rogue admin has published her own strict rule book for new hires, hiring a coworker to babysit, and more

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

1. Our rogue admin has published her own strict rule book for new hires, without any authority to do that

Our organization has an employee at a satellite office, Jane, whose job description clearly states she that supervises no one; she is administrative support staff. At least weekly a supervisor travels to this office to check on one of the other four staff located at this office.

However, I recently found out Jane has published an unauthorized and very misrepresenting 7-page document she has been giving to new hires. This document is very misrepresenting; it reads as though employees are to answer to her. Although we hold a very organized orientation prior to any employee beginning work, with clear policies and procedures, she has taken it upon herself to not only publish her own “rules, policies and procedures,” and has written them so they read as if they have been authorized by organizational management. An example of one item is “if you are calling in sick, you must call Jane. Voicemail and text messages are not acceptable. Your supervisor may require you to call them also.”

She goes as far as to state in the document that you are to sign your acknowledgement and receipt for this document. This is absolutely outside the scope of her authority and her duties. The copy I got my hands on says “updated 7/02/2014,” so this has been going on for some time without management knowledge.

I have had staff refer to her as a “bully” during exit interviews and now I understand why. They travel 110 miles to our administrative offices for orientation and when they arrive at the satellite office to begin work, she is presenting them with this document. I can very well understand an employee being conflicted about who they answer to.

I am definitely traveling to discipline her for going beyond the limits of her authority and exercising power that has not been granted to her. Is this a terminable offense?

As in legally, can you fire her for this? Sure. But why not first talk to her and find out what her thinking is, and tell her clearly that this kind of thing isn’t acceptable? You should also have a broader conversation about the nature of her roles, the boundaries between her and other staff members, and how you expect her to treat (and not treat) people in that office. Let her know that your concerns are serious and that you need to see immediate and significant changes in how she’s behaving with other people, and that her job is in jeopardy if you don’t see those changes. (And then, of course, you’ll actually need to watch her very closely for a while, as well as actively soliciting feedback from the people who work with her, so that you’re confident that you know whether or not she’s operating the way you need her to.)

You could move straight to firing her, and if she’s toxic enough to colleagues, that might be warranted — but in general it’s better practice to warn people before firing them, so that they have a chance to hear your concerns and improve. (And so that others in your office understand that they too will get a chance to hear about problems and fix them rather than being fired out of the blue one day.)

2. Hiring a coworker to babysit

I am a working mom to a 10-month-old boy. My husband and I are ready to branch out in terms babysitters – up until now it’s been my parents and occasionally my sister-in-law. What’s your opinion on hiring a coworker who has expressed interest in babysitting? She and I are in the same 30-person department, and she is not a direct report. I work with her and her boss on a few small projects throughout the year, but not closely. Prior to her taking her current position at our company, she was a nanny, so I know she has good experience as caretaker. Babysitting would happen only occasionally, perhaps once a month.

It’ll probably be fine, but if it goes bad, it has the potential to be pretty problematic, so you’ve got to decide if you’re willing to risk that. For example, if you have issues with the way she cares for your baby, will it cause tension at work? If she’s outright negligent or unkind to your child, will you be able to continue working with her? If she’ll be caring for him in your home, are you comfortable with her having access to potentially personal or private things?

Odds are that everything will go fine — but be aware of the potential for the stuff above to happen and weigh that against other babysitting options.

3. I think my former coworker is trying to poach me

A former colleague, who I get along well with, left my company recently to take a department manager position at another company in the same industry. She has sent me a couple of emails asking me to train her team on some software, and saying she’d like to meet up for a coffee or drink.

It’s not in my company’s interest to offer the training, and I’ve said no to that, but she has followed up again reiterating the offer of coffee. I’d be happy to see her and want to remain on good terms with her, as it’s a very small industry and we may have opportunities to collaborate in the future (and also because I just like her.) However, I’m reading this as her trying to recruit me, which I have no interest in. My company makes neat teapots, my colleagues are great, and I’m happy with my duties, salary, title, etc.

How should I respond, and should I meet with her? After all, I don’t know for sure what she wants. That said, I don’t want to waste her time or be coy about it, and I’m just not interested in a change of situation right now. I suspect if I decline without a reason, or just say “sometime” and wait, this will come up again. What to do?

Would you be interested in having coffee with her if you knew it was just to catch up and not an attempt to poach you? If so, go have coffee with her — and if she starts turning the conversation in a poaching direction, nicely but firmly cut her off and tell her it’s not something you’re interested in. Any reasonable person will stop pushing it if you clearly say, “I’m flattered, but really not interested in moving on right now; I’ll let you know if that ever chances.”

But if you’re not particularly interested in catching up with her, it’s fine to beg off; say that you’re in a busy period and cutting everything you can out of your schedule or whatever you’re comfortable saying. If you think she’ll keep trying, though, you might want to just go, drink a coffee, and put it to rest once and for all.

4. Can I get these conference expenses covered?

I wanted to ask a tricky question about travel expenses. I work on a remote basis from Florida. The rest of my team is in Tennessee. I moved to Florida for personal reasons and was able to continue working after the move. Naturally, since I live two states away, I am expected to travel back. I travel quarterly to visit my team. In addition, I have been travelling monthly to support a startup operation for my company in another city in Florida. This city is about 4 hours from me, so I always have rental car, hotel, and meal expenses when I visit.

I am travelling next week for an industry conference. I have attended conferences in the past, but I was always explicitly “sent” to the conference. This year, since I am in another state, I found the conference and requested to attend. The price to register was considerably more than the conferences I have attended in the past. To save money, I offered to stay with a friend in the city the conference is being held. I am also opting to take my own vehicle instead of a rental. My employer did cover the cost of registration. I am curious if it would be out of line for me to use my corporate card for fuel and meals not included in the conference. I am not sure in this case since I volunteered for the conference rather than being sent with my team.

It’s still something you’re doing for work, so those are business expenses that your company should cover. It doesn’t matter that you asked to attend (unless the answer was “we’ll cover the registration but you’d need to cover the rest yourself”). But if you’re not positive, just ask your manager. It’s completely reasonable to say something like, “I just want to be sure that it’s fine for me to expense gas and meals for the X conference in September.”

5. Child care arrangements while telecommuting

My company is putting a telecommuting policy in place. It is currently in draft and going through all the executives for approval. In the policy, it states that if you are allowed to telecommute and have kids that evidence of childcare arrangements must be produced for scheduled work hours. Is this something they are allowed to ask for?

Yes, and that’s a super common thing with telecommuting policies. They don’t want people thinking, “Great, I’ll work from home and then I won’t need to pay for daycare,” because obviously your productivity goes down if you are daily caring for a child at the same time that you’re supposed to be working.

(To be clear, these policies are generally about your regular plans; they don’t prohibit you caring for your kid while you work when the kid is occasionally home sick from her regular daycare or something like that. It’s about your normal daily plan.)

{ 320 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    #1 I’m not defending Jane, because this is all kinds of messed up, but if I were you I’d certainly try to figure what made Jane feel compelled to do this. If she’s telling new hires that it’s mandatory they inform her when they’re out sick is it because she’s expected to cover for them but not being notified of this? Perhaps the people the new hires are supporting go to Jane for things when the new hires are out, so Jane needs a heads up. You definitely need to deal with Jane but I really think she’s probably reacting in a strange way to some real issues.

    1. AnnieNonymous*

      I had the same thought. Admins are always being saddled with work that isn’t technically theirs, and they’re forced to wrangle employees despite not having the authority to do so. It just so happens that this nut/idiot is reacting to a very real, common workplace problem. Her job description states that she doesn’t supervise anybody? It seems like she has typed up a 7-page manifesto in support of the idea that she shouldn’t be held responsible for her higher-ups’ nonsense.

      Last week, Alison wrote a long post about how to say “This isn’t my job.” Jane is saying, “This isn’t my job.” If OP1 agreed with Alison’s post, she should maaaaybe try to find out exactly what’s going on with Jane. (Jane’s still a loon though.)

    2. Artemesia*

      I have worked around Janes and so my bias is that she is probably an officious busybody BUT it is also possible she is the only glue holding this randomly managed operation together. The first step should be to sit down with her and each of the people on site individually to discuss first what led her to these requirements and then second, how things are being managed day to day there. Maybe without these standards she never knows where anyone is, there has been a history of people slacking off or taking unauthorized time off. Maybe she has had to pinch hit for people with clients without knowing where they were or when they would be back. It could be and probably is an insufferable busybody with delusions of grandeur — but it could be a conscientious person doing her best to keep the operation running smoothly while the other workers there goof off. Or I suppose it could be an overreaction on her part to minor issues. But information gathering needs to be the first step here

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Yeah, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, even if it’s more likely that she’s a nosy busybody. When I worked as an admin for a property-management firm, there were a few employees who would make appointments to show properties and then forget about them/blow them off. I’d have to handle some very annoyed potential tenants on the fly, so I eventually started asking people to let me know if they’d be out of the office. Don’t even get me started about all the times one of the agents made up a fake name for networking purposes and forgot to tell me about it. I’d get a call for a Dean, say “Sorry, there’s no Dean here,” and then see a very panicked person waving at me and mouthing that Dean is the name he gave out at the mixer last night.*

        * I don’t think he was really trying to be deceitful. He is from another country, and he felt that giving out an American-sounding name would give him a better chance at getting some leads.

          1. Artemesia*

            And remember the number of times people are lauded for taking initiative to deal with problems or people post here about how they go above and beyond doing work levels above their assignment to keep things going. It sounds like there is no boss at this site. Probably one of the employees there should be empowered to deal with day to day issues like reporting whereabouts or dealing with work load issues.

            1. TootsNYC*

              yep! There’s a vacuum that either makes Jane’s officiousness necessary or allows it to happen.

              Find the shape of the vacuum, and fill it (with someone who isn’t Jane).

      2. Veronica Knott*

        Our agency is not a “randomly managed” operation and constant contact is kept by phone and email daily, as well as in person weekly. We did sit down with her, she is aware the document was not authorized or approved, (we are governed by a Board of Directors), and a Site Coordinator was placed in the office so that everyone knows they have Managerial support on site. It really seemed to boil down to control issues.

        1. RMRIC0*

          I am super interested to know what else was on this seven-page manifesto? Was it just like pet peeves? Was it kind of rambling? Or was it a really elaborately thought-out piece of office political intrigue to install herself as a de facto ruler?

        2. Artemesia*

          Ahh missed that. If someone is a site coordinator then THAT person should be doing these tasks. Surprised that person didn’t nip this in the bud so we aren’t in the second version of these ‘rules’. What has the site coordinator been doing that this has been allowed to go on?

          1. HB*

            I read that as they NOW have a site manager because of this issue, not that there was one there all along.

        3. Green*

          It’s a huge liability to have random employees setting up policies that extend beyond “Please wash your coffee mug after use” or “clean out the refrigerator on Fridays.” If it could be viewed as an employee handbook, you have an issue if it conflicts with your “official” employee handbook or if you don’t have an “official” employee handbook. If it at all wades into legal areas beyond her authority (harassment, leave policies, safety, use of funds) I’d have fired her. If not, I’d make it very clear that this is still unacceptable and that she’s on thin ice.

        4. JoJo*

          I’d fire her immediately. If she’s this bossy and dictatorial with co-workers, who knows how she is with clients. For all you know, she could be trying to handle their accounts herself.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m with you here. It stood out to me that this is a satellite office and a supervisor needs to travel there to check on things. It seems Jane, for whatever reason, has become some sort of surrogate manager at this location, and it’s worth finding out why she feels the need to do that.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      Agreed. She shouldn’t have done this, but…has she been driven to it by someone expecting her to pick up unreasonable slack somewhere? Ask questions before deciding to fire her.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I was wondering whether Jane is the only admin in the location, so anything like absences would usually be reported to her anyway? From my own administrative support experience, sometimes you do get landed with complicated tasks which are nothing to do with you.

        The other thing which struck me was whether this was some sort of bizarre initiative taking.

        1. Cruella DaBoss*

          Agreed. Our admins have to answer a slew of questions when someone it out. Sounds like she is trying to make sure she stays informed. But I wonder what was outlined on the other six pages?

          1. Lee*

            All I can imagine are tons of basic office management items that need to be taken care of at any site (but that maybe no one in the main office cared or even thought to specify)? Like basic safety protocols for entering or leaving before or after everyone else, what needs to be locked up, parking spaces, etc.

    4. Confused*

      Maybe it feels like no one is in charge at the satellite office and with a supervisor checking in weekly the small everyday things aren’t addressed. She may have been trying to take initiative where she saw shortcomings (like no procedure handout etc) OR she felt like there was no one taking the reins and was having a hard time in that environment. Maybe there DO need to be clear procedures for staff in the satellite office and you can draw them yourself etc.
      Her approach might be wrong but, agree with Alison, you should find out what her reasoning was.

      1. Ani*

        All of these might be real possibilities, especially as the home office oversight of the satellite is such that only now is management even clued in to the fact that the document exists — and she has been handing it out so long that it was last updated more than a year ago.

