update: our time off is being rescinded — Hunger Games style

Here’s an update from the reader whose pre-approved vacation time was being rescinded unless she fought it out with two coworkers who also had pre-approved time off scheduled then.

I spoke with one of the physicians, our head boss, a few days later. She stated she wanted to meet with all four of us coworkers and the manager at the end of the day. During the course of the day, Regina (who wanted to see off her son, who is going on military tour) found out her son was to leave in three days, so in the meeting she stated she would come in to work. The boss said under no circumstances was she to come to work that day, and to enjoy the day off. She stated Carly (whose husband was taking her out of town for her cancer-free anniversary) and and I were also to enjoy our days off. The boss said Brittany (who hadn’t asked for a day off but is notorious for being unreliable) was to go to the satellite office, and if she called in once more to remain at home. She said the manager (our direct supervisor, the one who approved all the time mistakenly and then told us to solve it ourselves) had to man the front office.

The boss expressed her disgust for the situation and her anger that it resulted in any of the physicians having to become involved. She made it clear that this option should have been the first and only option. The boss also said that no one should feel a single, childless person should have to dedicate more time to the job when everyone should bring their best to the office. She has now made working after hours on a rotation basis unless we can work it out among ourselves.

By the way, thanks to the commenter for suggesting to check the pay stubs and policies. I found out it’s a policy in our office that after three years, we have the option of cashing out our unused PTO. I was never made aware of this (it’s a very informal office with no handbook) so when I asked the manager about it, the next day I received a check for four years worth of unused PTO. A nice bonus! The manager is now on probation for the entire situation and one more issue will result in her being demoted.

Thanks to everyone for suggesting speaking with the boss. I’ve always been a timid person, and afraid to speak up, but now I feel more comfortable. It also helps to know that we have bosses who will listen and care about their employees.

This is a great outcome and exactly how it should have been handled (well, with one exception — you guys probably shouldn’t have been told that the manager is facing demotion, but I can’t really quibble with the details here).

{ 81 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon1*

    So THIS is what is looks like when a responsible boss straightens out someone else’s inability to manage. So happy it worked out for you, OP! I especially like how the onus was put on Brittany to be reliable even though Regina would’ve been available after all. You really couldn’t ask for a better outcome.

  2. Artemesia*

    If I were a physician who had a manager to manage my office, I would be livid that I had to mess with this when the solution was pretty obvious. Glad your boss stepped up and if I were her I would be looking for a new manager and firing and replacing Brittany.

    A manager who basically allows an unreliable employee to put a spanner in the works in this sort of situation is no manager. Brittany should have been gone long ago. And a manager who screws things up and doesn’t want to have to find a new job, should figure out how to unscrew them without involving the professional non-manager boss in this mess.

    Good for your boss.

  3. Jamie*

    Mike C. February 4, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    In the meantime, I think the OP needs to question the accuracy of every document that her boss touches. You know, just to make sure it’s correct and up to date.

    After all, if you’ve screwed up a simply calendar, what else have you screwed up?


    Jamie February 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Great point. Check your paychecks and PTO – just saying.

    I really hope that was what the OP was referring to because I think it would awesome if Mike C and I helped you get some cash!

    It’s awesome it happened regardless – but I’d smile wider if this is what you meant. :)

    1. Mike C.*

      I’m just flabbergasted that there was a reasonable person who could sort out this mess in an adult fashion.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, I was going to say this in response to all the surprise here!

          We don’t tend to hear about good managers here because people don’t tend to write in for advice about good managers, but there are lots of them — and really, resolving this situation in a correct way wasn’t rocket science. Hundreds of commenters came to the same conclusion that the OP’s head boss did, so it’s not shocking that she did too :)

          1. Joey*

            Yeah, I don’t mean to minimize the ops situation, but to me this is an example of what the expectation is/should be for every boss. Its not great to me, just competent.

