helping an unhappy boss, being ordered to bring in a doctor’s note, and more

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. My company told me not to come back without a doctor’s note

Today I was complaining once again about my pay not being correct. I told them it was causing me stress and my blood pressure was starting to rise, and I stormed out, saying I was going to the doctor. They just sent me a email telling me I need to get a doctor’s note before I come back. Can they do this?

Guess what happens when you tell an employer that their actions are causing you a health issue and you storm out, saying you’re going to see a doctor? You sure as hell can expect them to take that seriously — you’ve just told them that your workplace is putting your health at risk. They’re going to cover their own asses by asking for documentation that your doctor has cleared you for return to work.

2. How long should it take to get a promotion approved?

During my performance review in March, my manager told me she wanted to promote me to senior level but at the time, she was waiting for things to go through upper management. This is my first job and I’ve never been promoted before, so I’m assuming promotions need approval? It’s been 3 months since our conversation and she hasn’t said a word about what is going on. Do promotions usually take long to implement? I could tell she wants to promote me, but since I haven’t heard a word, I’m not sure if it’s going to happen.

Promotions do often need approval, but there’s no reason it needs to take three months. Go back to her and ask what the timeline is for moving forward.

3. Truffle making and other chocolatier work (and short-term jobs)

I am a pastry cook. In my previous jobs, my main focus has been on catering and traditional pastries and cakes. In my most recent job, I have learned the ins and out of truffle making and other chocolatier work. My mother-in-law has recently passed, so my husband and I are quitting our jobs and packing up to go be near our family. Due to the circumstances, I am leaving my job after 5 months. I am torn between leaving it off my resume for fear that the short term will make me look bad, or including it because chocolate work is a unique skill set and will make me an asset to future employers. What should I do?

I know next to nothing about chocolate work, but if five months is generally considered long enough to establish decent chocolate skills, then include it. You have a perfectly understandable reason for why your stay there was so short.

4. Asking for a raise when I didn’t meet all my goals for the period

I’ve been somewhat unhappy with my company lately, so I’ve been casually looking for a new job, and recruiters have been interested in me. However, if possible, I would like to stay with my current company for a while longer, but I would like a raise. I know that I should point out the value I add and not mention offers I’ve got from other companies, but the thing is that I haven’t met the objectives my manager set in my mid-year evaluation meeting. It was pretty obvious to me that I wouldn’t have time to work on those objectives, but my manager insisted I should put them down in writing. I think I did a good job nevertheless, but since we were understaffed we spent a lot of time in reactive mode and we didn’t have time to be proactive about anything.

I know that my manager thinks I’m one of the best employees on the team, but my performance form does not reflect that at all. Even if my manager does agree that I deserve a raise, won’t my performance form cause the higher-ups to deny his request?

Your performance form should hopefully reflect the totality of your manager’s assessment of you, and if your manager agrees that other work became higher priorities than the goals that were originally laid out, then that should be reflected there. It’s not reasonable for a manager to give someone a poor evaluation if the manager agrees that they did excellent work and that there were extenuating circumstances for the goals not being met.

So if you think your performance merits a raise, make the case for that, and rely on your manager to make the case for it to her own managers if she agrees.

5. Helping an unhappy boss

I’m a college student who works at an independently owned ice cream and smoothie shop in the mall during summer and winter breaks. I enjoy the job, and my boss is a great guy who has always gone out of his way to treat his employees fairly and kindly.

However, I’ve noticed a change in his personality lately. For several months, he has told all of us how he is under a lot of stress and he’s no longer the happy man he once was. The mall is not doing well financially, and our stand apparently only makes about half of what he needs it to make. There’s also the fact that he is tired of food service/restaurant management and he has described himself as “being in a rut” and compared the stand to “a cage in a zoo.”

I’m worried about him and I want to do something, but I have no idea if there is anything I can do, or anything I should do. I mean, I am just a part-time seasonal employee and I’m also only 21, whereas he is his late 40s/early 50s. Although he has been open about his problems with all of the employees, part of me worries that it is still none of my business and I should leave well enough alone. Besides that, what could I do that wouldn’t cross boundaries? That’s what concerns me–that by getting involved, I’ll be investing too personally in my employer’s life. I feel bad for him and it makes me feel awful knowing he’s clearly stressed out and I can’t do anything. What would you do in my situation?

It’s kind of you to be concerned, but I don’t think there’s anything you can do because of the nature of the relationship. You’re just not in a position to be able to offer help. You could offer a concerned ear, but even that isn’t really appropriate — and, in fact, it’s not really appropriate for him to be venting to you and other employees.

Trust that he has other people in his life who are better positioned to be able to help him, and just keep doing your job well. Be a good employee, let him know that you appreciate the way he manages the staff, and trust him to find age-appropriate, relationship-appropriate help from other quarters.

6. Manager emails and texts me at all hours

I am a salaried employee. Is it ok for my boss to text me and email me all the time, even late weekends? Is it ok for him/her to ask me to call an hourly employee late at night to work?

Ethically or legally or something else? Legally, if you’re exempt, this is all allowed. If you’re non-exempt, it’s allowed but you need to be paid for the time.

From a management standpoint, no, he shouldn’t be doing that unless you’re in the type of business where it’s truly required, like, say, managing the PR of a troubled starlet prone to weekend and late-night debacles or running a one-person I.T. shop in a business with very rickety I.T. infrastructure. (But you’d probably know if that were the case.)

One way to put a stop to this is to simply not respond to the late night and weekend emails and texts. Deal with them when you’re back at work on Monday, and if he complains, tell him that you leave your computer off on weekends / were busy and not looking at work messages / etc. If he tells you it’s part of the job to be responsive at all hours, then you can decide if that’s a job you want.

7. Can I send my coworker possibly nitpicky formatting corrections when I review her work?

Part of my job is to review test procedures and reports from my coworkers and send any corrections, such as incorrect information, spelling, and so on. They do the same with my reports, since all documentation requires a certain number of reviewers/approvers at my company.

