employee booked vacation for a date he’s required to work, lying for a nanny, and more

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

1. Employee booked vacation for a date he’s required to work

I’m in my first management position, supervising exactly one employee, who is doing a great job. When we hired this person, I mentioned that there was one Saturday when he would be required to work (about a month out at that time), but apparently didn’t emphasize that enough because he appears to have booked travel that weekend. Maybe I should have checked in when he requested to take off the Friday before, but I just assumed he wanted to rest up!

I definitely did tell him about this date. I specifically mentioned the date in an email early on when he asked about weekend work. I double checked my email and it’s there. I can only assume he just forgot; when I asked, he said (with some sheepishness) the trip was to see a girl. We have a good relationship so I would think he’d tell me if it was, say, a sick family member, something urgent.

It’s imperative that he attend this conference, and I guess technically it’s his error, but I can’t help but feel kind of horrible for asking him to change his plans, especially if the tickets are non-refundable. Is there a graceful way to handle this? Like I said, in general he’s been doing very well and I’d like to avoid demoralizing him if at all possible.

If it’s truly imperative that he attend the conference, all you can really do is explain that, although you can certainly be sympathetic and apologetic that you can’t offer any flexibility. For example: “Bob, I’m so sorry about this, but it looks like you booked the date that I’d told you earlier was our mandatory conference. If I had flexibility here, I’d give it to you, but it really is imperative that you attend because of XYZ.” (And yes, you don’t technically have anything to apologize for, but it’s kind to note that you regret that you can’t help him out.)

I’d also forward him the email where you told him about that date earlier, saying something like, “Here’s the email exchange that we had about this date,” so that he’s not wondering if he was really told.

I don’t think you need to worry too much about this demoralizing him if he’s a good employee. A reasonable person in his shoes would recognize that it was his own mistake. (That said, explaining to him why there isn’t flexibility would be smart to do, so he doesn’t feel like you’re being unreasonably rigid.)

2. After seven interviews, I was told I might need to re-interview all over

I have been in a long interview process for an internal promotion opportunity. I had my seventh and final interview last week (four phone interviews and three in-person interviews that required me to take time off). I was called today by the director of the department, who informed me that he had accepted a new role at another company. He explained that since they would be restructuring his role, it might create ripple effects in this position in terms of who it would report to and what the vision of the new supervisor might be.

He explained I was his top candidate but that the department may require I completely re-interview once they figure out reporting structure and if this role will change at all. For right now, my candidacy is in limbo.

I took off three days of work so far for this role and don’t feel I can take much more time off, let alone another three days. Especially, since in theory, most of the people I would meet would be the same people. He also was unclear whether it would be a reopened process or if it was a continuation of the current process.

Is there anything, I should be doing at this point to seek clarification, or is it just a waiting game? If I am offered more interviews, how can I communicate the issue with taking time off? Or is this a tactful way of dismissing my candidacy?

All you can really do at this point is wait. He’s leaving, and it makes sense that the new director would want to make her own hiring decision and not hire someone she hasn’t interviewed yet. It also makes sense that they wouldn’t want to hire someone if there are open questions about the role. (Both of those things are actually good for you, even though they’re frustrating right now. You don’t want to work for someone you’ve never met, and you definitely don’t want to take a job that could end up changing soon in major ways.)

So I’d assume that if you’re eventually going to be offered this job, there’s at least one more interview you’ll have to do (the one with the new director). But it doesn’t make sense that you’d need to re-interview with people who have already talked to you. If they propose that, it’s reasonable to say something like, “I understand that you’re re-launching the process. Since I’ve already taken several days off work for three in-person interviews, is it possible to streamline the remaining steps? It would be great if I could do everything that remains in a single day.” From there, it’s up to them — and if they say no, you’ll have to decide how much you want to keep pursuing the job. But it’s a reasonable thing to ask about.

3. I’m pissed off about having to return my employer’s tuition reimbursement

I work for a company that offers $5,000 in tuition reimbursement annually (courses, classes, and workshops must be pre-approved and you are reimbursed when you complete the course). Employees have to be full-time and have been with the company for six months in order to use it, though very few people do. It does say that if you leave the company within less than a year since your reimbursement, you may be required to return the money.

I’ve taken advantage of this perk to the tune of about $3,000. Recently a coworker in the same role as me gave his two weeks notice and the company is now going after his tuition reimbursement. While I assume it’s a case-by-case basis and we do agree to the fine print when we use it, I think this is a horrible business practices. I don’t plan on staying here for a full year and am now worried that I’ll be out the money when I move on.

While I understand that it’s a investment for the company and an attempt to breed loyalty, I think it’s horrible to encourage employees to pursue continuing education and then penalize them if they choose to take advantage of it and don’t stick around for a year. All of the senior people encourage us to use the resource and speak frequently about always learning outside the job. I generally like this place and if/when I move on it would only be to move up faster; I would consider returning here but not if I’m asked to fork out money from a benefit that I used to better myself and make me better at my job (it’s an ad agency, this kind of bouncing around is very common).

What are you thoughts? Is there something I could say when the time comes? It wouldn’t break my bank account to give the money back…I would just be really, really pissed off.

This is very, very, very normal. So normal, in fact, that I don’t know of employers who offer tuition reimbursement without having a clause like this. (I’m sure they exist, but it’s a very typical thing to require.) The reasoning, of course, is that they want to get some return on their investment after paying for your classes.

If you don’t like those terms, the thing to do is to not use their tuition reimbursement. It doesn’t make any sense to be pissed off about being held to the terms of a clearly stated contract that you signed and that you weren’t pressured into.

4. My friend and nanny wants me to lie to a landlord for her

I just hired a friend as a part-time nanny for my child, as I work from home. It has been a really great fit and she is wonderful with my daughter. However, I am now in my first employer conundrum. My nanny is apartment hunting and just informed me that she told a potential landlord that she works full-time for me (she is currently only working 16 hours/week), and has been working for me for over a year (she started two weeks ago). She has asked me to lie if the landlord calls to verify. What should I do? Obviously I am uncomfortable with lying, but the situation is more complicated, as she is my friend and such a great caregiver.

Ouch. She shouldn’t be putting you in this position, and she definitely shouldn’t have lied to the landlord before even checking to see if you’d back her up. Some people are willing to lie for friends in this situation, so I guess you’ve got to decide if you are — but it certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable to tell her you’re not comfortable doing that and that’s she’s essentially asking you to help her commit fraud. And either way, you could say to her, “I’m really not comfortable with this, and don’t want you to put me in a situation like this again.”

5. My manager read our coworker’s letter of resignation to the rest of us and mocked it

Our manager read a coworker’s letter of resignation aloud to about 8 to 10 coworkers, openly mocking it. The resigning employee was present and was obviously uncomfortable. I know this is highly inappropriate and unprofessional, but is there anything we, as the remaing employees, can do to make sure this does not happen to us, if we decided to resign?

First, your manager is an ass.

Second, you can probably avoid it happening to you by writing a short and concise resignation letter that says no more than “I’m writing to confirm my resignation from Teapots Inc. My final day will be October 1, 2015.” That has the added advantage of being all a resignation letter really needs to say anyway; it’s not supposed to contain your reasons for leaving or anything like that. It would be fairly hard to mock that kind of letter.

{ 631 comments… read them below }

  1. The IT Manager

    #1. This is an example of a difficult conversation. You didn’t anything wrong, but you have to deliver what will be bad news to your employee. Unfortunately this is one of the duties of a manager. Good luck with your first difficult conversation.

    1. Artemesia

      This and while airlines tickets are non-refundable most of them can be rebooked (yeah the fee is extortionate and if it is a less expensive trip may eat the total cost of the ticket) but for really expensive tickets you can save some of the outlay by rebooking.

      I wouldn’t think twice about responding as Alison has suggested — this is the professional way to handle it.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Right. I think people forget that you can be sorry without being culpable. I’d be sorry for this employee not having paid enough attention to the schedule and now having to choose between the travel and the job…assuming that the work assignment really is required.

      (And if I had told them that they were “required” to work that day, I don’t think I’d be trying to help them out unless they sounded extremely contrite, as I’d think it would set a bad precedent. But then, that’s why I don’t like supervising people, I don’t like being responsible for trying to shape their behavior like that.)

    3. Retail Lifer

      Having had this happen a few times over the years, I now type up a memo with any days that are mandatory and I have my entire staff sign off on it. For good measure, I also send a reminder out again later and also ask everyone to initial it.

      1. TootsNYC

        I think the OP could also head off something like this by making some sort of departmental time-off calendar, or events/crunch-time calendar. So it’a out in front of everyone’s faces (including hers) at all times.

        I’d be apologizing left, right and center for not quizzing him about the weekend.

        1. Tiffin

          “I’d be apologizing left, right and center for not quizzing him about the weekend.”

          Why? He’s an adult who is responsible for knowing his own schedule. Would it have been good if the OP had checked? Yeah. Should the OP feel bad for the guy? Probably, if he is really contrite about messing up. Should the OP be falling all over herself/himself to apologize? No. That would set a very bad precedent.

    4. Ad Astra

      This kind of thing is exactly why I would struggle in a management position. I hate difficult conversations.

      OP, it sounds like you really value this employee and would be more flexible about this if you could, so make sure he knows that. It can mean the difference between “This really sucks but that’s how the cookie crumbles” and “My manager is an inflexible jerk who ruined my trip to see a girl.”

    5. TootsNYC

      Actually, I think the OP did so something wrong–mildly wrong, but nonetheless…I think the OP should have mentioned that Saturday when she was approving the time off.

      1. Kristin

        She did mention though, that initially she didn’t know he had travel plans and assumed he was taking Friday off to rest up for the conference. Which isn’t a crazy assumption to make. But yeah, maybe something like “Great we will have to touch base on Thurs. to be ready for Saturday!” might have helped nip this in the bud.

        1. Zillah

          Still, I think it would’ve been wise to double check. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and I don’t think it’s a huge mistake by any means, but I do think that when the employee asked for the day off, the OP should have at least said, “Hey, you remember about Saturday, right?”

    6. Mabel

      I agree. And I wanted to mention that “explaining to him WHY there isn’t flexibility” is not the same as convincing or justifying. I am prone to over-explaining myself and feeling like I have to justify my decisions, so I wanted to mention it just in case the OP might accidentally go down that path as well.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        Yes but be careful — make sure that this is a one-time exception that you must enforce. I have been in situations where I requested a week’s vacation only to be told “we need you at this meeting on Tuesday that week” and the employee can never plan on taking a vacation anywhere.

        Some managers do not respect personal time.

    7. KH

      If it was really that important, you maybe should have followed up to obtain email or verbal confirmation that he understands he needs to work that day. That’s a lesson learned for a new manager.

  2. John B Public

    #3: You may be able to negotiate for your new employer to cover this if/when you leave as part of your hiring.

    1. Stephanie

      When I worked at the Patent Office, the agency used to pay for night time law school. I believe the payback term was four years of service after you graduated. What sometimes happened was that if a biglaw firm wanted someone badly enough post-JD, they would buy out their remaining time owed.

      Of course…that all went away once the legal market collapsed.

    2. T

      I took a job once that didn’t give health benefits for 90 days so I negotiated for them to reimburse me for COBRA. Everything is negotiable if they want you.

      But I think it is very reasonable to ask people to stick around for a year. That’s actually pretty short from what I’ve experienced. I think the only place I’ve worked where you didn’t have to do stick around was in education because so many of the positions require constant classes to keep certifications.

  3. use limited to Culture genofixed individuals only

    #1: I’d like to gently suggest that, while you didn’t do anything precisely wrong, you also didn’t quite do everything you could have done to successfully execute on this.

    In a perfect world, we could send someone an email a month in advance about some important task and be done with it. But I’ve never worked at such a place. In practice, it needs to be ‘refreshed’ every week or so. I’ve seen people set up a weekly meeting for “conference prep” or some such. It’s not too different from having a weekly project status call: no manager is going to assign someone the XYZ project and tell them “it’s due on November 11th, seeya then,” There will be status meetings, and presentations, etc.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      You really shouldn’t have to remind someone weekly about an event they’re expected to attend / an assignment that’s due / etc.. Unless it’s someone brand new to the work world, you should be able to tell them and assume they can handle the responsibility of getting it on their calendar and remember.

      1. use limited to Culture genofixed individuals only

        Yes, you really shouldn’t have to. Except that in real life, you have to do it or people will forget about it. This new guy in OP1’s letter – OP1 mentioned the date in an email that was on a different topic. This email was sent “early on”. It may not need to be brought up weekly, but it most certainly needs to be mentioned more than once. Especially as the date draws near.

        1. MK

          People are not expected to remember this, they are required to make a note in their calenders; that’s why they are there for. I have never known a boss “in real life” to not expect their employees to remember future appointments or provide these kind of handholding; the only person who might be expected to do this are PAs.

        2. Cambridge Comma

          Perhaps this is an office culture thing — in my 13 years of full-time work, I have never received a reminder for a mandatory appointment (only for optional seminars etc. where the reminders were an attempt to encourage attendance). A reminder would make me wonder what the sender was trying to say about my organizational skills.
          I would have every sympathy with the employee if it had only been mentioned during the interview process and never again, but as the manager seems to say she put it in writing again when he started, I think it’s the employee’s error.

          1. Artemesia

            I agree reminders are not necessary except perhaps that week in planning the conference event. BUT when the guy asked for the Friday off, THAT was the moment the boss should have said ‘you realize that is the day before the conference that you must attend’. To assume he wants to ‘rest up’ for the conference? How likely is that. People take Friday off to have a long weekend; that should not have been approved without the reminder especially since the boss remembered it was the crucial weekend.

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

              I also would have thought he wanted Friday off so he wasn’t working 6 days in a row. That’s what we do: If you work a weekend day, you take off Friday or Monday. You don’t charge PTO, but you still ask for the day off.

              1. the gold digger

                Not my former boss! If you spend an entire week at a conference, working 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. on the weekend, or if you spend your Thanksgiving weekend flying to Dubai, you don’t get any extra days off, missy! That’s all part of the job!

                There is a reason he is my former boss.

                1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

                  That really sucks. We don’t consider it an automatic right to take off Friday or Monday if there is some compelling reason why you can’t, but then you can take another day later. It might sound nice, but it’s almost totally self-serving – I notice a significant difference in the patience, energy, and efficiency of employees who work 6 days in a row. I do no need grumpy people around here. To be fair, the nature of our work allows this, and it’s not a situation where there are frequently reasons to work on the weekend. If this was very highly paid work where people were compensated for working crazy hours, I might feel differently, but it’s not.

                2. Anoning it Up

                  This is coming up for me! At the moment I am slotted to work Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and the day after Thanksgiving. All of those are official holidays for my office. I am most certainly not being given three additional days off to compensate. I just won’t get any more time off until Christmas day, I suppose. What a good year this is looking to be!

                3. the gold digger

                  Ashley, this was at a non-profit and we were not highly compensated. Other bosses did give people a few days off after the annual conference, but not my boss! He was, as my Brazilian co-worker said, “From the school that is old.”

            2. Honeybee

              Or they take it off to take care of something that they otherwise couldn’t during the work day. Sure, maybe the manager should’ve asked, but I don’t blame them for not asking.

              And the idea of taking a day off before a long conference to rest up isn’t a bad or outlandish one.

          2. KT

            This…in every workplace I’ve been in, it’s up to the employee to keep track of these things. My manager would say ‘I need you to work X date”, and I would mark it on my Outlook calendar, in my planner, and on my whiteboard so I wouldn’t forget. I’m not 12; my boss shouldn’t have to remind me about key dates.

            1. Erin

              Yeah. Mark it in your calendar after he tells you you need to work that date. This isn’t hard. And it was told to him via email – there’s even a written record of it! He has no leg to stand on.

            2. Koko

              Yeah…I can see maybe deviating from this if it’s the new employee’s first job ever and maybe they need a bit more hand-holding on things like being explicitly told, “We’ll need you to work on October 3. Please mark it in your calendar,” but even for a brand new employee that still feels a little patronizing to me. Even before we enter the workforce we have experience with making plans and appointments, you should know how to keep track of your own schedule.

              It’s normal for someone to occasionally forget something, but I wouldn’t say the onus is on anyone else to remind them to make sure they don’t.

              1. Dana

                Maybe not for plans, but for many appointments that I make outside the workforce, I get a reminder/status beforehand: doctor, dentist, massage, airline ticket, hotel stay, hair cut…

                Yes, the person in OP’s letter should have kept better track. But it wouldn’t have hurt to have the boss include a heads up at some point as it got closer.

                I’m also wondering if there was no work required in the days leading up to it? Or was OP’s employee prepping all week for the conference he wasn’t planning on attending?

                1. Mabel

                  I understand why the doctors’ offices do these reminder calls, but they annoy me a tiny bit because I have the appointments in my calendar, and I’m either going to show up or cancel the appointment.

                2. Koko

                  Haha, yeah, like Mabel, I always find it kind of weird/crazy when I get those emails. Especially when it’s hotels or air travel. Yeah, like I’m totally going to forget I’m going to Burning Man. Who books something as expensive and significant as air travel and then forgets about it?!

                  If it was my manager, it would go beyond weird into the realm of insulting for me personally. I know this is somewhat my own hangup, but I feel infantilized when people remind me of my own responsibilities. When something is due on Friday and a coworker emails me on Wednesday asking if I will have it by Friday, for instance, I feel insulted and like he doesn’t trust me to have basic competence.

                3. Anonymous This Once

                  People do forget details like time. I have many times been aware that my flight was at 5-ish, but it’s important to zero in a few days beforehand on the fact that my flight is at 4:45.

                4. Koko

                  Sure, but when it gets to be close to my trip and I need to know the exact arrival/departure times I’ll look up the details myself. It’s an important document and I save it – I don’t need it re-sent to me on the airline’s timetable. I actually keep all booking and confirmation emails for events that haven’t yet occurred and package deliveries that haven’t yet arrived in a collapsed/hidden section of my inbox and only archive it once the event is past or the product is in hand, so that I can easily pull up mobile tickets on my phone, retrieve a tracking number when I’m wondering where a package is, and on the air travel front, I often have occasion to need the information before the airline’s “reminder” say, to look up my flight information when my boyfriend asks what time he needs to be available to drop me off or pick me up. I’m not going to just archive or lose that email and wait for the airline to remind me – I keep track of it myself.

                5. Ad Astra

                  One of the reasons airlines and other companies send you reminder emails is that it’s a marketing opportunity. It’s another opportunity to get their brand/message in front of you.

          3. Evil

            While this is true, when people start new jobs they can possibly be overwhelmed by everything going on, which of course leads to them forgetting things. I’ve only had two jobs because I’m pretty young (retail + summer work in a factory), but I found that at both of them, I forgot things that were occasionally important because in the first few days I was inundated with so much information, and being unfamiliar with the company/work environment, it was basically impossible to take everything in.

            The way I read it was that it was emailed to him when he started, but if it was within the first week or so OR he gets a lot of emails, it might have slipped his mind for some reason.

        3. KH

          I never assume someone read an email. Where I work we get so many emails and have a workload such that we sometimes think we have read them all, only to later discover a whole block of unread mails below the urgent ones that needed addressing, and then they kept coming in as the morning goes on. Always get a confirmation.

      2. W.

        Agree weekly is extreme, but considering this event is so important you would have thought OP would have sat down and discussed it a while back. I think that one email and then assuming a rest day is kind of lacking.
        I don’t think OP is in the wrong but there could have been a follow up to prepare the employee which could have been quickly done when they asked for the Friday off. But to better understand this we’d have to know how long ago the email was sent, it just seems strange not to meet about an important event and make assumptions that the employee is well aware about it, having never spoken in person or had a follow up.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

          We are assuming the event is important rather than just mandatory.

          There are conference/CEU opportunities that are mandatory for me, but may not be important to my boss or my team. Or it may be important to my boss I attend, which makes it mandatory for me.

          Once I get the email from my boss, I put the appointment on my calendar and if it gets brought up again, it’s usually me saying, “FYI, this Saturday I will be at…”

        2. LBK

          But on the flipside, if the event is that important, you’d think the employee wouldn’t have forgotten that he had to be there. I don’t think you can argue that it was important enough for the manager to send out reminders while arguing that the employee is under no obligation to remember on his own.

      3. snuck

        What about for something like this sending it out as a meeting invite in the calendar (and as an email as well if using Outlook so it doesn’t disappear into the calendar to be forgotten about).

        1. Kairi

          I was thinking about this as well! I work at the front desk, so I use meeting reminders to remind myself of training sessions, interview candidates, etc.

          Outlook is a life saver!

        2. Honeybee

          That would’ve worked too, but the employee could’ve just as easily set up a meeting or personal appointment in Outlook themselves.

      4. ComputerGeek

        Repetition is good. Why does Coke advertise?

        If this were a case brought before me to judge fault, I would put fault at 50/50.

        Seems like the vacation request should have been a trigger to remind the person of a work commitment that is neither frequent nor regular.

        Seems like the employee should have blocked it off on his calendar when he first learned of it.

        Seems like nobody in the scenario is entirely without fault.

        The manager shouldn’t have approved the Friday vacation request without a conversation. How difficult would that have been? “I’m happy to approve this. I want to make sure that you’re remembering the work commitment on Saturday.”

        It works both ways. Even when I have approved vacation on the books, I still remind my manager when it’s getting closer to the time. It’s more important to me than it is to him, so it’s more on my mind.

        1. JMegan

          I agree with this. I wouldn’t go so far as to assign “fault” to either person, but there are definitely some things they could both do in the future to prevent this kind of mixup.

        2. Koko

          I’d put it more 90/10. There are things OP could have done (especially with benefit of hindsight) to help the employee remember, but ultimately it was the employee’s responsibility to remember. The lion’s share of the fault for this is on the person who had primary responsibility to manage their own calendar.

        3. Zillah

          The manager shouldn’t have approved the Friday vacation request without a conversation. How difficult would that have been? “I’m happy to approve this. I want to make sure that you’re remembering the work commitment on Saturday.”

          I wouldn’t put the blame at 50/50 – I think the employee is more at fault – but I completely agree with this statement. The OP shouldn’t have assumed that the Friday vacation request was because the employee wanted to get ready for Saturday.

    2. Vicki

      Also, when he asked to take that Friday off, you really should have said something about the conference. You didn’t, which means you effectively authorized his trip.

      One thing I’d like to know is, why is the employee’s presence at this conference “imperative”? (I’ve been to many “mandatory” meetings over 30 years; none of them were memorable 6 months later.)

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        How on earth does it mean she authorized the trip? She okayed a different day off.

        As for why the conference is required, I’m going to take the OP’s word for it that there’s good reason. Maybe he’s working at it, maybe it’s part of his training, maybe he needs to meet with people who will be there, who knows.

        1. UKAnon

          If you give somebody a Friday off, I think most of the time you should at least check it isn’t the whole weekend if you need them on the Sat/Sun and they don’t usually work. OP say they sent an email early on, but it isn’t entirely clear if that was before or after hiring. If you’re told a date once in the hiring process, you’re probably not going to write it down anywhere until you get the job, so if it isn’t mentioned again it becomes very easy to overlook. Even an email once hired, if it’s for something far out, you might expect another reminder, which isn’t unreasonable.

          1. Cambridge Comma

            I used to work somewhere where you would work approx. one weekend every two months. People generally took either the Friday or Monday off around this weekend — it would also have seemed normal to me in this manager’s situation and I wouldn’t have questioned it.

              1. Honeybee

                It still wouldn’t have raised a red flag – they’re taking off Friday to make up for the Saturday they have to work, and they didn’t want to work 6 days in a row.

            1. Fried Eggs

              When I had to work the the occasional weekend, I frequently took the Friday before or Monday after off, so I had a kind of mini weekend to break up the week. I would have assumed that’s what this guy was doing.

              1. KT

                Same–if I have a weekend event where major prep isn’t needed the day before, I usually take Friday off to rest my feet and give myself some relaxing time before I run myself into the ground. That’s fairly typical in my field for major events/conferences. Requesting a Friday off before an event or a Monday after it is the norm–not an indication I’m planning a 3 day weekend.

            2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

              Yup. I often will take the Friday or Monday off if I have to attend something on a weekend.

            3. Academic Librarian

              Years and years of experience scheduling employees and it has never occurred to me that if someone asked for a Friday off to ask what they were doing on Saturday.

        2. BRR

          I’m definitely placing this on the employee because it sounds like it was clear. But if somebody asks off on a Friday, as a manager I would check the date of course and at least ask if they are free that important Saturday if it is truly that important. But again if this was made clear it’s really on the employee.

