we have to write letters to our boss while she decides whether to re-hire us, fired for refusing to answer manager’s questions on the weekend, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. We have to write letters to our boss while she decides whether to invite us back

The school I work for had a leadership transition this year. It’s a mess. The mission is confused, the leadership transition was accompanied by a number of mid-year layoffs (highly unusual for a school), and new boss has introduced a number of initiatives and new procedures over the last few months that have made the year even more chaotic and stressful. It might just be the timing — new boss has a lot of good ideas, and there’s definitely room for improvement here.

However, in a recent email the new head of school informed us that leadership was asking each of us to write her a letter (one page or less) explaining what we’ve contributed to the school personally and professionally, whether we plan to stay next year, our personal and professional goals for next year, and where we would like to see the school as a whole go. New boss will then distribute letters to all of us on the same day, either extending an invitation to stay or “thank you” letters for our service.

I don’t plan to stay, but don’t want to burn my bridges in case nothing else comes along. So — is this normal? How does one write a letter like this?

Well, there’s nothing wrong her request for the write-ups in and of itself — wanting to hear your assessment of your performance, your goals for your work, and your thoughts for the school is reasonable. What’s weird about this is that she’s apparently planning to make decisions about whether to invite you back before she reads what you have to say — which raises the question of why she’s asking for this from the people who she’s not even considering working with again. It’s weird, and it comes across as some of game-playing with a whiff of a power trip. (But if she was going to get the letters earlier in the process and consider them as part of her decision-making, that would make a lot more sense.)

2. Company wants to try me in a temporary role before they commit — can I keep interviewing?

After 6 months of contact, including hours of interviews, Company A has offered me a full-time exempt role. The catch is that is is temporary for up to 90 days without benefits. The recruiter said that this wasn’t unusual and was a trial period to see if the fit was right for both sides. Is this a common practice? She said the team was enthusiastic, but this does seem odd to me for a director level role (20+ years experience on my end). After being unemployed for over 6 months, I need to take it, and would love to land it full-time. My concern is, without more of a commitment from them, I feel like it is only fair to continue interviewing until things are settled. It’s a bit awkward because I have two other companies that I am also in process with. If one of them offers me something attractive, is it okay to take it since the role with company A is temporary at this point? I understand with the job market things are changing, but I just wish things were a bit more clear.

No, it’s not common practice, particularly for senior roles. But as long as they’re not committing to you, you don’t need to commit to them — which means you’d be smart to keep interviewing and well within your rights to take a different role if it’s offered to you during that time. (That assumes that you’re truly a “temporary” employee during this 90-day period — as opposed to it just being a three-month probationary period, which is indeed common for new employees.)

3. My boss won’t let me serve on boards or committees in our field

I have a poor relationship with my boss. The latest repercussion/realization I am confronted with is that my boss believes that they have the power to dictate my participation in professional development opportunities like board membership, committee service, and likely anything done in relation to our field, regardless of whether it is done on work time or my time. This was communicated by email and ended with a closing statement that forbid any further discussion. Right before this email, I received an invitation to serve on a small state-wide focus group to discuss the future of our field (run by a granting institution that we closely and often work with). There is no point in asking to attend, but I feel that the offer requires a reply.

Is it legal for my boss to forbid me from serving in my field on my own time? How should I decline the opportunity to serve in the focus group or any other offers that come my way? Should I cite a previous commitment? Is there anyway to decline without putting the blame on myself or my institution? How do I avoid precluding future participation, should I change jobs in the near future?

Yes, your boss can prohibit you from doing this type of thing in your off time. I’d be curious to know her reasoning, though. There are crappy reasons (like if she just doesn’t like you) and there are more legitimate reasons (like if her sense is that you’ll be seen as representing your company even if you say you’re there only in a personal capacity). In any case, I think you could decline by saying something like, “I’d love to, but my current position precludes me taking on outside professional work. But I’d love to stay in touch and perhaps get involved in the future.”

4. Fired for refusing to answer manager’s questions on the weekend

We live in the “at will” state of Washington so I know that an employee can get fired for no reason (barring a few discriminatory scenarios). However, I know someone who is an hourly employee who was repeatedly texted and emailed off the clock to work and get answers to his manager. He responded a day later and said he would get back to the manager on Monday and that he was off the clock and spending time with his family. He got fired the next Monday. Is this legal, even in an at-will state? Apparently, this happens all the time and the company has no policy or way to track this and pay employees for work they are expected to do off the clock. And to get fired for that reason! Is it legal?

Yes, a company can require employees to do work outside of their normal hours, including on the weekend. However, if the employee is non-exempt, they must be paid for that time. So based on what’s here, it was perfectly legal for the company to fire your friend, but illegal for them not to pay him for any work done off the clock (assuming he’s non-exempt).

5. Disclosing that my company is owned by my father

I currently work at a small company owned and operated by my father. There are fewer than 20 employees and I’m related in some capacity to about one-third of them. It is a science-based company while my interest is in the humanities. I took the job mainly because I couldn’t find anything in my field. I graduated college about 5 years ago and have worked here on and off probably for 3 years total, the last year and half being spent solely working here while my other, early jobs were non-professional. My time here has been a mixed bag, and I am thinking of moving on and applying to other jobs in fields more relevant to my interests.

When applying for jobs, should I disclose that I work for my father? If so, how much do I disclose and at what stage? My direct supervisors are not related to me, but obviously they ultimately work for my father, and I worry that a potential employer finding that out would make them question whether I am there only because I am the owner’s kid, not to mention make them wonder how much stock they can put in my references. A quick Google search would reveal the company website with my father’s name as the president, so I believe if called for an interview, any HR rep worth their weight would either know going in or soon after that I work for my father, or at least my family. Is it something I should mention early in the interview or on my resume in some capacity to head this off, or am I over-thinking this? It could help explain why I work in a field unrelated to my degree or past experience, but I also worry I might be shooting myself in the foot.

You don’t need to proactively disclose it at the application or interview stage, although you also shouldn’t hide it if it comes up. So for instance, if you’re asked about why you chose to work there, you’d explain what you explained here. If it doesn’t come up before the reference-checking stage, you should definitely mention it then — as in, “My company is owned by my father. My manager is someone different, but I felt I should be up-front about that fact.” It’s better for them to hear it from you than to hear it during a reference call.

{ 204 comments… read them below }

  1. sab*

    I worked at my father’s firm off and on throughout college and for a year or so between grad school and new job and found it to be a non-issue during the interview process. I don’t recall disclosing that it was his firm, and it didn’t come up in any reference checks.

    Granted, it was a non-issue because I worked my ass off at that job to prove that I was capable, regardless of the fact that I was the boss’ daughter. I could see it being a problem for those whose work is less than stellar for concerns the OP mentions above, but my supervisor had nothing but great things to say about my work. Let your work speak for itself.

    1. Anonymous*

      I am the person in question in #5. Thank you for your response! I am mostly worried because of how small the company is and the fact that the nature of the work is pretty different from what I would ultimately like to do. My work us great and my references could honestly say so, but I worry that a future hiring manager would pause and wonder if my references are good only because they have to be ok risk losing their jobs. Which is of course not the case *at all*, but something I worry about HR people thinking.

      1. MJ*

        I am not sure what field you are in and how competitive the market is, but I have been in HR and in my experience, who you worked for and whether there is any bias in a reference is such a tiny piece of what is considered in making a hiring decision. Much more important is how you come across in interviews (prepare and practice), how well you can demonstrate your competencies with examples, and how passionate you are about the organization’s work. I have seen many applications with family businesses in the work history. It demonstrates that you care about your family and the success of its enterprises – frame it as the asset it is.

        1. Anonymous*

          Hi MJ, thank you for your response! The last line in particular is great – that is a point of view that I had not considered. I will try to frame the way I think about and explain my past work with that in mind. Thank you for taking the time to respond. I really appreciate the feedback, especially from someone who has seen this situation in the past.

      2. AB Normal*

        “Disclosing that my company is owned by my father”:

        The fact that you are applying to outside jobs is going to count as a very positive argument in your favor. See, if you were a slacker or poor performer, what better place to “hide” than a company owned by your father? I’m sure HR will see it as a good sign that you are ready to move on to new challenges, after the experience gained in your current, “safe” job. And if your references provide very specific information about your skills and work ethics, I don’t think anyone will think your references are good just because they come from people reporting to your father.

        Good luck with your interviews!

        1. Anonymous*

          Thank you so much! That is certainly another point I had not considered. I think I have gotten very wrapped up in the idea that my transition would be made more difficult because people wouldn’t see it as a real job or my references as reliable, but these responses have been extremely helpful in showing me that there is another side to the coin that I had not considered. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment.

          1. Fiona*

            Anon, I totally feel where you’re coming from – I worked for the family business for eight years and my direct supervisor (and the owner) was my mother, so I didn’t even have the cushion of a non-relative for a manager. I already had several years of work experience under my belt when I joined the company and I know that I added a lot of value to the company during my time, but I was still nervous about how my work history would be perceived, when I was ready to move on. I think some people forget that there’s a flip side to the “hired my brother to keep him out of trouble” type companies – if anything, there were times that I was held to a higher standard than the employees who were not family.

            Best of luck on your next move!

            1. Anonymous*

              Hi Fiona, yes, that is exactly what I struggle with. It’s refreshing to hear that there is a flip side, and great to hear from other people who have dealt with the same. Thank you for the well wishes and for commenting with your experience!

  2. Not Fiona*

    For 3. I feel your pain. It will feel really good when you have finally moved onto a new job that doesn’t preclude such involvement. Literally like taking off dark glasses and being able to see clearly. So at least you have that to look forward to!!

