my coworker hogs the coffee supplies, suspicious sick days, and more

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

1. Coworker hogs the coffee supplies that we all bring in

We have a small laboratory that runs 24/7. We are all pretty close and have set up our break room with a nice coffee maker, but we rely on all staff to supply the coffee and creamer to keep things going. Some bring the coffee grounds and others the cream.

The problem we are having is that one coworker comes in and uses about 3 ounces of cream in her 6-ounce cup of coffee and then drinks many cups throughout her 8-hour shift. I thought about putting up a clever reminder that those who drink coffee should also supply something to keep our happy lab happy. She knows that it’s all by employee contribution. I don’t want to single her out, but some are talking about hiding their supplies away so she can’t use them. If that’s the next step, we won’t have our cute, homey ambiance that we love about our break room. She’s not exactly the friendliest person to approach. I hope you can help us come up with a way to sort of lay down the law without making her feel singled out or leave her defensive.

I think you’re better off just being straightforward with her, rather than trying to come up with clever wording or dancing around it. I’d say something like this: “Hey Jane, can we get you into our rotation for replenishing the cream? We’ve been taking turns stocking everything. Could you take Mondays?” Or if the issue is that she’s already part of the rotation but just bringing in far less than she’s using up, then say this: “Hey Jane, it looks like you’re going through the cream really quickly. Can you grab some extras to bring in?”

If she bristles, then you ignore the bristling and just say, “Yeah, we go through a lot and want to make sure it’s evenly distributed among the people using it. Thanks.”

2. Should I approve this sick day?

I’m a new manager (one month in) of a team of 11. One of my employees has just requested a sick day in advance, and she listed a doctor’s appointment as the reason. Should I approve this? It seems obvious to me that she’s not going to spend the whole day at a doctor’s appointment. I believe she is really taking a vacation day but counting it as a sick day. I can’t decide whether to question her about this or let it go and hit approve. Thoughts?

Some medical appointments do take the better part of a day. It’s not really your place to question her about private medical issues, and doing so can cause all sorts of problems (including pissing off good employees who will rightly feel that you’re violating their privacy). If she has the PTO time, you shouldn’t question it.

As a new manager, it can be hard in the beginning to sort out how to handle this stuff; yes, you’re supposed to enforce whatever rules your organization has but don’t lose sight of the fact that a much bigger part of your responsibility is to create a high-performing team and a culture that high performers will want to work in. You want to focus on the big picture: Are people performing at a high level? That’s what matters.

3. People have just learned that I’m dating a coworker

I’m a recent graduate, and I’m one and a half months into a three-month internship at a newspaper that my boyfriend works at. I’d met the intern coordinator once socially prior to all this, so she knew about our relationship. She mentioned it briefly in the interview and clearly didn’t have a problem with it. Our roles never intersect at any point and we’re in completely different departments.

It’s now all over the office that we’re dating. I don’t really have a huge problem with it because I’ve had the chance to establish myself and I’ve been doing a pretty good job. But now I need a good way to handle myself when I go back to the office. It’s small and casual but a lot of the people there are very, very prominent in my industry. I do not need a bad reputation here! I’m hoping for a couple of good phrases to a) acknowledge this whole deal and b) deflect inquiries.

I don’t like talking about my personal life at work at the best of times, let alone with my boyfriend across the room. I don’t think people will actually be mad or vicious or even care a huge amount, but juicy gossip is juicy gossip and there’s a definite chance of light-to-moderate teasing. Am I freaking out over nothing? Did I screw up by putting myself in this position? I work with professional gossips; how do I deal with humour and grace?

Yeah, you’re probably freaking out more than is necessary. You’ll get some questions, you’ll answer them lightly (“yeah, we’ve been dating for a while, but I haven’t wanted to make it A Thing at work”), and people will move on. Truly.

And keep in mind that people will usually take their cues from you on stuff like this. If you signal that it’s no big deal, people are more likely to respond that way.

4. My manager isn’t returning my calls about missing work

I am in a very stressful situation at work, and on Friday it all came to a head. I tried to ring my line manager several times, but got no reply; she did not answer her phone. So I left her a voicemail informing her that I would not be in on Monday as it was too much. She did not ring me back. Even when I tried to ring her again later in the day, still no reply. I am going to ring her again in the morning to tell her again I will not be coming in, and that I am going to the doctor, as the whole work situation has made me feel ill. Surely she should at least respond to the voicemail I left or acknowledge the fact that I rung her at least 10 times?

Sure. But she hasn’t, so you need to make sure that you’re keeping her in the loop about what you’re doing.

For what it’s worth, saying that you’re not coming in because work is too stressful generally isn’t a good idea. It’s possible that she’s not bothering to respond because she’s annoyed that you’re adding to whatever drama is already happening and figures that she’l talk to you whenever you reappear.

5. My boss told me my coworker was getting fired — before my coworker knew

I just received a call from my boss telling me that they were terminating a colleague of mine. I reached out to my colleague to give my condolences, only to find out he had not been notified by my boss or HR yet. Is this even legal from an employee rights perspective?

Your boss made a major error by not letting you know that your colleague didn’t know yet, but there’s nothing illegal about sharing that info with you or other coworkers.

{ 344 comments… read them below }

  1. Livin' in a Box*

    #2 Going to the doctor can be an all day adventure. My doctor is an hour away, and she’s always double (or triple, or quadruple…) booked, so if I have an 11 am appointment, I might be seen by 4 pm, if all goes well. Your employee might be in a similar situation. Sitting in a waiting room all day is not a vacation day.

    1. Simonthegrey*

      Or she may have a specialist visit, or an appointment for something like acupuncture. She may have a couple of visits lined up. Maybe she needs a colonoscopy and doesn’t want to tell you that. I don’t think this is the battle I’d choose to fight.

      1. BOMA*

        I think a lot of people have this idea of sick days specifically being *unplanned* sick days. While you’re technically not sick if you’re planning a day in advance, I’ll be damned if I count getting a colonoscopy as a “vacation”. It’s still a medically-related appointment.

        1. Anna*

          Absolutely. One company I worked for was very clear that we should use sick leave for doctor’s appointments as well as for being sick. On top of that, is the new manager sure that PTO isn’t a general term for “when it doesn’t fit in to another category”? My current company has Personal Time, which is to be used as needed, whether sick time or doctor’s appointments or what have you.

    2. BRR*

      I was going to say the exact same thing (although I hope you’re exaggerating on your wait time). Or as Simonthegrey said, I often take a sick day and schedule multiple appointments. As long as it’s not a pattern such as taking off every friday during summer and performance is good, think of it as rewarding an employee to help morale.

      Also to everyone, please don’t question doctor appointments (except rare exceptions). It’s personal.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        Oy, my old doctor really could take four or more hours to get to you for an appointment. She was amazing and wonderful, which is why I put up with it, but yeah. I’d schedule my appointments for as late in the day as possible and then write off the rest of the day.

        Additionally, at least for me, I have regular shrink appointments. I’ve discovered that about once every five weeks or so, I have an appointment where things are just too rough and I’m in no shape to go back to work afterward. I’ve done what I can to make my appointment as late in the day as possible, but, realistically, after 3pm on Tuesdays, I can’t guarantee my immediate effectiveness as an employee. Those two lost hours on Tuesday are easily made up the rest of the week, and allowing me to take them ensures my long-term effectiveness. My boss initially didn’t question, and now I’ve come clean about it being mental health, but being pushed on the issue would have made things very uncomfortable as we were establishing our boss/employee relationship.

        1. Mabel*

          When I sent my boss a recurring meeting request for two hours out of the office one day a week, I just said, “Nothing serious, but I need to have a regular appointment.” It was for therapy, and even though we had shared personal information (and still do), I just didn’t want to get into the details. She approved it and never questioned it. And when she transferred to another department, she told my new manager that I had this regular appointment and that he should approve any other PTO I requested because I regularly work more than 40 hours (I’m exempt), and I always get my work done on time. I really appreciated her passing along that information to my new manager, and he’s been great, too.

          OP #2: If you are too rigid about this kind of thing, you’ll tend to make your staff angry and feel like they’re not trusted. I understand the impulse though – when I was a new manager, I felt the same way. The previous manager had said “no” to everything, and I assumed there were good reasons. When I became the manager, I discovered there was no reason that requests (that used to get an immediate “no”) couldn’t be considered. It was scary to be more flexible at first because I had to make decisions and be able to back them up if necessary, but it turned out to create a much more collegial environment, and my staff trusted me to listen to them.

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            Mabel, how wonderful that your existing manager passed along info about your reliability and need for time off to your new manager!

            And, “yes, exactly” about how being flexible helps build trust and autonomy.

          2. Hooptie*

            I too, was very hard-nosed when I first became a manager. The intentions were good but the results weren’t, at least not for a while. Thank goodness for my boss, who told me to put myself in the employee’s shoes and think about how I would take the planned response. I started doing this regularly and wow did my relationships ever improve.

          3. AnonyMouse*

            I totally agree with your last paragraph! It can be great for managers to set firm standards for things like productivity, accuracy, etc…but questioning medical appointments and refusing to consider requests for flexibility is a recipe for making your staff stressed and resentful. Not saying that’s what the OP is doing – just a note for all the managers out there!

          1. Ruth*

            No. Like I live in the DC area, at least, and in a lower-income section. The doctors here are overwhelmed and swamped and especially without A+ insurance, I mean it’s a solid B but not great, I can’t find a good underwhelmed doctor. I’ve never had 4 hours but I definitely waited 2+ once.

      2. WorkingMom*

        Yes, not only do some doctors have very long wait times, but it could be more than just a well-visit. I’ve had a doctor’s appt for a simple procedure before, the actual appointment and procedure took maybe 20 minutes, but I was advised of some after effects that could last for several hours, including cramping, etc. So while a person *might* be able to get back into the office right afterwards, there might be a little more to the story. I agree, that as long as this person has PTO to use, to let it go.

        1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          I was thinking just this, and about a very similar sounding procedure. Not every doctors visit is simple and I was grateful not to have to explain why sometimes I needed a whole day.

          Agree with the others – don’t question doctor’s appointments unless absolutely necessary.

        2. Ellen Fremedon*

          And even outpatient procedures that are supposed to be very simple can become all-day things if there are other medical conditions at work. I’m intolerant of NSAID painkillers– I can’t take ibuprofen, aspirin, or any other drugs in that family. I often need to take extra time to recover from, e.g., minor dental procedures, because I’m either over- or under-medicated for the pain.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          That was my first thought – I’ve had a couple of procedures recently that lasted less than an hour, but that knocked me out for a full day due to drug side effects, pain, anxiety etc.

        4. hellcat*

          I just had this procedure (or a very similar one) last week. While the appointment was brief, trust me when I say I didn’t want to be anywhere near the office the rest of the day. Unless “the office” means my bed, with good painkillers and a heating pad.

    3. Nina*

      My thoughts exactly. I once lived over an hour away from my primary doctor, and his previous appointments constantly ran over, or he was running late, etc. I always took a full day because I would never make it back to the office in time.

    4. Ollie*

      Another problem with doctor appointments is sometimes your appointment is scheduled at such a time that if you factor in the traveling to the doctor appointment, the waiting, the actual appointment, waiting to be rescheduled, traveling back home and then traveling to work, it doesn’t leave much time to actually be at work. If I’m only going to be able to come in one or two hours before or after my appointment, then I just don’t go to work at all because it’s not worth it.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        Yeah and sometimes you might need to get bloods done or have and xray or scan, which are not always at the primary doctor’s rooms. Then you have to wait for results to be available, so it can definitely take all day. Not to mention if you are having a day procedure.

    5. Satia*

      Another thing to bear is mind is that your employee may be going to have some tests done. The tests themselves may not take up the better part of the day but may leave your employee feeling unwell. I’ve had tests specifically designed to exacerbate a physical condition so as to see how I am responding to treatment. You cannot imagine how torturous these felt. I would always schedule them as early in the morning as possible because I knew it would be hours before I would be able to do anything. And exacerbating my condition made sleeping through the discomfort an impossibility.

      1. Anonymouss*

        Even something so innocuous as a comprehensive eye exam where you get your eyes dilated can knock you out the rest of the day like that.

        I end up sensitive to light and usually have to lay down and nap or I’ll have a terrible headache after my annual eye exam.

          1. Seal*

            I always schedule my eye doctor appointments for the afternoon with the intent of not going back to work for this very reason.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Ugh, I once got my eyes dilated on a really bright sunny day and forgot to take my sunglasses with me. It took me forever to walk the three blocks back to my office, squinting so hard I was effectively blind, and then I had to listen to approximately 79 jokes about being stoned…

    6. Calla*

      I had a doctor’s appointment last Thursday. I scheduled it for 8am so I wouldn’t be too late for work, but it is an hour away from my house and work via public transportation. I was running late (see: public transportation, even though I allowed buffer time) and called multiple times between 7:45 and when I got there at 8:15, but no one answered. So I check in, and ten minutes later they tell me oh, they already brought the next patient in but I can wait and see if she can squeeze me in! An hour later, I get my 10 minutes with the doctor. Then another hour back to work. So while I planned to be in the office around 9:30, I didn’t actually make it in until close to 11. (And I realize this was partially my fault for being a little late, but in my defense, I did allow extra time, I did try to call and no one answered, and they should not book patients so close together.)

      If I had been able to foresee that, I may not have taken a full day off, but definitely a half day!

      Of course like everyone else says, there are so many reasons this could be legitimate and you should trust the employee unless there’s concrete reason not to.

    7. Vee*

      I have severe short sightedness and once a year, I have to go and see my doctor and have tests done and he has to dilate my pupils with eye drops and then wait 2 hours for them to work before doing a couple of hours of tests, so yes, some appointments can be all day affairs. I’d be a little annoyed to explain it, not because talking about my sight annoys me but because my manager suspected me of using it as an excuse to get a vacation day, because those tests are extremely unpleasant and I have to ‘sleep off’ the drops and sometimes still have fuzzy vision the day after. I’d rather go to work than have them done, and I don’t even like my job.

    8. OhNo*

      If the OP is really suspicious or uncomfortable granting a full day of sick leave, why not just ASK the employee if it’s possible for them to come in for a half-day? They don’t need to ask about appointments or details, just say, “I want for you to use the sick time that you need, but I’m worried about our team falling behind. Is there any way you could come in for just part of that day? If you can’t, that’s fine, but I thought I would check.”

      The key, then, would be to accept whatever answer the employee gives. If they say no, then don’t question or insist or even seem remotely put out. Just say, “Okay, well thanks for considering it.”

      1. Celeste*

        I feel like that sort of inquiry is going to set the tone that you don’t trust staff to use their sick time appropriately. I think you should trust until you have a reason not to trust (such as pattern of abuse). It makes for a better relationship the rest of the time.

        1. Elsajeni*

          Yeah, I feel like you’d have to have a pretty good reason why you need the employee on that specific day for this not to come across as either suspicion about how they’re using their sick time or pressure for them not to use it.