        3. Ad Astra

          I do think the OP could have helped the situation by asking, “You know you still have to work Saturday, right?” when the employee asked for Friday off. But it’s easy to say that with the benefit of hindsight. I’m sure if a similar situation comes up in the future, she’ll make the connection.

          1. OP #1

            Yes, this is exactly how I feel. I appreciate all the comments, but I’m responding to this one because I think it sums it up the best. I should have asked, but I didn’t, and I learned something.

      2. Stephanie

        Eh, it could be something like a professional conference and he has to recruit. Those sometimes involve weekends.

      3. Erin

        I have to say it again: If I were the OP, I would assume he took the Friday off *because he knew he was working Saturday.* Right? If it were me, I might do that, so I was still assured a day off.

        I think we need to let the OP off for this one. Taking Friday off is no indication he was planning on taking Saturday off as well, and again I’d argue it’s actually an indication he understood he was working Saturday.

        In lieu of the update, he clearly doesn’t deserve any benefit of the doubt whatsoever. He knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s trying to get away with something. OP is new at management and he’s probably picked up on this and is taking advantage. Nip this one in the bud.

          1. Myrin

            I was about to say that. I’m not a manager and not a native English speaker and even I have no problem telling the difference between a project and a required workday. How strange to claim one needs to be a manager to know the difference between these two things!

        1. neverjaunty

          I didn’t notice that you set forth your own managerial experience when you “gently” scolded AAM, so I’m a bit puzzled why I am expected to prove my credentials here.

          1. lay your head down child, I won't let the boogeyman come

            I have frequently included my management experience along with my replies to AAM. I don’t do it every time because it would be tiresome. Contrawise, I’ve never seen you make any mention of your background.

            Since you ask, I have 30+ years in the tech industry, have spent the last 10+ years doing team lead / project management work, have been doing hiring work for the past 2 years, and took a management position earlier this year. I’ve also owned my own business. I’m by no means the oldest, best, or most experienced manager here. But also I’m not a 2nd shift stockboy at Costco weighing in on how I think proper management should work.

            1. Graciosa

              I realize that people who have only seen employee-manager relations from one position may not have the same perspective as those who have been on both sides – however that does not mean that their point of view is not valid, or that they have nothing to contribute to the conversation.

              I have held jobs that your last remark leads me to believe you would consider beneath you, and I learned a lot in every one of them.

              Especially about people.

              One of the most important lessons I learned involved the difference it makes to treat people with respect. The greatest leaders I have known do this automatically. The worst people in leadership positions (please note the that I did not describe them as leaders) are those who have a king-of-the-mountain mentality. This tends to discourage great performance by undervaluing the contributions of the people who know the most – generally those who actually do the work.

              A great leader would be soliciting input from the person handling stocking on the second shift for improvements in stocking systems. A decent manager would at least remember that the person doing the stocking is a human being doing a difficult job and worthy of some level of respect.

                1. Ms Enthusiasm

                  Thanks for providing me some morning amusement. I get a good laugh when people try to “one-up” each other with their “witty” comebacks. But something else I noticed: why are people so hung up on rehashing how the supervisor could have avoided this? I see this happen so many times on this site – people just go around and around on how the problem could have been avoided instead of helping with the actual question at hand. Yes, there are always things that could have been done better. But, the problem has already happened; the OP can’t go back and change it. Now she just needs help in telling her employee that he needs to work.

              1. lay your head down child, I won't let the boogeyman come

                I have no problem with anything you are saying. I’ll gladly listen to a King or a peasant. BUT – if they are a King, I’d like to know that. If they are a peasant, I’d like to know that, too. I do not at all understand why people seem to think it’s a crime to want to know someone’s qualifications.

                I have held jobs that your last remark leads me to believe you would consider beneath you.

                I’ve worked construction, I’ve been a carhop, I’ve been a short order cook, I fried taco shells at Taco Bell, I’ve worked for an escort service, I’ve been a stockboy. How low can *you* go? :)

                1. So Very Anonymous

                  Since stating one’s positions/qualifications isn’t generally required on this site, it comes across as a little hostile to demand this information, especially after twitting Alison.

                2. neverjaunty

                  Well, for one thing, I didn’t ask about your qualifications. What I did ask was why you felt no need to present your own qualifications when disagreeing with AAM, but suddenly felt it crucial to know if someone disagreeing with you is “a King or a peasant”, whatever that means. And is somewhat ironic, given that with less than a year of management under your belt, you felt comfortable telling AAM she was wrong; it’s not a good look to expect that others will rely on good faith or institutional memory when weighing your comments, while refusing to do the same when you don’t like what someone tells you.

                  Like you, I have mentioned my credentials in the past and don’t really see that repeating them would be helpful; AAM has more management experience than both of us put together, yet people quite rightly disagree with her at times, and I don’t see that having X years more experience than you would make me automatically “right”. Beyond that, as you are new to managemen,t I would urge you to take Graciosa’s excellent comment to heart. Defensiveness, resume-swinging and a contemptuous belief that you have nothing to learn from “peasants” will not be helpful to your career, and will very likely come back to bite you.

                3. Grey

                  I do not at all understand why people seem to think it’s a crime to want to know someone’s qualifications.

                  No one thinks it’s a crime to wonder. We just think it’s rude to ask. It seemed you wanted that information only to determine if someone’s opinion had less merit than your own.

        2. Elsajeni

          Weekly meetings to check in on a project make sense — things are presumably changing from week to week as steps of the project get done, new problems come up, etc. Weekly meetings to remind someone of an event will start to sound like “This just in: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead” pretty quickly. Why would someone need to have managerial experience to recognize that?

        3. Professional Manager for 15 years

          Do you find the need to babysit your employees with weekly reminders of upcoming events and their responsibilities? As a manager, I expect those who have been informed of upcoming events to keep track of them, and manage their own calendar. When I scheduled for my team to fly out to Waterloo for a weekend conference, I informed them 6 weeks out, sure we did some prep work the week before we left, but in the intervening time I didn’t keep checking in to make sure they still knew they had a commitment.

    3. LadyCop

      What you’re suggesting is something so condescending it would drive me nuts! Weekly reminders would be akin to micromanagement and imply one is too inept to remember something for longer than a week! I realize some people need these reminders…they’re a poor performing small minority…and on a side note, doesn’t seem like he’s making good decisions in general if he’s buying plane tickets to hook up with some girl he doesn’t know well enough to call his girlfriend or to talk about without being sheepish…

      1. UKAnon

        Leaving aside the rather judgmental tone on his holiday plans – and what he’s doing shouldn’t matter unless it’s life and death – whilst that may not be the right approach for you, it doesn’t make somebody ‘inept’ or ‘poor performing’; some of the best workers are also the busiest, and whilst some people need only one or two reminders, others appreciate a reminder two weeks, a week out and the day before, because their schedule changes or new work comes in and they need that mental jog to re-jig things.

          1. UKAnon

            Different people have different working styles. What works for one won’t for another. Good management is about figuring out how best to work with different people’s approaches.

            1. MK

              An appointment book is not about working style. And being unable to keep track of your work obligations is not an approach.

            2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

              This goes beyond good management to extreme handholding.

              If your boss tells you that you have to work a Saturday, you should be responsible enough to block that day off on your calendar (no matter what method you use to hold the date).

              1. UKAnon

                My point all along was simply that it wasn’t clear when the employee was told, but for anyone with even a vaguely busy job there are all sorts of reasons why just a date in an email some time back wouldn’t be enough – if the email contained other information, or made it sound like this was to be confirmed, or was during hiring and not after the employee started etc etc.

                All I was trying to say was that the OP might find that this is somebody who needs a clear and direct “you must work on X”, or may need to be told nearer the time, or may need to find a good way of remembering these things, or otherwise try and work with them. The OP should take this an opportunity to talk to the employee about how to ensure this doesn’t happen again going forwards – and all of these are possible suggestions for where it went wrong/what might work.

                1. Charby

                  These are all good ideas. While I personally find it baffling that someone who knows they have trouble remembering appointments would also choose not to write down or record their appointments, I realize that there are all kinds of people out there and if the person is otherwise a good worker then it makes sense to put more pressure on them to help them remember. I am a little bothered by other details that the OP revealed, which makes it sound like the employee never intended to come in on that Saturday, but on the broader issue I understand where you’re coming from.

                2. fposte

                  I could do that, or I could find an employee who can manage his time. I’ve never had an employee who couldn’t, so they can’t be that hard to find.

                3. LBK

                  Agreed – those are all things you shouldn’t need to do for a good employee. If that’s a conversation that needs to be had, it’s a performance management conversation, not just about adapting management style or something like that.

                4. Muriel Heslop

                  When I taught high school special ed, this is the level of schedule management with which I helped my students. It’s beyond my comprehension that I would have to help an adult employee manage his time and commitments like this.

      2. Apollo Warbucks

        There is a balance to be had between hand holding and keeping things on people radar, with a new employee a reminder would have been a good idea, part of management is making sure expectations are clear to employees.

        And he can fly out to visit whoever he likes, that’s not even remotely relevant to the question being asked.

        1. LBK

          Unless he is brand new to the workforce, I really don’t see how this is the OP’s responsibility or how it’s part of her job as a manager to keep things on people’s radars. I’ve never had a manager that did this, nor did I expect them to – it really feels like people are setting up expectations that sounds reasonable on paper but are never true in reality.

          1. Apollo Warbucks

            It’s perfectly reasonable and prudent for the OP to have taken 30 seconds to make sure Saturday was still on the employees radar, if the event is that important then why risk not asking?

            1. Loquelic Iteritas

              And, interestingly enough, if they had indeed taken that 30 seconds a week after the employee started and said “so, you all set for the Big Saturday next month?” there’s a decent chance none of these problems might have happened.

          2. Just Another Techie

            My manager takes sixty seconds at our weekly team meetings, every week, to briefly review all upcoming milestone dates and their requirements. “All teapot bodies should be cast by the end of Q2. In early September we’re doing critical design reviews, and I want your slide decks submitted to me a week ahead of that for review. I sent you the template slides back in June, but if you need me to re-send them let me know. It’s far away now, but we need to at least have the molds ready for teapot spouts by Nov 1, so I want you thinking about that in your free time. Big Boss’s all-hands is in three weeks; try not to be out of town or working from home on that day.” It’s NBD, and really appreciated by everyone, even the highest performers on our team, because there’s a lot of moving targets and changing deadlines to keep track of. And ultimately, it’s our manager/team lead’s job to make sure we turn in a batch of shiny painted teapots on time and to spec.

      3. Loose Seal

        What with this new-fangled thing they call the internet, people can get to know others without meeting them in person. When my husband and I met on an online dating service, we were eight hours apart from each other (by driving). We talked via Skype for a couple of weeks and then agreed to meet for a weekend, each of us driving four hours to meet in the middle. We stayed at a hotel; I bought my own room for security purposes, if it became necessary, and left contact info with my family. Should I have been embarrassed that I was going away for a weekend to visit this guy? I was not at a point where I would have called him a boyfriend.

        There’s no need for snarking on the OP’s employee’s plans. His sheepishness could very well have come from being embarrassed he forgot to place an important event on his calendar rather than his meeting someone.

        I am of the opinion that, since this employee was new at the organization, the OP could have emailed him the date and then, closer to the event, had a short meeting with him covering what he was expected to do at the conference or what knowledge he was supposed to take away from the conference.

  4. Ask a Manager Post author

    Already got an update from OP #1:

    Well, for an immediate update, he’s just refusing to attend, on the grounds that his personal life is more important and always will be. I’m shocked, frankly. While I certainly agree with the overall sentiment that work isn’t more important than one’s personal life, this is not his decision to make, because it’s his own fault in the first place! But I’m not sure what power I have where discipline/(firing?) is concerned (even though I run his program and manage him, on paper his boss is someone else), or even what steps I would take. Plus it probably sounded like I thought everything was fine when he told me, because I was just stunned speechless at the sheer audacity.

    Wow. Well, first, you need to get clear on what authority you have here (you’d want to do that regardless of this situation, because you can’t really manage effectively if you don’t know that). And then you need to sit down and talk to him. I’d say this: “I’m confused and concerned about what’s going on. When we hired you, I was sure to let you know that we’d need to require you to work one Saturday coming up, and I confirmed that date with you early on. What happened? And what’s going on now that’s leading you to say you won’t keep that commitment?”

    And at some point you probably will need to say, “I do need to require you to work that date. I’d understand your reluctance if it hadn’t been clear from the start, but that’s not the case here. Given that it’s not a requirement I have flexibility on, how would you like to proceed?”

    … But also, I’d think about what he’s showing you about himself here. Unless there’s some piece of this that isn’t clear yet (which is why you want to have the “what’s going on” conversation), this is a pretty weird stance, and it would give me pause about whether you should want to keep him on board.

    1. Vicki

      OP, it’s not “his fault”. You are both at fault.

      Again. the moment you aid yes to his taking the Friday off without re-iterating that Saturday is a work day, you became complicit in this situation.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I really, really disagree with that. We have no idea what the nature of the Saturday event is, and it’s perfectly plausible that the OP could have reasonably assumed his Friday plans wouldn’t interfere with it.

        The employee is an adult and should be assumed to be capable of managing his own schedule.

        1. Sarah

          Agree that he is an adult with a job, and the fault ultimately lies with him.

          HOWEVER, it sounds like the potential of a conflict registered in the manager’s mind at the time of the request. A kind/helpful thing to do would be to remind him of the Saturday event as part of the approval, rather than assuming he remembered. It is typical that taking a Friday off implies a long weekend of something, travel or not.

          Not everyone can be counted on to remember schedules. Sometimes that is completely unacceptable for a position, but sometimes there are reasons to try to manage around it.

          1. Cambridge Comma

            Perhaps it’s realistic if you are only managing a couple of people, but I wouldn’t expect my manager to have committed my schedule to memory to the extent that requesting a leave day a few weeks later would necessarily ring a bell.

              1. Honeybee

                I don’t think that matters. The employee is an adult and it’s his responsibility to remember his work commitments. Yes, the OP could have reminded him of the date when he asked for a Friday off, but that would’ve been a “nice to have” not a necessity.

                I can barely remember my own schedule, much less remember anyone else’s…that’s why I use my Outlook calendar.

                1. catsAreCool

                  “Yes, the OP could have reminded him of the date when he asked for a Friday off, but that would’ve been a “nice to have” not a necessity.” This!

          2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

            I don’t get this idea that “not everyone can be counted on to remember schedules.”

            This has been an integral part of every job I have had since I started babysitting.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Seriously. If someone can’t be counted on to manage his own schedule, that’s a serious performance issue in most jobs and I’d be looking for someone who could.

            2. Honeybee

              +1 million. I am genuinely baffled by the direction of the thread. I’m one of those people whose brain is always going in about 50 different directions and I have the memory of a goldfish: I’d forget my own birthday. But I know that about myself and have put things in place to ensure that I work around it – including religiously using a calendar for both personal and work commitments (the SAME calendar, color-coded, so I can see when they overlap).

              If my manager emailed me an important date for an event that was mandatory to attend on a day I wasn’t normally at work, I’d stop what I was doing that moment and take the 30 seconds required to enter the meeting on the calendar. Otherwise it’s going through the sieve that is my brain.

              1. Stephanie

                I’m completely baffled by the direction as well. I had to go to a training during the day shift (when I work swing usually) and my boss sent me an Outlook reminder and a text the day before. It felt kind of heavy handed. I knew I had to be there at 11!

              2. So Very Anonymous

                I’m the same. Everything has to be on my phone calendar; everything has to be on my work calendar. The only time I want a reminder is if there’s an important change of time, venue, etc. Regular reminders are just going to feel like way too much handholding.

                The other thing is, the more you train people that you will remind them of things, the less able they seem to be to function without those reminders. Someone else commented here about that — that people start not registering things until they’re reminded multiple times, because they’re relying on reminders rather than keeping track of things themselves.

                That said (and I really don’t think the OP is at fault here), I can imagine a scenario where, instead of just thinking, “oh, he’s resting up for the Big Day of Mandatoriness!” OP might verbalize that to him: “So, you want Friday off, resting up for BDoM?” Which would have put him on the spot right then. But it also seems to me that that’s the kind of thing you think of afterwards, and think to do the next time something comes up.

              3. Not the Droid You are Looking For

                Putting everything on the *same* calendar was key for me. I used to try and maintain a personal and a work calendar, but it was too much and things slipped.

          3. Karowen

            OP states pretty explicitly that she thought he wanted to rest up before the big event.

            I also really take issue with the assumption that taking a Friday off implies a long weekend. First – as you said – the employee is an adult with a job. I feel like it was reasonable for OP to assume that he would remember that he had a very important work event and not default to long weekend. Second, sometimes stuff just has to happen on Friday. If he just turned in for a personal day with no explanation it could be for anything. Hair appointment that he had booked months in advance. Friend coming to town so they’re hanging out since he has to work on Saturday. Doctor’s appointment. An interview for another position. Closing on a house. The possibilities are endless.

            1. Kairi

              I’m just thinking back to my recent days off, some being on a Friday, that were one day commitments (moving into a new apartment, doctors appointment, etc.) so I second this!

          4. Creag an Tuire

            Maybe I’m becoming a curmudgeon in my old age, but I feel like remembering when you’re scheduled to work is a basic responsibility for any position. But then I don’t agree to go on an off-hours work event without whipping out my phone and plugging it into Google Calendar.

            I certainly wouldn’t expect my manager to “remind” me if a PTO date were problematic (especially if it wasn’t even the same day!) — given how often I need to remind him of the days I’ve scheduled off, I’m pretty sure he just has his AA rubber-stamp the requests.

        2. Person of Interest

          People are getting really hung up on blaming the OP, the employee, or both here. Hindsight is 20/20. The OP is asking, given the current and past circumstances which I cannot change, how should I proceed from here? Seems like AAM’s advice re: putting the problem to the employee and asking him to work with her on a solution is reasonable.

            1. Dr. Johnny Fever

              YOU are not to blame. Sorry to shout – but this is victim-blaming of another type and NOT YOUR FAULT.

              This guy can dress himself and get to work. He can keep his own commitments. He chose to schedule a personal commitment over a mandatory conference.

              Not your fault.

              You explained the situation and he doubled down and refused to go to the mandatory event.

              Again, not your fault.

              Presumably, Guy Who Can Dress Himself can decide for himself as well.

              From here out, follow Alison’s advice. Fire the dude if it comes to you. Just remember – this is not your fault. It IS a learning experience, but you did not cause this.

              1. Zillah

                I agree with your overall sentiment, but this is not “victim blaming,” and it shouldn’t be referred to as such. The OP hasn’t been victimized by their employee – the OP is just dealing with an employee who’s being defensive and weirdly digging his feet in.

                1. Dr. Johnny Fever

                  You’re right. It skirts a line since OP is not a victim, but I just got fed up with commenters somehow deciding OP is at fault and absolving the other guy of all accountability. It felt similar, but I exaggerated that feeling.

                  Next time, I’ll keep the rhetoric in check.

                2. So Very Anonymous

                  My sense of “victim blaming” (which is, yes, possibly too strong of a word) had to do more with some commenters piling onto OP.

        3. That Marketing Chick

          I also completely disagree. It is not a manager’s job to babysit their employees. This employee is an adult, was given the required date in writing at least once as well as verbally. Whether he purposely chose to disregard it (which based on the update, I believe he did) or forgot doesn’t really matter.

          This is clearly the employee’s fault and in no way the OP’s fault. I’m shocked that so many people feel the OP did anything wrong. OP, once you sit down and have that talk with him, you should have a good idea of whether it’s time to consider disciplinary documentation or fire him if he is within the probationary period (after he’s a no-show at the conference, of course). His response and behavior say a LOT about his character, and I would seriously consider whether I wanted someone with that type of attitude on my team.

        4. PlainJane

          Exactly. I would add that if you start reminding employees of stuff they should be keeping track of themselves, you set the expectation that you’re going to continue to do that. Then when you (almost inevitably) forget, you get blamed. It’s best to set expectations like this up front, even if it means losing this guy. TL/DR: I’m your manager, not your mom.

          1. So Very Anonymous

            Exactly!! You’re training them to think that you’ll always remind them, and you’re also teaching them that they don’t have to keep track of this stuff yourself. Heck, past a certain age I’m pretty sure my mom never did that.

      2. UKAnon

        I don’t know that it’s anybody’s ‘fault’ as such – he was careless and the OP had more trust than human fallibility should allow (if this is the day before something major, wouldn’t you want him around anyway?) He could have been more professional in the way he’s handling this now, particularly as a new employee, but I can also see the annoyance if he’s booked hideously expensive flights or something.

        1. Sonya Mann

          I don’t understand how this is OP’s fault in any way. The employee presumably has some kind of calendar system — he should have marked down the date there. In fact, I tend to agree with Seal that he may be dissembling a bit.

          1. Cruella DaBoss

            I think the employee may be testing his limits. A little “I’ll show them.” He was given the date at the time of his hire. If he had the trip planned in advance, THAT was the time for him to say, “I have a prior engagement on that date.” Sounds as if he was giving several opportunities to say something, but he did not. Agreed, the OP should have said something when the employee booked the time off Friday. If the Saturday is so important, what happens to those who do not attend? Are they put on probation? Are they fired? Whatever the precedent, that is what should happen.

      3. OP #1

        I really feel that I already addressed this in the letter. Yeah, this could have been avoided had I checked in, but I didn’t. Lesson learned. Ultimately, I feel it’s his responsibility to make note of upcoming obligations. I’m not sure what contribution you’re trying to make here.

        1. Student

          I think there are two very different responses to your letter for a good reason. In some jobs, your expectations of your employee would be very reasonable, and in others they’d be naive and self-defeating.

          Some jobs tend to attract employees who are self-directed in this aspect of life. Other jobs attract people who need a lot of, well, baby-sitting from their manager; maybe they’re inexperienced, immature, or lack time-management skills for a variety of reasons. I’ve worked in both environments.

          In some environments, managers have to remind people of their responsibilities early and often in order to make sure things get done. Is that how this employee normally operates, with you providing very frequent reminders, short task turn-around times, and constant check-ins? Or can you normally give him an assignment with a long timetable and expect it to get completed? Can you give him a task, go away for a week (a month?), and expect reasonable progress to be made when you get back?

          1. use limited to Culture genofixed individuals only

            Also, in some environments things change so rapidly that one is told “we’re headed for NYC on the 28th”, but then if you ask about it next week, the answer comes back “oh, that got canceled,”

            Also, it is not a matter of needing “babysitting” – it is often a matter of having a number of important tasks and prioritizing them.

        2. use limited to Culture genofixed individuals only

          Well, it might help in the future, especially if you have a new hire, to prepare for these kinds of situations.

          I’m still curious: this conference was mentioned in an email a month ago? Was it ever mentioned again? Was it discussed in person or on the telephone? Was the email all like “IMPORTANT: MARK YOUR CALENDAR” etc, with links to the conference website? ‘Cause this guy is a new hire, he’s probably under stress to learn a lot of new stuff fast. Was this conference #3 in a list of 10 items?

          1. Colette

            I don’t think any of that matters. It was mentioned during hiring, and via emal. At a minimum, that should have been enough for the employee to confirm when it was before booking tickets.

            I agree the OP should have confirmed the conference was still on the employees radar when she got the time-off request, not because she should have to manage the employee’s time but because it’s what would have been most likely to get her the outcome she wants (employee at the conference).

            1. snuck

              And one assumes given that this was within a month of employee getting hired AND the employee asked about weekend work which precipitated the email about the Saturday event being sent… that we’re talking only a few weeks at most between notice and event… so when did the employee book those tickets and did he do it intentionally over that weekend.

              Why ask if there’s weekend shifts and then book for the same one? Why ask and if you find you’ve got a clash not bring it up? So do we assume he booked afterwards, after asking about weekend work, within a couple of weeks of said conversation, knowing he’d book over the Saturday.

              If those questions are answered in the affirmative then I’d realllllly be looking to go back to the candidate pool.

              1. Spooky

                This hits on my biggest question, too – why was the employee requesting time off so soon? I admit that my experience is extremely limited, but isn’t it pretty unusual to have time off in the first three months? I think it may be time to write off this month as a loss and start looking for a more reliable employee.

                1. Honeybee

                  It depends on the job and the manager, I think. Some managers are flexible about this early on, especially if the employee has to take care of business related to moving or had pre-arranged appointments. You can’t avoid if you got hired two weeks before your dental cleaning or root canal!