    1. Erik*

      As far as I’m concerned, what I do in my personal time is just that – personal. It’s not of their business. The only exception is if it affects my work (aka. drug use, etc.)

      1. FiveNine*

        Well, there are all sorts of Blue Ribbon advisory panels and panels put together by a governor and industry, etc. It would be incredibly frustrating to be in OP’s shoes (and honestly, for most organizations, representation on anything like what OP describes is a point of pride). This is usually about panels with high profile within the industry and sometimes even in the press and public domain — this isn’t like a personal choice you make to go on vacation (or do drugs or whatever). And in these types of working advisory groups there’s a fine line between this being about you, the employee, and you, a representative of X firm — it’s not entirely personal and even with caveats that whatever you say is your own view, your company’s name is intricately intertwined with the whole thing.

      2. AVP*

        In this case I think it could easily affect the OP’s work, though, if the outside panel is closely related to a granting institution that her company is associated with. Perhaps her boss feels (rightly or wrongly, who knows) that the OP is not the best representative of her company to interact with the institution – in that case I think it is the manager’s prerogative, or at least you could make an argument for it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah — I can think of times when I absolutely would not have wanted a particular employee sitting on a committee or board in our field, because they absolutely would have been seen as a representative of our organization (regardless of disclaimers to the contrary).

        2. Anonymous*

          Thank you Allison and all who replied for your sympathy, perspective, and advice. I know that I am being personally punished. I know this because there is no prohibition in our Employee Handbook and my boss has recently served on the board/committee/focus group of every institution that has asked me to join. There is no conflict of interest, just conflict.

          It’s very difficult to accept the reality of my situation, because the only way to gain the experience I likely need to move on is through outside service on my own time. I’m glad that Allison has drawn the legal line in the sand so that I can move past what I can’t do and focus on what I can do. Believe me, I am actively working to get out of this situation. I can’t WAIT to take off those dark glasses and truly serve my industry.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Hmmm, can I push back a little on this:
            “I know that I am being personally punished. I know this because there is no prohibition in our Employee Handbook and my boss has recently served on the board/committee/focus group of every institution that has asked me to join.”

            It’s certainly true that you might be being personally punished for something, but the two pieces of evidence above don’t actually show that. See my comment just above yours — managers could make this decision perfectly reasonably without it being a company-wide policy, and could even serve on these boards/committees themselves without being comfortable with a particular employee doing it (and being seen to represent the employer).

            1. Anonymous*

              Alison, I agree that it’s perfectly reasonable to think that it’s for the best of the company. I’m simply not convinced that it is. The lack of any justification or follow through in this particular situation seems to confirm it, as it has countless times before.

              If this was a corporation and our bottom line rode on profit I might be more convinced that an explanation wasn’t necessary, but it isn’t. I work for an arts-related industry that makes and maintains a reputation based on interpersonal relationships and professional kindness. It’s a very hard pill to swallow knowing that my preclusion hurts our overall success.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                And that could very well be right! I was reacting just to “I know this because there is no prohibition in our Employee Handbook and my boss has recently served on the board/committee/focus group of every institution that has asked me to join.”

  3. Dan*


    AAM, I’m having a hard time understanding your distinction of “truly temporary” here. I understand what you are talking about when you refer to a “probationary period,” but given that most US employers don’t offer employment contracts and things are generally “at will employment,” what are you actually looking for as a differentiating factor here?

    Hell, even “permanent” positions are only as permanent as the employer or employee wants them to be. For that matter, even “90 day probabtionary periods” have little practical significance, because one can still very easily get whacked on day 91.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s about how the company is framing it. It’s exactly because of what you say — the job would normally be at-will anyway, but since they’re choosing to highlight that they’re doing something beyond that in making it formally temporary for now, they’re telling the OP clearly that there’s far less job security here than one would normally expect when starting a new position.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Just to throw in a European anecdote, I once interviewed for an administrative position, and was told after the interview that I needed to register with a local temping agency.

        Apparently the company would take people on for the 3 month probation period but not have to concern themselves with payroll and contract termination if the position didn’t work out. Then, at the end of 3 months, you might get the permanent role.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        It sounded to me as if the HR rep had worded the “standard” 90 day period badly and that translated into the OP thinking that meant she was temporary for that period.

        I’ve got “standard” in quotes because I think the whole 90 day thing is stupid. We abandoned that thought process years ago and I do believe it is falling away generally. There’s nothing magically different between day 89 and day 91, so there is therefore no reason to make an employee feel extra insecure and calendar watching.

        Everybody knows that sometimes things don’t work out – that can happen at 4 weeks, 4 months or 4 years.

        Anyway, I think the OP should clarify if she’s being thought of as temporary until they decide to commit to her fully at 90 days. I don’t know how someone would perform a director level role, with reports, while her belongings are still packed in a cardboard box waiting to find out if she really has the job or not. That’s a substitute teacher.

        Makes no sense. If upper management is dumb enough to think that’s a good idea, continuing to look does make sense.

        1. Laura*

          Here (Canada), the 90 day probationary period is the only time an employee is truly an at-will employee…so during that time they can be fired for any reason with no notice, but after it’s only specific reasons and/or notice /or money instead of notice. I think that’s what it is…the only time I was fired, it was on day 90. Benefits and vacation would kick in on day 91 too. On day 91, firing would be handled different. I never quite got why it was done places where one was an at-will employee always.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Often it’s because the company’s own policies tie them to handling performance problems differently once an employee is outside the probationary period — for instance, they commit in their handbook to using progressive discipline and a series of warnings before firing (saying “we will do this” rather “we may do this”). They want the flexibility to just fire someone without going through all that if it’s obviously not a fit in the person’s first 90 days.

            Frankly, I believe they shouldn’t tie themselves into that process for any employee — they should generally use it but not force themselves to in every case — but because many do, that’s where probationary periods come from.

          2. Kay*

            My theory on it (right or wrong) is that getting benefits set up can be a difficult process. Health ins, 401k, profit sharing (if offered), stock options, etc. All these things take man-hours to get set up and more man-hours to dismantle. It’s easy to say that’s part of “the cost of doing business”, but I think companies try to shield themselves from that additional cost by having a no-benefits probationary period. Not saying it’s the right thing to do, but I think that’s why they do it.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              That’s a great point — my first thought was that, even for a probationary period, it’s very odd that the person isn’t getting any benefits. (Or maybe that’s common now, I haven’t been in a probationary period in well over a decade. )

        2. Ruffingit*

          Also, it’s just insulting for the senior-level employee. Someone with that much experience behind them should have a track record at this point (with references to match) that show that they are a good risk. Being placed on a probationary period until “we see if it works out” just stinks to me for someone with that much experience behind them.

          1. Anonymous*

            I think just the opposite. A low level employee won’t impact the business much if they screw up. A senior level employee can make or break a company with a single decision. I would say that in general a senior level person should be much easier to fire than someone low level and that includes a probationary period. Someone might be great, but not great for the company and a thousand other things. It’s much more like an arraigned marriage at that point.

          2. LIT*

            You said it! I’m familiar with probationary periods and temporary/contract roles. However, I haven’t been in that situation for many years. I am unsure if it is because they are unsure of me, or unsure of what they want this role to do. I will update.

        3. NK*

          I think the lack of benefits during the 90 day period is what differentiates it from a standard probationary period and a truly temporary employment arrangement.

          1. Anonymous*

            Most companies don’t start benefits on day 1 anyway. Often those don’t start until after a probationary period.

            1. Anna*

              You know, I’ve heard that a lot and in my experience it’s only happened maybe once. I just finished an unintentional double probationary period for my job and in both of them I had access to benefits.

      3. Anonymous*

        I think this depends a lot. For a lot of companies (and more so for gvt) the 90 days are a period where an employee can be let go by the company for any reason. After that 90 day period the law doesn’t prohibit it but the company does. So after I pass my probationary period (6 months) then they have to go through a huge amount of internal (not legally required) paperwork, documentation, and for me union stuff to get me let go.

        I don’t think this is because the company isn’t committed to me. (I don’t feel like it is a great way to handle things in general, but it isn’t about them not committing. It’s like saying lets get engaged before we get married. Seems perfectly reasonable to me. Marriage requires a lot more steps to break up.)

  4. en pointe*


    I interpreted this differently. To me, it sounds like the new head of school IS going to consider the letters as part of her decision-making process. Then, at a later date, she’s going to distribute invitations to stay or not to all staff, on the same day. (As opposed to on the same day that they submit their own letters.)

    So, in addition to whether or not this is normal, I thought the OP was also asking about how best to approach this when she isn’t planning to stay (and is expected to address that, as well as her goals for next year in the letter), but doesn’t want to put anybody offside or eliminate staying as an option if she can’t find anything else (which is a real possibility if these letters are going to be used in the decision-making process).

    But there are two ways to interpret it, so I could be off base. Perhaps, OP could please clarify?

    1. Fucshia*

      I read it that way at first, too. Then, after I read Alison’s response, I reread what the OP wrote and it seems like it could mean either one.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh! Maybe “new boss will then distribute letters to all of us on the same day” means that everyone will receive their letter on the same day, rather than she’ll hand out the letters on the same day that people turn in their own letters to her? I read it as the latter, but it could be the former. OP, hopefully you can clarify!

      If it’s the former, I don’t think this is too weird. And you’d just write the letter that you’d write if you really did want to stay. That keeps your options open, and you can always turn down the offer if you decide you want to.

      1. en pointe*

        If it is the former and she does do that – write about how she wants to stay – and then ends up leaving anyway, does she risk burning a bridge, in terms of future references, etc.? Or would that be unreasonable on the part of the employer? Could she just say that her plans changed in the interim?

