I keep getting work questions while I’m on maternity leave, telling new job about a counter-offer, and more

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

1. I keep getting work questions while I’m on maternity leave

I’ve seen a couple of questions on your blog addressing answering questions after leaving a position. I’m in a similar boat with an exception: I’m returning. I am currently on maternity leave and arranged with my employer that after a few months, I will be working part-time from home with a flexible schedule on only one piece of my previous job.

Before I left, I created extensive documents detailing all aspects of my job and trained the people covering/taking over for me. One of these people was a supervisor. She was always challenging to work with, but I now have a new challenge that I’m not sure how to respond to. She is sending me a few emails/texts a week asking things that she could either find in my documentation or frankly just don’t matter enough to warrant asking (no, I don’t remember if I ordered pencils before leaving, but you can check the invoices). On top of that, she complained to me just days after my baby was born about how hard it has been for her to do this job. I want to stay polite and helpful, but am getting fed up because I want to really be on leave while I’m on leave! I have already said that because I’m focusing on my family, I may not be able to respond in a timely manner because I thought she might get the hint, but that evidently didn’t accomplish anything. What can I do to stop all but the most urgent questions while still maintaining a good relationship?

When you’re hinting and someone isn’t getting the hint, that’s a sign that you need to stop hinting. In this case, that means that you need to tell her directly that you’ve realized you can’t answer work emails while you’re on leave, and that you won’t be able to respond to additional requests — and then stick to that. That last part is important. If she emails you, delete the emails; you’ve given her fair warning. (I’m assuming she’s emailing you at your personal address. If she’s emailing you at your work address, stop checking that; you’re on leave.)

Also, is she a supervisor, or your supervisor? If the former, you might also tell your boss that you’re taking a firmer line with this person because she’s continually interrupting your leave with non-urgent questions and that you’d appreciate their help in ensuring that she doesn’t continue asking you to answer work questions.

2. Should I tell my new employer that I turned down a counter from my current employer?

When I gave my resignation on Monday, my current company countered with a very strong offer. Regardless, I’m leaving there because of poor management, not money; so of course I’m not going to accept.

Should I tell the recruiter from my new employer that I turned down a counter offer from my current company? I thought maybe that would let them know that while my current employer values me immensely, I already have loyalty to this new company — and maybe that earns me more respect?

Nope, not unless it somehow comes up organically. For example, if they ask you something like, “How did your manager take your resignation?” you could possibly mention it in your answer … but if you sound like you’re mentioning it just for the sake of mentioning it, it risks sounding braggy and a little off-putting. I definitely wouldn’t reach out to them just to tell them about this. (And really, presumably they already assume you’re a valuable employee or they wouldn’t have hired you.)

3. Ice-chewing coworker

I work at a small hometown newspaper. We have partial cubical walls (that are very ugly) that don’t do much to block out sound. The spot in the back projects noise unlike the others. The problem is, the person who sits there chews ice all day long. I am not exaggerating, though I wish I were. One of my coworkers addressed her annoyance with the ice-chomping to the ice-chomper, though probably not in the most professional way. That only made it worse. Now everyone is afraid to say anything about it. The ice-chomper will know who complained as we are fairly close. Just not close enough not to annoy each other on purpose I guess. How can we get her stop? A few of us tune it out, a few of us can’t. Any suggestions?

You have to either get over the fear of saying something, or accept that it’s going to continue. I’d go with the first option. Say this: “Jane, I’m sure you don’t realize this, but for some reason the sound of chewing ice really travels and is making it hard for me to focus. I’m so sorry to ask, but could you try to minimize it?”

(And really, if she responds to this badly, she’s the unprofessional one and you can comfortable write her off as a loon.)

Otherwise, headphones.

4. Adding on to an answer after an interview

If after the interview, the candidate realizes that he/she did not understand the employer question properly and would like to add on to his/her answer, is it okay to email the interviewer saying, “I believe I did not understand your question fully during the interview but later on when I was rethinking about the questions being asker, it struck me and here is my answer to that….”

Sure, that’s fine to do.

5. Paying less during bad weather

My boss asked me to tell the team that next time we have an inclement weather day, it is mandatory for everyone to come into work, and since our patients (we are a dental office) will most likely not show up, he will pay not pay them their hourly rate but an office rate he decides on since they will not be able to perform their normal duties. For example, a hygienist receives $40 an hour but since her patients may not show up/cancel due to the weather, she will receive $12 an hour and she can do office work instead. I understand he can chose not to close the business due to weather, but if he requires the team to come in, can he pay them less due to the possibility there won’t be patients to work on due to the weather?

Nope, he can’t — at least not unless he negotiated that specific arrangement with them previously (and if they’re all non-exempt, since he can’t change exempt workers’ pay like that even if they signed off on it).

This kind of BS is why people unionize.

{ 171 comments… read them below }

  1. LondonI*

    #3 – It sounds as the the ice-chewer has iron deficiency anaemia. It’s a symptom of this medical condition, but one that can be addressed and managed relatively easily by taking iron supplements. (At least, that’s my understanding.)

    1. James M*

      The suggestion to take supplements may not be well received; grouchiness is a symptom of any number of imbalances. It may be worthwhile for OP3 to offer the ice-chomper raisins or dried apricots (sweet nibbles that are loaded with vitamins including iron).

      1. Ella*

        “Dear AAM, I have a coworker who used to chew ice, and it was annoying. I pointed out that she may have an iron deficiency, and now she chews crunchy supplements all day, and it’s still annoying! What do I do?”

    2. Colette*

      If there’s a medical condition behind it, that’s for the ice chewer to deal with – the OP should not speculate about what’s causing the behavior.

      1. Ted Mosby*

        This. All of this. You have no idea if she’s anemic or it’s a nervous habit or she’s dieting and trying to distract herself, or anything. It’s not your business.

        If a coworker asked me to stop a habit that was bothering them, I would listen. If a coworker asked me to stop doing something, diagnosed me, and then tried to feed me snacks, I would be annoyed beyond belief.

    3. Xarcady*

      Chewing ice can be a symptom of low iron, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who chews ice has anemia. This person could simply like to chew ice.

      Better to try to deal with the behavior than attempt to diagnose an illness that might not even be present.

      1. Ella*

        I just like to chew ice. It’s a habit. I’ve done it for as long as I can remember, so I don’t think I’m anemic. My brother does it too. I try to not do it in obvious areas (like movie theaters), but it’s also the kind of thing that is easy to forget is audible to others (because chewing noises are always louder inside your own head).

        1. Jessa*

          Me too, so yes, politely tell the person they’re being noisy. It’s okay to do that if you’re not nasty about it. I try not to do it in public places like work or theatres, but sometimes you just forget (ice is fun.)

    4. shellbell*

      I wish it was true that anemia could always be that easily managed. Either way, it is best not speculate about the why or about other’s health conditions.

    5. Corporate Attorney*

      Wow – I craved chewing ice for years, and don’t anymore. I also suffered from iron deficiency anemia for years, and now do not. I had NO IDEA they could be related.

