unmemorable? I have always chalked it up to him being older & forgetful….

      1. Chinook

        Cathy, it could also be a reflex from having worked with Karly for so long, like when a kid calls his teacher “Mom” by accident.

      2. fposte

        I don’t think it’s about you being unmemorable or him being older and forgetful, it’s about the fact that your name is extremely similar to the last person’s in that position. If a Karen follows you, she’ll get called Cathy sometimes, too.

        It’s really not personal. If you have siblings, didn’t your parents sometimes start calling you by a sibling’s name? That wasn’t because you’re unmemorable or because they were old and forgetful, it’s because their brain started with the first thing they found in the “offspring’s name” file. “Carly” is the first thing his brain finds in the “person at your desk” file.

        1. Chinook

          The probelmw ith forgetting someone’s name is genetic in my family. My grandmother would always tell us to stop her when she got to the dead dogs’ names.

  22. Hello Vino

    #5 – “Hey Cathys” or “Hey Cathy and Cathy” isn’t that bad. I agree that you shouldn’t read into it and just let it go.

    At my previous job, many people got into the habit of referring to me and the other designer as “the girls”. We were the only ones under 30 (everyone else was 45+), but that does not make it okay. Also, to make matters worse, we were the only Asian employees at this company. We don’t look alike and have very different names, but they still mixed us up all the time.

    Sure, there were times when I got offended, but how do you bring this up when the VP of HR is one of the worst culprits?

  23. Cindy

    I’m an Asian woman. My department has around 100 employees, and of those 100, there are 3 other Asian women besides me (Jen, Hannah and Lily). Besides the fact we are Asian, we look nothing alike. When I pass someone in the hallway, this invariably happens:

    “Morning Jen! Oh sorry, I mean Hannah. Nono, LILY.”

    Sorry, I’m not Lily. Or Jen. Or Hannah. I’m Cindy.

    This comes from all levels of staff. I used to correct people, but at this point I’ve given up.

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      I think different people use different characteristics to tell people apart, and some are way better at it than others. I think I use hair styles, and I’m not super observant, so I have difficulty when watching an old movie: all those white men look the same at first and it’s hard to figure out the plot when I can’t tell people apart. (I’m white, so part of the point is that the confusion can be with people like you, not just people who are different.)

      But it shows a level of respect when you learn people’s name, and don’t confuse them with others with some superficial similarity.

      1. Chinook

        I agree – different people do use different characteristics to identify people. In Japan, I did a couple of classes on appropriate phrases to use to describe people. (The textbook went as far as saying it was inappropriate to describe people by their nose size – who knew!) In my homogeneius classes, pre-internet, I had a hard time making some of them understand the different hair and eye colours that were naturally available (one girl thought a friend of mine was wearing coloured contacts when I showed a picture) and that was the preferred way to describe someone in English.

        1. The IT Manager

          Very interesting discussion.

          I have trouble with remembering faces and names (and not just in relation to each other). Honestly if asked to describe pretty much anyone I’m limited to hair color/cut, generalized height and weight, glasses, and that’s it. Which works okay for some Causians but which doesn’t differentiate among different people the within some enthic groups.

          1. Chinook

            I had the same issue before Japan – describing people by hair colour/cut, height and weight. Luckily, my students were very open to the discussion and were able to explain to me how they distinguish faces. I had no clue that noses came in so many shapes.

  24. SJ

    Alison, I remember a while back you asked for suggestions for an alternative to ‘terse’. I just thought of one, don’t know if you’d already considered it – thrifty. Thrifty Answer Thursday? Has a good ring, IMO!

  25. OP #1

    I’ve really appreciated the comments. I’ve eliminated the doctor’s note and will go with….

    “Employees who call-in sick after they have used up 40 hours of sick leave (unplanned time-off) in a calendar year must receive management approval to use vacation time (if they have it available).”

    1. Elise

      I’m confused by your policy that you give the 40 hours on Jan 1 each year. What happens if someone starts in March? Or what if they use it all in January and quit in February?

      Most places I know have employees accrue the leave throughout the year — like every 2 weeks worked earns you 4 hours of leave, or something similar.

      Might have fewer problems if you didn’t give it all at once. Helps people budget their time better.

  26. anon

    any advice for a coworker mispronouncing your name? (the spelling is often interpreted as a different name, so it is being said that way) This person said it correctly for the first few months and somehow started saying it incorrectly. I didn’t make a correction the first time because I thought it was maybe a one time mistake since, but now since it continues I probably have let it go too far. I am hoping that this person will just overheard other coworkers saying it correctly and figure it out, or hear me say it on the phone. I don’t want to make a bigger deal than necessary, but I also kind of want my name said correctly.