        2. OhNo*

          Only if you phrase it like you don’t trust them. If you phrase it as a worry about the team falling behind, or about things that need to be done, then it wouldn’t be a problem. They can just say, “Oh, it’ll be fine.” and maybe even “I already planned for X and Y to make sure we don’t fall behind.”

          It’s not “I don’t trust you to do your work”, it’s “I want to double-check that everything is on track.”

      2. neverjaunty*

        “Actually my husband is going in for the results of a biopsy and we’re going to find out if his lung cancer is in remission.”

        Do you really want to be the jerk boss who got that answer? I sure don’t.

        1. LBK*

          You can suggest a half day while still not forcing them to give an explanation – “If it’s something you can do by just taking a half day I’d prefer that, but if you need a full day, no problem.” Lets them know where you stand, gives them an easy opportunity to say “Oh yeah, I can do that,” and doesn’t feel like you’re pressuring them to tell you what it’s for.

          1. A Teacher*

            Depends on tone of voice. My old boss always preferred we took a half day, actually she didn’t want us to ever be sick or anything–she wasn’t much fun to deal with when I went to an oncology appointment with my dad to find out he had cancer, same day my grandfather died to top it off. It took her boss reminding her that FMLA covers immediate family for her to back off. “preferring” something with her was code you do it my way or suffer the consequences.

          2. Zillah*

            But I think that you’re often putting pressure on someone by suggesting it at all. It’s not like suggesting a half day is a new or novel solution that no one has ever thought of before – if the employee wanted to take a half day, they would have requested a half day. They didn’t, so you can assume that they wanted to take the full day. Challenging them on it without having a clear reason (and your manager saying “I’d prefer” is absolutely a challenge, especially since many people phrase requests in softer language) is obnoxious, and as an employee I’d really resent it.

            1. INTP*

              This. It makes someone feel compelled to justify their full day, even if you aren’t literally demanding an answer.

          3. OhNo*

            Bingo. If you are a reasonable person, then no one should have a problem with you saying “I’d prefer X, but Y is totally okay too.”

            The only issue is when, as A Teacher and Zillah mentioned, you’re the kind of boss who SAYS “I’d prefer X, but Y is totally okay too.”, but MEANS “I’d prefer X, so you’d better do it or I’m going to get mad.”

    9. LQ*

      I have to get my wisdom teeth pulled and I took the entire day off work because even if I’m able to go back to work why? I’m so glad my boss didn’t even pause before approving it.

      Honestly, if someone has the time why do you care even if I decide to go to a dr and then spend the rest of the day shopping. It is my time to take and it is better to have the time scheduled out. Yes clearly you don’t want your employees actually taking their time off or surprising you with it when they go in and it turns out they feel horrible and need to stay home. Just let them take the day.

      1. Simonthegrey*

        Ug, yes. I reacted horribly to having my wisdom teeth extracted. I missed 3 days of work because I apparently am allergic to codeine-class drugs. Also, about 4 hours after the procedure, I started vomiting blood.

        1. LQ*

          ….Oh that’s so not good. Mine are coming up very soon and ..yeah. This does explain why I have a friend who thinks I need to have someone to watch over me the whole time.

          1. Zillah*

            For what it’s worth, my wisdom teeth came out fine. I did need the day to recover, but I was back at work after that with no problem. The only major issue I had was that the painkillers gave me insomnia.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, mine were pretty low-impact, and I’m a wuss, so it wasn’t me being impervious to the pain or anything.

            2. April*

              Oh, interesting! Is that a common side effect from painkillers? I would think painkillers would put you to sleep, if anything.

              1. fposte*

                I don’t think it’s hugely rare. I get that with several kinds of painkillers, and what’s annoying is that I get drowsy but can’t quite get to sleep.

      2. HR Manager*

        Same here. I had all 4 removed at once, and while I felt fine afterwards, apparently I looked frightening. My sister who worked across the street picked me up, and I stopped in her company’s restroom for a clean up. Much to my surprise, I was bleeding from the procedure pretty badly so any flash of teeth was like a horror-story — teeth covered in red blood. I remember getting fillings once where the novocaine left me slurring my words for hours. Sounded terrible over the phone.

        I had vision correction surgery about 2 years ago. 15 minute procedure — 4 days of recovery (tearing eyes mainly).

        1. Not+So+NewReader*

          This, my husband had his wisdom teeth out and he was done for the day. His attitude was excellent and he was able to take care of himself but he had to keep cleaning up his mouth. There is no way he could have worked and taken care of that demanding situation.

          1. Cassie*

            I had one wisdom tooth pulled out and it was a bugger having to constantly clean up my mouth. I took 3 days off from work and though I was probably in good enough shape to go back to work the next day, I didn’t want to go with chipmunk cheeks and have to talk to people/on the phone and stuff.

    10. Amethsyt*

      I used to work in a doctor’s office and was going to say this. A lot of our patients traveled an hour to see him (he was a specialist) and then had to come early for x-rays, then sit and wait for 30 minutes or maybe 3 hours because he could just not run on time. Then they might need bloodwork or more x-rays… Not every office is going to operate as smoothly and on time as the schedule might suggest. Even if the office was next door to work, it might take a while.

      Plus, a lot of people are just emotionally wiped out by doctor’s visits and need the day. I know people who get panic attacks only about visiting the doctor and aren’t okay until the day after the appointment.

      This is all information they don’t need to share with their boss. Going to the doctor is a valid reason for taking a sick day.

      1. Not+So+NewReader*

        Doctor’s appointments are emotionally exhausting for me. I am done for the day. No point to putting it in the afternoon because I cannot focus on work in the morning. (Too many years of helping family members, I am burned out.)

    11. Jazzy Red*

      My doctor’s office (a long time ago) used to double and triple book his time. He told them several times not to do that, but they continued anyway. One day he got fed up and fired the office staff. He had a new in one place almost immediately and was able to keep his appointments much closer. The couple-of-hour waits dwindled to a more reasonable amount of time.

      I wish all doctors would do this.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I’m glad you recognized it wasn’t the doctor. My sister just started residency, and the VA clinic where she’s working is in high demand by patients but just doesn’t have the physicians to handle the load. The organization schedules patients so densely that even though she skips lunch or other breaks (not even long enough to gobble a granola bar in a break room), by late morning every exam room she walks into has a patient who’s been waiting there at least an hour. Often they’re (understandably) annoyed, and (misdirectedly) take it out on her. She’s pretty stressed these days…

    12. LCL*

      Questioning Doctors’ appointments is a losing battle. I get pushback when I tell the workers who have time off in the middle of the week that perhaps they should schedule their nonemergency appointments on days off. And I did work that schedule, and did schedule my apps on days off, so I know it is possible.
      I just let everybody know, sick leave is always approved, but if you have some leeway for scheduling something that will require you be off a few days, I can suggest the best time but it is up to you.
      Any sick leave abuse you have won’t come from scheduled appointments, anyway. It will come from people calling in sick at the start of their vacations, the end of their vacations, because they had an argument with someone at work, etc. There is no solution to that, except when they run out of leave.

      1. Colette*

        I get pushback when I tell the workers who have time off in the middle of the week that perhaps they should schedule their nonemergency appointments on days off.

        Not everyone has the same health issues, or the same doctors – sometimes appointments are not available on certain days and turning down an appointment means you’ll wait weeks or months longer, or maybe even have to find another doctor.

        1. Celeste*

          Absolutely agree, having made the rounds to specialists for myself and taking family members. A doctor may have 2 office days, 2 surgery days, and Fridays off. You have to take what you can get.

          1. LCL*

            I’m talking about people who work 7 days on, 7 days off. I know you have to see the Doctor when the Doctor is available. If an employee is off during the block of time that includes Monday through Friday, it is usually possible to schedule a nonemergency appointment during that stretch of days off. And it is not unreasonable to suggest that.

            One of the things a person has to do to make shift schedules work for them instead of against them is to make any appointments while looking at their schedule, and ask the scheduler if they have any appointments on the days they are available.

            1. Observer*

              It’s still not always so simple. More than once I’ve been in the position of “Well the doctor has one appointment next week, and then he’s going on vacation / booked solid / attending a conference / won’t be available for the next month.” If I need to see the doctor before that, I take the one opening even if it’s inconvenient.

              And, for people who are not on a 7 on 7 off rotation, not being able to schedule around weekends is just par for the course.

            2. Colette*

              I think it’s reasonable to ask – but even so, there are going to be times when it’s not reasonable to delay a critical appointment for weeks or months to avoid missing work. If it’s a routine appointment, then it makes sense, but specialists or urgent issues are a different situation.

            3. INTP*

              I think it’s reasonable to expect people to do this when they can, but sometimes they can’t. Not every type of appointment can be predicted months in advance and sometimes doctors are booked solid for weeks or months – if there’s one opening in the meantime on a work day, or you get a random call that there has been a cancellation and you’re at the top of the waiting list, and it’s a time-sensitive but non-emergency issue, you can’t expect people to delay for extra weeks for your convenience. You’re likely getting pushback because people are already doing what they can to avoid missing work and they essentially take your request as either “I think you’re just scheduling your appointments willy-nilly with no regard for your work schedule” or “You need to be willing to delay any appointment that isn’t life threatening for our convenience.”

      2. Bunny*

        Sometimes there’s a chance to be flexible, but not always. For one thing, every doctor has a finite number of hours on Friday, and you can bet people book that day up fast. For another, not every doctor keeps the same hours. The sexual health clinic I had my IUD inserted at was only open Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mine and my other half’s GP only operates Monday-Wednesday at my clinic, and you can only schedule follow-up appointments in advance – all other appointments you have to call them 8am of the day you want to go in to ask for an appointment. The specialist in London my partner sees for a specific condition is only available one day a week. Sometimes, you just have to take what you can get.

    13. Meghan Magee*

      I always try to get a bunch of doctor appointments on the same day so I just have to take one day. So I’ll schedule my dentist in the morning and my PC and Eye in the afternoon since they are in the same building.

      I also have friends that will schedule dentist for the whole family on the same day. Depending on how many kids, that’ll take all day too :)

    14. INTP*

      Agreed…plus, there are tons more reasons why someone might need an all day appointment. They could be having a procedure done and they’ll be on a sedative or in pain and therefore unable to work. They have to fast before some bloodwork and don’t feel confident about working and driving to/from work while they are so hungry. They might book multiple doctor’s appointments in one day. Or even if the appointment is completely uneventful and just a couple of hours long, if it’s midday, it means you may only be able to work a couple hours before and after the appointment – 2 commutes in one day to save 4 hours of PTO is not worth it.

      OP has to just give the sick day, in my opinion, because digging for whether there’s an acceptable reason for taking the entire day could pressure the employee to reveal medical information that they shouldn’t have to reveal.

    15. Anon for this*

      I present as a very healthy 25 year old, but I struggle with a lot of health issues and depression. I have regular doctor’s appointments, including therapy and more traditional medical appointments.

      My boss once insisted that I shouldn’t need an entire day for a doctor’s appointment, and forced me to say I would come back after it was done. My routine endoscopy (I get endoscopys and colonoscopys every 6 months at age 25) went poorly, I was so freaked out I was crying, and they wound up giving me sedatives (for the pain, not because I was freaking out). The whole thing was terrifying, took about 3 hours including transport, and I was drugged after.

      I used to be really high preforming, but after my boss tried to get me to come in that day, acted like I was being unreasonable, and told a coworker “there’s no way all those doctor’s appointments are real” I started job hunting right away.

      Not to mention the blood tests that take 6 hours (so you can be tested every two hours), the colonoscopy (not something I want to share with my boss), the 15 minute biopsy that requires I be drugged and leaves me in a stupor all day, the time they thought maybe I had cancer and I just didn’t feel like going to work after finding out if I had cancer, or all the times I book 2-3 appointments back to back (doctor, PT, therapy, dentist, etc) so that I won’t have to disrupt my work flow by taking an hour here and an hour there all month.

      What you’re doing is making yourself look like a huge a**hole. You have no idea if this doctor’s appointment is legit or not. Making baseless accusations and micromanaging how your employees use their time off is the fast road to getting people to hate you. It’s also a huge invasion of privacy. Back off, now.

  2. CTO*

    #2: There are plenty of doctor’s appointments that take a whole day, or require some recovery time after the appointment. A colonoscopy, minor surgery, root canal, or something like that can require at least a few hours’ recovery time. Even getting my eyes dilated during my routine annual vision exam makes me useless at work for a few hours. Or your employee could be accompanying a family member to a procedure like that, or perhaps she has a three-hour appointment at 11:00 and it’s just not worth going in to work before or after.

    Additionally, some people use sick time for occasional mental-health days and I think that’s completely legitimate. It’s even possible to plan ahead for those–she might have realized that she’s really exhausted and burned out, needs a day off to restore her health, and doesn’t feel comfortable giving that as the reason for her sick day. Would you rather she call in with no notice?

    Is your employee untrustworthy in other ways that make you suspicious of this sick day? If she is, then focus your attention on those other areas… not on probing into the potential medical issues behind this one sick day. If she’s a trustworthy and high-performing, then she’s earned your trust and it’s in your best interest to let this one day go.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I did it once over lunch hour. You are right, it wasn’t my smartest move. My boss even let me know that, physically, I looked like I was stoned. He knew what was up, but still, it was mortifying.

        1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          How could you even see? I’m practically blind until they wear off and any light is ridiculously painful. It’s amazing you could head back to work.

      2. Natalie*

        My eyes didn’t start going bad until my mid-20s and no one warned me about the dilation! I called my office to tell them I wouldn’t be back in and my glasses-wearing boss said “yeah, I figured. You got the drops?”

      3. the gold digger*

        Oh crap. Just realized I will need to ride my bike home from my post-work (thank you, optometrist, for taking appointments at 6 p.m.) eye exam today with dilated pupils. That doesn’t have any potential for disaster.

        1. danr*

          Bring your sunglasses anyway. The worst thing I did for an eye exam was schedule an evening appointment. The glare from headlights bordered on painful. The suglasses help a bit and I drove back roads and slowly.

          1. fposte*

            I once had my eyes dilated on a lovely sunny day in a snowy winter. I think that’s how Antarctic explorers die.

      4. Kyrielle*

        There is no way I could do this.

        This year, my husband couldn’t get time off for my eye exam, so I rested in my car for two hours in their parking lot. With my eyes closed, which was annoying because I wasn’t tired.

        After that, with sunglasses on over my glasses, I could drive home safely, very cautiously. And then I hung out in dim rooms for a while longer.

        I cannot imagine trying to work after one. (And my eye doctor is a half hour from my home, and my work is 35-50 minutes from my home, but in opposite directions. So this is really not practical on a day that I’m going in to work also.)

      5. AcademicAnon*

        Did the same thing once. No way is it possible to use a microscope with dilated eyes, and my eyes dilate really well, so it’s easily 3-4 hours before I can focus on anything.