  2. Panda Bandit*

    #3 – If speaking to the ice chewer doesn’t help, can someone put up sound-absorbing things between that back cubicle and the rest of the office? A row of plants or a fabric barrier or anything soft will soak up the sound.

    1. Lee*

      But really, she should just cut it down, or move to a spot that doesn’t project sound as much.

    2. Meg Danger*

      This is what I was thinking… Would it be possible to move the chewer to another cubicle if the back cubicle is the one that has issues around sound travel?

  3. Revanche*

    #1, this is really annoying behavior and I hope your boss supports respecting your leave.
    My boss is actually the one emailing and texting questions or even asking me if I’ll work on huge projects while I’m on leave, phrased in a “I’m dangling a carrot” kind of way. Since a) I’m on leave recovering badly and b) they were crap about offering leave pay, I only answer messages when I have a free minute (rarely) and don’t volunteer/accept any projects. (Who the heck has time to work on a massive project while coping with a newborn and looking for help?? My boss is definitely choosing to fail to take that hint as I told him I’d be available for emergencies only during this time.)

    1. Kathryn*

      My workplace has bold notes on leave paperwork about how doing any work while on leave can endanger your eligibility for leave. Consequently, asking anything, anything at all of someone on leave is a HUGE no-no. I thought it was like that everywhere.

      Which is to say I have no advice, but a lot of sympathy. That is not okay to be hassled like that on leave.

      1. Snowglobe*

        The reason that your company doesn’t allow it, is that if someone’s on FMLA it could actually get the company in trouble if they do any work while on leave.

        If the OP is on FMLA, I’d recommend that she contact HR, specifically the FMLA specialist (if there is one) to ask about this. They’d probably make it stop right away.

        1. Vee*

          It’s possible that she’s also on disability. I believe the same rules apply. OP contact HR as soon as possible!

      2. Kyrielle*

        Yes, this. I was flatly not allowed to log in to work email at all – even to keep my password from expiring (so when I returned from leave, I lost two hours waiting for IT to reset it, lol).

    2. Ella*

      You sound like you’re struggling, I understand this probably isn’t the place to get into it, but I hope things get easier for you.

    3. fposte*

      I can’t remember–are you actually on FMLA? If so, that may be a reason to evoke Alison’s popular “I wouldn’t want to get the company in trouble for breaking the law” line.

      The concept is called “FMLA interference,” by the way, if you need an actual phrase.

      1. Revanche*

        Unfortunately we’re not bound by FMLA but I am on state benefits right now. I don’t think they have as stringent a clause against working during the leave as FMLA does. Thankfully, while I’m annoyed, I can also say “no”, though I guess we’ll see if there are repercussions when I return. I’m already being punished for taking mat leave in my last raise so ….

    4. Michelle Bair*

      This is something I keep thinking about. My boss is a bit ridiculous to begin with, and I’m hoping that she will honor the boundaries of FMLA when I’m out.

      Why does it come off as even remotely appropriate to ask an individual on FMLA for anything at all? When it comes down to it, everyone is replaceable. It make take more time to get some things done, but they will get done. There are enough people, at large organizations at least, that if you ask enough questions, you’ll figure it out.

      1. Jeanne*

        It has nothing to do with “appropriate.” If someone is on FMLA, it could be against the law to ask any work questions. If you are on FMLA, your doctor has certified you cannot work right now. If you work, then you could lose your benefits.

        I don’t know if it’s the same if you are on FMLA to take care of a family member like mom.

        1. Judy*

          I know at least two companies that separate out the disability part of maternity leave from the caretaking part of maternity leave. The entire leave was FMLA. Any communication during the disability part had to be very much not work. We could invite, not require, someone during the caretaking part to things like training or a workshop.

          The disability part of maternity leave followed the same rules as any other disability leave, I know because I had several coworkers with serious health issues, requiring multiple month recoveries.

    5. OP#3*

      My company is too small to have FMLA, so I’m just taking time off. The person who keeps asking me questions was my supervisor, but that role is the one I gave up permanently so I guess she’s just a co-worker at a higher level now, though the dynamic is a little strange. Before I left, the boss actually said ‘oh you don’t mind answering questions while you’re out, do you? I’ll make sure that the only people who ask are Lucinda and James!’ I felt really awkward and wanted to say that yes I did mind, but instead said that if they were the only people contacting me for really urgent things, it would be fine because I trusted their judgment. The woman who had been emailing is neither Lucinda nor James. Oh, and to answer Alison’s question, it texts to my cell and emails to my personal email. I have not checked any work emails since leaving.

      I plan on being more direct as she suggests, and hopefully it doesn’t end in a hissy fit!

  4. Snoskred*

    #3 – This might sound a bit cray-cray, but this is something I did that worked with a noise issue. You – or the person who sits closest to her -might need to spend a day chomping ice yourself.

    We had one person in our call centre who insisted on having her phone volume at the highest possible level. She did not consider that it might be annoying to everyone else, nor did she consider the callers on our calls could clearly hear her phone ringing.

    She was asked not to make it so loud but she said she needed to be able to hear it. One day all of us decided enough was enough, and we all put our phones on the highest possible ring tone.. there was always at least one phone ringing and it was incredibly noisy. Suddenly she had callers saying to her “Do you need to get that other call?” and “Wow, the place you work is so noisy, isn’t it!” “How can you manage in a place with so many ringing phones?”- plus she discovered that loud ringing phones can be super annoying to other people when you are on a call and trying to focus on that call. We never had an issue with her phone volume again.

    Chances are, if your co-worker has to hear that noise herself, she will suddenly get how annoying that noise can be.

    Also, I’d like to know where on earth she is getting the ice from? If it is the work fridge, someone might need to “lose” the ice trays. :)

    1. BRR*

      My biggest question from this is how does it work needing to answer your phone when you work at a call center?

      1. Snoskred*

        Depends on the call centre. Most call centres use headsets. I’ve worked in call centres where the phones never ring, or it rings within your headset only. This particular one had headsets connected to regular telephones which would ring. If you turned the ringer off, there is a red light on the phone which would flash, and a little window would pop up on your computer to let you know there was an incoming call to answer. You click a button to answer the call.

      2. Traveler*

        Most call centers don’t allow you to answer your personal phone on the floor, and as Snoskred said, your call center phones don’t usually “ring” in the traditional way.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      Lol, my passive aggressive self once sort of lost it when sitting near a loud and constant sniffler. I started periodically sniffing in a loud and dramatic way. She didn’t notice. I think the people who do that sort of thing are just oblivious. (Even in your case it seems to be the callers who were bothered.)

      1. Ella*

        Sniffling is also a thing that’s hard to stop doing, because it’s a response to physical stimuli. When I blow my nose, my ears pop, and it’s super uncomfortable so I sniffle instead. I get that it’s annoying but a person can’t just stop doing it. It’s like coughing.