        1. CAA*

          Yes, but only if she actually needs a reference from the new head of school. It sounds like she’s only worked with this person for 9 months. There was someone in the role previously who might be a better reference, or maybe one of those who were laid off mid-year was in a direct or indirect management role and could do it. It’s easy enough to explain (but only if asked) that she doesn’t feel comfortable giving her current manager as a reference because she doesn’t know OP is looking for a new position.

          1. en pointe*

            Okay, thanks for your reply, but what about the job after next, and if reference checkers don’t stick to the list provided and do end up talking to this person? I’m curious about whether (in people’s opinions) she would actually be likely to burn the bridge or not?

            1. Ruffingit*

              Sure, she could burn a bridge here. Presumably, the boss is looking at these letters as confirmation that people want to stay and is making decisions based on that. HOWEVER…as Alison has said here before, if you are a manager who sets up a situation where it’s not safe to say you’ll be leaving (as in the boss then says GTFO now) then you risk having your employees say they will stay when they know they aren’t going to.

              I look at it this way – an employer can fire you at any time and you can leave at any time. Employers often know they will be firing you/laying you off without telling you, so I see no reason for the employee to tell the employer unless, again, it’s a safe environment to do so. Might this burn a bridge on the part of the employer who sees it as lying to them? Yes, of course, but that’s unfortunately the chance most employees must take unless they are in a place where being told to leave immediately is something they can financially handle.

            2. CAA*

              Yes, if OP lies in her letter then she will never be able to use “bad boss” as a reference, so that bridge is burnt.

              However, unless OP is in an extremely small field or an extremely small community, the odds of this coming back to bite her two or more years in the future are low. If OP is moving on to her second job after leaving the school, then “bad boss” has probably moved on as well. Even if she hasn’t, once enough time has elapsed, she won’t remember OP or the circumstances under which she left.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think she could still say something she couldn’t pass up fell in her lap or circumstances changed without burning a bridge (assuming a non-crazy boss, which is always the case when it comes to questions about burning bridges). If pressed, she could nicely point out that of course she was job searching during the time before the offer.

      2. EJ*

        Isn’t this still a strange scenario though? Maybe I’m out if touch. But writing a letter and then being handed an envelope seems more like a cheesy reality show tactic than a legitimate business procedure.

        There’s no one on one discussion involved, there’s no real justification for why one is being let go…I just feel like I want to tell the OP that yes, this is definitely a weird scenario, you’re right.

        Doesn’t change Allison’s advice, though.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I agree. The letter handing thing is just crappy to me. I think each employee should get a sit down conversation so they can be told why they’re being let go or why they’re being kept on – “We appreciate all the work you did on Project X last year and we look forward to your ideas in the future” or whatever.

        1. OP*

          Sorry for the confusing language. I did, in fact, mean that she will hand back letters to everyone on the same day at a later date. (I would not, however, be surprised if it were the same day as we handed letters to her.) My question was more related to the process and how to write my own letter.

          Also to clarify- this is my first year there. I started in the fall, and new boss started in January.

          1. AB Normal*

            Here’s how I’d word my own letter if I were in your position, not to burn any bridges with the manager:

            Focus heavily in your past accomplishments and how do you see someone in your current role further contributing in the new structure / next year. Don’t make any direct commitments or promises to stay, but detail how the person in your role should be able to contribute in the long-term to the success of the organization.

            Then, if you do decide to leave, you could explain how you couldn’t pass up the new opportunity, and offer to help train the new person taking your role to fulfill the vision you defined in your letter (which would happen during your notice period). I don’t think a reasonable manager would hold a grudge in a case like this, especially if you don’t mention in your letter how you “firmly intend to stay for many years with the company”.

          2. Ruffingit*

            I agree with Alison’s advice. Just write the letter as if you’re staying and see what happens. Job hunt hard and see what comes of it. Good luck!

          3. A Teacher*

            I know you are a private school but as any teacher knows at this point the terms “assessment” and “self-reflection” are two of the bigger buzz words out there. Focus on how your individual classroom has contributed to the overall success of the school’s mission and have a few tangible examples to do it. For example, I’ve started tracking formative and summative assessment for each class in an excel spread sheet with the overall goal of 70% of my students getting 70% or better because per what we’ve researched that still shows marked engagement in the classroom setting. Can you go back and find numbers with those? Even if you’re not staying, if you’re looking for other positions in education having these numbers, even written in a letter, will be beneficial to you.

          4. QualityControlFreak*

            Thanks for clarifying, OP. I’ve been thinking about this one, as you indicated that leadership is in a bit of a mess and the organization is struggling to define their mission and map out a way to get there.

            I could see asking staff to write letters providing input and their perspectives as to the overall mission of the organization and the direction they would like to see it take. If leadership is new, gathering information and opinions on methodology from staff on the front lines, particularly when backed by specifics on performance/achievements (how it actually worked out) is a very sound practice.

            The juxtaposition with the decision to rehire or let staff go, IMHO, really isn’t a good way to frame this, however. Yes, you do want to retain people whose ideas and motivation fit with the direction the organization is going. But I think you have to decide first what that direction is, agree on the mission and goals of the organization, and then you have a framework for gauging how well staff are aligned with that and how much individuals may be able to contribute to meeting those goals.

            I agree with AAM’s advice, and that of A Teacher below. Performance statistics are helpful not just to your current organization, but in showing what you bring to the table when applying to other organizations, too. Good luck!

          5. RunGirlRun*

            OP, this is similar to what is happening in low-performing schools that are being what’s called “reconstituted”: The school district reassigns administrators to other schools and brings in a “new” set of leaders (who might not have chosen to be transferred), and teachers have to re-apply for their positions for the next year, all while working with some of the toughest students around. Usually, only about 50% of the faculty are selected to return. This has been going on for several years in my former school district.

            The other posters, especially A Teacher, give good advice on collecting data. I’d track your assessments like crazy, then take those good percentages and stick them on your resume. This headmaster might want to up the “academic rigor” within the curriculum to attract more students. But, having taught at high schools with monstrous leaders, there are much more effective ways to support teachers and create a happier work environment.

            I hope that, in the end, you get to work where you are appreciated and valued.

  5. Lacy*

    I don’t know what it is about Alison Green’s responses that get me so annoyed every time I read them. Every once in a blue moon I drop by to see what kind of pro-employer/pro-manager response she writes and to see if there is a post where she actually scolds the action of the boss or manager in situations where there is no “illegal” action or activity by the employer, boss, or manager.

    I have to say that no matter how much time passes, Alison’s response never cease to annoy and frustrate me. Frankly, I really don’t know why people come here since I have seen her write a comment in support of an employee. For me, I hope to see her “change” and to address common issues and provide real solutions, not “suck-it-up buttercup” type responses. Just because something isn’t illegal, it doesn’t mean it’s moral or ethical. I think it’s time for Alison to focus on ethical behavior instead of behavior that doesn’t break the law.

    1. KarenT*

      If you don’t like her responses or perspective, why do you read her blog? (Genuine question)

      1. Anonymous*

        Why would you only read things you agreed with? That’s not to say that every opposing opinion is valid or has merit, but only interacting with media one already agrees with is stifling.

      2. The Clerk*

        Intelligent people frequently read things they know (or strongly suspect) they’ll ultimately disagree with or even want to smash afterward. (I have to believe that, otherwise I read the Duggars’ book for absolutely nothing). And honestly, who would want a blog where people were only allowed to comment if they were going to agree or fangirl?

    2. A Cita*

      But she’s not using this blog to write thought pieces; she’s answering questions. And the questions typically are “is that legal?!” rather than “Is that rational/moral/ethical/mean spirited/sucky or what, man?”

      And the discussion section is pretty rich with differing perspectives that she doesn’t edit out, even if they disagree with her. For instance, I think there’s generally a socio-economic blind spot here that I and others will point out, I pay my interns because I think it’s important to provide opportunities for those who cannot afford to work for free, I will never ask my employer for permission to take another job, and for #3, yeah, I’d join any darn committee I want to on my spare time in order to develop my career goals. Now, I know that the last 2 might get me fired, right or wrong, but I appreciate the head’s up on that provided here in case I somehow thought it was actually illegal.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I take employers to task all the time here. We’re constantly talking about bad managers, bad interviewers, bad employers. Those are my favorite letters, which I thought came through.

      I think the disconnect may be that you’re taking “that’s not illegal” or “you should decide if you’re willing to live with it or whether you’d rather find another job” as also meaning “your employer is acting perfectly reasonably.” Those are two very different things. But this is not an advocacy site; it’s an advice site. My goal is to help people make good decisions for themselves, and understanding whether or not something is likely to change is a key part of that.

      But yeah, there are plenty of other career advice sites out there. Find one that resonates with you!

      1. Ruffingit*

        And really, whether something is moral or ethical doesn’t change the fact that often times an employee can’t do anything about it anyway. Morals and ethics and what is legal don’t always coincide and while that sucks, it’s also reality. If you can afford to fight that fight for years on end, go right ahead and Deity of your Choice bless you, but most people need to work to live so the choice is starvation or fight an ethical minefield that isn’t going to change anyway. Suck it up buttercup is usually the answer because there is no alternative that is viable. Does that suck in and of itself? Sure does, but it’s reality.

      2. Anon #5000*

        There’s a considerable number of people who take “that’s not illegal” without further comment as meaning “that’s legal and ethical.” If you’re interested in avoiding comments like these, you might want to consider saying something like, “This type of reprehensible behavior is unfortunately legal.”

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            And even if it is unethical, it doesn’t automatically follow that it SHOULD be illegal, either!

      3. Anon*

        This, exactly. I had a situation come up in my family recently where a family member expressed her discontent with a situation at work – against the advice of other, wiser family members – which resulted in her getting fired. Was the employer acting terribly in the situation? Yes. But now she is unemployed and can’t really afford to be.

