keeping personal supplies in an office kitchen, bad judgment on Facebook, and more

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

1. The etiquette of keeping personal supplies in an office kitchen

I recently started working in an office space that shares a small kitchen with a different unit in the same organization. The kitchen has the usual appliances – coffee maker, microwave, fridge, etc. There is a french press that lives on one of the shelves that I’ve been using to make my coffee a few times a week. Today I went to do so as usual, only to find a bright yellow label on the french press that says “SARAH.” Some of the other coffee supplies (filters) appear to also now live in a box also labelled “SARAH.” Sarah doesn’t work for my unit, and I have no idea who she is.

My sense is that SARAH does not like other people using her french press and that I erred by assuming it was a communal resource. However, maybe it’s my caffeine withdrawal induced crankiness, but I’d think that if you don’t want people using your personal appliance you should put it in out of view in a drawer somewhere, or keep it at your desk. Sarah doesn’t work for my unit and I have no idea who she is – if I worked with her I’d probably say “hey sorry for using your french press,” but I’m less inclined to hunt her down to apologize when I’m not sure I erred. What do you think?

I don’t think you need to hunt her down and apologize, and I don’t think you erred. It’s possible that the culture of your new office is that people keep personal belongings in the kitchen and people know not to touch them, but you’re new to the space and it’s reasonable that you didn’t know that a French press sitting right there wasn’t for communal use.

It sounds like you might think it’s unreasonable for Sarah to keep it there at all if it’s not for communal use, but I think it’s okay for people to do that if the kitchen is large enough/office is small enough that people can do that without cluttering it up. But if they do, they need to label it or others are likely to assume that it’s okay for them to use.

Sarah would be being unreasonable if she’s actually pissed off over this, but it’s possible that she’s not; she may have just realized, “Oh, someone is using my stuff, and it might be because I haven’t labeled it.” Now she’s labeled, it, you’ve discovered it’s hers, problem solved. As long as both of you are shrugging it off and not terribly perturbed, this seems to have worked out fine.

(That said, I don’t know why Sarah objects to people using her French press to begin with, although maybe she’s had problems with people not cleaning it after they use it or something like that.)

2. My ex-coworker has bad judgment on Facebook

I’m friends on Facebook with an ex-coworker of mine, “Jane”. Jane has made several posts about her current job on Facebook recently that are inappropriate at best. One was describing an interaction with her boss about a chronic medical condition she suffers from where the boss allegedly said something insensitive. Regardless of the legitimacy of her concern, a public Facebook post isn’t the best place for her to air out that issue, especially when it’s incredibly easy to figure out who she’s talking about (her boss is the owner of an independent insurance agency). At the very least I don’t think her boss would appreciate it.

The second post was a screenshot of a work report that listed top agents (first and last names), number of policies written, and yearly commission totals (!!!). She posted it to brag about her own personal production but the shot included information about many other agents. For context, Jane left her old job (my current one) under bad circumstances of her own making. She feeds on drama and is hyper-defensive. She has decades of work experience (military included) and should know better than to post stuff like this online. Also, I’m cordial with her but not a close friend.

My gut tells me to leave it alone and that it will work itself out. However, I know if that was my personal information posted on Facebook, I’d want it taken down immediately. Should I make her employer aware of this, and if so, how?

Why don’t you say something to Jane, rather than to her employer? It would be easy to say something like, “Hey, I don’t think your coworkers would want their commission info shared with the world.” (I’d probably leave the complaining alone, unless you’re close friends — in which case you could certainly point out that she’s taking a professional risk by doing that.)

3. Did employer mislead me about benefits?

I applied for a job at a prestigious university and completed my second interview last week. The position is listed as full-time, but I was informed during the second interview that the position was only 30 hours a week. I was assured that I’d still be a full-time employee and receive full benefits. My spidey sense went off, and when I got home, I checked the university’s employee info section on their website. Lo and behold, the university’s website clearly states that full-time employees MUST be scheduled for a 40-hour work week, and that any employees who work less than this will not be entitled to full benefits. I am uncertain if the department that I interviewed with is unaware of this rule or deliberately deceived me, but either way, I was misinformed. On top of that, the position is hourly, and according to my calculations, I would make less than half of my current salary if I accepted the offer.

I need to rescind my candidacy for the position, but I want to let them know that I was misinformed, and that they are potentially misleading other candidates as well. I am seeking your advice on how to do this without leaving a bad impression and coming across as ungrateful for the opportunity.

You’re assuming that they misinformed you, but it’s possible that this position is an exception to that rule; it’s also possible that the website is right and whoever interviewed you didn’t realize that. You can’t know for sure which one it is. (It’s pretty unlikely that it was deliberate deception though. Not impossible, but definitely not the most likely of the three possibilities.)

Instead of assuming that the website is right in 100% of cases, I’d just ask about it by sending an email saying this: “I noticed on your website that the university requires a 40-hour schedule for full benefits eligibility, so I wanted to double-check with you about that since I know you’d mentioned that this position does include benefits despite being part-time.”

However, if you’re definitely not interested anyway because of the pay, I would just explain that and withdraw. I wouldn’t get into the benefits question, because you really don’t know if they’re misleading candidates or not; again, it’s possible that this position is in fact an exception to their general rule on benefits, and I’m having trouble thinking of a way to raise the question at the same time that you’re withdrawing from consideration. I’d instead just say: “I realized after we talked that the salary for the position would be prohibitive for me, so I need to withdraw my candidacy. Thanks so much for talking with me.” (I suppose you could also add, “By the way, in reviewing the information about benefits on your website, I noticed a rule saying that the university requires a 40-hour schedule for full benefits eligibility; I wasn’t sure if that was in play with this position or not but thought I’d flag it for you in case it is.” It just feels a bit unwieldy to me and not really your concern at that point.)

4. How can I get an employee to take a full week of vacation?

I’ve been a manager for 10 years, and have one employee who has not had an entire week off for over eight years. About two years ago, I started to encourage her to take PTO, and she often takes off Fridays. However, she has yet to take a whole week off, and this does not seem right to me. I’ve asked HR, and the company does not have rules around this. HR tells me I cannot require her to take a week off. She has banked about six weeks of PTO, and just takes enough off not to lose any. The latest wrinkle is that the company has lost a major contract, and I may not have another staffer next year to fill in while she is out. I would really like her to take an entire week off sometime—anytime!–this calendar year. Can you give me any advice about how to seriously encourage this?

Well, you’re not alone in wanting to push her to do this. It’s really common for managers — especially good managers — to encourage people to take real time away from work, especially people who haven’t had more than a day at a time off in eight years. So it’s ridiculous that your HR department is telling you that you can’t. I’d go back to them and ask why not; there’s no reason that you, as this person’s manager, shouldn’t be able to determine that she’d benefit from time away from work, and that it will be easier for her to take a vacation now than later on. Also, your company isn’t giving people vacation leave to stockpile forever; they’re giving it in part because they presumably believe that it’s beneficial for people to have time away. And just because your company doesn’t have rules around this doesn’t mean you can’t do it; there are loads of things managers do that aren’t specifically enshrined in policy. So I’d push back with HR.

But either way, I’d still sit down with the employee and explain why you’d like her to do this, and ask her to talk with you about her resistance. Maybe there’s some reason (like that she’s stockpiling it for some need she knows is coming up), or that she doesn’t believe her workload will allow it. But it’s a reasonable conversation to have, and you’re in the right to say “It’s important to me that you’re able to do this.”

5. Should I let a sketchy company know that I’m not going to show up for our interview?

A company that I applied to four months ago called me today. I answered not knowing who it was, and the woman on the other end proceeded to ask me questions, which I allowed. She came off rude over the phone and asked me why I even applied, and said that there are better candidates with experience for the job, but she scheduled me an interview in a few days anyway. This is for an entry-level warehouse-style job, by the way

I got home and started researching the company to see if it’s really what I want right now. It turns out it has overwhelmingly negative reviews from workers and was involved in an international scandal even involving terrorist suspects! No joke! It seems like a lot of what she told me was a lie and the turnover is very, very high at this place. I guess I am just wondering if I should even send an email or call saying that I’d like to cancel my interview when I truly have no desire to ever work at this place.

Yes, you should send her an email letting her know that you’re canceling the interview. It’ll take 20 seconds and it’s far politer than allowing her to hold room in her calendar when you don’t intend to show up. (And yes, she was incredibly rude to you, so you don’t “owe” her any courtesy, but you should still do it because it’s the right thing to do, and will take almost no effort to do.)

{ 337 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    I… am kind of bothered by the response to OP #4. I can certainly understand the boss saying hey, I’m concerned that you might decide to take ALL THE PTO AT ONCE and the department would have an issue. And I am also a little surprised that AAM didn’t ask the boss to consider that the employee may well be avoiding PTO for work-related reasons. Maybe the workload is so bad that taking a week off just means you have to double-time it before you leave (to get ahead of the curve) and double-time it when you come back (to catch up) so it’s hardly a vacation at all. Maybe it’s a work culture that prides never being out of the office (which would explain why the OP thinks ONE week of vacation, not more, is a good thing).

    But all that aside, not everybody likes to take their PTO in week-long increments to go to Hawaii. Family issues, chronic illness, and the like mean that some people prefer to take a day or two here and there instead of blowing it all on a single longer vacation.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As I talk about in the article I linked to from my answer, it’s reasonable for managers to push people to take vacation, because most people are far more productive and rested if they get to truly disconnect from work for longer than a day here and there. There’s actual research that shows people come back from vacation more energetic and engaged.

      There are also legit work reasons to push people to take a full week off: You’ll be more likely to spot holes or problems that someone may have been covering up. (In fact, in some types of financial positions, it’s considered a best practice to require people to take a full 1-2 weeks away a year, so you can spot embezzlement, etc.)

      But yes, she should talk to her and find out what’s going on.

      1. neverjaunty*

        While I don’t disagree with you generally (especially regarding the need for long gaps in financial positions), again – I think you are missing that pushing an employee to take a week off is very counterproductive when the employee has very good reasons for using PTO in dribs and drabs. For an employee who is parceling out PTO childcare issues, family illness and personal medical appointments, the absolute last freaking thing they need to be told is “As your manager, I want you to take a whole week off! You’ll come back refreshed.”

        1. Risa*

          The employee has 6 weeks of PTO banked, and uses just enough that she doesn’t lose any. Even if she took a week to rest and disconnect, it certainly seems that she then still has enough to take all the dribs and drabs she needs at the current rate she’s using them. As an employee who worked almost 8 years without a significant vacation, I wish my management had pushed me to take time off. I ended up completely burned out, totally crashed and burned, and ended up being laid off from my job when things got tight financially at the organization – despite the “commitment” I had made to my job.

          1. UKAnon*

            Yes, this. Aside from anything else, this has been going on for years, so even if this is an ongoing issue I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to suggest that the employee find a way of both managing the situation and taking a week off a year *because otherwise her work will suffer*. Particularly not if she won’t get a chance to take time next year because of lack of coverage (which I think may be a clue to your real problem here OP)

            If the employee were committing other egregious health and safety breaches – like turning up to a driving job on no sleep because of an ill child – it would be reasonable to ask that they find a way of dealing with the situation which doesn’t impact their job. Pushing somebody to take a week off is good business practice.

          2. Kelly O*

            I have to disagree vehemently with this. I am one of those employees who prefers to take long weekends and use holidays to make the most of my PTO.

            We travel to see family whenever possible, so while I may not take a full week, I still get a nice break from work.

            I would be quite frustrated if my boss started pushing me and trying to get HR to force me to take a full week of the time I get at once. Many people only get a week or two a year, and if that’s a PTO dump, you’re forcing someone to use time they may be saving for a “in case” scenario.

            My mother worked in an administrative role for a bank and had to take a week of vacation at once. She had ten days total and had to burn five at one time each year. That made planning around holidays difficult; you can’t just take days when you want, and makes planning in smaller departments challenging.

            Why not just let this employee take her time as she sees fit? She might be saving time for a longer time off. She might have any number of valid reasons for her decision. I just wouldn’t assume the worst.

            1. Bea W*

              I was trying to think how to express this, and you do it nicely. Not everyone likes to take their PTO the same way. Some people like at least a full week. Others feel like the benefit from and enjoy a long weekend here and there or a few days. I’ve worked with some people who really prefer to have 2 or 3 weeks at once if the job can handle that, and they don’t take PTO the rest of the year.

              This isn’t necessarily a problem that needs to be fixed, and I think the manager is making a mistake taking that point of view. If the quality and quantity of her work has been good and remains steady, her use of PTO in dribs and drabs may very well be working for her. Part of the aim of the discussion should be to understand it from her employee’s point of view before deciding to push hard for her to change her practice. Does she do this because this is what works for her to decompress from work? Are there other reasons she takes PTO this way that work for her, or is she doing it because she feels the work environment doesn’t allow larger chunks of time off? The employee’s reasons matter more than a preconceived notion that everyone is the same, and needs at least a week off to decompress.

              1. Stranger than fiction*

                Well put. The Op’s intentions are noble, but so true that there may be personal reasons she employee prefers it this way. Some of my friends and I have a joke about people that never take vacations and prefer to always be working: They’re avoiding their spouse/families.

                1. Shannon*

                  I came in here to say exactly this. I’ve known people who preferred working because they had a bad home life or no home life.

                  I would start a conversation about why the person in the letter hasn’t taken a vacation, but, I would frame it as whether or not the worker feels like the workload is prohibitive to taking vacation. It is even reasonable to ask about potential burn out.

                  Insisting that a person take time off, when that person is showing no outward signs of burn-out, is extremely paternal. It comes across as, “I know what’s best for you.” I would rather see a collaborative approach to finding out why the employee isn’t taking time off as opposed to a mandate from management.

              2. myswtghst*

                “This isn’t necessarily a problem that needs to be fixed, and I think the manager is making a mistake taking that point of view. […] Part of the aim of the discussion should be to understand it from her employee’s point of view before deciding to push hard for her to change her practice”

                Completely agreed! This should be a conversation the manager has with the employee, with a sincere desire to listen and understand on the manager’s side, rather than something the manager does by force to “fix” something they perceive as a problem.

                There are plenty of reasons why an employee might not take a full week off at a time, and while the manager should make it clear they’re willing and able to help if those reasons are work-related, they also should be flexible if the reasons are personal.

            2. BRR*

              I’ve said here and there but not knowing how much they get makes a big difference. I get 5 weeks a year. Taking a week off isn’t a big deal. Getting 2 weeks presents a situation similar to your mother’s.

              1. Candy*

                Agreed. If they only have 2 weeks or less banked, it’s silly to ask them to take an entire week off. If they have 6 weeks banked at all times, I see it differently.

                1. dawbs*

                  I’m not sure even 6 weeks banked is that much , big picture wise, though.

                  I hoarded my PTO while we were trying for a kid, and the 6 weeks I had hoarded plus my 2 weeks for the year, by the time we dealt with the time off for doctors appts and all of the pre-baby-stuff meant that after 6 weeks off post-partum, my banks were essentially at 1 week when I came back to work.
                  which means 40 hours of PTO for the entire rest of the year when dealing with my sickness, childcare-providers sickness, snow days, baby being sick, etc. If my boss hadn’t been willing to flex my time, I’d have had to take some major days off w/o pay.

                  6 weeks can look like a lot, but there may be a reason where it’s not really all that much, banked.

            3. KT*

              I’m one of those employees who prefers to take the occasional long weekend rather than full weeks. I find looking forward to a holiday to be almost as fun/relaxing as the actual holiday, so just be using a day or two, I extend the fun longer and prevent burnout from ever occurring in the first place! Taking a full week would mean me sitting at home bored, so I’d be really annoyed with my manager/company if they insisted I had to use MY PTO a certain way.

            4. edj3*

              + a million

              I hate, hate, hate taking extended vacations. I am another one who finds extended weekends far more relaxing than a week or so off work.

              And we do fun things on our extended weekends. We take what we call Crazy Trips, which are four days long and only one plane change and usually involve Europe. It’s amazing how much fun can be had when you land on a Saturday morning after leaving the day before, go like gang busters until Monday morning when you fly home again. To date, we’ve gone to Rome twice, London a bunch, Dublin, Munich, and Honolulu. We’d hoped to get to Alaska this summer, but I had international travel for work that occurred when we’d planned on going. Next year!

              I love those trips and find them to be the best kind of mental break from work.