My question is regarding formatting corrections. I have one coworker in particular who isn’t very good at formatting in Word — for example, instead of using the automatic bullets and numbering formats, she will type in a, b, c, and if the sentence is more than one line, she’ll hit the space bar in front of the first word so that it lines up with the previous line (instead of indenting.)

This may sound nitpicky, but seeing that makes me cringe. Is it obnoxious if I correct the formatting while I’m looking over the report? I suspect that I’ll get to a point where I can’t be bothered anymore, but for now I feel a compulsion to correct it! Aside from just not using good formatting practice, I know that it would waste time if she had to make any corrections, since she’ll have to re-space the entire paragraph.

I’d correct it, but I’m nitpicky about that stuff too and it would drive me crazy not to. Why not correct it and then offer to show her how to set it up correctly in the future? (You can frame it as saving her time and making the final product look better, both of which should be true.)

{ 181 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – in addition to covering their own butts, there’s a good chance they’re calling your bluff. Be careful when resorting to histrionics (“storming out”).

    Did you actually go to the doctor? Or was it just to get your point across. I suggest finding more constructive ways to deal with workplace frustrations.

      1. WWWONKA*

        The OP bit off more than could be chewed. Now they are calling your bluff. You stormed out and this may turn into a termination.

        1. Jessa*

          Exactly. If you storm out citing medical problems, they’re going to want documentation. And storming out is not often taken well in the first place. The combination could make problems for you.

    1. Josh S*

      OK. Your response to the situation seems pretty rough. You may want to consider ways to calm yourself down before addressing issues like this in the future, because the way you come off above is pretty, well, hyperbolic and obnoxious.

      But beyond that, and beyond the question you asked about whether they can require a doctor’s note, you may want to take a hard look at the payroll issues. What do they stem from–a simple mistake in a spreadsheet somewhere or a miscount by someone doing things manually? Or are they a sign of some greater issues with the company (failure to make payroll, etc)?

      If the payroll issues are consistent and seem to be a sign that the company is doing poorly, you may want to get your resume out there and start your job hunt.

      Just a thought. I can imagine that regular screw-ups with payroll are very frustrating. But venting that frustration onto the very person in a position to help you is most likely counterproductive to your goals. Good luck!

      1. Observer*

        Looking for another job is going to be a WHOLE lot easier if someone acts like an adult.

        I agree that the employer needs to make sure that payroll is correct – it’s the smart, ethical and legal thing to do. (In other words it should be a no brainer.) But, that doesn’t mean that throwing tantrums is the right way to react. If that’s the way someone comes off, finding a job is not going to be easy at all.

  2. Eric*

    You say that you don’t know much about chocolate work. Yet word on the street is that you know plenty about chocolate teapots. Hmm…

    1. fposte*

      How could Alison not ask this OP if she actually could make chocolate teapots? This chance may never come again.

          1. Chocolate Teacup and Saucer*

            Please come home :(
            We never see you before bed!
            You put in such long hours as an example on AAM…

      1. Kathryn in Finance*

        When I got to the end of the question, that was my first thought exactly!

      2. FD*

        I know! I couldn’t believe she didn’t ask!

        So terribly disappointed, AAM. Our High Priestess of the Chocolate Teapot has failed us today.

    2. Anonymous*

      Is it even legal to say you make chocolate teapots when you don’t know anything about chocolate work?

      1. Jamie*

        As long as you aren’t lying about the race, gender, or other protected category of said teapots.

        Except in California.

            1. Runon*

              That seems reasonable. I’m pretty sure nothing you say applies in California. I’m occasionally unsure physics apply there.

              1. FD*

                Clearly it doesn’t; the entire state is a hotspot of alien invasions, earthquakes, and attacks by giant spiders.

                (The movies wouldn’t mislead me after all!)

            2. just me*

              This is funny, because as a manager in California, for a world wide corporation, this comes up in almost all of my meetings or discussions; to the point where they now know that their policies apply everywhere – but to check with me first because of the “except in California” clause.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I was thinking the same thing! “Chocolate teapot maker” was going through my mind the entire time I was reading that one!

  3. AF*

    #1 is just WOW. By the tone of the story/question, I’d want a doctor’s note too if I was that person’s boss. Perhaps a little maturity and professionalism would help the situation.

  4. Just Me*

    #1
    I am a Health and Safety Manager, and if an employee tells me they cannot work and have to go to a Dr. (especially for something like blood pressure) I will definitely require a note saying you are cleared to return to work.

    1. Construction HR*

      Yeah, if we know they went to the Dr., they have to have a full release note to come back to work. It’s rarely a “drama queen” issue.

  5. Josh S*

    #3: So long as it isn’t a pattern of leaving jobs after a short period of time, you’re fine. You may want to take a special effort to stick with your next employer for at least 2 years, just to compensate (though the foodservice industry may be a bit more flexible in that regard, I don’t know).

    Also, can you send me some chocolate? I need to, um, verify that your chocolatier skills are as good as you suggest…

    1. WWWONKA*

      A prospective employer may look at it negatively and may pass on you for an interview. Maybe an explanation in your cover letter may help?

      1. Evan (now graduated)*

        Or is this one of the unique instances when it might actually be a fair idea to bring some chocolate candy for your interviewers? :D

        (okay, I guess you wouldn’t have the equipment at home to make it a fair example of your skills…)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        And I am one of the very few people qualified to answer the question “Who makes better chocolate, Belgians or Swiss?”

        1. Jamie*

          You can’t just throw that out there and not educate the rest of us…so which is it? One of my ancestral homelands (My family came to America from Switzerland in 1625 – so I was practically born there) or the birthplace of the greatest detectives of all time – Hercule Poirot?

        2. Chinook*

          I am willing to learn if Belgian or Swiss chocolate is better, especially if blind taste testing is required to refine my palate.

          1. fposte*

            I once did an informal blind chocolate tasting with friends. It was really fascinating (and highly enjoyable). I would recommend it as an entertaining evening!

