managing a lying sister-in-law, unsigned letters of complaint, and more

It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. I manage my sister-in-law, and she’s going to skip out on work

Through a set of unusual circumstances, I have wound up supervising my sister-in-law. While this is not in line with the policy of my organization, management has taken a blind eye approach to the situation. And here is why it is against policy. I have found out from another family member that this employee has planned a day trip on a day she is supposed to be working. Not only working, but is in charge of a program for the public that is taking place during that particular shift. If my employee calls in on that day, what do I do? The only reason I know the truth is because we are family. Otherwise, I would just accept whatever lie she is going to tell me and not question it.

This is indeed is one of the many, many reasons why people shouldn’t manage friends or family. But for some reason you do, and you and she have both allowed it, and yes, you are seeing evidence that it’s a bad idea.

But in this situation, you’re getting tripped up by the fact that you feel that you only know her real plans for the day in question because of family connections. And that may be true — but as a manager, there are many times when you get information through other than official channels — maybe not family members, but other employees, or a chance glance at Facebook, or running into someone at a sports event when they they told you that morning that they had pneumonia. This isn’t much different than that. You can’t pretend not to know it; the reality is that you do. If she’s calling out sick in order to go to a pre-planned day trip on a day that you need her at work, you need to address that just as you would if she weren’t a family member and you found out some other way. You could certainly talk to her ahead of time in the hopes of heading it off, but ultimately you’re going to need to put family connections aside and do your job. (And frankly, your sister-in-law should have considered that it might get back to you — and she shouldn’t be putting you in this position.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Can we send an unsigned letter with our concerns to our main office?

I work in a branch of a main office about 45 minutes away. We do have an office manager. We’ve been having issues with burn-out (it’s a hospice) and lack of management from our director of nursing. Many issues and concerns have been brought to her attention and seemingly disregarded. Our office manager is very concerned about the morale and interactions among staff. He has been proactive in checking in with staff and noting concerns. The problem? Although he is doing all this, he admits he really has no authority to address or change anything. He had encouraged staff to speak with admin in the main office. I would expect, in his role, he would address this during manager meetings.

Would it be professional/appropriate to compose an unsigned letter voicing staff concerns and inter-office mail it? I’m pretty sure I know your answer; face to face is always best!

Yeah, don’t email a letter like that. If you have concerns, talk to someone in person. And drop this “unsigned” idea — people take concerns much more seriously when they know who they’re coming from and that those people aren’t hiding behind anonymity. If you’re not comfortable doing that, then tell your office manager that you’re not, and encourage him to speak up himself, since he’s the one who seems to be organizing and driving this push for changes.

3. When I got to work, all my things were in a box

I arrived to work late this morning and missed a team meeting. When I arrived, my stuff was in a box in a drawer. I thought I was fired, but after their meeting I was given more work. More than usual, as well. No one said anything, not even my boss. I was afraid to ask as this would probably give them the opportunity to fire me. I am hoping this will just go away, as I find it odd that no one has formally said anything to me. I have had some issues with attendance but in the other hand, I have increased production at work and am one of the highest/top performers. I know that I can still be fired regardless, but I carry the entire team, and I know that isn’t fair to start with. But I like feeling needed so I don’t complain too much. I don’t try to take advantage of that. I needed to take personal days off for bereavement, etc. I’ve had a few verbal warnings and I am really working as hard as I can. I also got a new manager about two months ago. Anyway, what do I do?

You’re assuming they wanted to fire you because you found your stuff in a box, but you were afraid to ask about it, so you just continued working as usual?

Your stuff could have been in a box for some other reason — they were spraying for bugs or moving desks or who knows what. It’s a bizarre thing to find and not ask about, so ask. If they wanted to fire you, they would have — it’s not like they forgot and will be reminded when you ask about the box.

4. How to calculate my hours as an independent contractor

When I work as an independent contractor, what is the correct way to count my hours that I will bill? Say I work from 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and I take 2 breaks of 15 minutes each and a 30-minute lunch break during that day. Should I bill for 9 hours or 8 hours? Should this kind of work situation include the standard break times under most state laws (15 minutes every 4 hours; meal break paid or not paid, etc.)? I’m transitioning from a salaried position where I supervised hourly employees to where I am working on my own and billing for my hours. Thank you for helping me to understand how to correctly handle this. [As a contractor, I do know to plan and allow for my projected self-employment tax.]

As an independent contractor, state laws on breaks don’t apply to you. If you’re billing hourly, you bill only for the time you actually worked — so if you take breaks or lunch, you don’t bill for those.