      6. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Did you know that there are different dilation drops for dark eyes and light eyes? The former dilate more. My mom and I both have dark eyes and both stay dilated forever. She discovered that she can ask them to use the drops for light eyes and they dilate less (and still get the job done). I’m planning to ask for that in the future.

        1. Loose Seal*

          I did not know that! I have really light eyes and have never had trouble with the dilation and this is probably why. I’ve always wondered why other people have to wear sunglasses indoors afterward and you’ve explained it.

        2. Llywelyn*

          My ophthalmologist acquired a glorious device which obviates the need for dilation. It costs a little extra, but I am never going back.

          1. LBK*

            Yep, my doctor has that camera scanny thinger that they can use instead of dilation, and amazingly my insurance covers the extra cost, too – although I would gladly pay it if necessary to avoid getting dilated.

          2. Erin*

            Last time I went to the optometrist, my pupils were dilated enough that he didn’t need the drops. It was actually the best day ever.

            1. CA Admin*

              My eyes are like that naturally. I’ve been wearing glasses since high school and have never needed to get dilated.

        3. Jenna*

          OK, I must have the good light eye drops, even though my eyes are dark. I never need sunglasses after and am back to normal very quickly after the exam. I can always come back into work after as I see fine within 30 mins to an hour.

        4. Windchime*

          I just recently learned this as well. They told me that light eyes need less to achieve the same dilation. It totally makes sense to me because in the past, once my eyes are dilated it takes them *forever* to go back down. They are sometimes still slightly dilated the next morning if I have it done in the afternoon. (I have blue eyes).

        5. Not+So+NewReader*

          After having a bad experience with dilation- my eyes were just slammed shut, could not open them- I asked another doctor what went wrong there. He said the first doctor put in a lot of drops to hurry up the process so he could get on to other patients. But if they use less drops and have the patient wait longer then it is less of an ordeal, he said.

        6. Lamb*

          But interestingly it’s not universal; my dad and I have light eyes but we’re hard to dialate. They either end up putting in extra drops, or, if we tell them ahead of time and they believe us, they can give us the dark-eye drops to begin with and actually get those pupils open.

    1. CheeryO*

      It made me think of the day I took off to get an IUD placed – the recovery was brutal, and I definitely needed the whole day! I would have been pretty uncomfortable if I had to justify my gynecologist appointment to a suspicious manager.

      1. Celeste*

        Agree! I was so glad to be able to go home and lie down after that. It sounds like a nothing, and in fact you aren’t at the office for very long. Sometimes you just need the time.

      2. Episkey*

        That was my first thought too. I wouldn’t call my recovery brutal, but I did have some more-severe-than-usual cramping for a good 2-3 hours afterwards.

      3. Amanda*

        Yessssss. Ugh. I bounce back from so many things, and the IUD had me out for the entire rest of the day, flat on my back. Would not have wanted to spell that out for my boss!

      4. hellcat*

        Yup. Just had that last week. The first time it didn’t leave the tube correctly, so they had to try again. I absolutely needed the whole day after that!

    2. Red*

      I have physical therapy twice a week. I’m lucky because my practicioner keeps late hours, but I still need to take off a little early. If I had to do it earlier in the day, I’d schedule that time all off–I’m completely beat after each session, and by the time the appointment was over and I’d showered and changed, there wouldn’t be much left of the business day anyway. It’s best to trust your employee’s judgment on what works best. If you can’t trust in that, then there must be other problems which aren’t related to interrogating the employee’s health care schedule.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Exactly this.

      And I feel like this is the same discussion we had yesterday about companies that offer benefits but then get upset when employees actually USE those benefits.

      OP #2, you will do a lot better as a manager if you assume that your employees are responsible adults, and act only when they demonstrate there is a problem. Don’t use a perfectly ordinary request for a sick day as the opening to dig into the fact that Wakeen takes overlong lunches.

      I mean, look at how the flip side of this letter might go. “I am on a team of 11 and we have a manager who started a month ago. I have a doctor’s appointment to get a biopsy and ultrasound for uterine fibroids and I asked for a sick day, in advance, because this is likely to be a painful procedure that will take most of the day. My boss doesn’t believe I am really ‘sick’ and is pressing me for details of my appointment. Should I tell them?”

      1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        And this was the procedure I was thinking of – seriously, ladies, I know some of you bounce back and can head right back to work but hedge your bets and take the day just in case. And have someone drive you so you have the option of the sedative if isn’t going smoothly.

        If you take the day and feel great, fine, head back to work and surprise them. But do yourself a favor and don’t force it. Yes I have been curled up on the floor of the ladies room in the fetal position crying because I stupidly went back to work after one of these and ended up going home anyway as soon as I could walk to my car, why do you ask? :)

        With everything so important to remember we all react differently. I used to have a dentist with early morning hours and had a root canal at 6:00 am and was in the office by 8:00 am. I’d certainly assume other people would take the day for a root canal because they are smart enough to know you don’t get canonized for this kind of thing.

        1. Ethyl*

          Yeah, I was seriously out of commission after an IUD insertion, so I can’t even imagine how bad that would be. We’ve had a series of health issues between my spouse and I recently that I Do Not Wish to Talk to My Boss About (colon polyps, Mystery Uterus Pain, starting therapy). Just be kind and trust them to be adults.

    4. chump with a degree*

      I have an appointment for two jaw bone grafts tomorrow-while the procedure only takes an hour, they already had me get the whopping Vicodin prescription. I am only going as far as my couch tomorrow.

      1. Ellen Fremedon*

        My sympathies; I had two of those last year. Lay in way more calorie-dense soft food than you think you’ll need– the grafts are basically like healing a broken bone, and they need a lot of energy. When I was recovering from mine I ended up swigging heavy cream, straight, because it was just about the only thing with enough calories per swallow to be worth the discomfort.

    5. Student*

      Sometimes, if you are getting an unhappy diagnosis that you are having difficulty coping with, it’s really best for everyone involved that the employee stays home for the day.

      I had a rough diagnosis recently, and I can tell you for sure that it ruined my productivity for a full week. I took one day off for it, and muddled through for the other four days of that week at probably half-capacity. That day I took off, I was doing my employer a favor, because they were not going to get anything useful out of me and there’s a good chance I would’ve distracted co-workers by trying to get some emotional support from them.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        Yes, this is a great point. Even if the news doesn’t end up being unhappy, going in for a high-stakes test or the results can be really emotionally draining, and people often aren’t in the right state of mind to go back to work and be productive after something like that. And I’m sorry about your diagnosis, I hope you’re doing alright.

  3. Artemesia*

    Really have to agree that the world would run more smoothly if people would just be straightforward about problems like the coffee cream. There is no graceful way to pussyfoot around this sort of thing and cute notes either irritate people or totally miss the people they are aimed at. ‘Janet, since you are going through the coffee cream at such a clip would you mind bringing extra in; we all contribute to the supplies.’

    1. Jessa*

      I agree, sometimes you just have to say “Sue you use 3x the cream everyone else does and by the end of the day there’s none left. I hope you’re aware that we pay for this not the company. You need to chip in more cream or use less, please pick your choice.” or alternatively – “Sue, since you use so much cream, you really need to bring your own and put your name on it, we really can’t subsidise you anymore. The company does not pay for this, we do, and well, you’re kind of using more than is reasonable.”

      1. Raine*

        I would favor telling her straight out she needs to bring her own creamer and put her name on it. She’s already obviously failed to chip in the amount she uses by exponential amounts; no reason to be nasty, but she’s already had a chance to contribute fairly and thoughtfully but isn’t.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Wow, that’s hostile. She’s likely to every blindsided by an approach that went from “saying nothing” to “you’re a selfish jerk”. Wouldn’t it be better to simply let her know there’s a rotation and ask her what day she wants to pick up?

        1. Colette*

          I think it could be worded better (Personally, I’d skip “I hope you’re aware that we pay for this not the company.” and “we really can’t subsidise you anymore. The company does not pay for this, we do, and well, “, which come off as a little passive-aggressive.), but I don’t find it hostile.

          1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            I don’t know about hostile – the wording comes off snotty to me, though.

            The subsidizing line makes it seem like they think she was trying to get over, when it was probably just not something she ever thought about.

            Hey Sue, we’re running out of creamer quickly, please start bringing in (however many is fair.) If she balks at others bringing in less, “I know, but you like your coffee lighter than most people so the creamer goes quicker.”

            Direct and if said in a friendly matter of fact way should be no big deal.

            Think of it this way – if one person in the office had to make a ton of copies when they used the copier (legit work related) but everyone else only made 1-2 at a time it’s reasonable to ask that person to check the paper tray when he’s done to replenish…even though others don’t have to. Because the odds that 100s of pages could leave someone else short is a lot greater than my 2 pages leaving someone short. Not personal.

            Unless people know for a fact otherwise we should assume people don’t do this kind of thing “at” anyone – they aren’t trying to use stuff up, they just aren’t aware of the impact. So making them aware nicely solves the problem.

            1. Colette*

              Agreed. I think a pleasant conversation focused on bringing it to her attention and letting her know how she can fix it is the best approach. Assuming goodwill is usually the best choice.

        2. Jessa*

          It’s not a rotation. If I buy the creamer and there are 12 units of creamer and everyone uses two but she uses 4 per cup, two cups of coffee and she’s taken 8 units, we expect to get 6 cups of coffee out of that container.

          IF she’s providing enough to make up for the fact that on days she does NOT bring in creamer she’s taking double the amount we expect her to, that’s okay.

          If she’s NOT she owes us 4 units of creamer a day, assuming only two cups of coffee, that’s 25 units a five-day week, that’s actually more than TWO full extra creamer purchases. It’s not being nitpicky or hostile to politely tell her that she’s really using two full creamer purchases a week extra that we have to pay for. Over time that’s outrageous.

          1. fposte*

            Unless you’ve laid out clear expectations in advance for what acceptable creamer consumption rates are, it’s inappropriate to be condemnatory on this, and I really don’t think it’s a big enough deal to be “outrageous” even over time. Just a mention is fine.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, please don’t start a passive-aggressive coffee war with notes and such. The coworker also might not pick up how much she’s using, as it just magically gets replenished. Best just to be upfront and tell her that she’s using a disproportionate amount and should contribute.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Some people do use a lot of something (sugar, milk, sauce) and be totally unaware of it. Being direct is the way to go.

        1. Cool Beans*

          #1: if it is the case that she doesn’t realize, maybe you can get a box of the individual portion creamer cups. Once she uses 3, she may feel the fact that she’s using a lot.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think it’s realizing that she uses a lot or a little, it’s that she uses a disproportionate amount. Unless she’s making coffee for other people, I don’t think she’ll realize that without being simply told.

            1. Koko*

              I agree. It’s normal/routine to her by now, she probably barely pays attention to how much she (or anyone else) uses and if asked would probably think her amount was within the range of normal, if at the high end.

            2. Traveler*

              This is what I was thinking. OP has obviously observed her to know she’s using more than the rest, but its entirely possible she’s never observed them (or taken note of how much they use when she has).

      2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        The coworker also might not pick up how much she’s using, as it just magically gets replenished.

        I can vouch for this. I always think I have awesome gas mileage, because I only count the times I have to stop for gas and completely forget to take into account that my husband fills it up every weekend. Because the gas just “magically” appears I forget that it, too, costs money.

        It’s easy to be oblivious to stuff like this – I agree to just point it out directly. If it were me I’d want to know.

      3. fposte*

        That’s a good point about her not realizing how much she’s using. I’m somebody who can go through food items pretty quickly if there’s no noted limit, and I would actually find it useful to be told that the office budgeted for a use of X a week and would like some chipping in if I wanted to go over that.

    3. Dang*

      My old office used to have a sheet that circulated.. Everyone would sign up for a week to bring in cream etc and it would just repeat when we had gone through the whole list. Or you could have people bring cash every mo month or so?

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        One year in college my housemates and I had a schedule for replacing things we all used (milk and TP, mainly), which we filled in by quantity (pints or rolls) as well as by purchaser. It kept contributions more even than just asking each of us to buy “some” when it was her turn–but in our case it was fairly safe to assume we were all using the communal products at approximately the same rate. Hmm.

        1. Koko*

          Many a household I’ve shared with boys who argued that the girls should have to buy more toilet paper because we use it more.

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            I persuaded Uncle Vixen to change brands because I didn’t like the TP he was buying and I use it (approximately) twice as often as he does. … I’m not sure I’d have liked that argument for a house-sharing non-combined-finances arrangement that had women supplying more, though. Hmm.

        2. Ani*

          Yeah I lived in a group house where we pitched in the same amount of money for supposedly communal groceries. Except two of the women immediately would take the pack of burritos and make 5 burritos each with the refried beans, cheese, etc. and put them in the fridge for their week’s lunches. It was so wrong — nobody else got to use any of those groceries, and when I pointed this out they just glared at me. Never living in a group home again.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Thank goodness my current office provides coffee supplies.

      My old office did not, and there were endless battles about who’s mooching, who’s consumption outpaces contributions, etc. They never figured out a way to be completely fair about it. There’s always going to be people who take more than they give.

  4. ExceptionToTheRule*

    #3 – You two aren’t the first couple that newsroom has ever seen and you won’t be the last. Follow Alison’s advice. If it isn’t a big deal to you, it won’t be a big deal to anyone else.

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly, also, the less stressy and worried you act about it the better off it’ll be. People won’t really care (he’s not your boss after all, and management knows,) but if you start acting fidgety and nervous about it, people are going to wonder what’s wrong about it, when there’s really nothing wrong at all. It’ll just draw more attention to it “why is OP nervous about something normal, wonder what’s really going on?”

      1. Gene*

        “Yeah, we’ve been dating since (before internship started) and we ran into (intern coordinator) at an event so she knew about it before I came on board.”

        1. Artemesia*

          Too defensive. Never explain unless you are asked by your boss to explain. The moment you do this everyone will think there is something about this that ‘needs explaining.’

          1. Androgynous for this*

            I agree with this. I met my now-husband when he enrolled in a class I taught. He didn’t friend me on FB until after the class was over and grades were submitted, and we started dating a few weeks after that. There was nothing inappropriate, but because I knew perception could be 9/10ths of reality, I went to my Dean when the next semester started and explained to her the situation. He was in a field where he would never be in my class again, and we were in very different areas of the college so we never even saw one another there. I didn’t treat it as something to be defensive about, just something that she should know in case someone else saw us or said something. It was never an issue because I made clear it was a non-issue.

            1. Jessa*

              Yeh, in this case that makes sense because the whole “OMG she used to teach him” vibes can kill a career. There’s a difference in a school situation and giving someone a head’s up I think is different than the internship case because someone reporting this needs to get a “so what?” reaction from the dean NOT an “OMG she did what?” reaction.

        2. Lisa*

          This is exactly what OP should say. Only, I would be like ‘we’ve been dating for 3 years, he’s the one who told me about the internship’. People may want to turn into this thing where you were sneaking around or like a cute internship love story, but you are an adult and even if you met him there its still nothing to be ashamed of or try to hide. As long as the supervisor was ok with it, that is all that matters.