              1. LD*

                You sound just like someone I know! And you even have similar/same initials. She and her husband do trips like you describe and it always sounds romantic, crazy, and fun! I use my PTO because we like to travel and I can guarantee that unless I’m saving it up for a longer trip I won’t have 6 weeks banked! (Knock on wood, I haven’t had to plan for any long term medical stuff, just a sprained ankle that kept me out of commission for a couple of weeks and although I would have preferred to save me PTO for travel, I was glad to have some available.) I’d love to do what you describe as fun, extended, international long weekends. They sound awesome!

            5. Ad Astra*

              There are plenty of good reasons for taking just one or two days at a time rather than a whole week, but this employee has six weeks of time accrued. I think it makes sense for the manager to at least start a conversation about this to find out why her employee is so reluctant to use most of this PTO.

              My suspicion is that it’s a workload issue, either real or perceived, and the manager needs to, well, manage that. But if it turns out to truly be a matter of personal preference, or she’s saving up PTO for something specific, that’s still valuable information.

              1. Kelly O*

                I will gladly share why I hate the whole week at once.

                You prepare for it, you do all the things you are supposed to do in order to prevent problems and keep things working smoothly. No matter how hard you try, there is always a mess to come back to. It could be someone else got sick while you were gone, or someone got busy, or any number of variables you couldn’t anticipate. But the one time I took a whole week off, I wound up spending two weeks catching up. Half the time that happens when I take a day or two around a holiday.

                I’d rather take shorter breaks and not kill myself trying to catch up from a longer break.

                1. Ad Astra*

                  I can understand that, and I would think it varies a bit by industry and office. In my past jobs, a whole week off would have been a nightmare to come back to. And it would have been a nightmare for anyone who was covering for me just due to the nature of my positions and the size of the staff. At my current job, things move slowly enough that I wouldn’t expect an overwhelming amount of work to pile up. But I haven’t taken a whole week off since 2011, so I’m just speculating.

                  My new company requires everyone to take a whole week off each year for auditing purposes, which is totally reasonable and industry standard. Unfortunately, our vacation package is not as reasonable, nor is it industry standard. So next year I’ll be taking a full week off and that’s all I get. Not great, Bob.

            6. Sunflower*

              I totally agree. I take long weekends 80% because I like taking long weekends, get bored if I’m off too long and it allows me to travel to more places. 20% is anxiety about coming back to a week of work though!

              1. Stranger than fiction*

                I can totally relate to the anxiety coming back! It’s horrible. Personally, I only take a full week every couple of years, and that is always the downside. There’s only certain tasks of mine that will get taken care of by my manager, the rest is waiting for me.

            7. Elizabeth West*

              I kind of agree with this. Maybe she’s saving for a bucket-list vacation, and she’s anxious about having enough time to cover that and the dribs and drabs as well. Maybe someone IS ill. Maybe she is nervous about getting laid off and wants to conserve the payout.

              If OP is concerned about it, by all means talk with her. But if it’s not mandatory that she take a week off (such as with accounting, etc.), and she’s not running afoul of any company policies, and her work isn’t suffering, I don’t see how forcing her to take a week would help.

            8. themmases*

              I think this is a good point when considering how much PTO many people (especially in the US) actually have.

              However, to me this seems like more of a problem with really stingy PTO than with expecting people to take a full week away. 1 week is really not that long. If someone can’t afford, PTO-wise, to take even 1 full week away from work a year and still be there for their family around emergencies, birthdays and holidays– something most people want to do– then they don’t get enough PTO. In a workplace where employees don’t get a decent amount of time off or can’t significantly bank it, sure, it’s tone-deaf for a manager to insist people use half of it all in one go. But it’s not because people don’t need to take at least a week away sometimes. They do.

              Also, some people do need the encouragement. I worked with a friend at my first job after college and although we got a decent amount of time off we both waited way too long to take our first vacations. After leaving school or a different work environment with built in slow periods, it’s an adjustment to pick your own vacation time, request it, and make plans way in advance. By the time you need a break, it’s too late.

            9. Risa*

              Kelly O – I can totally understand where you are coming from, but if you had talk to the me I was during that 8 year period, I would have said the same thing. I had no idea how not taking some time to disconnect from my work would impact me in the long term. I too thought a day here or there was enough rest, but it really wasn’t – for my situation. I couldn’t even recognize the signs of burn out until it was too late. Sometimes you can’t see what you need for yourself. At least this manager seems to value time off, and if the OP is a good manager, she’ll do what she can do prevent the workload coming back from being outrageous.

            10. Observer*

              Key issue here – the person in question has 6 weeks banked, and has been at tat level for quite a while. Taking a full week is not going to break the bank here, unlike a situation where you have only 10 days, where I agree that it’s not fair.

              Sure, talk to the person in question, but it’s a legitimate thing for the OP to want to push based on what she knows so far.

          3. AnonymousaurusRex*

            Yes, this. I totally don’t understand how someone can have SIX weeks of PTO in the bank. I’m one of those people who takes vacation in dribs and drabs and tacks a day onto long weekends–but that’s only because I don’t have enough vacation days to take a whole week more than once a year and I actually need more time than that away not to get burned out. I love my job, but I need a long weekend and a head clearing every month or two at minimum.
            I’ve only been at my job a year, and didn’t start accruing vacation before my 90 day probation was up, but if I took off an entire week I wouldn’t be left with any time to take off for things like getting my car fixed or other boring but necessary reasons to use PTO.

            1. CheeryO*

              I can believe it. I work for state government, and one of the perks is a great PTO package – 18 days per year to start, and an extra day per year of service, up to a certain number of years. We can “only” accumulate eight weeks’ worth, and there are tons of people who need to burn their extra time at the end of each fiscal year. (I don’t get it, either. I wouldn’t dream of letting that much PTO accumulate!)

            2. Witty Nickname*

              I can see it, with a generous vacation policy and someone who doesn’t use much of it. I get 27 days per year, and can bank up to 1.5 times that before I stop accruing. I have about 5 weeks banked right now – I generally take off at least 2 full weeks a year, and several days here and there, but I never use it all. Over several years, that means I have to get more diligent about using enough that I don’t stop accruing. Even with the 2 weeks I just booked off at Christmas, I’ll end up about where I am now for vacation time going into next year.

            3. Collarbone High*

              Six weeks sounds like a lot, but you’d be surprised by how fast you use that up if you have health problems. I had two major surgeries within 8 months that *each* required six weeks of recovery time. I was lucky in that I had generous PTO and had worked at that company for over a decade, and sick leave accrual wasn’t capped. But I still wiped out my entire balance of PTO and had to pray I didn’t get sick for a few months until I built it back up.

          4. neverjaunty*

            And this is exactly the problem I mean – assuming that because vacation worked in a particular way for you, other employees should be pushed to do the same thing, because obviously if they don’t want to take that much time they’re fooling themselves.

            Which is why the manager’s FIRST look ought to be at the company. If it’s a work environment where people at her report’s level are punished for taking vacation, or the workload is such that all a vacation does is pile up more work on either end? Pushing her to take a whole week is a cruel joke.

          1. AnotherFed*

            It sounds like the manager has already had one or more conversations with the employee about taking a vacation, though. The manager is now at the point of trying to force the employee to take a week of vacation. Regardless of whether someone has a ‘good’ reason to keep their PTO banked or not, it’s theirs to use or not. Forcing them to take it when they don’t want to is being very authoritarian, and at that point, it’s usually called a suspension, with or without pay.

            It seems pretty dumb to me for the manager to assume that they know better than the employee what will make them happier and more productive and force them to do whatever that is. Karaoke night teambuilding (while absolutely terrible) still sounds better and less invasive than this manager.

            1. Monodon monoceros*

              I dunno…as long as the employee has ample vacation (and is in fact in danger of leaving PTO on the table) then why can’t the manager strongly encourage/force them to take off? I mean, the manager doesn’t have to specify the exact week, it could be the manager sitting down with the employee with the calendar and saying, OK, what week are you taking off?

              Also, at the risk of this sitting in moderation for a while, it all reminds me of this gem…

            2. KT*

              I agree, this seems like a very heavy-handed manager. I know what works best for me and my life–how I want to use my vacation, as long as I’m not taking it at god-awful times (like a CPA at tax time), then it’s my business to use it as I see fit.

            3. LBK*

              I’m honestly kind of baffled by this. I don’t think the OP has had a conversation – it sounds like she’s asked her to take more but hasn’t sat down and asked why she doesn’t want to (otherwise I assume that reason would’ve been stated in the letter).

              I’m confused by everyone acting as though Alison suggested telling her “take this week off or you’re fired” or something equally severe. All she said is “it’s not unreasonable or unacceptable to ask people to take time off and it’s worth asking her why she doesn’t want to”.

              Maybe people are reading something in the letter and response that I’m not seeing but none of this sounds bad. It all sounds really considerate – I’d kill for a manager that was that concerned about my well-being that they wanted to make sure I wasn’t burning myself out by never taking an extended vacation and given some of the horribly restrictive PTO policies we’ve heard about I’d think a lot of other people here would, too. This doesn’t compare to other anecdotes being given about limited PTO policies (6 weeks is a ton!) or other invasive, forced actions because at this point the OP hasn’t forced anyone to do anything and Alison hasn’t suggested that she should.

              1. edj3*

                I’m not reading horrible motives into this–I do think the manager in this letter possibly doesn’t realize people have differing ideas of what’s refreshing in terms of time off.

              2. Kyrielle*

                Except, while we know they have 6 weeks, we also know they haven’t taken a whole week off in eight years.

                So how many Fridays off they are taking? If not many, they could be earning only 2 weeks a year, and taking a week off is giving up half a year’s accrual. If they take a lot, then maybe they’re earning 3 or 4 a year and this is more reasonable.

                What if they’re trying to start a family and banking time off to have more paid leave if/when that happens? What if they have some other concern such as a health issue they’ve managed to keep from impacting work much (maybe with some Friday appointments) but that they know could cause bigger issues in the future?

                I think talking to them once more, and especially emphasizing that it may get busy and there may not be time for a full week off the next year, isn’t bad. But I think trying to push them to take it or to share their why not is *not* good…and I say that as someone who has seen someone overworking themselves and really wishes there were a way to save them from themselves. Because here’s the thing, it’s entirely possible that they have a reason and _don’t want to share it_. There are a lot of possible answers to “why” that would not be comfortable for the employee t share, and until/unless it actually impacts the workplace, aren’t the employer’s business.

                1. LBK*

                  The employee doesn’t have to give specifics, though. She can just say “I have personal reasons I prefer to take my PTO in short amounts and would rather not burn big chunks of it in case I need them unexpectedly.” That would be a fine explanation that I’d say would make it clear to the OP to back off without forcing the OP to divulge her private life.

                  I guess I feel like a lot of the comments are saying to not even ask the employee what’s up and to just let her do whatever she wants, and I can’t understand that logic. I especially can’t understand it because there seems to be a never-ending stream of PTO horror stories on this site about not getting vacation days or managers who make it impossible to use them. Yet here we have the polar opposite and people seem almost more horrified.

                2. Kyrielle*

                  I agree, asking is fine, as long as it’s not pushed.

                  And honestly? Messing with people’s right to use their PTO as *they* see fit is usually what we react to, I think – moreso to restricting its use (I think everyone ‘gets’ that concern), but also to forcing it. It’s about choice, and control of your life, and the employee knowing more about their circumstances than the employer.

                3. LBK*

                  I get that, but I do also think there’s times when a manager can make a judgment call on a stubborn employee’s behalf, as is their job as the manager – and I don’t think PTO is sacred in that sense as long as whatever concerns the employee raises are genuinely considered.

                  I think most people are coming at this from the “she has a personal reason” perspective and I’m coming at it from a “she has a warped view of her role as an employee” perspective. I’m thinking of LW’s we’ve had who mention that they’ve never taken time off in years of work as a sign that they’re good, dutiful employees or those that say they’re completely irreplaceable and they can’t leave for even a day without the whole company falling apart. To me, the OP sounds like she’s a manager who’s trying to shake someone out of that mindset – one of the dangers of that mindset being that you lose perspective and you can’t make good choices on your own about when you need to be at work, and the only way it gets fixed is by someone forcing you to stay away so you can realize that the world didn’t end and you didn’t stop being viewed as a good employee just because you weren’t there for a week.

                  Obviously this is all guesses either way, but I’m seeing more people on the “you absolutely cannot and should not make her do this” side than I would’ve expected.

                4. Koko*

                  The amount you can rollover is generally similar to the amount you can accrue in a year for financial reasons. If she is able to have 6 weeks banked, she’s probably accruing at least 3-4 weeks a year. Companies that can’t afford to give more than 2 weeks a year of vacation also generally can’t afford to have employees walking around with 6 weeks of PTO payout owed to them and they’ll cap the annual rollover somewhere around 3 weeks.

                5. Kyrielle*

                  LBK – I’m coming at it from “she MAY have personal reasons” and she may also be a workaholic. I’m not sure a forced vacation will help the latter. Again, I think it can be approached but I also think the OP should be open to the possibility that maybe there’s a reason.

                  Koko – my previous company had a blanket cap on total accrual for all employees, regardless of vacation accumulation. New hires got 2 weeks. People with lots of years got 4. (People who had lots of years before the second-most-recent acquisition actually got 5, and got grandfathered in with it.) Vacation cap was 4 weeks, except in California where it was 6 weeks – so a new hire in California could work three years without a day of vacation before hitting the accrual cap….

                6. olives*

                  You can encourage somebody to not be a workaholic without telling them how to use their PTO / vacation time.

                  I completely agree with Kyrielle: there are so, so many reasons the employee might not want to share why they take vacation and PTO the way they do. It’s none of work’s business. If you’re close to the employee, and KNOW they’re doing it for workaholic reasons – sure, that’s one thing! If you’re not? No, this isn’t the manager’s business.

                  If the person looks constantly stressed? Speak up about that. If the person seems to be having trouble managing their workload? Talk to them about that. If it’s affecting other employees and making them think they need to work constantly, talk about that. If they’re saying that they don’t know how they could possibly get any time away, step in and dissuade them from that notion. Help them figure out if there’s a better way to manage things.

                  If they seem to be managing their day to day life in a pretty average way, performance isn’t an issue, and you’re just uniquely distressed by a lack of weeklong vacations? Stay out of it.

                  And the reason I’m on the side of not asking is that as someone who’s been in that position…it’s highly likely that’s a bit of a loaded question for them, and may not be so easy for them to answer as it is for you to ask.

                  Especially for someone who *is* taking off Fridays on the regular…this sounds like someone who’s pretty confident they know how to manage their own life.

            4. Another HRPro*

              While the manager thinks it would be good for the employee to have a week off, the manager does not say anything about why. Does the employee seem to need a break? Are they tense, frustrated, not performing well? If there has been a behavior change/performance change and that is why the manager thinks a break is needed to be more successful, that makes sense. But just because the employee has 6 weeks of PTO banked does not seem like a good reason to force a person to take time off.

              Honestly, without talking to the employee, the manager doesn’t know why the individual doesn’t take time off. Maybe they are one of the lucky few who really loves their job. Maybe they use their job as a distraction from issues in their personal life. Maybe they just don’t need the time off. It doesn’t matter as long as the employee is performing, their aren’t audit issues (i.e., needing to verify their work while they are not there) or there aren’t coverage issues (i.e., they are planning to take all of their PTO time off in lump sum).

              1. LBK*

                The thing is, you often can’t see a burnout until it’s too late, particularly with employees who really like the work they do. For those people they tend to be really happy until suddenly they’re not and then you lose them, and then all the vacation in the world can’t help them build up their motivation. Speaking as someone who has twice now burned himself out on work I loved because I never took time away from it, I think it’s smart to encourage her to take an extended break if her explanation is just that she doesn’t feel like she needs it.

                1. Another HRPro*

                  I completely agree with “encourage”. It is requiring someone to take time off that I have an issue with.

      2. AcidMeFlux*

        Another legitimate reason to push people to take time off is to see how the workplace dynamic is different when they’re gone. I was thinking of “Jane” from the other day who wrote her own employee handbook and was referred to as a bully in several coworkers’ exit interviews. If things go more smoothly or there’s less tension in someone’s absence….

        1. Cafe Au Lait*

          This. I have a coworker that never ever takes time off. Our vacation maxes out at 500 hours, and she’s consistently been at that amount since I started here three years ago. My coworker is also…childish. She’s incredibly behind the times personally and professionally.

          Last year she took her first week long vacation in years. It was a blissful week. I didn’t realize how much stress she contributed to my life daily until she was gone.

        1. RMRIC0*

          I think that the last part of OP’s letter – that they’re going to eliminate the other person that does OP’s job – is fueling a lot of the hand-wringing about vacation. The stress if probably going to bump up and they probably don’t want the employee to decide that six weeks off is just what she needs.