        1. INFJ*

          I had the same thought. It probably just so happened that the newest hire thought it was weird/confusing and asked the boss about it.

    5. Anna*

      I don’t know. I’ve worked with Janes in the past. It’s frustrating and creates an insidious mistrust that spreads throughout the office. I think it’s optimistic to only reprimand her. Her lack of judgment speaks volumes.

      Even giving her the benefit of the doubt, it’s too easy to poke holes in any possible explanation. Say there is a lack of process in place and she is trying to cover for employees who are out sick etc. Rather than speak to a person of authority while they are in the office, (every week for over a year – more than 52 opportunities!) she made this document, kept it a secret to any external visitors and has been abusing her self-appointed authority. Why didn’t she mention any issues to a visiting manager… ‘hey when X is out of the office, their responsibilities fall to me and it isn’t manageable because of Y’. But no, this rogue document was her solution..?

      Once I found an admin assistant going through my desk while she thought I was out because she was responsible for collecting work expense receipts and she didn’t think I was handing all of mine over..? I didn’t report her because I was really young, it was my first job and I didn’t realize how crazy this behaviour was. And mostly because she made so much drama of every situation, I just wanted to stay out of her cross hairs. She was a Jane. She just couldn’t mind her own business and do the work she was assigned. A few weeks later she emailed out a list of office rules to every employee in the company, despite her having no authority to do so. She was fired shortly thereafter.

      Honestly you could try and speak with Jane to fix the situation, but I can’t help but think it’s just delaying the inevitable. Jane has got to go.

      1. Mickey Q*

        The rest of the rules may be something like “If you make coffee you are responsible for cleaning out the coffee pot,” or “If the copy machine runs out of paper you need to refill it.” If the rules are stronger than that I would be worried.

        People like that get off on power trips and it usually escalates. She may start requiring a doctor’s note when people are out. We had an admin like that who eventually started giving herself bonuses when doing payroll and firing people. She of course was fired.

        Jane probably thinks she’s the manager of that branch and I doubt there is anything you can do to change her mind. Depending on what the rest of the rules are, I would probably let her go. She’s misrepresented her authority if it’s anything more than trying to cover the office when people are out.

        1. JoJo*

          I believe it. Nearly every organization I’ve worked for has that one admin who think she runs the entire company from her desk. Ironically, she’s usually the least technologically skilled and is detested by everyone else.

          1. Lisbonslady*

            yes… and even as another support person (an EA) it’s painful for everyone in the office. I’m usually amazed at what their managers allow (when they are aware of the behavior of course)

          2. Desdemona*

            Yikes. I remember at the Old Job, our admin left unexpectedly (cough *was let go* cough), and I stepped up temporarily to cover her workload. When I informed various clients and vendors I was going to be filling her role until we found a replacement, several of them congratulated me! She had managed to convince them she was the second in command in our company.

        2. Sparky*

          I was just thinking that I would make everyone salute me if I did this, but why not go whole hog, give myself bonuses and start firing people too. Reason for firing: I didn’t like the way they saluted me.

      2. Sophia in the DM*

        Yeah. I agree. Jane should have at the very least presented this document to her supervisor when she first created it (which who knows when that was!) and explained the reasons. Then, let the manager make corrections. Instead she hid it

        1. Kyrielle*

          Maybe. There are multiple supervisors – OP doesn’t say whether all have been checked with. And if it was last updated a year ago, were different people in place then? It’s marginally possible that someone gave Jane the okay on this, especially if everything else is office-procedural.

          I think it’s very likely that Jane will need to be let go, or put under a “stop it now, any additional attempt to take responsibilities you don’t have will result in losing your job” level order/PIP. But it’s marginally possible that won’t be the case.

          That makes it worth having a discussion with Jane, the other people in that office, and (depending on what Jane says) possibly any other supervisors who have been over anyone in that office (at least, any still with the company), just to find out exactly what’s up. It’s entirely possible (even probable, IMO) that conversation will point things up that lead to an immediate firing, or a fast track toward the same. But there’s a small chance it may not, and of course, whether it does or not, it may bring up issues that need to be addressed in terms of the oversight of that office.

          1. Green*

            LW clearly says it was unauthorized and that leadership was unaware of it. I think we can assume she didn’t ask for clearance. It’s one thing to be proactive and a problem solver (“I had some ideas on general rules that I think may help resolve some day-to-day issues in the office. Do you think we could give out something like this? How should I get something like this approved?”), it’s another to appoint yourself de facto office dictator.

      3. the gold digger*

        she was responsible for collecting work expense receipts and she didn’t think I was handing all of mine over..?

        Because most people would rather pay for work expenses themselves rather than be reimbursed?

        1. Kelly L.*

          LOL!

          I have had this problem, and it’s not that they never turned them in at all, it’s that they saved them up for months and months until whatever the deadline is, and then 10 people descended upon me with a million requests each, many with math or procedural mistakes I had to fix, late in the afternoon on the very last day. But I didn’t raid their desks for them!

          1. OfficePrincess*

            Sounds like a good argument for an earlier deadline about a week before you actually have to have them done.

            1. some1*

              Some people are always going to be late with this stuff, though. Good admins try to get ahead of it as much as we can.

          2. the gold digger*

            Ah. That makes sense. I hate giving interest-free loans to anyone, especially my billion dollars of revenues employer, so I file my expense reports right away.

            (I also do not understand why anyone would be excited to get a tax refund. All that means is that you gave an interest-free loan to the government.)

            1. AnonAnalyst*

              (I also do not understand why anyone would be excited to get a tax refund. All that means is that you gave an interest-free loan to the government.)

              Right? My partner’s mother used to tell me excitedly that she had extra money withheld from her paycheck so she could get a bigger refund (and no, it wasn’t to cover in case she actually ended up owing). I was like, um, you realize that’s just your money, right? That you let the government hold for free for up to 12 months?

              1. MashaKasha*

                I’m with you guys. It’s mind-boggling. I admit I’ve been getting refunds over the last few years; but that’s because my family situation changes a lot from one year to the next and I never know how much to withhold. I’ll definitely have my withholdings straightened out when my situation stabilizes. I only believe in giving interest-free loans to close family members and Uncle Sam is not one of them.

                I’ve had arguments over this issue with people too. One explanation I got was “but I don’t have the willpower to put my money into savings, so I up my deductions and the money is then being saved in form of a future refund.” That’s a lot of weirdness coming from a supposedly mature adult, in my opinion.

              2. Chameleon*

                I consider that interest my little gift to Uncle Sam. It keeps me from spending it and I’m not really missing the ten bucks in interest it would have gotten in the savings account.

            2. Lynn Whitehat*

              My brother’s wife is a spender and would not save anything for retirement if she had the choice. My brother would like to save something for retirement. So his way of avoiding 100% of their discretionary income being spent at Target and craft shops was to get his wife to agree that any tax refund would go in an IRA… and then bump his withholdings way, way up. “Oh look, another giant refund! Into the IRA it goes!” Sometimes you just do what you have to do.

        2. Miss Betty*

          It’s because they can’t be bothered to collect them and turn them in then complain because they don’t get an expense check. (And believe me, when that happens it’s all the secretary’s fault!)

          1. some1*

            Or they didn’t know they were supposed to supply an actual receipt. With itemizations. No, a pdf of your Discover statement isn’t going to fly.

          2. Green*

            You still don’t search through someone’s desk for them! You send an email asking for receipts.

        3. Boboccio*

          Once had an admin who added some costs to my expense claims because she figured I’d appreciate the extra money (who wouldn’t?). Then when Corporate called me to tell me my expenses had been denied for being beyond those covered by policy, I was not happy. She’d added expenses to a claim form I’d already signed!

          All worked out fine of course… resubmitted a new claim form, and explained that she couldn’t add lines to forms after they’d been signed.

        4. Artemesia*

          It is very common for people to sit on these forever and the dump them on an admin months after the trip. This is especially true if the person doesn’t travel much and so is not out a lot of money. At my last employer, they had to institute rules about how many days after the trip the receipts had to be in in order to be covered as it became a major administrative hassle.

          1. Mabel*

            Yeah, mine have to be done as soon as I’m back (and I’ll admit that I don’t do this every time) because if they’re not, my corporate Amex won’t get paid, & I’ll owe a late fee. I once asked my manager if I could expense the late fee – he just laughed. Thought it couldn’t hurt to ask!

            1. Witty Nickname*

              My company just started enforcing a policy where, if you don’t submit your expenses within 30 days, you lose your corporate card; and if you lose your corporate card for that reason, the chances of being approved to get it back are somewhere between when hell freezes over and when pigs fly.

              And that reminds me that the last charge from the trip I took last week just came through last night, so I can finish up my expense report and get it submitted!

          2. Meg Murry*

            Yes, we had major issues with people hanging on to receipts forever and then either turning them in just before the fiscal year closed when we were busy dealing with everything else related to the end of the fiscal year, or turning them in after the year closed and all the budgets being messed up because last year’s travel was now charged against this year’s budget. Going through desks isn’t the way to do it, but I could see her having this relationship with other people (“Bob, why don’t you have any receipts from the 5th but you do the 4th and 6th?” “Oh, they are probably in my desk” “Sigh, I’ll go look for them”) and thinking it was ok for everyone.

      4. INFJ*

        Even if you believe Jane can’t change her behavior and will ultimately be fired, I think it’s still best for OP to talk with her first and give her a chance to change. If not for Jane’s sake, then the sake of her coworkers not feeling like they will be fired without warning in the future.

        1. TootsNYC*

          If not for Jane’s sake, then the sake of her coworkers not feeling like they will be fired without warning in the future.

          This can’t be said loudly enough. Even when people hate Jane, or are rooting for her to be fired, they feel better if they see that the treatment of Jane was fair, reasoned, reasonable, and predictable.

          Every firing, and every layoff, creates aftershocks in your remaining team that can seriously damage productivity.

      5. ElCee*

        I am likely biased from just having listened to the rerun of the Steve Raucci episode of TAL, but the egregiousness of Jane’s action PLUS the exit-interview complaints point to more of a power grab attempt. I doubt there’s a legitimate reason for her to be doing this.

      6. MegEB*

        So, in all fairness that’s exactly what I do with one of the doctors I work for. I obviously have permission from him to go into his office, but he spends a decent amount of time not there, either because he’s operating or in clinic, so I’ve gone into his office to find/take things that I need, because otherwise I’ll never get it. I think this might depend on the boss/admin relationship, and what people are comfortable with.

    6. W.*

      Rereading OP1’s q – I noted that the supervisor is going there (at least) weekly to meet one member of staff out of 4… Who’s in charge on the site and the other three staff members? And why is only one staff member being supervised by the main office?
      I think Jane’s sick policy may be just a necessity if there’s no supervisors on site and the staff member calls the main office rather than the satellite then the satellite office is not going to know what’s going on. This is assuming there’s no manager on site. Is there? (it sounds like there can’t be which is perhaps why Jane has created this doc.)
      You’re real problem seems to be lack of management for these staff members – including Jane who perhaps in a power vacuum has set herself up as ruler. Also lack of management over several instances of Jane being called a bully in exit interviews – which was certainly something to follow up!

      1. Colette*

        Well, if I work at location A and my manager works at location B, Jane may not know where I am if I’m sick or otherwise not at work, but it’s not clear that she needs to know. It’s possible that the employees aren’t being managed, but it’s also possible that Jane feels she needs to know what they’re doing when she actually doesn’t.

        1. Shannon*

          It’s not so much that employees might not be managed – Jane may be the front door person, the one who was always asked where so-and-so is. If your boss works off site, it’s not a bad idea to let someone know at your location whether or not you’ll be in that day. However, the fact that you have to call Jane and that text and email are not okay, isn’t cool.

          1. W.*

            Well also they might be worried what had happened to you. Perhaps supervisors at the main site weren’t passing on that their colleague was sick? I’d want to know where my colleagues were – not in detail – but just for peace of mind to know what’s going on. I’m sure we’ve all gone into work expecting such and such to be in only to find they’re sick – and we’ve probably asked someone at work where so and so is – not in a busy body difficult way but just for a heads up. If the satellite office isn’t being relayed this info then it could be an issue and why she felt the need to write this thing. Although I’m not questioning that she’s out of line, just that perhaps she decided to fill a void of managerial/leadership or needed things – but really the bully thing is the most worrying thing and that should have been addressed straight away.
            At a former work place we also had to call in rather than email/voicemail/text – but agree Jane doesn’t have authority to ask for that. Certainly not saying OP can’t decide that it might be necessary to fire Jane – but also think the satellite office needs some serious restructuring and Jane might be a symptom rather than a cause of issues.

            1. TootsNYC*

              It’s often coworkers who say, “Where’s John? Isn’t he supposed to be here today?” who spot missing persons, sicknesses, etc. Esp. for people who live alone, but even for those who don’t.

              So, yes, I think it’s smart for people at that office to check in w/ someone at the satellite office, in addition to their actual manager.

