should you call in sick for a cold, saying no to after-hours work activities, and more

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

1. Should you call in sick for a cold?

I’ve always read (I’m sure including advice from you) that you should call in sick if a) you’re too sick to be productive or b) you’re contagious. Does this mean you should call in sick for a cold? That seems extreme to me, but a cold is certainly contagious–especially the first few days, which I usually spend at work waiting to see if I get worse before pulling the trigger on calling in sick. And would your advice be different for someone who’s been on the job three months vs. a year?

Ugh. There’s no one blanket answer here, because it depends on how sick you feel/how bad the cold is (for example, sniffles versus awake all night coughing), how likely you are to be productive, how much time off you’ve taken lately and how much you have remaining to you, whether or not you have some Super Important Thing to do at work that day, and your workplace’s general culture about sick days. There are some places where people would be annoyed if you didn’t stay home, and there are others where it would raise eyebrows if you did.

I would love to say that you should always stay home if you’ve got anything beyond mild sniffles, but the reality is that that doesn’t work in all work cultures, so you really have to know your own office. But telecommuting is a good option if it’s available to you and you feel well enough for that (you may not, depending on the cold).

As for being on the job three months versus a year — I’d say the same advice applies. If you’re brand new to the job, like first couple of weeks, I’d try to go in if possible, but even then, if you’re truly ill, a decent boss is going to understand that and want you to stay home.

2. Saying no to optional after-hours work activities

How do you recommend turning down people when they “ask” you to participate in work activities (meetings, focus groups, events, etc.) that are after work and not technically part of your responsibilities?

This seems to happen to me semi-often lately, where I’ll be “invited” to join a meeting or focus group or event outside of work by someone who is not my boss, but usually the head of another department. Instead of asking this in a way that is more like “would you be interested in this / would you want to come to this,” it’s always phrased more like “this is happening, will we see you there?” (with the implicit assumption that I will want to come, and that my answer is assumed to be yes and the only reason I’d say no is because I am otherwise busy). If it were my boss suggesting networking things or growth opportunities, I would totally say yes, but it’s not my boss at all, just someone in another department who wants my input.

I do like my job and am invested in it, but between my anxiety and depression I am often already at the end of my energy for the day after eight hours, which means I really don’t have the energy to stay late, let alone handle 1-2 hours of being active in a meeting with mostly-strangers. Unfortunately, my anxiety also makes it harder for me to just say no to things like this, because I get anxious over it, and also feel guilty whenever I have to say no to something. What do you recommend? Should I just lie and say I’m busy? (In some cases, I’ve turned down an event by claiming to have plans, only for it to be rescheduled to a new date.) Is there a better way to get out of this than saying “sorry, but I’m not interested” when my interest has already been assumed? Should I try just saying “sorry, I can’t make it” without needing to give a reason why? Or should I just buck up somehow and go anyway?

“Sorry, I can’t make it” is perfectly reasonable. Some variations, especially to guard against the assumption that you’ll come if it ends up rescheduled for a different date, are “I’m swamped right now, so won’t be able to join you” and “I’ve got a bunch of after-work commitments right now so won’t be there.” But really, “can’t make it” is fine on its own.

People — or at least, halfway reasonable people — understand that people have lives outside of work, and that if you schedule something for an evening or weekend, they might not be able to attend.

This isn’t even your boss asking, so the level of obligation you have to try to make it work is pretty low. I’d just say no to stuff you don’t want to attend, assume it’s fine, and not give it another thought.

The exception to that is if your job actually does require you to attend these things, but I assume that if it did, you wouldn’t be asking the question. If you’re at all unsure about that, though, you could simply ask your boss: “Hey, Jane and Fergus regularly invite me to attend after-hours events like X and Y. It often doesn’t work with my schedule and I say no, but I wanted to double check with you to make sure you don’t want me rescheduling things to be able to join them.”

3. Contacts aren’t following through on their offers of introductions

I am a recent graduate looking to break into a new industry and, on the recommendation of my career center, have been conducting informal informational interviews. So far, I believe the experience has gone well; I have learned a great deal about the prospective industry and potential career paths, while successfully creating positive contacts within the industry.

I have run into a couple issues that I would appreciate your thoughts on. Towards the end of each conversation, nearly every contact self-initiates an offer to refer me to either hiring managers or other professionals, however, almost no one actually follows up on this offer. This puts me in a strange position to continue my informational interviews. The position within the industry I am aiming for is rather small and tight-knit, so there is a very real possibility that future contacts know the people whom I have previously talked to.

Should I follow up with the original contact again about the referral? I always explicitly reference their offer in my thank-you note and definitely do not want to pester them by contacting them again.

Also, when contacting future individuals about interviews, should I mention my conversation with the people who ended up not refering me? It would be odd if they found out I had already made contact with someone they know and didn’t disclose it. On the other hand, I wasn’t referred to them by the original contact. I believe that it is essential to make as many contacts as possible in the industry via these interviews, but I am not sure how to proceed when this keeps happening.

Good lord, that sounds like a lot of informational interviews. Are these really continuing to be useful or are you doing them because you feel like you’re supposed to be? Especially in a small industry where it sounds like lots of the people you’re meeting with may know each other, I’d be cautious about not appearing to overdo it — you don’t want to be the person putting an odd amount of energy into networking meetings before you’ve held down a job in the field.

But to answer your actual questions: Nope, don’t follow up on the referral offers again. Since you’re mentioning the offer in your thank-you note, if they want to follow through on it, they will; following up on it again risks feeling too pushy. As for mentioning the people you talked to previously when reaching out to someone new, I wouldn’t — it risks coming across as name-dropping the first person to try to gain access to the second (which I realize isn’t what you intend, but it’s likely to sound that way).

4. People keep making reservations before getting PTO dates approved

How do I word “don’t get reservations unless you are approved for PTO/vacation” to the whole team without sounding insensitive? People keep telling me that they have a reservation that they already paid for.

“Please don’t make reservations that you can’t change until you’ve gotten the PTO dates approved, since I don’t want either of us in a situation where you can’t take the dates you reserved or where I feel horrible for telling you that.”

That said, is this is a situation where you really do need to reject people’s requests? Certainly in some jobs that’s necessary, but in many positions — particularly more senior or autonomous positions — it can be reasonable for people to manage their own schedules to a large degree. If you’re dealing with that sort of role, let people do that — don’t get too hung up on advance approval if there isn’t actually a real need for it.

5. When should you update LinkedIn after starting a new job?

When is the best moment to update one’s social media and LinkedIn, etc. after starting a new job? I had my first day at my new job yesterday, and after extensive searching on the internet I am more confused than before. Some say after the first day, some say after a week, and some say only after you passed the probation period, which I find quite excessive. What do you advise?

Whenever you want. There’s no reason you can’t update it as soon as you’ve started work — first day, first week, first month, really doesn’t matter — and anyone advising waiting until after the probation period is ridiculous. (I assume their thinking is that if you end up getting fired, having to change the job info publicly might be embarrassing, but it’s really not necessary to be that cautious.)

{ 273 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    OP4: Also make sure that your approval process doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time. Tickets and deals and whatnot often have short windows.

    1. ginger ale for all*

      Agreed. Also, if someone would like to reserve time off for say perhaps ten months from now and you say that you aren’t even thinking that far ahead yet and to ask later, you are possibly creating a bigger problem down the road. So when that employee does ask down the road and is turned down because someone else got that slot, I guarantee that you will have problems. That happened to me one time over twenty years ago and I still get riled up about it.

      1. Sunflower*

        This is one of my biggest annoyances because most of the time what they mean is ‘I don’t know what our exact situation will be then and I might need to make adjustments that I don’t feel like making.’

      2. nofelix*

        The simple solution if they genuinely need flexibility is to pencil your holiday in for that day and then confirm later.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yup. This happened to me end of last year. Wanted some time in January off and was told I asked too soon. By the time approval rolled around, airfare was too crazy.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Agreed. I booked a specific trip a year out, but then I changed jobs, so I decided to book the airflights later. This meant paying quite a bit more. Also, I receive various airline newletters and there are very often special offers which you need to jump on if you want to get the best prices.

    3. Rebecca*

      Exactly. My manager doesn’t travel, so she has no clue about air fares, trip packages, etc. and her first answer to “May I use 1 week of my vacation in August to travel to X” is “I have to think about it, I can’t let you go then someone else might want that week who has more seniority”, or insert excuse here. She also scolds people for making plans without getting approval, but again, if someone can get a great deal on a cruise package, you have to jump on it and the window is very short. She just won’t or doesn’t understand this. She usually takes weeks to get back to people. I’ve had no response at all, and just taken a vacation day because I had plans and she never bothered to tell me yes or no.

    4. Felicia*

      This. My boss has a similar request, except he approves (or in very very rare cases, for specific reasons) rejects any requests, by the end of the same day they’re made, and is willing to take requests up to a year in advance. So since i know i’ll have an answer the same day,and he even suggests alternatives if it’s rejected,then i’m ok with that request. Ticket prices change so much over the course of even a week!

    5. Allison*

      Agreed, this is important. People like to book travel early so they can save money, so it’s not fair to make them wait until a month before the dates they want to take off. Not to mention, planes, trains, and hotels do sometimes fill up, and events people like to travel for sell out, so not only are you making their trip more expensive by making them wait, you’re also making some trips damn near impossible!

    6. oldfashionedlovesong*

      And if you’re someone who travels on points or miles, booking flights (especially business or first) and hotels gets difficult to impossible the closer you get to the travel dates. I can afford business class for cash exactly never; I can, however, afford business class after a period of building up airline points, but that requires booking anywhere from 4-15 months out. 15 months is excessive for the average employer I think, but if I find seats in December 2015 for April 2016 travel, I need to book them when I find them or risk losing them and possibly the entire trip. If my employer hems and haws about approving time (for a non-busy period when no one else is taking time off) until March 2016… well we’re going to have a problem.