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              Ok, you’ve just come up with what I’m going to do with my friends tomorrow night. For non-drinkers and kids, what do you recommend we use to clear our palate between chocolates? Fancy cheese, perhaps?

              1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                I’d go with fancy sparkling waters, which are also fun to try different types of.

                Or maybe sparking apple cider. MMMmmmm.

              2. fposte*

                Fancy cheese is another of my favorite things, but I think the only way it cleanses palates is to make you taste nothing but cheese for a while. I’d go with Kimberlee’s sparkling water idea with some crackers and save the cheese for the conclusion.

                Oh, and I once participated in an awesome blind tasting of root beers at my office, conducted by a colleague who knew that several of us liked root beer. (And yes, vanilla ice cream was available to follow.)

                1. Jamie*

                  I think italian ice would work. Cherry. It’s light in flavor and very refreshing.

                  And now I want one…damn…I have got to stop reading food posts mid-afternoon.

    2. Penny*

      I consider myself a chocolate tasting expert, so send me some and I will happily provide you a reference ;)

      Make sure you put the cities you worked in on your resume and an address from the city you move to as well. If I saw that, I’d figure you had to move for some reason and just ask you about it. I actually prefer when people state up front in their cover letter so I don’t have to guess, “due to a death in the family, I’ve recently relocated to city “. It tells me why you had a short term job and that you currently live in the city. If you are planning a move and have an address froma different city than the job, you should say why you’re moving, when you’re moving and if it’s contingent on something. If I just see you are long distance with no explanation, I probably won’t call.

  6. V*

    Hi Alison,

    #3 last line: “You have a perfectly understand reason for why your stay there was so short.”

    I believe it should be understandable.

    1. Flynn*

      Nah, it’s not that understandable. Maybe if ‘understand’ was changed, it would be understandable.

      *ducks*

  7. V*

    #5 — This is a tough one because it does seem like his issues are so personal. If you have any ideas to bring more people into the shop, pass them along to your boss (coupons, promotions, etc.). Maybe encourage other employees to think of ideas too.

    #6 — I’ve gone through the exempt vs. non-exempt rules, but I’m still confused. I was also under the impression that salary was exempt and hourly was non-exempt, until I got my current job, where I’m salaried and non-exempt. To be honest, I still don’t understand how the pay is calculated in this situation.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, there’s salaried non-exempt. But if you worked more than 40 hours in a week, they’d need to figure out what your hourly rate works out to and pay you time and a half for the overtime hours.

      The key thing is really whether your job duties fall under the exempt category or not, not how whether you’re paid on salary or not.

      1. Annie*

        So, I have a related question to this. . .I once had a job, in the state of Virginia, where, and admittedly I was unsure of my exempt/non-exempt state, I was paid a weekly salary, but if I went over 40 hours in a given week, I got paid HALF my effective hourly rate, and it was only when I went over 50 hours in a given week would I receive time-and-a-half.

        I know this question is a cliche. . .but is that legal?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope, not if you were non-exempt. Overtime pay for non-exempt employees must be paid at 1.5 times the regular pay rate, and it must be paid for all hours over 40 in a week. However, if you were exempt, it was perfectly legal.

    2. Agile Phalanges*

      I used to be salary non-exempt. Basically, it means that the company thinks of your pay in terms of annual salary, and will quote your raises, etc. on that basis, but you’re still eligible for overtime. In our payroll system, even people who ARE exempt are paid “hourly” on their pay stubs. For example, if you make $50,000 a year, they divide that pay by 2080 working hours in a year, and pay you $24.04 per hour. For all “salary” people, whether exempt or non-exempt, they’re paid 86.67 hours per pay period, because we’re paid semi-monthly, and that’s 2080 hours divided by 24 pay periods. However, if you’re salary non-exempt and worked two hours of overtime, you’d get 86.67 hours at $24.04, plus 2 hours at $36.06 ($24.04 normal rate times 1.5). A salary exempt person would get paid their hourly rate (calculated from their annual pay as above) times 86.67 hours, regardless how many hours they actually worked.

      For our company, there was a distinction between salary non-exempt and hourly, because hourly people would be paid based on the number of actual working hours in the period (and since we were paid semi-monthly, this varied), while salary non-exempt were always paid 86.67 hours each pay period. It worked out the same over the course of a year, but it means that the salary non-exempt people had the same amount per pay check (except for OT, of course) even though the hours per pay period varied. If you’re paid bi-weekly or weekly, the distinction between salary non-exempt and hourly would be much less obvious, and in fact wouldn’t really matter.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        So what do you do in the case where you had a Dr. Appointment and came in 2 hours late? Not being argumentative, just curious…

        1. Jamie*

          I was wondering how this works, too. Are you still paid hourly if you work less than 40?

          1. Agile Phalanges*

            For salary non-exempt at my company, they forgive up to a couple hours in a week, if you don’t abuse it. But you could also work extra hours within the same week to make up for working fewer hours a different day.

    3. Penny*

      #5- ultimately it’s up to him to change his life even though that can be hard to do. I don’t think it would cross any lines though to give him a simple card (encouragement or just a blank) with a note from you thanking him for creating a great work environment and letting him know he is a great manager and you hope he finds a careee patj that he enjoys.

    1. Spreadsheet Monkey*

      The formula we always used (and that I still use to figure out what a “yearly salary” would be for my hourly positions) is hourly x 2080 (or yearly salary/2080). 2080 = 40 hours/week x 52 weeks. You certainly can do salary/40 hrs week/52 weeks a year; it works out the same.

      I found this out when I did time-keeping for a department where I used to work. We were paid twice a month, so full-time people were paid for 86.67 hours (2080 hours/24 paychecks); it was assumed they worked 40 hours/week. Any overtime or unpaid leave was added into/subtracted from the following paycheck.

    2. Personnel Beach*

      Some positions are paid based on contracted days worked. My contract is 260 days and I get paid $XXX per day. That includes 14 holidays and 3 weeks vacation….so I really only physically work 231 days per year.