      2. IndieGir*

        If it were the case that she just needs to know what’s happening, why are voice mail and text messages not acceptable? In my experience, the only time you can’t leave a voice mail, email, or text message when you are sick is when the boss is a control freak who wants to make you grovel or prove how sick you are when you call.

        1. Koko*

          This – that particular specification jumps out at me as signaling a control freak, not just someone trying to bring much-needed order to a confusing/anarchic situation.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Well, if your boss doesn’t text (I don’t) or isn’t on email early in the morning (I don’t do email from home; and I might have meetings first-thing that keep me from getting set up on my computer), then requiring a phone call is fair, I think.

          But those need to be the reasons.

          1. LeighTX*

            A required phone call is fair, but a voice message should be sufficient; I should be able to leave a message and go back to bed, without having to continue calling until my boss is at his desk and picks up his phone.

    7. sstabeler*

      the issue isn’t exactly her providing the document to new hires. As you said, there could be a legitimate reason for it. However, she is presenting this as something approved by the home office, when it isn’t- not only that, but if it has been going on this long, I can’t help but wonder if she si actively concealing the existence of the document from the actual management. THAT is the issue- combined with the fact that Jane appears to be trying to imply to new hires that she is in charge at the remote site, when she has no such authority.

      As for if Jane should be fired immediately, I’m not sure, but I’d say so. Not because of the document- but if she is treating people so badly they are quitting- ON TOP of these shenanigans- then the basic question is, would her co-workers be able to work with her in future? Personally, I don’t think so.

    8. SevenSixOne*

      Is it possible Jane wrote this document because those policies aren’t in writing anywhere else? Maybe Jane got frustrated answering the same question again and again, especially if that question didn’t have a clear answer she can point to, so she took it upon herself to MAKE something she can point to.

      It’s still out of line, but maybe there’s a reason she felt like she had to do it.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Except it sounds like she is instituting her own policies that she is having people acknowledge.

    9. Pete*

      If OP1 has seen the entire manifesto then it seems the most egregious demand from the document would have been selected for publication here. If the worst thing is, to paraphrase, “contact me when you’re going to be out” then then rest of document must be full of demands like “make a new pot of coffee,” and “only white paper in the blue recycle bin.” Granted they may all be written rudely and as if they’re the most important things in the world. To her, though, these are the most important things. Her style may be bad, but she may not be wrong.

      There may be reasons to fire her, but maybe a few of her items need to be a part of the official orientation.

      1. Observer*

        Actually, it’s not “contact me if you are going to be out”. It’s “*I* am the PRIMARY contact, and you may also have some responsibility to your actual manager, and you must contact me in this very specific way” – the one that is the most difficult and inflexible if someone is out sick.

        OS, yes, it is pretty egregious. It’s utterly inconsiderate of people and it assumes a level of authority that makes no sense.

        1. some1*

          I’m an admin and it’s really crucial that I know when people are out because pretty much ALL we do is client-facing. But I don’t care how they tell me – text, call, email; just let me know!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            A shared calendar in Outlook is the perfect solution for this, if you establish that everyone must enter their PTO, etc. into it. My team works remotely and travels and my boss is in another state. If I need to know whether Percy Weasley is available on Friday, I can check the calendar and see that he either is at the Ministry or he is representing the International Magical Cooperation office at a conference.

            I suppose we could use owls, but as Arthur Weasley pointed out, the mess would be “incredible.” ;)

            1. Cleopatra Jones*

              And there wouldn’t be any daytime communication. :-)

              I’d go with pigeons but again, the mess would still be pretty bad.

            2. some1*

              This is good for planned PTO, but not for unplanned PTO if an employee doesn’t have remote access to the calendar

          2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            When I’m sick/emergency happens I call my boss first and then I shoot a text or email to my teammates so they know I’ll be out.

    10. LK*

      I’m echoing everyone saying to ask Jane what’s going on that led her to do this. It’s 100% possible that she’s just an office busybody with a thirst for more power–but it’s also possible that Jane has a manager who put her up to this and she doesn’t know how to push back against them. What are the effects on Jane’s work if people don’t follow these policies and procedures–is she expected to cover for absent coworkers? Do those coworkers’ supervisors expect her to know everyone’s whereabouts?
      You can definitely decide that she’s not a good fit for this role for the reasons you’ve given and fire her immediately, but I think a PIP would be an excellent first step–as Alison said, it’s as much for the benefit of your other employees as it is to give Jane a chance to clean up her act.

      1. Artemesia*

        The OP says there is a site coordinator. Then how the heck has this been going on for so long with that person there. Either management is beyond ‘random’ for management to be ignorant for so long. Or the site coordinator is beyond inept for him or her not to have dealt with this or at least notified the supervisor in the home office of an issue.

    11. Retail Lifer*

      If there’s no supervisor in the satellite office and the supervisor from the main office is only making it out there weekly, then Jane might have become the go-to person by default. She obviously didn’t handle this correctly, but I get why she might have felt compelled to do SOMETHING.

    12. Veronica Knott*

      Jane does not cover for staff when they are out, they serve in a Prevention program and go out to schools and civic organizations, so that’s not it. The other staff also have counterparts in the region they can rely on. She is strictly Admin. staff, reception, clerical support, etc. Jane was asked about the document, which is no longer. We also placed a Site Coordinator in the office that she answers directly to. This has really cut down on some of the negative behaviors others were reporting to me.

      1. TL -*

        I’m actually finding it most concerning that there have been (it sounds like) multiple complaints about Jane being a bully during exit interviews – and otherwise? – and no investigation from senior management until this document showed up.

      2. Transformer*

        Was there an actual need for a site coordinator? Or did you add head count to what seems like a non-profit type organization just to deal with Jane?

    13. BethRA*

      I also think she’s responding (badly) to some legitimate issues, but what really set off my spidey senses was the multiple references to her as a bully. I know some people throw that term around more than is warranted but if OP has heard that from several people, it’s a real concern. If I were her, I’d explore that issue a little before coming up with the plan for addressing Jane. As Allison says, one of the reasons Jane should be given some kind of warning is so that other staff know that they, too, would be given a chance to hear about problems and make changes before getting the boot – but if there is bullying or other obnoxiousness going on it’s also important for staff to see that those kinds of behaviors won’t be tolerated and will be addressed.

    14. TootsNYC*

      Nice points! Also, it seems there is a very real power vacuum in that satellite office–find out its shape and size, and fill it.

      However, Jane may not be the person to fill it, if people (more than one!!) are referring to her as a bully at exit interviews. That makes me think she’s really bad. Because if she were just a bit officious but her actions were actually useful, I don’t think most people would even bring her up, let alone label her a bully.

      I’d be looking for someone to be the official manager of that office, with some level of administrative authority, even if not job-function managerial clout.

  2. Anon Accountant*

    #1. “Staff who left had referred to Jane as a bully in exit interviews”. Did anyone follow up on this after several staff members mentioned this? Anyone watch closely for signs of bullying behavior from Jane? Have other supervisors received complaints about her behavior?

    1. The IT Manager*

      I think that in this situation it’s not out of line to fire Jane given the multiple reports during EXIT interviews (where you’ve lost employees) of bullying and now written proof of how far she’s overstepping her bounds. But I agree that I immediately wonder nothing was done when the first or second exit interview report of bullying came in.

      If you think she’s redeemable, though, you don’t have to fire her.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        I agree. I totally agree in general that it’s better to give someone a warning before firing them–but in this case they discovered something really egregious. If Jane did have legitimate concerns causing her to make this strange manual, nothing was stopping her from calling her manager and sharing her ideas and concerns. This is a classic case of insubordination.

        Starting a new job is stressful as it is–I can’t imagine having to receive and sign a weird manual with conflicting instructions from an admin as well.

      2. Can-Do*

        I would assume it was the investigation of the bullying reports that led OP to discover the document. I’ve also had admins who liked to expand their circle of responsibility (to put it nicely). Ultimately, I find they aren’t able to return to their original responsibilities – some see it as embarrassing to have their powers stripped publicly – but I have had the odd success by giving them additional responsibilities or workload. They’re too busy to put their nose in other people’s business and allows them to pretend they aren’t being stripped of their self-appointed power, just having it transferred to something else.

    2. Gem*

      This. I understand maybe not following up one report maybe if you assume culture/personality clash (but there probably should’ve been a quick check in during a visit maybe), but if there are multiple reports where people mention it while leaving that should’ve raised suspicions that there are some issues in the office somewhere.

      Aren’t exit interviews carried out to find these exact issues? And yet they apparently have been given this information multiple times and not done anything about it.

      Maybe there are reasons why she needs this document, as other commenters have noted, and I agree Jane might be in a terrible position that has driven her to do this. The whole thing seems like a mess and some investigation then either firing or serious talks need to happen.

    3. Daisy*

      This was my question. If there are multiple reports of her bullying employees until they quit why did it take finding this document to do something about her?

      1. INFJ*

        The nice girl in me wants to say we don’t have the context to know nothing was done/invesigated regarding the bullying behaviors.

        The mean girl in me wants to say: because… authorit-I has been challenged!

    4. Veronica Knott*

      Yes, her “bullying” behaviors were addressed after the second exit interview, her reaction was that of surprise. She was unaware of the impression she was conveying. She was given a written warning and I asked for immediate improvement. After placing a Site Coordinator in the office, the negative behaviors have really diminished.

      1. TL -*

        Hmmm.
        All in all, this doesn’t speak well of Jane. Are the behaviors diminishing because the site coordinator is addressing them as they’re observed, or did they decrease without much interference from the new manager?

    5. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, I wondered that too.

      Most people don’t bother to be negatively honest in exit interviews. So if they’re bringing it up, it’s a noticeable problem.

      (But I like all the points above about finding out whether there are real issues that Jane is trying to address; just because she’s too pushy and is rude doesn’t mean there aren’t real problems underlying it.)

      1. voyager1*

        Jane would be totally fired, I probably wouldn’t even think twice about it either.

        The whole acknowledged receipt part is what does it for me. What she going to do if you don’t acknowledge it?

        Would loved to see the whole document, doubt it would sway me tho.

  3. The IT Manager*

    #4: I agree with Alison. It’s absolutely totally in line to have them cover your expenses. If they didn’t want to pay the unusually high cost they would have refused the whole conference or they might have told you that they could only reimburse a small additional amount or only certain items. Since they did now, I think that your boss expects to cover the other reimbursable expenses.

    1. misspiggy*

      Also, if the OP is currently paying their own expenses to the other Florida site (it wasn’t clear who covers these), that needs to stop. It’s a legitimate business expense that would cost the company more if they had to send someone from their main office.

      1. BrandyS*

        Hi. I submitted #4. They do pay for my expenses to the startup site. I have a corporate card. I’m relatively young and a corporate card is a new privilege for me, so I want to make sure I am not abusing it.

        1. Judy*

          In my experience, you usually have two options about cars on a business trip, either you get mileage or rent a car and expense gas. I’ve not seen a travel policy (from a mid to large company) that says to use your own car and expense gas.

          1. Mrs. Psmith*

            Was coming to say the same thing. With my company at least (and have also heard from friends) ,if you are driving your own car for a business event, you get paid mileage (so reimbursed xx per mile you drive) and don’t put the gas on your Pcard. Definitely clarify that with your manager, that’s a common question for a company’s accounting office.

            1. BrandyS*

              Thanks. I checked and that is our policy as well. I will be expensing mileage and using the corporate card for my meals. I really appreciate everyone’s input!

        2. Artemesia*

          The first time you do something, particularly with a corporate card that they pay for, you need to get a sign off. Something as simple as, ‘I am planning to use the corporate card for meals and lodging at the conference in Milwaukee on October 3; is that the correct procedure?’ If they require you to pay and be reimbursed this will preempt any awkwardness. Misuse of corporate cards is a big red flag and you don’t want to ruffle any feathers on this. Always get approval the first time you do something that you have any concern about.

  4. KarenT*

    #5 everywhere I’ve worked made it clear that telecommuting wasn’t a substitute for child care but I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to produce evidence.

    1. Sam*

      I’ve absolutely seen this. I had a friend who had to relocate for her husbands job (he was doing the university professor circuit), and her New York – based job was willing to let her continue working remotely, but her telecommuting contract had specific provisions regarding both (1) evidence of regular child care and (2) a dedicated, separate workspace in her new home. In other words, she was still expected to be fully at work when she was at work, even if her “office” was 20 feet from her kitchen.

      I’m sure some of it also depends on the job, but she had a sensitive job that dealt with a lot of confidential information.

      As a side note, I’ve worked with people who seemed to think that telecommuting meant something different than this. I can guarantee that if the rest of the group was sitting in a conference room trying to talk to you on speakerphone while your kid bugged you for snacks in the background, we noticed.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        It’s easy to produce proof if you have daycare receipts, but what if Grandma watches the kids at her house every day? How do you prove that–get a notarized statement from Grandma?

        1. De (Germany)*

          Why notarized? The other statements probably aren’t – I’d say a plain written statement would probably be sufficient in that situation. But frankly, if you have that situation, just ask the manager what they want as proof.