      3. Bend & Snap*

        My boss has been pushing me to take vacation–and I can’t. As a single parent with full-time custody, my PTO goes to dr. appointments, days off to care for a sick kid, teacher inservice days, and every once in a blue moon, errands I can’t get done otherwise. I’d love to check out for a week, and I need the break, but I can’t afford to do that right now because it’ll rob me of time off I need for my family.

        You really never know what motivates people.

        1. Anna*

          Which is completely reasonable, but this employee has six weeks. There’s no way she would need all that time for sick children and all the other things you might need to do if you’re a single parent.

          1. neverjaunty*

            There is no way you have any idea what another person’s life is like so that can pronounce from on high how much time they “need” to keep their personal lives in order, or whether they “need” to take a solid week off (as OP wants her employee to do).

        2. Observer*

          Well, your boss should be aware of the fact that you are actually taking all of your PTO even though you haven’t taken a proper vacation in a long time. And, if he doesn’t realize it, you should point it out to him. You don’t have to get into details, but you could say “unless you are offering to give me a extra paid week just for this, I can’t afford to do this. As it is, I wind up taking all of my time for small things that need to be done during office hours.”

      4. Sarah*

        If she always takes just enough not to loose it, she is likely actually using up her annual allowance each year (assuming there is a limit to the size of your “bank”). Although yes, taking it one day at a time vs. a week is something the boss certainly can encourage. I think requiring it would put a bad taste in my mouth, but a conversation should be had.

      5. Jeff A.*

        I won’t say that I think you’re being inconsistent with your advice here Alison, but I will point out that you’re default answer in almost every other situation that involves a manager trying to shape an employees behavior is “Are you happy with the employees performance? If so, don’t worry about it.”

        There’s nothing in the OP’s letter to suggest that she has performance concerns, so what’s the big deal? (Ok, if there are particular industry-specific concerns, like with the above mentioned embezzlement safeguard, fine I can grant you that). Just because there are studies to suggest that most people benefit from a full week off doesn’t mean that this particular employee does. It’s like how studies consistently show that most people benefit from 8 hours of sleep per night…but that there are plenty of people for whom this doesn’t matter.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I can see that argument and don’t think it’s unreasonable. I guess I look at this as similar to if an employee were consistently working 12-hour days. I don’t really care if they’re choosing to do that; I don’t believe it’s healthy or good for the organization in the long-run, and I’m going to talk to them about what needs to happen so that they can stop doing that. (And I think a lot of people here would agree with it in that context; I don’t think this is terribly different.)

          1. olives*

            I actually do agree with this in the case of 12-hour days when I don’t agree with it in terms of time off! I think they’re actually quite different.

            Somebody who’s consistently working 12-hour days is clearly deeply invested in being at work, for some reason. Whether that’s because they’re insecure about their status, can’t keep up, workload is too much for the position, or what, it absolutely is something a healthy organization needs to know about – because it’s beyond what’s necessary for that position in a worrying way. It indicates that their sense of self is overly tied to the work (which can cause a lot of problems for management), and it means that they’re likely to be neglecting their personal health – because physically it’s quite difficult to be getting reasonable rest and relaxation in this scenario. Just about the only explanation that would work here is “I have weird genes that only require me to sleep 4 hours a night; I actually have plenty of time to myself after work.” And that’s effectively nobody that that applies to.

            If you instead have someone who’s there regularly, has no other indications of being a workaholic or not being able to manage work, and *just* uses their PTO in an unusual fashion, that isn’t affecting other people? I’m not sure this is actually necessarily unhealthy for the organization. There may be a lot of reasons this is perfectly fine for the particular person, and it’s easy enough to dissuade others who might see them as an example of how much they should work culturally that that’s not required by the organization. Knowing about it is important, but a person can be getting plenty of rest, taking care of themselves, taking care of their work, delegating responsibly, without taking a week off. Sure, it’s entirely possible that they’re not doing those things – but if not? Those are the things to address, not how someone is using PTO. There are oh-so-many reasons that people might choose to break down their life this way.

            I see both the 12-hour days and the no-weeks-off as symptoms – but 12-hour days have much more predictive value of workaholism than not taking a week off. Especially in a climate where the amount of time you take away from work is closely tracked. Never taking a week off probably is *correlated* with workaholism – but in absence of other, more directly addressable behaviors, I don’t see the need to push someone on this. Whereas, if someone is working 12-hour days consistently, the probability is much higher that they need managerial assistance.

      6. Lai*

        I agree that it’s reasonable for the OP to have a conversation with this employee and encourage them to take a week off. The part I’m struggling with is that HR said the manager can’t REQUIRE the week off and the advice was to push back on HR. To me, there’s a big difference between strongly encouraging/facilitating and requiring. I’d be quite annoyed if I were suddenly told that I’m required to take a full week off this year, because someone else thinks it’s good for me (absent any demonstrable evidence that I am actually burnt out or performing my job inadequately).

        Also, I don’t think it’s bad for the manager to ask if there’s any work-related concerns that prevent the employee from taking time off but I don’t know if I’d insist if the employee seems reluctant to share. Maybe they have personal reasons they’d prefer not to share with a boss. Maybe they don’t have any friends or family, and don’t like traveling alone. Maybe they have huge debt and can’t afford a vacation.

      7. COMMENTER1*

        I would not find a week at home “refreshing” when I had to come back to double the work, and I am unable to travel now for REASONS.

        Vacation banking is extremely common where I work – in excess of 6 weeks! – our carryover is quite generous. Sometimes the advice here really misses the mark.

      8. olives*

        I feel like I have to chime in here, as someone who deals with chronic mental health issues – for me, taking a week off from work means it takes another week for me to get back into what I’m doing, and track what’s going on. I do it, sometimes, because personally I have a hard time not taking that time off. But for someone else dealing with the same issues, I would not be surprised in the slightest if they chose not to ever take breaks of quite that long.

        Long weekends don’t have nearly the same effect – I come back much more rested and reset!

        I believe the research that people come back more rested and refreshed. Just – there’s a certain point at which you definitely need to trust people to know themselves and what they need, and I think pushing people to take a week off (especially in a wider US work culture that never, ever, EVER stops) can be just another source of stress.

        If and when this becomes more universal, and the culture shifts to not be so obsessed with productivity? Yeah, I think managers should be able to encourage individuals who are too attached to their work – because they’re not liable to be punished for the degree to which they need to disconnect. Otherwise? You’re probably just stressing out employees that are otherwise happy.

      9. Crazy Canuck*

        Wow, these comments really surprised me. I’ve been required to take at least one solid week of vacation every year for every job I’ve ever had for almost 20 years now. (I work in financial administration.) Both times I have seen employees who refuse to take vacation, they where eventually revealed to be stealing from the company. As a result, I have nothing but side-eye for anyone who refuses to take a week off.

        The most surprising one was at my current job. 62 year old supervisor who was planning on retiring in a few years, I was brought in to replace her. After I had learned the ropes, roughly 4-6 months in, I told her she should use some of the large amount of vacation time she had accrued. She refused. There where a few other red flags I had seen, so I went to the owners and they effectively forced her to take a vacation, using my training as an excuse. Sure enough, there where discrepancies adding up to well over six figures, including one completely fake bank account. The story came out that she had a bad lottery habit, and was planning on using her (eventual) winnings on paying the company back. She was one of the nicest co-workers I’ve ever had too, I was really hoping I was wrong.

        Setting aside fraud, there are also contingency planning issues that may not come up if people don’t take vacation readily. If only one person can expertly attach the handle to the teapot, that skill needs to be cross-trained. There’s nothing like a long vacation to expose those kinds of skills holes in your company.

    2. M*

      If work is that understaffed then she really needs to take the week off now before the funding is cut. If not taking time off was the culture the OP wouldn’t be writing in.

      This is 6 weeks of PTO. A solid week off before the end of the year while she continues to accrue time won’t hurt her total bank. Unless she is saving for something specific (surgery or trying to get pregnant) she needs to be ordered nit to come in. She doesn’t have to take vacation but she needs to get away from office.

      My father was like this. He had so much PTO when he retired he lost money. He retired in January and died that June. I can count on one hand the coworkers that came to his service.

        1. Bea W*

          This must have been terrible, and I can see how that would be a driver behind the idea that “she needs to be ordered not to come in”. I also think it’s important to separate out what’s personal and what’s actually best for the employee before ordering someone to do anything.

          M – if you are the OP, it could very well be that feeling the need to go so far as to order someone to take time off is because of your own personal loss and the emotions it brings up for you rather than the employee herself. That doesn’t mean it’s not a valid concern, but it is something to be aware of when addressing the issue with the employee. Being ordered to take PTO rather than being able to make that decision on your own is just as stressful as not being able to take PTO when you want to. It may not relaxing at all, and that would defeat the purpose of ordering her to take a week off.

          1. M*

            I’m not the OP.

            There is a difference between those that have 2 weeks of PTO & someone hoarding 6. The mentality of the hoarder will not allow them to stand down for consecutive days. You see this a lot with older generation that believe they must be indispensable in order to be a good worker. They take pride in believing the place will fall apart without them. I shared my story to point out that it won’t and likely those same co workers won’t even show up at your funeral.

            I can see why you would think I’m biased but this is also a managerial issue. It’s easier to arrange coverage for a week than to have other employees constantly interrupted covering days here and there ESPECIALLY if she’s doing this around long weekends and holidays essentially making it that others are unable to use their time. Even if she is planning a long trip suddenly requesting a 2-3 week block can cause havoc to others. I get why someone with only 2-3 weeks may parcel days but 6 weeks is ridiculous. I’ve seen far too many lose money over mistaken belief that PTO days were the same as bonus money. Use your time while you can enjoy them.

            1. L*

              I would just add that 6 weeks of PTO isn’t necessarily a lot of time if you have a major life emergency. Who knows what’s going on in her personal life; she may in fact be waiting for the other shoe to drop so to speak. I think it’s fair for the manager to have a conversation about workload and burnout, but I don’t think anyone should mandate how employees use their PTO.

            2. A Manager*

              I don’t really understand why people refer to the 6 weeks in the bank as “hoarding” or assume the employee is planning to use a bunch all at once. It sounds like people think the employee has bad intentions. I have that much banked and it is not because I feel I am indispensable or because I am planning to take a large chunk of it at once. I have banked it in case I am ever laid off or have to leave for medical reasons, etc. I want the maximum banked so that I have a financial cushion if something unexpected happens. It adds a little more time for me to get back on my feet.
              In the example above- if an employee wants a long trip that would cause havoc to others then it is the manager’s job to deny the extended leave for that reason.

            3. Lai*

              I’m in my early 30s and have about 6 weeks banked, and it’s not because I think I’m indispensable. It’s basically because I don’t have a really good reason to use it now, and I think I might have better reasons in the future. I’d rather have it saved for when I really want it than spend a week at home watching Netflix.

            4. olives*

              Even with somebody who’s hoarding 6 weeks off – I’m having a hard time seeing where making them take 1 off at once is going to magically solve things. I’m not even convinced that a person doing this would necessarily feel refreshed by going on vacation. (A good friend spends her vacation like this. When she *does* take a week off, she comes back feeling incredibly guilty and more workaholic-y than ever – not refreshed and ready to be engaged, but ready to eat the organization. No amount of discussion and encouragement will ever make that feeling vanish, for her.)

              The managerial issue of wanting to take them all at once can be solved by…not allowing them to do that. That’s been addressed here before; just because somebody has that much vacation doesn’t mean they’re allowed to say “I’m taking the next 6 weeks off, seeya” with no repercussions.

              As long as that sense of scarcity in time off exists, people will keep trying to bank PTO. It’s what people do. We squirrel things away for other times. The fact that some people end up squirreling things away for life is *not* something managers should even feel they’re responsible to solve!

              I am all for people not feeling like time off is a scarce resource. But harassing individuals who are trying to play the hand they’ve been dealt is not how to effect systematic change.

              1. olives*

                I apologize – I think I got a little bit onto my own soapbox and neglected the context here.

                M: I am so sorry for derailing this thread; your father sounds like he had a pretty hard struggle, and I am very sorry for your loss. I wish for him that he could have been able to take more time for himself and your family.

      1. Ezri*

        I’m so sorry about your father. My father-in-law is like this as well – he has worked hard all his life, hardly taking any vacation or time for himself. He was forced to retire this year for medical reasons, and it’s very possible he will never recover. His most recent job was generous with FMLA when his health took a nose dive, and he received a pension from an older employer… but considering how hard he’s worked it doesn’t feel like enough.

        Maybe people have reasons for taking a day or two at a time, and that’s okay. But I’d rather see a manager who tells her reports it’s okay to take a week off than one who doesn’t. A company provides PTO as a benefit they expect you to use, and unless you have a payout policy (we don’t) you won’t get anything in the long run for not using it.

    3. KD*

      I agree with work related reasons for avoiding PTO. My work place has a culture that discourages the use of vacation. Not for lack of effort on managements side but we have people that give up weeks of vacation every year because they just don’t want to miss out on the next project. Some people just don’t want to be away from work and it pushes the rest of us to postpone because we feel less accomplished for having taken time off. With a 360 hr vacation cap it’s not like my coworkers can’t afford to take a week but every year we have people work themselves to death. Literally in a number of cases.

      Personally I’m taking my week off because… Well I need it for my long term sanity. But one of my mentors hasn’t taken more than 3 days of vacation a year since he retired from his previous job 15 years ago.

      1. A Definite Beta Guy*

        If I take a week off, who will push the 64 named issues assigned to me? (Not including regular work-load)

      2. Koko*

        And I think this is why Alison advised the manager to have a conversation with his employee about why she’s not taking time off. Presumably, if he’s really committed to his employees taking a week off, the next step after that conversation would be to remedy any obstacles that are making it difficult or impossible to take vacation at present.

    4. Just Visiting*

      My first thought is that OP #4 has a standing appointment (like therapy) that she doesn’t want to disclose to the manager. If worry about embezzlement is an issue then it would make sense to conduct an audit instead of demand a vacation.

      Personally, I don’t get refreshed by vacation, or at least I didn’t when I was working five days a week. Coming back from a vacation always made me feel horribly depressed in a way that taking a three or four-day weekend didn’t. Everyone is different.

      1. Jozie*

        I agree – taking extended periods of time off kind of makes me feel or of the loop. Frankly, work also provides me with one of my few real opportunities for human interaction (sad but true). As I’m also starting graduate school soon, having PTO saved allows me to take time off here and there as needed.

        1. Bluebirds Fly*

          I do think its thoughtful that OP is concerned about the employee! Personally, I try to keep at least four weeks of leave banked, partly because short-term disability insurance has a 30-day deductible. In current job, any time over six weeks of annual leave gets converted to sick leave (now, but we used to lose it). Pre-children, I preferred taking long weekends and that’s the same now that I’m an empty nester. Six banked weeks doesn’t sound too much to me. I’ve had to zero my leave three times in the last 28 years: pregnancy/birth, caring for acutely ill husband, and recovering from surgery. The pregnancy was before FMLA and I had to return five weeks after the birth or pay for health insurance. I don’t think six weeks is a red flag.

          1. BRR*

            I wonder how much they accrue. Getting 6 weeks in the bank at some companies would take a very long time with very little time off. My concern is only for making sure she doesn’t burn out.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Ugh, me too. :( That’s why I go into the office rather than work from home.

          I’ve been taking more here and there this summer, since I don’t have any trips planned, but I totally hoarded it before that long holiday last autumn. Because our rollover is in June and not January, I still ended up short. :P

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I don’t get terribly refreshed by a one-week vacation, because it’s just rush rush rush then back to work. But a two week vacation, where I have a few days at home once the travel is over, is very refreshing to me.

        When I worked in the design school of my university, I always took two weeks after the fiscal year end accounting was complete (I was in an admin role but involved with the budget officer in making year end cost center transfers, etc.).

        Now I’m in the business college, and my two coworkers (one my direct report, the other the one I replaced when she was promoted) both say they would never take two weeks at once due to work ethic.

        Now I’m not sure whether I’m in a place where taking two weeks at once is culturally “not done” or if that if just the feeling of those two particular people. Summers around the office are so slow that, honestly, two of the three of us could be gone for three weeks and no work would suffer. There were days this summer when we all nearly died of boredom.

        1. Another HRPro*

          Interestingly, I’ve never worked somewhere where people would take 2 weeks off. Until recently. This past summer I’ve seen several folks take 2 full weeks off and I just find it odd. I come from a family who don’t really take vacations (blue collar) so the concept to me is very foreign. I honestly end up losing vacation time each year because it just doesn’t occur to me to schedule a week or two off. I take a day here and there and some time off around the major holidays but that is it and it works for me.