          1. Ella*

            Apologies in advance for grossness! It’s actually not generally that my nose is running. The congestion is further back in my skull somewhere (not quite in my sinuses, I don’t think). Like right now, I’m not sniffling, but the air is whistling in my nose because everything’s just a little bit clogged, and is just sort of always that way. I know I should drink less milk and I live with a cat that I’m allergic to and a few other things. I used to take decongestant like candy but that started to freak me out so now I just deal with it.

              1. Ella*

                I just realized that today I’ve posted about chewing ice and sniffling, and now fear that I am the most annoying coworker.

              2. Traveler*

                That makes sense! I don’t like blowing my nose if I can avoid it, for the reasons you listed and because I feel like some sort of loud goose, so I usually do that, that’s why I asked.

            1. KAZ2Y5*

              Have you ever tried saline nasal spray? The brand name is Ocean but there are generics available. There are no decongestants in it, so you can use it as much as you need to and it really helps to break up nasal congestion. If you have used this just ignore me!

                1. TrainerGirl*

                  Those are fantastic! There is also a salt water rinse made by Rhinaris that does the same thing. I use it every other night (or nightly if I’m having a flare-up) in the shower, and it’s great for keeping those symptoms at bay.

                1. Ella*

                  I tried neti pots and it didn’t work for me. In that I couldn’t get over the psychological weirdness of SOMETHINGS GOING IN MY NOSE AND COMING OUT OF THE OTHER PART OF MY NOSE OH GOD BODIES ARE WEIRD.

                2. Connie-Lynne*

                  My husband uses a neti pot bu they always make me feel like I’m drowning.

                  Saline spray is the best, though! I use it to keep my nose moist during the winter and when I travel.

                3. JB*

                  @Ella, how long did you try using one for? I read about a study that said that some people have to use it for awhile before they get over that part of it. Also, maybe the NeilMed squeezy bottle would work better (because it’s faster so less time for water in your head?).

                  My pet sitter swears by schizandra for sinusitis, but she says it doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve never tried it.
                  I actually like popping my ears because although it’s temporarily uncomfortable, I feel like I’ve done something healthy. And my ENT says it’s good for you, so maybe it is.

                  I hear you on the cat you’re allergic to. My allergist doesn’t like that I still have him, but I’m not getting rid of him. Allergy shots have helped.

                4. Ella*

                  @JB–Self-monitoring this morning, I’ve realized that I sniffle just as much to un-pop my ears as to clear out my sinuses (I’m getting over being sick though, so more congested than usual).

                  I tried the neti pot for a couple of weeks. I didn’t notice a huge immediate improvement, and I’m not great at forming habits, and I like to spend as little time as is humanly possible in the bathroom, so it was one of those habits that just didn’t stick (as opposed to deciding it wasn’t doing anything for me). I probably still have the neti pot somewhere and should try again.

                5. JB*

                  @Ella if you need to pop your ears, pinch your nose shut and blow–you don’t have to actually blow your nose (like with a kleenex I mean). That’s how my ENT told me to do it.

                  I know what you mean about not spending a lot of time in the bathroom. You could try just doing it in the evenings to wash out the dirt you got in your nose during the day? Or just save it for the next time you get a cold or sinus infection. :)

                6. Ella*

                  @JB–Oh, popping my ears isn’t the problem. I can pop my ears by flexing my jaw a little bit. I have hair-trigger ear-drum popping. It’s popping them back in so that I can hear what’s going on around me that makes me sniffle.

                  Neti potting in the evening is a good idea. And doing it before I get sick is probably good too (I’ve tried to do it when sick and then my sinuses are so full that the water can’t come back out again…sorry, gross, sorry!)

                7. JB*

                  @Ella I am familiar with that experience. That’s when I switch to the squeeze bottle version.

            2. Kyrielle*

              I have dealt with this for years…and was recently referred to a specialist and discovered I have a weirdly-formed sinus cavity. Which may be fixable with surgery. Hm.

              1. Ella*

                I may have something like that. I’ve had trouble breathing through my sinuses for as long as I can remember, and had ear tubes put in twice, so I suspect I just have some anatomical weirdness that’s aggravated by allergies and diet and things.

                1. JB*

                  Does your ENT or allergist say anything? I had sinus surgery, and it definitely helped. I still have problems, but not nearly as many.

                2. Ella*

                  @JB–No allergist. I’m bad at making doctors appointments (this whole thread today seems to be highlighting things I’m bad at!). I didn’t have medical insurance for most of my 20’s, so I just ended up getting used to dealing with stuff on my own, or figuring it was easier to adapt to how my body seems to work than to try and make it work differently, and I just haven’t gotten out of that habit (I’ve had insurance for like two years now and have seen the doctor twice).

                3. fposte*

                  I think that’s pretty common–the drainage ducts on sinuses are pretty small and not very sensibly placed, so it’s easy for them to get narrowed or stopped up.

                  And yes, this is a matter of personal interest to me as well :-). I don’t think it’s happening often enough for sinus surgery to make sense for me yet, but it may be coming.

                4. JB*

                  I am all about talking about sinuses and allergies, so this conversation is relevant to my interests. :)

                  Ella, it’s probably good that you tried to figure your body out rather than run to the doctor all the time, and everybody has to make their own choices on that. But I’m so so glad I decided to go to the allergist. Of course it helps that I have a great one.

                  fposte, the worst part of the sinus surgery was the need for the mustache bandage.

                5. Kyrielle*

                  I would recommend you get a referral to an ENT to be checked out – they did a mini-CT scan of my sinuses and found all sorts of fun. Her comment was that usually people with this sort of thing don’t present with “recurrent sinus issues” but with “difficulty breathing” so I count my blessings! But I do need to get surgery soon, I think. (I’ve been delaying, as she said I wouldn’t be allowed to lift more than ten pounds for a week or so, and my youngest was a little young to understand Mommy not being able to pick him up…that’s no longer so true.)

                6. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

                  YES. My best freind had trouble with allergies, asthma and all sorts of breathing issues and finally went to an ENT who said, “Oh so you’ve got an infant sized nasal cavity there” and a day surgery later everything was much better.

      2. INTP*

        I caught myself on videotape sniffling when I had to tape a class to critique myself. I definitely didn’t know about it beforehand so I wouldn’t have gotten it. Plus, it was due to respiratory issues (which I’m prone to) so I’m not sure I even could have stopped. It’s an unconscious effort to clear my airways and breathe. I would have to learn to recognize and react to the blocked nose sensation before my reflexes can which is certainly not something I can work on while concentrating on actual work. (And as mentioned below, the congestion usually isn’t running out my nose, it would require a vigorous nose blowing.)

        1. Mabel*

          I host a monthly WebEx meeting for my department, and I edit the recording of the meeting before it’s posted on the intranet. That’s how I discovered that I randomly sniff while speaking. I edit it out, and I hope it isn’t as annoying during the live meeting! In the future, though, I’m going to be sure to use my neti pot before the meeting. I think it will help to reduce the need to sniff.