        2. sam*

          I’d also say that a lot of this in practice ends up being honored “in the breach”. Maybe when the program first starts out they’ll get good documentation from everyone, and then over time it will become more of a “be prepared to provide evidence if someone asks” situation.

          And agreed – instead of guessing, just ask the manager what evidence would be acceptable in a “grandma is taking care of the kids” situation. A signed letter may very well be enough, particularly if over time, in practice, it’s obviously true (i.e., you’re not mysteriously unavailable for long stretches of the workday).

        3. LookyLou*

          After reading that little scenario I am now wondering how you prove if your spouse/partner is staying home to watch the child as you work. I don’t think many employers would accept a statement from a spouse and would just assume that the working parents will still be with the kids during the day.

          The only real proof I can think of would be to have random, unannounced home inspections where they search the house for children/childwatchers.

          I think it’d be a better idea to ask for an outline for the childcare situation, I don’t think any form of evidence is really necessary unless the employee is lagging and even then it is the employee’s butt on the line if they cannot bring themselves up to standards.

          1. davey1983*

            I use to work for a government agency, and the document they had you sign that permitted you to work from home had that exact clause in it– my manager could stop by unannounced during work hours and I had to give them access to my work space I was using.

            For the record, I never had a manager stop by my house when I was telecommuting (announced or unannounced).

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        I think this totally makes sense and is smart. The more companies that start implementing work from home arrangements, the more it’s necessary to have these checks and balances, or else it’s not fair to the people that come into the office every day.

    2. Artemesia*

      I would not let an employee with pre-school children or infants telecommute without evidence of child care in place and I know of several instances where it was clearly made a condition of telecommuting. (I don’t know that they had to provide paperwork but they had to establish with the employer that child care was in place.) The answer to someone being offended by this is that they will need to work in the office. Anyone who has raised kids knows that it isn’t something you can do on breaks from your job.

      1. RobM*

        ‘it isn’t something you can do on breaks from your job.’ – exactly. If an employee does this then it is unfair to both the child and the employer. If you’re parenting you owe your child your full attention. If you’re working then you owe your employer your best professional standard. (I have quite strong feelings about being ‘all the way at work’ during working hours and ‘all the way home’ during your own time as much as possible).

        1. Artemesia*

          I wrote my dissertation when my first child was a baby and young toddler. There is nothing that quite upsets a child as much as Mom doing ‘nothing’ which is what sitting at a table and reading or writing looks like to a little kid. They see you cooking dinner and they know you are busy; they see you sitting in a chair reading and you ‘obviously’ are not busy. Mine would at 11 mos come and shove a book into my lap to read to him. Naptime was not time enough to do this work and I tried working from midnight to 4 am for a time and that sort of worked because he would sleep to 9 after I fed hm at 4 as an infant. But by the time he was a toddler, I had to get day care mornings in order to get the work finished.

          It isn’t just the work that will suffer, it is the child who feels ignored while you are there and ‘could’ attend to him from his or her perspective.

      2. Cafe Au Lait*

        I was acquaintances with a couple that tried to have the wife telecommute when their daughter was an infant. Her boss pulled the telecommuting situation after a week. They were incensed because “now we have to pay for daycare.”

        She honestly thought she could “work” 7-4; 7-11am being in office, with 12-4pm working “at home” while also taking care of their child.

        That, among many other things, is why I backed away from a friendship with them.

        1. Heather*

          What were they doing with the kid from 7-11? Was the husband at home? Or did they just put it in a playpen and hope for the best?

          1. Cafe Au Lait*

            They were just doing part-time day care. As daycare in my part of the country can cost $1500/m for infants, dropping down to part-time care can save quite a bundle.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      My job definitely makes clear that teleworking =/= child care. I wouldn’t be surprised if they request some type of proof that you have child care arrangements.

      You might not have to show proof in every job, but you likely need to be prepared to do so if asked.

      1. MK*

        You wouldn’t be doing them any favors, not matter what you may think. The most likely scenario is that the job would get done, but not as well as it should have, and they would come across as mediocre (or unreliable) employees. Or that there would come a time when they simply couldn’t do both at the same time and they would be totally unprepared to handle it.

        Oh, and the work would not be the only thing that might suffer. A toddler can get injured very easily while mom or dad’s attention is on their computer screen

        1. Zillah*

          A toddler can get injured very easily while mom or dad’s attention is on their computer screen

          I agree that telecommuting is not a reasonable alternative to childcare, but this seems to be really reaching to me. Parents spend plenty of non-work time on the computer, reading, watching tv, talking on the phone… Etc. I don’t think that dramatically elevated risk of injury to the child is really a main concern.

          1. moss*

            You are incorrect. When you are working you need to mostly focus on work with an occasional break. A child could absolutely injure herself or damage the house when you are working. You can’t work and watch a young child at the same time.

          2. MK*

            As moss said, working requires a different level of focus. Sure, you can keep one eye on the tv and another on the kid, or watch the kid while babbling with your friend on the phone. But actually working, even with fractured concentretion, will distract you too much.

      2. Lurker*

        That attitude is also super annoying to other workers. If my co-worker were allowed to telecommute but didn’t have to have children, I’d feel as though they were getting special treatment. If you aren’t allowed to have your kid in your office/cube/next to your desk at work, you shouldn’t be allowed to do that just because you’re at home. Having a kid isn’t a special condition.

        1. anonanonanon*

          +100000

          My last company, which was awful in so many different ways, only allowed people to telecommute if they had kids. It didn’t go over well with people without kids who also wanted to telecommute. (Rules varied by department, but I’d say a good 50% of the departments had this policy – which also went along with a policy of managers giving people extra vacation time depending on whether they had kids or spouses/partners. Fun times.)

          1. baseballfan*

            Okay, that just sucks. Only people with kids might want a flexible work arrangement? Ridiculous.

            The vacation policy is *beyond* ridiculous.

          2. sam*

            Not necessarily under federal law, but at least some states include things like marital status and the like as protected classes (similar to gender, race, etc.). This is setting themselves up for a nice discrimination lawsuit. It could even potentially be a gender discrimination suit if it could be shown that “people with kids” often turns out to be women. Or people with spouses turns out to be men.

            Henry Ford was famous for paying a “living wage”. but he only paid it to married men. because they had families to support. Unlike those wanton women who were just working on his grueling assembly lines for the fun of it!

            1. anonanonanon*

              My state’s law states: “Any distinction made by an employer between married and unmarried women which is not made between married and unmarried men, or vice versa, is unlawful discrimination.”

              So, yeah, pretty sure someone could take them to court for a discrimination lawsuit. I was right out of college when I first started working there and didn’t even think about checking state laws regarding vacation/telework policies, which was unfortunate.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            UUUUGGGGHHHHH.

            I telecommuted yesterday to meet a charity truck that came to pick up the pile in my garage. (Yay! Now to make another pile, LOL.). I would be beyond pissed if I had to take PTO for that because I don’t have any children. And the vacation thing? No. JUST NO. I’d be looking for another job and upon leaving, I’d tell them why.

        2. Observer*

          There is a difference – in the office, there is a real chance that the child will disturb others. You may not be distracted by your child’s conversation with her imaginary friend, for instance, but your co-workers probably would be.

          Not that I think it’s necessarily an unreasonable request to show child care coverage, though.

      3. OhNo*

        Same here. I know it wouldn’t be wise to encourage parents to view telecommuting as free daycare time, but still. I guess if it were me, I probably just wouldn’t ever ask for proof, even if they were required to provide it.

        Clearly, I would not be a good manager for telecommuters. :)

      4. Ife*

        My current job operates like this. About half the team works from home 2-3 days per week, or works from home part of the day every day, explicitly as a substitute for daycare for young kids (3-10 yrs). Managers know and are cool with it. Personally, I wouldn’t even consider working from home as a regular arrangement until the kids are old enough to entertain themselves for 8 hours, but I definitely understand why people take advantage of the leniency!

    4. KT*

      My old (very large) company did this–they had a generous telecommuting offering that many took advantage of to cut back on daycare expenses. In this case it was a bit ridiculous, since the company offered a on-site daycare center, or if you preferred somewhere else, stipends towards it.

      For those who telecommute then, they had to produce receipts or letters stating where there child would be for daycare in order to work from home.

      1. sam*

        There’s still ways that telecommuting could cut these sort of expenses without actually turning into “I’m going to work from home so that I can actually stay home with the kids all day”.

        Just as an example – my BFF had her kid in daycare during the day, but the daycare required kids to be picked up by 5:30 pm. Because she and her husband both basically worked until 5:30 and then had to commute home, they actually had to hire a second “afternoon” babysitter/nanny to actually pick the kid up from daycare and bring him home. If one or both of them was working from home, they could still have the kid in daycare during normal business hours, but cut out the extra expense of the “second shift” babysitter to fill the gap.

        1. just another techie*

          Yes. Or if you are going to be in the house for real emergencies you might feel more comfortable having a high school or college student watch the kids instead of a professional nanny.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          That’s a good point, since a lot of daycares start charging by the minute after their official pick up time has passed. And let’s not forget, telecommuting also saves you on gas, wear and tear on your car, you don’t need to buy as much office attire, etc.

    5. anonanonanon*

      I think it’s pretty common. I don’t have children, but I was asked to confirm that I had a “workspace” in my apartment when I telecommuted. I think employer’s just want to ensure that people are actually making an effort to focus the same way at home that they would at work.

      In most cases, a written statement of “X watches the kids” was fine.

      1. JC*

        I don’t have children so no skin in that game, but I always found the idea of certifying that I had a specific “workspace” to telework in to be ridiculous. When I first started working, I lived in a 600 sqft one-bedroom apartment with my husband. When I teleworked, I sat on the couch or at my kitchen table. I’m sure that’s the reality of many urban teleworkers.

        1. anonanonanon*

          Oh, agreed. I live in the city as well, so I telework from my couch. I just told my current boss that my computer was able to hook up to the company’s servers and she was fine with it. I think it’d be more than a little ridiculous to expect everyone has a separate office to work in, especially if they live in a city or don’t own a house.

        2. Case of the Mondays*

          There are a couple of reasons for this requirement. One is frequently worker’s comp prevention. You are covered by worker’s comp insurance even when telecommuting. If you have a poor ergonomic setup (working from a couch is likely one) then over the long term you might have some repetitive stress injuries the company would be on the hook for. If you work from home occasionally they won’t care but if it is all the time, they want to see that you have a proper setup.

          The other reason is confidentiality. Unless you live alone, other family members are likely going to see your screen if you are working in your living room. For one of my husband’s former jobs, where he would be taking home sensitive information, I had to sign a statement that if I inadvertently came upon the information that I would keep it confidential and they also did a background check on me though to a lesser degree than they did him. They recognized that even if he kept his stuff in a separate space, stuff happens when docs leave the office and travel home.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            Our company is piloting a telecommuting program, and they mentioned the “workspace” requirement at a meeting. And they specifically stated “not the kitchen table or your couch in front of the TV.” Ummm… I live in a one-bedroom apartment. The kitchen table is actually a great place for me to work – in fact it’s a nicer space than my cube. And my couch is also a great spot, as I can sit more comfortably there than in an office chair. (Not only am I capable of not turning on my TV, but it’s actually kept in a closet when not in use, so this wouldn’t be an issue.) (There are no pets or children, and the one other adult works long hours and wouldn’t be around to distract me. In fact, being in my apartment during the day would be less distracting than being at my noisy office.)

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              If the workspace issue is just for ergonomic reasons, could you fit a small desk in your kitchen, living room or bedroom? My friend met her work requirements (that actually did come out and check) when she lived w/ roommates by having an ergo desk setup in her bedroom and a lock on her bedroom door.

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                It was discussed in terms of distractions, so I think that was the issue. I don’t know what anyone thinks would be at my kitchen table that would be more distracting than anywhere else?

          2. JC*

            I can see how those requirements come about, then, if they are worried about worker’s comp claims from me sitting on my couch and tripping over wires in my home. In reality, though, what those requirements mean is that I certified that my home met teleworking requirements when it did not. I was an occasional teleworker and no one was coming over to verify that I had a dedicated office room with an ergonomic chair. I guess what this all means is that they’re covered in case I wanted to file a worker’s comp claim, since I lied about my teleworking setup, and I can still telework since they didn’t bother to check if my setup matched their requirements. Everyone is happy?

            I kind of get the logic behind how having a separate space leads to greater confidentially, but not really. If I telework in my living room, I do it when during the work day when my spouse is at work and I am home alone, even though I live with someone else after work hours. I would imagine this is the case for many people.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          I think part of it is, they want to make sure you have dedicated, working equipment, phone line, etc. so people can’t use the excuse ‘oh, my internet was down’ or something. I know where I work, the IT guy goes to the employee’s home and sets up their equipment, makes sure their connections are good and stuff like that.

    6. moss*

      This is absolutely standard in my industry (pharma). Nobody’s ever actually asked me for proof but I could provide if needed. Mostly it’s to weed out people who think they’re going to save on daycare bills. Older kids are not as demanding of time and I work fine while my son’s watching some TV in the living room after school.