                2. snuck

                  I would assume that the employee knows his calendar for the next month or two… he’d have known he did or did not have plans for that Saturday when he took the job, when he asked about Saturday work days etc…

                  If he found out he had to work Saturday and already had plans for that day he should have raised it at the time he found out…. if this was during negotiations for the job offer then it’s still a good time to say “Look, I’ve got something on that date, can we negotiate that one?”

                  I wonder if the employee had A Really Big Deal with girlfriend so doesn’t want to blow her off (whether it’s a big deal to us is irrelevant … it’s clearly a Big Deal to the employee) … and felt disempowered in the job offer cycle so didn’t mention it and is trying to bluff his way through now.

                  I would be watching him *very* closely, and if this was a well explained expectation at offer stage I’d hold him to it.

              2. Honeybee

                snuck, I started to wonder the same things. It’s sounding sort of funny to me that the ONE Saturday that the employee is asked to work – and the email was only sent a few weeks ago – is the weekend he happens to jet off. It could just be a coincidence, but…

            2. Elizabeth West

              It was mentioned during hiring, and via emal. At a minimum, that should have been enough for the employee to confirm when it was before booking tickets.

              Gah, exactly. I have NEVER booked tickets without checking the calendar, because I cannot afford to take the hit of changing them or losing the trip entirely. And since other people have to do my work while I’m gone, I check with them as well.

              Whether the conflict was a brain fart and the employee forgot to check before booking, or whether he did it deliberately because he didn’t want to go to the conference, it’s not okay for him to push back like this.

              1. Kairi

                So true! I work at the front desk, so it’s CRITICAL that I have coverage before taking time off. I also triple check before buying something as expensive as plane tickets to make sure all my bases are covered.

          2. INFJ

            While I agree with Alison that the employee should have been able to remember and honor this date, your comment about whether or not it was obvious in the email made me think of something.

            My company recently reached a huge milestone and organized a celebration party. Weeks after announcing the party, they also announced in a company-wide email that everyone would have the following day off (e.g., party Wed night and Thurs day off). The problem is, the day off announcement was in an email about something else and buried at the bottom and to this day (this email went out a month ago) I still hear employees in the hallway saying with complete surprise: “Oh, we have that day off?”

          3. INFJ

            While I generally feel as though the employee should be able to read emails completely and thoroughly and mark the date, I see your point. I have my own story in support.

            My company recently reached an important milestone and organized a large celebration party. A month after announcing the party, a company-wide email was sent out also announcing that the company would be closed the day after (e.g., Wed night party, everyone has Thurs day off). However, this second announcement was buried in an email about the important milestone itself, and located in the middle of a paragraph towards the bottom. To this day (the day-off announcement happened a month ago), I still hear people in the hallway saying, in a surprised tone, “Oh, we have that day off?”

            Much like a new employee would be inundated with dozens of emails with information, my company had been sending out a lot of emails about this big success and I can understand how even something as major as a day off can be overlooked.

            I’m most surprised that the employee in this case (assuming he really honestly overlooked the original email) didn’t hear about the conference subsequently from word of mouth (unless he’s the only one going). Usually there’s some buzz or discussion going around in the office about such a big event.

            1. Elsajeni

              Yes, that’s what surprises me — that he wouldn’t have had some kind of natural reminders as people talked about the upcoming event, prepared whatever needs to be prepared, sent around itineraries, etc. Which, you know… maybe it is just a weird situation where there was no need to talk about or prepare for this upcoming event beyond knowing the date! But it seems more likely to me that there was some chatter, and he did have opportunities beyond that one email to remember “Oh right, that’s coming up, I’d better double-check the date and make sure it’s on my calendar,” and he didn’t.

        3. UKAnon

          I think that what some of us are trying to suggest is that one email – during the hiring process? – some time from the event may not be enough for him to block this into his schedule. As I said, I don’t think either party is at ‘fault’, although he could now be handling it better, but going forwards you might like to work with him on what sort of reminders or systems work best for him.

          1. OP #1

            Thanks to all for your comments, I appreciate the constructive input.

            I (somewhat arbitrarily) picked this comment to clarify the Matter Of The Email. Here’s what happened.

            It was part of the on-boarding process. We’d offered him the job and he’d accepted. He proactively asked if there were any weekends he’d be required to work – a very reasonable thing to do. I informed him of this one.

            And – explaining here, not defending myself – I assumed that if he cared enough about this question to bring it up himself, that he’d take the answer seriously and make a note of it.

            The fault question is an interesting philosophical debate, and I’m glad people seem to be enjoying it. But for me, the bigger issue right now is that he’s not apparently willing to take responsibility for a mistake he made. The situation is still developing; I’ve looped in the person who does have disciplinary power and I’ll keep you guys posted.

            1. NJ Anon

              The fact that he specifically asked is huge! He definitely knew about it and didn’t “forget.” I think, at least for me, would be just how crucial is it for him to attend? If you want to keep him you could give him a very serious warning that if it happens again, he goes. But if it is seriously crucial then perhaps he needs to be let go.

            2. Renee

              I don’t get the issue. If I get hired into a job where I know I have to work a specific weekend, even if I didn’t block out the specific weekend, I would check before I made personal plans over any weekend in that month. “Hey, girlfriend. I’d love to see you that weekend, but let me make sure it’s not the weekend I have to work first.” It seems really unreasonable to me to book the weekend without confirming it’s not THAT weekend. He just sounds unreliable to me. Maybe even insubordinate. I feel like letting this go without discipline is really going to undermine your authority.

              1. Renee

                Now I am wondering if he had already planned it and that triggered the question about working weekends. He didn’t bring it up because he wanted the job and figured he would play dumb or blow it off when the time came.

              2. Zillah

                “Hey, girlfriend. I’d love to see you that weekend, but let me make sure it’s not the weekend I have to work first.”

                This is a really good point. If I were in this position, I might not remember the exact day, but I sure as hell would remember that there’s a weekend coming up where I have to work and make sure I wasn’t planning something around it. Even so, I can understand his mistake – but the way he’s handling it is beyond bad, and I agree that this requires some significant discipline if not outright firing.

              3. catsAreCool

                “If I get hired into a job where I know I have to work a specific weekend, even if I didn’t block out the specific weekend, I would check before I made personal plans over any weekend in that month.” This!

            3. Anonathon

              Yeah, I’m totally with the OP here.

              Fun story: in my current job, there is one major event in the summer that everyone is required to attend unless you’re literally stranded on a desert island at the time. But no one told me when I was hired that this was a Huge Deal (and it wouldn’t be obvious to a newcomer), so I made plans for that weekend … But I still cancelled them when I learned this was an issue. It was annoying, but I should have asked first. So it goes sometimes!

        4. Lionness

          I also manage people, OP and I agree – if you made it clear it was a required work day he is really responsible for having taken note of that. Could you have reminded him? Sure. Should you have had to do so? Absolutely not.

          And I fundamentally disagree with the idea that you are faulted because you didn’t remind him when he asked for a different day off. Had he mentioned a trip when asking, sure, that’d be different. But that doesn’t appear to be the case here.

          1. Heather

            Yep. People want to be treated like adults at work? They need to act like adults.

            Employee is 100% in the wrong, especially based on the update.

            1. Lily in NYC

              This! People complain about being micromanaged and then complain when they aren’t reminded about things that a decent employee shouldn’t have to be reminded about? Ugh.

          2. AVP

            Totally agree! I manage people and events and while there are some employees that I’ve been stuck with who have needed these kind of reminders and babysitting, always default to treating people like adults until proven otherwise.

            What is the next step here? I think, if one more “this is where we’re at” conversation with the employee doesn’t change anything, OP needs to have a conversation with either her manager or the employees manager-on-paper and mutually figure out where this leaves them.

        5. Apollo Warbucks

          I’m not sure its fair to blame the employee 100% for this mix up.

          I just can’t imagine any manager I’ve had not offering a reminder about such an important conference if one of the team asked for the day before off.

          Yes the employee is an adult but if the event is that important why not be extra sure they understand their obligation to attend and why wasn’t it scheduled as a meeting in his calendar rather that just a date emailed to him?

          The employee made a mistake by not adding the event to their calendar themselves and the update you gave where you said he told you his personal life will always come first makes me think he’s really immature and I wonder how his attitude is the reset of the time because its not something I can see a good employee doing.

          It sounds to me like his responce to the mix up is actually worse than the mix up and I think Alison’s advice about the conversation that’s needed is very good.

          1. Jen S. 2.0

            Agree with this. I felt the blame was 80% employee, 20% manager until the update. Manager didn’t necessarily **need** to remind, but it would have helped simplify things and make the world go ’round. While Manager should be on top of things, and while it wouldn’t have hurt to ensure that Employee would be working on Saturday as expected, requesting Friday off did not automatically flag that Employee wasn’t available on Saturday.

            All of that said … it’s now very possible that Employee remembered just fine, and still decided that getting ducked was more important than work.

            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

              That was my take. It fees like the employee chose to go the “forgiveness rather than permission” route and it backfired.

              1. Koko

                Yeah, after hearing the update, this honestly looks a lot like insubordination to me. I would definitely take a serious discipline step (per whatever the company policy is) and employee would be on “probation” (whether formal or informal) for a long time after this maneuver. When an employee simply decides not to comply with a mandatory job requirement because they would rather do something else, I would not cut them any slack on anything or go out of my way to accommodate them at all until they had something like 3-6 months of impeccable behavior to atone for this.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

            I agree that, if this happened to me, I’d be bopping my head that I hadn’t followed my normal process. My normal process would have been to send an outlook myself so that it was on his calendar. I think that OP should have, in all ideal worlds, done one extra step to make sure that a new employee didn’t lose the info on this important date in the process of being on boarded.

            THAT said, come on. This employee is way out of line. I agree completely that his response to this is a big tell about how fit he is for this particular job.

            Managing someone should be a cooperative and not adversarial process. You are working together to get a job done.

            1. neverjaunty

              Yes, exactly this. Even assuming there was a miscommunication, he employee has made it perfectly clear that the issue isn’t that he got stuck with an unavoidable conflict, the issue is he is refusing a mandatory work assignment because he would rather be on a date.

        6. Blurgle

          I am however wondering if this is something other than a long weekend, something that he feels uncomfortable talking about in detail to someone he barely knows. Something like the anniversary of a child’s death, or a brother in prison where he has to make an appointment weeks in advance and will lose out if he misses it.

          I mean, 99% chance it’s just a long weekend and even if it isn’t he should have handled it better…but I’m still wondering.

          1. Colette

            I don’t really see that that matters – if it were something like that, the time to bring it up would have been the first time the conference was mentioned, not after booking travel.

          2. Kelly L.

            Then you’d think he’d say “family emergency” or similar, which would get him more leeway with a lot of bosses.

          3. Creag an Tuire

            But why would he make up an explanation almost certain to get him less sympathy from a manager?

            I think this is exactly what it looks like, except he’s not stressing over the possible lost money, he’s upset because the girl in question already arranged *her* schedule and if he messes this up he’s lost his chance at prospective sexytimes, perhaps permanently. (Hey, I was young, stupid and horny once too.)

        7. Juli G.

          OP1, curious about two things. Is this an employee newer to the working world and what type of program is it that you run? Is it a specialized or competitive program?

        8. snuck

          OP #1 I’m going to run some thoughts out here…

          I assume whatever is happening on the Saturday is a Pretty Big Deal because otherwise why have them work it… If that’s the case I assume there’s been some buzz or mention of it in the preceding weeks beyond your email. So your assumption that this message had been received and taken into consideration isn’t a wild one.

          If it’s not a Big Deal, but something like an occasional shift cover (maybe someone else has leave and he had to cover that day) can you make alternate arrangements?

          If the employee had told you he wanted that Saturday off as part of his pre employment negotiation what would you have done? If you wouldn’t have hired him then tell him this, explain it’s mandatory. If you would/could have made other plans then can you still do that?

          Another issue is the employee’s attitude. I’d address that separately – I wouldn’t let that attitude wash with me, but I might also not get into a standoff win/lose with him about it (unless I was prepared to let him go over it) … I’d say … “Well now what, I don’t have coverage for you on that day because that’s when we needed you, and you are saying your intention is to not come to work. I can put this down as a no-call, no show and fire you over it, I can ask Bob in Y dept if he can cover you but you’ll have to do his next Saturday in return, or I can hook you up with a laptop and you can be on call, but you must answer EVERY CALL and do it properly or we’re talking disciplinary action. Is there another option I haven’t thought of?” and see what comes up?

          If it’s something like a software release then yeah. He is there, or he is terminated. And I’d make that clear.

        9. jhhj

          I do think you made a mistake — which you acknowledge — but it is definitely not your fault. And I’m not sure it could have been avoided even had you not made the mistake, because I can imagine when he asked for Friday off and you said “yes, but don’t forget you have [thing] on Saturday”, he would have said he already had some kind of non-refundable tickets, sorry.

        10. Ad Astra

          Is this employee somewhat new to the workforce? To me, his behavior sounds like a misguided attempt to set limits and ensure work/life balance. He’s read articles (or something) about the importance of putting your foot down when the boss makes unreasonable demands, and for some reason he’s decided this is his hill to die on.

          On the whole, I think we’re focusing too much on assigning blame and not enough on finding a potential solution.

          1. fposte

            I think you’re right, but I think that’s somewhat because there’s no good solution. He can’t go on the trip and still be a valued employee.

          2. OP #1

            Thanks for the input – I don’t really want to feed the fault conversation because I don’t think it’s helpful, but he’s not very new to the workforce. He’s been out of college at least five years, and this is at least his third job.

        11. puddin

          He bought the ticket on purpose for this Saturday. I am convinced of it. It is no co-incidence that he booked travel on the one Saturday he is needed. If it was truly a mis-step or he forgot, there would have been apologies all over the place. Instead, he doubles down and challenges you to mandate his attendance or provide some sort of ultimatum.

          For him its a win-win. Either he suffers no consequences, or at the very least keeps his job for now, gets to avoid working on a Saturday, and see his GF. Or he gets fired, possibly just ‘severely’ written up and gets to complain about how his boss/company does not value employees and expects him to be a slave ‘even when I already bought the tickets’.

          Its almost a shame he is a good employee. If he weren’t I am sure that would make the next step more clear. With the info I have here I really lean towards firing despite his regular performance.

          Good luck – let us know how it turns out!

          1. Elizabeth West

            I feel the same, after reading the OP’s update that he asked about the weekend work during the onboarding process. I think he didn’t want to have to go and was hoping the OP would let him out of it.

        12. That Marketing Chick

          You shouldn’t need to check in. He’s a big boy, and already had your date requirement in writing.

      4. CMT

        Okay, Vicki, are you the employee in this situation trying to justify missing a mandatory event? Because you’re being a tad unreasonable here.

      5. Sarahnova

        I really disagree.

        OP #1 confirmed in writing the date he needed to be at work. If I were the employee in this situation, I’d consider it 100% my responsibility to put the dang date in my calendar. If I forgot and booked travel plans, too bad for me, I cancel my plans and eat the loss. Its also my responsibility to manage my holiday and not my manager’s to say ‘hey you requested the Friday off but you do remember the conference Saturday right?’

        I’m fine with the dude saying ‘er I made plans can I have the day off anyway’. But if he was told ‘no’ and came back with this ‘my personal life is important I’m going anyway’ shiz, then wow. I would tell him that if he does not attend that day, I would consider it an unauthorised absence and initiate disciplinary proceedings. I’m always in favour of flexibility, but this is not the time.

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          The OP should have reminded the employee about the conference, this is a new employee who doesn’t normally work weekends if the conference is that critical then it should have got a mention when the the time off was requested,

          The OP’s response up thread where they say “but I didn’t [remind the employee]. Lesson learned.” is far to caviller for my liking, and they should take a little responsibility for the mistake. The more I think about it I wonder how much of an experienced people manager the OP is.

          That said the employee is handling the situation badly and the bad attitude is a bigger problem than the mix up.

          Also I would say it is never 100% the employees responsibility to manage holiday otherwise there would be no need to involve the boss and seek approval for time off.

          1. Myrin

            I don’t know if by “people manager” you simply mean a manager or a broader term of managing relations with other people in the worforce, but if it’s the first case, the OP’s letter starts with “I’m in my first management position, supervising exactly one employee”. That doesn’t necessarily mean that this employee is the very first she supervises but there certainly couldn’t have been many before him.

            And I don’t know if you meant “cavalier” instead of “caviller” (which my dictionary – I’m not a native English speaker – tells me is indeed a word but means someone who whines and nags a lot?) but I don’t really see how either applies to the OP’s response. There’s really nothing more she can say about the incident by now since it’s in the past. Her reaction of “lesson learned” is really as much of an admission of failed responsibility as one can expect. (Which really isn’t much in the first place, if you ask me. Yes, it would have been a good idea to add just one sentence of “But you will be able to attend Major Work Event on the Saturday just after that, right?”, especially since she actually already thought that while talking about the request, but what good does lamenting her failure to do so do now? There’s really nothing more to say than “lesson learned” in this situation, especially as there do indeed seem to be bigger problems going on with this employee, if the update is any indication.)

            1. Apollo Warbucks

              I meant cavalier as in showing a lack of proper concern; offhand, indifferent, casual, dismissive, uninterested, unconcerned. (I absolutely wasn’t saying the OP was whining or nagging)

              I really disagree with you that the OP has shown as much of an admission of failed responsibility as one can expect. The OP made a misstep in not clarifying the with the OP that they would be available on Saturday if that is because they are a new manager it’s clear to me that they just weren’t thinking about their job, which is to manage people and make employees aware of what they are expected to do, true of any employee but even more so for a new employee.

              The employee is now facing being out of pocket for the plane ticket which could be viewed as paying a penalty for their managers learning experience.

              1. fposte

                I think this is over parsing the OP’s response. It doesn’t matter if she sounds cavalier (and I don’t think she does, but YMMV on that). The employee was required to make a commitment to this date when he was hired. It’s his obligation to make that happen whether he gets reminded or not. It was all of a month, after all–if he can’t keep that in mind that long that’s a bad sign for his organization.

                If you run a stop sign, it’s your fault if you get hit, even if the other car didn’t have its turn signal on.

              2. LBK

                Seriously? Is this not exactly what Alison asked us not to do last week – grill the OP over something as simple as word choice? The OP said she learned her lesson, can we not beat her down until she makes a completely unnecessary obsequious apology to people who have no stake in this matter?

                I’m not willing to give the OP responsibility in this situation. I’m willing to say that maybe she could’ve prevented the situation, but I still don’t think that makes it her fault any more than not swerving out of the way of a bad driver makes a car accident your fault. Assuming she’s employing an adult, it’s up to that adult to manage his schedule. Period.

                1. Apollo Warbucks

                  I’m not grilling the OP over word choice I’m drawing a conclusion about their attitude to the situation based on what they wrote, and I have not tried to beat the OP down or make them offer an apology I’m giving my opinion on how I view what happened.

                2. LBK

                  You are, though, because “lesson learned” is an admission of fault, but apparently not a good enough one for you? You can give your view on what happened without questioning the OP’s skills as a manager or pushing her to admit guilt in a certain way. She said she’ll do it differently next time – is that not the only thing that really matters?

                3. LBK

                  Ultimately I guess my question is why it matters if it’s 0% or 20% or 50% the OP’s fault – the point is, this guy has not only asked to be excused from a mandatory conference but has now dug his heels in and flat out said he knows and he’s not going. Even if you want to assign some portion of the blame to the OP for the original issue, how does that impact your course of action now? Are you saying the OP wouldn’t be justified in disciplining him?

                4. Apollo Warbucks

                  Yes it’s an admission of fault but the OP doesn’t say anywhere they plan on addressing their fault with the employee, part of making a mistake is learning from it the other part is some form of apology to the person wronged (I could be mistaken but I don’t think the OP will apologies to the employee)

                  I completely agree that the employee is being unreasonable now and their attitude is unreasonable, but I think the OPs part in the mistake is important because of the employees perception of what happened and how fairly they feel they have been treated.

                  but anyway my comments seems to have drifted a little from the original point of the letter so I’ll say no more as not to distract from the conversation.

                5. LBK

                  But I don’t think the OP really even owes him an apology, especially considering the follow up. If she had explicitly told him it was fine to be away on Saturday and rescinded it, sure. She didn’t. At most, she maybe implied it, but again there’s so many avenues for miscommunication here and I really think it’s up to the employee to specify their plans if they conflict with work – how many times here have we had people feel affronted by their manager asking questions about their PTO?

                  I guess we have a fundamental disagreement about whose responsibility it is to ensure that PTO doesn’t conflict with your work schedule, and in that case I agree it’s not worth further discussing since we’re not going to convince each other.

                6. OP #1

                  For the record, I do take a share of responsibility, and this isn’t something I mentioned in either letter so I understand if I look a bit careless. My initial plan was to ask him to attend and eat the costs of the trip, but offer him an extra day off. But, as we now know, the conversation didn’t get that far, and at this time I’m more concerned by his refusal to take any responsibility at all.

                  Yes, I’m new at this, everyone has learning experiences, &c &c

                7. LBK

                  I would agree with your assessment that the insubordination is really the main problem now and trumps any debate over whose fault the initial incident was – especially since it doesn’t sound like he even tried to make that his argument but rather jumped straight to “well I’m going anyway because it’s more important than work”. He doesn’t seem to care whose fault it was so I don’t think it’s worth dwelling on that aspect either, although I do think it was kind of you to consider trying to offer some recompense – I don’t know that that would’ve occurred to me when I was a new manager.

              3. LBK

                Also – he’s paying out of pocket for *his* learning experience, which is that he should remember his work commitments and double check before he makes plans (which I wouldn’t say this qualifies as since he didn’t tell the OP ahead of time that he was planning to be gone on Saturday, only on Friday which wouldn’t have been a conflict).

                1. Apollo Warbucks

                  Not everyone at work will talk about their plans over the weekend with their boss, so it quite reasonably might not have been mentioned. Managers get paid to manage their staff, that includes making sure the one person you are responsible for know their schedule, especially if the event is that critical.

                2. LBK

                  And the employee is also paid to manage his schedule and attend critical events. So I don’t see what that has to do with anything.

                3. Apollo Warbucks

                  The point I was making is managers have more authority and responsibility so are normally held to a higher standard.

                4. fposte

                  @Apollo–If it was a year, I could see your point, but it was four whole weeks. My dentist doesn’t even do reminders for that interval.

                  Because this is a hard thing for the employee, people really want this to be the boss’s fault, but if you’re told when you’re hired that you have to be at this mandatory Saturday event four weeks from now, it doesn’t matter if you got a reminder or if the boss emailed you rather than using your calendar (seriously, if you can’t read your boss’s emails you’re going to be in deep trouble just for that). My staff would be hugely insulted if I reminded them three weeks before our biggest event of the year that they need to be there–what the heck do I think they’ve been preparing for all this time?

                5. Apollo Warbucks

                  @fposte Yes it’s only 4 weeks, the reason I’m saying a reminder would have been good is only because of the request for a day off, that would suggest to me the employee might have forgotten about the conference and would be worth checking

                6. LBK

                  But again, I can argue that the OP didn’t think it was worth a reminder because surely there’s no way the employee could’ve just decided that he wasn’t going to attend a mandatory event he’d just been informed about a month ago. It’s one of those things where it doesn’t even occur to you to prevent it because there’s no rational way it would happen – and based on the follow up, that seems reasonable since he didn’t even say he forgot. He just straight up said he doesn’t care and he’s going anyway. That also leads me to believe that even if the OP had mentioned it ahead of time, the outcome was going to be the same, because clearly this guy’s plan was to stick to his guns no matter what.

                7. Loquelic Iteritas

                  How much email did the new hire get that first day? How much time did they have to read it and process it, along with how much other stuff that was thrown at them on their first day? How much did the OP make the Saturday requirement ‘stand out’ so that it was obviously important? Why did the OP not send the Saturday as a meeting notice, so that the new employee could have easily added it to their calendar?

                  And if it was that important, why didn’t OP take 30 seconds to call or stop by the person’s desk during the first few days and ask how their doing, and ask if they’re ready for the Big Saturday that’s coming? If they’d done that, then maybe none of this would even be an issue.

          2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

            I work for a very experienced manager who definitely sends me mandatory appointments.

            I can’t think of a time she has followed up to make sure I still have it on my calendar.

            And the only time she’s mentioned vacation requests around a working weekend is if I haven’t requested a day off.