5. I don’t want to fill out time sheets in advance

I’ve been working (part-time) in my current job for almost 3 years. In that time, there have been four occasions where I have not been paid for multiple weeks. I’ve had to go back through all of my records to find the exact weeks, exact hours, plead my case, and finally, months later, be paid. The last time this happened we had to threaten legal action (which I HATE to do!).

We have just recently hired our third interim CFO since I’ve been here. She has another “new way” of doing things. They’ve asked me to submit a time sheet for the week I’m currently working on Tuesday evening. I work Monday through Thursday, and my time sheet covers Sunday through Saturday. They will not allow me to alter the sheet to something like Wednesday through Tuesday. I don’t feel comfortable filling out a time sheet for two days I haven’t even worked yet. What if I get sick? Or work overtime? I live in California and am paid from Virginia. What laws do I fall under?

This is governed by the laws of the state you’re working in, which is California in your case. But that’s probably irrelevant here, unless California has some bizarre law on time sheets that I don’t know about (which is certainly possible). Companies can require you to handle time sheets however they want, but they need to pay you for all hours worked, including time and a half for any hours worked over 40 in a given week if you’re non-exempt. So it’s fine to ask you to fill out a time sheet in advance as long you have a way to report (and get paid for) any hours above what you pre-reported. In other words, the law cares about what hours you’re paid for, not what reporting scheme you use to do it, as long as that system is accurate.

6. Do I need to “resign” from a job I never started at?

I filled out and submitted employment paperwork about 3 months ago for a company that says they will be “calling me in” when they have more income. (By the way, I have never received an offer letter.) I’ve now been offered some contract work by a second company with the condition that I sever any relationship that I might have with that first company before they bring me on. Since I have never worked any hours under the first company, do I need to “resign”? My view is that it is polite to let the first company know that I will not be able to start with them (if and when) and won’t be able to work with then during the period under which I’m contracted to the second company. But I’d like to be sure that I don’t have to formally “resign” from the first company.

There’s no need to formally resign, since you’ve never started working for them. (And frankly, that might never come to fruition — so far it doesn’t sound like there’s any real commitment on their side.) However, it would be courteous should let them know that you’ll be unavailable for whatever period you’re doing work for the second company — just as you would let them know if you accepted a full-time job somewhere and thus wouldn’t be available for them anymore. Just say something like, “I’ve accepted contract work for months X-Y and won’t be available during that time, but would be interested in working with you afterwards if work becomes available.

(Of course, you don’t even need to do that if you don’t want to. You could wait and see if they contact you, and if they do, you could tell them then. Doing that could provide you with more insight about how likely they really are to extend any work to you. Either of these options is fine.)

7. Explaining to my manager why my career goals have changed

In the last couple of years, I’ve started in a new career path that I’ve really enjoyed. The career plays to my strengths and I am doing good work. There is a lot of career mobility if one is ambitious, and I have been really attracted to the idea of excelling in this career. I have expressed interest to my supervisor about potential career opportunities and the ball started rolling. I would really enjoy the work of the next career step, which is a traveling position.

However, I have young children. I had talked to my partner about accepting a traveling position in the future, but my partner was under the impression that this would be far in the future, not in the next few years. My partner is now upset at this career trajectory and the negative impact it would have on our family and my partner’s career now that immediate plans are in place.

Is it possible to step back without losing face professionally? How do you change a career trajectory without looking wishy-washy? I do recognize that a lot of this issue is a personal nature that I need to work out with my partner. My question pertains about how to tell my supervisor that my career goals have changed, if I choose to do so.

You could say, “I’ve thought more about the logistics of traveling so much while my kids are young, and I’ve realized that I should wait X more years.” Or you could simply say, “There are some things in my life that would make frequent travel difficult right now. I’d like to pursue this in the future, but probably not for the next X years.”

{ 101 comments… read them below }

  1. LisaD*

    “If they wanted to fire you, they would have — it’s not like they forgot and will be reminded when you ask about the box.”

    SNRK. Nicely put.

    Though, with the caliber of management sometimes spotlighted here, I must wonder if you’re giving them too much credit…

    1. EngineerGirl*

      I hate to say it, but it could be a bad joke or a snarky one. Back when a bunch of us were fresh out of school a supervisor called in a friend. As a joke, we cleaned off his desk. At the time, we thought it was funny because he was such a good engineer. He later let us know that he didn’t think it was funny – it really took him back. He didn’t have the self confidence to realize that there was no way that he’d ever be fire!

      So ask. It could be someone’s idea of a bad joke. Or it could be someone being passive aggressive. You say you are carrying the load, but have been absent. Others may see only the absences and may be trying to give you a “hint”. You really need to check in with your manager, who really is the only vote in all of this.