    2. Number 3*

      I knew I was probably stressing over nothing but I am working literally next to giants in my industry. (I am literally next to them; they are not literally giants. Otherwise I would have written a different note.)

      Plus I am pretty young! A lot of folk online get angry about Them Disrespectful Gen Whatevers and without experience it can be hard to gauge the significance of your own actions.

      I appreciate the reality-checks!

      1. ClaireS*

        I absolutely wish you were working with literal giants. I think it would add an amazing level of complexity to your question.

        FYI- I snorted my coffee a bit.

        1. The Maple Teacup*

          That’s why no one will care overly much about dating a coworker. Giants! They’re much more distracting.

          Just don’t engage in a ten minute make out session in a crowded room and no one will pay attention to your relationship status. (This observation was inflicted upon me at a Resturant. Two people looked like they were trying to consume each other. Very distracting).

      2. ExceptionToTheRule*

        The people you’re likely to get the most grief from are people your own age. Your more experience co-workers have likely experienced intra-newsroom dating first hand and know it’s normal and nothing all at the same time.

    3. Mister Pickle*

      #3 also: it strikes me that you’re working with a bunch of journalists. While I agree that it shouldn’t be a big deal – you may encounter a higher-than-average number of people who want to dig for details.

      (If you wanted to go for laughs, you could try issuing a press release and then schedule a 5 minutes Q&A session).

  5. Jessa*

    Also number 2, your employee might spend an hour at the doctor and then have to go home and rest all day. If they’re given medication that makes them sleep, or are put through a test or therapy that hurts or exhausts them, this is not uncommon. I used to get various shots, allergy, pain meds, steroids for swollen joints, etc. 20 minute appointment, 30 mins of waiting to make sure that there were no weird new effects and home to lay down or sleep all day depending on what the shot was for and what part of my anatomy it was stuck in.

    And even if there’s not something like that, what other people have said, I’ve had doctors that couldn’t be on time if they were chained to the exam table. I’ve had doctors give me an Rx that I had to fill that day and that can take time (some people do not go to 24 hour pharmacies so have to do this during work hours.) And honestly, sometimes going to the doctor is just stressful and since you have sick time (and most companies dole it out in either days or half days anyway,) so very, very sorry, if they take the whole day and maybe OMG do food shopping whilst waiting for their Rx at Kroger. If they’re not abusing things, what’s the big deal?

    1. Sunflower*

      I’ve had a couple root canals in my life and have started getting them done at the end of the work day because I can’t handle sitting in an office all day after that. Even though it isn’t a serious procedure, it’s seriously tiring and impossible to be productive afterwards.

      When it comes to approving time off, if you can spare the person for the day, I see no reason to not approve it. Don’t question every little thing- you’ll drive yourself nuts! If the person’s work starts to suffer or if absences become a serious problem, that’s the only time you should be worrying about what they’re doing.

    2. OhNo*

      +1 to all of this. It’s like saying when I call sick into work because I have the flu, I shouldn’t be doing my laundry or washing the dishes, because that’s not an “appropriate” use of sick time. If I have the time, and I’m taking it anyway, I might as well do what I can while I can.

      For the employee in question, that might be sleeping after a stressful appointment, or it might be grabbing some groceries, or it might be dancing a jig at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Either way, it’s really not the manager’s business. Be grateful that they are giving you a heads up in advance so you can plan everything!

    3. Annie*

      This! I go and get a cavity filled and trying to come back to work is a headache waiting to happen. Luckily I’ve been in positions where I can work from home after an appointment but there have been days that I just couldn’t afterwards(especially be in “brainstorming” meetings or when there was construction going on). Just trust them that they can’t work around the appointment.

  6. Dan*


    I have to be honest, in my professional career I have been lucky enough to work at companies that use a joint PTO bank. And neither company “approves” time. I just take it. If I need a day off for a doc’s appointment, it’s “Hey boss, won’t be in on Friday. See you Monday!” I could take off every Friday for 5 months and nobody would care. For longer periods, “sufficient” notice is all that’s asked for. There’s no petty denial of time of. My companies have treated us like adults, and in return, we act like them. It’s so friggin awesome.

    My dad hires retail-level store employees and he was telling me how last week he had to come in on a scheduled day-off to cover for three sick calls. I told him I haven’t called in sick in over 7 years; if I actually got sick, I’m not sure who I’d even call. I go over a week without seeing or hearing from any of my two real bosses, so disappearing for a day won’t even show up on the radar.

    This is a very long winded way of saying, “Approve the day off unless you have a damn good reason not to. Suspicions aren’t enough. Nickle and dime your employees, and you’ll get exactly what your management style deserves.”

    1. Mike B.*

      I’m kind of puzzled about how a workplace can function when everybody feels at liberty to be absent without notice. What happens when four people choose the same day, and then there’s an emergency that requires everyone to pitch in?

      Requiring approval for PTO days isn’t about infantilizing the employees, it’s about ensuring that their work gets done in a timely manner without breaking the backs of the people who *are* in the office.

      1. Stephanie*

        Depends on your job. You’re right that that’s definitely not feasible in all workplaces. FirstJob was entirely individual contributor work where you just had a docket of cases to work on, so you could easily take a “mental health day” without any impact to colleagues if you were good at managing your workflow. There were other deadlines and the occasional rush case, but you usually knew about those well in advance (at least six months).

      2. Dan*

        As Stephanie says, it depends on the job. At my job, we don’t have shifts to cover.

        On any given day, I’m the only one who can do my job. Sure, if something were to happen to me long term, someone somehow would pick up my work. But short term? Forget it. I even took a month off earlier this year, my project patiently waited for me to return, and it was exactly where and how I left it. People who need the results I produce simply wait for it.

        We don’t have emergencies that require everyone to pitch in.

        Requiring approval for PTO isn’t infantilizing the employees, but trying to second guess whether someone is BS’ing about taking a single sick day is. Again, if this employee’s productivity or abuse of the system is an issue, the pattern of time off is what gets addressed. Trying to second guess whether or not an employee is “really” sick or “really” has an all day doctor’s appointment isn’t going to accomplish much but demoralize the staff.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          It even works for shift coverage, as well. I’ve run shift teams at two different jobs where the PTO rule was, “make sure your shifts are covered and your time will be approved.”

          Sure, these were skilled jobs and most people on the team had a few years in the workplace under their belts, but nobody ever abused the policy. I did track time off in case there were ever complaints about people taking an overlarge amount of time, or never working holidays, but my staff was always reasonable and fair about making sure their fellow team members weren’t being asked to shoulder extra burden.

        2. Mike B.*

          “Requiring approval for PTO isn’t infantilizing the employees, but trying to second guess whether someone is BS’ing about taking a single sick day is.” On that we’re agreed. If it’s an employee who does quality work and doesn’t seriously abuse her privileges, only a jerk would scrutinize a single sick day that closely.

          I was particularly sensitive about the issue when I wrote my above comment, as I’d just worked a 12-hour day to cover for one employee’s ill-timed sick day–the kind of work we do is time-sensitive and can’t be evenly distributed among a large number of coworkers. If two or three people had called out yesterday, I’d have been here half the night working and fielding angry calls from people waiting for my output.

          1. Ethyl*

            Ok, but this is the real world, and that kind of thing DOES happen — and it’s not necessarily indicative of anyone gaming the system, *especially* if your employees feel you being hostile towards them when they need to take sick days so they come in anyway and then get your whole team sick. Some of the flus and other illnesses that have been going around lately are quite serious — my spouse had H1N1 a few years ago and I have never seen him that sick in my entire life. He was absolutely not able to go into work, emergency or no.

      3. Jen RO*

        My job is the same. Most of the time, I work alone, and so do my co-workers. The software release dates are set way in advance, so we plan accordingly.

      4. KayDay*

        I (personally) operate on the idea that one should ask if it is a question, and one should tell if it is a need. E.g. I need to go to the dentist–is Thursday okay? vs. I need to go to a hard-to-schedule doctor; therefore I am taking Thursday off.

        There are certainly some offices where the former is unnecessary, and some where the latter is too demanding, but I think for many office/non-shift workers it is a good strategy.

      5. Kathryn*

        Let me echo the “depends on the job” response. My workplace has an extremely liberal vacation and work from home policy and my department has work that can usually be done remotely without fuss. Much of our work is either large scale projects that require multiple hours in a row of focused individual work (research and analysis, software prototyping, report writing) or hair on fire emergencies. For the latter, we’re basically on call, and if something happens on a day where you woke up that morning and were not feeling well or needed a break… we’ve never had an issue with anyone pitching in when needed. (Usually we struggle with how to get the guy in the hospital to stop helping.)

        We’re a high performing team with a lot of responsibility and trust and we work as a team. Its a more fluid environment than one where you carefully script who is going to be in or out, but if we really need someone we can usually get them back (we try to avoid calling people back from sick or vacation days, but it can be done) Outside of emergencies, project work rarely needs something that day, that week, yes, but if you haven’t left things for the last minute, you can miss a day.

        My current struggle is an employee who will take vacation and then hop online and work remotely anyway. Its setting a bad example for our newer staff and the whole group is burnout prone, I don’t want people to start competing for how much stupid heroism they can do for the company.

        1. Koko*

          Ha, this sounds like my company. We’re all working individually on ongoing or long-term projects; rarely does something pop up without warning and need to be done the same day, forcing anyone else to cover for someone who’s out sick. Being out for one day just means I have to do more work before/after that day to keep my projects on track, and someone who reached out but doesn’t have an actual emergency will wait until the next day to get a response.

          In a true emergency, there’s enough cross-training for someone to step in. I actually am always careful to be clear in my internal out-of-office response that my backups should only be contacted, “If your request is urgent and cannot wait until tomorrow, please contact…” instead of just, “I will be back tomorrow. If you need assistance in the meantime, please contact…” because I don’t want my coworkers doing my job when they don’t need to, and I’ve found a lot of people will impatiently seek out backups for non-emergencies just because the backup’s name has been provided.

      6. Mister Pickle*

        My current job has some kind of ‘official’ paid sick day policy, but it’s never used unless there is a serious problem (ie, lengthy hospital stay). Doctor appointments, ‘minor’ sick days (ie, migraine), even personal business (“I have to go to city hall to resolve a problem with my tax appraisal”) – this stuff isn’t tracked. We’re a professional environment and people are expected to check in with mgmt and to schedule appropriately when possible. There’s never been a problem that I’m aware of, and in fact, people tend to work extra hours to make up for things like appointment (ie, 2 hours for a Thursday dentist appt results in working late Thursday and Friday).

        Admittedly, this probably won’t work for everyone everywhere. But it’s part of our culture.

        1. Koko*

          Yep. Any day that I get roughly a day’s worth of work done, I don’t have to take any PTO. I might drop off my car to be repaired one morning and come in an hour late, then leave an hour and a half early to pick it up after work, and I either work through lunch or work later at home to get enough done. I was available to my coworkers for most of the day and I got a day’s worth of work done. As far as my employer is concerned, there’s no time off needed for that.

      7. Lora*

        I have worked at a few places that had, essentially, unlimited sick time. The business used a series of insurance policies to pay for your salary when you were out more than three days in a row. I’ve also worked places where they technically had only so many sick days, but if you had cancer or something, realistically they let you take whatever time you needed.

        It does happen sometimes that multiple people choose the same day on a hectic day–think opening day for famous sportsball team of your choice–and on those days you ask for help from other departments, or you put off as much as you can until the next day and send out a call/email asking people to come in early tomorrow if at all possible. And it should go without saying, managers pitch in and do the dirty work, as far up the food chain as needed.

        That said, you usually can anticipate these things because you KNOW when the famous sportsball team is playing, or the first day of deer season or whatever is the thing to do in your area. And while emergencies can happen at any time, they are just that–emergencies. You deal as best you can.

    2. Gina*

      Retail employees are in a different category for a number of reasons, but big issues are that with the low rate of pay, no/useless insurance, and highly stressful nature of the job, their immune systems are going to be shot to hell. It’s not simple that your company policy is so good that people don’t get sick out of sheer gratefulness and being so much more grown up than retail employees, it’s that they’re not really in the situation to get chronically sick in the first place. There’s also the fact that someone can be slightly ill but able to function in an office, where the same level of sick they could never handle a packed customer service shift stocking shelves and resolving complains.

      1. Former Cable Rep*

        Retail cashiers especially have a high occurrence of getting sick because they’re more likely to come into contact with sick people. You might be exposed to one or two sick people in an office environment, but forty or fifty in a week of working retail depending on the volume of your store. I don’t want to drag us too far off topic, this is just an issue my household has to deal with every year. If our jobs offered us free flu shots, it would do a great deal to reduce absenteeism and sick leave, and protect the customers we come into contact with every day.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Oh yes, not only sick people but their germy money. Goes double if you work in a drugstore, where a larger proportion of the customers are sick, for obvious reasons. I got the worst flu of my life that way. Hand sanitizer is a great thing, but it can’t get everything, and in the middle of a rush you don’t always have time to use it anyway.

        2. Mister Pickle*

          I know it’s only anecdotal ‘evidence’, but I’ve been work-at-home for the past 7 years and I’ve noticed a marked reduction in sick time. It still happens, but it’s very rare.

          Similarly, before I worked at home, when I had to share an office with one or more people: at any given time, someone seemed to have a cold or a cough or a runny nose. When I finally got my own private office, I rarely had to call in sick.

          1. NOLA*

            I also work at home the majority of the time and get sick much less frequently. I think my problem, though, is now that I’m no longer exposed to a ton of germs, I get sick the a couple of days after each time I travel for work. Every. damn. time. Why yes, I do have a terrible cold this week!

          2. Stephanie*

            I got sick a lot less at my last job when my team switched buildings. In the old building, there were a lot more parents with toddlers and infants and the parents would bring in the virus du jour to the office. New building–fewer parents and mystery bugs floating around.

        3. Loose Seal*

          Reminds when of when I was working as a bank teller and customers would come in with their kid in tow that they had been sent home from school sick. And then, because kid wasn’t feeling so great, they’d boost them up to sit in the teller window while I was doing their transaction. Why didn’t you people ever go through the drive-thru, not only to protect us tellers with few sicks days but so your kid didn’t have to get out of the car?

      1. acmx*

        It looks like your plugin problem is back as Elizabeth West’s blog is linked in Artmesia’s name.

        1. Elysian*

          Oh is this a known problem? I was confused – in the last day or so the comment fields have been populating with my username but other people’s email and website info. I thought it was just me.

            1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

              This isn’t happening for me at all so I have a question – is it populating with the info of the last person who posted?

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Artmesia: You’ll need to clear your cache, but that should fix it (you probably just still have the remnants of the old problem there, but it’s been fixed).

  7. Sidra*

    #2: If she is getting an IUD, HSG eval, or a similar invasive in-office thing done, it might not take all day to do, but it absolutely takes all day to recover (very painful/nauseous for many hours after – I very much needed a full day to recover and I’m a very tough-it-out sort of person). She could also be getting her eyes dilated as part of a optometry exam, which would mean she can’t go back to work (dilated eyes + computer screen = ouch).