          3. Artemesia

            The fact that this guy ASKED the OP if there were any blackout dates removes this as a reasonable argument. He didn’t just provide the date buried in an Email; the employee ASKED and was told. No excuses.

              1. Elizabeth West

                Absolutely. He wasn’t just told; he make a point of asking them.

                Given that the time between his asking and the date is FOUR WEEKS, he probably already had made those plans. Now he’s pushing back because he’s hoping that since the ticket was already booked, that the OP will let him off.

      6. KT

        I don’t understand this logic, at all. Requesting a day off is not an indication that I plan to not keep a commitment. Like I said above, particularly for anyone who works events/conferences, taking the day off before an event is pretty standard to rest up for the main event.

            1. Apollo Warbucks

              True, and if the OP thought that maybe they could have said something like “Are you resting up for the big conference on Saturday”

          1. Heather

            Not sure what culture allows people just not go to a work event they’ve already agreed to go to, just because they would rather do something else.

            1. Apollo Warbucks

              I was referring to KT saying

              “taking the day off before an event is pretty standard to rest up for the main event.”

              1. Heather

                OK…that still doesn’t change the fact that he is responsible for noting work events on his calendar. It’s not middle school where the teacher reminds the class that the term paper is due next Friday. This is the adult world of work.

            2. OP #1

              This is exactly my understanding of what’s happening. He forgot; he made another plan while he forgot; he seems to think that the fact that he forgot and made another plan makes the initial event optional. It doesn’t. We may decide to have mercy and let him take his trip, but that’s our call, not his.

              1. DMented Kitty

                Something tells me that even if you offer to pay for his ticket cancellation, he would still go ahead and take the trip anyway… :/

          2. Becky

            Absolutely culture-specific. At my workplace we occasionally have weekend events, and taking a day off before the event is not particularly common or expected. At manager’s discretion we often get a shorter day on the Monday after the weekend event, but that’s really it.

      7. Loose Seal

        I just don’t understand why people keep saying that. In my last job, the state conference was always one Saturday in April. It was a very long day where, even though we did not have to work it, we had to be present and attend presentations. Plus, there was a two-hour drive both before and after the conference. It was a tiring day. If I could get the Friday before off, I certainly would have, purposefully to rest up before the conference just like the OP assumed her employee was doing (in my case, I sometimes managed to get the day before off).

        Next time this comes up, I’m sure the OP will clarify with their employee but I don’t see why everyone thinks it’s necessary to rake her across the coals.

        1. Shan

          I’m late to this thread but I agree completely. As you said, there’s nothing weird about taking a day off around a big event or unusual workday, especially if it’s on a Saturday. At my last job, my coworkers and I rotated shifts so I worked Saturdays about once a month. I often took off the Friday before so I could make up for the weekend time I was losing. When putting in the request my boss never said, “But remember, you have work Saturday!” The assumption was that I knew because it was on the schedule, and it was on ME if I forgot.

    2. Amber

      “While I certainly agree with the overall sentiment that work isn’t more important than one’s personal life, this is not his decision to make.”

      Actually it IS his decision to make. He is making the choice to say that this particular day that he had plans are very important to him, more important than whatever repercussions results from it. Sometimes life is just more important than work.

      If otherwise he’s a good employee and you want to keep him then personally if I was his manager I’d sit down with him and explain that we were both at fault for this misunderstanding. That not only did I make the mistake of not calling more attention to that date, but that also that you did tell him once and he should have written it down. Tell him what will happen due to missing the event. And if he keeps his job then going forward what you expect from him. Then drop it.

      1. Cambridge Comma

        Well, he’s making the choice to say that after he was told that this day would be a required work day, he either intentionally made other plans or unintentionally forgot…at least in the workplace cultures I’m used to, that would be a big problem (although saying that you couldn’t work that day within say 24 hours of being asked to would be no big deal).

      2. Artemesia

        This guy should be fired. The OP needs to find out what power he has to inflict discipline whether it is a warning that leads to a firing next time or a firing for refusal to do the job. Obviously he should say no more until he talks with his own boss and the person with hiring and firing authority but I’d be spinning it as a guy who was told how important this is, chose to plan a weekend out of town and is refusing to do what he was hired for which is accurate.

      3. John

        If he just legit forgot, he would be apologizing to his manager and trying to see if there is a solution that works for both sides. Instead, he issued an ultimatum and made it clear that his job takes a back seat to his personal life. If OP caves, this renegade employee will be setting the rules.

        And, no, in no adult world is it the manager’s responsibility to remind employees of their commitments. Where does that end???

        1. Heather

          So well said.

          I’m definitely not someone who tends to come down on the side of the employer – I usually bend over backwards to give employees the benefit of the doubt when reading letters like this. But this is just crazy. I’m really shocked that there’s any debate about it at all.

          1. Academic Librarian

            Okay- OP number one- read through everything. Without placing blame- employees are responsible for their own schedule. The employee knew he has to work “a Saturday” he could have checked in with you if he couldn’t remember or didn’t note which one. I would never assume a person who wants Friday off is going away for the weekend. Boundaries. None of my business.

            If this employee chooses “his personal life” over the important event that he was scheduled for perhaps this is not the job for him and the manager has dodged a bullet if he is in his probationary period. There are other people who may want this position and remember when they are scheduled to work.

            Tuition reimbursement- This shouldn’t come as a surprise that if an employer invests in education that they receive something back. My old employer paid half of my grad education. I was committed to them two years following graduation or they get the entire amount back. I had a friend who left early and had to pay it back. I don’t really have any sympathy for OP#3

        2. catsAreCool

          Maybe the employee needs a week or two suspension without pay. Might remind him that his work life pays for his personal life.

          In general, personal life is important to me, too, but this particular case seems a bit much.

      4. LBK

        It is his decision to make, but I don’t think he realizes that the choice is literally between his personal life and his job, because I’d fire him for refusing to back down from not attending a mandatory work event.

        1. TootsNYC

          Yeah, actually, with his blanket statement, I might do that as well.

          “I respect your choice, then; it’s been nice working with you for only 4 weeks. Please see HR for your exit paperwork.”

          I do think the OP goofed a little bit, and I’m really, really curious about what sorts of things might have been discussed, mentioned, etc., that would be natural reminders that this Saturday is coming up.

          But I’d be more on his side if he were saying, “Oh, man I forgot! I’m so sorry–I thought I’d hear more about the work plans, and was going by those indicators. Is there anything we can do? It’s a lot of money to reschedule.”
          Not saying he was right, but if I were the manager, I’d be more apologetic and try to figure something out because I’d feel it was a bit my goof for not keeping this higher on all ours radar screen.

      5. neverjaunty

        If sometimes life is more important than work, then why wouldn’t it be OK for the employee to blow off any mandatory work assignment if he had something else to do in his personal life that he would prefer to be doing?

        This isn’t a situation where OP and the employee are trying to negotiate a mixup. The employee forgot about a mandatory assignment and is now refusing to do it because he made plans for a date. If OP lets this slide, she’s essentially telling him that the employee is free to pick his fun times over work whenever he likes as long as he can say he forgot and made plans.

        1. Hellanon

          My students try this one occasionally: “I didn’t come to class because I studied late & I was sleeping!”

          Uh-huh. So you made a decision to turn your work in late, miss the in-class assignment and accept those penalties. I’m not seeing the problem here?

          … yeah. Decisions, consequences. Why is this equation so complicated?

          1. Oryx

            Yes, I have friends who are college instructors and often their students make those types of decisions either at the very beginning of the semester or very end. Like, planning a vacation or a wedding during the first or last week and wanting extensions or wanting to miss the entire first week or two and can the prof just email the assignments to them to do on their honeymoon? Not really how this works, kids.

            1. Academic Librarian

              Oh right- I had a graduate student ask me for my lecture notes because she had planned a trip to the Bahamas with her family while we were in session. cry me a river.

            2. TootsNYC

              I had to ask about early finals for a cancer checkup two states away–and boy was I nervous about that. My profs were pretty good about it, fortunately.

      6. LCL

        This, exactly. Amber is right. Schedules are hard. If you are asking someone to work other than their usually scheduled time, you should be checking and confirming and putting something in writing. And when schedule mistakes happen, talk it over with the person, figure out how to avoid this next time, then say no more about it.
        Example-because of my workload, I have skipped the confirmation step for filling OT shifts the last 4 weeks. It’s working great, except for the day that one person decided he didn’t want to work the OT he agreed to and gave his shift to his buddy, skipping our callout process which could cause open warfare between some people. I talked to them both, told them don’t do it and explained why, and the event is now over. I hope.

    3. Myrin

      I agree with all of this, especially the last paragraph. In her letter, the OP talks about this employee in a very positive manner – from how she described him and the whole situation, I wouldn’t have expected his reaction to be like we see in this update at all! I’m very curious about how this is going to play out.

    4. W.

      Wow. Is he married and she lives in another state and if he doesn’t see her then she’ll divorce him? Otherwise plans can be rearranged…
      Does he get a day off in lieu for this Saturday or is he being paid for it? You could offer an in lieu date for the possible misunderstanding (?) which would give him four days with his girl. You might want to reiterate your expectations/management style (if you decide to keep him on) during your next conversation. If this is your usual process – to not follow up on dates – then you can inform him from now on you expect him to be in top of his schedule when you inform him of important dates – perhaps you will try and check-in, but he shouldn’t expect that. Or clarify how the two of you will proceed with similar situations.

      1. Laurel Gray

        Any wife with that kind of ultimatum toward her spouse regarding a work obligation like this for a new-ish job deserves her divorce papers served to her as an origami bouquet of roses.

      2. OP #1

        He would have gotten a comp day (any day off the following week). I was also going to offer him an extra day off to acknowledge my share of fault in the misunderstanding, before The Ultimatum.

      1. AndersonDarling

        My thought exactly! If the employee is abandoning his commitments to go on a date, then something big is going on in his life. (I hope he isn’t being catfished.) This may not be the same employee that was hired- he has changed and his priorities have shifted.
        The employee knows what he is doing. He can be fired or not, either way he goes on his date.

    5. Sunshine Brite

      Wow, figure out next steps. He’s doubling down by being arrogant and attitudes like that only grow worse with time. If his personal life is so important then he can have more time to devote to that if you have the power to fire him. It should be easier to get rid of someone like that 1 month in rather than any further.

    6. Erin

      Well, he’s clearly an ass who’s pushing the limit with you to see how far he can go. This changes everything. No more benefit of the doubt – do what you have to do, OP.

    7. 42

      I’m completely with Alison here.

      When I start a new job – A NEW JOB – I listen to *everything* in order to, well, not screw up. Even if it was mentioned in the most passing of comments, THAT THERE WAS A MANDATORY SATURDAY THAT I’D HAVE TO WORK, it would be clanging in my brain going forward as An Important Day.

      Fully his error, not the OP’s. I feel amazed that this is even being debated.

    8. Katie the Fed

      Whoa – just saw this. I would terminate his employment.

      1) he can’t remember a basic date
      2) His personal life is ALWAYS more important. No. Nope. NOOOOOPE. Sometime it is. Sometimes work is. Always you have to get the bills paid.
      3) He sounds like an ass who doesn’t respect your authority or the demands of the job.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler

        “Always you have to get the bills paid.”

        This times 1,000,000.

        This guy has chosen the wrong hill to die on because not only should he be fired, if called for a reference, it would be very easy to say, “Well, we had to let him go because he told us his personal life was always more important than his work life and refused to attend a mandatory conference scheduled at least a month in advance”

      2. Dan

        The issue is that the OP doesn’t have the authority to terminate him.

        I work in the same kind of environment — my “boss” doesn’t have hire/fire authority, and the one that does I don’t deal with that much.

        What I’ve learned (not the hard way, BTW) is it’s kind of a dick move to “take advantage” of someone who can’t fire you. And if I were the person with firing authority, I’d be thinking about that long and hard, because the person OP describes is Not. A. Team. Player. And that’s going to hold the team back in the long run.

        1. Katie the Fed

          oooh yeah. It’s a responsibility-without-authority situation. Those are the worst. Employees are like the t-rex in Jurassic Park – they KNOW when the power is out and will rip that fence right now and eat you alive.

    9. boop (prev mel)

      Oh wow.

      I mean, of course nobody is a slave and we should have control over how much of our time we sell to another person, but this was a condition of employment. Just one day.

      I feel similarily about a weekend I need off, which I originally negotiated before a new arrangement. But even then, if my employer doesn’t fulfill their end of the agreement, and I feel the need to then demand this time off, I would be prepared to pack up and leave permanently or be fired over it… not be bold enough to return the following week and carry on as usual :O

    10. OP #1

      Responding to this thread because it is the epicenter of the comments …

      First of all, I’m excited to be the controversial post! Alison has answered a couple of my letters before but none have ever generated such strong reactions. I’m reading everything and I really appreciate everyone’s input, even when critical of me – I think it’s clear I have a lot to learn here.

      As I mentioned in a couple replies, I’ve decided to loop in the person who does have disciplinary power. At this point, regardless of where the “fault” for the initial mix-up lies (and I’m not trying to absolve myself completely), the issue is that he’s refusing any share of the responsibility. Big red flag to me. I’ll send in an update once I have one.

      1. fposte

        Thanks, OP. I’m glad you’re taking the discussion well, and I hope you find an outcome people can live with.

      2. DMC

        I await your update with anticipation. FYI, I think the employee had the primary responsibility for managing his calendar, and his refusal to work a mandatory event after being told about it is insubordination. If his personal life is more important than work (and I understand that in general, though I wouldn’t put “meeting up with a boy/girl” as in that category), then he’s due to learn a real lesson about consequences. I would not want to manage someone who was brazenly insubordinate.

    11. Elder Dog

      “But I’m not sure what power I have where discipline/(firing?) is concerned (even though I run his program and manage him, on paper his boss is someone else)”

      I think this might be key here. Does this new hire see the OP as his manager or as a bossy co-worker (maybe a team leader) without the power to tell him he can’t take that day off.
      If I was the OP, I’d go to the person who is his manager “on paper” and who presumably has the ability to discipline/fire him and ask for help with clarifying the power structure and enforce whether this conference is mandatory or not.

      1. Elizabeth West

        That’s a good point about how he sees the OP, though. I ran into that once myself, way back in the day. We had a manager who had hire/fire power and a person I worked with who was technically my supervisor. She wasn’t titled supervisor—it was more like a team lead thing. We did have a minor conflict, and she had to remind me that yes, she was my supervisor and she absolutely COULD tell me what to do. Had I paid attention to that when I started, I would not have pushed back. Lesson learned.

  5. Seal

    #1 – Call me cynical, but I’m a bit skeptical about the fact that your employee forgot he had to work. I had an employee who booked an expensive trip months before asking if she could have those days off. As it turned out, a one day conference that all employees were required to attend was scheduled for a day in the middle of this planned trip. While the conference date had been on the calendar well before this woman booked her trip and it was made clear at the time that attendance was mandatory, she presented me with a big sob story about how she “forgot” about the conference and didn’t realize she would have to attend. Once it was made clear to her that if she skipped the conference to go on her trip she shouldn’t bother coming back to work, her travel plans magically changed, but not before clearing the dates with me. Funny how that all worked out.

    1. Marcela

      I don’t see anything wrong with her explanation, as you just said it. I’ve forgotten I had attend to events, and while dealing with the mess I had to say it to my boss. Pretending I didn’t make a mistake it would have been another serious error. Now, if you had said that she claimed her plans were unchangeable, and later they were… then I could understand your comment.

        1. Marcela

          In my case, I wasn’t going anywhere. No vacation, no tickets, no plans to cancel or alter. So no, I wasn’t lying or pretending the dog ate my homework :P

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        Getting approval for your vacation days before you spend $$$ booking it is 101. Trying to get your vacation days anyway with the excuse, “but I spent $$$!” is manipulative, more times than not.

        1. Sunshine Brite

          I know I’ve taken that chance but my manager at the time was a micromanager who would hold onto requests for months before approving them just in case someone else asked off too. She was super worried about desk coverage at all times even though that was supposed to be a small part of my job.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

            I hear that from other people here, about managers dragging their feet in approving things and I so don’t get it. It’s pretty binary, yes/no. Even “no for now but if you check with me again four weeks prior I might be able to say yes” is at least an answer.

            We approve pretty much anything as long as it’s not a select number of blackout weeks or a day too many people are already scheduled out. Takes two minutes to approve/disapprove.

            1. Dan

              I used to have that boss. Drove me nuts. At that job, some of our workload was dependent on an outside organization holding a large conference. The boss didn’t like to approve vacation the days before, during, and after the conference. This was a quarterly thing. One time. *One* time, they switched the conference date by a week without telling him. Then, he decided that he wouldn’t approve vacation the weeks before and after “just in case.” So basically, four months out of the year were “blacked out” for vacation. Drove me nuts.

              These days, I’ll book my big vacation blocks 10 to 11 months in advance, and take very little in between. I don’t have problems :)

        2. SL

          Yep. I just came back from a trip where I had booked my flight to Vacation City on a day where I was already scheduled to have a day off, but I purposely did not book the return flight until I had an approved PTO day. If I didn’t get that day approved, I would’ve simply come back home one day earlier.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        and p.s., if you’ve been in management long enough, that story is equivalent to “the dog ate my homework” for teachers.

        1. Hellanon

          And frequently from the same people… I accept the work after the dog spits it back up, but there’s a 25% penalty. I explain, gently, to the ones who reiterate the excuse that I don’t want to be in the position of deciding who’s telling the truth & who isn’t, so the penalty gets assessed regardless of the original reason. Or “reason.” Amazing how much forward planning happens from that point on…

    2. fposte

      I wondered this after the update–whether he was hell-bent on going and hoped the “oops!” approach would work.

      We have an event like this. He wouldn’t be able to keep his job after blowing it off.

    3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      I used to have an employee who would book his tickets first then put in a vacation request. It wasn’t a huge deal because as long as his projects were up-to-date no one else was affected and we rarely had mandatory events that didn’t have multiple times/dates. But, because he was in year one of his professional career, every single time I would remind him that should clear vacation days before booking flights and that not every company would be so flexible.

      I heard from him when he had to eat the cost of a groupon/living social-type weekend getaway because he couldn’t get approval from his new job to be off.

      1. Chorizo

        “every single time I would remind him…” = red flag
        He sounds like someone who wasn’t going to learn anyway but The Hard Way.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          My boss had suggested I “deny him one of these times, so that he would learn,” but it would have caused a ripple effect with the rest of the team, so it wasn’t worth it.

          And he learned the lesson to the tune of $1,000 and a very angry girlfriend.

  6. Jaydee

    #3 Your employer is investing a significant amount of money in you by paying for your tuition. They stand to benefit if you put that education and training to use while working for them. They double-lose if you take their money and use that education and training to get a job with a competitor. Not only do they lose an employee, their competitor gains a more skilled employee. To ensure they get some return on their investment, they require you to work there for one year or repay the tuition reimbursement. I guess I’m confused about why you think this is a bad business practice.

    1. CanIRentYourDoghouse?

      I think the difference is that the OP sees it as a perk (having zero financial value to the company or the employee other than improving morale), while the employer believes it is an investment.

      So for the OP it’s more like if your employer sent you an invoice for all the break-room coffee you drank after your employment ended. Maybe it’s a generational thing?

      I can sort of see the OP’s perspective — a lot of recent college grads have been bluntly reminded how little their educations are actually worth compared to what they paid for them.

      I mean, when was the last time you heard a hiring manager say, “Hold on, just a minute! This employee took a Russian Literature class last year… we may need to adjust our pay scales upward — that one’s management material! (I hope we can keep them!)” :-)

      1. Amber

        My company never paid for anyone’s schooling or classes but about a year ago someone talked them into it and paid for a very expensive set of classes for some certification, the day he finished the courses he put in his 2 weeks notice. Companies do this also because people like that abuse the system.

        1. Laurel Gray

          WOW – I know some people do not believe in karma but there is just something so low about what this guy did that somewhere down the line in his career he will pay for it. Did your company go back to not paying for classes?

          1. Dan

            That’s a little extreme. If the guy got a better job, the guy got a better job. There are companies that will send you to school and then subsequently lay you off, works both ways.

            TBH, if the certification makes the guy that much more valuable, the company either 1) Needed to pay him more, 2) Make a “payback” period explicit, or 3) Understood that he’s worth a lot more in the free market and let him go in good graces.

            1. Laurel Gray

              I don’t disagree and I made my comment under the assumption that he left because he saw better opportunity outside his company and not necessarily discussed ones that may have existed with management.

        2. Dan

          That’s why I’m a fan of rules — while I’d never argue bailing right after graduation is acceptable, there’s no “common sense” time to wait. My last job only required 6 months payback, this place requires 2 years.

      2. Blue Anne

        #3, I’m afraid this is totally standard. I have a clawback contract at my current job. (I was also supposed to have one at my last job, but they never actually put it in writing so I didn’t pay them back when I left!) Even if it weren’t standard, you agreed to it when you accepted the contract. It might be negotiable when you leave, or covering part of it might be negotiable with your new employer.

      3. BRR

        I think that’s a very good point about considering it a perk. Employees give out perks with different rewards though. Pto to have rested employees. Retirement contributions and vesting to keep employees longer. If you’re Google, a host of benefits so employees never leave.

        The tuition perk is spelled out and nobody forced the lw to use it. It’s not sitting easy that they used it and then have a problem with it. And that this isn’t something essential like instance or pro.

      4. fposte

        That’s a really interesting way of framing it. I’m also surprised by the feeling that it’s absurd to think anybody would still be in the job a whole year.

        1. Laurel Gray

          Yes! My company offers less a year and the rule is “at least two years from the date of reimbursement” which also happens after the class is complete. And if you are terminated, you pay a prorated amount and if you resign I believe you pay it back in full (I think there is a minimum amount of time that had to go by before you can pay the prorated rate in a resignation). Either way, I think a $5k tuition reimbursement and only 1 year requirement is quite generous.

            1. Another HRPro

              Often the language in these agreements is written so that payback is only owed if the employee elects to leave, not if the employer ends it.

        2. fposte

          To be clear, Doghouse, I mean I found your take enlightening, because I think you’re right about how the OP’s thinking–it sounded like I might be trying to be snotty about what you said, and I really wasn’t!

      5. Josh S

        Most benefits (I’m hard pressed to think of any that don’t fit this category, but they might exist) are there to attract and retain talent. Or they’re mandated.

        Employers don’t offer PTO because they just want to be nice–they do it because they realize that their best employees will go to another company that *does* offer it. That’s why HR folks talk about Comparitive Pay, or industry/position benchmarks, etc. They want to get good talent, and then be able to keep it. “Perks” are only going to be there to the extent that they are a cost-effective way of keeping good employees on board.

        Tuition reimbursement falls exactly in line with that. The employer isn’t doing it for the sake of encouraging a more educated populace (though that would be a refreshing change!)–they’re doing it so that employees have an incentive to stay on with the company for longer. There’s a financial incentive for doing so.

        Same reason Company Contributions to the 401(k) vest after a number of years. (If you’re so lucky as to have them.) If I get an extra $10k in my retirement account after I’ve been with the company for 3 years, you better dang well believe I’m not leaving at 2 years and 9 months, or probably even after 2 years, unless something really horrible is happening.

        Attract and Retain Talent. That’s the whole ballgame (from an employers perspective) when it comes to benefits.

      6. CMT

        Don’t try to blame this on millenials or youths these days. People of all ages can be inconsiderate and ignorant.

      7. Observer

        I think the difference is that the OP sees it as a perk (having zero financial value to the company or the employee other than improving morale), while the employer believes it is an investment.

        That is probably true. But, even so his (her?) stance makes no sense (and reeks of entitlement.) Different perks are provided for different things. For instance, in many organizations, the amount of PTO is increased up to a certain point the longer they stay. By the same token, this perk is only available for people who stay for a certain amount of time. What’s so terrible about this?

    2. Cautionary tail

      At ex-ex-job they did 100% tuition payment for work related classes towards a degree with no clawback restrictions and lots of people used this benefit and I’m calling a it a benefit because that’s what the company called it. They then instituted a two-year clawback and usage plummeted to almost zero.

      Ex-job gave only 50% reimbursement towards a work related degree but had no clawback and lots of people used it.

      Current-job gives 100% towards a work related degree with a two-year clawback, requires VP approval to get in to the program, requires managerial approval for each individual class and caps the degree at a Masters level. No one uses it. Even though my company gives 100% got 0% towards my PhD.

      It seems as time goes on this gets more and more restricitve and is almost at the point where it is simply a paper benefit that cannot actually be used.