          1. Saucy Minx*

            I find the Ocean nasal spray results in a horrible release of “stuff” a few hours after use that involves me in fighting not to make hoicking noises & also not to trigger the gag reflex.

            What works far better for me is the saline flush, which my surgeon recommended to me after my sinus reconstruction surgery.

            SALINE FLUSH
            12-ounce mug
            warm water
            1 tsp salt
            baby aspirator (Target or any drugstore))

            Stir salt into warm water in cup. Hang over bathroom sink & forcefully squirt water up each nostril until water is gone. Do not allow anyone to watch this. Can do this daily, even when well, & it is quite helpful at keeping the sinuses in good health.

      3. Ohword*

        I’m a sniffler. I have wicked bad allergies. I am on Zyrtec and nose spray 365 days/year. So now instead of sneezing, my eyes watering non stop, and blowing my nose until it’s chapped– I sniffle. Sorry everyone else!

      4. OriginalEmma*

        Oh man, you would hate me. I don’t know what the deal is but I have a constant runny nose. Always have, since I was a teenager. Nasal sprays don’t help, OTC allergy medicine doesn’t help, and I haven’t been able to get to an allergist yet. I’d drive you mad with my sniffling and nose blowing.

  5. Noah*

    #5 – This seems like a good way to increase turnover and do away with any savings gained. Losing a hygienist can also mean losing patients. I know I would gladly follow my current hygienist to a new practice.

    1. Rebecca*

      OMG yes. I love my dentist’s office, and the hygienists are great! Except one time, I had a substitute due to illness. She was so rough my mouth hurt for 2 days. I had to take ibuprofen and eat softer foods, and I made up my mind that if I went for my appointment, and the regular hygienists weren’t there, I’d ask to reschedule if possible. If the regular staff somehow left, I’d be really apprehensive, and might try to find out where they went so I could switch practices.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I’ve only gone to one dentist’s office my entire life, his son has now taken over the practice. For a while they had someone there who was just awful. I was getting these plastic cap things to prevent future cavities/fillings, they required a bit of acid solution to clean the tops of my molars. It also required your teeth be perfectly dry before the plastic was applied, which meant open mouth for a long period of time. Some of that acid solution dripped onto my gums at some point and the pain was excruciating. I can’t talk and I’m trying to get her to speed up the procedure and she just yelled at me. I started crying a little and she yelled more about how I was being such a baby. Considering prior to that she had given me the most painful dental cleaning of my life, I was not looking forward to seeing her again. So when I got someone else, I later asked the Dr. what had happened to Hygienist Ratchett and was told that she hadn’t worked out and was let go. I was relieved and told him so/what had happened. That experience taught me that it’s important to speak up.

        Now one of his children is also one of the hygienists — the practice was truly a family affair, his wife used to be the receptionist. I don’t know if this hygienist is on salary, commission or has some sort of share in the practice. I honestly didn’t know about the commission thing, I thought they were on salary so I’m going to have to ask next time I go. It’s funny how you’re supposed to tip your stylist, but I’ve never thought of leaving a tip at the dentist — and I don’t really want to have to start!

        1. shellbell*

          No. You don’t tip your hygienist. That’s just not a thing. Especially if the place takes insurance. They are only allowed to bill you for your co-pay or co-insurance. Accepting extra would violate their contract with the insurance company.

        2. Treena Kravm*

          I don’t think the hygienist works on commission, it sounds like the dentist just doesn’t want to pay her the full salary because they won’t have the patients to generate the income needed to make her time in the office valuable. So say there were meant to be 20 patients scheduled, and all but 2 cancel, he wants to pay her $12/hour for the time she’s not working using her higher skill set (cleaning teeth) and then (maybe, this isn’t clear) the $40 for the hour she spends with the two patients who do show up. I’m sure it makes perfect “business sense” to the dentist, but it’s really crappy.

          1. Melissa*

            It’s kind of dumb, because if you don’t think that you’re going to get the patient volume needed to cover their salary, wouldn’t the intelligent thing to do be to allow the patient-centered staff to stay home (or only call in a few of them, with the others being on-call)? If you need office tasks done, then just have your office staff come in.

            1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

              Or if there’s inclement weather, have the office manager call everyone to see if they are coming in or not, and juggle appointments appropriately.

      2. Windchime*

        I like my dentist, too. I have one hygienist, Jane, that I always try to get. One time I got the other one, “Becky”, and it was awful. Not only did she talk my leg off, but she was very jabby. I don’t like being jabbed in the gums, so I would jump when she jabbed, and then that would make her even more jabby. It was awful. Now I always ask for Jane.

  6. Kathlynn*

    I feel sorry for both the ice chomper and the people around them. I have asthma, and every few years I have really bad coughing asthma attacks, at the time I didn’t have an inhaler and cold liquids helped it, so I used ice to lower the symptoms. It was better then coughing constantly (for anyone who says I should have gone to the ER, both times I saw a doctor for this asthma attack, neither of them say to do so.). Amusingly enough, I ended up finding that using a particular cold medicine stopped the cough long enough for the inhalers to work. (and after 3 months of coughing, I was very relieved…even if I didn’t sleep that night. lol)

      1. Nodumbunny*

        I have this form of asthma (coughing) and apparently it’s very under-diagnosed. Is it worse when you lay down?

        1. Ella*

          I have it too. It’s worse in the winter or after exercising. Definitely worth getting an inhaler if you can get to a doctor.

          Also check around for allergens–i found out that I’m allergic to down because a friend of mine gave me a down comforter and I slept with it for a month before realizing that it was the reason I couldn’t fall asleep because I couldn’t breathe.

          1. AmyNYC*

            Me three! My doctor called it “seasonal asthma” and every winter I have a 2-3 week barking/hacking lingering cough after I have a hold.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Hmm, that happens to me for a short time after I ice skate. I cough in the car on the way home. By the time I’m home, I’m usually over it. Could that be what it is, or is it just from the cold? My brother is somewhat asthmatic.

            I don’t cough / sniffle a lot at work, but I do have allergies and I have to have tissue with me all the time because I drip. It’s so gross. At least it doesn’t make any noise!

            1. Ella*

              Could be. For me the coughing happens when I exhale. It’s this weird sort of spasm outward. It’s not a feeling of not being able to breathe. When I lived in NYC and was biking 14 miles to work and didn’t have insurance, it would last for like an hour before everything calmed down. Usually it’s much shorter, like 20 minutes or so. (And now I run with an inhaler, which helps a lot.) A doctor diagnosed me based on my description, since it’s hard to have asthma attacks on command in the office, though I suppose I could have gone running beforehand. I think whether you go to a doctor and get it checked out depends on how frequent it happens to you and how much it impacts your quality of life.

          3. JB*

            Ella! I’m worried about you! Have you had skin prick allergy testing? Blood testing isn’t as accurate. Finding out the long list of stuff I’m allergic to and getting allergy shots (the kind at the doctor’s office, not the kind you give yourself at home) has changed my life.