  8. Erik*

    I have experience with #6 from my last job – my boss kept sending emails, text messages and all sorts of crap at all hours of the day. Virtually all of the subject matter wasn’t THAT important, and could’ve easily waited until the next morning. Just about everyone ignored it.

    He brought it up at my performance review – he complained about one time he sent an email at 2am and I didn’t respond. I simply stated that if it was genuinely that important and it required my immediate attention, he could’ve called me instead, as there were do many emails sent out that it was impossible to filter what was genuinely important.

    Generally speaking, if your boss manages by email, find a new boss.

    1. fposte*

      Really? Why? I love email in both directions–it leaves a clear track and it’s non-disruptive. Email requiring action at 2 in the morning is absurd outside of an emergency, but so would be a phone call.

      1. Erik*

        There are legit reasons for a phone call, especially in an emergency. Emails tend to get lost or dropped or don’t arrive in a timely fashion.

        Besides, I can guarantee you that if someone decides to call me at 2am for non-emergencies, that person’s number will be blocked.

        1. fposte*

          There are legit reasons for all kinds of communication. I’m just not getting why you think email in general means somebody isn’t managing well. It sounds like maybe your issue is more with being nitpicked to death–which is definitely a bad thing–than the medium.

    2. RubyJackson*

      I would love it if my boss would email more often. He manages by dropping by my desk twenty times a day. Email makes it much easier to track what he has said or wants.

  9. Brett*

    #6 The OP does not specify the extent of the texting and emailing at all hours (nor the content). It is possible for such behavior to cross the line into harassment, at which point it does become illegal. This would be extreme behavior, but there are actual legal limits involved.
    Just realize that any attempt to stop legitimately harassing behavior by a boss is probably going to result in losing your job.

    1. HR IsItLegal?*

      It’s possible, but highly improbable since he didn’t ask about the content of the emails or texts, simply the timing they were delivered.

      1. Brett*

        I am referring to telecommunications harassment, not workplace harassment. Perhaps I am reading “all hours” too literally, i.e. as “all hours” rather than “any hour”.

        Telecommunications harassment is content neutral. Certain content has a lower bar for harassment (e.g. sexual content), but you can be harassed via telecommunications regardless of the content and the person involved. While there are often domestic exceptions to these laws for people who you reside with, are in a personal relationship with, or are related to, there is no exception carved out for co-workers.

        Just as you can for any other person that does not fall under these exceptions, you have a right to request that your boss not contact you via telecommunications. Unwelcome contact is unwelcome contact even if the content is benign. If they fail to honor this request and continue to initiate unwelcome contact, that is telecommunications harassment.

        An example (unfortunately taken from a real world case) is a boss that sends a subordinate 20-30 text messages and work related phone calls every hour of the day while the employee is not at work, including overnight hours (literally preventing the employee from sleeping) after the employee requests that the boss stop contacting them outside of work hours.

        Because of the use of telecommunications to make unwanted contact, that is harassment in many states regardless of the content (in fact, contact does not even have to be made at all in some states).

        As I mentioned though, since most states hinge on the requirement to state that the contact is unwelcome, this could result in losing your job. Since this is criminal harassment, not workplace harassment, you do not have retaliation protection.

      2. Brett*

        Forgot an important part…
        email might not fall under telecommunications harassment, always depends on the state. There are a few states (like my state of Missouri) where all criminal harassment is content neutral. If the communication is knowingly unwanted and repeated, it is criminal harassment in Missouri even if the content is benign. On the other end, there are states like Alabama with specific exemptions for legitimate business, even if the content is otherwise harassing.

        Every state has a telecommunications harassment law or a broader harassment law that includes telecommunications.

        1. HR IsItLegal?*

          If it’s at a level where considering pressing charges of telecommunications harassment seems reasonable, it’s clearly not the right fit and time to move on.

  10. Hugo*

    #1 – is this for real?

    #6 – I don’t understand the mentality of people emailing at all hours of the day…it almost seems like some people want to “out-do” each other by showing how late they are “working.” In almost all cases, the communications can wait until morning. I understand that in this day and age (especially with telecommuting) some people do in fact work almost all hours, and that’s fine…but managers and employees who do this, in my opinion, are often just showing that they are so “committed” to the job that Yes! I am emailing you at 2am! And I expect your dedication to the company to be the same!

    I have been in positions where I thought of something late at night, wrote the email, but just saved it in draft form in my email program so I was able to send it off in the morning during normal working hours.

    1. Elise*

      Just because an email was sent or received at all hours does not mean it expects an answer right away.

      1. Jamie*

        This. Some people want to write and have it send in the am that’s fine, but its not rude to send immediately.

        I sent emails at crazy hours all the time, I don’t expect people to be up waiting to respond – just shooting them off as things occur to me and they will respond when they do. And if I get a 2:00 am email from my boss I don’t think he’s mad that I wasn’t up to reply.

        Texts are different for me. Because my system is set up for me to get a text when the servers go down or we lose power I sleep with my phone in a dock with the volume on 11 – so if I get a text I jump to check it. We don’t use texts for work communication but if we did I would expect no one text me in the middle of the night unless something or someone was on fire.

        But email? People who send them at all hours are just doing so at heir convenience – not trying to make points…of course there are exceptions but people like that are obvious.

            1. Jamie*

              I actually didn’t get that from Spinal Tap – I’ve never seen it (I know!) but from Warrant’s concert video Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich which had these cute little skits in between songs.

              Jani Lane and Erik Turner made the reference.

              I quoted Jani Lane on my wedding announcements…I am a sucker for a hair band.

        1. Cat*

          Agreed, though I always think it’s kind to tell new employees that explicitly so they don’t second guess themselves about whether they should be sleeping with their blackberry next to their ear.

        2. Chinook*

          I have a cousin who would get texts from his server back before everyone carried smartphones. We would joke that he would get messages from it saying it was lonely and needed to chat.