      (Sounds like oddly specific details for a hypothetical, eh. What did I do, you ask? I went ahead and booked the seats in early January, put in the request the day after, and booked (refundable) hotels shortly thereafter. I figured I’d rather pay a few hundred dollars to redeposit the miles if the time was denied, than wait for approval and assuredly lose the ability to take the trip at all. The time was finally approved last week. Although I do work in a crazy place where previously approved time is routinely un-approved a week before you leave when certain managers have a bad day or didn’t get enough sleep, so who knows what will happen in the next few weeks.)

      1. Rabble rage*

        *Although I do work in a crazy place where previously approved time is routinely un-approved a week before you leave*

        This is happening to me right now! My wedding is this weekend on the complete opposite coast of the country. I got approval 9 months ago to take four days off for the wedding (this Thursday and Friday, next Monday and Tuesday) so I can travel there and take care of a few details in person. But even with 9 months advanced notice and me specifically arranging my projects so they are completed or can go on hold while I’m gone, management has decided to do a MAJOR release on Friday. Meaning I will work “from home” (aka the hotel where my wedding is) this Thursday and Friday for support and then be on-call for emergencies ON MY WEDDING DAY.

          1. Rabble rage*

            My own manager feels terrible about it and said he would do everything in his power to not have to call me this weekend. But he said upper management could not be persuaded to hold off the release date and I’m the only person in the company with a certain specialty needed for the release so this is “the nature of the beast” as he put it.

            1. LBK*

              How reasonable/unreasonable are the clients this would impact? If I found out one of our vendors had someone working on her wedding day to get a release out to me, I would lose it – there’s no way I’d expect someone to do that for me.

              1. Rabble rage*

                Our clients are Fortune 500 companies. I’m sure most of them want this new capability sooner rather than later and don’t really care about the code monkeys that make it happen.

                1. Mike C.*

                  I’m sure they also want a pony and an ice cream sundae but companies like these can wait a few days or pay enough to afford someone else who can take your place long enough to get the job done.

                  Your life shouldn’t have to be put on hold at a moment’s notice just because your “leadership” is too spineless to push back a few days.

        1. LBK*

          Oh wow. This falls into “hill to die on” territory for me. I would have gone back to them and said “So to be clear, you’re expecting me to work ON MY WEDDING DAY. THE DAY OF MY WEDDING.” And then follow it up with the most wide-eyed, incredulous stare you can muster. If they’re able to say yes without hesitation at that point, I’d be job hunting ASAP, because that would be a clear sign that management has lost touch with reality.

          1. Rabble rage*

            Haha I submitted three applications to other places the day I found this out. I hope my rage didn’t impact my cover letting writing abilities too much. :)

            They tried to justify the decision by saying they weren’t asking me to WORK per se. Just to be available to work if something goes wrong. Spoilers, something ALWAYS goes wrong on release day.

            1. oldfashionedlovesong*

              This is so awful, I’m sorry :(

              I hope you manage to put your phone/laptop away as much as possible so you can enjoy at least some of your wedding weekend!

              But I laughed when you said you submitted three applications to other places the day you found this out. I too have come home from work full of righteous fury and used that adrenaline to fuel my job search…

              1. Rabble rage*

                I said something similar. My manager said he would do what he can but that the company is relying on me to make this happen. He didn’t really give a different option.

                1. Mike C.*

                  If they’re relying on you to “make it happen”, then maybe they should have waited until you were available.

            2. Stranger than fiction*

              Oh I am so glad you’re looking. At the next place, be sure you’re not the only freaking one on the dang team that has that specialty skill. I assume the customers have already been waiting weeks for this release, I mean really, they couldn’t wait a couple more business days til Tuesday?

            3. Shell*

              Isn’t “available to work” considered paid time by American labour law? For example, if you work in a call centre and no one is calling, the time at your computer spent twiddling your thumbs still must be paid because you’re “available to work”?

              This is ridiculous. And them thinking that nothing will go wrong on release day is a special kind of delusion. I know nothing about software development and release and even I know that release day is always a cluster.

              1. Shell*

                By which I mean “being ready to work” is basically the same as “being at work” even without considering the paid part (you may be exempt and on salary for all I know).

              2. Suzanne*

                “Isn’t “available to work” considered paid time by American labour law?”
                Best (or worst) laugh I’ve had all day! No, it isn’t if you are salaried, which more and more people are.

                1. Oryx*

                  If you are non-exempt, even if you’re salaried, they need to pay you for all hours worked and there is a thing that exists that Shell is referring to, although I don’t know enough about the details to comment beyond it’s existence.

                  If a person is exempt from overtime, then no, they don’t. But salaried is not the same as exempt.

                2. Shell*

                  I should have written that better. Putting aside the pay part (exempt, salary, what have you): Isn’t “available to work” considered paid work time by American labour law (and common sense)?

                  I mean, if you’re sitting around anticipating work, it’s not like you can turn off your brain and go do something else with your full attention (like, oh, a wedding) when you’re expected to drop everything and attend to work should the need arise. And it will always arise during a software release.

                  Upper management’s insistence that “oh, you’re not at work, you’re just available to work” seems ridiculous, and even without touching the salary vs hourly, exempt vs non-exempt portion, it flies in the face of reason. I thought American labour law does treat “available to work” the same as “at work”, the issue of pay aside.

            4. Connie-Lynne*

              What exactly are they thinking there, “oh yeah, we can page her in the middle of the ceremony, NO BIG DEAL.”

              Your company had nine months to have you cross train someone! I’m glad you’re looking for other work.

                1. DMented Kitty*

                  ^^ This, and sometimes for critical applications that require an outage for a release has to be done off hours, especially if it’s a very long outage. Billions may be lost if done on a weekday.

                  My team does regular disaster recovery practice on weekends, and the expectation has been set, and I think my department has been pretty good at communicating those.

          2. A Teacher*

            I second that. If they called, I’d probably be unavailable–“oh at that time” I was walking down the aisle.” “Oh that time, I was kissing my spouse.” Oh wait, sorry, that time I was doing the mom/dad and daughter/son dance,” “Oh sorry, I was tossing my bouquet or getting the garter.” etc… too much to do on your wedding day to worry about that BS. Wow. Just wow.

          3. Busytrap*

            Agreed! Even the soul-crushing law firm I worked for didn’t call me on my wedding day (or the day before/after). My honeymoon, well, that wasn’t off limits…

        2. Lily in NYC*

          I’m sorry, this is awful! But congrats anyway!
          My former boss actually called her assistant when the assistant was in the delivery room giving birth because the boss couldn’t find a file she needed. Her assistant had already been wavering about coming back after having the baby, and told me that the phone call about the file was the deciding factor. Boss took it very personally and tried throwing bags of money at her so she would come back (because no one else would put up with her crap).

          1. Rabble rage*

            I cannot believe some people (especially successful people!) that are helpless! That is awful and good on your coworker for walking away from that.

            1. TrainerGirl*

              I do. I was training in Australia last summer (which is a 14-hour time difference), and I had people expecting me to facilitate internal training in the middle of the night when I had to train a customer the next morning because “they wouldn’t remember to record it, and it’s just easier when you’re there and…..”. People aren’t that helpless. I think it’s just an indication of how much we do and folks don’t like it when they have to do that stuff themselves. Sheesh.

        3. Q*

          I can’t believe they actually believe you be on call on your wedding day! That phone had best stay on your room and nowhere near you. If you miss a call, too bad! They should be ashamed of themselves.

    7. Charlotte Collins*

      Also, sometimes the event isn’t being planned by the person taking PTO. What about weddings, family reunions, etc.?

      1. LCL*

        Sometimes work is incompatible with short notice family trips.
        From my perspective, as someone who approves/denies vacation, employees who tell me they must have an immediate answer and must go at X specific time because of costs are being jerks about it. A little bit. We have a vacation request process, everybody understands it, vacations requested outside the process are usually approved, but whether approved or denied an answer is given within 48 hours and usually the same day. I take the process very seriously, and it hurts me a little bit every time I have to deny vacation. To then try to push me into a decision because of your private money situation, uh, he## no. Every vacation request is important to the person who asks. Thinking I should somehow go around our policy or make an exception because you can get a better deal is arrogant, and is exactly what is meant by the word entitlement.
        That said, we never cancel vacation. And we never string people along waiting for an answer, making the requester wait months is rude and bad business.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Since most wedding invitations come at least two months in advance (not even counting how many people now include save the date cards), I’m not sure if I’d consider those “short notice family trips.” I agree that if you have a good, quick process in place people shouldn’t take advantage, but it sounds like the OP might not be able to approve vacation before people have started making plans.

        2. ABC*

          Who would get priority for time in this scenario. Dany has no kids, but three cats Drogon, Rhagael and Viserion, and has asked for time off for a date a couple months in advance because she got a great deal on a trip to King’s Landing. She has a colleague Cersei who is constantly calling in because of her juvenile delinquent son Joffrey. Cersei has also asked for the same time period off and is playing the parent card. Who is the more entitled one – Dany for planning ahead and being responsible or Cersei for playing up her martyr status to constantly get time off on very short notice?

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Whether or not one has children should never be a factor in a decision like this, IMHO.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              Also, these are two different scenarios: the first is a pre-planned trip that should be requested in time for approval. The second is what could be termed a personal emergency. If Cersei has to, say, show up in court, that’s not optional. If she’s just calling in every time she wants to try to set her kid straight, that’s a different story. So, Dany gets vacation, and Cersei has to be able to work out her schedule with her manager.

              Sometime stuff just happens.

          2. F.*

            At my current employer, assuming equal job positions, it is whoever requested first. That is also clearly stated in the employee handbook. At my previous employer, seniority ruled. However these things are decided, they need to be applied consistently across the board.

          3. Mike C.*

            It’s the manager’s job to manage staffing. What if they get called for jury duty?

          4. Q*

            Seniority. Whoever has been there the longest gets it. We list all of our people by hire date, then start at the top and the first person gets to pick his/her first block of vacation. Then we go down the list. When everyone has had a first pick, then we start round two.

            1. TrainerGirl*

              I was a workforce manager for a help desk a few years ago, and we used to rotate the most wanted vacation times, i.e. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, etc. so that it wasn’t just those with the most seniority that always got them. Those with 5+ years at the company got 4 weeks vacation, so they could easily request those times every year. You could get them every other year, which really went a long way at keeping those with less seniority happy. But the round one, round two works very well.