      1. MK

        No matter what the employer is choosing to call it, if it’s a condition that you stay in the job for X period of time, it’s not a benefit or a perk, it’s an investment on the employer’s part.

        I think it can be used just fine, but of course both the employer and the employee will weigh the pros and cons in each case. For example, I think it’s reasonable to require a time commitment, but two years is excessive for only work-related classes; and not paying for a PhD is also reasonable, as it is a long-term and expensive course (and in many cases, too specialised to benefit the employer in the sort term).

          1. fposte

            I’m thinking MK is considering the education as improving the employee the business gets, so that’s a particular kind of investment; I agree with you that in general putting money into employees is an investment of one kind or another, too.

        1. Winter is Coming

          I must have food issues, because when I hear “clawback” I think of lobster claws, and think “yum.”

      2. Not Today Satan

        My employer has a two year clawback clause and I will certainly never use their tuition assistance. I think it’s ridiculous–in two years I could have a new manager, could be in a different position, for all I know my family circumstances will change (having to move, having children, etc.) it’s just too far out to predict. I hate the policy so much.

        1. Not Today Satan

          My employer also only provides 100% of tuition if you get an A, which I think is ridiculous since you might end up with a professor who gives barely any As. Another reason I’d never use their tuition assistance.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            My husband’s old job had that too. We were always crossing our fingers as we waited for his grades to post.

          2. Anx

            Maybe I’m too cynical, but I feel like that gives employes the incentive to overschedule you during finals week or otherwise sink your A.

            1. MegEB

              I really don’t think most employers are that petty and mean. I mean, sure, there might be one or two loons that would do that, but I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing for an employee to be afraid of.

        2. MK

          No, it’s not ridiculous at all. Or least not more ridiculous than expecting your employer to pay for your tuition as a gift. They are basically making a deal with you, they are willing to pay for your education, in return from profiting by having a more educated employee for at least two years. It’s perfectly reasonable for you to decide that you are not willing to take the risk of being either sackled to a job you might not like or giving back the money, but the arrangement itself is sensible.

          I agree that the demand for an A is over the top though.

        3. MJ

          Well, if you want the education enough that you would pay for it yourself, then having a company willing to foot the bill is a great perk… if you stay the 2 years, your tuition is free. If you don’t, then you have to pay for the education that you wanted.

          The trick is to only use the perk for education that you would ultimately be willing to pay for. Why should a company offer this expensive perk for your benefit if there is no benefit for them?

            1. Aunt Vixen

              I don’t agree with the premise that PTO and health care (and other employee benefits) are of no benefit to the company.

              1. fposte

                I think NTS is getting at the difference MK and Josh are upthread here–that there’s a bit of a difference between training/educating an employee and buying them good coffee, even if both are retention and morale benefits. However, I don’t think there’s that big a difference, especially for one- or two-year minimum stints.

                1. MK

                  There is a fundamental difference between most other benefits and tuition though: once you get it, the benefit stays with you. PTO, insurance, daycare, etc, have the time restriction built in; the employee gets them as long as they work for the company and lose them instantly if they leave. If you get a degree or other type of education, it’s your qualification forever. For example, if your company pays for your membership in a professional organization, if you resign they will simply stop doing that and you can make your own arrangements. But suppose they paid out a significant sum to get you a lifetime membership, you keep getting the perk even if you are no longer an employee, which makes no sense.

                  As I said, I think it’s a sensible arrangement, as long as the terms are reasonable (no two year clawback for a two week course); and, when all is said and done, no one has to use it.

              2. Not Today Satan

                I think that all of those benefits help the company in that it makes happy, healthy employees who’d be more likely to stay. Ironically, the clawback has the opposite effect–I’m not going to stay just to not have to pay my employer back, and I don’t see it as a “benefit” because I’m not going to use it, due to not wanting to bet on how happy I am there two years from now.

                1. fposte

                  But the clawback isn’t the benefit, it’s the terms of the benefit, and there are many people who get upset over the terms of their benefits. Mine just stopped covering a medication I cover, so that’s either $16k a year out of my pocket or a substandard med. Lots of people are upset that they don’t have many vacation days. You get a lot of people complaining about parents being allowed to have more flexible working hours because they’re not parents. Being unhappy about the limitations of a benefit is pretty much inevitable with a benefit.

                  I think tuition reimbursement should probably be thought about alongside covering moving costs. It’s a disproportionately large cost that isn’t usually ongoing. A company’s going to want to offer it if they can, but, as Josh S’s example downthread shows, they’re not going to be able to just offer it without limits, because it’s just too expensive.

                2. Another HRPro

                  fposte is accurate. I have colleagues who are benefits professionals and generally, no one is every happy with their benefits. Which is so ironic as they cost companies tons of money! Generally, at any given point in time, someone is ticked off because their medication isn’t covered, they ran out of PTO, they want an additional company holiday, or they regret using tuition reimbursement because now they need to pay it back.

        4. Loose Seal

          I worked at a job where you had to agree to work two years for each semester they paid for, although if you left early, they would pro-rate what you owed back. It generally took about six semesters to get the Master’s degree that would bump up your pay grade; that’s twelve years of work you’d owe the place! Most people found the terms worth it, though, since getting that pay bump early in your career added up quickly and most employees planned to stay in the job until retirement. It was a state job and, for the very rural area, one of the better jobs you could have.

      3. The IT Manager

        I agree that the “clawback” (new term for me) is standard. What I don’t understand is why people don’t take advantage of it if they were going to take classes anyway. And maybe that’s it; they’re taking classes only if the company pays. Unless you have a new job lined up, you don’t know for sure that you won’t be employed there a year or two later. If you take advantage of it and do leave you just end up paying what you would have ended up paying anyway. If you’re concerned about the pay back, you can take advantage of it and set money aside in the hopes that you do get a new job and leave so you will have to pay them back.

        Although I understand why the layers of red tape and bureaucracy is a deterrent.

      4. Observer

        The usage patterns prove and important point. No one is being forced to use this, and smart people are thoughtful about how they take advantage of such deals. You don’t have to like a claw back clause. But as long as no one was forced into using the money in the first place, there is absolutely no reasonable excuse for complaining about having to abide by it once you have decided to use the money.

    3. KT

      This–this isn’t a perk on the same level as free coffee. Companies cover tuition (or a portion of) as an investment in talent development. It helps you, but it mutually benefits them as well. It’s completely standard for companies to require a certain amount of service after the tuition is paid (usually a year or so) or they require it paid back.

      My previous company had this, as well as a policy if they relocate someone. If you quit within one year of your new job, you owe back the covered moving expenses.

    4. sstabeler

      to be honest, by my read of OP #3, people like them are the REASON why clawback policies exist ( that is, they had no intention of staying with the company)- indeed, the reason why clawback policies have some flexibility is so that, in the event of an employee needing to leave for a reason outside that employee’s control ( say, they get laid off) the company can let them off repaying. But for someone who had no intention of staying with the company when they took out the reimbursement? that’s the kind of thing that encourages employers to create draconian clawback policies ( like, for example, requiring both a fairly long period of service, and if you leave, you have to pay back ALL of the reimbursement, rather than a pro-rated amount based on how much of the period you worked. ( I don’t know how common it is to give credit for the time you actually worked when calculating the repayment, but arguably they should.)) rather than being flexible.

      1. MK

        I think most such repayment agreements apply only when the employee resigns, not when they leave for reasons outside their control. Also, the employer doesn’t have to demand repayment; they can choose not to ask for the money back, if the employee leaves one month before the clawback period is up or if the amount is not large or if there are other circumstances.

        1. the gold digger

          My former employer (where the boss wouldn’t give comp days for weekends worked) fired a friend of mine for violating the internet policy. (I don’t have more details; I don’t think she does, either.)

          They are making her repay her tuition assistance even though she was fired.

          (There has been a bloodbath there since the new CEO started. Some of the people, I have not been sad to see go.)

          1. fposte

            I think when an employee is fired for misconduct it’s pretty common not to forgive reimbursements. Otherwise it would be a great way to bypass the repayment clause.

              1. fposte

                If you had another job lined up and being 15 minutes late to work would save you $5k? I think a lot of people would consider it.

      2. Left twice w/ Tuition Payments

        I have left two jobs either during or right after my evening MBA Program. The first time was during a voluntary separation program when they waived any clawback policies (which also would have included any relocation expenses) so I no longer needed to repay the company. The second time I hadn’t planned on changing jobs until upper management started making decisions that affected the quality of my work life in a negative way. When I put in my two weeks (turned into 3 to help with month end close and ensure proper training for coverage when I left), my direct boss along with 1-2 other higher ups reminded me of the clawback. I was able to negotiate $10,000 from my new company, but was still on the hook for $5,000 along with another $6,000 I didn’t put in for tuition reimbursement because I knew I was looking. I never thought twice about this clawback when looking as I was unhappy. OP#3 should understand that tuition reimbursement usually increase someones overall Comp and Benefits expense by 5-10%. This is a large portion of a yearly budget if many people take advantage and then leave.

    5. Ad Astra

      Also, OP, if you hadn’t used the tuition reimbursement benefit, you would have had to foot the whole bill or take out loans and wind up owing more than the $3,000. I can understand the disappointment if you expected to stay a year and plans changed, but that’s the risk you take. Is it totally impossible to stay for a full year?

    6. AMT

      My employer has a two-year clawback policy as well (after 1 year you only have to return 50% of the amount though). I am currently using the tuition reimbursement program but looked at my own long-term plans first – I don’t have any intentions of leaving any time soon, and probably not for several years minimally (my employer offers some really excellent benefits, so the day I was hired and found out that I get a 401k match AND a pension after five years I texted my husband to tell him my new career plan was to work here until retirement). However, things happen, so my personal plan has me using student loans to pay for my classes, and my reimbursements going to a separate bank account; as I hit the one and two year milestones I’ll transfer that money to my loans. That way IF I leave unexpectedly and have to pay it back it will not be cash I’ve already used and it wont hurt to give it back. But I went into this knowing there’s a chance I might have to give that money back.

      1. Laurel Gray

        I am currently doing an MBA (part time) and paying half out of pocket. I choose not to use my company’s reimbursement because you can make Christmas decorations with the red tape and I plan to move on from here in under a year’s time.

    7. Elizabeth West

      I definitely would not have taken it if I knew I’d be leaving before the requirement period was up. My company offers a similar benefit, for which I applied and was approved, but once I knew for sure I wasn’t going to finish the school program, I turned it down. Though I probably would have earned it out easily (I have no plans on leaving), I just didn’t feel right about accepting when I knew I wouldn’t need it.

  7. Sonya Mann

    The #3 situation baffles me. Like Alison said, why sign a contract that you’re not okay with? And then plan to act contrary to what you agreed with? The only reason to put something in a contract is so it’ll be enforceable — they wouldn’t bother adding a clause about reclaiming the money if they didn’t want to be able to do it.

    1. Juli G.

      I agree but this reaction is somewhat common. I haven’t had to pursue many of these but I always get the “I didn’t think you would really want it back” response when I do.

      1. qkate

        That is equal parts interesting and disappointing. :/ “I know you said there would be consequences but I just kinda passively hoped they weren’t real.” That would get the confused-pug-head-tilt face from me.

  8. Stephanie

    #2: Seven interviews for an internal job? Whaaaaa?

    #3: Actually, to my knowledge, my employer doesn’t have a required payback work period for tuition assistance. But it also pays below average for our industry and the tuition is capped at a fairly low amount, so I’m guessing they’re getting their investment that way.

    1. Student

      #2 This is normal in some fields (like mine). It’s just as unpleasant as it sounds.

      That said, if I were the OP in #2, I’d very much want to find out (1) what had changed about the position, because maybe it’s not a good fit for me with all these changes and (2) who would I be working for, so I could evaluate whether I want to work for her or not. Be sure you’re interviewing them while this is going on so you find a good fit.

    2. Stephanie

      Addendum to #3: What’s usually the case is that people use the tuition money to get a Bachelors. I’m guessing the longer time to complete the degree plus the lesser marketability of the degree (since a BA/BS is the entry point to a lot of white collar jobs and won’t necessarily make you way more marketable like an advanced degree would in some fields), a clawback isn’t as crucial.

    3. pinky

      We have to work at our company/public school for 3 years, then we get a percentage of tuition reimbursed. But I don’t think we have to payback.

    4. AdAgencyChick

      Yeah, I’m annoyed on OP2’s behalf that:
      1) There were seven interviews for an internal position
      2) OP2 had to take *PTO* to interview for an internal position.

      1. Colette

        It’s the PTO that I think is out of line. Seven interviews is a lot, but depending on who she’s meeting with and what the promotion is, it may not be totally out of line.

        1. OfficePrincess

          Agreed. Even when I worked in call center hell with all of the time restrictions that came with it, you didn’t have to use PTO for internal interviews.

    5. Ad Astra

      I’m most surprised about having to take time off from work (which I presume means using PTO) for an internal interview. It’s a mutually beneficial business meeting, not a ski vacation.

      1. fposte

        That’s a really good way of phrasing it. I don’t take PTO when I meet with other departments about possible projects I’d like to do with them either.

  9. Jack

    #2: I’ve never had to take time off, let alone entire days, to interview for an *internal* position. Is there some way you could organize with your current boss to do whatever interviews are necessary without having to take three entire days off?

    1. OP#2

      regarding time off for internal interviews, I work at a 10000+ employee company with multiple office locations. It is somewhat expected – if you are away from your office for a half day or full day to take the time off. I think it would be different if it were a one or two hour interview within walking distance. I didn’t take time off for the phone interviews all though one day I had 3. I just shut my door and took them in my office.

      Regarding the interview process, in my field – 7 was a lot for this mid-level role. It showcased some disorganization and lack of consideration of my time. One of the in person interviews, I was expected to research a new field topic and present it to the team with only 4 days notice (also when I say 4 days, i was told on a Tuesday night for a Friday interview – no weekend planning). That took a lot of personal time researching and developing the presentation materials.

      1. W.

        You can definitely ask for some clarification over whether you’d be required to go through further interviews, as Alison says, it seems more likely it would just be one, and that you’d need more clarification about the role.

        I think unfortunately this is one of the things were it’s annoying/frustrating and it would be nice if the company would be more thoughtful/courteous – especially as you already work for them, and whatever happens will continue to do so – but there’s little you can do. If however the role has changed I’d ask for a full job description and/or a phone conversation with whoever’s the lead on this to get an idea if it’s still a job you want and also a realistic idea of what more they require from you – and how close you are in the running (if there are a number of candidates or just you etc.)

        You could also request clarification on the hours required for any further interviews and ask if they can fit them into your schedule so you don’t have to take any further days off – or maybe so you only need to take a half day. If they require far more days of interviewing I wonder if you can ask to have these days ‘reimbursed’ if you get the new role. (Feel it’s unlikely – but who knows.)

      2. Judy

        I understand that if you are away from the office for half a day ore full day you need to take the time off, but you were away from the office on company business. If you take a training course, do you have to take PTO? A business trip?

        1. OP#2

          Interesting comparison. I think my office would determine it as job related or not. If the training was related to the job – of course I would not take time. But my department would view me interviewing to leave as not a part of my job – especially as it relates to them. My company is so large – I could probably apply to tons of openings and be in interview processes like this all the time. I applied for this job posting and was not tapped by a supervisor for this.

          1. Ad Astra

            I could see how your department would view internal interviews with another department as a bit of a problem, since the work you’d normally do for them isn’t getting done. But to think of it as unrelated to your job is really misguided. An internal interview is a business meeting where both parties are benefiting. I guess there’s not much you can do about that, but it really grinds my gears. I hope you have a generous PTO plan.

            1. OP#2

              I agree. And perhaps if I pushed it I could have made a case but I didn’t alas.

              My bigger issue was that the interviews were conducted during our companies busiest time of the year. I explained multiple times that being away for multiple days would be difficult. They were not very flexible with my time and even made a point to say if I wanted to be considered for the job I would need to showcase my flexibility. I kept asking for them to push my interview back a week which would give me time to front load my work and they were unable to do that. Oh well – again I guess I dodged a bullet. Now I feel like I am drowning in work that I still need to finish.

              1. TootsNYC

                showcase your flexibility?

                Yeesh!

                It’s not your time or energy or abilities you’re being flexible with–it’s your employers’.

                “I can be as flexible as you want when I work for you–right now I work for someone else, and they pay me money to take care of stuff during the day. Wouldn’t you want me to show that same commitment and professionalism if I were working for you?”

                Good luck w/ the workload!

          2. TootsNYC

            I’m curious–did you ask your boss whether you were required to take PTO for that time? Or did you just assume?

  10. AnnieNonymous

    OP1:

    See if you can find out when the employee booked his flight. This conference is only one month into his employment, so it’s entirely likely that he had already planned this trip well before he interviewed with you. He might even have assumed he’d still be unemployed when the trip rolled around.

    How did you phrase it when you told him about this conference? The first time you mentioned it, did you say, “There’s one Saturday you’ll be required to work, in about a month”? Or did you mention the date exactly? When was the first time you wrote the specific date in an email?

    I’m not placing the blame on you, but if it took a while for anyone to articulate the specific date to the employee, I’m not sure he can be on the hook for this (even though he’s being lousy about how he’s speaking to you). IMO, it’s not reasonable to spring a one-off Saturday on an employee two weeks beforehand (for example) and assume he’ll just magically be free. Even one month’s notice isn’t always sufficient when someone’s been unemployed for a while and potentially has a bunch of pre-scheduled events to attend, and especially if the job is typically M-F 9-5 and was advertised as such.

    This is just something that companies have to deal with when they hire new staff so close to an important event that deviates from the company’s standard schedule. To be fair, this employee sounds like he sucks, and it’s weird that he didn’t mention the trip when it would have naturally come up, considering that he presumably bought the plane tickets before you hired him.

    Would you have hired him if he had told you about this trip in the interview?

    1. Alli525

      Unless this kid is fresh out of college, I think once he reached the offer letter stage, he should have known well enough to bring up any pre-planned travel. I feel like that’s total 101 and he should have known better.

    2. neverjaunty

      He didn’t mention a trip when OP told him the date in writing; didn’t tell OP “I already had the date booked when you hired me”; and hasn’t said this is some kind of rescheduled event, like a wedding, that it would be difficult to reschedule or cancel. So even IF we could assume a set of circumstances that aren’t in the letter at all, it would have been the employee’s responsibility to come to OP and say that the date she emailed him about is a problem because he had something already scheduled.

    3. TootsNYC

      I a little amazed that he could take any time off at only 4 weeks into his job.

      I’ve never had a job where I was allowed to take time off until 6 months.

      The fact that he asked for time off so soon makes his “I don’t care if I messed up the dates, my personal life is more important than this job” attitude.

      my answer would be, “OK, then, so you’re choosing your personal life, and resigning the job–right?”

      1. T3k

        My first job after college (albeit, hourly part time) let me take a day here and there off during the 7 months I was there for various appointments, including about 3 days around Thanksgiving when I’d been there for about 3 months (not for the holiday either, it was taken to focus on studying for the GRE I had scheduled right after the holiday).

    4. OP #1

      All good questions. The Email was shortly after he’d accepted our offer; he proactively asked if there would be any weekend work, and I said usually not, except this one Saturday. I (naively, I now see) assumed that because he’d specifically asked, it was important to him, and he’d make note of it.

      I probably wouldn’t have hired him if I had known he wasn’t going to be available on this date. I honestly don’t think he planned the trip until after. In spite of his highly unprofessional attitude, I still think that at heart, this is an honest mistake. I’m much more concerned now by his failure to take any responsibility.

      1. Heather

        I really don’t think you were naive to assume that he would make note of it – you assumed he was an adult who manages his own schedule. Just because he turned out not to be doesn’t make you naive for expecting it.

      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        Just out of curiosity (really I have no valid reason for wanting to know) can you tell us what the work on this Saturday would be?

      3. TootsNYC

        There is nothing wrong with what you said.

        However, I think it’s a useful tool to have in your belt, to realize that people often stop listening after the first coupel of words:

        I said usually not, except this one Saturday.

        If you’d started with the positive, and th eone hard, cold fact, he might have remembered it better. “Saturday, October 3 is a mandatory Saturday. After that, we probably won’t need you on weekends, and we’ll have at least 4 weeks notice if we do.”

        Again, your English was perfectly clear, and he should have been able to get it right. But when something is out of the normal, and really important, it helps to make sure that is positively stated in a short, clear, definitive way.
        It just makes your life easier by minimizing the ways other people can screw it up.

    5. Oryx

      Even if he HAD booked the trip prior to being hired, he should have brought it up during the hiring process anyway, regardless of whether or not it conflicted with the event but *especially* because it conflicted with the event.

      I was interviewing for my current job and when we got to the pre-offer stage (as in, “we are calling your references tomorrow, if we were to hire you when could you start?”) I mentioned that I had a week long trip to Florida coming up the following month. The trip coincided with the company’s very big industry event. They understood that when you hire people these things can happen and they still hired me and I went on vacation two weeks after starting and it wasn’t a big deal.

      But had I not told them and then started working and said “Oh, we have this huge multiday event coming up? Sorry, I’m totes going to be in Florida that week and no I’m not cancelling” I honestly wouldn’t expect to have a job upon my return.

  11. CanIRentYourDoghouse?

    #4: Part-time workers are stuck in a very unfortunate place — most landlords won’t rent to someone without a full-time job (or if they do, the “poor tax” is usually pretty steep), and public housing is very difficult to get if you don’t have kids. That leaves the dubious world of Craigslist pseudo-legal sublets, and schemes like this one. :-/

    1. Daisy

      I like to think I’m a pretty honest person, but I also think verification of employment by landlords is unreasonable and unfair, so I probably would stretch the truth for a friend in this situation. What’s she supposed to do, be homeless because she only works part-time?

      1. neverjaunty

        Landlords want to know they will get the rent they’re owed and that the tenant has the ability to pay the rent. I agree that nobody should be homeless and in a lot of places housing costs are insane, but I don’t think it follows that landlords are bad people for wanting to verify income.

      2. Anx

        I think landlords are starting to ease up a little bit in terms of what the income threshold is, as more and more people budget larger parts of their income to to rent. I think they still verify income, but some are realizing that there are good tenants out there who can pay on time but who need to spend 50%-80% of their income on rent.

          1. Elizabeth West

            Well, yeah, if you’re not making very much. If you ever read Barbara Ehrenreich’s <Nickeled and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America, she talks about working undercover with Merry Maids and how some of her coworkers were practically starving. They worked all day on almost NO food cleaning rich people’s houses. And how hard it was for her to find a place to live with no deposit and a minimum wage job.

            I’ve experienced the latter myself. But the maids thing was rage-inducing.

      3. TootsNYC

        If I felt that my friend truly wasn’t going to default on her rent, I might lie for her. If I were iffy about that, then I’d be saying, “I can’t do this.”
        But of course, now I’m out a babysitter, or my babysitter is pissed at me.

        That was really, really uncool of this friend!
        And do you have to worry about what she might “fudge” to you?

      4. I Evict People

        Why do you think they are unfair? I work in property management and own a rental property as well. The cost to evict people can be a long drawn out expensive process where you get a judgment but never collect. Big property management companies can afford to write off the bad debt but many little guy home owners could go into foreclosure. Depending on the city and rental market a landlord is doing themselves a disservice by not checking this info.

        1. FD

          Exactly. While I understand the frustration of not being able to get a place to live, the flip side is that someone owns the property, and they count on that revenue to pay their own bills as well.

          Most states require that you go through a legal action to evict a tenant for non-payment, which can cost a lot of money–and often times you won’t ever get the money. Moreover, an angry tenant may damage the property, which you’ll have to fix before you can re-let it.

          In addition, that eviction action will often follow a tenant, making it harder to get a future rental, and potentially harming your credit score. It doesn’t do a prospective renter any favors to let them get in over their head either.

          That said, from a humanitarian standpoint, I don’t know what the solution is.

    2. OP#4

      I’m a lot more comfortable saying that she is full-time even though she isn’t because I get this situation, and we were planning on increasing her hours after she moves anyway. It’s the length of time that worries me, because I can’t provide pay stubs for that long so I feel like it’s the bigger lie and would hurt my reputation as well.

      1. Meg Danger

        I can tell you are super uncomfortable with this. You are in a hard position because you risk really damaging your friend/employee’s housing security if you don’t lie for her. If it were me, I would confirm employment with the landlord in the words your friend used (one year, full time). The landlord probably does not need to see actual pay stubs to verify in-home employment.