        1. AB*

          ” There are _no people_ for whom there is “no way they’d ever be fired”. ”

          As someone who luckily never had the experience of being let go from a job (in a career of 18 years), I totally agree. Even when I’m receiving accolades and promotions at work, I’d never be surprised if my boss told me I was fired or laid off.

          I have a friend who was laid off a month after receiving the top company award for his individual accomplishments — the company just decided to stop working for a particular market and closed down an entire department. Top performers were let go along with mediocre ones.

    2. Jessa*

      Exactly. If you come in and keep working and nobody asks you “why are you here?” I doubt you’ve been fired. Companies normally tell people this, particularly since there are things involved like COBRA for insurance and stuff that they have to tell you within a certain amount of time.

  2. Malissa*

    #2 don’t be afraid to speak up! I had a great weekend job, with the exception that the manager was working another job at the same time. One day things happened and I couldn’t get a hold of the manager so I called corporate and told them what was going on.
    The manager got fired and I was offered her job the next weekend.

  3. clobbered*

    My sympathies to OP#7 from personal experience….

    I’d suggest not censoring yourself prematurely. Since it sounds like your supervisor has been supportive, I would go to her and say “As you know I am really interested in position X but right now I worry that my children are too young for me to travel as much as it requires. Do you have any ideas on how I could pursue my career in that direction in the near future without a full traveling schedule”?

    For the right person, there might be more flexibility than you think.

    And, not that I am qualified to give personal advice on the internet (not even from a degree-by-mail university) but I will say that a modest amount of traveling away from your kids often sounds a lot scarier than it turns out to be in practice if you have a little bit of money to throw at the problem. Loved, secure kids adjust fine – frankly the traveling parent suffers more :-) But it does require a supportive partner, for sure, if nothing else for what messages they convey (consciously or subconsciously) to the children about your absence.

    1. Lacey*

      Ditto those sentiments. Travelling with young children at home is hard, but it actually has good aspects too. Both my husband and I have jobs that require quite a lot of travel, and have two children (10 and 8). The key is good, reliable childcare. If you can find that, you can make things work. But you also need to have a pretty robust relationship, because there is a lot of give and take.

      I’d really like to think there is a way to make it work – let your career continue to progress, as well as your husbands. It can’t always work like that, but like Clobbered said if you have enough money to throw at the problem, it can definitely help.

      From a personal perspective, I’m going to admit that I enjoy some time away sometimes, (although it is exhausting and can sometimes be lonely sitting in a hotel restaurant on my own). And my children really love the presents I bring home.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I work with a few colleagues who travel, and I get the impression that shorter business trips seem to help. (i.e. only 1-2 nights away or return journey the same day) .

        Perhaps, after discussion, there may be options such as videoconferencing which could cut back on/limit the actual travel until the children are a bit older?

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This! My parents used to run a Hallmark store and they traveled to a trade show in our state once or twice a year. We had a reliable babysitter who stayed with us. I’m sure they appreciated having that time to themselves. We liked it because they would bring back these chocolate French silk cakes with mile-high icing from a bakery there that were to DIE for. :D

    2. Jen*

      I agree with this! I feel like this is kind of the nature of the book Lean In – don’t take yourself out of the running if it’s not necessary. Talk to your supervisor and share your concerns. There may be a way for you to stay in the game and on the upward path with some modifications or a longer timeline. But don’t take yourself out of the path without talking to the supervisor and figuring out a way to work it all out. They might say “Sorry, but the only next step involves a lot of travel so I can’t do much if you can’t travel” and if that’s the story, that’s the way it goes. But he/she might say “I understand what you’re saying but I believe in you and I want to make this work out.” But you don’t know if you don’t talk about it.

  4. Pamela G*

    #3. You missed the team meeting and then found your stuff in a box, but didn’t say anything to anyone? I’d probably start by apologising for missing the meeting, rather than wishing it would all go away!

    You say that you are one of the highest performers and carry the entire team, but also admit that you have attendance issues and have received multiple verbal warnings. I’m wondering if your self-assessment matches up with your manager’s assessment of you… might be worth sitting down and having a frank discussion with your manager about how they perceive your work and work ethic and where they think you could improve – the answers could be enlightening.

    1. Anonymous*

      I totally agree with everything Pamela G’s said. It’s not clear whether you missed the team meeting entirely or missed the beginning and didn’t join when you arrived. Either way it doesn’t sound like you’ve got your priorities straight when it comes to your work (trust me no-one is indispensable).