        3. Kassy*

          I think your time frame and process sounds reasonable. Commenters here have either been burned by “ask again later” and then told “nope, Bob already booked that week,” or else the infamous revoking of vacation that never goes well.

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      Great point. Also, maybe the employees are pre-booking their plans for fear they won’t get approved and think this makes it more likely the manager says “yes”.

    9. Liz*

      Definitely don’t “not approve” things just because they are far out, but I think its perfectly reasonable to note that they should run big chunks of time by you before booking. Team members should be responsible enough to check calendars and ensure that their PTO doesn’t overlap someone elses, but that’s not always the case.

      Example: This year, both of my analysts (23/24 year olds) booked tickets for the week of Christmas. In fact, one simply informed the team that he was taking winter break the weeks of Christmas and New Years (this was in September after I requested that they submit their holiday PTO requests). When I asked who he thought would cover, since the other analyst would surely want at least some of the sames, he informed me that he assumed me (his manager) would. Needless to say, this wasn’t the last time he did this even though he was informed he had to ask before putting PTO on the calendar. Something that I would think wouldn’t even be an issue in a professional environment.

      1. newreader*

        Some people feel very entitled and have no consideration for others. I now work with a woman that plans time off around every holiday. She and I are supposed to be each other’s back-up. She seemed very surprised when I mentioned that I would like to take time off at some of the holidays and that maybe we should alternate. She sees nothing wrong with her always being the one to be out, leaving me to cover around every single holiday. This thread reminds me that I should be sure to ask very early this year to be sure my requests are in before hers!

        1. Kelly*

          Maybe she has her reasons for asking for time off around holidays. Maybe that’s the only time she can see both immediate and extended family. She could ask for time off other times, but is denied because her backup always has some ready made reason why they feel they are entitled to the time off.

          I do ask for time off around the holidays because in my view, it’s an appreciated courtesy for the times I have covered for my co-worker with kids. I was denied time off twice last year, including the day before Thanksgiving for travel, because of his child custody situation. He’s supposed to be my back up but he’s unreliable and cannot be counted upon to arrive to open on time for the cleaning crew. I had to take off last week for a doctor’s appointment and I was at the IDGF point because I refused to change it because it would inconvenience him. He was put out because our boss expected him to have some plans in place for child care over spring break, when we have reduced student staffing. She made him decide whether he was going to take off vacation time or be in those days before she left for a conference on Monday. I think she thought it was perfectly reasonable that a grown adult male in his 40s should be able to plan ahead. I don’t think he gave her an answer. He’s been out because one of his kids is sick, which is another of his ways to avoid using his vacation time. He claimed that all of his kids were sick over Xmas break so he could have more vacation hours to carry over into 2016. I was venting to my mother and her response was wondering whether he was too much of a helicopter parent that the oldest at 12 should know how to at least use the microwave and calling BS on all 3 being conveniently sick during break. She said that reminded her of a former colleague who would call in sick on either a Friday or Monday to get a 3 day weekend.

  2. Wendy Darling*

    LW #2, I have many a time said “Sorry, I already have plans” when my plans were in fact “play video games in my pajamas” or “make myself dinner”. I did not share my specific reason, but that was it.

    1. Jade*

      Ugh yeah my new office likes to have lunches all the time or some people will get together at the bar after work. That’s not anything I’m remotely interested in. People in my office actually got legitimately upset at first when i declined to go to things like this (I even skipped the company Xmas party), but I don’t care and they don’t need to worry about it. I miss my old job where antisocial and sarcastic was the norm.

      1. Just a thought*

        declined to go to things like this (I even skipped the company Xmas party)

        You didnt ask but this could cause some problems – even AAM suggests you go for some of them (search the archives)

        1. It May Be a Necessary Evil*

          I have to agree.

          Much of a pain and imposition as it feels–the occasional sacrifice of an hour helps in the long run.

          In a past job, I hid away from all manner of lunches and gatherings, and I think that was a major contributor in me being part of a sweep of layoffs. I did the work of 4 people (as I discovered after having to divide it up during my last two weeks), but looking back, I wasn’t visible enough. People who didn’t even do the work of 1 person but were more known, had connections, and yes, went out to those ridiculously long lunches and after-work gatherings, were able to stick around.

          Naturally, there’s more that went into these decisions, but I couldn’t deny that even my own boss was surprised at how much I did.

          In my next job, I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone to be more visible/approachable/known and it really, really paid off.

          YMMV of course!

          1. Laura*

            And this is not necessarily unfair or unreasonable, because *emotional labor is labor.* There is value to building relationships and community and participating that may not outweigh other contributions a person is expected to make in their work, but that also should not be disregarded.

        2. Jade*

          Yeah I’ve seen the suggestions, but I don’t care. I’m looking for new work anyway (part of the reason being that I don’t fit in at the office). At previous jobs that I enjoyed, I had no problem meeting up with coworkers in a non-work setting.

    2. LW #2 OP*

      That was what I ended up going with this most recent time, I just said “sorry I’m not going to be able to make it” and for once allowed myself not to give a reason. For whatever reason, I always feel like I NEED to give them an explanation and reason, and I feel really guilty if I don’t, or I worry that they’re going to “judge” me somehow. Which on a more rational level I realize is weird. Anyway it was a bit of a relief being able to just say I couldn’t make it, although I did still feel a bit guilty after.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Do you think it would be in your long term career interests to do the activities (a chance to get to casually know people from other departments you might work with in the future or want to transfer to)? If so, could you mentally budget some energy for X activities a month, quarter or year? After all, if you did the activities, eventually the people would stop being near-strangers and it might make otherwise potentially stressful work meetings less so because at least you would be able to put names with faces and know whether the person is the chatty type or the strictly down to business type.

        Or is there another colleague who is also invited that might want to go along with you

        I’m not saying you have to do this – if you are currently in a place where it takes every drop of mental energy to get through an 8 hour day, don’t overtax yourself. But it is something to consider working on with your mental health professional to see if you can get yourself to that place.

        FWIW, I am a super introvert who has anxiety and depression always hovering in the background (some days better controlled than others) so I totally get the “nope, 8 hours is my limit” feeling – and there have been times in my life where just getting out of bed and driving to work took everything out of me, let alone actually doing any work or interacting with other people. But if you are starting to feel like you could handle it, it would be a good idea to start with one low stress option – perhaps something with a fixed time frame like an hour or two, and one other people from your immediate work group are also invited to.

        Don’t feel pressured by the “will we see you there?” message. It’s almost definitely just a polite way of saying “I just need to know whether I need to plan for 20 people or 200” and once you say “Sorry, can’t make it” that person isn’t thinking of you anymore, they are concentrating on the rest of their event planning to-do list.

        1. LW #2 OP*

          I usually do think that the activities my boss suggests are in my long-term interests and I almost always go to those (unless there really is a scheduling reason why I can’t). She usually gives a lot of time in advance so I can kind of budget energy for it, which is nice. I actually am comfortable with most of the people I work with here (I’ve been here 6+ years), the issue is with events like the one that prompted the above question, which involve outside people that were strangers. The same person also in the past asked me to speak about the organization I work for to a committee and I almost had a panic attack over that one and actually had to explain to her that I had social anxiety and can’t do public speaking.

          But yeah, I do try to say yes when I can, usually it depends on the actual event I’m being asked to participate in, you know?

          1. Meg Murry*

            Oh, I know. Can you roleplay your answers so you aren’t just stammering away if they tend to be in-person asks? Or just practice in front of a mirror? Or if by email, come up with a quick standard reply that says “Thanks but no thanks” that you can bang out and stop stressing.

            Honestly, the generic “Sorry, I won’t be able to make it to that event” that Alison said is perfectly fine – and like I said, I usually just mentally move on and that is that. Even if the event date moves, “No, sorry, I still won’t be able to make it” is still ok. You aren’t lying, you aren’t coming – and the event organizer is not taking it personally.

            For me, scripting out stressful items so I can get past the little things (and save my freakouts for the big stuff, haha) helps me at least lower my stress. Don’t let the invitation languish in your inbox – read it, look at your calendar, decide if you are willing to commit to it or if you don’t want to, and respond right away. Again, when I get immediate “sorry, I can’t make it” responses, I just move on – it’s the people that never, ever respond until the second or third reminder that drive me crazy.

          2. TootsNYC*

            “which involve outside people.”

            Are these people whose question is really self-interested? Like, this is not your company organizing this, but some other organization that wants something from you that will benefit them (and maybe only peripherally benefit your company)?

            If so, remember that you can view these people, and their pressure and requests, as though they are telemarkers. Politely say, “I’m not available then,” and end the convo as fast as possible.

            They’re deliberately saying, “will we see you there?” because they know it will make you feel pressured.

            Also: For follow-up questions, use the cut-and-paste technique.

            “Will we see you there?” you: “I’m not available then, sorry.”
            “What are you doing? you: “I’m not available then, sorry.”

        2. Tammy*

          This is great advice. I’m a bit of an ambivert, so I totally get the introvert tendency not to expend energy on unnecessary social interactions. On the other hand, in my career I’ve almost always been the lone woman on my team and so one-on-one relationship building has been a career survival skill. At my current company I’ve fairly intentionally built a web of relationships — through things like lunch invitations or attending company functions/CPR class/holiday parties/etc. — across a wide swath of the company, and it’s paid HUGE dividends for me. My last promotion (to manager of a team) came about partly because I’d had lunch with one of the more senior management folks a month previously.

        3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          Do you think it would be in your long term career interests to do the activities (a chance to get to casually know people from other departments you might work with in the future or want to transfer to)?

          I routinely invite people from other departments to things I am putting on/hosting that I think could be beneficial to their career, or if they are in a department that doesn’t socialize regularly to things my team is doing. I’m super awkward and introverted as well, which is probably why I make such an attempt to reach out — even with my friends one of them has to turn to me and say, “would you like to come with us to this thing we have been talking about as a group for the last hour” for me to think I am invited.

          That being said, I never get upset or bothered if someone says no or is busy.