            1. Ella*

              Heh. :) I promise I feel fine most of the time! But yeah, commenting on this thread today has kind of been like, “Whoa, maybe I do put up with more than I need to.” I do take costco allergy pills every day, which helps with the cat (my roommate buys them for me since it’s her cat who’s trying to kill me). I’ll think about asking my doc for an ENT referral.

              1. Kat*

                Talk to your vet about prescribing acepromazine for the cat. you dissolve a pill in a certain amount of water and then use a dropper and put a couple of drops on the cat’s food daily. It inhibits the production of the enzyme in cat saliva. That it what people are allergic too. It’s an off-label use of the med.

                I had 4 cats growing up, and was the only person in the house that wasnt allergic to them. there was a huge difference for my parents and brother after we started putting it in the cat’s food.

                Also, lighter colored cats and short haired cats produce less of it. So, keeping up on cat hair/dander removal will help as well.

        2. Colette*

          I have asthma and a sinus condition, so the super cold/warmer/super cold cycle we’ve been having this winter has been brutal.

          1. jamlady*

            Ugh yes. My asthma and sinus problems get worse each time the weather changes. It wasn’t this bad when I lived in California… Lol

            1. JB*

              Yeah, the cold air is brutal on the lungs. Plus you could also have nonallergic rhinitis. My sister has it. It has the same symptoms as allergies, but it doesn’t have the same cause (basically, your nose is just too sensitive, so dust, scents, change in weather can trigger it), so allergy meds don’t help.

          2. Nina*

            I don’t have asthma thankfully, but I do have allergies year round and this winter hasn’t helped. The post-nasal drip (ugh) has been a nightmare.

          3. Mabel*

            Yes, this! I had never had sinus pain until I moved to Boston and the temperature jumped from seasonal to very warm from one day to the next. Wow, was that painful! I found that extra use of the neti pot and a warm compress were helpful. I’m looking forward to when my body has fully acclimated to my new environment.

            1. Mabel*

              I also wanted to mention that sometimes a persistent cough is a symptom of reflux, even if you don’t feel like you have heartburn. Found out from personal experience. I take ranitidine (Zantac), and the constant cough is gone.

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        I had a cough that wouldn’t go away and my doctor gave me tessalon pearls for it, it stopped within two days.

        I’m not asthmatic but the respiratory specialist said what was going on was basically that my lung muscles had gotten used to coughing at every little thing and so they weren’t relaxing any more. This drug is a new-ish one usually given to asthma patients to solve a similar problem. Maybe worth asking about?

        It felt like a miracle to me!

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            Isn’t it, though? I love that I basically got a scientific wonder drug! Makes me feel like I live in The Future.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          Seriously, miracle drug. A PA at the walk-in clinic prescribed them for me a couple years ago when I had a terrible dry cough that developed on the tail end of a hideous sinus infection. They are magical.

        2. Colette*

          My doctor has me on some other meds, but I may be going back in a few weeks. Of course, if the weather stabilizes, the issue may resolve itself.

        3. Kathlynn*

          Next time i will, if I remember. It doesn’t happen that often (takes a lot of pollution and wood particles in the air, for an extended time. So, lots of forest fires or chilly summer)

      3. Kathlynn*

        I use Advil cold and sinus, its the pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, not (or not just) the ibuprofen that stops the cough for me. Doesn’t work for everyone.

  7. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    The hygienist thing confuses me.

    I was under the impression (heh, impression!) that they had their own practices within a dental practice and that standing up a dental hygienist is as crappy as standing up your hair stylist because they don’t get paid if you no show.

    No first hand knowledge of the financial arrangements and I’ve never contemplated how the legality actually works (how are hairdressers set up?), but that’s what I’ve been told-ish multi times over the years. (Our teapot business has the dental industry as an important customer base.)

    The $12 an hour offer is just insulting, so not teaming up with that, but if they *are* set up that way — what IS legal, I wonder.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I guess it varies some hygienists/hairdressers will be employed and on a salary or hourly rate, where as others will pay rent for the space they use.

      Either way this boss is out of line, you can’t reduce some salary in the way he’s suggesting.

      1. Anonsie*

        This. It depends on how the business is set up and how they’ve arranged their billing & salary set up, in both cases.

        In some places, the clinicians are assigned a dedicated amount of appointment slots of specific types knowing around $x will be generated off that and are paid a salary accordingly rather than off the specific billable events. Not sure about dental hygienists in particular or if one type of payment is more common than another or what.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


          Are people paid off of specific billable events 1099? If so, you surely can’t tell them they have to show up nor do filing for $12 an hour.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Right, I just never thought about “how does that all work anyway”. I thought hairdressers and hygienists were paid per customer/patient and not per hour. But I don’t know how that is set up legally, so I’m curious.

        It sounds like the dentist is trying to hand out a badly misfired “incentive” to show up. If a hygienist is paid per patient, does she want to drive out in the snow to only get stood up all day and make jack crap, so here’s at least some guaranteed income if you show up.

        (A better idea would be to offer them a $100 bonus for sitting around and drinking coffee and waiting for patients, assuming that is legal. )

        1. Merry and Bright*

          My hygienist and dentist work as part of the same practice and take separate appointments but I pay a joint (itemized) bill at the end of the treatment. If I need to cancel either with less than 24 hours’ notice then I pay 20% of the basic charge. But I think that if you are just a no-show then the charge is more.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Okay I just googled and what I see is this.

        The two common arrangements are commission only, or base plus commission. And I ran into a fair amount of complaining about not making anything but a paltry amount on snow days. I’ll link to one discussion thread in a reply to this post. The link will get held up until Alison is around to push it through.

        Point being: I think there’s more nuance to the hygienist question than we’re used to when it comes to pay.

        1. Not Today Satan*

          I don’t understand how that works. Unlike hair stylists, I’ve never requested to be seen by a particular hygienist, and I didn’t even know that was a thing. If patients don’t choose their hygienists, how does a commission make sense?

          1. fposte*

            Oh, I only go to the one hygienist–haven’t seen anyone else for years. My dentist keeps a record and lets me know if an appointment date I’m asking about would mean seeing a different hygienist, since none of them are in every day.

            1. Ella*

              My hygienist is the one who schedules my next appointment, so I always end up with her. (Which is fine, she’s nice and doesn’t hurt my mouth and doesn’t expect me to talk when I have a scraper in my face.)

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Mine does that too. And she’s very nice. I love her.
                I never thought about how they pay them before–I always thought they were just employees of the office.

                1. Rana*

                  Me too. Every dentist I ever went to has had only a couple of hygienists on staff, so it wasn’t like you ever had a choice, and I always just assumed that they worked for the dentist. The idea that some of them rent space from a dentist’s office, as some sort of independent contractors, is boggling to me.

          2. CrazyCatLady*

            There are a lot of people who do pick their hygienist, though. (And people who are more loyal to a particular salon/spa rather than a certain stylist.) In the later situation, where the salon generates the customer, the stylist so receives commission so it makes sense if it’s the same for hygienists.