        2. Mike C.*

          I have one! It’s more that I’m surprised that in a workplace where this was going on that the idiocy hadn’t gone straight to the top.

  4. Anonymous #13*

    4 years worth of PTO in the form of a check? AWESOME! Sweet reward after all you’ve been through, OP.

    1. Dulcinea*

      A surprise chunk of money right before a vacation?!?! Awesome! I hope OP uses at least some of it to upgrade her room in the cruise, or buy an awesome new vacaction wardrobe, or something like that.

  5. Z*

    I’m really glad that this got straightened out. However, I personally think that the boss should have met with the manager who messed up separately from the employees who were affected. First, meet with the employees who want vacation and tell them what’s going to happen. Then, meet separately with the manager and express your anger, tell her what she did wrong, etc. I don’t think it’s good practice in the long run to be criticizing or disciplining an employee in front of others. “Praise in public, criticize in private,” right? If I were the manager (not that I would have made this mistake in the first place), I’d now be feeling mortified and angry over the public berating, and that would make it harder for me to process the criticism correctly and improve my performance.

    1. Artemesia*

      I agree with you but in this case with the long standing poor management that this surfaced, I’d be looking for a new manager and get rid of this one.

    2. JoAnna*

      I think the big boss made the right call, because doing so sent a clear message the other employees that the manager’s actions were unacceptable, and that the manager’s screw-ups were being dealt with appropriately. That will make the employees much less resentful, IMO, and they won’t be left wondering if the manager will face any consequences for her poor management.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree. In general I’m not a fan of public criticism but this affected people personally and was so egregious publicly validating that this was wrong will minimize resentment.

      2. Hunny*

        I agree. This way there’s no chance the inept manager could try to save face by looking like she resolved the issue herself.

      3. Cassie*

        Agreed. If the manager is anything like our manager (I see similar characteristics), she would have twisted whatever the boss said and make it sound (to the staff) like the boss actually backed her.

        It’s one thing to tell staff “speak up, don’t worry about retaliation, tell us what you need” and another thing for staff to actually believe you when you say it. If it takes a pointed statement directed at the manager in the presence of the staff to get the point across, so be it. Assuming this is a special situation (and negative feedback is normally handled more delicately), it might just be the impetus to push a bad manager out the door.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This. The boss had no choice but to address things in front of everyone. But the manager created an environment where that type of action was necessary. Had the manager been acting differently, then yes, take the manager to one side and talk with her.
          This manager almost cost the boss four staff people. That is a huge error in judgement.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Normally, I’d agree, but this was such a convoluted mess that involved almost everyone in the office that I don’t see how you straighten it out otherwise.

    4. Tiff*

      I agree with the concept of criticizing in private. Personally I would have taken that route, and just made it VERY clear in the meeting with the employees what the standards were and possibly praised the person who bought it to my attention. Nobody gets it right all the time, but if the manager is otherwise good there’s no reason to publicly shame her. Really – there’s no reason to publicly shame her even if she is kind of horrible. Just fire her.

    5. FiveNine*

      The manager so completely threw her mistake out to those below her to fight it out to get it resolved. So, I’m not sure I agree. I don’t know that I can articulate why, exactly — but she wanted it out of her hands and managed and resolved by someone else, and that is exactly what happened.

      1. Jessa*

        I agree with you, a manager who tells the employees that they have to deal with her mistakes and fix it themselves, really does need to be called out in front of those people. They need to see that they’re being backed in this case. Normally I’d agree that it should be private. But this boss made the whole thing a public mess.

    6. PJ*

      You’re right in general, under normal circumstances it would be best to do this in private. However, the manager now has no opportunity to retaliate in private. Everyone is on the same page. I like how this was handled.

  6. Alicia*

    The way this was resolved makes me so happy! Brittany got called out as unreliable and needing to step up, all three of you got your time off, and the manager got a talking to.

    PLUS, you got a pretty nice cheque I imagine! Nice!