    3. INTP*

      I’ve done this, but I’ve also been grilled about what those plans were (and told they weren’t good enough even if it was something like a yoga class). OP should be prepared with something in that event.

      However, I also think it’s possible that the managers in other departments are just giving the OP the opportunity to network and demonstrate what they have to offer to other departments and don’t personally expect that they come or have a major excuse for skipping out. If OP is interested in moving around in the company at any point in the future, though, I would suggest at least attending sometimes. If you turn them down every time and then apply for a position in that department, you’re likely to be received with an attitude of “Well, you weren’t interested in our department when there wasn’t a job on the table…”

      1. LW #2 OP*

        I work in Higher Education, so when I say “departments”, it’s not exactly like in the average, company-sense (instead it’s “departments” as in Admissions, Financial Aid, Advising, etc, I suppose it’s sort of a field within a field, a lot of people focus within one area because they’re all so different). I fully plan on staying in my “department”, and I do take whatever opportunities I can that are relevant to helping me grow within that area. My boss is great at helping me find opportunities for that. I think this department manager values my help when it comes to having both an employee/student perspective, and I do want to try and participate with that when I can. (I’ve been making suggestions to her since about using google groups and such for focus groups, especially because we have a hard time getting groups together at the same time due to distance and scheduling, so I’m trying not to completely cut myself out of it.)

        1. Meg Murry*

          In that case you should probably check with your manager and make sure she isn’t volunteering you for these focus groups, etc. Probably not, but it wouldn’t do your (or your boss’s reputation) any good if your boss is saying “oh yeah, OP will represent the ABC department on that focus group” and hasn’t told you (or even suggested your name to the committee members in a “maybe OP would be interested, ask her” way).

          It sounds like you have a good relationship with your boss, so I doubt that is happening, but it’s probably worth asking the boss, as in “I get invited to these events all the time but they really aren’t my cuo of tea, it’s ok if I jut decline, right?”

          Honestly, even if it looks like you are getting personalized emails inviting you it is very likely coming from someone who has set up sophisticated mail merge capabilities to send “personal” invites – I was hit with these a lot in higher education, because they wanted to make an effort to involve as much of the campus as possible, or at least so that they can say “well, we tried and asked for community feedback during our meetings but we didn’t get any so now everyone has to live with the new Marketing Plan or Strategic Plan or stupid mascot or whatever.”

        2. LibrarianJ*

          This happens to me a lot working in higher ed, and I also suffer from anxiety, so I feel your pain!

          I participate very selectively in these kinds of events because there are just so many of them, they rarely impact my job performance, and participating often leads to more requests going forward. Expressing disinterest is tricky — a lot of the events I get invited to are social justice-type endeavors that I support but simply don’t have the energy to get involved in. So I usually don’t go that route. If asked verbally, I try to be non-committal about my schedule unless an RSVP is required (“Oh, that sounds interesting! I’ll have to check my calendar but I hope it goes well!), and then make a judgement call depending on the importance of the event and if it’s something where my department might want to have a visible presence.

          When in doubt, I’ll pop into my supervisor’s office and ask if she thinks it’s important for me to be there.
          A lot of the time it isn’t, and then I decline making sure to say thank you thinking of me/us. I usually simply say that I’m unable to attend, have another commitment, etc. — vague is fine. And I always wish them success with the event. If it is an event that doesn’t require an RSVP or headcount in advance (many don’t), sometimes I will just let it go and if asked afterward explain that something came up. In my position, it’s incredibly common that I have to miss a reception or lecture due to surprise student visit / last-minute class request /etc., even if it’s something I cleared my schedule for, so that’s actually very plausible.

  3. Canadian Natasha*

    Hi OP 4, I agree with everyone saying you don’t need to participate or give explanations why not. I also want to make the point that you can say you’re busy/have plans/have other commitments/are unavailable and leave it at that and it’s NOT lying- even if your plan is simply to go home and zone out on your couch. Committing time to rest and care for your health and well-being *is* a valid use of your personal time and it makes you a better employee in the big picture (burnout doesn’t do anyone any good). I’ve also struggled with anxiety and depression and now I purposely block out regular time on my calendar to decompress and give myself a break. If it helps to shut up the guilt gremlins and you feel uncomfortable just saying no, you can put rest/recharging time in your schedule like a medical appointment or date. You don’t have to provide details to the people asking but it reminds you when you are declining that you do really have a reason to say no- it’s even scheduled in!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      You can even say something like, “It’s generally hard for me to make anything after work hours,” and (especially if people don’t know much about your personal life), they can fill in for themselves, because maybe it’s because of day care or a sick relative or a long commute or anything else up to and including self-care!

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Depends on your office, but I would avoid giving a blanket “it’s hard for me to make anything after work hours” — in my industry, that would get you branded as out of touch, since it’s an expectation of almost everyone in advertising that the end of your day is unpredictable in nature and you have to be okay with that.

        In OP’s situation, I would just decline events on an individual basis and accept when I felt like it wouldn’t be too onerous to do so, given the visibility issues others have cited.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If the OP’s work world isn’t that way though (and a lot aren’t), it can be a good thing to do so that people realize her situation and stop the regular requests.

          1. Fifi Ocrburg*

            But social anxiety can be dealt with–to turn down all public speaking or networking events without trying to deal with the root cause isn’t actually developing the skills needed in the world. Perhaps the OP’s case is very severe, but very often, people all the internet use social anxiety as a catch-all diagnosis to avoid doing things.

              1. Fifi Ocrburg*

                Sure, but that’s not the same as saying that doing things with new people causes panic attacks.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That could certainly be the case, but it might not be. It’s possible that the OP is perfectly content with how she’s managing her career and anxiety and still doesn’t want to go to a bunch of after-hours work events from another department.

            2. Canadian Natasha*

              Fifi Ocrburg, that’s a pretty negative view of people struggling with social anxiety:
              “very often, people all the internet use social anxiety as a catch-all diagnosis to avoid doing things.”

              But in any case, social anxiety or phobia (often called shyness) and the generalised anxiety that often accompanies depression are two different things. You might be aware that social anxiety is often caused by a fear of a specific situation and can be reduced by controlled increasing exposure. However, generalised anxiety doesn’t improve with exposure for the most part, because it isn’t caused by the situation itself but by a medical condition. Medication and counseling techniques may help but they aren’t a magic cure. The OP didn’t specify social anxiety so I’d be leery of making that assumption.

              1. Canadian Natasha*

                Oh and of course now I see the OP did say social anxiety further down in the comments. :( But I’d maintain that it’s still a good policy to avoid making assumptions about how someone manages their chronic health issue (there are already too many negative- and untrue- stereotypes about people who have invisible conditions like anxiety and depression).

  4. Mags*

    Ugh, I hate taking off for sickness. I’m currently doing a internship in addition to work, and last month I caught a bug from a coworker and had to call in sick because it was obvious to everyone at my work that it was contagious (a lot of us got sick from her, which is pretty common as she generally refuses to ever take sick days). Then yesterday I had food poisoning and had to call out sick again because I couldn’t leave the vicinity of the restroom long enough! I feel like the internship is getting an impression that I’m sickly or blowing them off because I’ve only been there a month and a half. So yes if you know it’s contagious stay out or you could be infecting coworkers have much more severe and lasting effects on them then you think. Basically “Sharing is caring except when it comes to disease! “

    1. Irishgal*

      Be aware that most viruses live on surfacestage for about 24 hours so.odds are your co-worker may not have been “typhoid Mary” in this case…you may all have picked it up at different times from a door handle or an asymptomatic co-worker or even outside work as the same viruses tend to circulate through communities. Effective handwashing is the best defence (not alcohol hand rubs): the CDC has advice on when and how (most of us don’t wash our hands properly).

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        ^ THIS.

        I used to work in a lab that handled biohazardous materials. Those of us working there had to train ourselves out of touching our faces, and we were all surprised at how hard it was and how often we did it. Touching doorknobs or common areas and touching your face is usually how these things are transmitted. Wash your hands frequently and resist touching your face or coughing into your hand and you’ll cut down on the transmission a lot…both ways!

        1. It'sOnlyMe*

          Yes, the hand cough! I was taught to always cough (and sneeze) into my elbow and it still catches me off guard when I see people cough into their hand. I’m not usually squeamish but watching someone in a line up in front of me hand cough, then use the debit machine always gets me. I wish more people elbow coughed.

          1. Dr*

            It’s actually better to cough/sneeze into your hands. They’re a lot easier to wash than your elbows. However, I could see if you’re in a public area where a sink isn’t readily available and you’ll have to touch things before getting to a bathroom, then the elbow cough/sneeze would probably be better.

            1. Liza*

              But it doesn’t matter so much if you’re washing your elbows, because you’re not touching everything with your elbows and spreading the germs. Hands are easy to wash, true, but think about the number of things you touch between having the opportunity to wash your hands. Having germy elbows doesn’t spread disease like having germy hands does.

            2. The Cosmic Avenger*

              From a public health perspective, how often do people spread pathogens from the inside of our elbows or upper forearms, compared to our hands? You may be thinking of a health care setting, where hand-washing is performed multiple times an hour, and where sneezing on your hand might be preferable. But in most other situations it’s much better to sneeze somewhere that it can be contained other than on your hand. If you don’t have a tissue or handkerchief, then your arm is probably the best alternative. The literature on hand washing indicates how important it is to keep communicable pathogens off of our hands, but like I said, in most non-healthcare settings how else can we expect people to do that?

              1. Anna*

                I will frequently stick my face in jacket or sweater for the containment reason. Otherwise elbow and if it sneaks up on me, anything available.

            3. Elbow, please*

              Uh – that only works if you actually wash your hands everytime you sneeze and don’t touch ANYTHING between the sneeze and the bathroom, including doorhandles. Which most people do not.

              I’m team elbow/shoulder for sneezing – in part because the clothing there can also be used to trap droplets and dry them out so they can’t spread further, and because I don’t trust people are actually following up on hand-hygiene. If you have to teach people a habit, I’d got with the elbow, since the urge to sneeze often doesn’t allow for the calculation of the nearest handwashing station.