        PS. If you need to do some mental acrobatics to make this seem less shady you can think back to the first time your friend sat for you (hopefully more than a year ago), and think if there was ever a week she worked full time with you. OK, it’s a stretch.

      2. neverjaunty

        It’s a pretty big lie, too. This isn’t “Hey, you are increasing me to full-time tomorrow, can you backdate that to Monday”.

      3. Adonday Veeah

        I would do this… for a VERY short list of close personal friends in need, who I know could pay their rent and therefore not wreak havoc on some poor unsuspecting landlord. And in my lean years these few have done it for me under the same criteria. But we’ve NEVER assumed this, and always asked permission beforehand. And we’ve always made it OK to say no.

        I don’t know the circumstances under which a verbal reference would hurt your reputation, but you would know this better than I. Beyond that, I think Meg Danger offers good advice, if you feel this is something you want to do. But do NOT feel badly if you say no.

  12. UH

    Manager should have sent calendar item to tell employee of event not an email. Then no question of it being noted.

    1. TheLazyB (UK)

      Haha not in my last job. I used to have to send out meeting notifications AND an email whenever I set anything up, because people who didn’t use their electronic calendars would flatly deny ever seeing calendar appointments. Drove me crackers.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          I worked for a company where appointments were auto-accepted…it drove me nuts.

          The idea was that people were supposed to make sure the spot was clear, then book…but instead people rarely checked any calendar but their own.

          I spent sooooooo much time monitoring my calendar.

    2. Cambridge Comma

      I think the manager gets to give instructions however they like. It would take two clicks to convert the mail to a calendar appointment.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        I don’t see why you wouldn’t just send an invite

        In most email systems it takes the same effort to send an email as it does an invite with the added bonus that it means the event is sechdualed and obvious to the employee.

        1. Ad Astra

          I can see how it might not occur to someone to send an invite to a day-long event that’s off the premises. It might be a good tactic in the future, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for not immediately thinking “I should send a calendar invite!” since it’s not a meeting and it may not even involve the manager.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          Because people have different preferences, and it’s reasonable for a manager to assume that her employees will manage their schedules responsibly, which is part of their job and which most people manage to do just fine.

          I’m really baffled by the reaction to this one.

          1. Muriel Heslop

            Seriously baffled as well. I work with high schoolers and this is the kind of thing I expect to encounter with helicoptered kids and their parents. I can’t imagine dealing with this hand-holding with an adult employee. He was told at point-of-hire and in a follow-up email within a month. Especially since it’s an exceptional scheduling point – make a note!

          2. DMC

            I agree wholeheartedly. I occasionally miss information in emails, especially long-winded emails :) but I always put the fault on myself for not reading it all carefully, and if I ASKED what weekends I needed to work, and I got that information, I would be calendaring it immediately. What is the point of asking if you’re not going to note the information?

          3. Turtle Candle

            Yeah, this is confusing me, too (and I’m not a manager and never have been, so I tend to default to looking at things from the employee POV).

            I wouldn’t expect to get multiple reminders for something (especially in such a comparatively short timeframe); I assume that if I’m told “you need to work X not-regularly-scheduled date,” that it’s my responsibility to put it on the calendar. In fact, I’d feel kind of… condescended to? micromanaged? something along those lines–if I did get “don’t forget!” messages about it.

            Not to mention that the employee in question made it clear by the followup that it wasn’t simply a matter of forgetting, but of deciding that their trip took precedence over the work event. I’m not sure how more handholding would have solved that. Yeah, okay, maybe the “I decided to go on my trip and skip out on this thing” conversation would have happened earlier with multiple reminders, but you’d still functionally be at the same place.

          4. Oryx

            Agreed. Like someone mentioned upthread, knowing it’s important to figure out a system for remembering your schedule is something I’ve known since I started babysitting at 13.

            1. Oryx

              This is the part that makes me super suspicious. It’s like he asked then went ahead and made those plans to try and get out of working on a Saturday.

          5. LAI

            Agreed, I am surprised by how many people think that the OP has any responsibility on this issue. I actually have a lot of coworkers who think like this – they feel that if information is TRULY important, then they will be reminded multiple times, in multiple formats. If it’s not hammered into their heads repeatedly, then it probably wasn’t that important. It drives me crazy when we have the same information announced at staff meetings on 3 different occasions and every time, someone acts like they just heard it for the first time. We also get email announcements saying things like “just a reminder to everyone that X policy changed last year, don’t forget!”

          6. neverjaunty

            A lot of people seem to think “there are two sides to every story” is kind of a religious mantra.

            1. Windchime

              Yes. The “playing devil’s advocate” is getting kind of out of control. It’s making this a less interesting place to be when there are dozens (or hundreds) of posts pointing out every possible, outlandish scenario which might be true and therefore excuse the behavior that the OP is writing in to ask about. It’s becoming tiresome.

              1. So Very Anonymous

                Agreed. Seems like we’re getting more and more examples of commenters reading their own situations/experiences into letter writers’ situations.

      2. KT

        Ths-it’s not up to the manager to keep track of time for the employee. If your manager tells you “our big event is on X date” –you make a note of it, set up your calendar, or put a giant sign on your monitor.

      3. sstabeler

        or, given Gmail is becoming more and more common, not even two clicks- in gmail, if you also use google calender, if the email includes a date, it turns it inot a link to create a calender event for the event.

        That, and in my experience, meeting notifications are sent by e-mail, so why can’t the ntice be enough, even for those who don’t use their electronic calenders?

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      This is assuming that these folks work in an office (not, say, a retail store, restaurant, factory,etc.)

    4. Anx

      I don’t think I’ve ever received a calendar item in my life. Plus, a generic email is pretty standard and can be easily read and accessed from a variety of platforms. Would a calendar item necessitate gmail or outlook or a certain email system?

  13. TheLazyB (UK)

    #2: seven interviews and having to take that much time off for an internal post?! Wow.

    #3: I’m amazed at how annoyed you are. I’ve never heard of not reimbursing in these circumstances. Either pay up when you leave or stay!

    #4: what a horrible situation. I would feel trapped :( do update us when you decide what to do. If she’s reasonable she’ll understand, I hope she is!

    1. Ad Astra

      My company doesn’t require employees to stay any length of time for tuition reimbursement, but that’s kind of the exception that proves the rule. We hire a lot of college students who might be better suited for a different field once they finish their degrees, so I would guess that’s the reasoning. The reimbursement is dependent on grades, though. You get a certain amount for A’s and a lower amount for B’s.

  14. periwinkle

    #3 – So what’s the issue here? Your company clearly states its policy on the tuition benefit, you’ve used that benefit, and now you’re upset that the company will follow its stated policy? I’d understand being upset if you weren’t informed about the payback rule until after you had spent the tuition money; if you knew about it and then applied for the benefit anyway, you have no logical cause to be angry that you might have to follow the rule. If you’ll be that anxious to leave before the year is up, you could try to negotiate with your next employer for a signing bonus to cover what you’d have to pay back. You’d need a valuable and rare skill set to be worth the extra lump sum to a new employer, though.

    My employer offers an extremely generous tuition benefit covering undergrad and grad degrees and certificates; those pursing graduate degrees must stay for 48 months after completing them or else pay back 100% of the costs incurred in the 48 months prior to leaving (no pro-rating). We accept the golden handcuffs in exchange for free degrees and the company accepts the massive cost of this benefit in exchange for a highly educated workforce. The tuition program is hugely popular and I’d bet we have a higher percentage of master’s degree holders than almost any other Fortune 500 company. (they don’t require pay back for undergrad degree or grad certificate except for any current semester costs, so they’re definitely more generous than most companies) If I left today I’d owe them about $30,000 because they’re covering all of my graduate degree tuition, fees, and books. On the other hand, they’re covering my entire tuition, fees, and books so I’m not in any hurry to leave…

    1. AdAgencyChick

      Please tell me, though, that they don’t try to claw back the money if the company fires or lays off employees!

      1. periwinkle

        1. If you’re fired or you quit, they’ll clawback (love that term) the current semester costs. They’ll also do the 48-month clawback for graduate-level work; there’s no clawback for undergraduate or grad certificate tuition. So don’t get fired if you’re in an MBA program.
        2. If you retire or are laid off, they’ll cover whatever you’re currently taking but nothing thereafter. No clawback.
        3. My boss and a teammate both earned Ph.D.s and MBAs, I’m in a part-time Ph.D. program, two of my teammates are working on master’s degrees, and another teammate is completing her BA. All for free. Hint: we make big shiny things that fly, and we are indeed hiring…

  15. Apollo Warbucks

    #3 If you’re going to be pissed off then don’t take the money. What you describe is a very common arrangement where the company wants to protect its investment in your education.

  16. Sarahnova

    I’m also totally baffled at #3’s outrage. You knew the terms, you voluntarily entered into this agreement, and you’re mad they might have… not been kidding? This makes you sound very naive, and more than a little entitled.

    Companies don’t have bottomless coffers; they pay for your further education because they see it as having business benefits in retention or increased employee skills. Why on earth SHOULD they sponsor your education for free with no conditions? Even your parents aren’t obliged to do that.

    Re the lying nanny, if I was a long time friend and knew her to be financially stable and otherwise trustworthy (ie the things the landlord is actually concerned about)… I’d cover for her. I’d ask her not to put me in this position again, but I’d lie for some of my friends in that way, yes. In the purest sense, I’d be compromising my integrity, but to help out someone I cared about against a difficult disadvantage, and I wouldn’t think it would hurt the landlord. OTOH if I thought she might default on her rent or I didn’t know her well enough to say, I wouldn’t do it.

  17. Artemesia

    #5 Wow. Way for a manager to prove to every single employee that he is a first class jerk and not to be trusted. But a resignation letter should always be one or two lines — no explanations. I have seen a few resignations letters full of high dudgeon that would have been hilarious to read to the department (not that it would ever be appropriate) but when I was second in command of a division, the boss would share with me (with amusement) such letters. It taught me to never resign in more than the sentence indicating when my last day would be and thanking for the opportunity or whatever. Never put your complaints in writing when you leave.

    1. RVA Cat

      ^ This, but given this manager does not seem like a grown adult, he will probably find some other way to retaliate. You would think that he or his superiors would realize that’s going to encourage people to quit without notice, right?

  18. JustSomeone

    #1: Saw your follow-up. He is not making himself look good by refusing to attend something you told him in writing he had to attend. However, if it was me, and I had *honestly* forgotten that I had to attend work that Saturday, I would have been pissed off that you approved the Friday off without checking in that I knew I had to work on Saturday. Especially since you admit you did wonder about it but, for some reason, said nothing. I don’t get why you wouldn’t remind a new employee who normally doesn’t work Saturdays that they have to work that one specific Saturday.

    1. Myrin

      I agree with this, especially as a tip for the future, but I don’t quite understand why commenters keep bringing this up – it’s over, the OP hasn’t done the thing that undoubtedly would have been able to prevent what’s happening now at least to some extent, but she replied upthread that she understands that and learned her lesson (so presumably she’ll behave differently should a similar situation arise in the future). Not meant as a slight at you, JustSomeone, especially as I share your sentiment, but I feel like this “Why didn’t you?!” thing keeps happening here and people kind of concentrate on that instead of giving advice regarding the current situation. I remember one commenter (LBK?) once mentioned that it’s good to bring these questions up because they can help someone reflect on what they did and remember to act accordingly in the future, a stance I agree fully with, but 1. this already happened with the OP, she, as per her own words, learned her lesson, and 2. it’s kind of tedious to see people piling up the incredulity, especially when there already was an update that suggests bigger problems.

      1. StarHopper

        Ditto. I was looking of surprised the OP followed up at all, given how many responses are already piling on about his share of the blame, which he has already acknowledged. (I certainly wouldn’t want to face a barrage of online criticism.) Short of hopping in his Delorean and traveling back in time, what do they expect OP to do?

      2. Apollo Warbucks

        I wouldn’t call it a pile on, people are being reasonable in presenting their opinion and it’s good for the OP to hear where they went wrong.

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          Also Alison’s response didn’t seem to suggest the OP acknowledge their part in the mistake which I think is contributing to people wanting to elaborate on their point of view.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

            If you look at Alison’s comments throughout the thread, she doesn’t think the OP made a mistake and that expecting an employee to manage their schedule appropriately is not unrealistic.

            1. Apollo Warbucks

              I’ve seen her comments, and understand her position, I’d have been more accurate to say

              Some commenters feel the OP made a mistake and wanted to discuss tha.

        2. Myrin

          Oh, people are absolutely being reasonable – and as I said above, I actually agree with the sentiment and I, too, wonder why the OP didn’t at least mention the event to some degree – but that doesn’t mean that twenty people basically saying the same thing – which it is; people might elaborate a bit but the basic statement is the same – isn’t piling on a thing that can’t be changed retroactively anyway (for the record, I meant “pile on” literally because I couldn’t think of another word, not because I think there’s a “pile on” happening here where hundreds of comments just shout “Wow, you’re horrible!” at one person). She probably heard where she went wrong the first or second time someone mentioned it.

        3. fposte

          I also think these responses are wrongly convinced that this action would have been sure to avert the problem. I’m all about the defensive living, as witness my comments on the texting post, but I don’t think we have any real idea of whether this would have changed a thing.

          1. Apollo Warbucks

            I’m sure it would have made a difference

            Employee “can I have Friday off”
            OP “are you still working Saturday”
            Employee “Damn I forgot about that, can I go next week”
            or the employee says “I’ve booked tickets I want to go any way”
            then the OP says “you shouldn’t have made travel plans, before the time off was approved”

            Then the OP has been 100% fair and reasonable to the employee.

            1. neverjaunty

              I’m not sure it would have made a difference to an employee bound and determined to take that day off. As some people have recounted upthread, some people prefer “better to ask forgiveness than permission” and book their vacations before asking for the time off, on the theory that if they are told no, they can then claim they have to go because it’s already a done deal.

              While we certainly don’t know what is in the employee’s head, I think it’s pretty telling that his reaction is to refuse because “life is more important than work”, not because he has a serious life dilemma or misunderstood the OP.

            2. fposte

              But the second instance is what’s happening–it would make no difference. It would make a difference to how some commenters here *think* about it, but that doesn’t matter, because we don’t matter in this equation.

              1. Apollo Warbucks

                No it is not what is happening at all, at moment the OP approved time off and the employee booked travel AFTER asking, the situation above they would not have had the OPs approval to take time off, so it is completely different.

                1. LBK

                  But the employee didn’t ask for time off on Saturday, which arguably is a work day he should’ve put in a PTO request for. He asked for it on Friday, which was fine.

                2. fposte

                  We have no idea when the employee booked the time. I think you’re basing an argument on facts we don’t have, and then treating that argument as if it matters more than it does anyway.

              2. Apollo Warbucks

                @fposte

                I am not basing an argument on fact we don’t have. The OP said the employee requested the day off on Friday and that request was approved.

                You said that if the OP had clarified that the employee was working on Saturday it wouldn’t have changed the situation.

                The entire point I have been making during this conversation is that yes it would have mattered, because if the employee took it upon themselves book flights before time off was approved that would be completely on them, nothing to do with the OP.

                Had the OP written in saying the employee book flights, then ask for time off they could not have and then felt hard done by I’d have no problem say the employee was totally at fault, as it was after the employee had spoken to the OP they believed they had a 3 day weekend, the OP could have taken a simple step to avoid that confusion, but they did not.

                1. fposte

                  You said the employee wouldn’t have booked the trip. But we don’t know when the employee booked the trip. That’s what I mean by assuming facts.

                  The employee did, however, book the trip before time was approved, because the Saturday wasn’t approved. All you’re talking about is a slightly longer skirt for more ass coverage on the OP, not a fundamental.

                  I think some of this could just be a British/American difference, too, because you guys rely a lot more on systems than we do, but I think at this point I’m going to do like LBK and say we’re not going to convince each other and let this one go.

                2. Apollo Warbucks

                  You’re right the time line isn’t clear, maybe the OP didn’t book the trip before getting permission. But the employee couldn’t have any complaint if during the first conversation the request for Friday had been turned down or Saturday.

                  I’m sure something like this could happen in the UK, I’m just having a hard time imagining from any place Ive worked.

                  I do respect your point of view it’s not a bad thing for the OP to expect the employee to know their schedule, but we’ll just have agree to disagree about this one.

            3. CMT

              You are incredibly certain about events transpiring between strangers, about which you almost certainly do not have all of the details.

              1. Apollo Warbucks

                I think you have misunderstood my comment, as it was entirely hypothetical so I can not have been assuming knowledge of something that happened.

                fposte said @08:26

                “I also think these responses are wrongly convinced that this action would have been sure to avert the problem. I’m all about the defensive living, as witness my comments on the texting post, but I don’t think we have any real idea of whether this would have changed a thing.”

                I took this comment to mean fposte thinks there is no way the OP could have averted the problem when my comment, that you have replied to is supposed to demonstrate that I think had the OP reminded the employee about the Saturday working then one of two things would have happened.

                1 The employee would have changed their plans and agreed to work
                2 The employee would have tried to take the holiday anyway.

                If the employee did 1, then there is no problem if the employee did 2 the employee can not have felt hard done by if they have to eat the loss on the trip.

          2. AnonAnalyst

            Yeah, I agree. I think the response from the employee in the OP’s follow-up suggests that the employee may not have just forgotten, or may not have been reasonable and voluntarily changed his plans once reminded. I mean, it’s certainly possible he forgot and the reminder would have avoided the whole situation, but his response is weirdly aggressive and adversarial (especially as a fairly new employee) and as such suggests to me that there might be larger fit issues with this person.

      3. Sunshine

        Been thinking this exactly the whole time I’m reading the comments. Seriously… How is this helping? Frustrating for me, and I’m sure the OP as well.

      4. JustSomeone

        Presumably for the same reason that multiple people replied to this comment all saying ‘why are multiple people saying this?’.

      5. Observer

        . it’s kind of tedious to see people piling up the incredulity, especially when there already was an update that suggests bigger problems.

        Exactly this.

        Even before the update, the employee was not exactly in the right here. But, having seen the update, it’s not even clear to me that the OP could have prevented this mess anyway. And, it certainly brings up the suspicion that the employee was not being forgetful as much as deliberately obtuse.

    2. MJ

      While it might have prevented the problem had the OP made the connection in dates from the Friday to the Saturday, it was not her responsibility to do so. Taking a Friday off does not automatically signify a weekend trip. In fact, in this case, I would have been more likely to assume that the employee was taking Friday off because he knew he wad going to be working the Saturday.

      While the OP is smart to.look at ways to prevent such a problem in the future, the mistake belongs to the employee.

      What to do about it now, though, is the question. I think it needs to be noted that the employee did not keep a scheduled commitment and refused to accommodate it when reminded. This is seriously problematic and does not bode well for the future.

  19. The Bimmer Guy

    This is an extremely unfortunate set of circumstances because:

    a) There would normally be some sort of relevant discussion in the days leading up to an anticipated big conference or workplace event, even if it’s just small-talk like, “I’d better have my grey suit dry-cleaned for the conference next week, haha.” If the employee had genuinely forgotten about the conference–and keep in mind, there’s a chance he *pretended* he didn’t remember, hoping you’d let it go–this would have reminded him.

    b) You might have confirmed when the employee requested off on the Friday before the event that it was *only* that day, and not Saturday as well

    However, none of these things happened. Like I said, it’s sad, but I’d put the blame (if there is any) solely on the employee. You put in writing your notice of the event. What’s more, it’s not like it was even that far out from when he was notified. It was only a month. And it was his responsibility to put it on his calendar or remember it.

    As far as your update and his refusal to attend the event now that you’ve had a conversation with him, that’s when you calmly assert yourself. I think you do need to have a talk explaining that if he goes on the conference anyway, he’ll suffer the natural consequences of that decision (he’ll be written up, suspended, let go, whatever). I will say that it’s a particularly daring move, because many companies will just cut their losses and send a new employee on his way if there are too many problems early-on; I know because I was fired that way.

    1. Judy

      That’s one thing that I’m not understanding, but maybe it’s just because I come from a meeting heavy world. I’ve never worked a conference, just attended.

      About a month before a conference I’m attending, I’m used to having a meeting with those from my department who are also attending. We work out travel, if it’s not finalized, we look at the initial set of sessions and decide strategy of how to cover any interesting sessions. Usually there’s a meeting about a week out to finalize everything, and of course at the conference, breakfast is used to really finalize who will be going to which sessions. In a team of 15, 4 people go to the main conference each year, so we have to present in a mini conference to the rest of the team when we return.

      I’d imagine if you would be working a conference, it would be much more involved, especially for a new employee who would need to learn the ropes.

      1. LBK

        Yeah, I have to assume this is some sort of required industry conference that’s taking place locally, otherwise I don’t know how they would’ve gotten this close without any further discussion of it – if they were travelling and/or working it I don’t know how you wouldn’t have constantly been having meetings or otherwise prepping.

      2. lay your head down child, I won't let the boogeyman come

        +31. Yes, this, exactly.

        I’m imagining OP explaining this mess to their superior:

        OP: “I sent him an email a month ago and told him about this conference, but he forgot about it or something and now he won’t go.”
        Superior: “He started a month ago?”
        OP: “Yes. I have the email right here …”
        Superior: “Did you talk to him about the conference?”
        OP: “Well, no, but I sent him an email …”
        Superior: “Where in this email do you mention the conference?”
        OP: “It’s right here, #3 on the list.”
        Superior: “Did you follow up with him?”
        etc

        1. MK

          I think the superior would be much more likely to say ” tell him he has to go or be fired” than start grilling the OP about not following up.

          1. Observer

            Indeed. I might have a conversation about this, on general grounds because it’s always better to prevent problems if needed. But, really? You are going to let someone blow of a required conference because his supervisor didn’t remind him extra times?

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          I think this has got to be a difference in type of job or something because I would never expect managers working under me to do that kind of hand-holding and would be concerned if I discovered that they were; most people I’ve worked with would have chafed at that kind of coddling from their managers and found it condescending.

          1. Judy

            For all of the conferences I’ve attended, there would be 5-6 sessions going on at once, and we had to decide which sessions we would cover or not cover. My manager was not involved in the planning meetings, part of the job of attending a conference was knowledge sharing with the rest of the team. We were responsible for attending sessions and giving a 2-3 hour presentation when we were back in the office of the things we learned and the state of the industry. That’s not something you can do by the seat of your pants, even when you get all the slides from the sessions in your conference package. A 3 day conference with 4-6 sessions a day, you can’t just all walk in and do your own thing to get the optimum ROI. Of course we’re engineers. ;)

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

              I often am the sole attendee at conferences or city outreach/networking events, so I don’t coordinate with anyone — especially if they are in town.

              And because my company works solely on reimbursements, even when I am traveling out of town, I still don’t usually coordinate – other than putting a note on my boss’s calendar that says, “NTDYLF at X conference.”

            2. Koko

              In my department we all have slightly different responsibilities and if multiple folks are attending everyone tends to attend the sessions that most closely align with their own areas of responsibility and interest. After we get back we send a copy of our notes to the whole department (those who attended and those who stayed behind) along with a few bulleted highlights and action items. To the extent anyone is coordinating what sessions they attend it’s very informal, like, “Hey, I really want to go to Session A but concurrent Session B looks really useful too. Do you think you could go?”

              1. Koko

                (And it would be purely up to the person you’re asking whether they want to attend Session B or whether they think they would get more value out of another session. Our company very much treats conferences as self-directed professional development – you’re expected to “share the wealth” of the training/knowledge you get since the company is paying for it, but it’s totally up to you to decide what training/knowledge is most valuable to you and attend the sessions you want. Sometimes we do have multiple people attend one session just because both people weren’t interested in any of the other concurrent sessions.)

          2. Not the Droid You are Looking For

            Exactly.

            If my boss had to explain to her boss why she sent me an email telling me I was expected to work on a certain date and I scheduled something else, my boss’s boss would be saying, “NTDYLF seems to be disorganized and unable to meet basic job requirements.”

          3. Student

            I have to do this to about half of the people I work with. I don’t like doing it. It makes me feel like a nag, or like I’m their mother trying to get them to do their homework. I avoid doing it as much as possible. But, I still find i have to do it to a large segment of the people I work with in order to get them to complete their jobs. If I don’t, they just ignore my requests.