        2. Ad Astra*

          The last time I had two weeks off, I was a freshman or a sophomore in college. Having enough PTO to take two weeks off and having enough money to actually do something fun must feel so good.

          I think I would feel out of the loop if I took two weeks off from my current job, but I can see how that might not be the case at a university in the summer. (Pretty sure my “dream job” is working for a university in communications or something non-academic.) In my first two jobs out of college, no one ever took more than a week at a time.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yes, it does. I usually take two weeks around July 4 (the deadest time of year at my department, with all the students and most of the professors gone and the fiscal year freshly closed). Then I take a week at Thanksgiving and use the rest of my time off for a few days off when everyone is at work and school and I can have the house to myself all day.

        3. Emily K*

          A tip: I take a 1-week “staycation” once a year and find them immensely refreshing and relaxing. I get a 9-day stretch including the bookend weekends without having to go to work, but I don’t leave town. I then use the time for a combination of tackling all those chores and errands I never have time to do normally (fix this, repaint that, gather up and drive these, buy a new one of those, get that minor car repair done) and getting my apartment really clean, mixed with gentle leisure like sleeping in an hour or two, reading some good books, riding my bike in the afternoon, binge-watching something on Netflix.

          It really lowers my stress levels not just that week but for weeks going forward because I’ve cleared up such a backlog of nagging tasks that had previously been stressing me out. And after nine days off work, by then I start to get curious about what’s going on and I feel really ready to go back by the end of it. (Of course, I really like my job…might not work the same way if you don’t!)

            1. Anna*

              This is how I try to set up my longest time off, which is starting next Thursday. I’ll use two vacation days and one personal day and be gone for seven days. Here’s to three-day weekends!

          1. olives*

            If I could do that *and* have enough time to visit far-off friends and family that are important to me…I absolutely would. I so would.

        4. BananaPants*

          My employer gives us a paid holiday between Christmas and New Year’s every year – each January when I see where in the week December 25th falls, I decide how many days I will need to save so that I can have a full 2 weeks off of work. So given weekends and the fact that Christmas is on a Friday, I’ll be done with work for the year on December 18th at the latest. We have “use it or lose it” vacation with absolutely no rolling over so it could be earlier depending on how much vacation I still have. It’s nice because it lets me have time off right before the holiday so that gift wrapping and meal planning isn’t rushed.

          I can only do this because of the paid holiday; taking two weeks off otherwise would be challenging. I’d come back to a freaking mess and the expectation is that I’d be checking email, so why bother?

      3. Snowglobe*

        I’m glad you mentioned the possibility of embezzlement, because that is where my mind went (auditor here). However, if this is a genuine concern (and I would be concerned if this is person who is responsible for managing money with little oversight), a mandatory 5 day vacation would be the logical first step. An audit can cost thousands of dollars.

        One of the biggest red flags for someone embezzling money is that they never want to be absent long enough for someone else to do their work. Often, if someone else takes over for a week, they can catch things. In the US, bank employees who handle financial transactions are required by law to take 5 consecutive vacation days per year.

        1. Another HRPro*

          If this job is in any way in a position that involves money, sales, opportunities for kick-backs, etc. then I totally think requiring regular week off vacations is a good business practice.

        2. KS*

          This. I’m an accountant and over the years have heard many, many times about people who never took vacations only to find out it was because of shenanigans with the money. So I’d be looking more closely depending on this persons position with the company.

      4. Ezri*

        Hah, this year I realized I’m the reverse. I used my vacation to take long weekends here and there, and now I wish I’d saved it up for a week off in the middle of the year. I don’t feel like I can properly ‘switch off’ from work unless I’m off for an extended period, and it hasn’t done much to ease the burnout.

      5. Crazy Canuck*

        If you suspect fraud, you do an audit AND get the employee out of the office. Otherwise, you are risking the employee figuring out what’s going on and destroying records to hide their tracks.

    5. BRR*

      I don’t think the employee taking 6 weeks of vacation at once is the biggest concern because nothing says it has to be approved, and in most offices taking 6 weeks off for relaxation would probably not be.

      Anyways I agree not everybody likes taking an entire week off. I’m not sure how much vacation she accrues but I enjoy both three day weekends and entire weeks off. I do fall in the camp of having a week off makes me feel refreshed in a way a three day weekend never could. I think she could be banking it if your company has a policy of paying it out.

    6. Menacia*

      My husband works for the state and he receives PTO time, but does not get short-term disability unless he pays for it. Instead of purchasing STD he opted to bank as much sick and vacation time as possible (though without foregoing yearly week-long vacations) just in case he needed to take the time off due to illness or injury. Well, he was in an accident that kept him out of work for 6 months…and guess what, he had enough vacation/sick time to cover it! I can absolutely see someone wishing to bank their PTO and only take vacation periodically, in smaller doses, in order to save up the time as a cushion “just in case” something happens. I don’t think employers should dictate when/how an employee takes their vacation, unless it’s agreed upon when the employee is hired that they can’t take vacation during critically busy times, or when x number of other staff are out at the same time. As the OP states, she is concerned about staffing next year and finding someone to cover for this employee should they all of a sudden decide to take a week or more of vacation time. Guess what? That’s *not* the employee’s problem to resolve by using their vacation based on what-ifs. Managers need to plan for vacations, or even an illness or injury, because LIFE happens. :)

      1. Retail Lifer*

        Agreed. And vacation time normally has to be approved, so if there was a lot going on, the manager could easily say that the employee needed to limit it to a week or two, or even deny it until a busy period was over with. We’re not allowed to take off more than two weeks at a time anyway, for that very reason.

    7. Retail Lifer*

      I completely screwed myself this year by going on vacation. I also moved, I’ve had some interviews, and I’ve been sick (and I have to use vacation days when I’m sick) and I’m out of PTO for the year already. The employee might be saving it for something that only she knows about, just in case.

      I usually don’t go on “real” vacations, either. I get two weeks so I usually break them up into a few 4-day weekends throughout the year so it lasts longer. Maybe the employee could be convinced to to that.

    8. Q*

      At my work we are required to take 10 consecutive days off each year. It helps uncover any wrong doing (intentional or not.) My cohort just had his two weeks off and I discovered two separate procedures he was not correctly following. If she is refusing to take more than one day at a time, I’d be suspicious as to why.

      1. OP#4*

        Hi all:
        Some clarifications:
        *The company does provide short term disability.
        *The employee “Julie” has been at the company 18 years, and earns the highest amount of PTO possible.
        *I hired a new work partner for Julie in January, and she trained this new staffer “Jane.” Jane is performing at a high level, and can cover Julie’s job completely.
        *A recent reversal for the company puts Julie’s position in jeopardy for 2016.
        I’m not trying to “force” or require Julie to take an entire week off, and I have discussed taking PTO several times per year with her. Even using one week, Julie will still have ample PTO for any reasonable emergency. The recent reversal makes me want to push Julie to take her week off sometime in 2015, since I’m not sure Jane will be around next year. Eight years without an entire week off seems excessive for any human, IMHO.
        Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

        1. neverjaunty*

          What you’re not really explaining is what Julie has said about her reasons for not taking PTO despite your discussing it “several times”. That doesn’t sound like a conversation.

    9. Vicki*

      I, personally, much prefer taking PTO is small amounts. At LastJob, I reached a point similar to the employee in #4. I had enough PTO stacked up that I could take one day a month off (I took every other Wednesday afternoon off). It. Was. Heaven.

      If I had been “forced” to take a full week off, I would have had more downtime for that week, but then would have faced 40+-hour weeks in the months ahead until I made back that time. I also dislike going out of town, so I would have spent the time at home, which is nice, but much nicer when it breaks up a week!

      OP – TALK with the employee. Do NOT go to HR. Do not insist that there be a policy that allows you to “force” someone to take time off.

  2. Mean Something*

    #1 reminds me of a day last year when my mug disappeared from the communal kitchen area in the faculty workroom. It had been used by a new teacher who didn’t know that some mugs are communal (with the school logo, or student gifts that people didn’t want to take home) and some are personal. There was no reason he would have known! He returned the mug with apologies and I was embarrassed to have made such a fuss looking for it.

    Coffee making supplies, on the other hand, are communal, and if I’d brought my Aeropress from home, I would be fine with other people using it as long as they washed it out afterwards.

    We all get a bit weird around our food and drink!

    1. Retail4Life*

      I lost 3 mugs in communal kitchens and even keeping them at my desk. People stole them and took them home. A french press is one thing but I really really don’t want anyone using my mugs. I just think that’s gross, often they don’t go in the dishwasher after they’re used even if they are ‘washed’ or really just rinsed out.

      Why can’t we just make it that if you’re new and unsure if things are communal or not, you ask instead of using things that might not be communal and possibly grossing out or upsetting your co-workers?!

      I don’t leave mugs at work anymore because it doesn’t seem like there’s a common office protocol for not using, stealing or otherwise messing with them. This often means that if I leave my mug at home I have to go without coffee/water or head to Starbucks.

      Sorry this is a big pet peeve of mine. Don’t use my personal stuff without asking. Would you take a frame or pencil cup off my desk and start using it?

      1. Student*

        There’s a huge difference in storing personal stuff at your personal area and storing personal stuff in a communal area. It’s reasonable to expect stuff on your desk to not “walk away” in any sane office environment. It’s not reasonable to expect co-workers to remember which stuff in a communal area is personal and which stuff is communal. The default assumption should be that unlabeled non-food items in the communal area is communal, and labeled stuff is not communal. Even so, if at all reasonable, store non-communal stuff in a non-communal area, or maybe set aside a clearly labeled cabinet for non-communal storage. Food should be assumed to be personal unless labeled as communal.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          At my office we have communal kitchen ware, which is kept in the break room and is unlabelled. People keep personal stuff in their office – everyone quickly learns to keep a bowl and chopsticks on hand for special events with food. And there’s a cupboard of mugs clearly labelled “Visitor Use Only” that employees are supposed to keep their hands off of.

          Any food left on the break-room table is assumed to be for general consumption, and generally vanishes quickly. Anything non-labelled in the fridge can be thrown out without warning.

      2. Merry and Bright*

        When I go to a new office I always bring a mug with me. That way, I have a clean mug to use and know I won’t enter a mug minefield.

        1. Lia*

          Same here. Learned the hard way in one job that the umpteen mugs in the breakroom of a ~12 person office all belonged to 2 people. I was told to “help myself to the coffee” but there were no paper cups — used one of the mugs and got reamed out. After that, I bring my own on day 1 of a new job.

          1. Artemesia*

            This. A mug in the kitchen should be available to anyone who needs a mug (unless a very small office where everyone KNOWs each others mugs. Keep personal mugs at the desk.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Me too–I have an AAM mug I keep at my desk, unless I leave it in the sink for our house elves to pop in the dishwasher. All my containers go home with me at the end of the day, and any other supplies (food, seasoning, tea, etc.) lives in the cabinet in my cube.

        3. themmases*

          Yeah, I own too many mugs– I’m a coffee and tea drinker so people give them to me, plus I can’t resist buying them myself. They wouldn’t all get used at home and they almost don’t fit anyway.

          When I start a new job I pick one that’s not my absolute favorite but that is distinctive, and bring that in to keep at my desk. It encourages me to wash it or at least rinse it really well every day so I don’t mind putting it back in my own cabinet (rather than on the counter “soaking”).

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            Distinctive is key. People have to see you with it and know it’s yours. I have a very colorful mug with a candy-brand name on it. It’s also over 20 years old (awesome Goodwill find). People know it’s mine on sight; no way someone could nick it without knowing they had taken from me.

      3. MK*

        Are you seriously suggesting that new employees should ask for an inventory of communal and non-communal items of the break room? There is probably tons of stuff there, not just your mug, how is anyone even supposed to remember which is which?

        If you don’t want people using your things, label them. Or better yet, bring a something like a box labeled “X’s things” and keep everything of yours there.

        1. Not Today Satan*

          I agree… I would never think to ask if mugs in a communal space were communal or not. If you don’t want to share your mug, keep it at your desk.

            1. MK*

              That would work if all the mugs were property of employees, but in those cases I think the person showing you around the office would say something to indicate you need to bring your own. But what would you do if there were communal mugs, but some people also brought their own? Take notes on which is which?

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I was going to be a little nicer about it, but I agree in general. I work at a company of about 250 people. We lease 3 floors of a building that is about a full city block. I have no idea how a new person could ask everyone on their floor whether a particular item is theirs.

          (My solution is to keep all of my own stuff in my office, but that might not work for everyone.)

          1. Anna*

            When I worked in a cubicle, people tended to keep their personal stuff at their desks (we had lockers in our cubes) and anything in the communal area was considered up for grabs. Except in the mini-fridge. But if people had their own personal stuff in the communal area and freaked out if someone used it, it would have been seen as really weird. Now I’m in an office that’s not attached to anyone else, I have a mini-fridge in there and more utensils than I really need scattered around. Communal can be a good thing if you’re a clutter collector like me. :)

      4. Withans*

        I feel like more people should adopt the Alan Turing approach to this problem – chaining your mug to the radiator.

        1. Lindsay (not a temp anymore! yay!)*

          I bought my dad and myself mugs from our boat club for Father’s Day that have carabeeners (sp?) as handles. They’re amazing!

      5. Beancounter in Texas*

        I work in an office of eight people. I have a distinct blue mug with some distinct symbols on it that I brought and everyone knows that I brought it from home and that I drink from it everyday. I think ownership is established. I too don’t wash it often, just rinse it out most days. One Friday, I left it on the communal rack to dry. I called in sick on Monday and the next morning, when I went into The Boss’ office to see if I missed anything while out, I found my blue mug on his desk, with cold coffee. He wasn’t in his office, so I took my mug, and washed it out with soap.

        At first I was grossed out, because The Boss is NOT known for washing his hands, but he is known for sneezing into his hands, and for sticking his hands into the communal snacks instead of pouring the food into his hands or using utensils to scoop out. GROSS.

        Then I realized the grossness is on him because I’d been using my mug for a couple of weeks without washing it, so my bacteria probably covered it. There are 20+ other communal mugs, and about several travel mugs that he brought from home (and nobody uses because they are his), so it isn’t as though my mug was the only one available.

        Now my mug resides at my desk.

      6. Retail Lifer*

        I think we’ve all had personal items go missing at work, so I definitely sympathize. However, I’d probably see a French press as more of an appliance (like a communal coffee maker or microwave) and less of a personal item like a mug.

        Incidentally, people walk off with the stapler, tape dispenser, etc. from my desk all the time. But I work with jerks.

        1. T3k*

          Where I work, office supplies keep walking off so badly, we’ve taken to labeling them. My boss even has her stuff labeled as her’s on top of “do not remove from [boss’s name] desk” on it. If I could label pens, I so would (I’ve had to chase down past bosses because they’d walk off with a personal pen of mine).

          1. Lindsay (not a temp anymore! yay!)*

            I had a teacher in High School who had pencils made on some online site that said “stolen from the desk of _____” on them.

      7. Stranger than fiction*

        You just reminded me of horrible ex-job w/ nightmare ex-boss. We too had a whole kitchen cupboard full of communal mugs of all different types. My second week there, I used a Betty Boop one, and my manager came in and a couple minutes later was stomping around all pissed off about something, then she got to my desk and was like “everyone knows I use the Betty Boop mug”. I was too shocked to say anything, or I would have said “well, I didn’t know”.

    2. Vancouver Reader*

      Reminds me of a story I heard about a sub who was shown the lunchroom at a school by one of the teachers. The sub went to get a mug, and the teacher said, “that’s my mug.” So the sub reaches for another mug and the teacher says, “that one’s mine too.” That went on a few more times before the sub could finally pick a mug that didn’t belong to that particular teacher.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        I would expect a regular teacher to be kind to a sub and either let her use a mug for a day or kindly point out a mug that is available for use. Whatever happened to being hospitable?

    3. Jen*

      I brought a travel mug with Munch’s “The Scream” on it into the office and left it in the kitchen once after washing it. Another woman started using it a lot. I’d get it back when I could but pretty much just assumed at that point that I’d donated the mug to the communal stash and was OK with it. I got a nicer travel mug and was better about washing it and drying it myself and keeping it at my desk and I never had a problem.

    4. Not there for me*

      I got the biggest kick once out of watching a 75 year old male consultant drinking out of my pink “Mommy” coffee cup!

    5. Vicki*

      A friend of mine had his mug taken from his desk — and it had his name printed on it (from a previous company that gave everyone a mug with their name).

  3. Katy*

    Depending on the employee’s job duties, I might consider the reluctance to take a week away to be a red flag. What is she worried will happen while she’s away?