    1. Sadsack*

      Plus plus, all the employees were notified that the single and child free coworker deserves to be able to take all the vacation that she earned. They probably won’t be making comments about that any more.

  7. ChristineSW*

    This update really made my day!! Although I do agree with Z above about meeting with the manager separately. In his defense, physicians are very busy, so that’s probably the only free time he could squeeze in, hence why he met with everyone at once.

    1. danr*

      Or, she was afraid that the manager would screw it up again and wanted to be sure that everyone got the correct message.

        1. RobM*

          Well I guess from the physician’s point of view, if they have to descend from up high to fix this mess at all then they might as well make damn sure it really is fixed.

          After all, I’d imagine that for a very senior person, the only thing worse than getting involved in what should be a minor issue like this is having to get involved _twice_.

  8. Zelos*

    What a great ending! As for the dressing down the manager in private, I’m not sure how far the physician actually went in doing so at the meeting. If she said a flat “this was the obvious and sensible solution” and then tore the manager a new one in private, that’s cool. If she said “Manager, you are a moron” in front of everyone then that’s not so great. But that’s not the impression I’m getting here–it sounds like it was a very factual discussion that laid out expectations, especially with respect to the single/childless part (yay!).

    I have the impression the probation news was office cooler talk, and not addressed at the meeting. I think the only part I would’ve changed (if I’m reading all this correctly) is that the part about Brittany not having a job if she missed one more shift should be dealt with in private, like the (real) dressing down of the manager.

    But again, yay! Enjoy your vacation, OP!

    1. IronMaiden*

      I disagree. I think the reliable employees needed to know that they would not have to carry the can for Brittany any more. It was a way to make sure everyone understood the ongoing expectations.

      1. Zelos*

        I agree that everyone needed to know they don’t have to be responsible for Brittany’s flakiness anymore, but I do think the “otherwise, don’t bother coming in anymore” part wasn’t necessary. I prefer meetings to be the clear setting of expectations (e.g. “Moving forward, everyone will be on a rotating schedule so this kind of conflict will never come up again”); everyone can infer that Manager and Brittany are kind of in hot water, but explicitly saying that they are morons or whatnot in front of others is rather humiliating and putting them on the spot.

        YMMV, as always.

        1. sunny-dee*

          I may be a bit jaundiced because of th crappy management in ExDepartment, but this is a situation where it makes sense to call out the manager and Brittany a bit in public — because the problem was in public. I have seen numerous people in my old department where there were very public problems (tantrums, substandard work, absenteeism) and it was never addressed in any kind of visible way. That’s extremely demoralizing. I actually tried to follow up on a situation once (where I had gone to HR with a hostile work environment complaint), and was told by my manager “well, that was a bad thing, and I’m sure he feels bad about it.” I kinda needed more than that.

        2. Anon for this*

          I must have missed the part where the were called morons and agree this is unnecessary. The discussion should focus on behaviours, not personalities.

            1. Zelos*

              Oh, no, you didn’t miss anything. I read the update as expressing that the physician was thoroughly disgusted and laid out very clear expectations, but didn’t actually tear the manager a new one in front of others…which I feel is the correct course of action. The full dressing-down (that may or may not involve telling Manager that she behaved moronically) while richly deserved, would be best left in a private setting.

        3. Jessa*

          Given the fact that the manager seemed not to be dealing with Brittany, and might attempt to make the issue another “you people fix it,” or “I’m not even going to bother to deal with Brittany, you can all still cover for her.” I think it’s important for everyone to be on notice that Brittany is on her way out if she does it again, because if she does and the manager just brushes it aside, it’s imperative that someone goes back to boss and says that.

          1. Zelos*

            This is a fair point. I think overall I’d still prefer having the others infer that Brittany and Manager are in hot water, but given the egregious offense I can’t say it’s a very big quibble on my part. And since I have no managing experience, maybe this is better in the grand scheme for morale purposes.