    2. RubyJackson*

      OP #3 also mentioned that she’s had to take some bereavement leave. Speaking from experience, when someone close dies, it affects your brain. Logical thinking isn’t always there, even for the simplest tasks, like choosing which box of pasta to buy at the store. Decisions like that can seem monumental.

      When sitting down with the manager to discuss performance, if OP #3 chooses to, it would be reasonable and helpful to discuss how bereavement affects performance. Perhaps OP#3 needs to take extended time off to mourn, or find a good therapist to help her through this difficult time.

  5. Kerry*

    I’ve started in a new career path that I’ve really enjoyed. The career plays to my strengths and I am doing good work. There is a lot of career mobility if one is ambitious, and I have been really attracted to the idea of excelling in this career.

    My partner is now upset at this career trajectory and the negative impact it would have on … my partner’s career


        1. Kerry*

          Yeah, exactly – the partner seems to be saying “you need to hold back your career so my career isn’t held back”, and it’s not really clear why the partner’s career trumps the OP’s, which she seems to be really passionate and excited about.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit*

            Well, the LW didn’t ask for relationship advice. Try can handle their decisions about compromise and careers however they want. Personally, it seems reasonable to me for one partner to say to the other that a road warrior career needs to wait until the kids are older.

            1. Forrest*

              “Well, the LW didn’t ask for relationship advice.”

              That’s never stopped commenters from giving it before.

              In fact, there’s been entire posts where a LW’s professional question was ignored and opinions about their personal situations were given.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit*

                That’s a fair point. But I don’t see anything egregious here. People make compromises in their careers. *shrug*

            2. Xay*

              Agreed. My partner and I have both made adjustments to our careers so we can coexist and raise our child the way we would like to. When he had a heavy travel job, I didn’t. When I had a heavy travel job, he declined work that required him to travel. I’d like to work internationally, but in light of where he is in his career and our son’s needs, I’m delaying that until our son is in high school. It would be selfish of me not to take my family’s circumstances and needs into consideration for my career decisions, just as it would be for my SO.

          2. Chuchundra*

            Not necessarily. Partner could be saying that they have an existing agreement with respect to distribution of household and childcare duties and if OP takes on this new position which will require a significant amount of travel, the burdens will be shifted on to the partner which will impact their ability to do their job.

            1. Forrest*

              But that’s always a possibility. The LW could be hit by a truck tomorrow.

              When you decide to have kids, you always need to prepare for a Plan B. Anything can change and people shouldn’t be held to every deal they made during different circumstances.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Sure. But if I had young kids and my partner decided to take a job requiring significant travel, I’d have a big issue with that too — because it would mean I’d be stuck with all of the child care and housework while he was away, rather than sharing it; wouldn’t be able to work late; etc. A decision like that has to be made as a couple, and it’s reasonable for one partner to say “this isn’t the right time for it.” It’s a decision that will have major impacts on the non-traveler.

                1. Elaine*

                  Great point. As someone with young children, I would say that if the extra money can pay for an occasional housekeeper and part-time nanny to chip in while the OP travels, great! If not, not so great.

    1. EE*

      I agree. Word choice indicates that OP finds the career fulfilling and exciting. One wonders what’s that Extra Special Wonder Ingredient that OP’s partner’s career has that means OP’s must suffer.

        1. the gold digger*

          I can tell you that in my case (no children involved) that my husband makes three times as much money as I do. So if we had to choose between jobs, his would take priority. It could be something like that.

          1. Forrest*

            It could be. But the sooner the LW starts moving up, the more money s/he’ll (since partners could be two men or women) be making and sooner.

            And who knows what could happen in the future? I don’t know the LW’s life and I don’t know if they explored outside childcare.

            But I do know that if my husband wanted me to put off advancing my career simply because he’d rather advance his career, that would not be the end point. Women (if the LW is a woman) have enough problems climbing the corporate ladder. We don’t need our love ones standing in the way.

            1. the gold digger*

              A lot depends on where you are in your career and what you both want. Neither of us is interested in climbing the ladder and we both want to quit! But we are not rich. So we have to optimize income so we can save money and retire early. Even if I could get back to my old income, I would not be making what my husband makes.

          2. Zahra*

            It could. But you have to weigh carefully if letting your own career take the backseat is the best choice for you both. My husband makes more than I do, but his profession is one where you only have to send your résumé to get a job. They’re that desperate in his field.

            On the other hand, I’m starting my career and jobs are found in headquarters of companies.

            So, even though he wouldn’t have moved if given a choice, we did so to further my career options.

            In the long run, I’ll probably make more than him, so deferring his career to mine is the right choice for us.