    1. JoJo*

      I was thinking the same thing. Not taking vacations is one of the signs of an embezzler. I’d insist she take at least a week and get an auditor to review her work.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        I usually save the bulk of my time off for an emergency. I also am left with a mountain of work when I get back. Not saying there’s no possible cause for concern, but she really might have a reason.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I had never heard of this until this site. I wonder if people are just crapping their pants while on their mandated vacation wondering if they’ll be in trouble for anything wrong that was found when they get back! (well, naturally if you’re embezzling, but I mean any other mistakes)

      3. HB*

        This is exactly where my mind went. Not sure if I’m just overly distrustful – people above were outlining reasons different people take PTO differently (solid weeks vs long weekends) by my very first thought was fraud.

        I’m an accountant, so that’s probably why my internal “fraud!” siren is so easily tripped.

    2. Seal*

      I once inherited an problem employee who had previously been allowed far too much latitude in his work and was very resentful that he now had to report to someone who expected him to work. He also hated change and was paranoid that I would change something he felt was essential to the running of our department behind his back. So during the 5 years it took to get rid of him (why it took that long is another story) he refused to take time off. He was already close to maxed out on vacation time accrued when I got there, so he wound up losing quite a bit of money by refusing to take time off he had earned because we have a use it or lose it policy. On top of it, he was healthy as a horse so he never took sick time, either. It was maddening, because no one ever got a break from this guy unless they took time off themselves. Dropping hints or outright telling him to take time off fell on deaf ears. Joke was on him, though. I never hesitated to make the changes I felt necessary to bring our department into the 21st century right in front of him. All that paranoia for nothing.

      1. AnotherFed*

        That’s a problem with the employee, though, not with his leave use! We’ve all had problem employees or coworkers we wished weren’t around as frequently as they are, but do you really pay attention to the vacation habits of non-annoying coworkers?

        1. Seal*

          I have to disagree – refusing to take time off at all is a huge red flag for me. In all my years of as a manager, this is the only staff member I’ve had who refused to take time off and didn’t care that he was losing money because of it. I’ve had staff members who banked their vacation time for specific reasons – major trip, family planning, etc – or because they wanted to have it paid out to them when they left our organization. But none of them ever went out of their way to avoid taking time off.

          The one former coworker there who also refused to take time off was a micromanager who didn’t trust her staff to get work done if she was ever out of the office. She even had bathroom passes for her employees so she knew where they were at all times. Her ridiculous rules and work habits, along with her refusal to take time off, were a constant source of concern for those of us who had to deal with her. When she finally left – completely burned out, because she never took time off – we discovered that for all her bluster she was getting very little work done. Her much-relieved staff told us that she never took time off because she was afraid people would find out she didn’t know what she was doing. Why her supervisor didn’t step in is another matter entirely.

          1. JoJo*

            That’s usually the case with these ‘indispensable’ employees. I’ve never seen one yet who wasn’t the least efficient, least effective person in the office.

    3. UK Eleanor*

      If she works in legal or a finance function I would definitely be concerned.

      I occasionally hear about fraud as part of my job and one of the warning signs is an employee who rarely or never takes leave, as then they would have to hand over to another person who might notice unusual accounting entries, or odd calls from suppliers, or the small adjustments to payroll every month…

      I remember joining a law firm and being told I HAD to take at least a full week’s leave each year (I innocently thought it was a nice thing for employee morale, etc — but eventually I realised it was in their interests!).

    4. Anon Accountant*

      I worked with someone who was afraid to take off a few days at the same time because she was afraid we would see how non-busy she was. She would take twice or 3 times as long to do tasks with unnecessary steps and didn’t want any more work added.

    5. LBK*

      Potentially shady considerations aside, I’d take it as a red flag that she’s concerned about the amount of work she’d have to do before/after or she’s concerned that things won’t get done without her. This may be a necessary exercise just to practice for the “hit by a bus” scenario – a week off will help reveal all the things she does that no one else can cover and make sure she gets backup for it.

      1. SophiaB*

        Oooh, I like how you’ve turned that one around.

        I’m the only person who does my job in the office, and I’ve not had leave since Christmas (there were reasons), so I’ve booked in two consecutive weeks next month. The thought of coming back after those two weeks to a mountain of tasks and my work-packages in ruins was really putting me off, but the thought that I might finally get some support and back-up off the back of it is helpful.

        I do think the OP might have a better chance of achieving her aim if she sat down with the employee and provided support for her to take leave. If targets need to be adjusted to compensate, or deadlines changed so that she can take a break, that might prompt the employee to start planning a longer break.

    6. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I once had an employee who refused to take time off because she was afraid people would see that the department could run without her.

      She would routinely lose 3 weeks a year because we could only carry over one. I tried explaining that just because we could manage without her for a week, didn’t mean that we could run without her permanently (something I actually disagree with because one thing I have learned is that business always goes on) and that she was in no danger of losing clients, responsibilities, or her job.

  4. M*

    2. If your initial instinct is to tell her job then unfriend /block her so you aren’t bothered by her posts. You don’t jeopardize her employment because you’re afraid of her reaction to a legitimate criticism.

    1. UKAnon*

      I agree with unfriend/block, at the same time I think that in this case it wouldn’t be out there to tell the employers either. The first story I really don’t think warrants being brought up with the employer; it’s bad judgment but it isn’t horrible judgment either. The second one, though, as well as being hugely insensitive and containing other people’s pay details may also be confidential information which the employer has a right to enforce. I think speaking to her first is better, or ignoring it if you can, but she has jeopardised her employment by posting this in the first place.

      1. OP from #2*

        I’m going to let it go. Since I wrote Alison she’s actually posted even more inflammatory and openly disparaging remarks about her boss to the point where other people have told her to be careful. She responded that she doesn’t care because she’s telling the truth.

        I was initially so stunned to see people’s personal compensation information floating around that I thought maybe I should speak up but it sounds like this is going to take care of itself eventually.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Wow, she’s going to get fired. Unless she works at one of those weird, won’t-fire-anybody places. But this is the company owner she’s talking about? Wow.

          1. the gold digger*

            I have a friend who was fired recently because of something she posted on facebook about her employer. I think it was that a work friend at the same employer had quit and had posted something quite negative on facebook about how glad she was to be leaving the employer. My friend said something in agreement. The employer saw the post because both women had friended the employer somehow.

            Anyhow, my friend was fired. There must be more details to the story, but in any case, that was the precipitating event.

        2. Snowglobe*

          Well, she may get fired, so that will take care of itself. But her coworkers’ personal information is still out there, and might not get taken down. You might be able to report the post to Facebook and they might remove it if it violates terms of service.

        3. Snuck*

          Good move to ignore. If she is a drama llama do you really want to get involved in her latest theatre?

          1. OP from #2*

            She is a TOTAL drama llama. My first instinct was to definitely stay as far away from it all as possible.

        4. Ad Astra*

          It does sound like she won’t be around for long in that job, even without your involvement. I was going to suggest bringing it up gently if you were close with her, but it doesn’t sound like you are, and it appears other people’s advice to shut up about work is falling on deaf ears. I can’t stop cringing.

        5. Elizabeth West*

          It’s better to speak up to her anyway and not her employer–if she’s posting stuff like this, I doubt very seriously that her attitude at the office is Miss Mary Sunshine. And really, nothing is truly private online. If people have told her to be careful and she’s responded with “I don’t care,” then letting it go is the best decision. She’s hoisting herself by her own petard.

        6. Anna*

          I wonder if she thinks “telling the truth” is some sort of magic protection against being fired.

    2. June*

      Or just unfollow! I have a former coworker who friended me after she left…and then I realized she was an anti-vaxxer by how much she was posting about it. Save the drama, unsubscribed from her posts.

    3. Rebecca*

      Haha, this kind of reminds me of an ex-coworker/FB friend. She got fired for stealing, then a few months later there were huge layoffs (myself included). It’s a big employer in our area, so the layoffs and subsequent financial problems were in the news frequently. She would share articles and add something like, “Serves them right for laying me off and not taking care of me as an employee!” Um…. you didn’t get laid off, you were stealing and got caught. It got so hard for me not to call her out on it that I finally had to unfriend her.

      1. Collarbone High*

        At one newspaper I used to work at, a disgruntled former reporter would constantly post comments on the paper’s website and Facebook page questioning their ethics. It took all my willpower not to respond, using the paper’s account, pointing out he’d been fired for plagiarizing dozens of stories.

  5. Noah*

    #4 – Many companies buy back PTO at the end of the year. Although in this case it doesn’t sound like that is happening because the LW mentioned the employee takes just enough PTO not to lose any. If the employee is hourly, and routinely working overtime, it is also possible they would see a reduction on their paycheck if they took a full week of PTO. One of the departments at one of my old companies worked four, 12 hour shifts per week. They hated taking PTO because it meant their paycheck would drop to 40 hours that week. The company finally agreed to let them use up to 52 hours of PTO per week to cover for the 8 hours of overtime pay.

    1. INFJ*

      Wow. I can understand why they didn’t want to take time off. When I worked 4 10’s, holidays were only paid out 8 hours. That 2 hours was bad enough, I can’t imagine losing 8 hours of overtime!

      1. Ad Astra*

        I always thought I’d love working four 10’s, but this makes me wonder if many companies don’t account for the difference in PTO.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. If an appliance was not marked as belonging to a particular person, then I would assume it was a communal office kitchen item.

    If Sarah had happened to be in the kitchen when the OP was using the coffee pot, then I can imagine profuse apologies to counter the furious “That’s my coffee pot!!!” comments which would probably ensue.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I’m such an anxious Annie that I always assume the opposite (outside of standard appliances – fridge, microwave, etc.)! But I have also worked in several places where people leave things in the kitchen unmarked and the general rule is unless it’s yours don’t touch it.

  7. Ann Furthermore*

    #4 I worked with a woman years ago who would never take vacation unless her supervisor forced her to. Her office was a rat’s nest, and it was a miracle that she was ever able to find anything. She also had her desk set up with a stack of about 6 in baskets, positioned to prevent anyone from seeing her computer monitor.

    I asked someone once what the deal was with her. She was older, probably late 50’s or early 60’s and lived in constant fear of being laid off. So her solution was to never take any time off, because she thought someone might decide that her job wasn’t really necessary if she wasn’t there. And she would never cross train with anyone for the same reason: if someone else learned her job, then she might be let go so someone else could do it instead.

    I thought she was just nuts, but it turned out that her husband wasn’t able to work. He had some kind of congenital heart defect and was on the transplant list. So this woman was terrified that she would lose her job, and not be able to afford to pay for the surgery when his name came up.

    I really felt sorry for her after that. It would be awful to live your life under a permanent dark cloud.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      That’s awful and makes you pause for thought. You never know what is happening behind the scenes.

    2. The IT Manager*

      That is awful, but her thinking was flawed and a sign of a very troubled person. Being at work everyday is not a way to avoid layoffs. A position is useful or not. A person is a good worker or not. Whether someone takes vacation or not is not the deciding factor for layoffs or firings for any not crazy manager. Her forced vacations were probably not restful for her since they were spent in constant fear of losing her job, but I don’t blame her supervisor for doing it.

      I wonder if the rat’s nest office was also intended to be protection from firing; although, that’s the kind of thing along with refusing to cross-train that could make one a problem employee. Given her understandable fears, I wonder if there was any way to convince her that cultivating the reputation as the crazy, messy, paranoid, unhelpful employee was more likely to make her a target than prevent job loss.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Oh, flawed thinking, for sure. I think the poor woman had worked herself up into such a state about this over the years that no one could have made her see reason. And her insanely disorganized office was part of her strategy too. I had asked her to fix something for me once (I think it was a ticket for a pipeline transaction…it was an oil and gas company), and a few weeks had gone by and I hadn’t heard anything. So I stopped by her office one day to ask her about it. She said, “Oh yes, it was the next thing on my list. I’ve got it right here,” and then proceeded to open the bottom drawer of her desk, rifle around, and extract the supporting documentation I had given her to make the fix from the bottom of a huge pile of crap she had shoved into that drawer. But no one else would have been able to find it, had she been out of the office when I needed the fix to get done.

    3. Beancounter in Texas*

      That is awful!

      I wonder whether the refusal to crosstrain is a generational trait.

      I ask, because when I joined my current employer, I was the youngest employee at 32 and the next youngest employee was 50. From there, in an office of six people, the ages were 64, 74, 75 & 76. I worked with the 64 & 74 year old ladies, who were very possessive of their job duties. The 64 year old receptionist worried about losing her job. Because they were so possessive, they didn’t share information. If I needed an address for a tenant, instead of giving to me, they’d say that it’s their job to mail stuff to the tenants. Instead of showing me where the W2s were filed because an employee needed a copy, the 74 year old bookkeeper would tell me she’d take care of it (and she was my supervisor). They got irritated if I suggested a change that would improve the efficiency of a task or did a task my own way, instead of theirs, such as ordering supplies online instead of looking up ID numbers in a catalog, handwriting the order on a form and faxing it in. When the receptionist took time off, the bookkeeper would cover the bare essentials of her job – answering the phone. When the bookkeeper took time off, she’d just have everything done and show me where the keys to the cabinet were stored.

  8. Zillah*

    #1 – You didn’t do anything wrong, assuming that you washed the french press after using it. I’d avoid using it in the future, but you definitely don’t need to hunt Sarah down to apologize.

    #2 – Just unfriend Jane, or block her stuff from appearing on your feed. This falls under the category of not your problem, and I don’t think any good can come of your involving her workplace in this.

    #5 – She was super rude, but send the email anyway.

    1. INFJ*

      As much as I love to see justice served, I have to agree on #2 that it’s not OP’s problem. Block and ignore and maybe take comfort in the fact that she probably has coworkers on Facebook that are tired of her antics and will out her eventually.

  9. James M*

    That said, I don’t know why Sarah objects to people using her French press to begin with, although maybe she’s had problems with people not cleaning it after they use it or something like that.

    That’s highly plausible. I can imagine leaving a nice clean french press at work and then coming in the next morning to find it filled with cold sludge.

    @OP5: It sounds like the woman you spoke to isn’t particularly pleased with her situation. A little courtesy might mean a lot to her.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yes, some of the people I work with don’t take very good care of the communal property, and they also don’t take good care of the stuff that belongs to specific people but has been left for others to use.

      1. Big Tom*

        Was someone holding your toaster for ransom repeatedly, or did you find a store that sells single-use toasters? How did you buy it every day? :)

    2. themmases*

      Yeah, I use a French press at home and they are annoying to clean properly– ideally, you’d screw apart the spring/filter/press part and wash each. I certainly don’t do that every time because it’s mine, but I’d be annoyed if someone borrowed it and didn’t at least wash it pretty well.

      Also, aside from cleaning, a French press commonly holds about two mugs of coffee with maybe a top off depending how big your mug is. If I went to make coffee for myself (and only people who really care about their coffee bother to bring a French press to work) and found it either half-full of someone else’s coffee that I now need to either dump out or drink, or missing because someone took it back to their desk for the refill, I would be pissed.

      It would be like all the annoying awkwardness of waiting in line for shared washer/dryers (which doesn’t favorably dispose me to anyone even though they did nothing wrong), but if you owned the washer/dryer.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I have had someone make a berry flavored coffee in my press and I could still taste in on the next brew, because even though they cleaned it, they did not clean it properly.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          My brother-in-law is no longer allowed to make tea in my house. He’s ruined two teapots – the first by somehow losing the lid (we never did find it, even when we moved out), and the second by making licorice tea in it. I HATE licorice, so when I could still taste it in my tea a week later I stashed the nasty tainted pot in a cupboard, where it continues to gather dust to this day.

    3. myswtghst*

      I had the same thought about Sarah and the french press. In my office, we have a communal coffee pot which I will very very infrequently snag a cup of coffee from, and never actually brew a pot in. I am also one of the last two people to leave each night, along with the guy who brought the coffee pot in and cleans it out almost every night. Every time he goes on vacation, one of my coworkers will brew a pot of coffee, then leave it dirty / half-full of cold coffee, so I have to decide between being nice and cleaning it out before I leave, or leaving it dirty in the (vain) hope they’ll learn from their mistake and remember to clean it next time.

  10. Juli G.*

    #4 – I’m objecting to calling HR ridiculous. Per the OP, they said OP can’t require a full week off. I would say the exact same thing. Yes, encourage them, talk to them about their concerns but in the end, I don’t see what would really be accomplished by ordering a forced vacation other than maybe getting to pat yourself on the back for being a good boss.