                1. Al Lo*

                  My sister is a preschool teacher, and they teach kids that the elbow is a “cough pocket”. When I was that age, it was just, “Cover your mouth!”

                2. Chinook*

                  “Using your elbow is what we were taught to do in food service.”

                  When there was a bad outbreak in Canada a few years ago of something (I can’t remember what, but it was bad), the Canadian Public Health Agency ran campaigns encouraging the sneezing/coughing into elbows (as well as fist and elbow bumps as greetings). It seemed to be successful because flight attendants were recorded as saying they were able to recognize a Canadian by how they sneezed.

              1. Dr*

                Not sure where to place this comment, but in response to everyone that is team elbow, germs don’t stay on your elbow. It’s even worse if you’re coughing into a sleeve. There’s no way to effectively wash a sleeve you’ve sneezed on until you do laundry.

                I work in the food service industry and if I saw someone making food cough into his/her elbow, I’d ask them to go wash it.

                Like I said, it’s not always practical to immediately wash your hands, but you really should be as much as you can, especially if working in food service.

    2. TowerofJoy*

      They’ve probably had worse interns than that. I know I have. I have one that’s only been in for something like 2 of the 8 days they were scheduled so far, and they are using all the typical college excuses. Don’t worry about it too much. You’ll have time to make up for it.

  5. Dan*


    If you have times when you know you won’t approve leave, just say so ahead of time.

    As others have asked, how onerous is your time off approval process? Either people don’t expect there to be problems, or they think there will be problems, and they are using this as leverage because they know you will approve it if it’s harder for you to say no.

    Btw, most airlines have a 24 hour cancellation period if you book directly with them. I *do* expect to lock in a deal and have you let me know within the next business day that you’ve declined my request.

    Another BTW: many “top places to work” treat vacation requests as a “courtesy” and don’t decline them. Ever. So if you want to keep good people, part of the deal is that you don’t give them any bs over their leave unless you have damn good reason.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Very much agree with that last part (well, with all of it, actually, but especially that last part). Denying vacation requests should be rare, unless something has gone terribly wrong communication-wise.

    2. snuck*

      Very much this.

      I’d take a look at why staff are doing this, and what the lead time is.

      I’d only send out the all staff email if there was frequent and systemic problems with the process. If it’s one or two staff members who make the call incorrectly (ie do this at a time they can’t take it, where others do it at a time where it’s highly likely to be approved) then manage those staff who need to understand the judgement of this better, not everyone. I personally hate all staff emails when I’m already following policy (and most of my colleagues are too). Don’t manage me if I am not the problem (and if I am tell me, not everyone). (I’m not saying this is quite the case for you, it might be many of your staff are doing this – but if when you examine it from their perspective and understand WHY they are doing it you find it’s got to stop still, then talk with them about it.)

      If you must send it out I’d just say something simple:

      “We’ve had a number of incidents where people have booked and requested holiday which have not been approved to due to business requirements. We recommend you book leave before booking trips.”

      But yes. What they said. Really look at whether the person can take leave. Or get flexible approval to find best dates. Or flexible approval to self manage their workload. It doesn’t have to be one rule for the whole company either – different job roles can have different policies so long as they relate directly to their job requirements (so it appears fair).

    3. V*

      This. I’m going to guess that either OP doesn’t approve time off that’s “too far” in advance (some vacation options need to be booked 6+ months out to get a good rate, or even get a spot at all), or takes a long time to approve them, so the good deal on airfare / hotel rooms will be gone by the time the approval comes through.

    4. swedishandful*

      “Btw, most airlines have a 24 hour cancellation period if you book directly with them. I *do* expect to lock in a deal and have you let me know within the next business day that you’ve declined my request.”

      Absolutely this. I usually book my flights and then tell my approver that I can cancel them by X date and time if necessary. It’s never necessary.

    5. Nobody*

      “They think there will be problems, and they are using this as leverage because they know you will approve it if it’s harder for you to say no.”

      That’s what I was thinking could be the case. I work somewhere that really does have a minimum required level of staffing, so we can’t have too many people taking vacation simultaneously, and there are also some blackout periods (which are announced well in advance) where we’re extra busy and nobody’s allowed to take vacation except in very special circumstances. I can definitely see some people trying to get an advantage for popular vacation times, like holiday weeks, by saying, “But I already have non-refundable tickets!”

      If this is the situation, I would suggest clear rules on how vacation time is approved, like how far in advance you can request, how many people can take time off simultaneously, and what happens if too many people ask (e.g., go by seniority or first come, first served).

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        This is what I was thinking: I’ve worked in call centers and retail where everyone is usually swamped all day, and someone being out means everyone is scrambling. But those are management failures to prepare for the inevitable day off or even resignation, and they’re not the employees’ fault. And even in those situations, usually you can schedule a vacation ahead of time as long as management is given a few minutes or hours to assure that days off are not overlapping.

      2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I worked at a place that had minimum staffing requirements and we had a Google calendar we could see but not edit.

        My boss put blackout times and peoples OOO days on it. It was an easy way to check before a request.

        On a side note for bosses, make sure you actually need staff before making a minimum staffing requirement. My boss tries to do this a lot and it just doesn’t make sense for our positions and teams — especially in this day and age with the technology that is available.

    6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Very much all of this.

      One year, my family planned a pretty intricately detailed whole-dang-family trip, which required plans to be cemented and certain well ahead of time — and then when I asked for the time off, my boss refused to give my approval until 2 weeks before the date I was supposed to leave. And worse yet, he wouldn’t even tell me that — anytime I asked what the status of my request was, he would just shrug and very flippantly tell me he hadn’t looked at it yet.

      Because this was a part-time job and I was still living at home, I did have the freedom that if he’d tried to deny the request at the last moment, I could have just shrugged and quit on the spot — and I was prepared to do so. Glad I didn’t have to, though — but the four months between when I put the request in and when I finally got his grudging approval were absolute hell for me.

      1. Judy*

        About 18 years ago, the year after we were married, my in-laws offered a family trip to Hawaii, we just had to pay the airfare. My manager at the time was concerned about a project that was due to be completed about a month before the trip, and told me I couldn’t take vacation that week. So we told them we couldn’t go, and they booked a smaller condo, for just them and my sister-in-law’s family. After our team delivered the project on time, my manager told me I could take that week as vacation, but that was too late. I was not amused.

      2. Algae*

        When I started a job in February (several jobs back now), I mentioned to my boss that in November, there would be a family reunion and I’d like to go. We didn’t have firm dates yet, but thought it would be the week before Thanksgiving. Would that be a problem? No, no problem, we’ll work it out.

        In May, they announced that one of their member initiatives would be a Caribbean Cruise! All members could sign up for this cruise for a special rate! We had a 4-person office, but boss and receptionist (boss’ mom, incidentally) signed up immediately.

        It was the week before Thanksgiving.

        When I mentioned I had kind of requested that, my concern was blown off and “someone will have to open the office that week”. So not only did I not get to visit my family, but all of my co-workers got to spend the week on a Caribbean cruise while I got to work.

        It’s partly my fault for not pushing harder for the dates I wanted, but the way I was blown off made the whole incident harder.

    7. Felicia*

      Where I work vacation requests are treated as more of a heads up rather than a request. The only time they’ve ever been denied is for our most busy, all hands on deck, two weeks per year, but our work is cyclical, so you know when the easiest times for vacation are, and most people go for those. We’re a small office of four people, so we try not to have two people out simultaneously, but most people consider that when making plans.

      1. Newbie*

        It’s wonderful when you work with considerate people. I’ve worked with people who will request time off at what they know is one of the busiest times of the year and then be surprised and offended when the request is denied. I get a bit frustrated with coworkers who continually think and act that they have the right to take off whatever time they when as often as they want with no regard to the impact on those left behind trying to get all the work done. I hope that for most people that’s the minority of their coworkers, but recently I’ve had several with that mindset. No, I’m not bitter :)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I know, right? Even if that happened at my workplace, and the boss said “Juan and Alice already requested off on February 30th, so we can’t spare anyone else”, I’d go to them and say “Hey, I have something that my whole family is attending, including lots of family I never get to see. I really want to go, and obviously we can’t move it just because I can’t make it that day. Do you have plans that maybe aren’t too hard to change, and I can cover for some holiday for you?”

          1. Elizabeth West*

            If Juan and Alice couldn’t move their dates and I were the manager and and it were possible, I’d just cover you. Because I would know if you and Juan and Alice are good employees and it would be worth scrambling for a day for me to keep you.

      2. the_scientist*

        This is very much how vacation requests work at my job. Coverage is not an issue here, and people are expected to manage their own workloads and pick vacation times that don’t conflict with their major deadlines. I returned from a vacation this weekend- it actually wasn’t the greatest time ever to go on vacation but it was the only time both my partner and I were free, and our vacation plans were seasonally based (skiing). I worked a lot of overtime to get things wrapped up before I left, and my bosses trusted me to get my stuff done. And I did, and things mostly ran smoothly in my absence. We could not have gone on this trip had bosses put off approving vacation time, since flights and accommodation would have been too expensive closer to departure.

      3. TootsNYC*

        Ditto to vacation requests being treated more as a heads-up.

        I would deny a vacation for the busiest time, but you know what? My people never ask for vacation then.
        I wonder why that would be–could it be….that they’re dedicated professionals who take their jobs seriously and are fully aware of the schedule? . . . nah. Must just be coincidence.

        I did have a staffer as to take our monthly crunch week off–but it was a family reunion (lots of people’s schedules to juggle, and not under his control). He was ready to hear a no.

        But I have adjusted my budget to have money to pay for coverage, and I had enough notice that I could find someone good.

      4. Alienor*

        Same here. If I’m planning a really lengthy amount of time off, like the two weeks around Christmas/New Year’s, I’ll let my bosses know in advance as a courtesy. For a week or less, I just enter the time in our online scheduling system and send out an email saying “hey, I’ll be out these days.” I’d be very displeased with a company that made me beg for time off like a teenager asking Mom and Dad for permission to go out with my friends.

    8. Dr J*

      I thought this about leverage too.