            Or, one could do what my aunt did: take turns in furthering your careers if each person feels that their career is important to them.

      1. Rana*

        It could also be that previously, it was the partner who had to put their career on hold so that the OP could accomplish other goals. Or maybe the partner’s current job is crappy, but important to the family budget, and the partner’s been working long hours with a bad commute to make the household work. Or maybe the OP has a track record of chasing exciting opportunities that never pan out. From the outside, we really don’t know.

        And, in any case, it’s moot. Fairness in relationships isn’t usually something that can be determined by an outsider with a spreadsheet comparing opportunities gained and forfeited, duties shared, and whatnot. It’s whether both partners feel – a subjective thing – that their needs are being acknowledged and met.

    2. Ellie H.*

      I think we should notice that the LW said “I do recognize that a lot of this issue is a personal nature that I need to work out with my partner. My question pertains about how to tell my supervisor that my career goals have changed, if I choose to do so.” It seems like he or she is still personally interested in the traveling position with the new information that it will be sooner instead of in a couple years, and before saying anything at work it’s something that’s going to be discussed further within the family, before moving forward or backward on it at work – and is simply asking Alison for advice about how to put it out, if he or she decides to try to hold off on the traveling position, which may or may not still happen. Emphasis on “if I choose to do so.”

  6. straws*

    #1 – I tend to be fairly blunt, but I’d address this as directly as possible with the intention of clearing up information and put it back on her. Something like “Hey, I heard about that trip you’re planning – it sounds like fun! The date I heard was the same as that event you’re leading though. Maybe I was misinformed, so I wanted to clarify it with you directly.” If she confirms that she did plan the trip on the same day, then ask what she thinks should happen to resolve the conflict.

    If it does turn out that there wasn’t misinformation or forgetfulness behind the trip though, it might be worth taking a look at the situation to see why she would think that’s ok. There may be something bigger than this one event that needs to be fixed.

    1. Gemma*

      That was my idea, too – instead of considering her actions as putting the OP in a bad position, she might see her sister-in-law as family first and a manager second, meaning that of course the OP would be okay with her taking a day off here and there, and even encourage her to go have fun.

        1. fposte*

          I think the terms muddle this a little–I read Gemma as explaining the employee’s attitude (since “sister-in-law” goes both ways, let alone all the “she”s). And if that is the employee’s attitude, your point goes double, and the manager needs to make that very clear.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh! I think you’re right. I read “she might see her sister-in-law as family first” as referring to how the OP should view the situation. But I think you’re right and I had it backwards.

              1. Jes*

                Hey- this is the OP. I have been in the sister-in-law position for less than a year and serving as her manager for even less time. We are not very close and she and her brother (my husband) do not really get along, so I don’t think she looks at it as family first. This is not the first problem I have had to address with her, so she knows I do not take that attitude. I guess I just wasn’t sure if I would be crossing a line by confronting her with information that I have only because we are family. But, it sounds like I should just go ahead and let her know that I do know about the trip. Thank Alison and everyone else!

    2. LizF*

      I would watch to see if this is a pattern. Does the sister-in-law regularly go missing when there is something more happening then just her every day job responsibilities?. My husband had a co-worker who would call in sick or have something come up whenever a deadline for his work was reached or an important meeting came up he had to attend.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think it needs to be a pattern to be a problem, though. One demonstrably false sick call on a day when there’s a particular responsibility is serious enough in its own right.

    3. The IT Manager*


      Confront her before the date. Tell her you know that she has a day trip planned (feel free to act like its an oversight or forgetfulness on her part if that helps) and that she cannot take the day off and that any unexpected abscense is not acceptable on the day that she’s scheduled to lead the public presentation. You must be firm on that last bit, though. Do not waiver.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I do too; whether the employee is family or not, it’s fair to everyone.

          I know there are places where family employees are treated differently than non-family ones, but the OP doesn’t sound like one of THOSE managers.

  7. Brett*

    OP #3:
    I had the same thing happen to me….
    There was a tour coming through that morning and everyone had to clean up their desks. I wasn’t in, so one of my coworkers cleaned it up for me by putting everything on my desk into a box. They didn’t want to risk putting something away where I wouldn’t know where it was.

    1. Gjest*

      In that situation it would be nice to get a sticky note or something- “sorry, had to do a quick cleanup for tour”

      I used to work in a lab that this happened occasionally, but my labmates and I usually left a note, including who had done the cleanup so you could go and ask if something was missing.

    2. PEBCAK*

      Yup, this happened to me once. I went on a last-minute trip and left a messy desk, and when I came back, everything had been shoved into drawers and stuff because an important client was touring the facility.