          1. Jamie*

            I have a closer relationship with two of my main servers than I do with most human beings. I call them Eddie and Alex and while I hate when they go down I love that they can send an alert when they need me so I can rush to their aid…

            That may not be normal.

              1. Jamie*

                The lesser, but still very important servers are:
                David Lee
                Sammy
                Michael
                Wolfie
                and Cherone.

                For my birthday my boss had given me 4 tickets to see them here at the United Center (amazing seats!) and I scarred my sons for life by standing and openly weeping during Alex’s drum solo.

                I’m a fan.

              2. Jamie*

                Besides if I didn’t name my servers that how else am I going to get this message on my phone?

                Text – Alex Van Halen

                It takes the edge off the middle of the night calls to action.

        3. Layla*

          I’m in IT as well, but I get texts for *other peoples’ issues *
          So I learned to ignore texts when I’m sleeping. People have to call.
          Was very glad when DND came out on the iPhone

        4. Lily*

          If you have an Outlook server, it is definitely possible to avoid sending emails to other people on the same server who are on vacation or ill or otherwise absent, but I certainly hope it is legal and not impolite to send them!

      2. Chinook*

        Exactly. Sometimes it is easier to send the email when you remember something than to wait for the next day, especially if it is something that comes to you when you are going to sleep.

    2. Oxford Comma*

      I’m an insomniac so I sometimes send out stuff in the small hours of the night. That does not, however, mean that I expect anyone else to be answering stuff.

      1. Jamie*

        It’s weird and kind of disconcerting when you do get an immediate reply to one of the 2:00 am emails…because they couldn’t sleep either.

        It’s like when you call someone to leave a message but they pick up – takes a second to get your bearings.

      2. Poe*

        My boss has insomia, and I can tell what kind of night he had by the time stamps on the emails when I get into the office in the morning. It usually gives me a heads-up on his general demeanor for the day…

  11. Anonymous*

    re: question #2
    I feel like this question has been asked at least three times within the past couple of months. Can we get more variety?

  12. Jamie*

    From a management standpoint, no, he shouldn’t be doing that unless you’re in the type of business where it’s truly required, like, say, managing the PR of a troubled starlet prone to weekend and late-night debacles or running a one-person I.T. shop in a business with very rickety I.T. infrastructure. (But you’d probably know if that were the case.)

    This made me giggle so loud I scared the cats! While my infrastructure is anything but rickety I will start viewing my more needy users as troubled starlets – that’ll add a new perspective!

  13. Anonymous*

    #1 – Walking off the job can result in job loss, essentially, your employer can interpret that as “I quit”, so in short, you need to see a doctor and get a note.

    1. Jamie*

      I can’t imagine an employer who would let OP #1 back without a doctor’s note.

      Without a note its a tantrum and a walk off and absolutely grounds for dismissal.

      1. EnnVeeEl*

        I agree – I’m surprised they didn’t fire her on the spot. I see folks getting on the OP’s case. Wonder if OP#1 will come back, read all this, gain no insight whatsoever, then post that everyone shouldn’t have jumped all over her back about this. It happened earlier this week.

        1. Jamie*

          I can see why they didn’t fire her – someone claiming a blood pressure issue on the premises you don’t want to terminate then and there regardless if you think the claim may be specious. That doesn’t mean she can’t be fired for the behavior – but I doubt an employer would do it while the situation was in play.

          They could, however, have insisted she be treated per workplace illness/injury procedures and called for an ambulance depending on what was said.

          1. fposte*

            And then the OP would have been stuck with the ambulance bill, too. She got off lightly, I think.

        2. Josh S*

          Speaking of, the week of ‘detention’ that “The_Evil_OP” earned is over now. I wonder if s/he’ll show back up…

              1. anon...*

                can you give this link so that those of us how missed it can catch up? pretty please?
                thanks!

  14. Coco*

    #2 A manager wanting to promote someone is different than a manager actually promoting someone. Since the manager hasn’t mentioned anything about a promotion for months, I wonder if the OP was making a huge assumption based on kinds words from the manager.

    1. Judy*

      In my certainly process heavy company if a manager wants to promote someone, there is a form to fill out, which then gets presented to some management committee. Once it’s approved there, it has to be “read” twice in the appropriate management staff meeting and approved there. My last promotion, from the time my manager started speaking of “this project will help make a great case for promotion” to the actual promotion was probably 18 months.

      1. Judy*

        I should say, he was saying “I think you’re ready for promotion and this project will help me make the case”.

        1. Coco*

          In your case, the manager made it clear that the project had to be completed successfully in order for you to qualify for the promotion. Your manager gave you a “conditional promotion.” The OP didn’t mention any conditions.

          1. Judy*

            No, actually the manager said he wanted to give me a promotion, just like it was said above. He also said that because of the hoops he had to jump through, the case would be much stronger if that project was successful. He felt that I qualified for a promotion when he became my manager. But the previous manager did not promote anyone in 4 years. So it took several years before he could focus on me, there were people way more overdue. It takes a manager who is willing to “politic” to get a promotion around here, and defend your need for a promotion, find a “champion” who is not the manager to support it, etc.

  15. Anonymous*

    OP1, grow up. Life involves situations where people make mistakes, sometimes multiple mistakes. Being professional means that you need to learn to keep your cool in certain situations and not throw a temper tantrum like a small child.

  16. April*

    RE #2 – Promotion – I deal with a couple of common instances of this every year. (1) The manager promised a promotion, but doesn’t have the authority. Now manager won’t communicate about it because it makes him look bad. (2) The manager wants to promote you to Senior, and you’ll be promoted, as soon as the next Senior positions open up (whether someone leaves or another role is added). It’s about how many Senior roles the company needs. (3) The manager says you’d be a good person in the Senior role, and you heard that as you’re getting promoted to a Senior role.

    #1 and #3 happen with highest frequency.

  17. Just a Reader*

    #1…wow. If I were your boss, I’d be getting the wheels turning to terminate you ASAP. You just don’t act like that in the workplace. Or anywhere, but especially at work.