          3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Our dental practice is set up with two dentists and several hygienists. They wouldn’t switch our dentist or our hygienist. Hygiene goes “Okay, you see Katie. She has an opening at 3 on March 23rd, does that work for you?”

            Commission makes sense a bunch of ways. One of them – cleaning is optional. Sure, you should get your teeth cleaned twice a year, but plenty of people go many years. The hygienist is a defecato salesperson for cleaning and for making you want to come back to that practice, and her, as frequently as you should.

            It’s also a hook into the practice as whole. Maybe you start with that practice when you don’t have issues, keep going back because of her, and then that’s your dental practice when real issues happen.

            Plus, they don’t just do simple cleanings. They do more expensive, complicated services also. Their skill keeps you as pain free as possible which equals coming back.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              What also comes to mind here is when they try to sell you other products and services. That must be where commission kicks in as well.

            1. Ife*

              Yes, I always thought they were just assigned, because I’ve only ever been asked which dentist I want to see. I think I’ve had different hygenists at all my dentist appointments over the last several years (all for the same dentist). And I would’ve never thought to request one in particular.
              Now, the person who takes your vitals before your doctor’s appointment… I would specifically request her.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          What! I had no idea that hygienists were commonly paid on commission. That is fascinating.

          In this case, I’m guessing it’s moot because the OP says that they’re paid hourly, but this has just blown my mind.

          1. doreen*

            It’s probably not “commission” in quite the same sense as a salesperson who works for one employer, on a schedule that is somewhat determined by the employer, and who sells a product for a price set (in one way or another ) by the employer and is then paid a percentage of the sales. It’s likely to be more similar to a shared office type of arrangement, like some optical chains have with independent optometrists or the 15 or so other doctors who use the physical space that my primary care provider owns . I don’t know the specifics of paying for space/office staff at my PCP’s office, but they are neither employees nor partners, set their own fees and schedules and work out of multiple locations.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Because business models fascinate me, I just did a bit more reading about the different models and it’s very interesting.

            If the OP is talking about a hygienist who really is paid per hour vs part of the produced/collected, the dentist is being extra crappy with the $12 an hour shenanigans. What I read is that taking hourly pay is making less than potential with the tradeoff being security from being penalized for no shows.

            It was also interesting to read commission only hygienists complaining about being required to attend staff meetings when they weren’t paid for them.

            WASIL – Would Alison Say It’s Legal? Doesn’t sound like it.

            1. Ella*

              So the dentist is basically asking his hygienists to take the worst of both worlds–low wages AND a financial penalty for no-shows. What a peach.

        3. Traveler*

          I had no idea. This makes so much sense. My dentist and most of his staff are really fantastic, but his hygienist is the worst. She goes on about her person political beliefs while she is working on me, and I always thought she stuck out like a sore thumb. Now I wonder if there’s another one I could go to that I just haven’t seen because of the days I usually come in.

          The things I learn here!

        4. Treena Kravm*

          This is blowing my mind. I’ve never heard of this before. Now that I think about it, the dentist I went to as a teenager/in college, there was only one hygienist (or so I thought!). She was really chatty and nice, always asking me about school and what I was up to. I actually hated the dentist, he was such a creep. I never bothered to switch because I figured I spent 3 minutes with him and 15-20 minutes with her, and I could just deal with 6 minutes of weirdness each year.

    2. The Office Admin*

      I have a friend who is a commission based hygienist. She works 3 days a week and says she makes about double what a 5 day a week hourly hygienist makes. She also is Massachusetts which probably has something to do with her pay as well.
      Either way, I’m jealous of her Tuesday Wednesday Thursday work schedule haha!

  8. misspiggy*

    I thought the answer to 4 was interesting. Isn’t part of the point of an interview to judge how well people respond under pressure? Also to put people in a situation where answers are produced under the same conditions, and can therefore be more easily compared. So an answer thought of later on would be invalid, wouldn’t it?

    1. Not Today Satan*

      There are some jobs where interview skills (being eloquent, thinking on your feet, being warm/charismatic, working well under pressure) are important, but there are others where they’re not relevant to the job at all, and the interviewer is really only trying to get information and a sense of your personality. Also, sometimes the interview herself is a bad communicator and asks a question in a very unclear way. I’ve never sent a follow up answer over email and I’m not sure if I would, but there are plenty of jobs where I don’t think that would be any sort of problem.

      1. Traveler*

        Yes. I’ve had interviewers that have asked some really unclear questions – as in they wanted a very specific answer about something, but were asking a very broad question that wouldn’t automatically lead to that answer. (For example: What color is the sky? How would you define it?, when they really wanted something more along the lines of: What are the scientific principles behind the sky appearing to be blue?) When I left the interview and had time to think about why they asked such an odd question, I realized what they were actually for and felt stupid – I knew the answer to the actual question, but didn’t realize that’s what they wanted.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Exactly. Once I interviewed somewhere and felt it went really well except for this one question. On my way home suddenly the perfect response came to me, so when I wrote my thank you email, I simply slipped it in – something like ” oh and to clarify X…”

    2. fposte*

      It’s not that scientific :-). Sure, it’s possible that I wouldn’t give as much weight to an answer emailed in to me later, but it’s not likely to hurt the candidate’s chances, so why not leave it up to the hiring manager to decide how much it might help?

      1. Kyrielle*

        And “not as much weight” isn’t no weight – and also you’ve learned something else: the candidate is capable of spotting possible mistakes, willing to take the risk of raising the issue, and ready to revisit and try again.

        That’s also important data; how important will vary by position and manager, and the overall impression the candidate made, of course.

        1. fposte*

          Right–there’s very little chance of loss and a reasonable chance of gain.

          Now, if this changes in the future so that everybody starts doing this as some kind of a gimmick, I will alter my position. But right now, sure, why not, can’t hurt and might help.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If it’s a key part of the job to see how people respond under pressure, sure. But that’s not the case with most jobs. It really depends on the nature of the work and how off the first answer was. But in many cases, this wouldn’t be all that different than just adding an additional thought that you had after the interview, which is something that I actually advise people to do in thank-you notes as a matter of course.

      And like fposte says, it’s not that scientific: You’re not comparing candidates in lab conditions where you need strict controls; you’re talking to actual people, and trying to figure out who’s the most likely to be the best person for the job you need done.

      If you were hiring, say, a nanny, would you staunchly refuse to accept an answer supplement outside of the interview itself? If you found it helpful to your understanding of her likely work performance, you’d certainly take it into account (which doesn’t mean it would help necessarily, just that it wouldn’t be “cheating” in some way). It’s not all that different in a workplace context.

      1. jamlady*

        Kind of going off this, what is your advice about timing on this or about a question asked of one of your references? I recently had a rep ask a reference a question that was pretty basic and more appropriately directed at me (something along the lines of “would candidate be happy focusing in this industry that she’s educated in vs one where she’s been recently to acquire some extra skills). It was a couple of weeks after the interview and a week after our last communication. I don’t plan on shooting her an email (it’s decision time so I’m playing the waiting game), but I was wondering what you’d suggest with similar situations (where it’s been sort of a long time but you’re still in the running).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not sure I’m totally getting the question you’re asking here — are you asking about following up and when to do it? I’m confused by how the question asked of your reference fits in!