    7. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      At my firm, if you work 1-2 days from home occasionally, no proof of childcare is required although working from home is not a substitute for childcare.

      If one is entering a permanent telecommuting agreement for all 5 days, their workspace must pass an ergonomic assessment, they must have lockable equipment, and they must provide proof that their child is in school or in daycare. Typically, the compnay pays for all furniture, equipment, and network access so the employee does not have to provide their own resources.

      1. sam*

        Yeah- there’s a big difference between the once-in-a-while – I’m going to work from home today because I have to wait for [xyz repairman/cable guy/etc. who only really needs me to let him in the front door but will keep me waiting for a giant window of hours], as opposed to a permanent type arrangement.

      2. CM*

        We have to sign a document certifying, among other things, that we are not caring for children during telecommuting hours. I would resent having to actually show proof of this unless it became a problem. As I understand it, the OP is talking about a draft policy. I think signing something saying you have childcare arrangements, and being required to provide evidence on request, is far better than a blanket policy of making everyone provide evidence.

  5. katamia*

    If they’re supposed to call Jane but she’s not picking up her phone and it goes to her voicemail, what the heck are people supposed to do? Just keep calling her until she picks up?

    I’m a little surprised people haven’t heard about the document sooner, actually, since it’s been going on for more than a year. No one’s said “Policy X in the official handbook conflicts with Policy Y in the thing Jane gave us”? (Not intended as criticism of your company, OP1, just surprise.)

    1. fposte*

      That’s what I was thinking–the once-a-week visits by the supervisors seem to be missing a lot.

      1. eplawyer*

        Clearly. Jane is obviously a problem at this office. But management is not, well, managing properly. Several reports of bullying, no follow up. This document around for at least a year, just now discovered. Who knows what else is going.

        Take care of Jane. But take care of the other problems too. The whole situation is in need of serious overhaul.

    2. Oryx*

      Yes.

      I worked at a job where we had to speak directly with a specific person when calling off and they didn’t have voice mail. (We also had to call our supervisor, but I could leave him a VM). There were also rules related to *when* we could call off. Nothing sucks more than setting your alarm for 4 or 5 am when you feel like crap just so you can call in and having to keep calling in because the person isn’t at their desk.

    3. AJ*

      And that’s in addition to taking the time to contact your own manager about your absence. Stupid policies like that need to prorate the sick leave you use based on how much time you have to spend on the phone trying to reach everyone.

  6. The IT Manager*

    #5: That’s a common and IMO good requirement; although, my agency requires it without demanding proof of child care arrangements. The requirement for proof is a little heavy handed in my opinion, but since it’s a valid requirement it is not outrageous. I can see issues with proving that a family member cares for the children for no cost, but hopefully they’ll accept something as simple as a signed letter for that proof.

    1. katamia*

      What would the proof typically look like? Do day cares/babysitters/whoever usually write letters? Do you show a receipt? I don’t have kids and can’t imagine what this would look like.

      1. Joline*

        I think with licensed daycares at least there’s usually a contract. Notice periods, charges for late pickup, liability waivers, etc.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          And a licensed daycare provider is required to provide you with an official IRS form documenting how much you paid during the year.

          And yes, about 87 forms and waivers: a sunscreen consent form, a Children’s Tylenol consent form, a waiver for injuries sustained in a car accident in the provider’s car, a diaper ointment consent form, and so on, and so on, and so on.

            1. Career Counselorette*

              Because daycare is hella expensive, and depending on the state you live in and your income level there could be credits or write-offs for it on your tax return.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                The caretaker had to report it as income, and the parents can get a tax credit for it. When I’ve plugged my childcare expenses into the requisite box on TaxCut, I didn’t see any change to my expected refund, but some people do, depending upon their circumstances.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Yup; in fact, in the US, you can contribute up to $5,000 a year in pre-tax income to a Dependent Care Fund, like a medical Flexible Spending Account, and then withdraw from that once you can document the expense. Quicker than a deduction, as it lets you reduce your taxable income rather than waiting for a refund.

                1. Judy*

                  If your company offers it, not all do.

                  But even if they do, you might be able to get dependent care credit also. The limit for the dependent care account is $5000 (no matter how many children need care). The dependent care credit is a varying percent (35%-20%) by income of the first $3000 per child you pay with no upper income limit. It’s possible to get at least a little bit more back if you have 2 or more kids.

                2. Judy*

                  Why do I always have another thought after I hit “submit”?

                  What I meant was if you use $5000 from the dependent care account, if you have 2 kids, you would have a dependent care credit of $6000 ($3k x 2), which means your calculated credit would be a percent of the $1000 remainder when you reduce it by the amount you used from the account.

              2. Joline*

                As a note – in Canada you can do this as well.

                A lot of the places with computer bookkeeping, etc. will automatically send out an annual summary at the end of the year for tax purposes. More casual receipt slips work as well, though, as long as the receipt is addressed to the taxpayer and they have the minder’s information (name and either business number or social insurance number) and it’s signed off on.

          1. Bostonian*

            Don’t forget the “incident reports” every time the child is injured while in the provider’s care. It sounds like a good idea until you realize just how often toddlers get little scrapes and bruises.

      2. Artemesia*

        People doing business ought to be able to do things in a businesslike way. Most day cares have contracts; if you hire a nanny then you should have a contract and without that you can certainly create a document for the person your hire or for grandma that lays out the commitment and is signed and can be produced if needed.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I used a neighborhood lady who had been babysitting in her home for twenty years (even the children of her former charges), and she was very businesslike. She gave a tax document annually, and if asked, she could have produced proof for an employer.

      3. The IT Manager*

        For people you pay, I would guess either a bill/invoice or canceled check sort of thing, but I don’t have experience with it myself.

        But my brother and his wife string together something for their 3 school age kids between the two of them (one a shift worker, one a teacher) and family members. It’s variable depending on the shift work and schedule so it would be hard to know what to show for proof.

        That said I have heard and ignored dogs and birds on telecons, but I have noticed and wondered about the co-worker who has a toddler in the background. Come to think of it though, that’s only on the late/end of day calls so it’s likely the child is back from daycare and there’s someone else in the house to watch her. We’re also supposed to have an office with a door, but it doesn’t say that it has to be shut. :)

      4. MK*

        They don’t have to usually write letters, just thst they agree to write this one. If it’s an organization of any kind, they almost certainly have correspondence of some kind anyway. Even with a self-employed nanny, they can simply write down “I, Jane Smith, have an agreement with OP to provide childcare daily from times X to Z.”

      5. knitchic79*

        In my last job, assistant director of a daycare, I wrote these out all the time. Most were for this, or proof to the courts that Mom/Dad was paying what they said they were in a child support fight. I’d be surprised if most places didn’t have a form letter they could fill in the blanks on.

      6. Stranger than fiction*

        When my kids were small, they went to a private daycare in someone’s home, so she kept a receipt book (like something you’d buy at Staples) so at the end of the year, I had it for my tax return.

      7. LizM*

        My daycare provides a receipt. I also have a contract with her, and could provide cancelled checks if I needed to.

        My employer doesn’t require that I provide proof, I only had to sign a telework agreement stating that I understood that telework doesn’t replace the need for child care. I would hope that in a professional environment, that reminder would be enough and people wouldn’t outright lie about something like that. That said, in my experience, it becomes pretty clear if someone is regularly working from home and watching children at the same time. I do it occasionally (with my supervisor’s permission) so I don’t have to take a full day of sick leave if my child or the daycare is unexpectedly closed, but it’s understood that it’s unlikely I’ll get a full day of work in on those days, and that if it wasn’t an option I would just be absent from work.

  7. Charityb*

    The fact that people have been complaining about Jane in exit interviews and no one thought to investigate the office before is a red flag. If this satellite is too off the radar it creates the risk of these little fiefdoms arising. Weekly visits don’t necessarily mean that real oversight is taking place.

  8. Ann Furthermore*

    #5: I’d have no problem with this if it were required of me. People who work from home as a way to save money on daycare give the rest of us parents who work from home a bad name. If you’ve got young kids at home there’s no way you can be productive all and keep them occupied and/or entertained all day. They’re kids. Keeping them engaged is s full time job – which is what a daycare provider does.

    I will work from home if my daughter is sick or doesn’t have school and I don’t have daycare lined up for her. But I make it clear to my boss and coworkers that I’ll be working on and off throughout the day, and then log on either after my husband gets home, or after she’s in bed, and finish my work day.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’ve worked from home intermittently (on days when school was out for teacher in-service days, etc.) and in my experience, the kids were perfectly happy tho play quietly if my attention was on them, but the instant their radar detected that my mind was engaged elsewhere, they suddenly needed me desperately. I would never choose to work at home regularly with no childcare, as it is an exercise in utter frustration.

      1. Beezus*

        OMG yes. The worst for me are the days when he’s been sick but is on the mend, feeling lots better but not quite well enough to go back to school. He’s been bored sick in bed long enough that he bounces off the walls and getting work done around him is an exercise in frustration. (I try to bring in Grandma on those days, but if she covered all the sick days for me, sometimes I have to give her a break. Dad helps, but he mostly covers snow days while I mostly draw the sick days.)

      2. Artemesia*

        I wouldn’t worry too much about an employee working from home who had school aged kids who arrived home after school or if they needed to be home on a day the schools were closed so long as they remained productive. But pre-school kids or infants need the kind of attention that is incompatible with work and there is a difference between occasional sick kid at home and the routine. And they would have to show evidence of child care in summer when kids are out of school. Many schools now have day care/camps in summer for kids in the area. My grandchild just is finishing up one this week and I will be covering a chunk of next week while her parents are at work and school starts after labor day. Both her parents can ‘work from home’ if necessary and the child is ill or school is out, but they aren’t going to attempt that for a whole week.

    2. NickelandDime*

      It wouldn’t bother me either! I’d be more than happy to produce whatever they asked of me to be able to telecommute regularly!

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I guess it’s not that big of a deal to provide proof, but how does your employer know if you have kids in the first place? And what if your kids are in school and then have activities after…you need a separate note for dancing, baseball, gymanastics, soccer, scouts, religious school,etc etc?

        Just seems easier to treat people like adults

  9. Seal*

    #1 – Although Jane is clearly overstepping her bounds, for me the red flag is the fact that there is no on-site manager. Having worked for several years in a similar situation, I can safely say that when there is no one person designated as the leader anarchy ensues and it is not pretty. People like Jane recognize the leadership void and seize the opportunity to take charge, forcing their often warped agenda on their coworkers. Others usually don’t have the authority or inclination to put a stop to it and either keep their heads down so they won’t be targeted by the bully who’s put themselves in charge, or just leave in frustration. Even if the OP calls Jane on her behavior or bans the new employee handbook she made, unless there’s a manager on site all day, every day, she’s going to find another way to assert her self-imposed authority. Firing her isn’t going to solve the problem, either. While you may get rid of Jane, there will undoubtedly be another Jane in the office who will be more than happy to take her place as the self-appointed leader.

    1. Sarahnova*

      Yes, I tend to agree. Jane is a problem, but it sounds like she is a problem that has arisen, like a weed, from the fertile soil of the lack of management/oversight of this satellite office. (As others say, were the reports that she was a bully previously investigated? How has it taken this long for someone to mention this document to you?)

      Step 1 is speaking to her, but step 2 is sitting down to do a serious review of the satellite office situation.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      I don’t know, I work in a satellite office with two other workers, and we’re all peers/have the same job title. It hasn’t been an issue. (We report to a manager who works in the main office.) I think a small group of adults should be able to co-exist without a manager on-site, and without someone going on a power trip like Jane.

      1. Christy*

        Totally agree. My agency has remote workers throughout the country, and it works pretty well for us. I’ve never even met my boss or coworkers, and I’ve only ever met some of my colleagues because they got approval for a conference in my town.

      2. Sarahnova*

        Well, sure – but in this case it appears they haven’t. I’m not just referring to the existence of a Jane, but to the fact that there doesn’t appear to have been any interest in people calling her a “bully” and the fact that she handed out this unauthorised manual for, apparently, years without anyone offsite hearing. Surely new hires were confused and/or weirded out? Was Jane telling them not to mention it to their bosses?

    3. TootsNYC*

      In a followup, our OP says they did institute a Site Manager in response to this. I’m wondering if it would be more economical to combine the Site Manager and the Site Admin roles–just, not with Jane, because she seems to let it go to her head.

  10. Mike C.*

    Re: OP1

    You’ve received *multiple* reports that Jane is a bully and but it took finding a formal document to finally investigate the issue? Why was no investigation performed sooner, especially since there’s a supervisor travelling there every week? Did you simply presume that bullying is no big deal? I hope that’s not the case.