        Not everyone has the luxury of standing up for what is right (when the employer’s action isn’t illegal) and risking their job. She should have done what is often recommended here, suck it up and earnestly search for employment elsewhere. Is that how it should have to be? Of course not. But it’s reality.

      4. Katie the Fed*

        I found working in a professional environment a LOT easier when I finally accepted that nobody was required to treat me in a fair or kind manner.

      5. IndieGir*

        I’m probably so late to the game here that you won’t see this, but in case you do, Alison, you are a class act! Not only did you not succumb to the temptation to block the very rude Lacy, but your response is thoughtful and generous of spirit. This is why your blog is my favorite!

    4. Naomi*

      If you know a way an employee can make their boss act ethically without endangering their own job, I’d love to hear it.

    5. QualityControlFreak*

      Wow. I have to say, have you considered that you are actually the one in charge of your feelings and responses? Alison’s perspective and opinions don’t “get you so annoyed.” You choose to be annoyed.

      A good portion of her writing describes what she considers to be good management, as well as poor management, and provides methodology and encouragement for improving management practices, but I’m not sure she considers it her job to “scold” bosses or managers when they don’t live up to her (or your) expectations. I’ve seen many comments and responses where she is very supportive of employees; however, when an employer is acting within the law it does no one any favors to lead them to believe they are going to overcome solely by virtue of Having Right on Their Side. From my perspective, she does support ethical behavior, on the part of employees, management and employers. She offers people who ask for it advice on the best way to go about achieving their purposes or dealing with issues. She is an excellent resource in her field. She is not the Arbiter of Employment Justice.

      Perhaps if you revise your expectations you will find yourself less annoyed. Or you could just not read AAM.

    6. Confused*

      #3 “Is it legal…” and #4 “…Is it legal?” specifically asked if it was legal (not moral/ethical/etc). AAM answered. #2 AAM says if company isn’t committed to you, don’t be committed to them.
      Plus this is the short Q&A section, not intended to delve into all sides of the issue.
      I don’t agree it’s all one sides but keep in mind that the advice/answers reflect work life in the US (which is a very “pro-employer” place). You want to be annoyed, be annoyed at reality.

      1. Anonymous*

        I think we’re already convinced that our boss’ reactions are likely emotional, unethical, and amoral. I simply wanted to know what legal leg they thought they could stand on. My boss, as a rule, does not like to discuss or explain anything on their own or with prompting. I had to seek the necessary information elsewhere. [i.e.: Here.]

    7. Ruby Tuesday*

      For me, I think it may be time you stopped dropping by and expecting AAM to “change” to suit your wants rather than the needs of the people who write to her. Move on! There’s clearly nothing for you here.

      1. A Cita*

        I disagree actually. I appreciate a diversity of perspective, even this one. Even if it’s more venting than creating dialog.

        1. en pointe*

          Meh. I appreciate diverse perspectives too, but this was just rude imo. I mean, aside from saying that what’s legal isn’t necessarily moral or ethical, she didn’t exactly offer any substantial commentary on the issues in the post – pretty much just talked smack about Alison.

          That isn’t welcomed when it’s about commenters, nor do I think it should be welcomed when it’s about the host. (Not my call though, obviously.)

          1. Ruffingit*

            Agreed. Diverse perspectives is one thing, but this post was more “Alison sucks, she’s so pro-employer” which actually isn’t true at all and many of Alison’s posts can be cited to prove that. This poster is concerned that Alison isn’t championing the underdog, but that is not what this blog is for. This blog is for answering workplace questions and providing as much help as can be given to the questioner. As I said above, in the US anyway, that help often consists of “Suck it up or leave.” No one is helped by being told that “Yes, your company is unethical, you should form an underground revolution and take that on!” More power to you if you can make lasting change in a workplace, but that almost never happens and it’s near impossible when you also have to pay bills because your efforts to induce change will usually get you fired.

            1. Anon*

              Yes. And I’ve explicitly seen Alison say something is wrong, but not illegal, and if someone is willing to do it, they are likely not going to handle it well if challenged, so the best bet – assuming you need the job – is heads-down at work (ie: live with it) and job search (ie: get out of the bad workplace).

              She has very explicitly described some places as toxic or bad workplaces, but also noted if it’s not illegal. And if you need a job, then challenging that culture heads-on is a bad idea, because probably the result will be you lose your job and the place goes on being toxic/bad.

          2. A Cita*

            Well, maybe I’m giving too much benefit of the doubt. It read to me like someone who’s just venting some frustration. We all know how very frustrating it is out there for job seekers and employees right now. I don’t think the poster was particularly rude or name calling. But again, maybe I’m being too generous?

          3. Legal jobs*

            Its been my experience that people who talk about rude really mean I don’t like your opinion

            I’m nit even sure I agree with their criticism if Alison but there is nothing rude about it

    8. Anonymous*

      There are plenty of us here who actually have these sorts of discussions all the time. Not that I would know or anything.

    9. Kate*

      She says all the time something isn’t illegal, but not morally or reasonable. If you actually read it daily you would see it. She also takes managers and businesses to task all the time over their behavior. She is a blog though. She can’t force someone to act reasonable. And to advise someone with an unreasoned manager isn’t easy. What do you expect her to say to make someone else’s boss listen?

      If you aren’t happy with her answers why do you read them?

    10. Kit M.*

      What do you think of all the times she says things like, “But yes, your boss sucks” or tells people that the things their company is doing is counterproductive or stupid? She calls out employers quite often.

    11. Ann Furthermore*

      I don’t see Alison’s responses as always coming down on the side of management/employers. Quite the opposite, in fact. Very often, her answers are along the lines of, “Yes, unfortunately, your boss/employer can legally do this, even though it’s morally/ethically wrong. But here are a few suggestions for things to do that might make it less crappy.”

      It’s solid, realistic advice that I agree with about 98% of the time. Frankly, I would stop reading this blog and commenting here if Alison’s advice was for people to take a stand on principle, or to quit in a huff, or to go running to HR every time something rubbed them the wrong way, because that’s not constructive. 9 times out of 10, an employee would end up on the losing side , and quite often that side does not include a paycheck.

      But — and this is an honest question — why do you come here if you so strenuously disagree with Alison’s advice?

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Right. The advice is for the person who wrote in, because the only behavior they control is their own. If the writer is an employee of a place that is acting shadily but legally, Alison is just informing them of reality. And she does call out bad employers when they write in.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, and I would add that there are career advice blogs that do advise people to go running to HR every time something rubs them the wrong way, and they pretty much uniformly have their heads in the clouds about how things actually work and what the results are likely to be of doing that in the cases where they advise it. (It is no coincidence, I suspect, that they’re written by people who have never actually managed in any significant way and instead have just proclaimed themselves experts.) In my opinion, those blogs are recommending solutions that will not help and in many cases will actually harm people. I actually find it extremely disturbing.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Very few people, I think, are truly qualified to give the kind of advice you do. Managing people effectively is one of the most difficult and challenging things under the sun. I’ve held management roles, and know first hand how hard it is.

          I actually enjoy mentoring people, helping them learn how to expand their skill sets and do their jobs more effectively. It’s the political maneuvering that I just have no threshold for. And the daycare center aspect of it drives me nuts too.

    12. fposte*

      Well, I think this is largely a survival blog rather than an activism blog. But it also seems to me that if there were an obvious answer that you think she should have given, you’d have mentioned what it was, and you didn’t. The reason she doesn’t give an answer that tells OPs how to make people with power over them be less sucky while still getting paid by them is that nobody, not Alison, not you, not therapists, not presidents, have a simple answer for that one.

      There is activism, of course, but I tend to assume that people are aware of their activism options–organize, lobby, report to regulatory agencies, etc. Maybe they’re not, and maybe that would be an interesting thing to talk about sometime. But I think even the most activist regulars (hi, Mike C.!) are pretty clear-eyed about the fact that an individual’s activism doesn’t necessarily save that personal from being treated badly or from being fired; it’s more about cleaning up the larger world.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Can I quibble with “survival blog”? I’d like to think of it as more about getting what you want from your career, so that you’re ultimately happier and have more peace of mind. (A key element of that, of course, are being realistic about what you can and can’t expect, which might be what’s rubbing Lacy the wrong way.)

        1. fposte*

          By all means. That does sound much grimmer than I meant it to–probably better to use what I remember of your own phrasing and to say it’s more about the way things are than the way things should be.

        2. Ruffingit*

          For the record, I kind of like the description of “survival blog.” For me, that conjures up images of getting through tough issues with your dignity and mental health intact, which I think this blog does a good job of pointing toward. That is all :)

          1. Woodward*

            I agree with “survival blog” in that it’s two parts – first, this is how to survive this situation. Second, you should probably get out of that situation so you can thrive. But until you get out and go where you want to be, here’s some advice.

            I love AAM!

      2. A Cita*

        Yes, I was going to mention Mike C’s comments. He’s pretty consistent and sending the message about reporting in the comments. I appreciate it. It’s good to know that option and find where you stand on acting on those options, while being clear headed about what the consequences of doing so my be to you personally, which Alison describes.

    13. Artemesia*

      What an odd observation. Alison frequently describes bosses as jerks and describes their behavior as inappropriate. What she also notes is that being a jerk is not illegal and that employees often have no leverage to change the situation and thus need to move on. This is the reality of working in the US where the law is heavily stacked to the employer’s side and unions are regarded negatively even by the people whose lives would be so much better if they belonged to them.

      Being right and being employed are not always the same thing. And in a badly managed economy where government policy is run by corporations with an interest in penury for workers and insecurity in the job market, employees often have no options but to learn to manage upward as best they can.

    14. AB Normal*

      “I have to say that no matter how much time passes, Alison’s response never cease to annoy and frustrate me.”