      Confession: I’ve done this at my part time job. I have two part time jobs and one ends in May, so I booked two weeks to finally go see some friends overseas after three years. I told my manager at the retail job after the fact thinking that he wouldn’t want to argue with purchased tickets, and also that this trip was too personally important to me to let a crummy part time retail job get in the way (who, me, disgruntled?). Obviously a “real job” is different, but if people are consistently submitting their requests with “oh, and I already booked this, so I won’t be here whether you approve this or not” it sounds like it’s more than just people not understanding the procedure.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Yeah, I kind of look at it like when people write an out of office message that says they won’t have access to their email while they’re away. You know the person probably will be able to check email but they are just trying to take a vacation without having to constantly worry about responding to people.

        1. Q*

          I’m lucky in that at my work we truly do not have access when we are away. No remote access, no webmail. But I know that is unusual.

    9. TootsNYC*

      x#4. People keep making reservations before getting PTO dates approved

      Reservations are cancelable! That’s why they’re called “reservations” and not “tickets” or “nonrefundable tickets.” So they’re ARE actually respecting their employer’s right to approve vacation.

      Of course, they often have a short window, so if you can’t give people time of, you need to act promptly
      I think that’s an obligation that managers have–to promptly respond to vacation requests.

      And yes, to grant them whenever possible.

    10. AdAgencyChick*

      I won’t decline a request unless someone else in my reporting structure has already asked for the same days (and yes, I do consider whether it’s possible for us to manage with two people out; sometimes we can, sometimes not so much), but I do expect people to ask first before making unbreakable plans, just in case someone else *has* asked for the same days first.

      I also won’t rescind a request. Once I’ve said yes, any work issues that come up are my problem to manage, not my employee’s.

      1. JessaB*

        This, it’s bad enough if you have to hoop jump to take off, but thank you for being reasonable and not rescinding things. That’s just hideously bad management (unless someone died or something horrid happened of course, that nobody could ever ever expect.)

        I can hold off making plans, but once they’re made, I expect the company to keep their word.

  6. Ariane*

    At my job, we get a bonus if we don’t take off for sickness at all for at least half a year. Since we have to stick to hygiene rules (for working with food), I think it’s not a good way of rewarding your employees for never calling off sick. People will come to work when they are contagious and our customers can get sick too when the sick employee touches their food accidentally.
    This advice is so helpful, thanks!

      1. TowerofJoy*

        Well it is. But having managed in the food industry its also difficult to get people to call to find someone to cover their shift, which typically leaves your shorthanded. Then you have customers who don’t understand why they can’t have their food/service/table “right now!!”. For most people a job in a restaurant is a temporary means to an end, and no one feels much of an obligation to worry if the restaurant can’t cover. So some places try to come up with incentives so people don’t call off for reasons like “I’m hungover”. Not saying that’s not a legitimate reason not to be at work, but if you knew you had a shift the next morning…. So I get why they do it, but yep, definitely not thinking that through.

        1. Allison*

          And in industries like food service or retail, managers also worry about people calling out “sick” when they just don’t feel like working that day, so I can see making at least slightly difficult so people only call out when they really can’t work.

          1. BRR*

            It’s very common to not be able to take time off on weekends or holidays (and sometimes an employer just is terrible at honoring when you ask off according to their policy) which also leads to be calling out.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Yeah, that happens a lot in food service industry. Whenever I worked at restaurants, though, we had a list of everyone’s phone number and the schedule and were required to call everyone on the list to try and get your shift covered prior to calling in sick. And, if you didn’t call 3-4 hours ahead of your shift (and after making the effort to get it covered) it was kind of an unspoken rule that counted against you. Do that too many times, you’ll see all your good shifts/stations start to decline and go to people who don’t call in sick. And, one place I worked was so busy in the summer, there were no time off requests between Memorial Day and Labor day. I kid you not, if you wanted a vacation during that time, you had to quit and re-apply when you got back! (that was for like a week off, if you needed a day to go to the Dr or something, that was ok)

        2. boop*

          It’s interesting to see how diverse the industry is. At the restaurant I work at, it’s a little bit the opposite in that the management has equally bad morale/judgment, and if staff randomly play hooky or are otherwise terrible at their job, there’s zero repercussions for that. For them I guess zero staff = zero labor cost, and the extra work falls onto their remaining staff so “who cares”, right?

          I have days where I’m literally the ONLY person in the kitchen. Wash, prep, cook… just me. NBD since this kind of business is unsustainable and is (unsurprisingly) dying off as word gets around.

        3. Anna*

          This is part of the food and retail industry I don’t understand. If you’re the manager, it’s your job to make sure you have coverage. So if someone calls in sick it should be the manager’s job to call someone in as part of their job.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Yep, but it’s also their job to keep labor costs as slim as possible, and they often get bonuses for it. Sunday night we went out to eat with my parents, and my mom picked the place across from the busy theatre. We were quoted a 25 minute wait and it was over an hour, then another hour to get our food. We overheard the manager say to another table he thought it was going to be slow and had sent a bunch of staff home. He literally just shrugged about it, no apologies.

            1. TowerofJoy*

              I never got any bonuses for “keeping labor costs slim” and I worked for several chains in my early 20s. I would have been fired for habitually over staffing on slow nights/days. Keeping staff when there aren’t any customers to justify it means you are running into the red. Sometimes that means you run the risk of getting slammed after letting staff go home because there’s a popular movie nearby or a bus of tourists hops off at your location, or whatever the case is. Working in the restaurant industry is sometimes akin to reading tea leaves.

          2. TowerofJoy*

            I think you’re also assuming managers are getting paid appropriately or are salaried, which is only sometimes the case. The pay is typically more egalitarian (fair or not is another thing) and therefore the responsibilities typically are as well. Which meant people being responsible for covering their own shifts. Now yes, if they tried and couldn’t then its my responsibility to try to figure something out. Especially in a world where there’s no such thing as PTO and your work force is primarily high school and college kids who don’t always have a great understanding of work place norms yet, and therefore not a great deal of respect or judgement on calling out norms either.

            1. Anna*

              No, I’m thinking of it being your title. You’re called a manager and with that comes certain responsibilities.

            2. Anna*

              That came out a little harsher than intended. What I mean is that if your title is manager, you have certain expectations that come with the title and not necessarily the pay. I’m considered a manager even though my pay is nowhere near what people think of as “managerial” and there are certain things that are expected of me that are not expected of other people I work with because they aren’t a manager.

              1. TowerofJoy*

                I was a manager. Not the owner. I didn’t make policies. I enforced them. I was paid slightly more than the rest of people because I was responsible for doing plenty of extra things: money runs to the bank, dealing with the crankiest customers, making sure we passed inspections, making sure employees were trained and doing their job on the floor, and making orders from our suppliers. Calling down the phone list on a Friday night when I was not scheduled was not going to happen – the owner wasn’t going to pay me overtime to do it and he wouldn’t ask me to do it unpaid. Additionally, if Sally didn’t want to follow the policy on Friday night, we could have a new Sally hired and trained by Sunday. That’s the breaks in service jobs where you’re easily replaceable. If we are going to change the system we shouldn’t just punish restaurant and retail managers and shift the work/blame to them. Very few of them are better off than the rest of the employees – in fact some of them are worse off.

    1. BRR*

      Did anybody stop and think what would likely happen if they offered the bonus? But it sounds like it’s an industry where you might have to call in sick to get a day off that you want.

    2. LBK*

      Curious how well this would play against the ADA. If someone with a chronic condition is guaranteed to never get the bonus because they’ll have to call out sick sometimes, are they essentially getting paid less because of their medical status, and is that therefore illegal?

  7. Tommy*

    OP #3: I wonder if “refer” just means something different to you and your contact. To you, it could include diligently following up to ensure that you and the hiring manager actually get in touch with each other somehow; but to your contact, it could mean talking to the hiring manager about you and offering up your contact info and resume (if available). The latter is how I have always thought of it when referring an acquaintance to someone. If the hiring manager doesn’t get in touch with you, it could just mean that they didn’t think you had the kind of/the amount of experience they were looking for, not that your contact just dropped the ball and forgot about their promise to you.

    Also, it is helpful to remember that candidates and hiring managers sometimes think of referrals differently. As a candidate, I think, “I am being vouched for, so you should give me a leg up in the selection process,” but the hiring manager more likely thinks, “I’m having trouble finding someone that has this rare combination of teapot-related skills…. I know! I’ll ask my current teapot makers to refer their teapot-making friends/acquaintances. Maybe one of those will fit the bill.” (The bill never got any easier to fit.)

    1. Tommy*

      Note: This is also how you can increase the number of people in underrepresented groups in a company without compromising your hiring standards: you just increase the number of people in those groups that are in the candidate pool and make sure there your selection process isn’t biased, while maintaining the same hiring standards the whole time.

      1. Mookie*

        Yes. Recruiting for diversity (and, therefore, for the highest quality pool possible) requires that hiring managers be comfortable using word-of-mouth to attract otherwise invisible and untapped talent. Samantha Bee reports how easy and uncomplicated this can be — “[a]sking [colleagues and peers]: ‘Do you have any 45-year-old-woman friends who you think are really talented who could submit an application to us?’ ‘Do you have any black friends who are great writers who haven’t had a shot?” — if you’ve got the will to do it.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I wonder if “refer” just means something different to you and your contact.

      When I read that the OP was putting the info in the thank you letter (because I’ll admit, I sometimes leave a phone call and move on to the next thing), I wondered this as well.

      I try to be pretty careful with my wording, as “I’ll pass along your information to Tyrion” is very different from, “I’ll connect you to Jaime.”

  8. katamia*

    I think it’s especially important to stay home if you have a cold that would be extremely disruptive, like if you’re constantly coughing or sneezing. The last office I worked in was super quiet, and when someone coughed or sneezed, it really broke my concentration. Having someone coughing or sneezing all day would be rage-inducing.

    Runny noses are gross, but they’re much easier to deal with if you’re careful about disinfecting.

    1. INTP*

      The coughing and sneezing and sniffling after a cold can last over a week, though, or a month for someone like me with asthma. It’s really not practical to stay home just because you are making noises, unless your employer is willing to grant several weeks (or months) of sick leave per year, or you just rarely ever get sick. Those noises are just part of working in a room with other people, especially during cold season.