    Bottom line, do you really care that much? If she is getting things done and it doesn’t conflict with business I don’t think it is good practice to police time off.

    1. De (Germany)*

      There was no way I could work after getting my IUD. However, had I had this done in the morning, I probably would have told my boss that I was having a medical procedure or minor surgery done. On the other hand, that might invite even more questions.

    2. Public Service Announcement*

      If you are getting an IUD (or getting rid of one), take the whole day off. seriously.

      1. Rowan*

        If you want to be on the safe side, sure, but there’s every chance you’ll be absolutely fine after an hour. I could quite happily have gone to work after getting mine.

        1. KerryOwl*

          Me too — well, I don’t ever “happily” go to work. I was very happy to go home and “recover” on the couch, though!

      2. MJH*

        Really? For me taking it out was super easy. Getting it put in sucked, but I could also work afterward. Everyone reacts differently.

        1. ryn*

          Hah, for me, getting it put in was one of the the worst experiences of my life. Having it taken out was super easy cause the sucker basically fell out on it’s own after about 3 months and they just had to barely tug at it to get it out. :|

          1. De (Germany)*

            Getting it in was seriously the worst pain I have ever been in. I nearly passed out. I’ll get mine out soon and will make sure to get an appointment on Friday afternoon so I can recover in peace for two days.

            1. tomatonomicon*

              Getting my first (pre-baby) one placed was AWFUL. Getting it removed was a snap, aided by a valium I requested and my doctor happily prescribed. (I may have high-fived him and burst into tears in relief after it was done. I was really nervous about having it taken out after how bad it hurt going in.)

              The second one, six weeks post baby, was not painless but was way, WAY less unpleasant. I’m still going to request that valium and take the day off when it comes out, though.

            2. CA Admin*

              Getting mine put in required like 3 days of recovery it was so bad. Taking it out felt like a single period cramp and lasted all of 2 seconds. YMMV of course.

        2. Elizabeth*

          Yeah, I got mine inserted over a long lunch break. I felt kind of crappy for a couple hours afterward, but nothing so bad that I couldn’t do my (desk) work, and by the end of the day, I felt fine. Different reactions for sure.

      3. JMegan*

        I’m in the “could have gone back to work” camp as well. I had it done in the evening, so I didn’t have to, but all I really needed was a couple of Advil and I was fine.

        Everyone is different – but of course you don’t know how you’ll react until the thing is already in! So I agree with those who say plan for it to take the whole day. You’ll have it available if you need it, and if you don’t, bonus!

      4. Public Service Announcement*

        Mine wasn’t “the worst pain of my life;” I like to compare the pain level to a lot of dental procedures. However, that is more pain than I can tolerate while working. I had planned 1 hour recovery when I took time off, but it took me an extra hour and a half to get to work, and I was really stressed about getting to work while being in pain. The combination of the not knowing how long until I felt better and the stress of knowing I needed to go to work make me really regret not taking a full day.

    3. Natalie*

      I made the mistake of going to a fancy dress party the evening of my IUD installation. I thought I was fine until my ibuprofen wore off and I nearly passed out and fell down some marble stairs.

  8. Dan*


    What do you want to actually discuss with your manager? Perhaps your manager sees it as a complete waste of time to engage you on the phone, I probably would in his/her position. If you have personnel issues to deal with, you deal with them in person. Phone calls suck for this stuff.

    Be real careful with how much work you miss over this. AAM was very very diplomatic, but you’ll get yourself branded as high maintenance in a hurry. You’ll find yourself “managed out” (passed over for promotions, crappy or no raises, etc) or worse, outright fired.

    1. Layla*

      I do live somewhere that I can see my specialist before work and still arrive before my normal 9.30am
      And I could see my GP early in the morning and I guess I could be done soon. But I have never tried the latter because it’s normally for a cold / flu ( we need a doctor’s note for all sick leave ) and I’m seeing the doc so that I can stay home

      I can see how all this works together : always requiring dr note , having dr close by and being able to be seen quickly

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      If you don’t like in major metropolitan area like NYC, LA, Chicago etc, it’s pretty normal. It’s one of the myriad of reasons I continue to live in a smaller midwestern city.

      1. Observer*

        Even in small cities, there are myriad reasons why a doctor’s appointment can take all day, as others have noted. And, if you are talking about a small OB/Gyn practice, then I don’t care WHERE you live, you have better be able to deal with delays, because if they have a crazy day it is going to spill over into the appointments. Solo practice? Fugedaboutit.

        1. Judy*

          Once I was sitting there, and my OB/Gyn came in to talk with me. The nurse came in whispered something in her ear, she got up and headed for the door. The nurse apologized to me and left. About 25 minutes later the doctor came back in and she said she had run over to the hospital to deliver a baby. I’m lucky she uses robes that remind me of spa robes rather than hospital gowns, I guess.

          But except for that time and one other, for my annual exams and during my pregnancies, I’m in the room and talking with her within 5 minutes of my appointment time.

          1. Observer*

            Yes, a lot depends on your practice. But, 25 minutes to deliver a baby is NOT typical, unless she is extremely hands off and generally shows up just to catch it. And, if your practice is primarily Gyn with only a few OB patients, these issues are less likely to happen. But almost any practice that has a high percentage of OB cases is going to get days where things just get crazy and it spills over to the appointments.

            1. tesyaa*

              If a delivery is uncomplicated, most OBs do show up toward the end of labor, actually. I had a couple of quick deliveries and once I’m sure my doctor could have easily been back with a patient in 25 minutes or so.

              1. Observer*

                “Uncomplicated” does not mean “fast” even when the doctor shows up towards the end of labor. So, while it’s totally possible for a doctor who is right next door to the hospital to be in and out within 25 minutes occasionally, that’s hardly typical and not something any smart doctor is going to depend on in the normal course of events.

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Oh, I agree that there can be appointments that can take hours or many reasons why you’d want to take the whole day. I was answering Artemesia’s specific question: it’s very normal in my city to be in and out of the doctor’s office (including many specialists) in 20 to 30 minutes with no wait and a have 15 minute commute. Completely agree that OB/GYN’s are a class unto themselves.

      2. hildi*

        In my small town we’re seen pretty quickly, but if we have any specialists we need to see, we have to drive 3 hours either way to reach the next biggest town. So for like a dermatologist appt, it’s pretty standard to take the whole day becuase you’re driving for 6 hours just for a one hour visit. But we get to go shopping and eat at a cool restaurant, so it’s the little things :)

      3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        But if you live in a major city, you can go to One Medical, and be seen on time and get the whole thing done in less than an hour. :) <3 One Medical!

        1. CA Admin*

          Me too! There are like 3-4 offices within walking distance of my work and they’re always on time and quick! I freaking love them.

    3. Koko*

      I’m actually surprised how often AMA gets letters that amount to: “I was very angry, so I walked out of work/refused to come in. Later, when I began to realize I would be punished for walking out in anger, I decided that it was actually not that I walked out in anger, but that I went home sick because my job was so awful it gave me migraine/an ulcer/nausea/high blood pressure/heart palpitations.” I can recall several along these lines just in the last year or two where it’s pretty obvious the frustrated person is leaving/refusing to come in as a way to retaliate or punish the company or manager for treating them poorly, not because they actually needed time for health care.

      Look, being really angry/stressed really can be physically taxing and uncomfortable to feel! But it’s also not at all the intent of sick time to allow you to walk out in anger or frustration, even if the anger or frustration is leading to uncomfortable physical symptoms. If you were feeling sick without anger, as long as you weren’t unconscious you’d probably try to get to a stopping place in your work, call or stop by your manager’s office and let her know that you need to take the rest of the day sick, and make any needed arrangements for coverage. You wouldn’t just walk out. If stress/frustration gets unreasonably high, you can do the same thing: get to a stopping place in your work, calmly let your manager know that you’re feeling unwell and going home for the rest of the time, and make any arrangements for coverage or makeup work. And in most cases, professional adults will take a moment to take a few breaths and calm themselves enough to return to work and finish their day.

  9. Kerr*

    2: It’s very possible for a medical issue to take a full day, or most of it – see others’ comments. Or the employee could have multiple appointments scheduled, and just lumped it all together as “appointment.”

  10. De (Germany)*

    Oh, I wish I could take sick days for doctor’s appointments. There’s a specialist I am seeing twice a year that requires me to drive an hour there and with tests and waiting, if my appointment is at 9 I will usually not be at work until noon. Unfortunately, the way things are set up here I can’t use sick leave for that and use my overtime to just work 5 or 6 hours that day.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      I think this situation is how I interpreted #2’s question and I feel a little bad that she’s getting a little bit of grief. I’ve worked places where sick days are for illness only – an appointment planned in advance needs to be PTO. And if that’s the case, she just needs to be straight forward and say, “sure, take the day off, but this will be PTO and not a sick day”.

      1. Loose Seal*

        I hate this policy. We do preventative medical work so that we aren’t suddenly sick later so why shouldn’t we take sick time for that? The same with continuing care. Would you rather have someone take sick time a couple of days a week for a few weeks of physical therapy or take six weeks off recovering from surgery?

        In my opinion, PTO is there to give you time to recharge and come back to work refreshed. Being in a medical setting does not generally refresh you.

        1. Koko*


          It’s in the company’s interest to incentivize people to pre-plan time off rather than need it off unexpectedly. Letting them use sick days in advance prevents them needing to use them as often on the fly.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Which encourages employees to keep their mouths shut about appointments until the day of, and then to “call in sick” with no notice.

    2. Dings*

      Hi De,
      It seems unusual to me that you have to use overtime or vacation days for doctor’s appointments over here. That really should not be the case. Have you checked this with your boss/HR? I would need to check but it just seems way off to me, and I have never seen it being handled like this, neither in small not big companies.

          1. De (Germany)*

            Yeah, in Germany things work differently, as we have no allocated sick leave. When we are sick, we stay home and get paid, usually having to provide a doctor’s note from day 3 onward.

          2. Also PM (changing my screen from above name from PM to not be confused with PM)*

            Yes, sorry – I am in Germany, too, should have made that clearer…

            1. Dings*

              Ugg, and I had changed my name since I last used this device. Sorry for the confusion – I used to comment as “PM” and commented irregularly, then changed the name when another PM came along. Just not on the iPad, it seems! Oh dear.

      1. De (Germany)*

        I take it you are from Germany as well? I have never heard of people (friends, family, coworkers) not taking vacation or flex time for a normal, planned doctor’s visit. I never even thought to ask about it because it seems so normal to me. And it seems like that’s quite usual:

        1. Dings*

          Yes I am from Germany. The links are good reading. I guess the companies and bosses I worked with focused more on getting the work done, less on the hours spent on it. Note, we don’t have official overtime either, so probably just a very different culture.

          1. De (Germany)*

            I’m a contractor, all of my hours need to be accounted for and are paid for by another company. After a few years of that I find it weird that other people don’t know exactly how many hours they worked in a month and how much overtime they have :-)

  11. Stephanie*

    #2 – Echoing everyone else. I got a couple of fillings done earlier this summer, which were pretty straightforward but the dentist used a dam and clamp while he worked. The pressure from those gave me a pretty bad headache and I would have been useless if I had to go into work (especially once the Novocaine wore off). I’ve also had doctors that will double- or triple-book. There are also many outpatient procedures that take a couple of hours and/or need a few hours’ recovery (IUD insertion/removal, oral surgery, LASIK, colonoscopies comes to mind). So it’s very likely your employee’s telling the truth. If she’s not and a pattern of absenteeism emerges, deal with it then.

    #3 – You’re overthinking it. As long as you guys make it No Big Deal, no one else will. Also, I think my college newspaper staff resulted in at least three or four marriages. Something about newsrooms…

    #4 – Your manager probably has gotten the message. On a side note, does your job have an EAP or something similar where you could get stress management techniques? You might need to find a new job sooner rather than later, but I know that’s easier said than done. FirstJob had a lot of stressed out employees and management always pushed the EAP for stress management resources. If you’re worried about impartiality or confidentiality, maybe look into finding other methods of stress relief.

    #5 – Ouch.

    1. Al Lo*

      The clinic where I got my LASIK only books procedures on Thursdays and Fridays, since the day of the procedure (post-surgery) has to be spent in a dim room, wearing sunglasses, not reading or looking at any screens. I was armed with audio books, but I spent a lot of that day dozing. The next day, I was cleared for light reading/phone screen, but still no TV or computer. By the Monday, I was cleared to drive and everything was normal, but there was definitely a space of limited days. Technically, I felt like I could have read/driven on the second day, but I’d imagine that even then, if I’d had to go back to work at a computer screen, it wouldn’t have been comfortable.

      (Clearance was even longer for manual labor jobs. I think it was something like a week before going back to a job that had the possibility of particles or dust.)

      I actually had my LASIK done the Thursday before starting my current job (on the Monday). I just told my boss during the start date negotiations that I had a minor surgical procedure the weekend prior to starting, and I believed I’d be fine by the Monday, but I’d let her know if I needed to push back to Tuesday. She was fine with that and appreciated the heads up.

  12. Any Mouse*

    I had to have a dye contrast test (CAT Scan I think or something like that) where I had to drink this horrible horrible fluid. I wish I had taken the whole day off instead of trying to go to work and (unsucessfully) try to drink that stuff. I kept throwing up and trying to get it down. And it would have been better for everyone if I had just stayed home.

    As it was the test center messed up and they were supposed to do a test without the contrast and one with, instead they did two with. Cost me $400 in co pays ($200/test) and it didn’t show anything.

    Currently I work retail so I have variable work days; however, I have 1 standing day off for therapy. I’m really lucky I can do this I’ve tried therapy before and it hasn’t worked out and I’m not sure if I were in an office setting how I could schedule a full day off. My appointment is late morning so I usually spend the rest of the day processing and recuperating from dealing with therapy instead of going back to work and feeling vulnerable but also having to be “on” for work.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is bad enough that the cost of tests is so bloated in the US where almost everything medical costs as much as 10 times what it costs in the rest of the developed world, but then when they screw up you still pay. I am still a bit ticked off about the 500 we had to pay for an ER visit for my son 20 years ago for a broken arm. They failed to diagnose it — a broken arm which showed on x-rays and sent him home without a cast or brace as ‘just a sprain.’ So we had to pay again a couple of days later to have it properly diagnosed. Paying 200 for a test they botched — an actual mistake in procedure on their party — is outrageous but typical.

      1. Jessa*

        I’d be in the patient advocate office making it clear that neither I nor my insurance company would be paying for the error and they better zero out that bill. It’s one thing to have to come back twice due to things changing, it’s another when it’s a mistake. I’ve found in that case a call to the insurance company works wonders, they don’t want to pay for errors EITHER. Especially when I had one of those policies that raised the copay if you went more than x times to the ER. And if you work for a big company like I did, you also call the person who deals with the insurance company. They have a lot of clout when they represent tens of thousands of employees.