      Huh. I have to say the opposite: no matter how much time passes, Alison’s responses never cease to make me happy to know there are still competent, logical, and reasonable people providing advice to managers and job seekers.

      Every time I was in a position to use one of AAM’s advice, it worked extremely well, and like others, I’ve had great success asking the questions she recommends we ask as job seekers (in the form of interviewers praising me for them, and getting several great offers recently).

      It looks like you are in a small minority here, and in your place I’d ask myself why your views are so different from the ones that are providing great results to so many readers who write to thank Alison and the commenters for their advice.

    15. Apollo Warbucks*

      I have seen a number of responses where alison has advised employees to do what is best for them rather than the company, on many occasions she has called bad managers jerks or idiots and expressed her contempt for the dumb policies that employer have. I’ve been reading the blog for ages and think the advice given here is usually very good, if your advise to a particular letter would be different why not post your response in the comments, then people can discus the alternative view point.

    16. Jean*

      To come at this from a slightly different angle, I think that what Alison Green offers here is Zen for the workplace. (Disclaimer: My knowledge of Zen Buddhism comes from my experience with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. DBT, originally developed over the last 15-20 [?] years by psychologist Marcia Linehan = cognitive behavioral therapy + mindfulness training.) Rather than focus on The Way Things Should Be, Alison helps her readers focus on The Way Things ARE. Similarly, DBT encourages clients to reach Radical Acceptance about whatever they find troubling.

      Examples? It’s not morally acceptable for others to cause you pain by (e.g., cube mate blares the radio, boss bellows if you come in late) but until you accept these realities as on-the-ground facts of your life you are only keeping yourself stuck on the gerbil wheel of suffering.

      Accepting a painful reality does not mean that you’ve given up your right to work in quiet, not be shouted at, or act on your political beliefs. It means that you’re ready to say, “okay, given that these circumstances exist, how can I respond without getting ulcers?” With radical acceptance you can focus on ways to achieve a better outcome (e.g., seek a new job; be late only in an ice storm). You don’t have to LIKE the fact that you never hear back from XYZ company after the second interview, but if you accept that no, they are NEVER going to get back to you, you can move on to your next job application or networking appointment.

      1. Jean*

        Oops! Proofreading fails:
        paragraph 2, top line should be “pain” not “pain by”
        pargraph 3, 2nd line: delete “act on your political beliefs” (This was left in by mistake after I deleted an example in paragraph 2 about people who deride your political opinions. I realized I was starting to mix up examples of workplace and family aggravations!)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Wow — I’ve never thought of it as Zen for the workplace, but what you describe is exactly what I’m going for. Accept the reality you live in and figure out how to respond for maximum calm and happiness.

        1. Ruffingit*

          That is one of the things I very much appreciate about this blog. It’s the live in reality, hope for something better, here are some practical solutions to get something better blog. But that is too long a description to put in the header. :)

        2. Woodward*

          Maybe that could go on our list of AAM taglines? “Zen for the workplace.”

          Or just t-shirts. “Zen for the workplace” on the front, “AAM – Ask A Manager.org” on the back. :)

    17. KrisL*

      When I read a blog and every entry in it irritates me, I stop reading it. But to each their own.

      I’ve noticed a number of answers that are more pro-employee. Maybe that’s just my interpretation.

      Maybe you could tell us how you would answer a particular question.

    18. Anonymous*

      Talk about rose-colored glasses!

      This blog is supposed to be about advice. As in, concrete, actionable items for the person who wrote in to ask a question. It isn’t a political blog.

      When an individual worker is wronged by a boss in a way that is not illegal, there isn’t a lot of recourse aside from sucking it up or moving elsewhere. That is the reality of a weak job market, coupled with existing labor law and the inherent power imbalance of worker vs. manager. The only thing the worker can do is change jobs or decide to stay and put up with more of the same, if there is no legal recourse.

      You seem to be looking for more grand, political action. You’re going to have to go to other blogs to find it. Or start your own. There are plenty of places that advocate legal changes to labor laws, or unionization movements, or whatnot. None of that is immediately helpful to the people on the ground who are writing to Alison, though. Even if a larger movement was an appropriate remedy for the problem at hand, Alison is never going to see that from a single letter written by a single worker.

      You also seem confused about the target of advice. One should always write advice for the person who receives it. There is no point at all to scolding the bad managers when they aren’t the letter-writers. It just wastes paragraph space, talking to someone who isn’t there.

    19. Matt*

      It isn’t Alison’s fault that especially the US legal system is extremely employer-friendly (when compared to most European states) and employers have basically every right to demand from employees whatever they feel like and fire them at will.

      When it’s not about “it it legal” but about Alison’s personal opinion, she’s more often than not in support of the employee, more than I would expect from any manager.

    20. Anonymous*

      Hang on – Alison focuses on ethical behavior on a regular basis. She’ll often point out that something is legal but that it’s bad practice and shouldn’t be done, even though legally it *can* be done. I feel like you and I aren’t reading the same column.

      Why do a drive-by, if you don’t like the blog? If I encounter something on the internet that routinely annoys and frustrates me, I just… don’t go back.

  6. Mike C.*

    For the question regarding the person fired for no working off the click on the weekend, please make sure your friend applies for unemployment, as WA is fairly employee friendly in that regard.

    Also, if your friend was truly working a significant or consistent amount of time off the clock, make sure that’s noted in both the unemployment application and in your anonymous report to the state labor board. Your friend might not recover much in the way of funds, but your friend might but be the only one, and getting fried for being asked to do something illegal is pretty much an invitation to he turned into the authorities.

    Remember, it’s professional to follow the law and to expect others to do the same.

    1. Legal jobs*

      Actually I would suggest getting an employment attorney to look at suing the employer bc thus seems like a retaliation case to me

      One thing u would say about American workers us that they are too docile

      There aren’t a lot of rights but whee there are I amazed at what employees or even fired workers will just accept without question

      1. Ruffingit*

        It’s usually because they can’t afford a lawyer. That’s a lot of it right there and I say this as a former lawyer myself. I used to say all the time that I couldn’t afford to hire myself if I needed to. Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s easier to get another job and move on than to fight the fight that will take time and money most people don’t have, plus may blackball them in their chosen field. There’s a lot of factors one must weigh when deciding on seeking a legal remedy.

        1. Legaljobs*

          Generally, I agree, but I think employment cases are of the type that one can get a lawyer based on contingency. The problem with that is there really has to be some chance of winning as the lawyer sees it rather than as the fact may suggest. That winning has to be big enough for them to want to take the case. I don’t know enough about WA law to know the answer to that here.

        2. Elysian*

          Ack, too late for anyone to really read this, but a lot of the employment-related law we talk about on this blog provide for attorney’s fees, so if you win your employer pays your lawyer (under the supervision of the court). You still may need to pay your lawyer a little, but its a lot less than one would expect since the employer would essentially ‘subsidize’ it if you win.

          That said I’m not sure there’s a true retaliation case here based on what’s been described, but yeah, always check with a lawyer licensed to practice in your state if its something you’re interested in pursuing.

          1. Ruffingit*

            True, the defendant may end up paying, but the operative word there is IF the plaintiff wins. And, as we all know, these lawsuits can drag on for years. There’s also the costs that come with having to take time off from your current job to go to depositions/court appearances and so on. That’s not to even mention the emotional costs of battling it out for what could be years. That’s incredibly stressful. There are many costs involved in the situation that have nothing to do with money and for a lot of people those things just aren’t worth it. It’s more advantageous to them to just move on. And I get that.

  7. JLo*

    This is like going to somebody’s house and tell them that they are doing things wrong and the house is dirty.
    I think that was out of line, and rude, don’t read the blog!!!

    1. the gold digger*

      My husband once changed the toilet paper at someone else’s house so the roll discharged from the top instead of at the bottom.

      I told him that was very rude. He said they weren’t doing it right. I said it didn’t matter – you don’t go to someone else’s house and change how they have their toilet paper!

      1. KrisL*

        They probably just changed it back. Toddlers are also good at messing up the TP if it’s dispensing from the top.

    2. Legal jobs*

      This isn’t a house

      Its a blog (a media site ) where she’s arguing a public view

      I don’t even agree with the criticism of her as I’ve seen her not like employers

      But your argument is like saying someone disagreeing with the POV at US News is being rude

      They wrote simply that they disagreed with pro employer writers

      Alison should expect in a public forum she will be criticized

  8. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    I am showing my naivete here, but can somebody explain to me how this works. My mouth just drops open when the questions about employees being badgered on the weekends come up. My disadvantage in understanding is rooted in having worked at (and helped build) the same company for 25+ years.

    Okay, IT. Our IT people are expected to respond … 15/7. I don’t know if anyone ever told them they have to but, it’s the nature of the business. If something crashes, I get a fast response and solution in waking hours, no matter the day.

    And…that’s it. Higher level exempt folks usually check their email and respond at some point during the weekend, but the culture doesn’t say that they have to, and if they don’t, I’ll get a response first thing Monday morning.

    About the only thing I expect is that I get fast answers Monday AM, as early as possible.

    What are all of these questions that managers must have an answer to on a weekend? Is it a retail thing where the manager texts “OMG, out of ketchup! Where are the ketchup barrels????”

    Please enlighten me.