  9. MeganO*

    This is awesome. It’s so great to hear that things worked out so well for you, OP! And wonderful that there are folks out there who really can manage well.

  10. Celeste*

    Wow, what a great outcome, and thank you for sharing it!!! I predict that life at work is about to get a lot better for you, and you’ve got some extra money in your pocket. Brilliant all around!!

  11. NylaW*

    Now this is an update. That’s great news, OP. Your boss (the physician) sounds like a great manager.

  12. Poohbear McGriddles*

    That’s great that it worked out.

    You mentioned you spoke to the physician. Did you have to bring up the issue to her, or had it already come to her attention?

    1. OP*

      I had to bring it up. She knew there was tension, but didn’t know why. She’s the type of boss to allow people to do their jobs with little interference.

      1. Cassie*

        I like that she actually took action (and fairly swiftly?). If this was my workplace, the boss would have consulted with other colleagues (in our case, faculty), hem-and-haw as some of us staff offered suggestions, and finally meet with the manager to gently suggest she resolve the solution (but without telling her what to do). The manager would have lashed out at the staff for going to the boss and threatened to fire them or deny future leave requests. The staff would have caved, and the boss would have forgotten about the whole situation until (if) someone brings it up again.

  13. Anonymous*

    This update was fantastic. (I love updates that result in actual change without leaving the job and this one is a clear winner.)

  14. Stryker*

    Do you think the head boss reads your blog…? O.o She really did do it perfectly. I’m so glad this worked out for you, OP! I was wondering what was going to happen.

    1. Chinook*

      I wish there was a way to send this boss a round of applause from this blog because seldom do people get thanked for doing what is logical and rational. As AAM pointed out, we never hear about the good ones and this one is definitely that.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        We could vote on good bosses. I mean we already vote on bad bosses.

        Here is one boss that exemplifies good leadership. Fair, decisive, transparent and oh yeah sane/rational.

  15. Kim*

    I’ve actually been thinking about this situation and hoping for an update. I hope you have a lovely time on your cruise and come back refreshed.

  16. Positivity Boy*

    The outcome is obviously great for OP, but I’m actually most impressed by the manager’s treatment of Regina – that she told her to take off the vacation day that had been previously approved even though she technically no longer needed it and had offered to work. I like it because it makes sure the supervisor feels no validation of her attempted “solution”. If the manager had accepted Regina’s offer to work, that would ultimately be fulfilling the supervisor’s instruction to make the employees sort it out amongst themselves. This way the supervisor is 100% on the hook for her mistake and it’s clear that she has to deal with the consequences herself via what should have been the original solution: manning the office solo. Very good move on the manager’s part.

  17. Ruffingit*

    Right on! So happy to hear this update and I can totally see how the physician was pissed off that she had to become involved in this ludicrous situation. This is simple stuff and the reason she hired a manager to begin with (most likely). Enjoy your time off OP!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The one thing I thought of is that people talk. We have a doctor near us that has many, many ex-employees. The office manager is a hazmat spill. You better believe what happens in that office goes right around town. All the while, the doctor seems to be oblivious. This has been going on for many years now.

      Eventually attitudes shift and people start to realize the doctor is the problem. She is not paying attention to her business at all.
      This doctor had no choice but to address this with the group. Left unchecked the rumor mill would discourage people (g00d w0rkers ) from applying there and eventually push patients away.

  18. IronMaiden*

    Good on you for gathering your courage and speaking up, OP. The outcome is satisfactory all round. I include the manager who might have been out of her depth/too complacent/whatever, and might now get some guidanceor training to improve her performance. Although I would not be surprised if you had put yourself in line for a management role.

    Anyhoo, have a wonderful cruise.

  19. Not So NewReader*

    Congrats, OP. Well done. The absolute best part of this story is that you know you stood up for yourself, in an effective and professional manner. It does not get any better than this- this is the ultimate.

    You did not mention but I bet your other two coworkers are thrilled with the outcome also. Smiles all around. Nice.

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