            Example: I wanted my contracts department to put together a very simple equipment loan, for a box of relatively cheap equipment that we weren’t using, to someone. First, they tried to give me excuses as to why it couldn’t be done, and I had to personally go hunt down and fix every single issue they brought up, one at a time, before they’d even start drawing up something. These were minor things, and they wouldn’t just give me a full list of the things that needed to be remedied at once; they would come up with a new trivial objection only after I finished dealing with their last trivial objection. Then, I had to nag them constantly to get any progress on the contract. I didn’t nag for a long time, and it just sat on someone’s desk. After I started hounding them once a week for status updates, it slowly started moving forward; each action appeared to be directly generated by my weekly reminder, and only that action would get done until I nagged again. The other party in this agreement had no modification requests to the contract whatsoever and was happy to sign anything we sent, so I know this wasn’t some lengthy contracts negotiation.

            It took over 6 months, start to finish, to lend out this equipment. I regret that I didn’t just mail the equipment out without telling anyone (even though that would be a gross violation of my responsibilities to my employer). It would’ve been gone, used, and back again well before this contract process finished. It never would’ve happened at all without my constant and obnoxious nagging reminders.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Are you their manager, though, or a peer? If you’re their manager, you should exercise your authority to require them to manage their own calendars and commitments. If you’re not (which I think might be the case here?), it’s a different dynamic.

              1. Student

                I am a peer in a different department. The contracts department exists to serve our business needs; my department is equivalent to a combined sales-and-production department. I need work from them to make our business productive, but I have no direct authority over them or their work.

                If I had any management authority at all over these people, I’d be taking serious measures to change the department’s performance to something acceptable to support our business needs. As it is, all I can do is either (1) live with it and keep nagging when I need something from this department (2) complain to my line management, and hope it percolates over to someone who can fix it eventually.

          4. lay your head down child, I won't let the boogeyman come

            I think this has got to be a difference in type of job or something because I would never expect managers working under me to do that kind of hand-holding …

            Perhaps so. It blows my mind that there are apparently businesses where a single email, a month in advance, is all that is required to ensure that an employee is on-track. Especially if it’s an important event. If you were leaving to go on an extended vacation, you wouldn’t send the pet sitter an email a month in advance detailing the days you planned to be gone and then just consider the matter closed and done, would you? If you got no acknowledgement from the pet sitter, you’d probably call them and at least get an acknowledgement that they received your email and had you on their schedule, I assume?

            And the reason for following up is not “micromanagement”, nor is it a reflection on the maturity or capability of an employee. The reason for following up is because it leads to better results. For instance, if OP had followed up within a week of sending that email, there’s a fair chance none of this might be a problem.

            You’ll notice that I’m not a lone voice saying that follow-up is a good thing. Other people have independently come to the same conclusions. And as it so happens, there is a good reason for this: there’s a thing called Control Theory that deals with this kind of thing. Sending a single email with no follow up or feedback is an example of what is called an “open loop control”. Such controls are generally only used when a malfunction has low consequences. It’s like setting the water temperature on a washing machine – you set it to 100F (and then cross your fingers that that’s what it reaches).

            When the stakes are higher, and more accuracy / stability / reliability is required, a “closed loop control” is used, which incorporates some kind of feedback. This time, you set the water temperature to 100F – and there is a sensor that tells you what the actual water temperature is. This kind of feedback allows you to maintain a water temperature very close to the desired 100F. Engaging the new employee In a short dialogue about The Saturday (ie eliciting feedback) would add closed loop nature to the system. And this is a good thing, because closed loop systems don’t tend to fail as often as open loop systems. Three Mile Island, for example, is attributed to an open loop control system “problem”.

            Oh well. In the end there’s not much I can do. If people understand all of this but want to continue to run “open loop” and don’t mind dealing with the problems, there’s nothing I can do about it

        3. MissLibby

          I cannot think of a single time that a meeting was held in advance of a conference in my workplace. If I were the OP and had to explain this to my boss, he would back me 100%. It is ridiculous to think that I have to have multiple meetings with an employee to remind them to attend a conference! I told them they are required to be there, if they have a conflict, it is on them to resolve it….not on me to schedule meetings, hold their hand and sing Kumbaya for weeks in advance so they don’t forget.

          BTW, sending an email about a conference is the same as talking to them about a conference. My employees are required to read written communications from, just as they are required to have verbal conversations with me.

  20. Rebecca

    #1 – I think this says it all: “he’s just refusing to attend, on the grounds that his personal life is more important and always will be”.

    If I were managing him, I’d wonder how reliable he would be in the future, like during a crisis time where everyone had to pitch in on a weekend day to complete a project by Monday that had been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. Would he just bail on you, stating that he had plans with his wife or girlfriend, and leave the rest of the team to work even longer?

    Regarding forgetting about a mandatory conference, how does this happen? My company is not known for its stellar communication skills, but every time I’ve had to travel to a meeting, I’ve had a verbal meeting with that particular manager to discuss the date, followed by an Outlook calendar message, then a proposed meeting schedule, another brief meeting to discuss anything that might be missed, a final meeting schedule, then other verbal or Outlook updates (like departure time, who is driving, etc) as the meeting date gets closer. There is no way I could “forget” or not know something was coming up.

    1. Mockingjay

      Yep. He just didn’t want to go at all and is trying to squirm out of it. This will be a pattern of his behavior.

      At ExJob, I supervised an employee who pulled a similar stunt.

      All tech writers on the various projects were expected to pitch in on proposal writing, usually after hours for a week or two. We worked for a big company, so we had a big pool to draw from – you weren’t called on constantly. And it was PAID in addition to our regular work. Not a bad gig, and you got exposure to other departments and opportunities.

      I am required to assign one of my team to support a new proposal. I had planned to use Suzy, but Bob volunteers to do it instead. I’m pleased at his initiative – he’s fairly new and has been a little introverted. Day or two before the start date, I check in with him.

      Me (pleasant): “Ready to work on the proposal? Have any questions?”
      Him (sheepish): “Uh, I kind of changed my mind.”
      Me (surprised): “Why?”
      Him (defensive): “Well, I want to spend time with my girlfriend.”
      Me (stern): “Did you tell the Proposal Manager so he could find someone else?”
      Him (squirming): “No.”
      Me (livid): “Well, were you just going to not show up and leave him languishing?”
      Him (realizing he’s in trouble): “Umm, well…” Rambles on about the girlfriend and how much they are in love and how he needs to be with her. I firmly explained about company expectations and following through. He may have volunteered for this particular effort, but there will be others that are mandatory to support – this is part of the job (of which he was informed when hired).

      His performance thereafter remained lackluster. Not surprisingly, we let him go a few months later when his own project contract expired.

  21. Daisy

    Is there a line missing in the last paragraph of the answer to 2? It doesn’t make sense as is, and the opening quotation marks are missing.

  22. Willow Sunstar

    #3 is common. It’s why I am still in my job after getting my MBA and having a toxic coworker who is being protected by management. I can look internally, but there is nothing open now. I can’t leave the company until next fall.

  23. NJ anon

    #5 The next resignation letter should read like this:
    Dear Manager:
    I am resigning. My last day is x/x/xx.
    P.S. You are an ass!
    Sincerely yours,
    NJ Anon

  24. OP#2

    update on my job interview process: I was contacted by an HR rep, who said they would be closing the search pending the restructuring. All in all, I wasn’t in love with this job because a lengthy interview process, some disorganized team dynamics, and other factors – (that are for another Ask a Manager post). Glad I got some clarification on why the job was closed and it sounds like they didn’t fill it at all.

    1. BRR

      It sucks you had to invest so much time but that’s the process sometimes unfortunately. They at least handled it professionally by being transparent.

  25. cardiganed librarian

    Re. #4, I would lie no question. You’re not on the hook for paying this person’s rent if she does flake out, your professional reputation isn’t on the line, and you clearly trust her to take care of your children so I think you trust she’s not going to turn the place into a meth den. I sympathize with the plight of landlords – my parents are landlords – but in tight rental markets it can be nearly impossible to find a place if you don’t fit the ideal category of full-time employee of a stable company with no children or pets.

    1. INFJ

      All good points.

      On a practical level, the landlord may ask for verification from the nanny in the form of checks/other proof of payment that would be really difficult to fake.

      1. Adonday Veeah

        IMO, that verification would be on the nanny to produce, not OP. Although I would do this for (an extremely short list of) certain people in my life, in no way would I EVER fabricate proof of payment.

  26. NinaK

    #4 …. My children are 10 and 11 and since they were born I have worked part time or full time, used both nannies and day care. We’ve had great experiences with nannies and occasional sitters and not so great experiences. My point being, been there, done that. Your letter got my BS meter on high alert. Your “friend” is taking advantage of your friendship. Your nanny is liar. If she is willing to lie to the landlord and then ask you to cover for her, I have to wonder in what ways she is willing to lie or stretch the truth with you. If you cover for her, you are doing a disservice to the landlord who rightfully just wants to be sure his/her tenant is reasonably able to cover the rent. Since she is a friend you probably didn’t need to check references ( I wouldn’t) but if you did, would you now wonder if she asked THOSE people to lie for her?

    I know this sounds really really harsh. My experience as a work outside the home mom is that if your childcare doesn’t work, nothing works. A fantastic caregiver can make the transitions seamless and a not so great caregiver can create chaos where none needs to be (making excuses for being late, fudging sick days, blaming traffic for late school pick up etc.). Regardless of what you decide about the landlord reference, keep your eye on the situation and if any of it feels off for any reason, move on to another sitter.

    1. neverjaunty

      This. It’s not even a small lie, it’s multiple and pretty big lies and I would be wondering what else this person would lie about. Say, to get a nannying job.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        And, it’s making the assumption that the OP would lie for her. The nanny is not only asking for a lie, she’s assuming the OP is someone who will lie. For me, that would be a serious burn. No-one who knows me well should make an assumption like that about me.

    2. Elizabeth West

      Yes, it bothered me that she already told the landlord and is asking the OP to verify. She’s not asking the OP in advance.
      Even if this is the only lie, it’s still a pretty big one. That uncomfortable feeling you have, OP? It’s called your intuition, and it’s poking you because you know this situation is a big pile of nope.

    3. Happy Lurker

      Nina – spot on with all your comments about sitters. I have walked your walk and hindsight is 20/20. This is just the first flag. OP keep your eyes and ears open. I did read OPs follow up and hope it all works out for you.

  27. NickelandDime

    #4: 99.9 percent of the time I wouldn’t advocate lying for someone (see the shady guy a few days ago that fabricated a job, etc., and wanted someone to lie for him), but in the case of securing housing: Yes, I would. I would lie for a friend and valued employee to get a place to LIVE. You aren’t cosigning the lease (which I would strongly advocate not doing). You are helping her get a safe place to live to keep employment and possibly kids in her school of choice. It’s up to you, but I wouldn’t feel bad about that.

    1. OP#4

      I’m concerned that I don’t have any proof to back up her claim of working for so much longer than reality. I feel like if I go along with the lie and then can’t provide any proof of its authenticity, the whole house of cards falls down. A lot of places in my area are owned by the same rental companies, so I’m afraid she could get blacklisted. Of course, I’m a worrier.

      1. over educated and underemployed

        I would ask HER about this so she will understand the risk she also runs in lying to this management co. When I rented my place last year, we had to provide most recent pay stubs from both of my jobs and an offer letter for my husband’s job that we were moving for in addition to employer contact info. (We still lost out on 3 places to single people with higher incomes, which is why I am sympathetic to your shady nanny). You can’t provide those, and if you are not paying the employer taxes required for full time domestic workers, even a current pay stub might look iffy.

        I would be OK with trying to help on this one but ONLY if I knew for sure that only a verbal verification was needed. She may have bigger problems if that’s not enough, unfortunately.

      2. MJ

        You might be able to choose your wording carefully so as not to lie…”I have known Sheila for 8 years, and she works in my home as a trusted nanny for our children. I can vouch for her (list of qualities). “

      3. Erin

        I agree with NickelAndDime that the fact this is for housing is different (and less offensive) than if this was for a job.

        And I hear your concerns, but I think this is really unlikely that they’d ask for proof, right? They’ll probably have a phone conversation with you, and ask for a recent pay stub or proof of payment from her, but not from a year ago when she supposedly starting working for you.

        I’d probably go ahead and lie for her, but I’d make it clear that this was not okay and she’s not to put you in that spot again.

        1. OP#4

          I am planning on actually talking to her today (all of this previously was over text). I am probably overthinking it when it comes to paystubs, as it is far more likely that the potential landlord will just call me. We are actually using a nanny tax/payroll service, so all of that would be legit. I do understand why she did what she did, but I hope we can figure out a better way to handle this in the future.

          1. the_scientist

            I wouldn’t be so sure that the landlord won’t actually check this out. I live in a very tight, very expensive rental market and to move into my latest apartment (a building owned by a big corporation with lots of buildings in the area) I had to provide:
            – proof of employment (letter of offer)
            – first and last month’s rent (money order, not a cheque)
            – references
            – a signed letter from my bank indicating the balance of my bank account and whether I’d had issues with overdraft in the last 5 years (I personally think this is massively invasive, but in a tight market, you gotta do what you gotta do).

            And they actually called my boss! I was mortified; I’d only been at the job for a month so was still within my “probationary period”, as indicated on my offer letter, and the person who called my boss was very invasive in her questioning.

            So TL;DR, some landlords (especially big companies) will actually do their homework. I’m sympathetic to the nanny’s plight and it’s a tricky situation because you are friends with her personally…..but beware that some companies will do a fair bit of detective work.

            1. Chameleon

              Good Lord. Are you applying for an apartment or a job with the State Department? This is just so ridiculous I can’t even.

              1. neverjaunty

                There are some very bad rental markets, and yes, I have (recently) had a landlord call my boss directly.

        2. BRR

          I get this lie too and don’t think it speaks poorly of the nanny’s character. She needs a place to live and landlords have understandable questions with regards to income and employment. The way I see it is if the op wants to do this and knows their friend will pay the rent it sometimes needs to be done. If they have doubts their friend will pay the rent I would say you have apprehensions about lying but would give a great reference to any landlord if you would do that.

          What concerns me is she did this without asking. I would be mad that I was “voluntold” to lie (by a friend, employee, or anybody). But once again landlords can be understandably tough. The other Dawn (did I get that right?) will tell you how tough eviction laws are.

          1. NinaK

            OP … do you have any concerns about how she is actually going to pay the rent? If she needs to lie about the income she gets from you (i.e., saying it is full time not 16 hours / week), then really, how IS she going to pay the rent?

            1. VintageLydia USA

              Some landlords have ridiculous requirements, though. I remember back when I was renting, every tenant in an apartment had to be able to cover the entire rent. So if you have roommates, you could only get the size apartment the lowest income earner can afford on their own (this is waived for married couples.) And I get it. If one tenant needs to move out then the remaining tenant needs to be able to cover rent. What actually ended up happening was a LOT of illegal/unauthorized subletting and roommate situation where one person can afford the place and rent out the other rooms on their own. It’s very possible the nanny is moving in with another person and their combined income covers the rent and other living expenses no problem, but individually she wouldn’t be allowed. But there is a lot of benefits of being on the lease and it’s not likely you’ll be kicked out if your hours are “cut” after move-in so long as the landlord gets their rent money.

                1. Koko

                  Not their problem. They’re a landlord to make money for themselves, not to provide housing as a public good.

                  For different reasons this is also the situation as I understand it in Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. Good affordable rental housing is in such short supply that once a person gets their name on a lease, they try to outlast the rest of the tenants and then illegally sublease the other rooms without putting the sublessors on the lease, often charging more than the room actually costs to subsidize their own costs and having all kinds of their own rules they impose on the tenant. People are so desperate for a place to live that the tenant whose name is on the lease has all the power.

                2. FD

                  The reason behind the roommates rule is that if someone leaves suddenly, it’s usually very hard to collect. With a current tenant, you can take them to court and evict for nonpayment, though it’s expensive and you usually won’t get back the money you’re owed. Yes, you can sue for your money, but it’s rare that it’ll actually be collectible.

                  This means that the landlord wants to be assured that if any of the roommates do leave, they can still get their rent. There’s often an exception for married couples because married couples are often considered one person in the eyes of the law.

                  It’s easy to think that ‘oh, they just don’t care about lower income people,’ but the reality is more complicated. The landlord depends on her income to pay bills and maintain the property, just like any other business owner. In residential, that margin isn’t always that large either, especially if you’re only handling one or two properties. If too many people don’t pay, the landlord may not be capable of doing needed repairs, which affects other tenants who are able to pay reliably.

                  While housing is a major concern, I think it’s important to understand that most landlords don’t make these rules just to be Scrooge McDuck.

              1. TootsNYC

                I had a landlord here in NYC who encouraged this–he wanted me to be on the lease, and only me. And I could get whoever I wanted to be a roommate and charge whatever I wanted, he didn’t care.

                He only wanted to deal with one person. That way I had all the hassle of findina r oommate and dealing with nonpayments, etc.

                Now, I could afford it on my own (not easily, but I could), so maybe that was why he rented to me without qualms.

                I will say that I preferred it as well. It made stuff like “we can’t stand each other anymore, who should move out?” much easier.

            2. OP#4

              I don’t have any concerns. She was previously working for another family for quite some time (which is another reason I was taken aback when she wrote that she’s been working for me for over a year!), and she lives with her boyfriend who has had a good job for years and can pay the rent alone if need be.

          2. Charby

            I don’t think that what the nanny did is too bad, but if you think about it’s almost identical to what the guy from the previous letter did (the guy who fabricated his resume and put down the OP as a reference without telling her first).

            Ultimately there’s something careless/callous about deciding that someone will lie for you *before* even running it by them first to make sure that they’re comfortable with. The nanny’s saving grace here is that she seems to have a positive and friendly relationship with the person first, which just goes to show that being likable can do a lot to paper over a mistake in judgment.

  28. WNY Knitter

    Re #3:
    All but one of the companies I’ve worked for had this type of repayment clause for education as well as relocation expenses. At last OLDJOB, there was no clause and many, many people took advantage of the tution reimbursement benefit.

    In a general conversation with a Sr HR type, I asked why there was no clause or expectation. Expecting a “we trust people to do the right thing” answer (one of the company’s values), I was very surprised to hear her say it was almost impossible to enforce this clause. In fact, the company’s Legal staff wouldn’t let it be included. Of course, it could be different in OLDJOB’s state… but it was a surprise.

    1. MK

      I think she may have been referring to the cost, not the legality. If the employee simply refuses to repay the money, taking them to court might cost too much for the amount involved. An if they simply don’t have the money, the company might go through all that trouble for nothing.

      1. TootsNYC

        and sometimes, if you don’t enforce a clause in a contract, it eventually becomes void because you let other people get away with it. (This used to happen w/ landlords and pets in NYC, and so every lease used to have a clause that said, in essence: “You aren’t allowed to have pets. But you agree that if we don’t enforce the no-pets clause against someone else, we still get to enforce it against you.” Then the courts stepped in and said that clause was void, and landlords have to enforce against everyone promptly or lose the no-pets restriction completely.)

        So it’s probably wiser to just not include it at all, instead of including something that becomes a vulnerability.

      2. Koko

        Eh, if it’s a big enough company with in-house lawyers, the cost of going to court is almost negligible for them. The cost of legal fees will be much more of a burden for the former employee, to the extent that it’d probably be smarter just to pay the tuition back.

  29. Erin

    #3 – Yeah, this is really normal, and in fact the clause from what I’ve seen can be more like five years instead of one year, so this is actually more on the lenient side. I’m confused why this pisses you off. They’re paying for your education; they expect you to stick around for a reasonable period of time. And they’re up front about the terms beforehand. Maybe I’m missing something, but it doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me.

    1. Interviewer

      OP #3, if it’s not going to break your bank account to pay it back, then it’s not going to break your bank account to avoid using the benefit at all. Always assume that they will enforce the contract that you signed. If you don’t like the terms, consider paying for your own education yourself, rather than relying on an employer who won’t have you around much longer.

      We did a lot of research on benchmarking in our industry and large employers before establishing our policy this summer, and I think our tuition reimbursement policy is on the generous side. Your company’s benefit is even more generous. You should think on this one a little harder, before jumping to “pissed.”

  30. anonanonanon

    #3: This is totally normal. If you make a big deal about it, you run the risk of coming off like an entitled brat and this could really hurt you, especially if you’re in an industry where news travels fast. You signed a contract saying you owe the company one year in exchange for tuition assistance. If you didn’t like the deal, you shouldn’t have agreed to the terms. This isn’t a benefit. It’s a perk. There’s a world of difference. Employers can revoke perks whenever they want.

    That being said, I can understand some of your frustration. My last company told me my grad school tuition reimbursement was due 30 days after I left, which seemed a little severe (since I didn’t have $5K stashed away that I could give to them), but I was able to work out a payment plan. If the issue is paying back a lump sum, then you might want to ask about a payment plan.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      That is my fear about offering tuition reimbursement! Our board would never approve it without a clawback, and our employees aren’t high-income. I worry that they wouldn’t actually have the money available – either short or long term – and we’d either (a) have to let it go or (b) have to take legal action, which we would really, really not want to do.

      1. anonanonanon

        Would offering a payment plan be something you could do? My payment plan didn’t have interest and we worked out something that I could afford every month. I ended up being able to do about $150 a month, but I have a former coworker who started at $25/month payments because that’s all she could afford at the time.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

          Yeah, we could – but it feels like a lot to manage and track. What are we going to do if we don’t get the payments? We don’t really have the money or capacity to start collections activities – or sue for the money.

          1. Observer

            You turn it over to a collection agency, who keeps part of the proceeds. That does leave you on the hook to some extent, but it means that people know they can’t blow it

  31. Charby

    Some employers will prorate how much you have to pay back so that if you leave immediately after graduating you’ll have to repay all of it but if you leave nine months later you might only have to pay a small portion. It’s worth investigating that for any company that has tuition reimbursement since it does make a difference. (In addition, as other posters mentioned, the new company might be willing to cover those costs after hiring you.)

  32. BananaPants

    #3 – this is very, very common with companies who offer tuition reimbursement. They view it as an investment in their employees and when people use the benefit and then bail, it’s reasonable to expect the former employee to pay them back. Tuition assistance is really not part of your compensation, it’s a benefit.

    My employer pays up-front for higher education (not reimbursement), in whatever field the employee chooses to study (does not have to be work-related), to attend approved schools (the for-profits like UoP are excluded). There are annual caps on total amount but they are very reasonable for a full time employee going to school part time. There is no clawback, but if a participating employee voluntarily leaves the company during a semester that the company has paid for, the contract says the former employee has to repay expenses for that semester. (If an employee is laid off, they do not have to repay.)

    I’m on my third (and FINAL) master’s degree, all paid for entirely by my employer. With the first two I got a stock award as a graduation gift. Seriously. I stay here in part because of the educational assistance program; I could not afford a part time graduate program at a private university without this help.

    My husband’s employer offers a whopping $1000/year in tuition reimbursement, but there’s no clawback. It’s enough to cover a couple of community college classes so he’s going to make use of it.

  33. Lyndz

    Im really getting tired of AAM always siding with the employer on everything recently. Slowing moving away from reading this blog.

    1. fposte

      How is “First, your manager is an ass” siding with the employer?

      But I think you’re misreading things if you’re looking at it in terms of “siding” anyway. It’s about how to negotiate workplaces based on existing workplace practice. Even if you personally think nobody should ever have to return tuition reimbursement or cancel plans they made on a prearranged work date, the working world considers those standard, and Alison wouldn’t be doing anybody any favors to say “No, that’s totally wrong!”

      1. BRR

        When I read today’s posts I thought about this critique. I can see how people think 1 is because the day before was approved, 2 because it wasted somebody’s time, and 3 because it’s a benefit (but it’s different than pto or insurance).

        the employee in 1 knew it was mandatory and some jobs have times where you NEED to be there.

        2 things come up and it’s unfortunate but they were transparent.

        3 it’s such common sense to not let give employees such a benefit just so they can leave right after. Same as relocation costs. An employer gets little from tuition reimbursement long term, this is a way to reap some of the rewards.

        The theme of AAM is to handle how things are and what might get results. It’s a place for practical advice and not how things should be (which is established usually too but that’s not always helpful. Telling me myanager should act differently isn’t helpful advice).

        Unless the labor market drastically changes people tend to get more from an employer than what they provide unless you are a super rock star or in an industry that’s really short on talent. I’m specifically not saying company’s should treat employees like shit but employees have responsibilities and company’s have expectations and those expectations can be reasonable at times (they just seem rare).

      2. Laurel Gray

        I think the tone that Alison answers many questions follows the “do you want to be right or do you want to win?” attitude which really is the BEST way to deal with employer related issues or drama.