    Pre-kids, I hated to take vacation time unless I was going somewhere. My husband doesn’t get PTO so I would be bored by noon and log into email. I also have a paranoia about wasting vacation days I might need that I think is part of my OCD.

    1. AnotherFed*

      Forced vacation time also sounds a lot like a suspension, which is typically a severe disciplinary measure, and I’ve only seen it happen when someone is about to be fired. Hopefully HR was pointing that out – it’d be pretty hard to relax and recharge if you’re spending a week on edge waiting to hear if you’ve been fired!

    2. BRR*

      I’m also objecting but I think Alison might have misread.
      Requiring a week off (unless the position requires it for auditing reasons)=bad
      Encouraging a week off*=good

      *If you get a decent amount of PTO and the employee won’t be overwhelmed when coming back or before leaving.

    3. LBK*

      The OP can require her to take a week off, though. There’s nothing illegal about that. I don’t see on what grounds HR would be able to say she can’t do it.

      1. Another HRPro*

        It really depends on the company and their norms. It would be highly unusual for my company to allow a manager to force an employee to take vacation. Encourage, absolutely. Force? No. Unless there are performance issues, audit issues, etc.

        Generally speaking, forcing an employee to do something outside of the scope of their job and interactions with others is generally not a good thing.

        1. LBK*

          There’s a difference between “can’t” and “shouldn’t,” though. HR can advise the OP that she *shouldn’t* force the person to take time off, but it’s just plain not accurate to say she *can’t* (can’t according to whom? there aren’t legal grounds for that statement). At least everywhere I’ve worked HR doesn’t have that kind of power – that would be up to the OP’s manager.

          1. Another HRPro*

            True, HR can’t say that they the manager can not do that. But they can advise against it and raise the issue to their manager. In my organization, leadership would support a manager requiring an employee to take time off without a very good reason.

            The issue I have with “require” is what does that really mean. If you require the employee to take a week off and they refuse, what will the manager do? Fire the employee? If you are requiring them to do something that means that if they fail to do so their job is in jeopardy.

            1. Crazy Canuck*

              I have actually seen someone fired to failing to take a one week vacation. It was deemed for cause as well (insubordination), so they didn’t receive severance.

    4. Beezus*

      Vacation isn’t just good for the employee, though. It’s good for the company. Having someone out for a significant period of time (more than a day or two) helps uncover issues that might not otherwise be apparent – and not just fraud/embezzlement; for example, too much workload on one person, lack of cross-training, and processes that are poorly designed and require an unreasonable amount of babysitting. If there are work-related reasons that the employee is resisting taking vacation time, the boss needs to investigate those and make fixing them a priority. Sometimes the best way to make that stuff apparent is to force the vacation time.

      I’ve been in this situation. The conditions that made me uncomfortable with taking time off led to 93% turnover on the team in a year. I was among them – I got burned out and took another position. The workload, which had been a struggle for the team of dedicated, experienced people who left, was utterly impossible for the green people who were hired to take their places. A series of disastrous, highly visible, very expensive issues ensued. Two layers of management over the team were replaced entirely, with managers with good track records pulled from other teams/projects in the company. I left over a year ago, new management has been in place for about three months, and they’re just now starting to get their feet under them. As a manager, someone who can’t unplug will forever be a red flag for me. The situation I was in would have been a lot less disastrous if someone had recognized a problem and addressed it proactively instead of allowing it to blow up.

  11. Pickles*

    I’d be pretty peeved if my boss started telling me I needed to use more leave – largely because my mental health state is my own business, thank you, and that’s my own time off to use as I see fit (not my boss’s choice). I’m a believer in vacations, but I also stockpile leave that carries over year to year…because you never know when your idiot neighbor will burn your house down and you’ll need a ton of time off (yes, this happened, a long time ago).

    1. Not Today Satan*

      “my mental health state is my own business”–Not really. It’s in the employer’s best interest for its employers to be in good health (both physical and mental). It’s not like they’d be asking about any diagnoses you have or in any way invading your privacy–they’d just be encouraging you to do a simple thing that is known to improve health.

      Plus, if someone doesn’t take vacation, others might notice and think that the expectation is that they will take no/little vacation as well.

      1. Another HRPro*

        That is like saying the employer should also force employees to eat apples instead of snicker bars.

        1. Bostonian*

          I think it’s more like providing fresh fruit in the break room and taking the candy out of the vending machine. Not today Satan was talking about encouraging people to do things widely regarded as beneficial, not forcing them.

    2. AnotherFed*

      There’s an argument that the state of your mental health is at least somewhat the employer’s business, but the care of it is definitely not. The manager trying to force a vacation is worse that than ones who keep commenting on employee’s weight and diet choices – those are comments but not trying to use authority to force changes to behavior, this manager is trying to force changes to behavior to be their definition of more healthy.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        The only behavior they’re trying to enforce though is whether to come into work–which is absolutely in the realm of a manager’s authority (unlike what to eat, how to exercise, etc.)

        1. Juli G.*

          It is but if think the objections I see are that forced week long vacations come off as though the employer knows what’s best for the employees. It’s okay to operate your business that way but you may rub some high performers the wrong way – a risk you take with most policies.

          1. LBK*

            But in the big picture, this is about what’s best for the business because if that person burns out from never taking time off, that’s a huge loss to the business.

            That being said, we don’t have any details about why the employee doesn’t want to take the time off and neither does the OP, and without that info it’s all just wild speculation as to whether it’s appropriate for the manager to expect her to take more time off.

            1. Juli G.*

              Completely agree it’s a business decision. I was just throwing out there that it’s something that’s getting a mixed reaction and it’s good to weigh those pros and cons.

          2. AnotherFed*

            That’s exactly it. Assuming your employees are responsible adults, they’re going to know what works best for them and what their limits are better than anyone else. Burnout tends to be very specific to people and tasks, so something like “You’ll burn out if you don’t do X, so I am making you do it!” will go over very badly with people who know that X will not actually help them or is less effective than Y.

    3. LBK*

      I wouldn’t conflate taking time off from work to avoid burning out with mental health, per se, except in the vaguest terms. Mental health implies depression, anxiety, etc. and that doesn’t sound like it’s the OP’s concern, she’s just concerned about the toll that working for 10 years without a solid break would take on anyone regardless of their mental health situation.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        Mental health doesn’t just involve mental illness. Just like physical health, there is a wide spectrum between “has a diagnosed disease” and “in prime, ideal health,” and it never hurts to keep your health in mind (whether mental or physical).

        1. LBK*

          Right, but I took Pickles’ comment to be inferring that the OP was trying to manage a mental illness on the employee’s behalf. It’s certainly within an employer’s realm and best interest to encourage someone to essentially take an extended “mental health day” but it would be out of line for them to tell you to take time off to treat a diagnosed mental illness. It sounded to me like Pickles was responding as if it were the latter when I read the OP’s letter as the former (and if not, I’m confused by the level of indignation).

          1. Bostonian*

            I took Pickles’ comment to indicate that it may be beneficial to some employees’ mental health to not take much PTO. That could be because it helps them manage their anxiety if they have a lot of leave banked (Pickles’ experience with a house fire would certainly leave a lot of people with lingering anxiety), or because being at work is an oasis of calm in an otherwise very difficult personal situation, or because the structure of getting up and going in to work helps stave off depression that descends if the person has too much unstructured time, or because they know that they may have a sudden need to take a lot of time off when an issue flares up again, or whatever. Employees will generally know what’s best for themselves when it comes to how to use their PTO.

            It’s not the same situation, but I struggled when I was on maternity leave, mental-health-wise, and getting back to a job I really liked with the type of schedule and adult interaction that I had been used to pre-kids restored much-needed balance in my life. Having an employer pressure me about how to use my leave in the months after that would not have been helpful and might have left me feeling like I had to explain more than I wanted to – saying that you get depressed if you spend too much time alone with your infant is one of those things that’s okay in a postpartum depression support group but is not really socially acceptable in day-to-day life.

            That said, the manager should certainly have enough of a conversation to make sure that it’s the employee’s free choice not to take the time off, and not due to workload or office culture issues, or, as commenters mentioned above, fraud or embezzlement.

            1. LBK*

              But you’re mixing the kind of “mental health” a manager usually refers to (which I’d describe more as just your general level of energy and happiness, which for 99% of people without specific medical needs deteriorates the more you work) when asking you to take time off with actual mental illness. If you have a medical reason for not wanting to be away from work, that’s something that would need to be explained. Depending on the details the ADA might actually require you to disclose it if you want to get an accommodation (like working when your manager wants you to take leave).

              You can’t have it both ways – you can’t both treat it like a secret that your manager doesn’t have a right to know and expect to have it accommodated like any other medical issue. You don’t have to get into details but I do think it’s on you to bring it up if that’s the reason you’re using your PTO the way you’re using it.

              1. olives*

                LBK – I think your statement that 99% of the people work better in this particular condition overgeneralizes significantly, especially considering that according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (USA), 4.2% of American adults experience serious mental illness that causes necessary changes in their daily life in a given year. It’s clear from this thread alone that there are many people, diagnosed as mentally ill or no, that find themselves better off when they have many short term vacations instead.

                Yes, ADA might require disclosure for certain accommodations, but as Alison has addressed previously, there are many valid reasons that people with various mental health issues may choose not to disclose – since mental health issues are seen as a personal failing (particularly as related to how it affects work) culturally in the US, it’s common to want, or need, to be discreet about exactly what those issues are.

                I agree with Bostonian’s assessment – make sure it’s a free choice, and beyond that, leave it be. It’s not your job to police the health of your employees.

                This is not to say that you shouldn’t address the “general level of energy and happiness” of your employees! If you think that work is affecting that, by all means. I’m failing to see how talking about the details of someone’s PTO (being used perfectly within bounds) is likely to address that whatsoever.

  12. Hannah*

    You can assume the appliances in the office kitchen are for communal use but I think a better policy with any dishes kicking around (including the french press) is to assume they are someone else’s personal property unless told otherwise. In my experience there are always some people in an office who leave their dishes sitting in the kitchen but then become outraged that someone would touch their things without asking. I prefer not to engage.

    1. AnotherFed*

      I agree on the dishes vs appliances distinction for general office assumptions. I think the French press is just close enough to the line between the two that it’s easy to confuse either way. There’s a reason the letter isn’t about a toaster or a ‘world’s greatest mom’ mug.

  13. Suzanne*

    #4-this employee could have a million & one reasons for not taking a whole week off. I haven’t for years. My children live on opposite ends of the country from us, so vacation time is spent visiting them, but they are fairly new at their jobs and don’t get tons of time off. So, we go from middle of the week, weekend, and come back early the next week so we can spend the weekend with the kids. We only have to take a couple of days off our jobs.
    The OP’s employee could have a similar situation, or a bad situation at home, a spouse or partner who refuses to travel and maybe the Employee sees a “staycation” as synonamous to torture (a former co-worker of mine. Came to work the day her mother passed away because “what would I do at home?”) Some people hate a break in routine. I love vacation, would take as much time as possible off, but that’s me. Unless this employee seems unduly stressed or her work is suffering, I’d say don’t worry about it so much.

  14. Today's anon*

    For #3, at my university we have at least 8 different job classifications, even within what looks from the outside as the same job (“secretary” for example) and each one has its own benefits, salary ranges, rules and also what constitutes full-time. It’s really complicated and sometimes creates resentment when for example some people can set their own hours and others have to sign-in and are penalized for being late 5 minutes, but it has to do with your job category. So, it could be that some workers are full-time only at 40 hours and some at 30, and at least the HR website for my place makes it very difficult to find any of this information. I think Alison’s wording is great here, so seek clarification before jumping to a conclusion that might be incorrect, if you are still interested in the job.

    1. Meg Murry*

      I was going to say the same thing. You also said that you have to have 40 hours to have “full benefits” so it is possible that at 30 hours you get the same benefits, but pro-rated, or maybe you get health insurance but not reduced tuition for your dependents – it’s possible that the difference between “full benefits” and “30 hour a week employee benefits” is not very big at all. You might be pleasantly surprised – I interviewed for a job that was 15 hours a week, and had the line “generous benefits package” but I assumed that was just boilerplate and that there were no benefits. Nope, I was eligible for health, dental, retirement, the whole nine yards – and the medical insurance was based on a percentage of the pay, so it wound up being super cheap for really good insurance.

      Are you sure about the position being hourly and therefore half your current salary? And would you be moving from a high cost of living area to a low one? For instance, if you are currently in California or NYC, you could probably get alone just fine on half your salary in a small town in the Midwest, because rents are so much cheaper.

      I agree with Alison that if there is no chance you would take the job then just withdraw kindly – but if you would consider it, contact HR and ask for clarification on this position and what benefits it’s entitled to. Or if you get asked to come to another interview, it is worth asking before you take the time. But I wouldn’t burn any bridges, since maybe a true full time opening will come up soon, and you don’t want to put yourself out of the running.

  15. Christy*

    I know Alison is getting a bunch of pushback on strongly encouraging an employee to take leave, and I’d just like to say that I don’t see anything wrong with pushing someone with six weeks of banked leave to take a whole week at once. I like to bank leave too (can save six weeks) but I still take a week at a time at least once a year. The only reason I’d seriously bank leave like that is to prepare to have a kid, since I don’t get paid maternity leave.

  16. Another Day*

    I agree OP #1 originally wasn’t at fault because how could they know? And I’m assuming they did clean the French press, but even so, if someone else starts using your filters a couple times a day, you are probably going to notice the filters are getting used up more quickly. If this had been going on for awhile, I’d probably just pick up a box of filters at the grocery store to leave with a note saying, For Sarah, Thanks, Didn’t realize this was for personal use, but that’s just me.

    1. Allison*

      She could also just be concerned about increased wear on the product. She may have paid a lot of money for it and wants it to last a long time. I don’t know much about French presses, but kitchen tools usually do have a limited life span, and she may be worried it’ll break or need replacing much sooner if other people in the office use it every day.

    2. Hlyssande*

      Picking up a box of filters would be a really nice thing for the OP to do, if the OP really wants to apologize.

    3. Technical Editor*

      French presses usually have built-in filters as opposed to disposable paper ones. All you do is add water and grounds, which is why it’s a popular option in an office that doesn’t provide free coffee.

      1. Recent Grad*

        Yes, but some people (myself included) double-filter french press after it’s brewed to avoid the silt/sludge at the bottom of your mug. Perhaps that’s the case here?

    4. Anonicorn*

      Have I been using French Presses incorrectly? I’ve never used a filter with it and don’t understand how one would do so.

      1. themmases*

        I didn’t understand that part either! Maybe they are replacement wire mesh filters? But those don’t need to be replaced that often…

  17. Merry and Bright*

    #2 Takes my breath away. Putting that kind of criticism about your boss on Facebook? Publicly divulging sensitive and confidential company information?

    In the UK we may have certain protections against unfair dismissal, and procedures involving written, verbal and final warnings. But there is also provision for instant dismissal for gross misconduct, and This Would Be It every place I have worked.

    Her employers are almost bound to find out, even without the OP’s intervention.

    1. OP from #2*

      It’s so brazen that I almost wonder if she’s trying to get fired for some reason. I don’t think she’d be eligible for unemployment though so I can’t imagine why.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Or maybe she erroneously thinks this will accomplish some kind of change? Or maybe she thinks if she is fired she can use “free speech” and sue?

        Whatever her reason is, I can’t imagine. Unless she’s like the drama llama in one of my former classes, who was suing at least one former employer, blamed not finding a new job on her age (yeah right), derailed our class project, and played the victim.

  18. PhoenixBurn*

    #3 – If you’re in the US, it’s very possible that the website has outdated information as well. ACA requires anyone with 30 hours to be considered full-time for medical benefits purposes, and many companies have simply changed their reclassification of FT to 30 hours or more. The website is something that may have been missed when the policy was updated.

    1. abby*

      What I was coming here to say.

      Also, if it’ a state university, there is a good possibility that the website does not reflect current policy. I have run into this with state agencies more times than I can count.

  19. AnonPi*

    #4 OP please just talk to your employee before making assumptions. My contracting company made changes to their policy a year or two ago and made a big stink with me because I had accumulated about 4 weeks at that point. Their justification was that they were also worried I’d just up and take a vacation for a month w/o notice. (Like I can afford to do that – for one it’d be a nightmare coming back to work after that long, and two leaving for that long w/o sufficient notice/permission is grounds for firing – why would I do that?!). And the thing is even by their new rules I was allowed to accumulate that much time, I wasn’t going over and said I wouldn’t, but they wouldn’t drop it. I had to have my supervisor step in and get them to explain my reasoning and leave me alone about it.