      1. Allison*

        Yep. I usually cough for a week or two after I’ve recovered from a cold or flu. I was recently out of the office for a whole week with the flu, there was no way I was going to stay home for an additional week just because I was still having coughing fits! I felt bad that I was making noise, but I also would have felt bad if I stayed away longer than a week, as it was I worried people would think I was faking.

        1. INTP*

          I’m immune to feeling bad about it at this point, because I’ve gotten so much snark from people about my asthmatic coughing while they totally leave Mr. “It’s Just Allergies!” alone (somehow I always caught a cold a few days after his allergy attacks?). I’m not sure what they wanted me to do, remove my lungs? Take a month of disability leave for a cough?

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Holy FSM, there was something going around 5-10 years ago that acted like a cold, but then after all the other symptoms abated, we had runny noses and coughs and chest congestion for MONTHS. At least 6-8 weeks, sometimes longer. And no fever, the sputum was clear, but something about that bug made us cough like crazy. And the worst part was that it kept us up coughing at night. D:

        1. Elizabeth West*

          My coworkers got something this winter that made them hack for WEEKS. I was about ready to tear out all my hair. I knew they couldn’t help it, but it still drove me crazy. I had to listen to Mad Max: Fury Road for a week during the worst of it because it was the only soundtrack loud enough to drown them out.

          And one of them was recently sick again, and I can hear her hacking right now. >_<

      3. Tau*

        When my asthma flared up for the first time as an adult, I think I was coughing for six months straight. And I’ve been coughing most the winter with no other signs of a cold.

      4. katamia*

        You can’t stay home every day, no, but if it’s really excessive and constant, then it’s still a kindness to your coworkers to stay home if you can. I’m not talking an occasional cough or sneeze because those happen, but more like if you’re coughing and/or sneezing every minute.

  9. Oryx*

    Regarding #4, if this is happening frequently and by multiple people, I’d look into the way PTO is being handled. If you (and/or your company as a whole) are taking too long to approve, are often denying PTO without good cause like Alison mentioned, have unofficial blackout days that aren’t communicated, etc., it’s possible your employees find themselves in a bit of a crunch.

    If you’re making it extremely difficult to use PTO, employees may be operating under the “it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask for permission” because it’s the only way they are able to get any time off, which is the real issue and not their roundabout way of getting said time off.

  10. Newbie*

    LW #4: I agree with the comments above about making sure the PTO policies and procedures are clear and fair. But also don’t feel as if PTO is always at the discretion of the employee. There are some places where having multiple people taking time off simultaneously isn’t a problem, but other places that could prove problematic.

    I previously worked in a place where in order to be in compliance with regulations, certain tasks had to be completed daily. We ran into a situation where all of the people trained for a specific task wanted the same week off for vacation. The last person to submit their request for the time off was denied the request as the others had requested much earlier and it had been clearly marked on a shared calendar who had approved time off for when. The person whose request was denied caused a ruckus about it, but a clear, consistent PTO process had been followed.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Except even with that kind of requirement of a daily task, it is still worth considering whether an additional person could be cross-trained to perform it. I understand that sometimes that isn’t the case (you only want a handful of people with the logins to submit payroll, or there are only 3 IT people and you don’t want other people poking around on the server making a mess, or its a task that only an individual with a specific professional license can perform) but if the department is large enough and you have enough lead time, making that last person’s time off contingent on them cross training a co-worker (who has the capacity to absorb that task) before the vacation is not unreasonable. After all, if your plan right now is that person 1 and 2 are out on PTO and person 3 will stay behind to do the regulated task, what would you do if person 3 got in a car accident and was unconscious in the hospital? You’d figure something out, right?

      I agree that it doesn’t make sense to jump through a million hoops for the “Jane and Joe booked vacations months ago for the week of July 4th, but now Fergus want to take a vacation that week as well just because” scenario when you have tasks that need to be physically handled – but it is still worth looking at all the options vs following an extremely rigid set of rules just because “those are the rules”

      1. Newbie*

        Completely agreed that as many people as possible should be cross-trained. Unfortunately, the example I provided was from the non-profit world where staffing was thin. Also, it was the type of situation where the first two employees had been approved months before and now Fergus decides a week prior that he wants the time off just because, not for a specific event. And a week wasn’t enough time to train someone else.

        I am with the majority of people commenting that managers should be as reasonable and flexible as possible with approving PTO requests. I just wanted to be sure both sides were being represented. There are times when a manager just has to say no. Those times should be rare, but they do exist.

    2. LQ*

      Especially around the holidays there are a few tasks on my team that might come up as an urgent thing. One of three of us would be needed to do the job, a coworker, myself, or my boss. Two years my boss has come and asked me, after my coworker had requested a whole week off, if I was planning on taking time off. If I had been, he wouldn’t have so one of us would have been in the office. I wasn’t so he took the week off. Nothing happened, no big deal. But wow let me tell you about how awesome that makes me think my boss is.
      So yes, you might have a reason to require at least one person to be around, but that doesn’t mean just denying, and it doesn’t mean not having a plan for it.

  11. Colette*

    #5 I lrecently updated Linked In with the job I started in August. I like to wait a while before updating, but that was too long – I got lots of sincere congratulations from people who didn’t realize I’d been working there for six months.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I like to wait until I know what I’ll be doing, so I can list a few duties. But I rarely even use LinkedIn for anything and I’m considering deleting my account.

      1. Searching*

        Don’t delete it just because you don’t update it. Hiring managers, potential clients, professional connections all look at Linkedin pages- its helpful to have *something* there. Its a pretty static social media page for most people but that online presence is important. Unless of course you have a job where you want to be incognito.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yeah, I didn’t use it for the longest time, but I kept it so I could connect with old friends who were looking for work, and introduce them to coworkers or other friends who might be of help to them. Now I do use it occasionally to post work-related articles, because they’d bore most of my Facebook friends to tears!

    2. themmases*

      I recently did the same thing by mistake. After working a temporary position for 6 months and ended December 2014, I started a more permanent new job at the same organization. My title looked right, so I just noticed a couple of weeks ago.

      I usually write a short narrative summary of what the project/organization is and what I do, so I wait to update my LinkedIn until I’m confident I know what I’m talking about. Maybe a month and then I’ll revise it from time to time after that.

    3. Audiophile*

      #5: With my current job, I waited a while. This was really only because I was skittish after a poor fit in a similar role, a few years back. I only updated it, because a friend got a new job and updated within the first few weeks, which reminded me I’d been in my current position 2 months.

    4. CMT*

      I’ve seen a lot of people update with the new position, title, location, etc. immediately but wait a while to fill out duties and accomplishments (obviously you need to wait for this part). Then your contacts know when you’ve moved.

  12. Elkay*

    As for being on the job three months versus a year — I’d say the same advice applies. If you’re brand new to the job, like first couple of weeks, I’d try to go in if possible, but even then, if you’re truly ill, a decent boss is going to understand that and want you to stay home.

    Or if the bug is going around the office. I called in sick within my first month and felt awful about it but I’d literally been triangulated with the bug by people sitting around me. Nearly everyone was off at some point within a couple of weeks. That said, I’m UK based and I think sick leave is treated differently here compared to the US.

    1. Elkay*

      gah, screwed up the quote

      As for being on the job three months versus a year — I’d say the same advice applies. If you’re brand new to the job, like first couple of weeks, I’d try to go in if possible, but even then, if you’re truly ill, a decent boss is going to understand that and want you to stay home.

  13. Not Today Satan*

    Personally I wish everyone would stay home when they have a cold. I know the cold has a reputation as being like the easiest illness, but personally when I have a cold it tends to really debilitate me, so I hate having to work with sick people. Plus many people think they just have a cold when really they have a flu or strep throat or something else.

    And as for myself, I try to stay home if my illness would impact my work too much, or get other people sick. Unfortunately, because my work is client facing I always get attitude from my boss when I call out (twice in the past year lol) so I try to avoid it, which sucks. My work is similar to being a teacher in terms of the energy required so I can never just take it easy and phone it in if I’m not feeling well.

    1. F.*

      I agree about staying home. I am still coughing over six weeks after having a cold that I caught from a coworker go into asthmatic bronchitis. Another coworker has an immunodeficiency condition, and even a cold virus can cause very serious problems for him. For the sake of the rest of us, stay home and practice very good hygiene if you must go out!

      1. sara*

        Wait, but did you stay out for six weeks?! I have asthma too, and it means that with any cold, I’m definitely hacking up a lung for weeks at a time. But I’m not aware of any workplace that allows you to take weeks of sick leave for a cold. If I had to take off every time I got a cold (and I get them often because of the asthma), I am 100% sure I would not have my job for very long.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I’m just getting over being sick, because a couple people in management “couldn’t not come in,” and I caught their illness. I ended up calling in one day, but I had a deadline that needed to be met, so I ended up being sicker than I should have because I didn’t get all the rest I should have (working from home is not an option for me).

        Note to managers: Stay home when you’re sick. You might *feel* indispensable, but you are spreading your viruses around just the same as us lowly peons would.

        1. pieces of flair*

          Yes! Remember the swine flu scare back in 08-09? I was sooooo pissed when my coworker who had a confirmed case of swine flu decided she was indispensable (she wasn’t; I could do all her tasks) and came to work sick. I was pregnant at the time, which made her disregard for my health even worse!

    2. hayling*

      AMEN. I have a ton of health problems so my immune system and general health are already precarious. Dealing with something like a cold would be extremely debilitating.

      Additionally, my boss’s SIL has cancer and is undergoing chemo. If my boss gets a cold she can’t go see her. Anyone who comes in to our office sick is risking that.

  14. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


    It’s often not practical to call out for a common cold, especially if you have younger children who have you either coming or going with something half the winter. (I remember those days! And I’m watching a bunch of our staff go through that now.) As long as you aren’t hacking up a lung or spreading snot particles everywhere, you’re not likely to annoy your co-workers.

    Hand sanitizer, prompt tissue disposal, cough into the crook of your elbow if one sneaks up on you >> basic disease spread prevention will get you through.