        1. Katie the Fed

          Yeah, otherwise you get the kind of advice my mom gives. “Your boss can’t treat you like that! you should file a complaint!” Like, I love you Mom and you give the kind of advice you would give to your daughter who is having a hard time. But it’s terrible, terrible advice and you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    2. coffeedevil

      Lyndz: I think that is a very unfair and incorrect generalization, and sounds as if you think it is BECAUSE they are the employer that Allison ‘sides with’ them. In the last 5 cases today, we see: a very unreasonable employer process (#2) and a ‘boss is an A$$’ (#5), and 3 very unreasonable employees (#1, #3 and #4). I strongly disagree with the implication that she is biased at all.

      1. Charby

        I kind of wish people who make accusations like this would back it up with examples. These really general swipes always seem more provocative than actually raising legitimate concerns.

        1. BRR

          I agree. We’re left to try and guess sometimes. Like applying for a job, show, don’t tell. I can see how people thing certain responses are like this but I’ve always thought of this blog as helping employees and managers. It’s not like employees are always right. I think we just see so many asshole moves by managers and companies that we can forget that some people are doing it right.

        2. Heather

          It would be great if these people really would “shy away” from reading & commenting.

          I feel like a lot of the old regulars don’t post anymore and the comments have been taken over by people who just want to start arguments. :(

          1. Not me

            I agree, but I’m also thinking about backing off from the comment section. It seems like threads are getting derailed from helping OPs and turning adversarial (and sometimes pretty strange) quickly. :/

            1. Heather

              Yep. I’m wondering if the derailings and adversarial-ness are what’s driving off the sensible members of the community.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                I’d like to push back on the idea that there’s some mass exodus of sensible people. There are plenty of sensible people here :) And it’s pretty normal that commenters come and go in the lifecycle of a blog.

                That said, I’m annoyed by it too and I’m trying to more aggressive about cracking down on it when I see it. (That’s not always possible because sometimes it’s off and running before I have a chance to see it.) Clearly I need to do more of it though.

                1. Heather

                  I didn’t phrase that very well…there are definitely lots of sensible newer commenters!

                  I was just thinking that the number of long-term commenters who haven’t been around lately seems larger than might be explained by normal attrition/ebb & flow. Of course, they could be around and just posting on different threads than me, or taking a break for totally unrelated reasons. Who knows?

                  Either way, your second paragraph is the main point. It does seem that you’re going to have to do more cracking down in order to preserve the quality of the discussion, which sucks. But I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I say I’m grateful you’re willing to do it! The interwebs wouldn’t be the same without AAM :)

                2. ThursdaysGeek

                  @Heather – I don’t know if I count as a long time commenter, but I often don’t comment because by the time I get here, just about anything (reasonable) that can be said has already been said. So I just read, and comment in the few places where I still can find a reasonable hole.

              2. LBK

                This makes me curious, because I feel like I still see most of the same regulars I’ve always seen (although admittedly I’ve only been reading for a year, so maybe there are older ones I wasn’t as familiar with). The only one I’ve really noticed was Jamie, who I’m under the impression left more for not-having-time reasons, and she still pokes her head in every so often.

              3. Not me

                Alison, thank you! I think it also might be a natural part of a website growing. People come in who are used to other spaces (I’ve noticed this with CA particularly) and haven’t totally switched gears yet.

    3. NickelandDime

      I think AAM generally sympathizes with employees – it’s hard to know what to do in tricky work situations. I think the advice provided empowers the employee to find a SMART solution to an issue. I’ve seen plenty of well-meaning folks “side” with friends and family on work issues and provide advice that isn’t in their best interest, advice that could get them fired.

      People need both – they need to know they’ve been heard, and they need advice to help them solve the problem and stay employed. Sometimes that advice can be hard to hear, but it needs to be said.

      1. LBK

        Exactly – “siding with the employee” means giving them advice that’s going to get them their desired result. Sometimes that can mean doing something that appears to be in the employer’s best interest on the surface, but as Laurel Gray said above, do you want to be right or do you want to win?

        That’s one of the main reasons I find AAM’s advice so useful and so refreshing, because it looks at how things *do* work rather than how they *should* work, while still acknowledging the latter when appropriate.

      2. Koko

        Yes, this. This isn’t a, “Vent your problems and receive sympathetic outrage,” blog. It’s an advice blog. In the posts where she answers letters from employees with problems, Alison isn’t writing a prescription for how an ideal working environment would look different. She’s giving pragmatic advice on how to navigate the reality of your (often crappy or unfair but very real) situation.

        You’ll notice though, that when she writes her more editorial pieces (“Stop doing X”) or when she’s answering questions from managers, she DOES take more of a prescriptive tack and is often pushing for employers/managers to hold themselves to higher standards, be more reasonable, etc.

    4. Not me

      I haven’t seen that. I can see that the advice here is usually focused on being pragmatic, doing what will realistically work out well for the OP, and there is only so much to do when you have a bad employer. I’d be interested in seeing examples that favored the employer over an employee or OP.

    5. Kyrielle

      I think Alison mostly focuses on advice to help the OP, unless the OP is wildly in the wrong and not acknowledging it. In many cases that advice may “favor” the company in that there is really nothing the OP can do about it, except deal, and it’s perfectly normal. (And when it’s not but there’s still not much to do, Alison says that. I mean, “First, your manager is an ass.” is really pretty clear, and not very pro-manager.)

      Bear in mind that the OP on #1 *is* the manager. It’s entirely possible that if the employee had written in, Alison’s response would have a different tone (and probably include advice about making note of things like that in the future!). It’s also possible that if OP #1 hadn’t already sounded like they felt bad for the situation, Alison’s tone might have been different. And she did say “If it’s truly imperative” – so there’s still the acknowledgement that if it wasn’t, the answer might be different, but in this case the letter says it is.

      And so on. I do find that Alison’s answers tend to lean toward the “you can’t force a change what the employer is doing” side *because the law does also*, followed up with practical advice to the letter-writer within that framework. That practical advice sometimes includes suggesting they consider looking for a new job, presumably with a more reasonable employer! And she validates employees who are in bad situations by calling the situation what it is, even if it can’t be forced to change, and then giving whatever suggestions she can offer for negotiating them.

      I was a letter-writer once. She didn’t post mine, but she did reply, and basically told me that I could either deal with my situation or not, but it probably wasn’t going to change. She was right – and framing it that way and as a choice of ‘will you stay with this or not?’ was ultimately the best advice. Sympathy is awesome and I have friends for that, but it doesn’t help me make reality-based decisions about what to do in the situation I’m in, it just tells me that someone sympathizes. Which is awesome, but again, not advice.

    6. LBK

      I find this a particularly interesting take on Alison’s general responses considering yesterday’s letter about the bus texter getting fired – that seemed like one where it would be really, really easy to side with the employer since the OP didn’t come off great in her letter, but Alison still defended the employee (the OP) and said the employer was wrong.

      This feels like confirmation bias – that the letters that stick out to you are the ones where you would’ve sided more with the employee, while the ones where you agree with Alison’s take on the situation aren’t as memorable. I think you’re also conflating “siding with the employee” with “telling the employee exactly what they want to hear,” which can be extremely destructive advice. Sure, there are plenty of letters where the most satisfying answer would be “March into your CEO’s office and tell him what a jerk your manager is, that will get him fired and then you’ll love your job” but that is not even remotely realistic.

    7. Apollo Warbucks

      That is just wrong she gives fair balanced advice as is never one to shy away from calling it as it is, including bashing jerk employers when needed.

  34. Applesauced

    Regarding #3 – what if the clawback clause isn’t in writing? I was offered reimbursement for taking exams by one of the partners at my annual review, and he didn’t mention anything about paying back the fees if I leave. At an all-staff meeting another partner said we take paid time off for the exams that won’t count against our vacation, but we’d forfeit that if we left less than a year later. None of this was ever in writing.
    I’ve used both benefits, and might leave sooner than one year after passing an exam – do I offer to repay the fees and/or forfeit the vacation (that I would otherwise be paid out)? Do I wait for them to bring it up? (Do I wait for them to bring it up – and then say “nah, nah – nothing’s in writing, suckers!”?)

    1. BRR

      I personally wouldn’t mention it if you leave but if they bring it up abide by those rules. You’d be burning a bridge by saying “oh I didn’t know that, is that in writing somewhere?” Plus it’s just how I feel I should be as a person. If they’ve been super nice in other ways I would bring it up.

      1. Applesauced

        Yeah, that’s what I’m planning to do (the first part – wait for them to mention it). I’d like to ask for clarification, but writing that email just sounds like “I want to leave but I also want to milk your benefits – how long to I have to stay so you’ll pay for this?”

    2. periwinkle

      It’s possible that the PTO thing is company-wide since the partner said this at an all-staff meeting. I’d be prepared to give back that time if leaving before the year is up.

      The exam fee might have been covered by that partner’s discretionary funds for employee development rather than by company policy; since no mention was made of paying that back, I wouldn’t offer to do so. My boss’s departmental budget includes money for development opportunities not covered by the corporate tuition program, such as conferences and workshops. I’m under no obligation to pay those costs back if I leave tomorrow.

  35. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

    I work for one of those places where my tuition reimbursement perk doesn’t come with a promise of having to work so many years following (possibly because the amount we’re eligible is so much lower than 5k). If now, after I’ve already taken advantage of one years worth of tuition I was told that they were changing the rules and could make me pay them back if I were to leave I’d be angry. But if it was something that I knew about when I started using that benefit I would not be angry when held to the rules.

  36. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

    The main reason we don’t offer tuition reimbursement is that we can’t really afford it. The other reason is that it would only make sense to put some kind of condition on it (last time it was discussed, we were thinking a year) and we don’t really have the capacity to collect this back from people who leave sooner unless they just willingly write us a check. I feel like there’s a risk that the person accepting the money may not really internalize the amount of time they need to stay, and then might be surprised/resentful about paying it back. If we had a legal department, I might do it. Otherwise, this sounds like a nightmare.

  37. Josh S

    A number of years ago, I worked for a Benefits Administration firm who had just landed a contract to handle the Tuition Reimbursement program for a Fortune 100 retail company.

    Until they outsourced it, the company had basically had the Store Manager for each location approve and submit up to $5000/year in tuition reimbursement for the employees of their store, with no other restrictions. (Oh, there were supposedly some guidelines on what classes/course of study could count, but nobody ever followed them.) Part Time Employees (the vast majority of the workforce) were eligible, there was no clawback clause, etc. Essentially, you took a class, submitted your Tuition Bill and had your Store Manager sign a form and fax it in. If you were still getting a paycheck when the thing was processed, you got up to $5k reimbursed.

    Oh, and the client didn’t track the program. Not at all. They didn’t know how much they spent on Tuition Reimbursement. They didn’t know who it went to (by store, by Full Time/Part Time, etc). They didn’t know how valued it was or how well it helped keep people on board.

    Well, I spearheaded the team that handled reimbursements, and started tracking this stuff. Turns out, the vast majority of people taking Tuition Reimbursement were Part Time employees. Like, >90% of them. We did some survey work, and found out that most of them were Full Time College Students working <15 hours per week–basically enough to be on the payroll so they could get $5k of their tuition paid every year. They'd quit during summer, have restricted hours of availability, and leave as soon as they graduated (and collected their final reimbursement check). Oh, and the client was spending MILLIONS on this benefit. And average retention after receiving the benefit was on the order of 2-3 months.

    Their intent had been to hire (generally un- or under-educated) workers and give them an avenue to further education as part of a career growth plan. Instead, they were subsidizing the education of otherwise capable people who never intended to stay with the company.

    After 1 year of my company handling their outsourced process, and some of the analytics we did for the client, they radically changed their policy. Full Time employees (generally shift managers and up) were eligible for $5k/year, with a 6 month clawback. Part Time employees were eligible for $2.5k/year, with a 1 year clawback.

    I left before the change was implemented, so I never saw the results. But I’m 90% sure that the benefit was utilized much, much less, and mostly by the people who were the intended targets of the program to begin with.

    1. BadPlanning

      Wow, the local managers must have known this was a thing, but couldn’t do anything about it other than have lots of part time employees desperately trying to cover all the shifts 15 hours at a time.

      On the other hand, I can’t really blame the students. $5000 of tuition for 15 hours of work a week (plus their actual pay)? Brilliant.

  38. Muffin Button

    #1: Ick. I was once royally screwed out of an extra week of vacation for my wedding (due to an unfair manager who treated me differently than other employees and even went so far as to make a fake department standard to “justify” her treatment) …. and I did not behave at all like the employee in #1. This is a bad sign.

    #2: Sounds like a bullet dodged. Perhaps in 6 months or a year with new leadership it will grow into a good place to work again and you can reapply if interested.

    #3: I would understand being upset in two cases 1) They put this contract into place after the fact and tried to apply retroactively. Or 2) They laid you off and then tried to also clawback your tuition. Neither is the case here so try to focus on it from a business point of view and depersonalize.

    #4: I would totally lie. I also wouldn’t worry about how she is going to get the money.

    #5: I am having a hard time imagining my resignation letters from previous companies ever being mocked. Yes – your manager is definitely a grade A-Asshat, but what was in the letter? A manifesto? All my resignation letters were handed in after resigning in person, at the request of my manager. It simply said “It’s been fantastic working here at [Company] and I wish you all the best. I am resigning on X date to pursue new opportunities. Thank you again for a fantastic X years!”

    1. Artemesia

      I have read quite a few letters in which all scores are settled. It makes the resigning employee look like an ass even when he or she is ‘right’. I come from a long line of people who write pompous letters when offended and it always used to amaze me to see my mother, for example, write this sort of thing to my brother and sister in law when she herself has received this sort of nonsense from her FIL. Pompous, self justifying letters NEVER get the author what they want and defensive pompous resignation letters just make the employee look bad.

      But I have seen some that would be viral if that had been a thing then.

  39. Katie the Fed

    Huh. I really didn’t expect the first post to be so controversial.

    Look – it’s not a huge problem and doesn’t require a huge solution. A conversation should suffice. You told the employee before he started about this – it’s not on you to remind him. When you’re new to a job you should be tracking those things closely. So, he screwed up. It’s ok – we all screw up sometimes. Now he has to fix it. No harm, no foul.

    I don’t think the manager needed to remind him at all.

    1. AP

      Agreed; and if he still doesn’t come in on Saturday, treat it like any other instance of no call, no show, whatever your policy is.

  40. BTW

    “I think it’s horrible to encourage employees to pursue continuing education and then penalize them if they choose to take advantage of it and don’t stick around for a year.”

    I think it’s horrible that you think it’s okay to take the employers money and then just leave. I know there are a lot of businesses out there that have this perk but there are certainly also a lot that don’t. They aren’t penalizing you, they are protecting their investment. I think a case of “put yourself in their shoes” would give you a different perspective on this.

    FWIW, I went through this at my last job. I expressed an interest in schooling (our company did not offer such perks) and my boss eventually found out. He offered to pay for it all and in turn I would have to sign a 5 year contract. If I left after X amount of years I would have to pay a portion of it back. That didn’t sit right with me. 5 years was a long time and who knows what would happen in that time. (Husband is the bread winner. If he got another opportunity elsewhere, we would go. I wanted to start having kids in this 5 year span etc.) I told him I was still going to pay for it myself (original plan) and he kept trying to find a way to lock me down. Let me make it clear that at the time I had no intentions on leaving but he was dead set on finding a way to make me stay and on his dime so that I would “owe” him something if I left (which in turn would make me not want to leave because I would be out all that money. He was very manipulative) I started my first course and wondered what the hell I was doing completing a certificate program, wasting my money on something I didn’t even want to do as a career. I was upfront and honest about it and a week later I was fired for “unrelated” reasons. (Coincidence?! Ha!) I now have my foot in the door doing what I love and I couldn’t be happier.

    The moral of my story is that it’s simple, if you aren’t willing to accept the terms of said perk then you shouldn’t take advantage of it in the first place.

  41. Anx

    #3

    General tuition reimbursement question: do people actually work their regular hours when they go back to school?

    I can’t imagine being able to complete an actual degree without having to take some classes at 1pm MWF or 10am TTh. I come from science, though, where the idea of going to school during nights or weekends (and finishing a program online) will rarely cut it.

    1. GrittyKitty

      I did it. I worked my regular day (8-5) job, took classes at night (6-9) and delivered pizzas on weekends (to help with my mom’s expenses). Just did not do much else. I was fortunate to have a husband who made sure I had clean clothes and was fed. We kinda took the attitude that my degree would be good for both of us, so he did all he could to support me in the process.

    2. Carrie in Scotland

      Day release is most likely an option – someone in my office has just started a course to earn a certificate (2 yr course) in admin. she goes one day a week, over 2 years – a full time student would complete the course in 1 year.
      I’ve also heard of people going to university during the evening as opposed to day release, or there is always online/distance courses.

    3. INFJ

      I personally worked night shift when I did this: work overnight, go to class in the morning/afternoon (science). Full time courseload. I did all my homework for the week ahead on the weekend. (And I actually got no reimbursement, but the situation still applies to your question, I think.)

      I have a friend (day shift, also science) whose employer was flexible with her hours so that she could attend classes during the day, but I believe she was part time with the classes.

    4. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

      I’m doing my coursework online, so yes- regular 9 to 5 and nights for classes. And while it was several years back my parents both worked full-time regular hour day jobs and took night class. It just requires good time management, access to schools offering those accommodations, and some finagling.

      1. De Minimis

        I had to just find part time work when I could and take out loans. My program just wasn’t designed for working people–there were a few classes you could take at night but most of the courses were only during the work day.
        Think that’s a big reason why the program never really got off the ground and is currently suspended.

      2. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

        I should mention that I’m in an area with a large science-oriented school with a good continuing ed program that offered night classes, and I know of several other schools that offer those accommodations for workers going back to school so even in a science field it’s not impossible

    5. Emmy

      Yep. I work in higher ed so tuition remission is a benefit, and one that’s used often. We generally can only take night classes. I did have to take one pre-req that only met during the day and I did a flex schedule to make up the time. Oh, and I’ve never worked at a university that had a clawback clause!

      1. Elsajeni

        I also work in higher ed, and it’s similar here — you can get released from work for three hours per week for classes (so, one daytime class per semester, basically), but otherwise you’ll have to stick to evening and weekend classes or find a way to make up the time. (My university also serves a lot of non-traditional and working students, so there are plenty of evening and weekend options; that helps.)

    6. Episkey

      Yes, my husband did it for several years, first completing his bachelors and then gaining the required credits to sit for the CPA exam (and he studied for all parts of the CPA exam plus took a prep course while working full-time also).

    7. The IT Manager

      In my experience, these people (white collar office types mostly) were taking evening, weekend, or online classes designed for working students. I don’t know of anyone who made any significant change to their office hours in order to take classes. The only thing might be “I absolutely have to leave at 4pm or 4:30 two days a week for the next semester.”

      1. The IT Manager

        Now that I fully read your question, it is the difference between a traditional program with daytime classes and those designed to serve working students. And also much of this tuition assistance caps out at one or two classes a semester so nothing like a full time student.

        I do know of a military guy whose masters in engineering stalled (in part) when he comprehended that he was never going to be able to take the labs he needed. He was doing this long distance so there was a real mistake in his planning.

    8. LeighTX

      Yes, I did my MBA mostly through online classes and worked full time while I did it–with a husband who also worked full time and two young daughters at home–we ate a LOT of hot dogs and frozen pizza during that time. I have a coworker who is finishing his bachelors degree while working full time; he does a number of online classes, but if he has a class during the day he just makes up the time by working later or by coming in on a Saturday. It’s hard, but for me it was worth it.

    9. periwinkle

      There are now many, many degree programs that cater to working adults by offering evening/weekend schedules and synchronous or asynchronous online courses. You might have to rearrange your schedule a little, or maybe not. We have a lot of people pursuing engineering degrees through a combination of online courses plus evening/weekend courses and labs.

      The real issue is time management. Working full time plus taking two classes a semester is exhausting. Social life = reading Facebook and seeing all the fun stuff that my friends are doing while I’m writing papers.

    10. the gold digger

      I had two co-workers at OldJobWithPension who got their MBAs at a weekend executive program that required every other Friday. I don’t know if they had to take vacation days, but they definitely were able to take that time off. (And the company paid their tuition.)

    11. doreen

      It’s going to depend on the school and the program- way back in the ’80s, it was possible at my college to get a bachelor’s degree even in the sciences through night classes ( labs went until 10 or 11pm) . And the MBA program I started (at a different college in the same university) required night classes – I think the earliest classes began at 4 pm. But that’s in large part because it’s an urban , commuter, public university that has always had a high proportion of working/pert-time/evening students .

    12. Sparkly Librarian

      I worked full time and did my master’s online (until my final semester, when I worked 4 days/week). I crammed in as many classes as I could, because the cost per unit was lower under the plan I chose, and finished in two years just like someone who only took classes full-time. It was a real bitch sometimes (like that last semester, where I fell into the 4 day workweek as a surprise response to “OMG I think I’m not gonna make it out still sane”). Key to staying sane (and clothed and fed and mostly healthy): my support spouse, who did the bulk of the housework and all the other stuff that needs doing, for two long years, while working at LEAST one job.

  42. WLE

    #1 Whatever you decide to do, I think you might also add something like “I know these Saturday’s can sneak up on you. I personally find it helpful to add them to my Outlook calendar with a reminder set for the week before and then another reminder set for the day before.” This still puts the responsibility on him without coming off as a jerk about him being forgetful. Some of my best managers have coached me in this manner.

    1. De Minimis

      At my previous job managers would add critical dates to your Outlook calendar or at least do an invitation for them.

      I’ve found that it’s wise to remind people of things that are coming up, though in my experience it’s the manager who is more likely to forget important dates [due to having more stuff going on to keep track of.]

      1. WLE

        I’ve had some managers that have done that but not ALL of them. I think the message that OP should get across is that the responsibility still falls on his employee. As you pointed out, when the manager forgets, he still needs to be aware of important dates.

  43. OP#4

    Update: The first thing my nanny did when she started work today was apologize profusely for putting me into this situation. She’s been worried about not finding a place before she needs to move and panicked when filling out the application. I can’t fault her for having a moment, it happens to everyone. We talked it over and I said if called, I would stretch what I reasonably can (she is currently working for me, I’ve know her a long time, etc), but I won’t straight-out lie. It turns out that the potential landlord asked for paystubs after receiving the application and she had to send her only paystub from me which was only for one day of work. So, it sounds like she made her bed anyway. She feels like an idiot and won’t be doing it again, so I am consider the matter closed.

    Commenters, thank you so much for weighing in. The internet is truly an amazing place.

    1. WLE

      Glad that worked itself out. It sounds like she realized that fibbing on the application wasn’t the best idea.

    2. Shan

      Glad to hear this update! I’m glad she apologized and everything worked out. I used to work in leasing and when I read your letter, I cringed for her a little bit. I’ve definitely dealt with potential tenants who are in a tough situation and lie about their employment/rental history, only to get wide-eyed or suspicious or disappear completely when we ask for paystubs.

      The sad part is that none of them needed to lie! All the apartment companies I’ve worked for were willing to work out alternatives for people who didn’t have income or rental history. All you had to do was ask. Usually people without income/rental history could pay an extra deposit and that was it! So I hope your nanny realizes that hope is not lost, and she should be able to find a great place to live without lying. :)

  44. James M.

    #5: Henceforth, resignation letters should be in limerick, e.g:

    On this day, I must resign,
    so here I’m drawing the line.
    You’re not very sly;
    you’re wondering “why?”.
    Boss, it’s because you’re a swine

  45. BW

    OP#1:
    After reading the original post, your updates, and the comments, I’m really thinking that your employee had the same mindset as OP#3.

    As in, he asked about work weekends, heard you say that Saturday, remembered that it was that Saturday, and was hoping well maybe when you said “mandatory”, you didn’t REALLY MEAN “mandatory.” A lot of people have wondered how there have not been signs and informal reminders, such as co-workers talking about the upcoming mandatory conference. But I’m thinking that there HAVE been such signs, and your employee was just ostriching and hoping that by playing dumb he can get out of the conference.

    So, bottom line, don’t feel bad. I think the results would’ve been the same even if you did do everything perfectly, and if you did, you still would’ve had the “my personal life is more important than work” conversation, just a bit earlier. By that I mean, even if you did have a time machine and you hopped in it to go back to when he first asked you about having that Friday off, and this time around, you do say to him: “You know you have to work that Saturday right?” He would have told you: “No I don’t b/c my personal life is more important than my work.”

Comments are closed.