    Have you ever had a bully in a position of power at work before? Do you have experience in what it feels like to be trapped in such an abusive relationship, simply because the economy is bad or you otherwise cannot move jobs fast enough? The anxiety, the depression, the way it starts to intrude into people’s personal lives – if you think the Amazon article was bad, try watching co-workers crying at their desks for fear of being deported if they were unwilling to work insane hours. This week’s episode of This American Life shows the classic example of how little bullying incidents turn from jokes and pranks into sexual harassment, stalking, vandalism, arson and homemade bombs left in schools and on door steps. At every turn, people in authority were told about these incidents but no one did anything, no one looked into it and things got worse and worse. Please take a moment to listen to it.

    But I digress. You missed out on something that’s been going on for a long time now, and so has the traveling supervisor. In the short term, I would argue that you need to go into the discussion ready to fire Jane for gross insubordination. Sure, give her a chance to explain what in the hell she was thinking, but it really better be good if she’s going to be showing up to work tomorrow. This has been going on for far too long and it’s been a factor in two different exit interviews. Long term, you really need to take a hard look at how your current processes missed this issue to begin with, and consider the risk to the business if there currently isn’t a good way to detect these sorts of serious issues. Maybe things aren’t so bad or maybe things have gotten off the rails but in either case you must take these issues seriously at the first sign – the costs to your business are incredibly high!

    1. Alistair*

      Mike C, this was an absolutely brilliant comment. What you wrote sounds like your own experience. If so, I hope you are in a better job now.

    2. Daisy*

      Thank you for this Mike. Lots of people & employers think bullying between adults doesn’t happen or is no big deal but it is incredibly damaging.

      I was severely bullied by a peer at job. Others saw it. The owner of the company acknowledged it. No one thought it was a big deal. I cried on the way to work for weeks until one day I thought about how easy it would be to jump from the bridge I crossed on the way. I quit the next day. I told them it was because of person x.

      1. moss*

        I left my last job due to an incompetent bully that was making our department look bad. I escalated and escalated to my manager -> his manager -> VP over our department. No action was taken. Everyone in that chain is working somewhere else now, except for the bully. She’s like a cockroach, impossible to eliminate.

          1. moss*

            It really is. I lost all respect for my managers and I was sad/frustrated/angry about the whole situation. I don’t see how a company can continue to throw people away (I was the 7th person in my position to leave in 2 years) whilst protecting what is CLEARLY a liability to the core business function of the company. It is baffling.

      2. Mina*

        Similar story, bullying situation, very hostile, got bad. I’m in therapy now, but nobody here is willing to acknowledge what they *allowed* to happen to me. I did all I could but it wasn’t enough. When no one listens….

    3. Merry and Bright*

      Yes!!!

      I had never really thought about this but I wonder how many employers actually follow through on exit interviews, and how often they are just an item to cross off an HR checklist. I know there are plenty of awesome employers but even so…

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        From what I’ve seen, they only follow through when the discomfort is visited upon them. Employee suffering can be dismissed if no one at the top is suffering. In sure there are places with more proactive management, but I’ve worked for a lot of pitifully non-confrontational people who would rather preserve their own comfort at the expense of everyone else. The only time anything really got done was when a lawsuit was theatened, and then, finding themselves in the crosshairs, instead of just their employees, they finally took action. But not before several people had left and cited the person in their exit interviews.

        1. Artemesia*

          I worked in a place where a really obnoxious admin level worker made everyone miserable or at least annoyed for years and delivered no work — it took a new person coming in and demanding this change for her to be gone. Because as you note, she wasn’t bothering the people with the power to change things.

          1. Chinook*

            “I worked in a place where a really obnoxious admin level worker made everyone miserable or at least annoyed for years and delivered no work — it took a new person coming in and demanding this change for her to be gone. ”

            I worked in a similar place where the obnoxious admin knew who to behave in front of and who she could backstab. It was known by HR and the Office Manager but she never did anything that didn’t turn into she said/he said and the partner she protected always took her side until she got cocky and turned on me when I asked for help, as per procedure from her for an activity for her partner (but didn’t mention who it was for purely by accident). She turned around and chewed me out to said partner who then chewed me out to the Office Manager (who had been in the room for the initial conversation) who then informed him of what really happened and how I had really acted (I graciously took the lack of her participation and rolled with it). That triggered a 6 month long path to her early retirement that no one was allowed to know about until her last week (at her request) which, of course, meant that she trained no one on the procedures she had been solely responsible for the last 15 years. Her final exit strategy was to see the place burn down without her. Such a shame that we just kept on going fine without her help.

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        I think more often than not, exit interviews are just about paying lip services to company policies and procedures and nothing more. And it’s so frustrating.

        Sure, there are always going to be disgruntled employees with an ax to grind that view the exit interview as an opportunity to roll out a slash-and-burn, scorched-earth approach, eviscerating everyone who ever rubbed them the wrong way.

        But by and large, people are creatures of habit, and most of us resist change. Finding a new job is an incredibly stressful experience, from writing up a resume, to putting yourself out there for interviews, to navigating the first 6 months in a new place and quelling any lingering doubts about whether or not leaving your old job was the right thing to do. So if people are leaving at a pretty consistent clip, preferring to go through that instead of continuing to work with a harpy like Jane, then that should be a clue to management that something is wrong and it needs to be addressed.

    4. the_scientist*

      And not to pile onto the OP, but if two employees directly mentioned that Jane was behind their departure, I have to wonder how many employees left because of Jane but didn’t bring it up in their exit interviews. I’d guess that bullying is typically under-reported, especially in an exit-interview type setting where the employee may feel it’s not in their best interest to raise any issues or say anything negative. I wonder if this satellite office has a lot of turnover?

      1. Splishy*

        I’m wondering about the turnover rate as well. Since the office only has 4 other staff + Jane and it sounds like there have been at least 2 exit interviews where Jane was mentioned as a bully, we’re looking at least a 40% turnover rate at that office. That kind of rate alone should be raising some eyebrows at the home office.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Well, it may be that Jane was not the -reason- for their departure, and their comment about her bullying was a form of Public Service Announcement on their way out the door.

        But the fact that they felt strongly enough to mention it says something huge to me–most people don’t say negative stuff.

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yup. People in the comments here are always saying not to be honest in your exit interview, it won’t bring about any change anyway. And here’s a shining example of that!

    5. Case of the Mondays*

      I think employers tend to ignore workplace bullying because it is not yet illegal. They ignored sexual harassment and racial discrimination too until they were made to stop. Some states are working on anti-workplace bullying laws. I really think this would help. The other option, for those that require medical treatment due to the bullying is to file workers comp claims. They can be quite hard to prove though and open yourself up to disclosing all the other trauma and mental health issues in your past to show that the injury was actually caused by the bully.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        It’s hard to find other workers willing to back up claims as well, because then they become targets of the bully. A good manager can spot this kind of behavior, though, and a good company will allow her to nip it in the bud.

      2. Nashira*

        If you’ve got any kind of pre-existing mental illness, and file a stress claim, the process to prove it is utterly grueling. Depending on your state, in the US, you may not be able to influence your treatment providers either.

    6. Not So Sunny*

      And we never really got anything from OP1 on WHY Jane felt compelled to create the document.

    7. Nashira*

      Preeeeeach it. My office has two potential bullies – potential only because our new supervisor nips that stuff in the bud. But said supervisor is also out of office for some truly awful family reasons… If she ends up leaving or will be out for months, and the bullying starts again, I will be doing my best to leave.

      I am never, ever, ever working where Bully #1 can supervise me. There were times where she nearly hit me. I used to self-harm because of the stress of her. I’d quit, honestly, and just step up my job hunt. My mental health is fragile and I’m not letting her hurt it again.

    8. badger_doc*

      That’s awful Mike… Alison, it might be a weird thread to do, but what do you think about a workplace bullying article/post? It seems like a lot of people who commented here have stories that could be shared to possibly help others in similar situations. It might be painful to bring up memories that have been pushed to the back of the brain, but I wonder it could help people currently experiencing bullying or even helping bullies themselves recognize their behavior and its impact on others? What do you think?

        1. AnonLibrarian*

          I agree. We had a bully in the workplace a few years ago. I even wrote to Allison about it and got some great advice here. He’s no longer here (long story) but it was hard on everyone.

  11. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 I’d be getting ready to fire Jane, maybe I need more sleep or caffeine as normally I’m all for giving people a chance to improve their performance and that firing is the last resort, but this is pretty messed up. Someone who is actively damaging the business and driving away employees whilst over stepping like this is a massive liability and shouldn’t be allowed to carry on working there.

    1. Ani*

      Yeah but if that’s the approach, it really sounds like more than one head needs to roll — management severely dropped the ball.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        I agree there has been some serious incompetence from the managers to allow this situation to delvope and they clearly need to take a more active role in managing the remote office, but that doesn’t excuse Jane attempting a power play and trying to fill the vacuum that’s been left.

    2. KT*

      For me it’s that she’s been mentioned as a bully in exit interviews, but it took the evidence of this one document for them to be moved to action. This is clearly a more serious and extensive issue than just a policy document

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Work place bullying is awful and extreamly damaging, but it’s also more subjective and harder to quantify. It’s absolutely not right but it’s easy to write acts of bullying off as oversensitivity, misinterpretation or personal differences. (That said if several people have said the same thing about Jane it should have been fully investigated)

        The document is written evidence that Jane is doing the wrong thing, it makes it hard for the managers to ignore and wouldn’t be easily explained away by Jane.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          Bob Sutton wrote an excellent book called the No Asshole Rule which shares examples, tips, and case studies for dealing with workplace bullies and how to quantify their impact.

          In one case, a rampaging lawyer who went through 4 admins a year brought in a ton of billable business and was allowed to bellow himself blue. After calculating the losses (severance packages, high attrition, training and development), the firm decided to keep the lawyer but deduct the losses from his bonus.

          He got the hint pretty quickly.

      2. moss*

        I mentioned about my bully above. Everyone in my department knew about how horrible this person was (mostly incompetent with a side of narcissism) and I told HR at my exit interview that she was the reason I was leaving AND I told HER that she was the reason I was leaving. No action taken. Nobody cared. We were going over budget on projects and pissing off clients because of her. Nobody cared.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That happened at Exjob with Bullyboss. Everyone knew he was incompetent and an ass, but no one ever did anything. They didn’t do anything even when he went to a client site with shop people who told us they had to handle everything because he pissed the client off.

          It’s why I never said anything. Even though he wasn’t targeting me directly, listening to him bully Nice Coworker every day was definitely could have counted as a hostile work environment, but I knew nothing would happen. The new regime finally chucked him out, but Nice Coworker got chucked before that (and for him, getting laid off was a blessing).

        2. LSP*

          This is happening to a co worker. She’s complained, but no one cares! Instead, we get some mass email eluding to the fact that if you have a problem, take it to HR. Which, let me tell you, is a joke! When your HR person can’t handle someone’s maternity/paternity leave after X years of working here, how can they handle anything else?

          Why do managers constantly just want to sweep things under the rug? Someone please, please tell me. Kim, the touchy-feely chick. Cecil, the lame duck. Countless other examples on AAM. Managers just rather not deal with it and that is sad.

  12. hbc*

    #1: Who does Jane report to, and how often does she have contact with that person? A random stream of supervisors who are visiting other people isn’t enough to manage a model employee, never mind one who has a tendency to overreach (or be timid, or lazy, or anything non-ideal.) OP, you say you’re going there to have the conversation, but when was the last time you met with her?

    Yeah, Jane’s completely wrong, and the bullying takes away any possibility of good intentions. But if I imagine myself in her position, it’s possible I would create a similar guide if, say, I was always fielding calls about who’s in or not, getting questions from newbies about stuff not covered in training, and had tried raising these issues to every random supervisor who rushed past my desk to their real destination and got the brush off.

    And even with a power-hungry control freak, they’ll let you know in review meetings. “I need everyone to call into me.” “Uh, why?” “Blah blah blah unacceptable reason.” “No, people just need to report to their supervisors. You can just tell callers you don’t know their schedule and offer them the voicemail or to transfer them to another rep.” Then when you get *a single* report of bullying, it’s “Jane, we talked about this, final straw” and not He Said, She Said.

  13. Sammie*

    OP#5. This is a perfectly reasonable request. Please think about it from your co-worker’s POV. It is extraordinarily difficult to conduct daily remote work with a co-worker who is immersed in child-care. I’m dealing with that now. I’ve got a team leader who also watches his kids full-time. He’s gone for large blocks of “working hours”. And while I think it is really cool that he’s an involved Dad—I really don’t love the emails at midnight–demanding immediate response–because that’s when he’s available. I also don’t love the tired, cranky tone–because the poor guy is obviously exhausted. We’ve lost quite a few free-lancers due to his short-temper.

    Anyway…my POV from the other side….

    1. JennG*

      I agree with this entirely. The way working from home works out for people (not just parents) is that it eliminates _commuting_.

      For parents, sometimes with seriously older children (like older than 12), or where there are short overlaps between parents’ different working shifts (like a parent leaves for a shift that starts at 5 p.m.), it means you can be around. But it is not a substitute for child care. If you hired a babysitter to watch your child and she said “sure, but I will be doing my full-time job at the same time,” you wouldn’t think that was a very good arrangement, right? The same is true for parenting.

      Signed, I tried this while freelancing and almost lost my mind after 6 weeks, and hired a nanny.