    Now my main reason for accumulating time is because I’m a subcontract, so I bank time in case I’m let go, to give myself a bit of cushion to hopefully find more work, which is a different scenario than your employee. However I also would want to keep a fair amount of time banked (here or elsewhere if I land another job) as I know at some point I’ll need a medical procedure done that will probably mean me being off two weeks. And at some point I’d like to try having kids, and could use the time for that too.

    My point is you don’t know what her reasons are for accumulating this much time, but I imagine chances are she has a reason to do so, so talk to her. (And the chances of her just up and disappearing for 6 weeks is unlikely, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much at this point.) If it turns out she really just doesn’t want to take large chunks of time off, then ask her to take some more days off however she sees fit, be it longer weekends or taking a day in the middle of the week here and there.

  20. OP #3*

    I’m OP #3. I’ve decided to politely rescind my candidacy and not say a word about the benefits. I make about $45,000 now, and this job would cause a financial hardship by slicing that number in half. I can’t make that work. Thanks everyone for your advice.

    1. AnonPi*

      Ouch, yeah that would be a huge cut to take. Shame it didn’t work out but hopefully something else will come along.

      1. OP #3*

        Thank you! I’ve applied for a position at another university that is very similar to this position, and also pays me a little more than my current situation. Fingers crossed!

    2. house mouse*

      Smart move. I made that mistake (huge pay cut to work at a University) and have regretted it ever since.

      1. OP #3*

        I would have been willing to take a pay cut, but this was a pay machete. In a way, I’m grateful for this experience because it gave me confidence that I can get a job in the field that I want to be in.

  21. Alison with one L*

    For #4:
    The employee may have private reasons for wanting to save up PTO. Does your company have a good maternity leave plan? What about medical leave? Is their PTO also their sick leave?

    I know I’m currently saving up PTO for my maternity leave. (Though I did spend 2 weeks in Hawaii this summer). My sick leave and vacation is all in one pot, so I don’t like to let the balance go too low.

    Ultimately, as Alison says, it’s important to have a conversation with the employee.

  22. Fitz*

    #4: PTO is part of compensation. Telling someone to use it when they don’t want to is like forcing them to spend part of their paycheck.

    I understand there are benefits of employees taking time off (many have been listed here), but that doesn’t mean it should be pushed for if the employee doesn’t want to take it.

    1. Jesse*

      But your company can take away your banked leave at any moment. I’ve worked at multiple places that just cleared out everyone’s banked leave balance on the advice of auditors and revised the policy so you could either not carry over anything, or only one week. It’s not like hanging on to the 6 weeks is a guarantee of anything.

      And not in reply to you, but other comments — I’ve always found taking more time creates less of a backlog, because other people have to deal with it! Taking a day or two means trying to get a week’s worth of work done in three or four days, but taking a week means passing stuff off. Which, as people have said, may be what this employee is trying to avoid.

      1. Judy*

        Yes, on the banked vacation just going away. I’ve been at two companies that did this, and thankfully they both announced in January that any vacation still outstanding on December 31 would be lost. There were some pretty long vacations that year for people who had been at those companies for years.

    2. LBK*

      I don’t agree with that analogy – I think it’s more like the employee forcing to deposit their paycheck. You can spend that money/time off however you want but as your employer I am going to make you take it because, as you say, it’s part of your compensation and you aren’t actually getting that compensation if you’re not taking it.

      If I hand you your paycheck and you rip it up or you give me 90% of it back because you only need the 10%, I’m going to be really concerned that you aren’t actually getting the full value of the compensation that I want to pay you for your work. That’s concerning not just because it’s unusual, but because a) it might indicate some issues with the employee’s perception about their work that I need to help them fix and b) it might build resentment in the employee that they aren’t fairly compensated when in reality, they are, they just aren’t taking all the compensation I’m offering.

      The employee could bank up 1000 days of PTO but if she never uses any of it, the actual amount of compensation she’s received from the company in the form of days off is zero because unused PTO has no value (with the exception of companies that pay it out when you leave).

  23. Nicole*

    why doesn’t SARAH keep her precious french press at her desk? I don’t drink coffee, but the items I do have that are food related that I am not interested in sharing I keep in a drawer at my desk.

    But to Alison’s point, the post its might not be passive aggressive…

    1. fposte*

      Because at some offices it’s accepted to keep your individual items in the kitchen and people understand the difference between what’s communal and what isn’t.

      I don’t think this is an end-of-the-world mistake, but a workplace where you can have food in a communal fridge and mugs on a communal shelf can be a nice place, maybe even nicer than one where you have to get your own minifridge and lock your mug to your desk.

    2. themmases*

      Yeah, I don’t necessarily find them that passive aggressive. If you label something with tape and a Sharpie, it’s easier to read and write if you do it in block letters. It’s not comparable to typing in all caps.

      The OP doesn’t know Sarah, so Sarah probably doesn’t know the OP. It sounds normal to me to just label your stuff rather than track down that one person you’ve never met to tell them to stop using something. That would make me feel a lot worse than just seeing a label on something I used to think was communal.

    3. Elsajeni*

      I think it makes sense — you’d have to take it to the kitchen to use it (to fill it up with water and wash it out afterwards), and it makes more sense to me to leave it there to dry rather than carry it back to your desk, find somewhere there to store it (possibly while it’s still wet), and then carry it back to the kitchen the next time you want a cup of coffee.

  24. Charlotte*

    For the poster working in higher education, sometimes reduced benefits means that things like vacation would be proportional to the number of hours you work. If the standard vacation is 4 weeks for 40 hours, you would still get paid for four weeks at your salary for 30 hours a week. It is worth asking befoe jumping to conclusions.

  25. Caryatis*

    Re #1, It’s definitely a breach of etiquette to use someone’s coffee filters without permission. They cost money, and if you use them, the person who bought them can’t.

    OP, you said there was a communal coffeemaker, why not use that?

    1. AnonAcademic*

      The communal coffee pot requires coffee filters, which I used maybe 3-4 times before realizing that the french press was more efficient/less wasteful if I was just making coffee for myself. I didn’t realize that both the french press and filters were Sarahs. But I am planning on bringing in a fresh pack of filters for practical reasons but also to replace the ones I used.

  26. baseballfan*

    I’ve only ever worked in large offices, but I’m picturing the chaos if multiple people kept personal appliances in the break room. I think if you don’t want to share your coffeemaker (which is reasonable because people may use it and not clean it), keep it at your desk.

    1. Allison*

      I’m sure if it got to be a problem at OP’s office, people would be told not to keep their things in there. But one person’s French press, that one person thought was communal and now knows the deal, doesn’t really show a need for it. And if Sarah got frustrated that people kept using her stuff despite it now being labeled, then yeah, she’d probably start keeping it at her desk. But maybe that office doesn’t give people a whole lot of storage space at their desks, hence keeping it in the kitchen right now.

    2. Observer*

      In some offices, it’s forbidden to keep things like personal coffee makers in your office. Sometimes there are good reasons for this (eg the wiring can’t handle the load.) Sometimes it’s just someone being obnoxious and sometimes it’s misplaced Do gooderism” (eg places that won’t allow people to have personal coffee makers because it’s not “green”.)

  27. Applesauced*

    #4 (vacation) – I wonder if the manager has any concerns about needing to pay out this employee for 6-weeks of unused vacation time.

  28. kdizzle*

    If #4 is anything like me…I saved my annual time off FOR YEARS because I don’t receive paid maternity benefits and there is no short-term disability offered. I didn’t even know if I was ever going to have kids, but taking unpaid leave would be a huge impediment to that end. So…no…I’m not an embezzler, just a lady who wanted to spend as much time as possible with her potential baby.

  29. Another Jim*

    Personally I find the week before taking a full week off incredibly stressful as you push to clean things up so that they are either resolved or in a steady-state position for the week I’m out. Then I find the first week back incredibly stressful as I deal with things that have been sitting waiting a week. Additionally I have to spend several hours catching up on email and identifying what still needs action and what has been resolved. Basically the stress around a full week off is difficult. It’s actually made worse since the week off results in reduced stress, so when I return I’m not acclimated to the stress level and I’m mentally exhausted for a few days. In short I don’t enjoy taking a week off. My preference would be long weekends.

  30. LQ*

    I’m kind of surprised by the number of people who are upset about an employer trying to get someone to take a vacation.

    This blog has been rampant lately with people criticizing US employers for not having enough vacation, not being generous enough, not letting people take time they are entitled to, etc.

    Now you have someone who has a policy that is at least somewhat generous, who is trying to encourage an employee to take it and people are getting upset complaining about the amount of vacation, the pto, the sick leave, and lots of other things. At my place there are people who can take a day a week or every other week and only keep themselves just below the limit, they’d literally HAVE to take a week to make any dent in their accumulation. And it might not be great to have someone take 3 days weekends every other weekend.

    This is really weird to me.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I agree. Not only am I willing and want to take a week off of work at a time once or twice a year, I appreciate the fact that my manager encourages me to take time – not that she has to force me. My current manager and all my previous managers definitely want to make sure people don’t “lose” leave at the end of the year.

      When I was a manager, I did the same thing for my people. Honestly it’s usually more like paying attention if someone will lose leave, but if a manager notices someone hasn’t taken a long break from work for a year or two, I think it is the manager’s job to look into it and make sure the employee isn’t burning out or feels that for some reason he can’t take leave.

      IMO that’s part of being a good manager.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Although I think long periods away from the office are good, if someone were taking regular long weekends and using up their leave, as a manager I probably wouldn’t notice.

    2. Bostonian*

      I haven’t seen anyone here criticize the manager for wanting to make sure the employee knows it’s okay to take the time and for encouraging her to do so. The push back is against the idea of *forcing* her to take a full week off if that’s not how she would prefer to use her PTO. Among other things, the fact that leave policies in the US are generally crummy means she may have very good reasons for banking the time on purpose.

      1. LQ*

        But she’s not using it to take weekends, she’s not using it at all except to maybe keep it under the max limit is what it sounds like. (And 6 weeks is a pretty generous max limit.) If she were using it and had only 2 weeks banked the push back would make much more sense to me.

        Also? If the policies in the US are bad it isn’t like she’s going to get to take the vacation time to the next job? Or that not using it in this job means she’ll get more in the next. The only thing I can think makes sense here is that she’s getting herself used to not have vacations? I’m even more confused. How does a bad leave policy at some other business matter, other than enjoy the good while you have it (and it would be shocking if she was very new to the company and had 6 weeks, I don’t even think the shiniest vacation friendliest European place gives you that on the first year).

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      I think what people are objecting to is the idea that the OP wants to not just encourage but require the employee to take a week off when the employee doesn’t want to.

      There’s no indication that the employee is overly stressed, tired, performing poorly, etc…I think the OP should certainly encourage ALL employees to take as much time off as needed, but if this particular employee is fine with things as they are, I would drop it.

      1. olives*

        This is my thinking.

        I mentioned this upthread but – part of the reason people bank leave is because of exactly that climate where leave is scarce, and AAM and the commenters here have often been vocal about making it so that people don’t feel time off is scarce.

        The objection isn’t that people should be “allowed” to see their leave as scarce and it should be seen as perfectly ordinary that they hoard it and refuse to take a week off. What people are noting here is that there are a variety of reasons that taking a week off can be more stressful than it’s worth for some folks, and some of that is because of the climate of scarcity that they cannot change on an individual (or, often, even organizational) level.

        In a system where leave is not scarce in the first place, I think you’d see a whole lot less of this behavior. In that climate, I would agree that encouraging a week off periodically has few to no downsides. You might even expect that it’d take a while to ramp back up to work after someone takes time off. You might build the organization to where you regularly make certain that people can be out for a while without disrupting functionality – which requires a degree of redundancy that isn’t fully accounted for in the current market, where you’re likely to be unable to compete if you can’t operate on the tiniest amount of resources possible.

        I am pretty certain that the only argument being made here is that even if your goal is to make people feel able to take leave, implying that there’s pressure to take a week of leave (that already clearly feels scarce to them) might just stress them out more than it’s worth, and may not in fact be the healthiest way to run an organization.

    4. UKAnon*

      I agree, this discussion is really odd. All of the posts make reasonable points and yet… this is so, so far outside any mindset I have ever come across that I’ve been wondering if it’s just places I’ve worked, or a cultural difference or me just being out of touch. I think that part of it is the safety net of stat sick pay etc which is guaranteed in the UK (not that it’s much of a safety net, but, well, it’s something) and so accruing holiday for anything other than taking days off isn’t the norm. I also wonder if it’s because I’m used to more generous holiday than one/two weeks a year, so again it’s perfectly possible to take a fortnight out and still have holiday to cover errands and so on.

      All the same, I understand, but I don’t quite understand. There’s a disconnect somewhere! I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s a little baffled.

      1. Ad Astra*

        I think at least part of this is cultural. For as lazy as Americans can be (I’m guilty of watching a show I didn’t like because I was too lazy to look for the remote), we’re socialized to work ourselves to the bone in the name of job security.

        You have to make yourself indispensable to avoid being laid off or replaced with someone cheaper (or an automated process). If you leave for a week and the company doesn’t fall apart, they’ll realize they don’t need you and you’ll be out on your butt. This is what many Americans are taught, and it can be difficult to let go of that.

        I’d be interested to hear an Asian perspective on this, since the work ethic in those cultures is pretty extreme by Western standards.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This, and many American companies don’t give such generous leave anyway. We get used to working all the time because we don’t have any PTO or have to take unpaid time.

          1. Laurel Gray*

            I feel like a manager could read OP4’s letter and see what she’s dealing with and feel justified in having their stingy PTO policy in place!

    5. Us, Too*

      Every job I’ve had for the last 15 years hasn’t allowed anyone to carry over more than a week of time, so essentially I’ve always been “forced” to take my vacation. I don’t really get the drama over this, either.

    6. Ad Astra*

      I think a lot of people are concerned that this manager is trying to force the employee to take a full week off, but that’s not at all how I interpreted the manager’s intent or Alison’s advice. It makes perfect sense to me to bring this up with the employee, find out if there are some obstacles to taking a real vacation, and see what can be done about them.

      I also think a compromise might be an acceptable outcome here. If the employee just can’t see herself taking five days off, maybe she could take off the Friday before Labor Day and the Tuesday after? That only burns two days of PTO but gets her out of the office for five straight days to relax or take a trip or clean up her house or whatever.

      1. Jesse*

        Yeah, I mostly only go away for long weekends, too, but I’ve started booking at least an extra day of leave afterward when at all possible. It’s nice!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It’s really nice if you’re traveling somewhere. Then your returning travel day isn’t so stressed and you don’t have to worry about missing work due to canceled flights, etc.

        2. LBK*

          I love doing that. It’s really nice to have a transition day rather than jumping straight from weekend trip mode back into work mode.

    7. Allison*

      It’s all about balance. We want people to feel like they can take time off when they need it, or at least feel like they can use the days they’re allotted, and if people feel encouraged to do so then that’s even better. But while I understand wanting someone to take time away from work for their well-being, I do understand the anger here. Taking time off can be tough: you rush around prepping the office for your absence, then you’re out of the loop and need to play a lot of catch-up when you come back. Not everyone likes doing that, hence some people’s preference of taking long weekends instead. And as other said, sometimes if a person’s overall benefits package is lacking, they may feel like they need to save up enormous amounts of PTO in case of an illness, injury, pregnancy, death in the family, etc.

      That said, I wish OP would have an open, honest conversation with this employee to figure out exactly why they don’t want to take a week off. I’d like to think the employee should feel comfortable disclosing why they’re saving their PTO.

    8. LBK*

      I’m totally with you, and I like this point too:

      And it might not be great to have someone take 3 days weekends every other weekend.

      That might actually be more disruptive to the business than if she just took a week off – it’s potentially frequently blocking her coworkers from taking those as three day weekends and if I were her backup I’d definitely be more annoyed that I had to do it twice a month (on a Friday, nonetheless) than if it were in one fell swoop of a week. I think it’s also more difficult to set client expectations around someone being out that often if that’s a concern and it’s not something normal in your office’s culture that clients would already know.

      1. Ad Astra*

        I would be pretty annoyed if someone I relied on in the office (say, for data or approval or something) was taking every other Friday off and making it harder for me to do my job. It’s already tough to get things done on normal Fridays (especially in the summer) or in the days surrounding a holiday because nobody’s around. If the same person was missing all the time, I’d run into real problems.

    9. Laurel Gray*

      I’m in the US and I felt the same reading the comments. I don’t know what an employee gets out of saving their leave. I don’t think mentioning appointments, children etc applies to this conversation because if this woman still has 6 weeks in the bank, she isn’t using it for that. I’ve known people whose companies restructured their entire PTO/accumulation policies and something tells me part of it was because some of the “lifers” had ridiculously high balances they hoarded.