  8. IronMaiden*

    I’m in a similar position to OP 7, in that I received a secondment to a position within my organisation that I had been interested in trying and that was keen to have me. I have been there 2 months and I’m now realising that I can’t manage without the shift penalties I got at the other position. I don’t really want to go back to the shift work but unfotunately the financial reality is that I will probably have to. Not a conversation I’m looking forward to.

      1. RJ*

        I’m not the poster, but I assume she means shift incentives where you are paid extra money for the “penalty” of working late night, weekend, or otherwise unattractive shifts.

        1. IronMaiden*

          RJ is correct.

          I was speaking to the acting manager today who told me that in time there will be weekend work, so now I have to work out how to support a family of 5 on a single income until that time.

  9. Brett*

    #5: California does not require a prior warning to discharge with cause for falsifying a time card. So if you fill in
    Considering this employer has already shown themselves to be dishonest and unethical, I would have to wonder if the motivation behind this change is to make an easy avenue to fire employees for cause.

    1. fposte*

      I’m not finding anything that suggests there’s a legal requirement for a warning in any firing situation in California. Is this an EDD policy?

      1. Cathy*

        No, you don’t have to warn a California employee before firing him for cause or without cause. California has no special laws regarding this situation, so Federal law applies. I think Brett is saying that since “falsifying a time card” is often used as cause when firing someone (meaning that the fired person cannot collect unemployment), the OP should not submit his time card in advance.

        However, I disagree. If his management has given him instructions, especially if they’re written instructions, telling him to submit an estimated time card on Tuesday, then he should do that. He would just need to correct it afterwards or make sure to work exactly the hours he estimated.

      2. Brett*

        I should have made it more clear that I was referring to firing for misconduct, i.e. no unemployment.
        Falsifying a time card is severe enough that you do not have to get a warning to be fired for misconduct. Thus, you are not a chargeable against your former employer.

        I don’t think the OP could get away with not submitting the time card in advance. I think the OP just has to be very careful about making sure the time card can be fairly modified after the fact if they are unable to work their full hours (or work more than their full hours) on Thursday or Friday. If that happens, the company could use that as a basis for a misconduct termination. An ethical company that follows the law would not do this. But this company has shown themselves to be other than ethical and lawful.

        I find it crazy that other employees are apparently submitting their time cards for up to four days they have not worked yet. That really does strike me as a way to get employees to work unpaid overtime or commit actionable misconduct.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just to be clear for others, you don’t need to have a warning to be fired for misconduct either. The question would only be whether you would be eligible to collect unemployment, and in that case, your state unemployment agency would indeed likely find you ineligible for benefits if you’d been fired for falsifying a timecard (with or without a warning). Whereas with some other types of firings, that might not be the case.

      3. Brett*

        Just realized my first paragraph in my original comment was cut off. I knew I meant to explain that better. :)

  10. some1*

    #5: Why not just ask your sup or the CFO something like, “What should I do in the event that I need to change my timecard after completing it on a Tuesday, like if I end up getting sick or have an unforeseen emergency on a Wednesday or Thursday?”

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, I was wondering about that. It sounds like the OP can’t alter the sheet, but I didn’t see where she asked the manager that question. Unless she did and they gave her a very vague answer, or “Don’t change the sheet” actually WAS the answer, which makes no sense. If the OP can’t make the changes herself, there should be a procedure for submitting them.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Hmm…it’s a headhunter trying to sell a book.

      Job candidate:

      “Dear AAM,

      I was rejected for a job I applied for by email before I even had a chance to interview. Following the advice in this headhunter book I found, I called the hiring manager directly and made my case. She told me HR handled the preliminary interviews and that I probably should not do this again in the future, and wished me luck in my search. Is this legal? Can I call her again? Can I show up with a French silk chocolate cake? I really want to interview here.”

      Alison: *beats head against desk*

      1. Zahra*

        At least one of the replies was someone who asked HR what they could do to position themselves better, which led to internships and then “real” job.

  11. BCW*

    For #1 to me the problem is more about the fact that she is taking a day that she knows she will have extra responsibility, than the fact that she would be lying about a day off. Not that I’m defending it, but many people have been known to take a sick day for various reasons when they aren’t sick, such as an interview, so the taking a random sick day doesn’t bother me as much. With that same thought, it doesn’t really bother me if other people were to take a random day either. But when there is something of bigger importance, like a project or event, that is where my issue would come. So just think like this, whether or not you knew the real reason she was off, I’m guessing you would still have some kind of conversation with her about taking that particular day off. For something of this importance, I think you need to be basically bed ridden or extremely contagious to take a sick day. So while I think a sore throat from a cold would be a perfectly valid reason to take a sick day, when there is something more important, that sore throat is something a responsible employee would work through. Strep throat, which is very contagious would be a different situation, but that probably would mean she was on medication. So just handle it the same way. Unfortunately, since your company decided to turn a blind eye, you are in a rough situation because she is family, and that could have an impact far longer than you 2 are working together.