      1. Cassie*

        Or being both in CA and academia. I heard that a supervisor stormed out of a faculty member’s office and slammed his door, and the faculty member didn’t do or say anything about it. He didn’t want to “resort” to her petty behavior so he chose not to “address” the incident, but instead it just emboldened the staffer in the belief that she has power over him.

        I know of this incident because both of them have repeated it to others (he for showing how much restraint he has; she for showing how she runs the show). It’s just ridiculous.

  18. De Minimis*

    The OP should have no problem getting a doctor’s note, though…they can say they just had a panic attack which can make blood pressure spike.

    Still seems like they are on very thin ice, though.

    1. fposte*

      Though usually you can’t actually feel high blood pressure anyway–what you’re feeling is the other anxiety symptoms.

    2. Jamie*

      I don’t know much about panic attacks, but I saw someone have one once and it was really scary. No way would she have been able to drive. Are there varying degrees where you can have a panic attack and still have the wherewithal to make statements and storm out?

      I’m truly not being snarky – I don’t know if that’s possible.

      And if you don’t have a history of panic attacks would a doctor sign off on that? When I get pissed I can feel my heart pounding and I get all hectic inside – but that’s adrenaline and totally normal. Fight or flight and all that. I would think a panic attack would have to be a lot more than normal biology?

      1. Yup*

        I’m not sure I get your question? You don’t need a history of panic attacks for a doctor to sign off on it — if you’ve had one, you’ve had one. (Sort of It’s like food poisoning.) I’ve had panic attacks pretty regularly for 20 years, and people around me might not even be aware that I’m having one at the moment it’s happening. I might look shaky and sweaty, but I can speak and walk etc just fine. Driving certainly isn’t a great idea , but I’ve had them while driving and have been able to proceed cautiously to destination.

        1. Jamie*

          That was my question – I didn’t know if this was something that can spring up out of the blue (like food poisoning – good example) or if you needed a history of them for a doctor to say you had one.

          For example – anyone can have trouble focusing or staying on task or sitting still – but a doctor won’t sign off on ADHD without testing…which is still subjective and based on symptoms but one of the criteria is that it’s an on-going thing and not a one time deal.

          I was just asking because the one I saw I seriously thought she was having a heart attack. She could barely speak and kept clutching her chest and we had to go home immediately (we were at a movie with a mutual friend – I didn’t know her before that night) and she had to be helped to the car.

          So there are different degrees – interesting.

          1. fposte*

            Often when it comes out of the blue people think they’re having a heart attack, so sometimes it gets described as a “heart attack scare” or something when it was just somebody unused to a panic attack having a panic attack.

            I don’t get migraines myself (knock wood), but maybe they’re kind of like that in that if you were to have one happen spontaneously you’d treat it as a possible aneurysm emergency but if you’re used to them you have a drill for getting through it and you know you’re not going to die even if it feels like you might.

          2. Yup*

            Many of the symptoms of panic attacks mimic those of a heart attack — chest pressure, shortness of breath, shooting pains, numbness in the extremities, etc. So it’s extremely common for someone having a panic attack for the first time (or ongoing, if they don’t receive the correct diagnosis) to think that they’re actually having a full-blown heart attack. Which is good in the sense that it may prompt them to seek medical attention, and hopefully get the treatment they need to see what’s sparking the panic attacks. But a panic attack is basically a biochemistry short circuit where your body overreacts to perceived danger, so probably anyone could experience it in certain conditions, and there’s a spectrum/ramp-up of severity.

      2. fposte*

        I don’t think there’s an official threshold, and if you know you have panic attacks you’re less likely to be completely derailed by one. That said, driving probably isn’t a good idea during one, but we don’t know if the OP had to drive to get to the doctor anyway. It does sound likelier to be stress and frustration than an actual panic attack, but it’s not impossible.

        That response you’ve described is actually pretty much a panic attack in miniature–a panic attack basically a gargantuan flight-or-flight response that floods you with adrenaline. I was fortunate in that mine were part of a phobic response (fear of flying), so they weren’t random, and that they were actually pretty easy to alleviate once the right medication was found.

      3. Loose Seal*

        I have driven during a panic attack. Or rather, I was driving at the time the panic attack hit (which is a super common place to get panic attacks). I was not in a spot in traffic where I could pull over but the traffic was moving slowly and by the time I could get off the road, most of the symptoms had abated.

        1. LPBB*

          Two of the handful of panic attacks I’ve had occurred while driving through a tunnel. It was Not Pleasant and I have tried to avoid driving through tunnels since.

          1. Anon for this*

            I’ve had several while sitting in construction. Seriously Not Fun, so I feel you on the tunnel thing.

      4. IronMaiden*

        It is possible to have panic attacks without a history of them, as they are characterised by sudden onset. They can have numerous causes including medication, bereavement, illness and stress. Often settling and reassurance is all that is needed. In other cases they might indicate an underlying anxiety disorder. It is entirely possible that a panic attack was brought on by the OP’s stress and anxiety over incorrect pay. A visit to the doctor is probably a good idea in any case.

      5. TheBurg*

        Panic attacks *are* essentially heart pounding/hectic inside. They’re totally fight or flight, just in situations where there’s absolutely NO NEED for that response. It’s like your body responding to an average day as if a building’s on fire. I’ve had panic attacks where there was NO WAY I could drive, but I’ve also had panic attacks where I can still drive, talk, etc (although it’s definitely v. scary to.)

        1. TheBurg*

          & when I say that I could still drive, I don’t mean I’d start driving in the middle of a panic attack, but if I start having one while driving I can still safely get where I’m going (or at least to a point where I can get off the road).

      6. Anon for this*

        Oh yes. Trust me. There are ranges of panic attacks. There are many times I’ve had one and you wouldn’t have been able to tell from the outside I was having one (because I’m good at faking it). There are other times I honestly thought I was going to pass out and even had to stay home from work because it was so bad.

        I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, but I can get short-tempered when having a panic attack because when your fight-or-flight system is going haywire, it can be hard to tolerate frustrations you could otherwise cope with.