    1. FiveNine*

      I’ve worked in the service and retail industries as well as in a profession, and it is always and only in the professional setting where I’ve had this happen. Someone higher up the chain has a presentation to make and has waited until the 11th hour to do any work and freaks out and is now yelling (in virtual form) at everyone below him. Or, a client or someone in a company important to someone high up on the chain has a request or made a comment or what have you and return to the flow of the reaction above. Or if you’re in the news business, news happens 24/7. Or if you’re in a law firm, a client can need you any time, etc. At a call center the questions came relentlessly but the job ended when I put down the phone for the day; at restaurants, they can try to call you in to work on your day off but if you don’t answer they move on to try to reach someone else.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


        Somebody who is directly client facing, I can follow that, questions coming directly from clients. We route our availability differently and I actually staff off hours myself personally, but I can imagine another scenario where somebody was complaining that their manager expected them to answer client questions whenever and wherever. If you’re exempt, that might be “suck it up buttercup”.

        For the legal and presentation scenarios, isn’t that more of a “my boss made me work a Saturday helping her get ready for XYZ presentation/legal case due Monday morning”?

        These letter writers about manager’s questions make me imagine texters gone wild, having a question that popped into their head, text it out, tap foot and wait for response, become irritated that the other person hasn’t responded within 10 minutes. The writers imply that it is a frequent habit of the boss and I am trying to imagine the nature of the business and the questions.

        I can’t recall if in any of the letters written to Alison anybody has told us wth the terribly important questions were.

        1. doreen*

          It depends and every field is going to be different. I get lots of after-hour emails simply because people work different hours. Typically, they don’t need a response until the next business day. Phone calls are another story. They are more likely to come from my subordinates who are working at that time than from those above me. They’re not usually about “where’s the ketchup” but about car accidents ,arrests gone bad, prisoner escapes etc.

          1. fposte*

            Right, and I’m in academics, so there’s not really an “after hours” concept for most of us anyway.

            1. Artemesia*

              You’ve never had a student email at 3 am and be shocked not to get an immediate response?

              1. Laura*

                Once I had a professor who would email the class at 3 AM regularly, related to our 9 am class that day, and then was surprised when half the class didn’t do what was in the email (we sleep! most of us commuted from far too) . But that was just really weird.

                1. The Clerk*

                  Oh, I’ve had bosses do this. Honestly, I’m attached to my email, but I don’t check it before I leave in the morning. All my morning energy goes into making sure I leave on time and don’t forget to wear a bra or socks that match.

              2. fposte*

                Actually, I haven’t, but that’s exactly what I mean–emails to and from students, to and from colleagues, happen pretty much 24/7.

                With my junior staff, while I do email them off their clock, I generally don’t expect a response unless it’s something that schedule-wise needs to be sorted before their return. It seems to work out okay.

              3. Tina*

                Thankfully, none of my students have expected me to respond at 3 am (at least, not that they’ve said directly). I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that I was ever up at 3 in the morning, and that includes college. I’m not planning to start now!

                1. Anonymous*

                  Ironically, I remember that one of the best times to email one of my profs was at around 1 in the morning. Catch him online and we could have an email dialogue in nearly real time.

                2. Anonymous*

                  One of my last professors said “I check my email twice each day – at X and Y times. Don’t expect an immediate response to last-minute questions.”

        2. Cat*

          Not always in the legal field. Deadlines can be very tight. It’s not at all uncommon in some areas of the legal world to learn about something on Friday and have to file a substantial, well-research pleading on it the next week. Of course, it is usually made clear to people in those fields that that sometimes means working on weekends and that they should be checking and replying to email if it’s an emergency. I sometimes do email other attorneys in my office expecting a response on something urgent over the weekend; I never do that to an administrative assistant or paralegal unless we’ve prearranged that they’d work the weekend (which sometimes happens when it’s a tight deadline–of course they get overtime).

    2. Yup*

      I work in a field that’s global and requires a lot of travel. Emails at all hours are normal, because that’s when the sender is working. I’m not expected to respond instantly to everything, but I do respond to emails at night & on weekends so that I’m not the bottleneck for colleagues and clients elsewhere. Getting a text on the weekend is usually an alert about something time-sensitive, like the conference call needs to be rescheduled for 8 am to 7 am, or someone’s about to get on an 18 hour flight and can’t access the server so can I please put the Pinsky file in dropbox asap.

      (My situation sounds very different from what OP#4 described. I’m just responding to your question about why off-hours communication might be happening in other companies.)

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        This makes perfect sense to me.

        We do a lot of off-hours communication in my company, hell I generate most of it. :) There’s also a lot of off-hours communication in our industry, and I can tell you pretty much who gets up when and starts responding. (I have my 5am buddies who “meet me” in email and we have stuff hammered out before the rest of ya’ll have even cracked an eye ;) )

        I think that’s different from a manager sitting around pissed off that somebody who is lower level (especially non-exempt) isn’t answering questions 24/7? Is it self importance, bad planning or the immediacy of technology creating irrational expectations?

        1. Yup*

          “Is it self importance, bad planning or the immediacy of technology creating irrational expectations?”

          I don’t think technology is a cause, I think it just provides an avenue for the intrusiveness. (Although maybe the constant connectedness slash instant gratification mentality does reinforce the problem.) But in my experience, the underlying things that generate the 24/7 expectations? Attachment to drama/chaos/adrenaline, and lack of problem solving skills.

        1. Judy*

          They’re usually pretty good about not bothering me on the weekends… but…

          Yep, I’ve certainly noted a missed call and voice mail on my personal cell phone on Saturday morning while leaving the Y. Usually on weekends that there’s a release in the next week, and the team in Asia decided to work on Saturday, and ran into something they thought I needed to be part of the decision about.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      In my experience, the after hours stuff is either the result of a boss who is either crazy or drunk with power, or is part of the natural ebb and flow of things depending on your line of work.

      I’m in IT, and after-hours stuff is just part of the deal. In my group, it’s a bit more planned as we have an on-call calendar, and each of us takes a week. So I’m on call about once every 8 weeks. If the crap really hits the fan, I might get a call if it’s not my on-call week.

      I started my career on the finance side, and after I worked my way up from the entry level, the after-hours stuff, if it came, would be tied to month-end, quarter-end, or year-end. And if you didn’t answer, and it potentially held up an audit, or publishing financial statements, then yeah — your job could be in jeopardy. But in that line of work, you know it’s just the nature of the beast — your life is tied to month-ends, quarter-ends, and year-ends. And if that’s not OK with you, then you need to re-evaluate your career choices.

      On the other hand, I worked at a dot-com years ago, and reported to the Controller, who was hands-down the craziest boss I’ve ever had. Technically, the smartest person I’ve ever worked with — the woman could recite GAAP and FASB in her sleep. But nuts. She had no life outside work, and spent almost every waking hour at the office. It was not unusual to get emails from her with time stamps in the middle of the night. One day, my co-worker had a voice mail rant from her about how he had incorrectly booked the revenue for the month, that went on so long that it cut her off and she called back to finish yelling at him. Then 2 minutes after that was a message saying, “Oh, never mind. I figured it out.”

      It took me awhile to catch onto what she was doing, but I finally realized that she would come into the office by about 9 each morning, spend the day socializing, and then go into her office at about 4 and then work for 9-10 hours. That caused all the middle of the night emails, but of course it got her the reaction she wanted, which was for people to fawn all over her about how awful it was that she was so overworked that she had to work around the clock. Like I said, nuts.

      She was one who would expect us to work those hours with her. On Friday afternoons, when she heard you packing up for the day, she’d pop her head out of her office and ask, “What time will you be in tomorrow?” For awhile, that worked, but after I figured out what she was doing, I stopped. Most of the time, I’d skulk out of there like it was a prison break, but if I happened to see her, I’d screw up my nerve and say, “Sorry, I can’t work this weekend. I’ve already got plans.” Even if my plans were to sit on my butt watching TV, it didn’t matter — they were plans.

      1. Mints*

        For me, it’s my manager too, and it’s not really necessary. Since he gets to work more flexible hours, he could take off early then work a couple hours at night, but lots of times he’ll ask questions and sometimes get annoyed if someone doesn’t respond. But, if we’re not allowed to work from home during normal 9-5, I don’t think it’s fair to expect working from home during weekends either. Again, these are not urgent questions. It’s stuff that normally takes weeks or months, and a day to respond is completely fine.
        I basically never respond to after hours email, but I’m also not in an important position (and trying to get out of here!)

      2. Jean*

        “One day, my co-worker had a voice mail rant from her about how he had incorrectly booked the revenue for the month, that went on so long that it cut her off and she called back to finish yelling at him. Then 2 minutes after that was a message saying, ‘Oh, never mind. I figured it out.’ ”

        Hilarious! But on the whole, it’s sad that this woman a) couldn’t figure out how to better balance her own life (socialize at work from 9-4, then work until 1 or 2 am?!) b) had to share her misery with everyone else in the office. Maybe she was lonely away from work or running from the reasons behind her loneliness. I hope for everybody’s sake she figures this out and changes. Life’s too short to spend it being miserable.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I have no idea if she ever got a grip on things — that was many years ago. The company had started up in San Diego, where she was hired, and then she relocated when the company moved to our area.

          Maybe she had a hard time meeting people and making friends, so she got her social interaction at the office. I don’t know. She was nuts, though. I posted a story here once about how she told us one morning about arguing with some poor unfortunate soul at the Taco Bell drive through about how their system had calculated the sales tax on her order incorrectly and overcharged her by 2 cents. Like he had anything to do with how the system calculated sales tax.

          The day she left the rant on my co-workers email, he came in, checked his messages, and started sputtering, “What the…?!” and “Are you kidding me?!” and “OMG you are wacko!” It went on and on and on…complete with comments about how they were going to have a serious talk about his future with the company. And after all that, it turned out that she had just looked up something incorrectly and run the wrong report.

          I was always willing to put in the long hours when it was necessary though. The company went through an IPO, which required insanely long hours to get the financial statements in shape and prepare all the SEC filings. I have a very clear memory of sitting at my desk at 3AM, calculating a bond amortization schedule, and “In Da Gadda Da Vidda” started playing on the radio. It was definitely a huge WTF moment, and I just had to laugh because it was so absurd.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            “And after all that, it turned out that she had just looked up something incorrectly and run the wrong report.”