    1. Parfait

      Just tell them next time they mispronounce it. They probably thought they were saying it wrong at first and corrected themselves incorrectly. They want to get it right, too.

    2. Mo

      My parents made up my name and then spelled it unlike how they wanted it pronounced.

      I would usually say something like “oh, my name is actually pronounced like…” and leave it like that. Though usually people would ask me how to pronounce it before they event attempted it. Most people only needed to be corrected one or twice before they got it. Others just take longer, unfortunately. One woman I worked with took about three months to start pronouncing it correctly…only to revert back a month later. I worked there for 4 years and I had to correct her the majority of the time I was there.

      It used to bother me when people would say it wrong, so that’s why I corrected them every time it happened. And it sounds like it bothers you too, so definitely say something!

    3. Anonymous

      AAM had a post that mentioned where some mentioned (maybe AAM herself?) about someone whose email signature included a link which had an audio file with her saying her name. Or team up with someone else, and the next time that person mispronounces it, they wait until you leave and then casually say something about it?

      When I was a kid I hated that NO ONE could pronounce my name after seeing it written for the first time. Now, as long as the person knows who I am, it’s just doesn’t matter anymore.

  27. Esra

    Pure curiosity here, but is 40 hours of sick time considered average/generous in the states?

    1. Liz in a Library

      I think it varies so much that it is hard to say. At my previous job, I got about 40 hours. At my current, I get significantly more, along with the option for emplyees to telework so they don’t always have to use them. Many jobs here offer no paid sick time too, which I think is just bad business.

    2. fposte

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests 8 days is private-sector average for an employee of 1 year’s duration; the average goes up to 9 when you hit 10 years. (Public sector is another kettle of fish.)

      The wording suggests they didn’t factor rollover into those averages.

      1. Cat

        I suspect – though I don’t know, and maybe the statistics only include employers who offer sick time – that there’s a big split, with a lot of employers offering none or virtually none and some offering a lot. I am in the private sector and get three weeks a year, which rolls over, and that is not inconsistent with what the people I know at other private sector employers in my field get. But I know people in other sectors who maybe get 2-3 weeks of PTO in a year total.

    3. Anonymous

      Depends on the position and what field it’s in. In what’s considered minimum wage, janitorial, food service, or “blue-collar” (plumbers, electricians, carpenters, factory workers) type of jobs, then giving no paid sick time is normal. In “white-collar” it’s all over the board, which some very well known companies, have a unlimited PTO (paid time off), with some only having a few days, because it’s expected that the worker will be at work all.the.time.

      My workplace gives everyone who is full time 2 weeks sick, 2 weeks vacation (which increases the longer you work there) which rollover (so no use it or lose it scenario). I’ve got about 3 months of sick time accrued now, which if I ever need to use, will be really really useful, and might help me avoid bankruptcy.

  28. Anon

    I receive 12 days a year and they rollover. Roll over time is VERY important to me and I don’t think I would ever consider working at a company that didn’t have roll over time unless they gave a very large number of sick days (retail, call centers, show up as a warm body jobs excluded.)

    Last year I lost my voice (with a massively sore throat) and couldn’t perform my job for a few days (a large portion of my job was talking on the phone daily). In the same month, I got a severe stomach flu that had me out for a few days as well. This year I was in a car accident >.<

    Those 3 things alone would have left me really hurting with only 5 days of sick time. I think 5 that don't roll over is on the low side… but the OP did say the company is good about working with people who have long term illnesses.

    As for thinking there might be bad intentions – there could be. But different people get sick different amounts. I know people who get sick once a year. I personally get sick 4-5 times a year. I REALLY do not want to get sick just because my co-worker shows up because they are out of sick days.

    I also think it's very legitimate for someone who suffers from severe depression to have an "off" day once in a while. People would debate whether this is a sick day or not.

  29. Cassie

    #1: we get both sick time and vacation time. Vacation time will be paid out when we retire or leave the university. Sick time does not, although it will be factored into your retirement pay. Accounting-wise, it is handled differently. For each payroll expense, there is an associated cost for vacation time (there’s some formula they use). Then when the person uses the vacation time, there is no payroll expense – because it has already been taken into account.

    Sick time doesn’t work the same way – there is no associated cost charged. So when you take sick leave, the payroll expense shows up as usual. We just found this out recently.

    I mention this because I heard one boss wants his employee to use vacation time, even though the person is out sick, because of the way the accounting works. I don’t know the legality of this (since univ policies state we get both sick and vacation time) but I would not be happy to use vacation time for sick leave for the mere fact that I can cash out the vacation time. I can’t cash out the sick time so if I am actually sick, why am I being punished?

  30. Linguist curmudgeon

    Re: #1 – Check your building, too. Is it old? Could there be mold/etc. in the air that’s affecting your employees?

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