      2. Not+So+NewReader*

        Sadly, I hear so much of this type of thing. Our cars get treated better. If my car is not right after it’s fixed, I probably won’t get charged for the next fix on the same problem.

  13. Stars and violets*

    I agree with Alison: if this employee has PTO, why shouldn’t she use it?
    Nothing you have written implies that this employee is a problem but, if she is, better to tackle her directly at some other time than deny her this time off just because you’re not convinced anyone would need a day off to see a doctor.
    Perhaps you’re anxious to flex your new managerial muscles? I don’t think this is the way to do it.

          1. Jessa*

            And you often cannot tell before you get to the appointment whether or not that would be true, so I just as a rule don’t see why it’s an issue.

      1. Stars and violets*

        I was just paraphrasing what Alison herself said. However, yes, I see LW#2 did make the distinction but the point stands: if she’s allowed it, why shouldn’t she have it for the stated purpose?

        1. Layla*

          I’m not sure if I’m allowed to take a sick day for medical appointments , I’ve never tried

          Though my colleague has done it before. I guess for us if it’s substantiated by dr note it’s allowed , but I think most people don’t

          The only time I have taken planned medical leave is when I extracted wisdom tooth

          Surgery aside – because that is hospitalisation leave

          1. Nikki T*

            Huh? I use sick leave for all my Dr.’s appointments. It’s certainly not a vacation….
            Once I accidentally made 2 appointments on the same day, so I took the entire day. I just send it in as “Dr. Appt” so she’s knows it’s sick leave or “Out” which means vacation…
            But I’ve never needed ‘proof’, so…

            1. Natalie*

              Based on the spelling, I don’t think Layla is in the US. It sounds like standard practice and/or law is different in other countries.

        2. Zillah*

          I agree. I’m just pointing out that the OP doesn’t seem to have a problem with her using PTO for it, just a sick day.

          1. Stars and violets*

            Which is odd, don’t you think? Presumably the employee has a certain amount of PTO and another certain amount of sick days. What’s it to the manager if her employee takes a sick day instead of PTO? Am I missing something here because I’m not in the US? Surely it would matter more to the employee? Who would want to use a precious sick day with Winter coming up when they could use PTO or even just half a day’s PTO for a doctor’s appointment (if the OP is right and it doesn’t take all day)?

            1. tesyaa*

              The balance of sick days and PTO days varies from place to place. Many companies don’t differentiate, but some allow unlimited sick days and PTO is limited. In some places, PTO can be carried over but sick days cannot. So depending where she works, PTO may actually be more “precious” than sick time.

              1. tesyaa*

                Note that I’m not siding with the manager’s suspicions, but clearly sometimes there’s an advantage to taking sick days instead of vacation days.

                1. Koko*

                  Yeah, many companies give you an allotment of sick days to cover a bad-year scenario but expect that most employees in good health will use far less than the max most years. Meanwhile, they expect that most employees will use most or all of their vacation every year. In that sort of culture, borrowing a sick day you otherwise probably wouldn’t have used for a non-sick-day-purpose essentially leaves more vacation days free for fun purposes.

            2. LBK*

              Most US companies allow you to bank and roll over a certain amount of unused vacation days year to year, but sick time just expires if you don’t use it. For example, I can keep up to 5 of my unused vacation dates at the end of the year to use next year – but if I have any sick days left on January 1st, they just disappear and my total resets to the 5 I’m allotted per year. Also, most places pay out unused vacation time in cash if you leave the company, but not sick time. Thus, it makes sense to save your vacation days and use other forms of time off as often as possible.

              1. Loose Seal*

                Really? Because everywhere I’ve ever worked does it the opposite: vacation time disappears at the end of the year (or other cut-off period) while sick time can roll-over up to some pre-stated amount, usually 90 days to coincide with FMLA’s 12 weeks. I’ve never been lucky enough to be at a place where they pay out unused vacation when you leave but I’ve also never gotten so many vacation days that it was a hardship for me to find time to use them during the year.

                1. LBK*

                  Weird! I’ve never heard of a place that rolled over sick time. Out of all my friends and family whose work vacation policies I know, they all work the way I described or very similar.

                  Just goes to show how useless anecdotal evidence can be, I guess.

                2. LV*

                  At my org, both sick leave and PTO roll over from one year to the next. Same thing at my husband’s workplace, although there they have a limit of how much PTO you can have banked at one time, and they’ll cash you out for any days that go over the maximum.

                3. Kyrielle*

                  My workplace rolls both over, but there is a maximum cap on what you can have accrued for each at *any* time. Hit that cap and you simply stop accruing until you drop below it (nothing paid out).

                  The cap is lower for sick time, at 120 hours, than for vacation, at 160. But sick time accrues at 6 days a year (4 hours a month) while vacation starts at 10 days a year for the newest employees and goes up from there – so it’s more likely your vacation will hit the cap and you will want to use it.

                4. Aunt Vixen*

                  More data points.

                  Two jobs ago, I had three kinds of leave:
                  – annual leave = vacation, which rolled over up to a max of something nutty like 400 hours and paid out on departure
                  – sick leave, which rolled over up to an also-generous (but not gonzo) maximum and did not pay out on departure
                  – personal leave, which did not roll over and did not pay out (it also didn’t accrue; you got three days per calendar year to do with as you pleased)

                  Sick time was to be used for your own or your immediate family’s illness, doctor’s appointments, or other medical care. “Immediate family” was defined somewhere–at least spouse, children, stepchildren, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, and in-laws; possibly more expansive than that–but I personally never worked for a manager who audited any of that. If I’d had a housemate who needed taking to the hospital and it made me late for work, I could legit take sick time for it.

                  At my last job, I had two kinds of leave:
                  – PTO = vacation, which rolled over to a max of 2x your annual accrual, and paid out on departure
                  – “discretionary” time off, which came in a lump per calendar year and was used for whatever you wanted it for–in practice, it was for sick time, snow days, and holidays (hence the scare quotes on “discretionary”)–and did not pay out

                  Smart money used the discretionary time first, until it was gone, before laying a finger on the rolling-over type of leave.

      2. Ms Enthusiasm*

        Zillah, I was thinking the same thing. The OP probably thinks the employee will be in and out of the doctor appointment in a reasonable time and will just be off the rest of the day. Therefore that could be seen as more of a vacation day rather than a sick day. I’m not sure how strict the company is where the OP works but perhaps there is a policy that the specific type of time off needs to be used or something. I don’t agree, I like having just one PTO bank to use as I want.

        1. Zillah*

          For the record, I do disagree with the OP’s stance – I was just clarifying what I read it as being. Personally, I don’t see much difference between, “But do you really need the whole day for your doctor’s appointment? Can’t you just take half a day?” and “But do you really need to stay home for a cold?” or “But do you really need to use a sick day for a migraine?” At some point, you need to trust that your employees have a reason for making the judgment calls that they do.

          I actually hate the idea of having one PTO bank. I don’t think that sick time and vacation time should be treated the same way. I like the way Koko described it above:

          Yeah, many companies give you an allotment of sick days to cover a bad-year scenario but expect that most employees in good health will use far less than the max most years. Meanwhile, they expect that most employees will use most or all of their vacation every year.

          I think that making sure that there are reasonable accommodations to people who have to grapple with being sick at the expense of a couple more vacation days for everyone else is a pretty humane tradeoff.

  14. GrumpyBoss*

    #4: without knowing the situation, it sounds like you may have made a grave tactical error. Don’t dig yourself any deeper here by over communicating. It sounds like you are looking for some sort of affirmation from your manager that they understand. You won’t get it. You need to focus on 1. Getting in a place where you can return to work (some have suggested EAP, don’t be afraid to use it!); and 2. Once you are back at work, repairing the perception that people will have of you because you did not handle the situation as you should.

    As a manager, I was in this situation once before, and it was the person who was too stressed to come to work who was the source of a lot of the drama. It didn’t end well for him. Make sure you are being viewed as someone who is trying to work through the situation. If and when it becomes too much, call in sick one day. But you have to realize that deciding that you are too stressed on a Friday to come in on a Monday is going to be viewed as dramatic, especially if you have two days off in between to decompress from the situation.

    1. Dings*

      I am surprised with the reactions to #4, and to a degree, also with AAM’s answer. I agree you shouldn’t say “Hey stuff is too stressful I am outta here”, but the OP states feeling sick over this. To me, this sounds like the OP says there is a stress reaction, a burn out maybe. Burn out is a real thing. It happens to the best. Now, I am not saying that calling your boss 10 times in a row is a great idea (it isn’t). But if someone is mentally sick, let’s please respect that as every other sickness.

      1. Dings*

        To add / correct as I feel I was unclear, I am of course not saying the OP has a burn out or other mental illness – just that I think we should respect that stress *can* cause this, and most importantly: seeking help if you feel your job makes you actually feel sick is good, and the right thing to do.

        OP, I think it was a good move to go see a doc if you feel sick.

      2. Natalie*

        I think it’s the way the LW worded things. I’ve called in due to stress before (sometimes because it caused insomnia, other times just because I cannot even) but I always just I wasn’t feeling well, rather than saying I couldn’t take work anymore. The latter strikes me as overly dramatic.

        1. Zillah*

          Ditto. I had a job that I found super stressful at one point, and I called out sick more often than I probably should have (though they were also illegally classifying me as an independent contractor, so in retrospect I don’t feel as guilty as I did then). However, I also always just said that I was under the weather, and I only called once. OP, the way you’re saying you approached this seems a little dramatic to me, and your manager might be waiting to address that with you.

        2. Oryx*

          Yes, I’ve woken up some days and just seriously cannot even from stress and have taken mental health days. But when I call in I don’t *tell* them that, I just say I’m not feeling well and won’t be in.

          1. Koko*

            Exactly. You’re taking care of your health–they don’t need to know the gorey details of your mental health anymore than your bodily health. The LW, like others who have written in before, seemed to be going on the offensive and trying to shame the manager or retaliate against her for creating all the stress. Revenge is an understandable impulse but not one that serves you well in the business world.

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Well put, Natalie, this is what I was thinking. The OP sounds like they’re looking for validation or drama rather than simply stating what they’re doing and how they plan to fix it. That last part is important — they should have said something like “I’m sorry for the short notice, but I need to take Monday off. Can we meet on Tuesday morning to discuss the workload/deadlines/[whatever]?”

          Without presenting a solution or even a path to a solution, the OP’s supervisor is going to be wondering how soon and how often this is going to recur

      3. Katie the Fed*

        It doesn’t sound like OP and her boss have the kind of relationship though where she needs to be sharing details of her mental health though. She could have just said “I’m taking a sick day.” By specifying that it’s a sick day for stress related to Friday, it sounds like she wants the boss to be sure that it’s the boss’s fault she’s sick. This either looks like poor coping or the start of an attempt to collect damages. Either way, there was no benefit to sharing that with the boss.

          1. Kelly L.*

            To me it’s the ten calls that come off as dramatic. I don’t see it as an attempt to collect damages, but I’d be annoyed if anyone called me ten times about anything. That said, I can see why someone might do it, if they’ve had it drilled into them that you must have a live person acknowledge your call-out.

            1. LBK*

              Oh wow, I missed that line – I would be ready to strangle an employee that called me ten times. I wouldn’t answer at that point just because it would be tough to give a calm, rational response instead of saying “What the hell do you want!?”

      4. LBK*

        Yeah, I think it’s about the wording, not the idea that you just need a day off to relax. Although the OP’s phrasing sounds non-American to me, so I’m wondering if it’s a language/dialect thing since it didn’t come off as dramatic to you either?

        In the US, I would take someone calling me to say “I just can’t handle work anymore, I’m staying home today” as 1) pretty dramatic unless something extraordinarily stressful has happened like being held at gunpoint, and 2) a very, very grave problem that indicates to me you’re probably going to quit. I would not react lightly.

        As someone who’s dealt with mental health issues for a decade now I completely sympathize with the physical impact that stress can have on you and how it can affect your ability to work, but like any other health problem I think you need to phrase and discuss it appropriately. If nothing else, this just seems overly personal – I don’t tell my manager I’m throwing up and have a fever when I call out. I just tell him I’m not feeling well so I’ll be out.

      5. Kyrielle*

        I would be totally paranoid if I called out sick and couldn’t get my boss to answer. Company policy says I have to talk to a real live boss or boss’s boss or whatever, or it doesn’t count. Voice mail and email are not okay (officially).

        If I leave a VM or email and they respond, then I wouldn’t worry. They’re aware. But if they’re not confirmed aware – I have to actually get ahold of them or go in.

        1. Observer*

          The OP didn’t indicate that this is the problem. But, if it is, then the way to handle it would be to call and say “I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday and won’t be in. Please call to confirm that you got my message.” If you don’t hear back, and can’t get another live person, all of your following calls should be along the lines of “I need to confirm my absence on Monday, as required by the manual.”

    2. LBK*

      But you have to realize that deciding that you are too stressed on a Friday to come in on a Monday is going to be viewed as dramatic, especially if you have two days off in between to decompress from the situation.

      Also a really good point…someone deciding 2 days in advance they were already going to be sick would probably get an involuntary eye roll from me.

      Again, I don’t want to minimize your situation, OP, but I think it’s important to consider how this may have come off to your manager and why she may just be waiting until you come in to speak to you about it.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      Agree. I got a drama-queen vibe from this letter. Now let me say if the stress is due to being bullied or harassed in the workplace, or some sort of threat of workplace violence, then my comments do not apply.

      But every job has some kind of stress, and everyone needs to figure out how to handle it. If you work in fast food, the stress is getting people through the drive-thru at lunch. My 17 year old daughter is a courtesy clerk at a grocery store, and her stress comes from the after-work rush, rude customers, and how kooky people get about holidays (all holidays, even things like Labor Day…it’s weird). I’ve had some very stressful times during the course of my career, and there will be more before it’s all said and done.

      Once it was due to a manager that was making my life absolutely miserable. I dealt with it by venting with a friend in the same situation, and when it was really bad, crying on the way home from work once or twice when I was incredibly angry and frustrated, and most importantly, figuring out how to get myself out of a really bad situation (which I did by moving to another group). I’ve had stress caused by being on a huge, multi-million, multi-year project with unbelievably aggressive deadlines. I’ve had stress caused by being on very high-visibility projects, where everyone up to the executive management level was watching every little thing I did, and I knew full well that my career path with this company would be impacted by the success or failure of the project. I dealt with those situations by just hunkering down, working as hard as I could, and taking days off here and there where I could just decompress and regroup (with the caveat that I would forgo the day off if something came up).

      There’s nothing wrong with needing a mental health day here and there. We all do. But calling attention to it by repeatedly calling your manager is not the way to go about it. Like GrumpyBoss said, it comes across like you’re seeking some kind of validation or reassurance from your manager that it’s OK for you to be doing what you’re doing. Just say you’re taking the day off, and that is that. Presumably your manager knows how to get in touch with you if something comes up. Take the mental health day, regroup, recharge your batteries, and then head back to work.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        And if your company has an EAP, take full advantage of it. I’ve encouraged people who worked for me to use it, because you can ask for help at any time, and I think it’s completely confidential.