    1. Forrest*

      That’s my problem as well. She’s planning to leave your company in a lurch that will impact you and your other employees LW.

      Its really awful what she’s planning on doing.

      1. Judy*

        One of my least favorite co-workers from the past would suddenly be sick, have a vacation day, or have to travel for business the last week before his projects were due.

        Management generally said, it’s the team’s project. So we’d all have a killer week, working late getting his project done. And then he would get praise for the completion of the project. And we’d be a week behind on our projects.

    2. AP*

      Agreed, this is really about planning to miss a “Can’t Miss” day. I hardly ever take sick days, but I’ve been known to take a mental health day once a year or so – but only on days when I know there’s not a lot going on!

  12. anon-2*

    #2 – an unsigned letter is considered a CRANK letter. Now, if you think sending crank letters to upper management is a good idea – go for it. Be advised, however =

    a) It’s slanderous and defamatory.

    b) If you’re ever found out that YOU were the crank, YOU’RE the one facing nasty things, not the person that you intended to go after and

    c) most management types will view a crank letter as an unwarranted attack / character assassination attempt, and not as one from someone who has a legitimate concern about a supervisor’s direction. Or an attempt to start an office coup.

    As AAM said — don’t do it. It might make you feel better when you mail it in, but it also could come back to haunt you in ways you never imagined.

    1. anon-2*

      I might also add to this — over my 40 year career in different areas, I’ve seen office coups and mutinies attempted.

      The only time I have ever seen one succeed is if there is a criminal or civil action involved by the intended managerial target, or he/she just decides to GO on his/her own.

      Unless there is a serious legal breach or financial loss facing the company, they’ll back the manager and sack the underlings.
      Yes, if you’re a twenty-something, you’re going to see a lot that you don’t like. Yes, there are bad decisions. Yes, some people shouldn’t be managers. But you can’t (and shouldn’t) attempt to overthrow them.

      1. Forrest*

        “I might also add to this — over my 40 year career in different areas, I’ve seen office coups and mutinies attempted.”

        …they’re not trying to mutiny though?

        I think you need to step back a little bit here.

    2. fposte*

      It’s not slanderous, because slander is spoken, not written; it’s not defamatory, because defamation requires intentional falsehood. There’s no legal tort associated with a letter to your boss or upper office stating your honest concerns about job.

      However, I’m kind of with you on the crank thing; it’s not something anybody will take action on, either.

      1. anon-2*

        fposte –

        OH NO – it is defamation if it’s used against you by management.

        And – management WILL take action. Almost always against those who sent the letter. And they will advise the manager – watch your back, and we have your back.

        There was an interesting episode in “The Office” – where Dwight sought to take over, and overthrow David as the manager. David’s (remote) director caught wind of it — and told him to watch out. In a real-life situation, Dwight would have been fired for insubordination. But, that was television.

        1. Jamie*

          Michael. He was trying to stage a coup against Michael and went over his head to Jan…and Jan gave Michael an exasperated heads up. (But she did seem interested in the outlet mall Dwight told her about. Ann Taylor or Liz Claiborne? Memory failing me…)

          And when he got back to the office a now wise to the plan Michael offered him some peanut M&Ms to blow Dwight’s ruse about having been to his dentist…named Crentist.

          1. anon-2*

            OK, I was bad on the names.

            Didn’t watch the show much but saw “The Coup” because in my career I have seen a few doozies where people have attempted an office coup.

            Forrest – a mutiny and a coup could be two different things.

            A mutiny in an office involves a number of players trying to overthrow the management from within a group or within an office.

            On the other hand, a coup may only involve two or three players, attempting to politically destroy an individual, to place one of their own at the “head of the kingdom”.

            Not necessarily the same thing.

              1. Forrest*

                Fposte is right.

                On another note, I can not get over the immaturity and unprofessionalism it takes for either an employer or employee to get roped up into a mutiny or a coup. Talk about an unrealistic and unreasonable thing to take so seriously.

                And if your point of reference is the Office of all things?

                1. anon-2*

                  No, I used that as an example just because many people in here may have watched it.