      1. baseballfan*

        This is a good point. I wonder how many people who think telecommuting is a substitute for child care would feel if their babysitter brought a laptop to their home and spent their babysitting time immersed in an entirely different job?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Exactly. Doing a bit of homework (if the babysitter is a student) while a child naps or after he/she is put to bed is acceptable, but working another job? I wouldn’t want that happening. I’d want my sitter to be focused on his/her responsibilities.

  14. Xarcady*

    #5. When I was trying to get work-from-home privileges for my department, confirming childcare arrangements was one of the two things that finally swayed the owner of the company to try it out. (The other was developing a system to track people’s work, as she was sure someone at home would just not do any work. Not that we didn’t already have a good, workable system, but I had to add some bells and whistles to convince her.)

    My state had an office whose purpose was to encourage telecommuting, and requiring childcare was one of their suggestions–and they had sample forms on how to certify this. So it isn’t all that uncommon.

    And while there are certain times in a child’s life where hands-on care isn’t a constant, and certain childern who need less supervision than others, the policy pretty much has to be “one size fits all,” or some employees will cry discrimination.

  15. mull*

    #3

    I wish everyone would agree that there’s no such thing as professional “poaching.” We’re not endangered animals on a preserve. We’re not the king’s game in the royal forest. We’re people who can reason and field offers and make informed decisions about where we want to work.

    The idea of poaching in a business setting is at its core anti-worker.

    1. KT*

      Truth. You’re not being poached…you’re being approached for what could be an attractive work situation. No one’s life is in danger from a big-game dentist.

    2. OhNo*

      Exactly. Plus I tend to feel like the idea of “poaching” really implies that you are supposed to be loyal to your employer even when it’s to your own detriment. Getting offered and/or taking a job elsewhere isn’t a crime!

      1. mull*

        It implies more than loyalty; it implies that an employer owns an employee to the point that a negotiation between Employee A and Company B should be a negotiation between Company A and Company B, or at least mediated by Company A. The term undermines the one basic thing that workers are meant to have: the right to seek out opportunities to sell their labor.

        That someone being approached about a job opportunity feels like he or she is “being poached” shows just how insidious the idea really is. It is fundamentally contrary to OP3’s interests to think in those terms.

    3. Rebecca*

      When I resigned from my last job, Job A, to move to my new job, Job B, my then-boss expressed frustration that Job B, who provided contract support services to Job A, was “poaching her people.” Meanwhile, I’d been there and dealt with horrible pay, toxic leadership and bad benefits for almost 3 years. I’m a professional, the company made me an offer, and I accepted with an appropriate amount of notice. I wasn’t bagged on my way out of the office one day and thrown in the back of a truck!

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah if she’s friendly with this person I don’t get what the big deal is with saying ‘wow thanks for thinking of me but I’m happy at abc company still. So are you excited for the new Star Wars movie?”

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or, instead of social, how about work?
        This is networking!

        “What are you learning about the new company?”
        “What do you think will be your biggest challenge in your new role?”
        “What sorts of skills do your new staffers have?”
        “You were asking me about training on the software–has your new team not been using it already?”
        “What’s your new workday like?”

        In other words, what stuff is this colleague (bcs she’s still a colleague, just at a different company) learning about your industry, and about her company, that will build YOUR knowledge of your industry?

    5. Development professional*

      There is in my mind a difference between the terms “poaching,” “headhunting,” and “recruiting.” I would define them as follows: poaching = former colleague using their insider knowledge of the company’s talent and compensation to offer the very best employee(s) at the company more money to get them to move to the new company. Headhunting = former colleague with an open position at new company reaching out to the best candidates personally to request they apply to the vacancy (this is what search firms do also, for a fee). Recruiting = former colleague reaching out the best former teammates to advocate for new company and see if they want to come along too. This is what the OP actually seems to be experiencing.

    6. TootsNYC*

      Sing it, sister! (or brother)

      There is no poaching.

      For OP #3–just go for coffee.
      If she brings up another job, then just say, “I’m really pretty happy where I am right now.”
      And then say WHY: “I get a lot of autonomy where I am, and I enjoy that” or “I’m learning this new skill, and it’s a great place to learn that, because I know the business already, and I can focus on the skill.”
      And maybe tell her what it owuld take for you to leave: “I want to get a few more years in here” or “I’d really only leave for a big move up, but I’m not ready for that until a year or two goes by” or “When the kids are in school, I’m hoping to move into a contracting role so I can work while they’re in class, and be done by the time they get out each day.”

      Why do I suggest this detail? This is a person in your field, and she may hear about jobs, or have new ones arise at her organization in the future. This is part of networking.

      You said it’s a small field–so network!
      As for training on the software–you might think of your expertise as a “chit” that you can dole out in return for her continued positive opinion, which might make her think of you should she hear of a new job.

      1. OP#3*

        OP#3 here. I more or less agree with a lot of the comments here about poaching, and I actually called it “being recruited” in my original email. One thing that does feel a little sleazy or poacher-y about it though is how recently she left, and how much inside knowledge of some pretty innovative methods the two of us would have if we left more or less together.

        That said if it were to my long term professional benefit I would agree that I don’t owe my company loyalty to the point of never quitting to pursue a more attractive opportunity. In this case, I get better projects, better training and PD, and get to work under a highly respected boss, goodwill in the industry that rubs off on me too.

        Anyways, to follow up, I’ve asked her for a coffee sometime next week so we’ll see how it goes! Y’all are right, it shouldn’t be a big deal to have a coffee with a friend and colleague.

  16. TL17*

    #1 – I am a lawyer, but not an employment lawyer, so I’m not sure if this is completely right. But I think in some cases a handbook like this could operate as a contract for at-will employees. Jane could be binding employees to something that isn’t lawful without the company’s knowledge or consent, and I’d be at least a little worried about that.

    I can see a document of information given to new hires. You know, things like where to park, what day office supplies are delivered, who to call for facility issues, etc. This could be especially helpful in a satellite office where things on the ground are different than in the home office, and really, the only people who know it or are affected by it are the people there.

    1. Dulcinea*

      I am also a lawyer and came here to post this- it’s posdible this handbook could be construed as a contract that not only binds employees ***but is binding on your company as well**** meaning you theoretically can’t fire someone unless you can cite a specific rule they broke in the handbook. “The handbook rule” comes up all the time in employment lawsuits. It’s why people are sometimes paid to leave quietly. So you shod definitely show the doc to your lawyer and find out what exposure you have and how to control the damage. I also think you should let jane know she has potentially put the company at legal risk so she understands the gravity of her actions.

      1. Dulcinea*

        Ps the most serious aspect is that she had people sign, even if it was supposedly just to demonstrate receipt.

    2. KJR*

      Our handbook contains a statement which says that only our owner/President has the ability to enter into any binding contract with an employee. Not sure if OP’s handbook contains such a statement, but I would hope it would supercede anyone else’s subsequent attempt to set up a contract situation.

      1. sam*

        I think part of the problem is that, while a normal employee handbook would of course say this, and probably that the handbook is not a contract and everyone is an at-will employee, this rogue handbook probably hasn’t been vetted by anyone who is qualified to put these sorts of disclaimers in.

        I agree with all of the other folks –

        – there may be individual reasons why each of these “rules” were developed. If she needs to know when people in the office are out, and no one was telling her, I think that’s fair. I think it’s fair to at least try to understand where each of the “rules” was coming from and address those issues separately.
        – That being said, the way she went about it was completely inappropriate, and possibly creates liability for the company. This, combined with the bullying comments, point to a more significant issue.

        What is her role? Is she the “admin” for the office or is she more of an “office manager”? those roles can sometimes get confused when there’s only one person filling that role for an entire office. You may be viewing her as the former, and she may be viewing herself as the latter. THAT needs to be clarified ASAP, whether with her or with whoever you hire to replace her.

  17. Rebecca*

    #5 is a more than reasonable request. Working at home is not “watching my kids while also working”. I can’t imagine the burden of proof is too stringent, either – they just want to make sure people aren’t abusing it.

  18. BrandyS*

    #5: I work remote from home 100%. The only way I can be productive is to get myself in the mindset that I am going “to the office.” This means getting ready for work each morning, putting the dog in his crate, and taking my daughter to daycare. I agree with the comment that said parents who use telecommuting as an excuse to skip childcare only make it harder for the rest of us. There is a perception that people who telecommute aren’t as productive, but under the right condition, most telecommuters are actually about 25% more productive than someone in an office.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I really don’t get people who want to keep their kids home with them while they work. It’s a flipping nightmare and you can’t do either work or childcare well. I dread the days I have to quasi work from home while caring for a sick child.

      My friend (former coworker) suggested I forego childcare until my daughter was 6-9 months old because they’re “so easy” at that age and I could just work at home and take care of her at the same time.

      I just mmhmm’d her but when she told me she did that when her kids were infants it explained a LOT about her work performance.

      1. sam*

        I can’t even get work done at home because my *cat* annoys me too much when I’m trying to do work.

        seriously – she couldn’t give a damn about me 99% of the time, but the minute I try to make a professional phone call , she’s meowing at the top of her lungs like the apartment is on fire. The only time I work from home is when I’m forced to (i.e., when Governor Cuomo decides to panic and shut down all of the subways so no one can get to work in a normal, happens 20 times a winter, snowstorm).

        1. baseballfan*

          I know, right? I should really put my dogs in daycare when I try to work from home to rid myself of their distractions. It’s really great when they want to participate on your conference calls.

          Of course, you can put dogs outside in the yard, while if you did that with a baby, someone would be calling CPS….;)

          1. sam*

            I wish I had a yard (manhattan apartment dweller!).

            That snowstorm day, I was negotiating a pretty major agreement. Our suppliers 12 time zones away are now strangely familiar with my cat. Luckily, they all thought it was pretty funny.

        2. jhhj*

          In fairness, when I work at home Just This Once, my cats are super excited that I am around all day. When I had to work at home for 4 months, they got over it really quickly.

        3. LizM*

          Truth. My cat hates my phone. If I’m holding my phone, she’s in my lap, crying and purring for my attention.

          And of course, my dog just happens to see a squirrel as soon as my boss rings.

          My house is a zoo sometimes. I can’t imagine also dealing with my 8 month old son. He’s happy to play independently for stretches of time, as long as I’m in there watching him. Moment I turn my attention elsewhere, he turns into a fusspot. I’ve gotten a lot of knitting done and listened to a lot of podcasts in the last few months, but I can’t imagine trying to actually work. I’m at home today because I have about 6 hours of online training to get done and need the quiet. He’s at daycare. I’m very much enjoying the peace.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        6-9 months they’re so easy? What? I’m pretty sure they don’t change their own diapers .

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        My husband did this. He is self-employed, so it is his personal choice if he wants to work at half-speed for a while. He got about 20-25 hours a week worth of work done. So nowhere near a full-time job. And once they get mobile, forget about getting anything at all done.

  19. TychaBrahe*

    #4 – Don’t forget that if you drive your car, you qualify for a 57.5¢ per mileage reimbursement.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      That’s the IRS rate if you claim mileage on your taxes. Your company can reimburse mileage at whatever rate they choose (most follow the IRS because it’s easy, but it’s not mandatory).

      1. Could be anyone*

        Yes, company can give less or more. (But I suspect more would require you to pay taxes on it).
        Husband works for state government who used IRS limit. Then in an attempt to cut costs stopped reimbursements entirely and said you had to use a government vehicle. This doesn’t work very well when you can only pick up the vehicle M-F, 8-4 and there are demands to cut the fleet. Now they will reimburse you at a lower rate but still encourage state vehicle use.

  20. Andrea*

    #1 – Could someone else at the home office have authorized Jane’s document? Just because you’ve never seen it before, doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t aware of it. Are you her direct supervisor? What concerns me more than this document is that you’ve had reports of bullying from her on exit interviews.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I considered the same thing. I imagined Jane mentioning to someone up the ladder about some issues and the response was, “Why don’t you make a booklet for new hires.” Then Jane took that suggestion and ran with it.
      I have a feeling that when confronted, Jane will respond, “Fergus said I should take the initiative to make a handbook.”

    2. Purple Jello*

      Exactly! Small satellite office, I can see everyone either ignoring miscellaneous tasks or trying to dump them on the Admin. Stuff from ordering office supplies to making the coffee or being expected to clean up other people’s messes, to “where is Fergus?” and “I need this done today and Joe is out so you need to do it” or “We’re out of toilet paper” and “Did Fergus call yet?”. And if there’s no voicemail, then it just makes the situation worse. Everyone internally and externally interrupts and expects the Admin to know everything and assist with everything, never mind doing her own job.

      Easy to see that a “help manual” for new employees could turn into this situation, especially if there is no direct supervision of anyone (or of the Admin) in the office. I can even understand the request for a written acknowledgement if Jane is exasperated enough with all the questions/interruptions.