        I used it once a few years ago, and it was great. We had some drama with my husband’s ex when my stepdaughter decided she’d had enough of living with her mom and wanted to move in with us. Her mom insisted that my stepdaughter needed therapy (she absolutely did not) but would only agree to the move if we had her see a therapist. My stepdaughter is on my benefits, so I called the EAP, explained the situation, and they sent me a list of qualified therapists in our area. My husband called a few, picked the one he liked the best, my stepdaughter had her 6 free sessions, and that was that. An EAP is a great resource — use it if you need it!

  15. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – without knowing more about this particular stressful situation, I strongly urge you to get back to work ASAP. Right now it’s sounding a lot like you lack coping mechanisms at best, and might be planning to file some kind of complaint at worst. Either way, your reaction isn’t going to endear you to your boss, and it could put your job in jeopardy.

  16. New Job!*

    Here’s a question for all the commenters…it’s my last week of work (I gave a full two weeks). I am moving to another state the day after my last day. I really need to schedule a dentist appointment and haven’t used any sick time all year, how terrible is it to use a sick day during my last week? The thought of it makes me feel horribly guilty but it would significantly reduce my stress, as my new benefits don’t kick in for 3 months. I would appreciate any advice.

    1. Zillah*

      Alison has said in the past that unrelated questions should be restricted to the open thread on Fridays, so as not to let the comments section become unwieldy.

      1. New Job!*

        I apologize, I thought it related to the question of when it is appropriate to use sick time. Please feel free to delete my comment, Alison.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Don’t worry about having the appointment – I think lots of people do that during their final two weeks.

    3. soitgoes*

      I think you should do it, obviously while you still have those benefits. What are they going to do? Fire you?

    4. hildi*

      That doesn’t really seem like a big issue I’d be too worried about. As long as you’re supervisor/org has been decent about everything else, I can’t imagine a few hours for a dentist appt would be a hardship for anyone. Slightly different scenario, but when I separated from the military I got any and all medical appointments and tests done that I could. Seems like that’s a smart move for you if you don’t have benefits coverage for the next three months. Better safe than sorry – esp for something minor like this.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Can you just present it to your supervisor exactly the way you presented it here? You won’t have coverage for a while, and you would really like to make this appointment. If you don’t have a lot of unfinished business, they should be fine with it.

      However, if you get the feeling from experience that they’ll say no, and you’re tempted to tell them to take a flying leap when they do, then just announce that you’re taking time off for a medical appointment. Like others said, what are they going to do, fire you?

    6. Not+So+NewReader*

      You know your employer. I have seen employers take that 2 week notice quite seriously. A few hours at the doctor would mean that you did not work your entire two weeks as promised and the stuff would hit the fan. I would check before I scheduled the appointment.

  17. Zillah*

    OP2 –

    I’m not trying to pile on, but I agree with what everyone else said. I can see how you’d be uncertain, especially as a new manager, but tbh, your question comes across to me as being bothered that the employee wants to use a sick day as opposed to PTO because it’s possible that she wouldn’t use the sick day otherwise.

    But here’s the thing – while I suppose it’s possible that she just wants a vacation day, I don’t understand why she wouldn’t just call in the morning of the day if that was her real motivation. If she’s lying, what reason would she have for telling you in advance? And, is it worth alienating her over whether she uses a sick day vs. PTO to go see her doctor? I feel like this is a situation where the cost to your relationship with the employee is going to be far great than allowing her to use the sick day in a reasonable circumstance.

    On a logistical note – I’ve had a lot of doctor’s appointments lately, and yeah, they can take awhile. Sometimes I’m in and out in twenty minutes and don’t need to get bloodwork done. Sometimes I’m there for three hours and have to go get bloodwork done. It’s difficult to predict, and the last thing I want to do is call my boss and give them updates or stress about whether I’m going to get back to work when I said I would.

    Additionally, depending on when the appointment is, it might just not be worth it on either side. For an early morning or late afternoon appointment? Yeah, maybe going to work for half a day makes sense. A noon appointment, on the other hand, might allow a couple hours on either side of it, but when your time is so segmented it can be hard to be productive, and if someone decides they’d rather take it easy in the morning before they go rather than running around frantically all day, do you really want to fight them on it? Would you also argue with them about whether they were sick enough to stay home? (Because that’s essentially what you’re doing here – you’re saying that she doesn’t need the time she’s taking.)

    I’d let it go, OP.

    1. Jessa*

      Especially when most companies only pay out in half or whole days. I’ve only worked for one company (state government in Florida) that payed out in hourly increments. There comes a point where full day is just easier sometimes.

  18. Amanda*

    #2 I echo most previous comments. If the employee says its for a doctor’s appointment, then it’s a sick day and I can’t see that there’s any reason for you to be suspicious or want to pry into this further. Some appointments take a long time, as many have said, while other doctor’s appointments can be mentally and physically draining enough that the employee will not be in an appropriate state to return to work that day.

    For example, when I had a miscarriage, I had a morning appointment with the doctor to confirm the miscarriage was inevitable and was going to occur, I picked up a prescription, and I had the rest of the day off as a sick day. I was not mentally available to be at work the rest of the day following that appointment. And is this really the type of personal info you want to have to pry out of your employee??

    1. some1*

      I’m sorry forgot your loss and this is a perfect example of something no one wants to get into with their boss.

  19. Observer*

    For #2 (Doctor’s appointment)

    I don’t want to pile on here, and others have made important points here very well. The thing that jumps out at me is that you think it “obvious” that an appointment couldn’t take a whole day. What makes you think that? That’s actually so far from reality, that if you were to question your staff on it, you could really come off looking extremely naive and inexperienced , totally clueless or horribly boundary challenged (as many people would just assume that you really know better and are using this as an excuse to pry.) None of these perceptions will be very helpful to you in your role. More often than not, appointments that you can plan for in advance can be quite time consuming. Others have provided enough examples that I don’t need to add on.

    You might want to find yourself a mentor who can give you reality checks on stuff that seem obvious to you.

    1. Judy*

      Yes, it’s obvious that many doctor’s appointments don’t take a whole day, but it should be also obvious that a non-trivial number of them can take the whole day or a majority of the day.

    2. Not+So+NewReader*

      My friend had a boss that in all sincerity told my friend to schedule is doctor appointments for after work or on Saturday. My friend said. “You’re new to the area and it really shows right now.”

  20. Lily in NYC*

    #5 – Oh my god, that is mortifying! Our Marketing director decided to fire her admin and our former HR director stupidly sent the termination memo in an inter-office envelope. The admin opened all the mail for her boss so she saw that she was going to get fired the next day. She handled it so graciously. That idiot HR director ended up getting fired for two different types of fraud.

  21. soitgoes*

    For #1, does the employee actually know that her fellow lab workers are supplying the cream and such? She might think that it’s all being provided for free by the larger organization. I’ve made that mistake before. It’s not an obvious thing to assume.

    For #3, I wouldn’t worry about it. When I was in college, multiple people from any given major would end up interning (and later working) at the same companies at the same time because of agreements with the school. It’s only natural that couples in the same major would work together. Just say, “Yeah, we met in college. Isn’t that funny?”

  22. illini02*

    #1 This just seems weird to me to bring up. I mean I think I understand your point (although its not clear is she just isn’t bringing in ANYTHING or just not cream which she uses a lot of). However, unless you are going to put everyone on a coffee ration it seems a bit much. I’ve been in offices where we share things. I may take more of one thing and less of another, but it usually evens out. Plus, is arguing over coffee creamer really what you want to have a strained relationship with a co-worker over?

    #2 I don’t get your issue in this at all. She is requesting a sick day for a doctors appointment in advance. If anything, you should be happy she isn’t just doing it day of and making you scramble for coverage. You don’t know what she is doing at the doctor, how far it is, anything. True the actual appointment may not take all day, but based on other factors, it could put her out of commission all day. Plus, to just come in as a new manager and assume your employees are lying is just not a good way to approach a good working relationship. Please just approve the day. Even if she does just have a 20 minute check up and she uses the rest for personal time, why do you care so much?

    1. Allison*

      Maybe instead of “you need to bring in cream” or “we need you to contribute,” someone (a peer, not a manager) could suggest to her that she should consider contributing since she drinks so much coffee. She’ll either get the message that she should, and agree, or she’ll explain why she doesn’t contribute. But the more conversational it sounds (rather than confrontational), she less defensive she’s likely to be.

      1. Jessa*

        True, and also letting her know that it’s not company supplied is a big thing. If she’s not aware she’s putting her coworkers out money, that alone should change her behaviour.

  23. Allison*

    1) Something like this should be addressed ASAP. The longer you wait, the more likely she may feel like she’s had the rug pulled out from under her. The longer someone’s “allowed” to do something, the more it’ll suck when they’re told they can’t. So don’t delay!

    2) Your employees are adults, yes? Then treat them like adults, and that means trusting them unless they’ve already given you a reason not to. Sure, some people might be into “gaming the system” by using sick days to take some time off and just veg out at home, but I think the majority of people out there take sick days only when needed. It’s possible this employee isn’t sure how long the appointment will go; sometimes the doctor finds something and it turns into a day of tests (and waiting for said tests), and if that happens she doesn’t want to have to tell you about them. Maybe the doctor’s office is far away. Maybe she knows she won’t be getting a whole lot of work done that day, so a sick day just makes sense.

  24. soitgoes*

    A thought: I agree with some that the issue with #2 is more about PTO vs. sick time, not about the need for a doctor’s day in general. Does the employee maybe not have enough PTO accumulated to take the whole day? Some appointments can’t wait.

  25. tesyaa*

    In my first job, a new org chart came out while a well-liked VP was on vacation, and his name wasn’t on it. When he came back to work the first morning after vacation, we all knew he was getting laid off that day, even though he apparently had not been told. Kinda awkward.

    1. Artemesia*

      I hate it when they lay someone off right after vacation; for many people this creates an immediate financial hardship. They might not have taken the vacation or an expensive vacation if they had known.

      1. tesyaa*

        I don’t remember the reason for his vacation, whether is was expensive or not. The awkward part was that everyone, even the most junior people, knew before he did.

      2. Not My Usual Name Here*

        Or worse – we fired one guy right after his wedding and honeymoon. (Apparently there was a big to-do about whether ‘right before’ or ‘right after’ was worse. They decided not to ‘spoil’ his big day so chose after. I can’t imagine either way.)

        1. CA Admin*

          My husband got let go from a long-term temp assignment 1 week before our wedding. He’d been there 9 months and interviewed for some permanent positions, but they didn’t want to deal with him being out for a week, so they let him go and got another temp. The first few months of marriage can be difficult, but a newly unemployed spouse made them so much harder.

      3. Colette*

        I don’t think that’s ideal, but that’s not really something you can consider when making that kind of decision. For one thing, a vacation can be a big expense, but so can renovations/buying a new car/helping family with bills, and not everyone shares those at work. For another, some people are perpetually spending money they haven’t made yet – there would never be a good time to lay them off.

        1. Jessa*

          I understand that, but if you know absolutely someone is being let go, for whatever reason and happen to hear they’re about to spend x, I think it’s reasonable to let them know. Telling someone after when they can’t undo something they can no longer afford and you knew about it, I think is a lousy way to do things. If they’d told him before the wedding maybe he could have cancelled some services that would have cost and only had a small cancellation fee rather than being on the hook for something he cannot now afford because he made plans based on a salary he no longer has.

          It’s one thing if nobody knows, that happens, person buys house, tells no one til it closes and gets laid off. But when it’s clear that a MAJOR thing (wedding, house, new car,) is about to happen because the person is talking to everyone about OMG we’re doing x, it’s absolutely not reasonable to sit on the information.

          1. Colette*

            Often they don’t know in advance, though. They make have a suspicion, but often the names are not final until they are told. I don’t think these are usually cavalier decisions, and in my experience, it’s better not to have advance warning long before anyone know specifics.

            Weddings are a good example of something that you usually commit to financially far in advance, so if he knew, he likely wouldn’t be able to make financially significant changes at the last minute, and the stress would cast a pall over the event. Similarly a house – you typically sign a contract a month or months in advance. Knowing the week before closing doesn’t really help you, unless you like lawsuits.

    2. Judy*

      I was once in a meeting with the rest of the division, about 250 employees, and saw an org chart that gave me a new boss. He had apparently heard 15 minutes before the meeting that he was being let go. Incredibly awkward, as many heads in the room swiveled to find our team.

      1. Jessa*

        Yeh, that’s no way to treat people. It should not come as that kind of surprise. And in no way (barring error, and they do happen,) should other people find out first.

  26. FX-ensis*

    #1 – You can’t bring in your own drinks? Or bring in your own jar and make accordingly?

    You also don’t know why she is doing this…maybe she has an actual caffeine addiction? Or she needs it to perk up?

    Or you could just say that everybody should keep/use their own supplies…and only have a common kettle, sink, utensils, etc.

    #3 – I agree it’s best to keep it low, I doubt many would mind, and most would be happy for you and your SO.

    #5 – Hmm….your manager is a dope. If this is how s/he handles this thing, then s/he could easily mistreat you. However, did s/he tell you in confidence? Do you have a special association (,i.e. are you his or her assistant?) If so, then I suppose it makes sense in this regard. An Executive Asst. may have access to this, as would a PA. I’ve been a kind of Executive Asst. before (I say kind of since it was the duties but not the official title) and this and other confidential stuff was discussed all the time. If in any other context, then yeah, it’s not very tactful or professional.

  27. Cucumber*

    #2 – I had to reply to this before even finishing the rest of the post. There are absolutely doctors’ visits that require entire sick days. We tend to be squeamish in society about talking about various medical procedures, especially in “mixed company”, and as a result we don’t always have knowledge, or furthermore, compassion, about what someone is dealing with. You truly don’t know if an outpatient procedure, or a group of tests, will last all day.

    A couple of years ago, I had a outpatient test that is famous for being painful, called an HSG. I was lucky, in that I read up and was forewarned to take a heavy dose of painkillers, and didn’t experience excessive pain during the procedure. Afterwards, I was unable to drive and unsteady; I ended up needing to continue heavy painkillers into the next day. There was no way I was making it back into work. I took a full sick day in advance, and I am grateful my bosses didn’t doubt me or ask many questions. That in turn built trust.

    I’ve been a manager, and also worked with managers who were stepping into the role for the first time. It’s important not to overthink everything, such as whether your employees are “trying to get away with something”, especially if you don’t see a pattern just yet.