          (FWIW, I don’t have a huge problem with them asking your reference that; they were looking for additional insight from someone who knows you.)

          1. jamlady*

            Sorry, let’s try this on the computer – it’s so much easier haha

            I don’t mind her asking my reference said question, but my experience with this reference is completely within one industry and she really has no idea about this other industry I’ve been working in lately (it’s basically just a software that my industry uses that I’ve been getting some experience with). This particular position I’m up for in my industry actually has no use of said software. So when my reference was asked whether that would effect my willingness to do the job, she answered it well enough but felt like it was something they should have asked me and was a little confused by why it would be a big deal (probably 75% of mid-level people in my industry have used it regularly on the job, so it’s not exactly outlandish that I would be looking for experience with it).

            I was thinking about getting back in touch with them and letting her know that I was interested in the position regardless, that this is just a skill I want to have to supplement the career path with my industry and have no plans to stay out of it and focus solely on this software, but it’s been a couple of weeks since my interview and the question wasn’t directed at me. I decided not to reach out, but I’m wondering what your suggestions are for a similar situation. I have reached out to reiterate points in immediate follow-ups, but never this far out. Also, I was curious about why this particular question was directed at only my reference and not at me – I understand that they like to get insight from different people, but I also feel like I would be the best person to answer this question.

            So to sum up this kind of ridiculously long entry (sorry!), I guess I’m wondering A) at which stages during the interview/hiring process is it still appropriate or even helpful to reach out with additional information and B) is it appropriate to reach out with information that was requested of one of your references and NOT of you?

  9. Traveler*

    So on maternity leave you don’t have to respond to questions from work? I didn’t realize this. Everywhere I’ve worked when someone went on maternity leave it seemed to be part of the deal that they’d be available to answer so I assumed that was the norm.

    1. Coffee, Please*

      Every workplace is different. I personally worked at least 30 minutes every day of my maternity leave after the first week. I was non-exempt and on paid leave, so I checked my email and did a little work once a day.

      1. Coffee, Please*

        However, I will add that I had fairly easy recoveries with a spouse who was able to take some paternity leave and a baby who was healthy. If you are in a scenario where the mother needs a longer recovery, the baby is colicky or sick, or there isn’t another support person available, it would be much harder or impossible to check email.

      2. fposte*

        If you weren’t on FMLA, that was fine; if you were, your office should have told you not to, because that regular level of work is pretty clearly a breach.

    2. fposte*

      It’s about FMLA, not maternity leave (IOW, if you’re not on legally governed leave, the law doesn’t care); FMLA judgments have said that “reasonable contact limited to inquiries about the location of files or passing along institutional or status knowledge will not interfere with an employee’s [FMLA] rights; however, asking or requiring an employee to perform work while on leave can constitute interference.”

      I’ve actually had to dial back employees who are keen to get some work done while they’re out on FMLA, because we have some work it’s easy to do at home and fairly pleasant. Sure, but we’ll get in almighty trouble, so you’re going to have to wait.

      1. Traveler*

        Gotcha. That makes sense. I was worried I was participating in some sort of bad/illegal habit. I assume it was because the employer was giving them paid leave that was not FMLA. I know in at least one situation, that was the case.

        1. fposte*

          Right, not all leave is FMLA (and to be clear, FMLA has nothing to do with pay–whether you get paid or not is dependent on your employer and your disability insurance). So if you’re just home with the flu, the government doesn’t care if your company calls you all the time.

        2. jamlady*

          Well, I will say that even if it’s not FMLA (so legal to work from home and answer questions), it may still be in bad form to contact people on leave. I think that depends on the person though. My sister’s on maternity leave right now and she also has a toddler – her FMLA is up soon and then she has company-paid leave – and if anyone at her office bothers her during this time… Well, I’m glad I’m not them. Haha

          1. Traveler*

            The specific case I’m thinking of (that I participated in the calling) was one where the person left after they went into labor a few weeks early. She’d left instructions and notes, but they weren’t nearly as detailed as was necessary to take over mid project – they were mostly just her general job stuff. I assume because she thought she had more time. To figure out who she’d talked to, what she’d promised/requested from vendors, and so on, I had to talk to her. However, if I was breaking the law by asking her and knew that I would have had to recontact all the vendors and individuals involved. It would have been a lot of extra (and repeated) work but I would have done it if I’d known.

            1. fposte*

              It’s a gray area–it’s not explicitly clear just how much can be asked before you get into trouble. And generally, if the employee’s not minding, it’s not likely to become an issue.

              By the way, paid leave doesn’t mean somebody’s not on FMLA. FMLA is the job projection component; PTO, disability, etc. are how you get paid. Lots of people on disability or maternity leave are also on FMLA, and FMLA rules would obtain if so.

              1. Traveler*

                Well she never expressed any objections, but our mutual boss was adamant that she HAD to respond to any questions and got very angry when she took more than 24 hours to respond. I just felt bad bothering her with a newborn and was trying to keep it to a minimum, even in the absence of my understanding of how FMLA works. Which is sad, because I’ve used it before and didn’t understand my rights under it.

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, mutual boss was asking for trouble there. But most of these things just happen without consequences.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Wow I’m ignorant of all this. (My kids are grown now) but what’s the difference of maternity leave – the kind that is through state disability for 10 weeks or so and what I’m familiar with, and FMLA, which I thought was an unpaid situation you use for longer time off to care for an ill family member or something??

            1. Kyrielle*

              FMLA does not guarantee pay, but does not preclude it either, and can run concurrent with use of sick leave, vacation, and disability. It is in the employer’s best interests to run it concurrent with any of those you are using, in fact – that way, once the 12 weeks is up, they don’t have to hold your job if you stay out longer.

    3. Erin*

      For my first baby, I was on 12 weeks paid maternity leave at full salary. I did a bit of work, but the nature of my role meant that my projects and internal clients were assigned to the rest of my team. For my second child, I was at a different company and leave was a combo of short term disability and FMLA. I was told to not even log in and my password was even temporarily disabled. So it really depends on what kind of leave the mother is on.

    4. neverjaunty*

      This baffles me. Isn’t the whole point of leave/PTO/vacation that you’re not working?

      “Hey, I know you’re recovering from pushing a human being out of your body and you haven’t slept more than two hours at a stretch in days, but I forgot where we keep the extra copy paper, can you let me know ASAP? Thanks!”