        Panic attacks basically occur when for whatever reason your fight-or-flight response occurs without a valid reason. I.E. you’re not panicking because a person is pointing a gun at you; you’re panicking without a proportional external stressor in the present moment. (For example, some people develop panic attacks after a traumatic experience, but they will occur even in a situation that is actually safe.)

        Some people have them when they’re just under a huge amount of stress (unemployment, life changes, etc.), but aren’t otherwise prone to them. Some people have them as a result of a traumatic experience. Some people, like me, are simply biologically prone to them, and have them at random times and for no particularly good reason–but are more likely to have them when I’m stressed out about other things.

  19. danr*

    #7… Yes, make the corrections and show the person how to do it correctly. You never know when a document may need to be reused or moved to another format. The non-conforming document will cause problems.

    1. LCL*

      Absolutely! I never did figure out how to make word’s bullet/paragraph/tab feature work correctly, it took too long to figure out. I end up doing what your coworker does, if there is no way to make the list work in Excel. For what I do, excel is usually better because there are many numbers/dates involved and being able to sort is helpful.

      1. Amanda H*

        I think Word’s bullet and numbering outlines are horrible when you start getting a really complicated system. I remember back in college when I had to write an outline of a book I’d read, I wound up doing everything manually because Word kept misinterpreting the custom outline I’d tried to build. It actually took less time to type it manually than to attempt to fix the formatting.

        But for just 2 or 3 sublevels, Word works okay.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I actually tend to hand-build outlining in Word, but I’m not sharing docs so there are no standardization issues.

          1. Jamie*

            When there are standardization issues templates are the way to go. Have someone good at formatting make a great template and require it’s use.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I have to edit reports too, and I have eschewed them on some levels just because they are such a pain. Indentions work fine for long lists of definitions–the bullets just made the whole thing a freaking nightmare. And they clutter up the page, too.

  20. Chinook*

    Allison, I hate to threadjack, but I have started a discussion on LinkedIn if anyone needs help due to the flooding and evacuations in Calgary. I know there are a few Calgarians who are regularly readers. Thank you.

  21. Chinook*

    #7 – word formatting. I don’t find it nitpick because a) I am analysis that way and b) formatting is an important part of the overall presentation. I would recommend asking if she knows how to use the tricks you mentioned. If she doesn’t, present it to her as a way to save her time with just a few button clicks. I know I am forever grateful for the colleague who showed me how to use headings and automatically updating table contents features as it has saved me much time and frustration.

    1. Jamie*

      This a thousand times. When I was new to the work world another temp showed me how format painting worked in Excel. I will never forget how grateful I was. Ditto when I showed someone else the subtotal function…share the knowledge!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Somebody today helped me with a little Excel thing that figured an amount, which I coudl not do thanks to my stupid LD. All I have to do is plug the numbers in and it will do it for me. I love this, because I don’t have to bug anyone now!

  22. B*

    #3 – I would add it on especially if you are thinking of working at a chocolatier or patisserie. Even 5 months of chocolate making is still a good thing to have because it shows you have the foundation and want to keep learning. At the very least they will assume you know how to properly temper chocolate.

  23. some1*

    #1, I assume you were shorted in pay somehow? How does this help your situation in that regard if you storm out claiming a health issue, and now you have to use sick time or lose the hours you didn’t work that day?

    I have had at least one situation in every job I’ve had since high school where I was so furious I wanted to stomp out; we have all been there. Next time something like this happens, excuse yourself for 10 minutes and go do something that helps you vent — call someone & vent, put on some headphones and blast some music, take a walk around the block, or ask a co-worker to go get coffee with you. Then be a grown-up and come back & do your job.

  24. Ann O'Nemity*

    I have some sympathy for #1, as I know what it’s like to experience repeated payroll issues that detrimentally affect finances and well being. My previous employer was horrible about it – the checks came on time, but they were always short, usually by 100s of dollars.

    That said, storming out isn’t a good strategy and it made the OP look like the bad one in this situation. At this point, the OP should probably get that doctor’s note, apologize for their behavior, and look for another job.

  25. Ash*

    #1 – I can’t believe you thought that you’d win any sympathy or supporters by e-mailing that story in. How old are you that you feel that kind of behavior is acceptable? If your pay is wrong, contact your HR department and have them fix it. If it’s wrong a second time, go to your state’s labor department. Please note that nowhere in these instructions have I said that you should throw a temper tantrum (which is what you did).

    I have read and re-read that letter several times now and I just can’t get over how immature and pathetic the OP sounds. It’s just astounding that any adult would act that way.

    1. IronMaiden*

      That’s a bit harsh. Would you say that to someone struck by another sort of medical problem? You don’t know what sort of stress the OP is under when the pay is wrong, or that this could be the final precipitating straw that generates a panic attack. It doesn’t hurt to treat people with kindness.

      1. Ash*

        I wouldn’t say it to someone with a legitimate medical problem who also wasn’t throwing a temper tantrum.

  26. Laura*

    A technical/website comment for Alison,

    Just a thought on posts like this…People always comment on the questions by putting the number of the question it is referring to. “#4-blah blah blah” but I never remember what #4 was about so have to scroll up and down for each comment!

    I am not a computer/website person, but I wonder if it would be easy on those posts to have your developer have a drop down menu where one can click which of the 6 (with 2-3 word verbal description) of the one they are referring to. It could be auto-populated from the heading you give it above. Not a real problem, just a thought!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks for the suggestion — I really appreciate hearing feedback from you guys.

      In this case, I suspect it would take more resources than I could justify, but I’ll keep it in mind if I’m ever doing a redesign!

      1. Jamie*

        I am no expert but that does seem really resource intensive.

        However, you know what would be free and pretty great – and a tie in with the thread on readers this week? I love when people quote the part to which they are responding when it’s not clear from the response. Because when you’re reading in a reader and don’t have the thread structure it’s sometimes difficult to know to what people are referring.

        Just throwing it out there.