            That’s why when I find an issue, I troubleshoot it six ways from Sunday before filing a ticket. That also means that my tickets are very long and detailed, and often state or suggest what the issue and solution are. (And THAT also means that my tickets usually get really fast turnaround…my friends in IT have told me that they practically fight over them, since I give them so much to work with!)

            But this approach also keeps me from reporting my own stupid oversights, which I usually catch.

            1. Woodward*

              I work in Customer Service and my coworker and I both have issues come up that IT needs to respond to about the website.
              I send emails with subject lines like “XYZ Issue with Person Name Account – Not Urgent” and details of I spoke to Person Name, tried this exact thing, didn’t work, tried this other thing, didn’t work, please let me know what else I should try. The other day my coworker commented that IT wasn’t very helpful and I saw one of the emails she sent. Subject line: “Help”, content: “I have a question about Person Name account. It’s not working.”

              I realized why I get a better response.

    4. totochi*

      There is a board meeting Monday morning. In review slides Sunday, the CEO/President has some questions and email my boss (CFO). Boss needs to clarify some stuff with me Sunday evening.

      Yeah, ignoring emails until Monday morning will probably shorten my tenure at the company.

    5. Decimus*

      I’ve seen situations where, say, Bob will be told “Have the Smith project done by the end of April” and then mid-month one weekend gets an urgent email/text “Mr Smith will be visiting the office on Monday and we’ll need to show him our progress; have X material ready to go” or “I need you to finish the Y report so we can show it to Mr Smith” or, on rare occasions, you get “We need your draft of the Smith report so we can use it as a model for the Jones project when Mr Jones arrives on Monday, please send it ASAP!”

    6. Laura*

      I have nothing to enlighten you with. Yes, I get calls on weekends, at 3 am, on rare occasion even when I’m not on call…but I’m in an industry that calls for it, and I really can’t think the various past LWs are, based on what they’ve said.

      (We provide software to 911 centers. So yes, as one of the senior-most programmers on the product, I sometimes get middle-of-the-night calls even when I’m not on call. Not unreasonably. But it’s also a very clear expectation of the job. IT for things that have to be up 24/7 is another exception. But I’m kind of surprised if that’s what the LWs are doing, because in that case, they hopefully shouldn’t be surprised.)

  9. Sara*

    For the person fired for not working on the weekend-

    Are the hours of the job stated in your contract? My contract (I’m a FTE at a non profit, exempt) says 9-5, Monday through Friday. While some of my coworkers do work on weekends, I don’t, and if that were ever to become an issue, I would point to my contract. With such a contract, I think that would be your protection? (Curious if AAM would agree with this?)

    1. CAA*

      The employee in the question doesn’t have a contract. The letter says he’s an at-will employee in Washington state in the U.S.

      If you do have an employment or union contract in the U.S. and it does specify your working hours, then your employer could be in breach of contract if he expected you to work outside those hours.

    2. tcookson*

      For the person fired for not working on the weekend —

      If you’re going to not respond to your boss’s text on the weekend, don’t send him a text stating that you’re purposely not answering him. Leave yourself some plausible deniability. If you answer the text, answer his question. If you’re not going to answer the question, you have to ignore the text and pretend you didn’t see it. You can’t say, “Yo, boss. I’m purposely ignoring you.” and expect that to go over very well.

    3. Mike C.*

      Do you think there’s a contract that cannot be unilaterally changed at the whim of the employer?

  10. Rebecca*

    #4 – For me, this is the crux of the matter: “and the company has no policy or way to track this and pay employees for work they are expected to do off the clock.”

    I see it this way: his employer wants hourly employees, who are paid 40 hours a week, and can be paid less if they work less hours, but not more if they work more hours.

    I suspect his employees would be a lot happier if he offered to pay them for 1/4 hour every time he bothered them on the weekend, and I also suspect if this were the case, the number of “emergencies” would greatly decline.

  11. Brett*

    #3 One thing not brought up here is that the boss’ actions here are likely a professional ethics violation. In particular, the OP would have an ethical obligation to the profession to serve on such a commission if possible, and the boss would be committing an ethical obligation by preventing the OP from fulfilling their obligations to the profession. I checked my profession’s formal Rule of Conduct and Code of Ethics, and it would be a reportable violation for my field.

    Of course, it is not that simple. My boss is not in the same profession as me and would not be bound by the same rules of conduct as me. I am not formally certified, so if I were in the boss’ position and did the same actions, there would be no way to sanction me. And my profession is not state licensed, so I am breaking no laws by breaking the rules of conduct.

    But… if the profession is licensed and the boss holds license or certification, then what the boss is doing my actually be illegal and jeopardizing their ability to practice their profession in their state. It may also violate the ethics of the boss’ professional association, possibly leading to professional censure outside of state law.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Definitely depends on the field. In many, it wouldn’t be an issue (although it’s interesting to point out that it could be in some!).

    2. Anonymous*

      My profession isn’t certified, so I have no nationally recognized Code of Ethics to stand behind. We have some industry standards, but they are often talked about, not fully understood by my boss (they lack certain kinds of experience and education, that until I took this job even I saw is unnecessary – not anymore!), and not infrequently adhered to in my office. There is little precedent to fall back on here and it’s very frustrating. I have lots of personal and legal incentive to distance myself from this place.

      1. A Cita*

        Are you the OP? I just think in not doing these activities, you could be really crippling your professional growth and networking. If the relationship with the boss is already bad, and you’re already hoping to move on (which you should), then you can’t afford to not serve in these capacities (more incentive to find another job).

  12. BB*


    Hi, I posted question 5. Thank you so much for posting it. I have had a hard time job hunting and worrying how much to disclose and when has been a real point of anxiety for me in an already stressful process. I appreciate your answer. It may seem like a no brainer, but not having been in the workforce for very long, I was unsure of what the norm was. Thank you, and please, I appreciate any further feedback from readers who have experience (on any side) of the issue!

  13. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: This sounds awful, and like some sort of stupid power play where people are being made to audition to be able to keep their jobs.

    When I started at my company almost 10 years ago, I was working in the Finance group. The IT group was in the midst of a big shake-up, and did something similar. Some positions were eliminated, and everyone had to re-apply for their jobs. Talk about stressful!

    It turned out that there was a huge power struggle going on at the executive level, with 2 people vying for a VP job. The person who came out on top came up with the whole reapply-for-your-job idea. When it was all said and done, the people who supported the new VP got to keep their jobs, and those who supported the other person were bounced out on their ears. So the whole exercise was just a way to cover up that the new VP wanted to oust everyone who supported the guy she had bested in the power struggle. Ugh.

    1. KrisL*

      It sounds awful to me, too.

      It seems like it would be better to keep everyone on for a while and see how they do. You don’t want to get rid of a lazy worker who “supports” you. You might want to keep the hard worker who wasn’t wild about you but is polite and does a good job.

    2. Judy*

      We had a situation in our engineering support group similar to that the other year. They’re the ones that support the engineering tools, CAD, BOM sw, etc.

      They had 2 weeks to sign a paper “I’m leaving” or “I’ll try to stay”. If they said they would leave, they got severance, 2 weeks for every year of service. They were not given the list of possible jobs to interview for until after they had to make that decision. If they interviewed for jobs including their own job, and didn’t get an offer, they got severance. But if they interviewed for their own job or another and were offered it , and didn’t accept, they were considered a “quit”. They could only get severance if they turned down an offered job if it were more than a 2 level demotion or if it were more than a 30% salary reduction. They couldn’t get severance if they turned down a relocation.

      Obviously they wanted that entire department gone. Only the folks within a few years of retirement eligibility tried to stick around. Quite a few of them are now back on contract.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Ugh, how awful! I just have to wonder how people come up with these draconian schemes.

        That scenario reminds me of the series of Career Builder commercials that ran in the Super Bowl a few years ago that all had the them of “The Corporate Jungle.” One ad featured people having to fight it out for advancement in The Promotion Pit. That doesn’t sound much different than what you described.

  14. Anon30*

    #4 – More information is needed here. Is this a repeat offense? Was he warned before? It’s not uncommon for companies to have extra work on a weekend. If he outright refused that way, I can see why he was fired (many bosses would fire someone for an offense like that, especially if it had happened before). If he would have asked if it could wait until Monday, there may have been a different result.

    I certainly understand the value of spending time with family, but I feel like his response had a feel of entitlement – Obviously, his boss and maybe others were working on the weekend and ended up with extra work because this person wasn’t willing to come in. I’m sure they would have loved to be spending time with their families too!

    1. Anon30*

      Also, was the manager asking questions because maybe he hadn’t finished a project (or similar), and the manager had questions that weren’t answered the perhaps should have been? Just a thought – playing devil’s advocate here.

    2. Jennifer*

      The first thing that came to my mind here was, “I would not have said that I wanted to spend time with my family as a way of blowing off the boss.” Very bad move. Which is to say, if you’re gonna refuse to deal with it on the weekend, come up with a better excuse/lie that doesn’t boil down to “I just don’t wanna right this second.” It probably felt like a slap to the boss’s face and then here comes a firing.

      I’m not saying that’s right behavior on either side, though. Ugh. I am glad I am in an industry where due to security stuff, I cannot work from home or do overtime and nobody is likely to call me freaking out during a weekend.

    3. Mike C.*

      I don’t think wanting your scheduled time off to be actual time off is being “entitled”, nor is a desire to spend this off time with one’s family.

      1. Anon30*

        Mike C – For some professions, it is expected you be on-call and on occasion, you may have to work weekends. Those expectations are likely laid out when you start the job. If someone doesn’t like it, they can move on and find other work.