      *flips tables*

      1. Traveler*

        Well I’ve used FMLA in the past for surgeries and to help family members but it didn’t mean I checked out of my job completely. It just meant I didn’t go to work daily. I still checked email and answered questions when I had free time and was feeling up to it. Partly because that’s just how I am, and partly because I don’t want to make my coworker’s lives hell because of my absence. I’d feel guilty. (That’s just me and no reflection on people who want to check out completely). Apparently the women I’ve known that have gone on maternity leave have felt similarly or weren’t aware of their rights. As I expressed above, my boss wasn’t giving me much of a choice in the case I was directly involved with. I had said several times I didn’t want to keep bothering her, and I was told not to repeat the work but to instead get the information from Cersei over the phone.

        1. fposte*

          I think most people don’t know about the interference thing, and a lot of people don’t mind doing some work stuff when they’re out (since we’re technically state, I needed to make sure we were keeping to the straight and narrow here regardless of my staffer’s interest in working). But that’s not likely to be where the problem arises anyway–it’s the kind of situation Revanche describes, where she really needs to be left the hell alone, that leads employees to take action.

        2. neverjaunty*

          There’s checking in when you have time, and there’s “sorry to contact you but this is an urgent situation,” and then there’s just assuming “leave” means “working from home”.

    5. jhhj*

      In Canada, you can get your workplace into huge trouble if you complain that they try to contact you to work while you’re on leave.

    6. Observer*

      To add to what the others said, a lot depends on what you get asked and what the expectations are, even if FMLA doesn’t kick in.

  10. Mike C.*

    That dentist is lucky s/he hasn’t been put under by the rest of the office and had all of their teeth removed.

  11. Artemesia*

    The OP in #1 has created instructions and yet still is being hounded. My first step (maybe she tried it) would be to respond to questions with ‘you need to check the document I left you for this information.’ and ‘you need to look at the invoices to see if pencils have been ordered.’ The first couple of times, of course it is not big deal, but when it is easy for her then she uses the OP as a crutch rather than bothering to look stuff up.

    Hope the OP can draw a bright line here and the place to start is with her own boss (if that is not the doofus harassing her).

    1. the gold digger*

      I moved to a different department at my old job. I left a two-inch thick process document with detailed notes and examples of everything I did. I made sure my files were all current (there had been nothing when I started) and cleaned anything irrelevant out of my email. (I got a new email address in the new division.)

      I spent an hour with my replacement reviewing everything. For the first three months, every time he called or emailed, I helped him, but I started to ask if he had read the files. “Oh no,” he told me. He really didn’t get involved in paper that much. I asked if he had read my email correspondence with the accounts. Nope. Had not done that, either.

      I finally told his boss, who is a friend of mine, that perhaps he needed to do a little research before he called me. The calls stopped.

      1. Artemesia*

        Which is why soon after questions start, the OP needed to refer the person to the documentation. If the answer is ‘the answer is in the material I left’ about a dozen times, it may extinguish the lazy behavior of the replacement.

    2. Snoskred*

      Another way of pushing the hounder to figure things out on their own is to be less available.

      I worked with a lady who continually asked questions even though everything she needed to know was right in front of her face. When people first worked with her they would answer the questions. As the days went on they realised she knew perfectly well where to find the answers, that stopping to answer her questions disrupted their own work, and that if they were “unavailable” to her questions, she would have to figure it out on her own. And she always did figure it out on her own very quickly as long as people did not help her.

      It is easier in this instance to be unavailable – I would suggest OP1 not answering the phone as often. You can use the excuse that the phone disturbs the baby so you have turned off the ringer. I would also suggest leaving 24 hours between a call coming to the OP and the OP returning the call.

      If the OP accidentally picks up a call from the hounder, I would suggest “I’m so sorry, I’m bathing the baby right now, I’ll call you back” or some other baby related excuse, and then call back the next day, saying something like “I’m so sorry, time got away from me yesterday, how can I help”. Chances are, the hounder will have worked it out on their own by then.

      If 24 hours does not seem inspirational for the hounder working it out on their own, you can try 48, if that does not work, you may need to “go on holidays to visit your family with the baby” and be unavailable for a decent chunk of time.

  12. Sweetheart of the Rodeo*

    I began my first experience in fully open-plan office a few months ago, sitting face-to-face with an all-day ice chewer. It’s awful — and the good headphones are expensive. Fortunately a couple of weeks ago they moved some people around to accommodate more desks, and she got moved. You have my sympathy. I couldn’t think of a good way to address it, and she mostly gave me poison looks anyway so I didn’t want to create conflict.

    1. Marcy*

      You’re right- it is awful. I sit next to one and it isn’t even the chewing that bothers me. He has this habit of shaking the cup around to loosen the ice when he is about to pour more in his mouth. It is louder than the crunching.

  13. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, given the pettiness of the questions, it sounds like this is more about your supervisor deliberately hassling you because you’re on leave and she has to do things she’d rather not do. (Did you order pencils, really?) Let your boss know that you won’t be answering these questions unless it’s an emergency, and then ignore her.

  14. Stranger than fiction*

    Maybe seine should just tell the ice lady it’s really really bad for her teeth?!

  15. BananaPants*

    #1 – if you’re in the US and are on short term disability as part of your maternity leave, you probably aren’t supposed to be working at all. Doing so could jeopardize your short term disability claim! You’re on disability because you’re medically unable to work. If you’re on FMLA, unless it was agreed to be intermittent FMLA, you probably shouldn’t be working either. Stop checking your work email and voicemail. If these emails and texts are coming on your personal email and phone, respond that you are on maternity leave and delete them.

    That said, I did periodically log in and check my emails during my two maternity leaves. I waited around a month or so and then logged in every 1-2 weeks while the baby was nursing. I didn’t answer them because by the time I read them I was a week or two (or more) behind; I just read important ones and more importantly deleted the many courtesy CCs/inclusions that wouldn’t matter in a week, much less a month. My managers didn’t ask me to do this and may not have even been aware that I was doing so, but I found that it helped me when I returned to work because I hadn’t totally been out of the loop for 3 months.

  16. Not telling*

    As per AAM’s post the other day about the definition of tattling–annoyances, like ice chewing–really shouldn’t become an office matter.

    For all we know, LW could be doing something that is equally annoying to the ice chewer. And who gets to decide which annoying people are allowed to continue and which people have to accommodate other people?

    If the ice-chewer’s desk really projects noise so badly, perhaps LW should offer to switch desks with them. That way the ice chewer can continue without bothering LW.

    1. Myrin*

      It’s not an “office matter” if the LW brings it up with the ice chewer directly. Same goes for tattling. The whole thread on tattling vs. reporting was about what to bring up to someone higher up – a manager, a supervisor, HR etc. -, not to the offender themselves. I agree that the manager needn’t be involved in this chewing debate but neither LW nor Alison said anything about that.

  17. plain_jane*

    OP1 – thank you so much for leaving instructions. I am currently covering for a person who went on medical leave (6+weeks anticipated) and didn’t leave any notes and had to have current status of things dragged out of him. This has proven exceptionally difficult for client questions and when I’ve been asked to provide updated pricing.

    It’s bad enough when people are in an unforeseen leave situation, but this guy knew that he was going for over two months. And he _still_ didn’t do as much documentation as I do for a week vacation.

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