  28. SPF40*

    #2 Enough has been commented on how it is possible for one appointment to take all day.
    Don’t think this is the case for this employer, but once I worked at a place where sick time was allowed for medical appointments, but could only be taken in full-day increments within our time reporting software. I don’t know the high-level HR reasoning for this or if it was a limitation of the software. At the local HR and manager level, it was acknowledged that if your dental cleaning only took 1.5 hours, you shouldn’t have to take the whole day of sick time out of your accrual to claim that. So people either loaded up appointments and took a whole day, or had one short appointment and the rest of the day for themselves, or did their own manager-approved accounting of sick hours e.g. Three weeks ago Monday 2 hours, this week 2 days of 3 hours each, then claim one full sick day in the time reporting.

  29. JMegan*

    #4, you called in 10 times for a single sick day? That’s a lot – even if you’re exaggerating, and you only called three or four times, that’s still a lot.

    It depends on the culture of your office and your individual manager, but in most places I’ve worked, a simple email or voice mail is fine. “Boss, I’m not feeling well today and am going to stay home. See you tomorrow.” The boss may or may not reply with “okay, hope you feel better,” but that’s really the most you should expect.

    If you want to talk to her about how much your work is stressing you out, that’s totally legit. But the way to do that is to schedule a meeting, on a day when you’re in the office, and be direct about what’s happening and the impact it’s having on you.

    I can’t tell from your letter, but it sounds to me like you have called her X times to tell her you’ll be away on Monday, and you’re annoyed that she has not returned your call to ask if you’re okay. If that’s the case, it’s really out of line with the expectations in most workplaces, because most managers don’t return calls like that under normal circumstances. And if you do need to talk to her about something specific, please tell her that, rather than calling a bunch of times and hoping she’ll call you back.

    FWIW, you do sound very stressed, and I hope the day off helps (or has helped). Sounds like you need it!

    1. Loose Seal*

      The way I read the letter was that the OP called 10 times to talk to the manager about the work problem that was so stressing. The last call, after not having heard back from the manager about the work problem, was to say that they weren’t coming in Monday because of the stress.

      Still not good but vastly different than calling in 10 times to say you weren’t coming in.

      1. JMegan*

        Okay, on re-reading it looks like this:
        Calls 1-8 – General stress
        Call 9 – Not coming in Monday
        Calls 10-X – Did you get my previous calls?

        So, a bit better than my initial read. But still, that’s way too many calls! If OP could do it over again, I would suggest something like this:
        Call 1 – I need some help with X situation, please call me back so we can discuss
        Call 2 – I will be taking Monday off, and still need to talk about X when I’m back in the office. Will send you an email to confirm.

        Send the confirmation email, and book a meeting with her for Tuesday to discuss the stress around X. Then, assume the manager has gotten the message, take Monday off, and use the time to prep for your meeting. Don’t keep emailing or phoning, because that really will look needy, as others have suggested, and will not put her in a good mood for when you do get to meet with her.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, I agree with this. I would have only left one message about X. Then if I said I would not be in on Monday I definitely would not expect a call about X at all. Why would she bother if I am not going to be in anyway?

          And I have only had one boss that called me back when I called in sick. And, OP, this is not something you want a boss to do, HONEST. It’s not going to be a pleasant conversation at all.

          The only time I have ever contacted a boss twice about a sick day was when I could email the boss. I cross referenced the two points of contact. So my phone message said,
          “I am going to email you to be sure you find my message.”

  30. C Average*


    So, here’s how this stuff works where I work.

    Let’s say I need to make a doctor’s appointment. I’m going to make it in the early morning or late afternoon. I’m going to look at my calendar, my team’s schedule and overall responsibilities, etc., and I’m going to choose a day when nothing is going on. I’m going to ask for the whole day, even though I probably won’t need it, because I have 200 unused hours of PTO. I am going to go to the appointment and I’m going to spend the rest of the day shopping, reading a book, going running, and shamelessly goofing off. It’s going to be wonderful. I’ll have my phone and my work computer with me; if something catches on fire, I’ll be able to put it out at a moment’s notice. But if everything stays quiet, I’m going to enjoy my day off.

    If my employer were to have a problem with that, I’d remind my employer that technically, I’m not obligated to show up early and stay late, I’m not obligated to work through my lunch most days, I’m not obligated to deal promptly with issues that come up on weekends and holidays and evenings, etc. You’re getting a lot more than the basics from me. If I want to take a whole day for a three-hour appointment, why not just say yes? I say yes to plenty of crazy things you ask me to do. It’ll all even out.

    1. Jessa*

      So much this THANK YOU. Employers should absent a pattern of problems, trust their employees, especially if they behave like C. It’s insane that it’s often companies that expect workers to step up like C does that are the ones that are “OMG you took a day off prove it.”

      Oh and please, please, please, if you spot a pattern with someone deal with it. And by deal with it I do not mean put in a rigid unbreakable policy that applies to everyone in the company. I mean put the abuser on a PIP.

  31. Hiring Mgr*

    OP #2,

    One suggestion is to assign another employee to follow the “sick” worker that day. They could park outside the slacker’s home early in the morning, and tail them to the appt. They can report to you hourly if they are still at the dr’s, did they go shopping, etc…

    This way you’ll know exactly what happened, and if it’s true the employee needed all day, you won’t have to say anything and just go on. If the employee was at the dr’s just for a short time, you can address that as well.

    The one caveat is to make sure that the employee you have as the spy is NOT someone the sick worker knows well, otherwise they might recognize their car.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles*

      Yes, a wise use of resources! It’s totally worth paying another employee to spend the day tracking the one going to the appointment.

      Of course, the OP may then become suspicious that the spying employee is in cahoots with the malingerer. What if, after her appointment, they both decide to spend the rest of the day goofing off – with the spy calling in that everything is on the op & up?

      I guess then you’d need a spy for the spy. But that employee better be absolutely trustworthy, or they may need their own spy. Pretty soon you’ve got the whole damn office out for the day tracking each other’s movements.

      Or, you could just let the first employee have the day off as requested to attend to her needs.

    2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

      I don’t know – Dwight has a pretty distinctive car and Oscar didn’t notice until he jumped out of the bushes. :)

    3. Observer*

      I hope that this is sarcasm, just intended to highlight the absurdity of the question.

      Because otherwise, seriously!? You think that putting a tail on an employee to insure that they don’t leave the Dr. Office is a good use of resources? And how on earth is the OP supposed to address this without coming off as a paranoid idiot? Do you really think people up the food chain are going to look well on this? Even in work places that really Do think that taking an extra hour is a terrible thing to do, using up another full day of work to find that out is not going to look so heroic…

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Hmm… You make a good point on the resource issue. It may be more efficient to hire a private detective so that you are maximizing the efficiency of ALL employees.

    4. Traveler*

      If my manager recruited me to stalk another employee to a sick day appt I would be looking for another job, and possibly giving subtle hints to coworkers that the boss might have lost it. This would inspire a whole other set of letters to AAM about the employer having paranoia issues.

      1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        I’m sure Hiring Mgr was kidding, everyone. There are awful managers out there, but I refuse to believe they are regular AAM readers – we just aren’t known for supporting stalking advocacy. But we are kind of known for a tongue in cheek all in good fun kind of humor.

        That’s where my money is.

        DIGRESSION – there is someone 2 offices away wearing perfume and my eyes are literally watering. I am not fragrance sensitive and this hasn’t happened here before but I’m in a cloud – I’m shocked it’s not visible.

        I can taste it when I breathe and it smells like Christmas! Like I’m trapped in the potpourri room in Santa’s Workshop! So much for liking the holidays.

    5. newbie in Canada*

      Are you serious? If your employee found out they were followed you have killed all trust forever.

    6. Zillah*

      I can see the letter now!

      “Dear Ask A Manager,

      My boss was skeptical that a coworker actually needed the full day off when she decided to use a sick day for a doctor’s appointment. He approved the sick day, but then assigned me to follow her. I’m not comfortable stalking my coworker, and now I’m worried that I’ll be stalked next week when I go to my doctor’s appointment to address my digestive issues. What do you suggest I do?”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Your boss called. He said if you stopped eating that would cure your digestive issues. This would free you up to report on more coworkers.

    1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

      Yep. :( I’ve always hated this, but as IT it’s unavoidable for me. Boss totally erred in not telling her the other person didn’t know. They have have assumed they’d be discreet anyway, but I don’t trust assumptions on that kind of thing.

      A rule of thumb for me on any negative situation is let the person bring it up first. Job loss, divorce, miscarriage, death in family, serious illness, etc. Even when they know you know. Painful or scary situations should always be up to the person directly affected by it to bring it up or not. Because sometimes they are doing their best to hold it together and don’t need well meaning others hitting their carefully constructed house of cards with their bracelet. I don’t ever want to be Marcia Brady’s bracelet.

      Once they know you know it’s nice to let people know you’re there if they ever need to talk, but you’re not going to bring it up because you are leaving it up to them. So they don’t think you’re avoiding it because you don’t want to be bummed out or whatever. Kinda more relevant to personal relationships than work usually – but it applies.

  32. ella*

    Don’t call your manager 10 times in a day unless something is on fire or otherwise exploding. Just don’t. Call, leave a message, assume they got the message. If you’re concerned they didn’t get the message, email them a quick note. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s an inverse relationship between the number of times you call a person/messages you leave the the likelihood that they’ll call you back.

  33. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

    For the OP calling in – I’d be very sure you’re following the company’s procedures for calling in. In many (and I know all are different) calling and leaving a message on a cell is not sufficient. If the procedure is to leave a message on a work line, or email, or to let HR know make sure you cya’ed because it sounds like a precarious situation and you don’t want to give them a technicality.

    And I co-sign everyone who said if you call in for this to go with a variation of I’m not feeling well and not to tell them it was work stress in particular. You don’t want to plant the seed that you’re on the edge of not being able to handle it and I would be thinking you might not be coming back at all, if you’d left me that message.

    And she’s probably not calling you back because she doesn’t want to get into the drama of whatever is going on over the phone. If things are so bad you’re not coming into work they are probably bad enough she wants to discuss it in a controlled environment in person. I would.

  34. Bunny*

    On sick days and doctor’s appointments – it really can be necessary to take a full day off, even if the appointment itself is only something quick and simple. Even if it’s just a visit to the GP, that can involve travel to the GP (usually local to the patient’s home address, so if they commute for work they might have a long journey back and forth), waiting past the allotted appointment time (GPs are almost always behind due to heavy workloads and appointments taking longer than expected), blood tests, new prescriptions, etc. My other half always has to spend 10 minutes patiently waiting while the GP reads through his very long and medically fascinating medical records. And then if you’re going back to work afterwards you need to commute back again. If it’s for something bigger such as a physiotherapy session or an MRI or something else that involves going to a hospital rather than the GP, you can be looking at spending several hours there or, depending on what the tests/procedures indicate, the entire day. I’ve known people go in for outpatient surgery promised that they’d be in surgery at dawn and on their way home by lunch, who ended up having to stay overnight.

    Booking an entire sick day off for a doctor’s appointment, depending on the specific circumstances, can actually be a very sensible decision – surely it’s better that you know she isn’t going to be there in advance and can account for that in scheduling, than have her call you in the middle of the day to say the doctor’s appointment is taking longer than expected, leaving you needing to handle a last-minute, unexpected staff shortage?

  35. TONY*

    #2. be careful here. Some appointments, especially testing and follow-up testing can take hours and leave you emotionally drained with worry. The last thing you want is someone strapped to their desk wracked with emotional and mental issues. Let her take the day. She will be better able to process what she may be going through and your support will mean the world. Please practice “human” leadership. If it becomes a trend with no supporting information, have a conversation then but by no means come across as anything but supportive. These are make or break it moments in any manager’s career and you have an opportunity to ‘not sweat the small stuff’ but really solidify loyalty to you.

  36. fposte*

    Coincidentally, I had a doctor’s appointment today. I left my house at 7:30 and returned home at 4. Nothing dramatic, just a consultation, but with distance and delays that’s how long it took.

  37. snuck*

    I’ve done the last one – told a couple of employees that I was about to hand redundancy paperwork to a third employee… I told them in confidence, the afternoon before I flew out to tell the employee in question in another state. They were both incredibly ethical and moral employees who were a bit shocked I told them…

    I told them because my gut told me it was the right thing to do and that the redundant employee would get nasty. It was the right call… in front of me in the meeting room when I handed him his paperwork he dialled these colleagues up on the conference phone and gave them an earful… before ringing his wife. Yeah… that was a special team bonding moment.

    My other employees expressed gratitude on my return, and kept it confidential (I’d explained this was very important because I was flying interstate to do it and the employee in question would have not shown up to work for a few days if he’d known why I was coming). It helped to actually build trust amongst the rest of the team, knowing that I’d be fair and ethical with them (I also timed the redundancy specifically to give the person the best tax outcomes for them to choose from etc, against my bosses wishes), and that I’d be upfront when I needed to be – they knew they could come to me and get an honest answer.

  38. Purr purr purr*

    OP1, how about asking people who use the coffee to make a contribution to the cost? That way the money for the coffee and cream is paid for by everyone (maybe make one person responsible for buying it with the money that’s gone into the collection) and anyone who doesn’t want to contribute either has to make their own coffee arrangements with their own supply or they just don’t get any.

    It’s frustrating to have a colleague who isn’t buying anything but is she aware that she’s supposed to contribute? I ask because my old job had a coffee machine (the kind that took pots) and when I had my orientation I was shown where it was, told ‘to help myself’ and so I just assumed the company paid for the supplies. It turned out they didn’t and it would have been easier for me if my colleagues had explained that I was expected to buy some of the little coffee and hot chocolate pots every now and then!

  39. Cassie*

    #2: you may notice that if you treat your staff like grown-ups, they will behave like grown-ups (in most cases). If this employee has a history of poor performance or attendance issues, you should address that. Taking a full day for a doctor’s appointment is not completely over-the-top, and plus it may be more than one appointment or may require bloodwork/tests/etc.

    My dentist works Saturdays so most of my teeth cleanings are on Saturdays. But when I needed to get my wisdom tooth pulled, I had to scheduled it for a workday at 11:30am (he didn’t have any openings on Saturday and it would have been too painful to wait until his next available Saturday). My mom used her lunch hour to come pick me up and drive me home, so she didn’t have to use time off (though I assume she could have used sick leave if she wanted to).

    I tend to be a cynic and skeptical (suspicious?) of others, but if there’s one thing I don’t want to get involved in, it’s other people’s medical issues. Or their money issues. Or their family issues. Or actually any of their issues. As long as they get their work done, that’s all I need to care about.

  40. Kim*

    Re: 2. Should I approve this sick day?
    I’m new to the workforce here and I didn’t know you could schedule sick days in advance. I always thought you could only use sick days for days that you call out when you are actually sick. So that means I can use sick time for example, a dental cleaning or medical appointment?

    1. Kyrielle*

      This will depend on your company’s policy and you should check what your employee handbook says. Where I work, absolutely yes you can, but that’s not universal. Common, I think. But not universal.

  41. West Coast Reader*

    #3 – Since you’re working in a newsroom, the news of the day should be more engrossing than the interns’ love lives.

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