  31. Hiring Mgr*

    On #4, i think as a good manager you should make sure the employee knows it’s completely fine to take a whole week if they want to, and that you support and encourage it etc… but I certainly would not push them to do it.

  32. Anx*


    I know I sometimes put my name on personal items because I want to make sure that the item gets back to me, that people know I’m the one responsible for it, and so that no one thinks I am stealing if I take it home later.

    I do not work in a place where I have my own desk, cubby, locker, or anything like that, though.

  33. RG*

    I think other people’s responses about all of the reasons why OP #4 should just accept his employee taking a day or two off here and there are interesting, if not a little strange. I mean, I think we’d all agree that here in the US, we have a cultural problem when it comes to vacation time. But you can’t just start offering a ton of vacation time and leave it at that. You have to encourage employees to take it, and reassure them that yes, they can take at least a week off, and no, this isn’t some plot against you, the sky won’t fall while they’re gone, etc. I just see OP #4 trying to do that here. I mean, what message does that send if one person never takes more than a say off for going on 8 years?

  34. GrittyKitty*

    Re: #4 – My employer will pay out vacation time (but not sick time) at termination. We have a new president and other dynamics at work now that would not leave me surprised if I were not employed here next year. My PTO (about 8 weeks right now) would be a nice cushion while job hunting.

    I have a week off scheduled this year. Most of the time, though, I am slammed so hard with work when I come back from time off that I really dread it. If my manager were to try to force me to take a week or two off, I would tell her that my time off is between me and the employee handbook/HR. There is no one to cover for me while I am off.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But if you had a manager who was concerned about why you weren’t taking any significant time off and started a conversation with you about it, you could explain why you dread it and a good manager would welcome the opportunity to look for a solution.

      1. GrittyKitty*

        Agreed. The key would be a conversation and not a demand.

        BTW – my current boss knows that I am banking my leave – just in case. She also knows what things look like when any one of our 8 member team is out for more than 2 days. She is exploring possible solutions.

        I am very fortunate to have a great boss with whom I can be honest. Best part about this job.

    2. Suzanne*

      My mother was the Queen of saving PTO!When she was still working (long retired), her employer paid her at the end of the year for any unused sick/vacation time. She almost never took time off unless she absolutely had to because she wanted that extra money at the end of the year. When I had my first child, I lived in a different city and she told me she sure hoped I wouldn’t have the kid in the middle of the week because she didn’t want to have to take time off work!

    3. LQ*

      I think the key here is that you are so slammed with work you can’t. That’s when a good boss steps in and says, hey let’s figure this out together then! Going on the defensive and talking about how your time off is between you and your handbook is super weird. Saying, I’m drowning in work and can’t take time off, can you help me, seems totally reasonable.

      1. GrittyKitty*

        The key is in the approach. If they tried to force me, I would dig my heels in just because I consider it my banked time to use as I choose (within reason – I will not take time off when others are out, etc).

        If they came to me and said that they had concerns about health, workload… whatever and wanted to talk about options, that is a conversation.

        1. LQ*

          This attitude (which is SUPER common) always has me baffled. Here’s $100 you HAVE TO TAKE IT!– NO! I don’t want to!

          Wait, what?

          I am pretty sure part of it is just the hair raiseyness that is anti authority culture, but I wonder if it is as prevalent in other cultures to dig in heels when someone tells you to do something. (It’s also the same thing that seems to be behind stuff like hating ultimatums which is another thing I don’t get. Yes, I’m a USAian, born and raised, no other cultural things, I think I’m just broken ;))

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            I think a better analogy might be:

            Boss: here’s $100, you have to spend it all at once.

            Employee: If it’s my $100, can’t I just spend $20 at a time

            1. LQ*

              No. The boss never said anything about demanding the staff person take 6 weeks off. And people are reading this like the boss is saying take a week or I’ll fire you, which is totally not what I’m reading. I’m reading this and hear a boss who is worried that their staff person has a ton of time banked and isn’t using it and going how can I get this person to make sure that they are using the benefits we give them? This is a good employee and I know a hard year is coming up and I want to make things better, give me suggestions for how to do that? How about this?

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                I agree that the boss is correctly showing concern, any good boss should do that.

                I would just argue that once she’s brought it up a few times and the employee doesn’t want to take a week at a time it should be dropped.

          2. GrittyKitty*

            I have been called a mulehead. ;-)

            Most of my hoarding PTO comes from anticipation of being jobless in the next year. But I am looking forward to the vacation in the fall.

          3. CWS*

            But the employee isn’t refusing the use the benefit. The employer offers vacation days, and allows a certain number to be saved for future use. This employee chooses to save the maximum allowed. If the company doesn’t want to allow that, then they should lower the maximum. Until they do, the employee is properly using the full benefit given.

  35. Not Karen*


    Maybe this is just me, but for a whole week of PTO I’d feel obligated to actually go on vacation somewhere, which I can’t afford to do. I’d feel awkward and embarrassed when I came back from the week off and people asked me about my “vacation.” Maybe it’s worth carefully communicating to the employee that a full week off is okay even if it’s just relaxing at home or a staycation? Including avoiding the word “vacation” and instead phrasing it as just “time off”?

    1. Jesse*

      Wow, really? Maybe it’s because I currently work with a lot of young and broke people, but people are constantly taking staycations at my job. “How was your vacation?” “It was great! I read a book in the park in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday!!”

      1. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

        Seriously, a whole week of getting to sleep for 12 hours, make whatever you want for breakfast, take a nap, watch that show you’ve been meaning to catch up on, take another nap, play some video games, eat some pizza and go to bed? You bet your bottom dollar I’m gonna feel refreshed after that! . . . bloated maybe, but refreshed!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’m getting four days on Labor Day weekend thanks to switching my front desk day with someone, and I am really looking forward to getting stuff done around the place! And doing some crafts to justify keeping all the supplies. :P

      2. LAI*

        I love staycations too – but a whole week? Including weekends, that 9 consecutive days. Sleeping in and staying home reading a book would be fantastic day in my opinion, but I would feel pretty lazy doing that for an entire week.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I just scheduled a week off to stay home because I was hitting my vacation cap, anyway. Do people not have hobbies? I’m taking one day trip to a semi-nearby city but otherwise, I’m already planning what books I’ll read and sewing projects I’ll do. I’m going to be so busy I’ll need to come back to work to get some rest.

    2. June*

      I would agree with that too. After a day of catching up on errands, if I’m not going out of town I’d feel like I was “wasting” the PTO (which was why I would be saving mine too.)

    3. Alston*

      This was my thought too. She straight up may not be able to afford doing anything for a vacation. Or if she’s partnered up, spouse may not be able to take time off.

      There were years where I had a lot of PO but didn’t have enough money to do really anything with my time off, so I took some off for Christmas, but that was it. Sure I could have taken the time off to hang out at my house, but that didn’t appeal. Taking a day off here or there, sure fine, that’s awesome. At that job I banked as much as I could so I’d get the payout when I left the bad paying job.

    4. Retail Lifer*

      I’ve taken a whole week off when I was about to lose my unused vacation time. I love staying home and sleeping, cleaning, getting organized, etc. but co-workers can sure be judgey about that use of vacation time.

    5. Cath in Canada*

      I’ve taken two staycations and loved them both. A lot of the really cool stuff in my city – big public market, bike path around the park by the ocean, museums, gardens – is craaaaaaazy busy on weekends, and going mid-week in November meant that I had all these wonderful places pretty much to myself (except for the occasional school groups. I forgot about the possibility of school groups). I love these places but don’t like big crowds or long line-ups, so it was blissful. I slept late, read/messed about on the internet until 10 or 11, enjoyed a leisurely visit to an uncrowded attraction, read a book or did some writing in a coffee shop for a while, picked up food and spent much longer than usual making an extra-nice dinner… heaven!

  36. Yellow Post-it*

    I know I am going to get hammered for this but… A few days ago on here people were slamming an assistant for “making up” policies and handing them out to new employees. While I do agree that what she did was wrong, I thought the post made it seem like a very badly managed office and she was trying to get everyone on the same page.

    Today, in response to OP#4, the advice included this “just because your company doesn’t have rules around this doesn’t mean you can’t do it; there are loads of things managers do that aren’t specifically enshrined in policy”. So it’s ok for a manager to “make up” policies and rules but an assistant gets trash talked for it? I get that the assistant doesn’t manage anyone, but I also don’t think managers should just “make up” rules because *they* feel someone should take vacation the way *they* want. The LW don’t seem to want to talk to the employee about why she takes her vacation this way, they just want to “force” her to do it the manger’s way and I think that is a crappy thing to do an employee whose work quality/quantity is not affected by the sporadic vacation time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, yes, a huge part of managing is figuring out how you want things to operate and then making it so. That’s part of the job, and managers have the authority to do that, whereas assistants usually have much narrower boundaries on their authority to do that.

    2. Not me*

      That was yesterday or Tuesday, I think. Policies coming from an assistant with no authority and from a manager are pretty different in validity, right?

  37. Deb*

    Gosh I’m with Sarah here, finding your stuff used and not in the cleanest state in a community kitchen is frustrating. And she may not even be using it for coffee, she might be brewing tea in it. Finding coffee oils on a press used for tea means you have to clean it well.

    1. Natalie*

      I don’t think anyone is saying Sarah needs to let everyone use her French press, just that the OP wasn’t crazy for assuming it was a communal since it was in a communal space.

  38. Gene*

    I work for a municipality and have been getting notices every pay period that I need to use vacation time, or I’ll hit cap and stop earning it. Those just stopped because I passed 25 years end of July, and my maximum accumulation went up by 16 hours, and I just got back from a week off. I can accumulate 10 weeks and currently have 8 on the books along with nearly 10 weeks sick leave.

    There are a couple of reasons; I am planning a long (3-4 weeks) vacation at some undetermined date, probably next year, maybe 2017, and want the time available. I’ve also reached that age where the possibility of some health issue popping up that will keep me off work for a long period of time is higher. This gives me a feeling of security; especially when seeing “Request for Shared Leave” for someone who has used up all their PTO comes across my email on at least a weekly basis.

    I actively manage my vacation balance, I have multiple long weekends planned to keep the accumulation at or near the cap. I am also planning toward my retirement in ~7 years as I am only allowed to have 6 weeks on the books on separation to be paid out. The day I walk out the door for the last time, I will have 240 hours (barring the unforeseen I’m planning for above.)

  39. nicolefromqueens*

    #4 I get a week of vacation that I’d have to use in consecutive days. I would much, much rather use it for doctor appointments than take a full week off. I certainly can’t afford to go anywhere, and really, I’d rather be at work than home. I sometimes work additional part time jobs so it wouldn’t even be a vacation because I’d still be commuting and that’s worse than actually working.

    If I could bank PTO I eventually would have six weeks. I’d be planning for the worse, especially possibly needing one surgery or another, or even use it for a temp job.

  40. Anon123*

    In regards to #4, is it really the managers business how the employee uses her vacation time? I occasionally take long weekends but I’ve never taken a full week off for a vacation before because I can’t afford trips that long (I’m also trying to bank this time so I can receive a nice large check when I eventually leave this position). My managers have been nudging me to take a full week off and I think it’s really annoying. I honestly wish I could tell them to mind their business.

    1. Observer*

      You’ve just given a good reason why it could most definitely be the manager’s issue. If the employer has to pay it out, that vacation time that’s banked is a liability for the company. The manager has good reason to not want to have to pull the cash out when you leave.

  41. Observer*

    I’ve been reading all of the comments on the take a week off thing. I have mixed feelings. I rarely take that kind of time off for a whole lot of practical reasons. But, I’ve never refused to do so – and when it’s come up, the people who are concerned are already familiar with all of the issues that I have, especially the work related ones (and it’s noo about staying “indispensable.”)

    On the other hand, I do see what the LW is worried about. More so, it’s generally a red flag if someone refuses to take a week off without a good reason (and not having en0ugh time to cover existing commitments with the pto available definitely counts as a good reason. So does legitimate worry about getting slammed by work when you get back- it’s not always a legitimate worry.) I’ve seen it happen at more than one place. At one place someone was messing with donations, and it wasn’t caught till she got too sick to come to work for a week. These were donations for which receipts were not required (Think $1 donations to a senior center lunch program, where the donation was truly voluntary and the amount was not being tracked because the people are throwing the money into a box.) We had something similar happen years ago, and it was something that it would have been almost impossible to catch had the person involved not wound up going out sick after getting into a minor accident which required some medical attention.

  42. Academic Librarian*

    communal stuff… When I arrived at my new position 2.5 years ago. I tossed the grodey old microwave and …
    1. new microwave
    2. new electric tea kettle
    3. single serving coffee drip coffee machine.
    a half a dozen generic mugs from
    For each employee- a big bowl for soup and or salad.
    you want your mug to be sacred- keep it at your desk.
    you don’t want your food tossed on Friday- label and date it.
    I do a COSTCO run about every six week or so for supplies snacks (most of the staff are part time and/or entry level wage) and supplies- other than that they are on their own.

  43. Long Sigh*

    There may be some PARTIAL benefits at 30 hours. Booby prize.
    Maybe the *recruiter* was inexperienced, uninformed ….etc.

    I try to really read the job description, if they e-mail it. Bait-and-switch happens a lot too.
    No one in their right mind would choose to interview for some of these lame positions otherwise.

  44. Manager*

    Re: 4. How can I get an employee to take a full week of vacation?

    One reason that people avoid taking time off is because there is something that they are hiding about their work, whether real or imagined. It might be a simple as they are insecure about their work and don’t want someone else doing their work while they are gone, finding out what a poor job they are doing and reporting that to their boss. The employee’s work might really be poor, or it might be their imagination and insecurity.

    The employee might not want someone else to learn their job because they they might feel that they could loose their job if someone else knows how to do it, since they feel that their unique knowledge of the job is their job security.

    I also had one case where an employee of a small company was embezzling funds (for years) and refused to take time off to avoid being discovered. I discovered the problem when I did some cross checking that yielded inconsistencies.

    Does the company payout PTO when the employee leaves? If the employee is planning to leave or retire soon, then this payout maybe important to them, but they may not want to tell the manager this.

    From a manger’s point of view, it makes good sense to ensure that there is always more than one person that knows how to do a job, so that vacation and illnesses can be better handled without as big a problem to the company and without pressuring the employee to return to work after an illness.

    In a company where I worked with unionized employees, managers were required to schedule a certain amount of vacation time for the employees, some of which had to be during the summer months according to the union contract. Employee requests for specific dates were practically always granted, but where no requests were made, the vacation time was still scheduled. I am sure that the manager could schedule vacation time. Policies are developed by management in order to handle reoccurring situations in a consistent manner and there is no reason why the company couldn’t make a policy on this issue.

    It is important to probe as to why the employee does not want to take a week of vacation (and be alert to the non-obvious) and work with them to find a good solution for both the company and employee. When you have a good employee, you do want to maintain a good raport and discussing the underlying issues could build an even better relationship, since you have the employee’s best interests at heart. If the root cause is the employee’s insecurity about their performance or job security, the manager should address these issues.

  45. Pam Adams*

    I work in a state job, and had quite a lot of banked sick and vacation time. I was glad of this when I wound up going out for a few months medical leave, and needed to use all the sick time, and almost all the vacation.

  46. Dust Bunny*

    Re: Personal items in shared kitchenette space.

    Some place don’t want employees keep food or food-related items in their offices/cubicles/desks because of bugs. My office requires us to keep food and utensiles (except washed plates, mugs, etc.) in the kitchen. it’s fine because we’re a small department and everybody is respectful and doesn’t use things that they didn’t bring, but we work with historic papers and it would be a BIG problem if we spilled food or had an ant infestation because somebody had crumbs in her desk.

    But it’s clear in our case which appliances are for general use and which are not, and people just don’t use things that have not been announced to be for officewide use.

  47. olives*

    Oh dear – the “August” threw me off and I’ve been commenting on a year old post. *headdesk*


  48. CuhPow*

    Not getting the push for a week off. People who need a week to decompress look forward to their PTO. If OP is really just worried about having the employee take it all at once, 5 weeks isn’t much different than 6. This instead sounds like either a policy needs to come from HR or from the manager in charge of scheduling vacations, that there is a limit to how many weeks off at once or a certain amount of notice before hand. In my experience, the only time managers care this much is when they are preparing for employees to be fired or resign and don’t want to payout all the PTO. Regardless, weeks off aren’t needed. Many of the most stressful jobs don’t give PTO or require time off if they do.

Comments are closed.