        I’m not saying that someone shouldn’t be paid overtime (they should). I’m saying we need more information for this particular case. If it IS one of those professions, then I would say it is absolutely entitled to blow off work while your manager and co-workers are working – It’s saying that your personal time is more important than their personal time – That is the DEFINITION of entitlement. Wanting it isn’t entitlement. BUT Acting on that desire when you are being called in (in a profession where it’s required on occasion or regularly) is entitlement. That’s all I meant.

  15. Ruffingit*

    #3 – Yes, you should change jobs. You made the case for that with your first sentence “I have a poor relationship with my boss.” If the relationship can’t be fixed (and it sounds like it can’t), then move on.

  16. Workingfortheman*

    Not exactly the same, but #4 reminded me of a question that came up recently among my group of friends. Is it legal for an employer to have you work as many hours as they want you to in a row (let’s assume you are being paid for those hours appropriately – overtime, etc.). For example, can they make you work 20, 30, or 40 hours in a row? I know there are some professions where the answer is no such as truck driving, but let’s say you’re a clerk at a store. I believe they can do this as I know no law against that, but maybe there is one.

    1. Anonymous*

      The laws are different in different places. I’m in Canada and I think its 13 hours in a row, max here?

      1. Laura*

        It is 13 hours ! – At least in Ontario, some labour laws vary by province. You are also required to be given either 24 straight hours off every week, or 48 hours off every 2 weeks (i think..something like that!)

        1. Anonymous*

          I thought so! I’ve never worked more than ten, and even that is too long to be productive.

    2. VintageLydia USA*

      In some states yes, in other states no. You really have to look at the labor laws of your state (either way it’s stupid and you’re asking for mistakes to be made because people get sleep deprived.)

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      In Europe there is so e legislation called the working time directive that states the maximum number of hours that can be worked and the minimum time between shifts, then there are tighter rules for some jobs like truck driving.

    4. fposte*

      There’s no federal law prohibiting it–all the Feds care about is whether you get overtime if you’re eligible. A few states have limitations, I think, but often people believe there’s a state law where there isn’t, so I wouldn’t believe word of mouth on that one.

  17. Brandy*

    Assuming the employee in #4 is salaried, it might be that a/he got fired because of the attitude, not the lack of response.

    I email my team all the time on weekends, because I’m working. I get responses between weekend and mid morning Monday, which is fine. If something is truely urgent- and I don’t know what would fall here- I’d call the employee, apologize for bothering him/her and ask my question.

    All that said, if I were to go to someone on Monday and say, “did you see my email about thing)? Never got a response from you…” And rather than hearing ” just digging out of everything that came in over the weekend, I’ll take a look right now!” I got “I was off the clock”, I’d be really annoyed. That, to me, signals “I saw what you wanted and chose to ignore it until now because I have better things to do.” Which is fine, just don’t be snarky about it.

  18. JustMe*

    #2– I just wanted to reiterate what Alison said, because I was dealing with a similar situation not long ago (although I would’ve been a junior employee). I was in talks with a firm and they said they were very interested, but I would have to be contracted first. From there, everything was all over the place–how long I’d be contracted, how many companies I’d be contracted to, etc. Plus, despite claiming to be “really interested,” I was usually the one checking in with the firm–not the other way around. (And of course nothing was ever put on paper.) After about 3 months of this back and forth, they finally admitted that they didn’t have enough work to bring me on full time, so the talks were over. I was very frustrated with myself because I had stopped my job search during those months; I was convinced that they would eventually come around.

    Don’t make the mistake I made. Until there is a real offer on paper, there’s no need to put other possibilities on hold. If they aren’t committed to you, don’t obligate yourself to go to any great lengths for them, either.

  19. Legal jobs*

    Your advice about the firing is incorrect. You cannot fire someine as retaliation for requiring that an employee violate employment law when the employees refuse to do so. Not in most states. That’s the basis of the former employee bringing an employment action against the employer.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      He didn’t get fired for saying that he needed to be paid for the time. That would indeed be illegal retaliation. But it doesn’t sound like what happened here.

      1. Legal jobs*

        If hourly, the employer would have needed to make that clear before firing

        Not sure that happened here but off the clock smells like a no wage case to me

        There’s no inducation from facts that employer would pay for off the clock time

        From a wanting to keep the job perspective the employee should have asked, but from a legal one the employer should make the wage issue clear

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I agree the person probably has a wage case, but not a retaliation case (unless there’s more to it that we don’t know, like that he spoke up about being asked to work off the clock).

          1. Legal jobs*

            Your view is possible.

            Ultimately I think it is something they should explore with a qualified employment lawyer b/c at the end of day employers like this will not change as long as they think they can get away with it.

            For anyone who is curious – management takes into consuderation the probability of avoiding suits b/c they believe you won’t sue or are not smart enough to know you can.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Out of curiosity, what would you recommend an employee say in a situation like this? Since it doesn’t sound like he was explicitly asked to work off the clock, which I think would be easier to respond to — he just knew from past experience that, if he did put in the time over the weekend, the company didn’t have any system in place to pay him for it. Would you just say something like, “Sure, I can take care of that. How should I record the time I spend working on it, so it can be added to my timesheet?”

        1. Legaljobs*

          This is not legal advice. For legal advice, you should seek WA counsel.

          For information only, here’s how these types of cases are normally addressed:

          Alison is right, but I would add more. Documenting is key.

          1. If the boss calls, let it go into voice mail and save the voice mail.

          2. Definitely ask about the time sheet issue as Alison suggested.

          3. Repeat the request each time they call.

          4. Many states do not allow you to record a live conversation without permission, but you can write down your recollections, including date and time of call to match the voice mail.

          5. Save the time sheets. Keep a copy of company policies, if any.

          6. At some point state that you must be paid for off the clock work, and, if they fire you, talk to an employment lawyer.

          If the WA employment lawyer will provide you a free consult (Some lawyers in all states will do this. Ask your local bar, which may intake as a pro bono service), ask the employment expert how to properly set up a case before being fired in WA.

  20. Brett*

    #3 Since the OP is reading these, I have a question to consider.

    What can the boss do to enforce their decision?

    If they fire you, will they have any reason to fire you other than you volunteering to serve on a statewide board related to your profession on your own time? Actions like that do not go unnoticed by the rest of the profession. If they do that, they are going to have a hard time replacing you with a quality hire.

    Do they even have the power to fire you? They may technically have that power, but how is firing you under those circumstances going to affect their standing in the rest of the company?

    If they don’t fire you, what else can they feasible do to you? Cut pay? Eliminate training?

    Would you collect unemployment? You really need an expert on your own state’s unemployment processes, but if this would be a foundation for a successful insubordination case, then you have a lot more at risk.

    What I am saying is… even though the boss can legally tell you what to do in your spare time, you can also choose to ignore this but only after you consider what is really at risk for both you and the boss.

  21. anon-2*

    #2 – As AAM said – if they don’t commit to you – you cannot commit to them, and you should keep looking. And you may be in a position to play off situation B against your current one. You can’t lose by doing that.

    #3 – Depends WHY they aren’t letting you do that. Generally, a boss looks great if one of his subordinates is involved with a professional group. But if

    a – your boss doesn’t like you or
    b – your company has a policy of not allowing it — you have to decide.

    At two different companies, I was discouraged at one from doing this, and outright barred at another. The real reasons — I might develop more of a subject knowledge than my boss (one of them), the other, they were petrified that we might be recruited – y’see they paid us so badly, they didn’t want us knowing “how the other half lived.”

  22. Biff*

    Uhm, used to live in WA, and I actually think that there is a good probability that the guy that got fired on Monday was:

    1. Fired legally. They can fire you for anything in WA.
    2. However….. depending on the company he worked for, he may have been fired outside of company policy. He should contact his manager’s manager to verify that what happened to him wasn’t outside company policy. Because, here’s the deal — if you have a day off and they call you, if you are NOT an on-call employee most larger companies have a ‘sucks to be the manager’ policy in place. It sounds like this guy is:

    a. Hourly
    b. No on-call
    c. Not a manger.

    If you were fired outside company policy you have an extremely powerful case with unemployment, which as onther poster has noted, it fairly employee friendly there. And honestly, they have to be — in Spokane/Tri-cities area people get fired constantly for impossibly lame reasons.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This reads as correct to me. Biff is saying that if the company violated their own policy in firing the OP, the OP is more likely to be deemed eligible for unemployment benefits. That’s not about the law; it’s about how unemployment works. (And in my experience, is correct.)

  23. Legaljobs*

    I misunderstood. I read Biff’s comment as limiting the former employee to fearing for their unemployment benefits.

    From a practical POV, any manager challenging a claim, given the off the clock issue, would be incredibly stupid. I doubt this is the first employee, and I doubt they want to shine a light on it.

    While I don’t know Washington law, I have had this experience with management. They disputed a claim, in this case, claiming an employee wasn’t an employee against my advice to just accept the claim to avoid the greater risk. They lost. Not just that case, but the entire class.

  24. Anonymous*

    I think it’s really disheartening to see how many commenters think it’s unreasonable or entitled for an employee to want their time off the clock to be *their* time.

    1. Biff*

      I don’t think people are saying he’s entitled in the thread. That’s not the vibe I get. More like there was a better way to handle the situation, so that he didn’t get fired for it.

      But if what you mean is that it seems like you should be able to say ‘no’ and go back to your pre-planned event, on a day that belonged to you in the first place….. I agree with you.

  25. LIT*

    I was the one with the temporary offer of employment. Thanks so much for the response. It is indeed a temporary role, not probationary. I am continuing to interview. I’ll certainly update here later to tell you how it pans out.

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