    2. Laura B*

      I have problem trying to remember which one is which too! My fix is that I open another tab so I can scroll down and read the comments in one tab and refer back to the top of the page in first tab. Maybe in the meantime that would work for you? :)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I do too; if I’m going to answer, I open a little Notepad doc and then write “#1–doctor’s note” or whatever, and make notes as I’m reading them. But that’s just me.

    3. danr*

      On the other hand… Scrolling is good since you get to glance at all the other posts. I know that many times I’ll see new replies when I scroll back and forth and then get lost in those replies. It only gets out of hand when there are 300 or more postings. Then I open a second tab or window so I don’t lose my place.

    4. Josh S*

      Good call! I try (but don’t always remember) to do something like
      “#3 Chocolatier
      Post goes here….”

      That way, it’s not just the number, but a one- or two-word reference to the OP’s question. Gives it that context. Sometimes, though, the content of the comment is sufficient to make the initial summary redundant.

      But it would be nice if people (myself included) would give that two-word summary next to the number.

  27. LCL*

    I have to defend questioner #1. We don’t know how badly their pay has been affected, or their wages; a few dollars may be the difference between gas to get to work, or having a decent lunch instead of ramen, or being able to afford to do laundry or take their dog to the vet. And, because #1 has worked all last pay period, he/she doesn’t have the opportunity to look for a better job. It’s been my experience that jobs that are casual about pay are also casual about work/life boundaries, and expect their employees to be grateful they have a job and not job hunt or cause problems.

    #1 gather all the records you can with regard to pay. Check your paystubs, figure out what you are owed, and ask to meet with whoever handles these pay issues. This is strictly a business issue, your meeting tone should be cool and facts only. You could mention that because you are missing pay you suffered some specific hardship, but always stick to the facts of the issue. You worked X hours, your pay should be Y.

    1. Josh S*

      I agree with your diagnosis and prescription completely.

      “This is strictly a business issue, your meeting tone should be cool and facts only.”

      I think many are reacting to this aspect of things–regardless of how egregious the payroll issues are, responding in such a hyperbolic way as the OP did is counterproductive at best. If OP had done what you suggest here–cool tone and stick to the facts–it would have been a much different story.

      1. LCL*

        (should have put this in my first post but up late too foggy)
        Get a yearly calendar on one page. AVYC has great free honor system calendars.
        Mark on this calendar when every pay period ends. Mark on the calendar when the paydate for the previous pay period is. This will help you with your crosschecking. It is possible you have a misunderstanding about how long the withholding period is. I still get questions re being shorted premium pay, when actually the pay will be on the next future paycheck.

      2. Wilton Businessman*

        Just to add perspective….

        We’re assuming an hourly or salaried employee. The case may be that #1 is a commissioned employee.

        I was talking to personal friend over the weekend who happens to be paid on salary + commission. He was explaining how his accounting degree is needed because his commission plan is so complex. He actually keeps a set of books of his own of how much he sold and what he thinks his commission should be. He considers it “close enough” if they are within $20 of what he thinks his pay should be.

        1. Josh S*

          That’s true. I hadn’t considered a commission scenario. And yeah, those can get remarkably confusing. Good point.

    2. Observer*

      You are missing the point. EVERYONE agrees that the employer was wrong for shorting her pay. And, she definitely needs to get that straightened out. If her workplace won’t handle it properly, then go to the Dept of Labor.

      But, throwing a temper tantrum, making medical claims and then storming out is simply not the way to go. Worse is the fact that it’s not just that the OP lost it temporarily. Apparently he (or she) thinks this is a reasonable way to handle things.

      You are right – it IS a strictly business issue – and the focus SHOULD be on “I worked x hours so my pay should be Y”. That’s not what happened, and that’s not the way he seems to be heading.

      Everyone can do some job hunting, no matter whether the employer “likes” it or not. I hope the OP does that, and listens to the rest of your advice.

  28. mel*

    I find it amusing that #7 thought it was quicker and more efficient to correct mistakes in every document he/she receives instead of having the coworkers learn how to use the program they’re using. Doing something right is usually faster than doing it wrong… I’m sure they’d actually love to learn.

    1. OP #7*

      You are absolutely right! It took a lot longer than I expected it to. Next time I’ll offer to show her how to format it.

  29. IronMaiden*

    “Doing something right is usually faster than doing it wrong…”

    Except in California…:B

  30. Dustbunny*

    #2, I’m in a similar position- promised a promotion at the beginning of the financial year, but it has yet to materialise. My boss updates me every so often. I know he’s just waiting for his boss to approve the business case, but it’s been weeks. (He bcc’ed me in to the business case email, so I know he is trying to make it happen.)

    I’m not sure how often to ask for updates, particularly as it’s now in my grand-boss’ hands and she is suuuper busy. How often is too pushy?

  31. Mike C.*

    Yeah, I’m going to have to send this link to my HR rep. My paperwork for a promotion has been “in the works” for 4-5 months, and I just found out that my manager had to resubmit it because the paperwork was “lost”.

    Yeah, if I lost paperwork I’d have a certain three letter government agency so far up my, well, I think folks reading this get the point.

  32. Laura*

    #1: I think all you can do, OP, is go back, be honest, and grovel a bit. Say that you are very frustrated about the errors in your paycheck, and you overreacted and became overly dramatic. Then acknowledge that it was an immature and unreasonable way to behave, apologize, and promise it won’t happen again – and see that it doesn’t. Your employer may or may not make you get a doctor’s note, and may or may not decide to take further action. But everyone has lapses in judgement and behaves regrettably from time to time, and if you just own up to your bad behavior, it might help smooth things over. Good luck.

  33. OP #7*

    Thanks Alison! I will definitely offer to show her the formatting next time. And I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who’s a little picky about this stuff. :)

  34. Grace*

    Does it make a difference if the OP in #1 actually went to the doctor?

    If she pulled the “I’m going to the doctor’s!” and stormed out without approval and without prior notice, it might even be a leave issue.

Comments are closed.