  21. Macedon*

    #1. Bit OT – I’m probably immune to strong instances of policy abuse, but is there a reason why employees are still required to call in to report sick leave, with voice mails, texts or e-mails deemed insufficient? It just seems to me as if the last thing you want to do when you’re in the hospital or running a high fever is desperately try to reach Jane types, who might be happily chatting away on the phone, away from their desks or late in this morning.

    If I’m too sick to come in, I’m too sick to waste 15 minutes on repeated calls to reiterate what I’m probably telling you in an e-mail anyway.

    1. Cordelia Longfellow*

      I can’t speak for everyone, but I work in an emergency services field, and our office requires a sick call to a real person so that supervisors can arrange for replacement staff for that shift. Granted, it’s a little easier to contact a supervisor when there’s 24/7 coverage. As somebody who just works in the office during regular working hours (as do my bosses) and doesn’t have any back-up staff, I find the policy a bit of a PITA, but I get where it’s coming from in certain situations.

  22. Observer*

    I’m going to echo a lot of commenters on #1.

    There are a whole lot of red flags here.

    You have provided a perfect example of why people don’t give information in exit interviews. You have had *multiple* people tell you she is a bully in exit interviews, and you clearly never did the most basic follow up, or you would at least have known something of what people were referring to. Did anyone even ask “Could you explain a bit about Jane’s being a bully?”

    This has been going on for over a year. How is it that no one has realized that something is up, even if you didn’t know specifically what? Communications between staff out there and the main office must be incredibly bad, despite the weekly visits. And it is quite obvious that your “structured orientation” has nothing in it about how to raise concerns or even get questions about policy and procedures answered. Otherwise, you would have had a question or two long before this. Alternatively, you have an official policy that everyone is ignoring.

    This should scare you silly, actually. You see, not only did you miss out on some serious misbehavior which apparently has cost you some turnover (and possibly the loss of really, really good staff, as those are the people who are the most likely to leave over things like bullying – they have options.) You could have missed behavior that created major legal liability for you – illegal harassment, other illegal stuff, retaliation etc. And, unless you address the issues that allowed this to fly under the radar for so long, you are going to remain at risk for this type of thing.

    Remember “we didn’t know about this” is not a defense when you should have known about it. And, if you didn’t know because you effectively made it impossible for anyone to report it, that’s on you.

    As others have noted, you also want to talk to a labor attorney. You really, really don’t want to find yourself dealing with liabilities because of this supposedly official document that was made to appear as though this spoke for the company.

    I’m also concerned that you are not sure if this is a terminable offense. Why would you think that overstepping her authority, misleading staff and bullying people are not terminable offenses? What are your expectations of people who work in your main office?

    I do think that given how poorly the situation has been managed till now, Alison is right that you need to make sure that people see that the situation is handled fairly. But, PLEASE do not translate that to mean a long drawn out process where she gets chance after chance and /or where there is not clear, close and active supervision of what she is doing. Part of this being fair is that people need to know that they can provide feedback on what is actually happening and have it listened to.

    1. Kristine*

      *Applause* I second everything that has been said here. Not only is this insubordination, this employee is compulsive about it. Making up a new employee handbook, really? This is only the most visible sign of behavior that I suspect is going on – my former coworker (see my story below) read every application, snooped through correspondence on the shared drive, and shared confidential details with peers. Be prepared to quickly and proactively follow up on her compliance if you merely discipline her, because it seems that she has no boundaries.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, wait, we don’t actually know that the OP didn’t follow up on the exit interviews. It’s totally possible that she was in the process of addressing the issues raised there when she uncovered the rogue handbook, or that it came out separately.

      1. Observer*

        Well, we do know that this has, of this writing, been a thing for well over a year. So, even if there was followup it took well over a year to get the complaints and follow up. Still fairly hair raising.

  23. Minister of Snark*

    Re: #2

    As someone who got involved a disastrous “babysitting for a coworker” situation when I was young and stupid, let me very strongly urge you to find someone outside of your workplace. My coworker was in a supervisory position over me. I agreed to watch her (well-behaved) children. But despite the fact that I made it clear what my rates were, I never got paid for the babysitting I did over the course of three nights for her. The first time at the end of the night, when it was time to settle up, she very awkwardly said, “Oh, I’ll buy you lunch sometime next week.” leaving me to respond, “Ooooook.” The second time, she “didn’t have any cash” when it came time to pay me and the third time, she just didn’t bring it up, and acted surprised I expected to be paid. This was the last time I agreed to sit for them.

    It made things super awkward at the office, because I told her I wouldn’t sit for her anymore due to lack of payment. I think she was afraid I would tell people about it her nonpayment, because suddenly, I started getting a lot of negative feedback about my work. And she became very cold and subtly hostile toward me. I ended up leaving (it was a temp job) and having very mixed feelings about an otherwise positive work experience.

    So basically, these are two streams you don’t want to cross. Even if YOU are a very reasonable employer (who pays for the services received), how are you going to feel about the coworker being this intimately involved in your home life? Would you want to leave her unattended in your house? How are you going to handle it if she treats your child in a way you don’t agree with? What if she breaks something at your house? Would you be able to separate your feelings about her babysitting performance with your functioning at the office?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Good point; you should be able to fire a babysitter for any reason and it would really create awkwardness with a coworker. Not to mention having them all up in your business.

    2. ArtsAdmin4Life*

      Op #2 here – thank you so much for your feedback. You – and Allison – have some excellent points.

      Ghostbusters reference for the win, by the way.

  24. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, if this has been going on for a year or more…did none of the new hires ever say anythign about it? I’m imainging myself as a new hire, and someone I don’t report to and isn’t in HR gives me this document..I would at least be asking my boss for some kind of clarification.

  25. Kristine*

    Re #1 – I had a coworker like this. She applied for the Program Assistant’s job and did not get it, then told the Program Assistant that she “never wanted it anyway.” (Heh.) The she would sit in the Program Assistant’s office when the Program Assistant was out and demand that everyone come to her for every little thing. (I did not comply, and I do not know why others did.) She was cliqueish, a snoop and a gossip, did as little as possible, and her near-constant badmouthing of everyone (but especially me) eventually got one of her superiors to cross a legal line and get in trouble in front of the entire city government.
    If you do not dismiss this officezilla, BEWARE that she is likely to have a real gift of gab, minimize her behavior while gaslighting you about her real intentions (which are to micromanage, dominate, and undermine your authority), and pull every little trick in the book (stressed worker act, adorable grandma act, I’m-just-so-invested act, etc.). And BE PREPARED for this and stand your ground.
    She’ll do it again – I guarantee it – and then, do dismiss her.

  26. Brett*

    #4 Just wanted to mention that is it is ordinary and common to request to go to a conference (as opposed to being “sent”) and have the company pay for everything if they accept the request. Offering to cut costs (staying with a friend or relative, moving around your flight times, staying at a cheaper hotel and driving) can help a request, but in general you should stick to the company’s standard procedures when pricing out the conference.

    One thing you should consider doing differently in this particular situation is using a rental instead of your personal car. The situation can get extremely complicated if you get into an injury accident with your personal car while traveling to or from a conference site (your insurance will be the primary coverage, but an injury accident might result in a claim against you and your company with both insurance companies involved). Since the company routinely has you use a rental car for other company travel, just check in with your manager to see if you should switch to a rental car instead of using your personal car and expensing gas/mileage. The agency I work for has pool cars precisely for this purpose.

  27. schnapps*

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to contact the admin person if you’re sick or running late if there are no supervisors around. She’s probably the person who gets the question, “Hey have you heard from Fergus? It’s 10am and he’s not in yet.”

    That said, I would think and email or voicemail would be acceptable so long as its in line with company policies.

    OP1 doesn’t give us any more information on what’s in the manual but it seems that it’s the tone rather rather than the content in this case. The fact that she’s perceived as a bully in exit interviews is problematic. More to the point, why is she doing exit interviews? Shouldn’t a supervisor or manager be doing that? (I’ve never had an exit interview, but that makes sense to me)

      1. schnapps*

        Then let a couple of your coworkers know so they’re not wondering if everything’s ok. My workgroup does that: phone call, email or text to manager; phone call, email or text to current work partner (there are 8 of us and it cycles who we’re partnered up with), and email to admin (paper trail for payroll). We always let someone in our workgroup know because the manager may not be in until later or stuck in a meeting.

  28. Anonymous in the South*

    OP#1- I would say speak to her about this but it seems as thought the situation has already been handled so I’m not sure that would benefit anyone at this point.

    I’m an admin, so I’m going to throw my two cents in. For whatever reason that was decided before I started working at my current employer, the admin is the one in charge of the staff calendar in Outlook. Myself and the other admin are the only ones that can add, edit, change or delete anything on it. We have to enter PTO and all other items (meetings, booking rooms, etc.). If someone is going to be out, we need to know. They can email/text/voicemail/whatever but we NEED to know so it can be recorded and if someone calls for them we know what to tell them. All staff are told during orientation that if they are going to be out, they need to let their supervisor know and one of us admins. Is that policy followed 100%? No. So if Jane is out and she doesn’t bother to let us know, then I’m sending calls to her desk phone and they are going to voicemail. If it’s something critical, then it’s not going to get handled because I don’t know that Jane is out.

    Another reason I, in particular, need to know or have it recorded on the calendar is because our exempt employees have to record their time on a exempt sheet and then I have to cross-check it to the calendar and let HR know it’s correct and it’s ok to transmit payroll. When I’m having to track people down to check on days off or why this is listed but not on the calendar, etc, it slows down payroll and people get pissy.

    Do I want to know Jane was out? Not really, but I need to know so that business can take place without a bunch a drama. I think the reason the admin in the 1st post made up a bunch of rules (policies, procedures, etc.) to hand out to new hires, and I agree she should have gotten permission before doing so, is because when things don’t go smoothly (copier runs out of paper, the coffee gets low, Mina’s favorite pen is not stocked, payroll is late being transmitted) the admin is the one who generally has to hear about it and people want to know why this thing is not happening.

    1. Observer*

      Well, that’s the thing. The rule that Jane instituted does not meet the test of need, reasonableness or appropriateness. Yes, it could be that she really needs to know, but the requirement that they need to CALL her and speak to her personally absolutely CANNOT be justified on that basis. (In fact, it’s almost never really possible to justify a rule requiring live call ins.) Nor is it reasonable or appropriate to imply that she is the primary contact, and that being in contact with the actual supervisor is optional unless the supervisor asks for the “additional” contact.

  29. TootsNYC*

    for #2, babysitting

    I would suggest proposing a trial. Or, proposing it as a one-time thing. And also finding someone else, so you’re adding more than 1 babysitter to your roster at the same time.

    This offers you “plausible deniability” if you decide you aren’t that thrilled with her as a babysitter. And it allows you to prove yourself to her as an employer, and allows her to say, “oh, I don’t want to babysit anymore.”

    You can also, if the first time goes OK, say, “We were really happy; let us know if you’d like us to offer you a babysitting gig any time in the future.” Then it’s on her to say, “Yes, sure, I’d like to babysit for you.”

    And if you always approach it as something optional that might benefit both of you, then she can say, “No, thanks though!” if she dislikes your kids or something.

    You have the power to make it not be awkward, even if something goes wrong. Are you mature enough to exercise that power? I think the fact that you’re even asking this question indicates that the answer is probably yes.

    I think it helps that neither of you particularly outranks the other, and that you aren’t in close contact daily.

    But I also think you should branch out to more than one person.

    1. A Fish in the Sea*

      I think two mature adults can lay out expectations in advance and agree that if a serious disagreement arises, the babysitting relationship ends to salvage the working relationship. Hopefully your coworker is mature enough to abide by your rules, regardless of whether she agrees with them. Since she has nannied, I would hope so! If she strongly disagrees with your parenting philosophy, then she can abide by it and keep her mouth shut or she can resign as babysitter (and keep her mouth shut).

      A conversation about your expectations of how she cares for your children will help determine whether her offer is a good fit for your needs. And yes, interview more than just her. It never hurts to have more than two or three babysitters networked.

      1. ArtsAdmin4Life*

        Op#2 responding – Thank you for the feedback. I agree – as with any type of job or potential job candidate, setting expectations is important!

    2. ArtsAdmin4Life*

      Op #2 here – I like the idea of a trial run. And your suggestions as to how to handle future potential gigs is helpful. I agree that more than 1 backup babysitter would be a good idea.

      My husband, who stays at home with our kiddo during weekdays, is pretty nervous about handing things off to a total stranger. Having a backup and/or offering get-out-of-it easy with my coworker seems like a good compromise.

      1. Anon for this*

        Bless you for choosing a coworker who volunteered to babysit, though. A few weeks ago, a coworker volunteered me to watch my boss’s kids, saying “Hey Anon, you don’t have kids, right? So you can watch them! Wouldn’t that be great?” to which I coolly responded “There is a reason I don’t have kids.” That was colder and harsher than I wanted to be. Thank you for not putting your coworker in that position.

        1. ArtsAdmin4Life*

          Oh my gosh – I would NEVER just ask someone to babysit unless they had previously expressed interest! I can’t believe that your coworker volunteered you for that job. It does no favors for you or the kids!

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