                  In a lengthy career, I haven’t seen mutinies succeed by employees — but I *have* seen coup attempts. And some have succeeded.

                  Often – by management people hell-bent on empire building. And orchestrating events to overthrow or malign leadership in another group.

                2. Forrest*

                  It doesn’t really matter anon-2 because a group of people taking issue with a certain aspect management and wanting a manager to address it is not mutiny or a coup.

        2. fposte*

          anon-2, were you meaning maybe that management would get all freaked out and feel defamed, rather than that there would be any legal breach here? Because that could certainly happen, and if your underlying point is that somebody could be fired for sending such a letter anonymously, that’s definitely true. More likely, though, is that such a letter would simply be a waste of time.

          1. anon-2*

            If there were un-truths in the letter – yes, there could be a suit.

            If there were un-truths in the letter and management accepted the crank letter as fact, and acted upon it, and dismissed the target of the crank note, yes, there could also be a suit.

            An immediate family member was about to lose his municipal appointment over an anonymous letter. The committee backed down when my family advised –

            a) “I’m bringing my attorney to the public meeting tonight” and

            b) “if you’re going to fire me based on an anonymous crank letter – which contains falsehoods — I’m coming after YOU….”

            After a call to the city solicitor – it was “all right, all right, we won’t use that, let’s forget about it, uh, we didn’t mean it, uh, beedeebeeda, that’s all folks!”

            1. fposte*

              That’s different, in that you’re talking 1) winning a game of chicken rather than articulating a legal ground, and 2) a deliberate falsehood. And even in the case you’re talking about, the defamation case would be against the *writer* of the letter–the city isn’t defaming an employee by believing a defamation, so that wasn’t the grounds of the threat.

              The OP’s situation is a good faith letter stating an honest reflection of belief. There really isn’t any legal tort there.

              1. anon-2*

                It wasn’t a “game of chicken”. It was a real response to a real threat. And the attorney did attend the meeting.

                And my relative’s superior was going to “go with the info” in the anonymous letter.

                And the “OP’s situation is a good faith letter”… rather oxymoronic, an anonymous bad-mouth letter, in “good faith”??? Get outta town.

                1. Forrest*

                  It was a game of chicken because there was no promise that the guy would win his case. All that happen is the company avoided going to court.

  13. Garrett*

    For #6 – resigning from a job you never started – I do think it would be a good idea just to send an email, especially if you don’t want to burn any bridges with this other company.

    And you say you filled out the paperwork for the job. I wasn’t sure what it was – probably just filled out standard tax forms and what-not, but make sure you didn’t sign any contracts. They probably wouldn’t hold up at this point, but you don’t want any trouble down the road either.

  14. anon-2*

    For #6 – there have been several instances in my career where a company dilly-dallied on extending an offer; but, I had a sure thing from another company.

    In those instances, I would not hesitate to call the first company – if I really wanted THAT position – and say “well, I’m waiting on you, and I would really prefer to come aboard with you, but I have no employment offer. I do have another one, and, I’d rather come with you, but, if there’s no opportunity with you, I have to go in that direction.”

    Several things may happen. But I’ve seen =

    1) They may be blunt and say “well, we were going in a different direction, anyway, we wish you luck.” Which means you were a standby or insurance candidate and not necessarily their first choice. **OR**

    2) “Can you wait a day? And how much are they offering you?” which means, they’ll expedite the process rather than lose you.

    You have to be prepared for either possibility.

  15. Cassie*

    #5: we turn in our monthly timesheets around the middle of the month – that’s the only way our pay will be processed in time for our checks to be direct-deposited or paper checks to be cut by the last day of the month. Assuming we work standard 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, we just fill in the timesheets as such. There’s a box on the timesheet that corrects/adjusts last month’s timesheet, so if I take sick leave, or if I planned on taking vacation days but ended up not, I can make that adjustment the following month.

    When I used to get paid every two weeks, timesheets were due on the Wednesday of Week 2, even though the pay period was from Sunday of Week 1 to Saturday of Week 2. So you basically have to estimate how long you will work on Thursday and Friday. If there’s a change and you end up working more or less, you just make a correction after the fact.

    So ask if there is a procedure to follow for reporting sick/vacation or overtime. If there’s not, they should set one up.

  16. Julie*

    The timesheet conversation makes me glad I only have to fill one out if I’m out of the office. Otherwise, my company assumes I’m working 40 hours/week.

  17. Sunlitgarden*

    I hate timesheets. I have about 5 different budgets on mine and have to allocate all my hours to a budget depending on what project I’m working on. It can get frustrating when I’m working on Project A and someone comes to me with a question about Project B.

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