    In our world, though, if you’re excreting a bunch of stuff or coughing up a storm, your co-workers will put on a haz mat suit and carry you out. They *will* tell you to go home.

    So, summary, culture has something to do with it (no bacteria pun intended).

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Also, if you’re running a fever:

      Stay home. Even if you took something to bring the fever down.

      Stay home.

      Fever is very taxing on the body.

      You can damage your heart by ignoring it.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Our school district has a policy that students have to be fever free for twenty-four hours before returning to school. I don’t use it on myself about work though; if I wake up and my fever’s gone, I go in if I feel up to it.

        1. Allison*

          I followed that rule myself recently, when getting over the flu, because I’d keep getting my fever down to a normal temperature with ibuprofen and cold washcloths, but then each time I thought I was out of the woods the dagnabbed thing would come back! You gotta be careful, just because the fever’s gone now doesn’t mean it’s gone for good yet.

          1. Lore*

            Yes, it does keep coming back! However–I was off for a full week with the flu last week. That’s half my sick days for the year (and we can’t carry any over, so even though I think I only used three last year, no help now), and I still haven’t gone 24 unmedicted hours with no fever at all. It’s a hard balancing act, and I have a generous employer.

        2. Alice 2*

          We had this policy at a daycare I worked at. One kid developed a fever at 2, we gave him Tylenol (had a standing medication permission) and laid him on a cot. But busy working Dad didn’t pick up until 5pm (we close at 6). Guess who we saw the next day at 5pm. I’m pretty sure that kid was not fever-free for 24 hrs before coming back for that one hour of daycare..

          1. J.B.*

            No, but realistically almost no kids are. I never mask symptoms but when I realistically think the fever is gone, kids go back. And if he brought the child in for one hour of day care, it was probably something he felt under pressure to do. It’s a tough balancing act – of course the rules are there for a reason!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Our company has a thing about fever. If you have one, stay home. Basically, they say stay home if you’re too sick to work, and they’re very good about posting flu information and offering free flu shots.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          My mother’s rule about staying home from school was that you automatically stayed home if you had a fever or were throwing up. Otherwise, you had to have multiple, severe symptoms. I still follow this rule.

      3. the_scientist*

        When I was a kid I used to routinely spike very high fevers (strep throat would put me at about 102 F every single time, and I’d get it 3-4 times a year). Obviously, that’s pretty miserable, but I’m pretty sure I had days where the antibiotics had kicked in and I was mildly feverish but otherwise feeling OK. The last time I had a fever as an adult (a few years ago, the result of a sinus infection), I felt like I was going to die, and it was a much milder fever than 102F. I understand that you have to do what you have to do with stingy sick leave, but honestly, I can’t imagine being productive with a fever. My job requires a fair bit of concentration, problem-solving and attention to detail, and I think if I worked with a fever I’d realistically just need to do all the work over again, because it would be wrong or poorly done. I’ll happily work from home if I’m feeling “under the weather” but if I have a fever, forget it.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I know! I tried to work from home a few weeks ago with a 102 fever. I made so many dumb mistakes and lasted two hours before my boss told me to give it up and go to bed before I took down the company with my dumbassery (she was nice about it though).

        2. Shell*

          Amen. My body temperature runs slightly lower than average, so oftentimes what’s “normal” temperature for people is a mild fever for me. Nothing super alarming, but paired with a splitting headache and it’s definitely enough for me to call out for the day. My job requires a lot of attention to detail and multitasking (with not a lot of potential for redos); that sure as hell isn’t happening when it hurts to turn my head.

    2. TowerofJoy*

      Yes. Wash your hands and keep your distance from other people. Most of the people I’ve known at work wouldn’t be getting other people sick if they followed the lessons they learned in Kindergarten regarding hand washing and tissues. I’ve had coworkers cough and sneeze in my face before, or cough on their hands and then touch me/hand me something with that hand while its still damp- no, no, no!
      And ha! for the unintended bacteria pun.

    3. OP1*

      if you’re… coughing up a storm, your co-workers will put on a haz mat suit and carry you out. They *will* tell you to go home.

      I was, and they did.

    4. INTP*

      Agree that it’s also not practical, especially if you don’t get a generous number of sick days.

      5 sick days is pretty standard in the US. I’ll need at least half that time for doctor’s appointments unless my employer is flexible about a couple of hours for an appointment here and there, because I have a couple of conditions that require frequent appointments, and I also like to have some time saved for things I truly can’t come to work with, like food poisoning or a migraine, just in case. That means I’m coming to work with a cold unless I cannot safely drive to work. Even coming to work with colds, with 5 days I often wind up using some vacation time as sick time.

      It’s stupid – I’ll sit there on company time doing very little all day, getting other people sick who will also do very little. But I’m not using up all my vacation time on colds, either. Luckily I work from home now so it’s not an issue.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Let me relay the other side of the problem. I had a report that didn’t want to use her sick days so came into work with a cold. This was on December 19th. The team was exhausted, had been working excessive overtime, and was looking forward to a well deserved break over Christmas. I was planning to fly “home” (3000 miles away) to see family I could only see once a year.
        I ordered report to go home when I saw that she was sniffling and sneezing away. She did not comply. She managed to infect the entire team. Every last person was sick over their rest period. They had to cancel ski vacations etc. Not one person was refreshed because they spent the time sick. I could not visit my elderly aunt and uncle because I was sick.
        My report then complained that I did not reward her sufficiently for her “sacrifice” by coming in while sick – AFTER I had told her to go home.
        From that point on I mentally thought of my report “the selfish twit”. I started pulling back choice assignments because it was clear that she lacked judgment and only thought of herself. I gave the assignments to team players.
        TL;DR – You should never think of just your own needs when evaluating colds or sickness. You are part of a work team and need to think how you impact them too.

        1. INTP*

          If someone is not using their sick time because they want to hoard it for holiday time or think they get some sort of brownie points for never calling out or want to avoid backlogs or something, I agree, that’s selfish. But if someone simply cannot afford to use sick time because they run out of it with things that unavoidably require being out of the office (appointments, vomiting, being too incapacitated to drive), then the issue isn’t the employee, but the sick time system. It’s easier to blame an individual than a larger entity that you’re dependent on and could be retaliated against for speaking up to, but it’s not very productive to label an employee as a selfish twit when they aren’t the root of the problem. The company could have protected them (speaking in general, I don’t know about your particular case) by offering ample sick time, the ability to work from home, or not docking the sick time bank for 3 hours here and there for a doctor’s appointment, but chose not to. And what seems like a reasonable number of sick days for someone who doesn’t have children or chronic health conditions and rarely gets sick might be far too few for someone else to be able to take off work for every cold.

        2. CADMonkey007*

          Sorry, I find this unfair. People get sick, and sick people will stay home if they are confident that staying home wont be used negatively against them. You are now pulling choice assignments your report because she decided to work with a cold, what’s to say the same wouldn’t have happened for staying home for “just a cold” the days before a deadline? Besides, your report was probably spreading germs before you (or her) noticed the sniffling and coughing, and as you say, this was December (cold & flu season) and your team was exhausted. It sucks that you and your team all got sick over break, but placing all the blame on this one person doesn’t seem right.

          1. INTP*

            Yeah, the blame lies at least equally on a work schedule that left everyone exhausted and vulnerable, and unless she’s just a weirdo who won’t take sick time ever, on a system of insufficient sick time or insufficient provisions for being sick. Don’t confuse the easiest target for the actual problem. Chances are, the germs were spread around before she was at the peak of symptoms.

          2. Engineer Girl*

            My report ignored a direct order to go home. I explicitly told her I did not want the rest of the team to get infected. I did not make the stressful schedule, but was trying to minimize impact. Our company does not have a specified number of sick days so there was no excuse. There was no negative impact for going home. Others (me) would have covered the work. This was part of a larger problem where the report would ignore inputs from senior people because she “knew” better than others what was “best”. She was consistently wrong.
            If management tells you to go home then you do that! I have every right to withhold choice assignments from reports that don’t do what I ask them to do.

        3. catsAreCool*

          I’m surprised a direct report thought she could just ignore what you told her. That seems like the person doesn’t have a respect for authority.

  15. misspiggy*

    Coming from a UK white collar perspective, I think taking a sick day means you’re too sick to work. It’s expected that people will bring germs to the office and infect others before they become symptomatic, hence the need for decent sick leave provision. I have advised colleagues to go home because they’re infecting others, but that’s been when the colleague was a workaholic who couldn’t comprehend any other reason for taking time off.

    So for me the test is whether you can do a day’s work, or whether you can manage the journey in and out. Colds are so common here that around a quarter of people in any given office would have one at any given moment, but it’s recognised that some will be hit harder and will therefore need time off.

  16. TowerofJoy*

    I’ve found that its hard to “win” with sick days. People that don’t take off are labeled as annoying/typhoid Marys because they get everyone else sick. People that stay home are “not that sick”, and “take off too much”. It’s hard to pick the right amount.

    I just stay home if I don’t feel up to it, especially if its been awhile (read: a few months) since I’ve taken a sick day. That’s not very helpful though, I know OP, because everyone has a different threshold for that.

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      Weirdly, I’ve known people who rarely call in get a hard time when they do. Because they “never get sick,” so they must be making it up…

  17. CADMonkey007*

    My rule of thumb is if I need drugs to make it through the day, I stay home. I save the cough and cold medicine for that lingering period where you feel fine but sound terrible. I’m not going to take a week of sick time to nurse my post nasal drip.

  18. Allison*

    #1, this is definitely not a black and white issue. Some colds aren’t that bad, others are terrible. Sometimes you have to be in the office for something important, and sometimes it’s a typical workday you can probably afford to miss.

    Growing up, I was under the impression that you shouldn’t miss school just because of a cold, and my mom always gave me a hard time for wanting to stay home with one. Naturally, when I entered the workplace in my 20’s I thought the same rule applied, so I often tried to tough if out if I “just” had a cold, even if that meant working from home so I could get a little extra sleep and have plenty of access to soup and orange juice (mixed with 5 Hour Energy).

    But a few weeks ago I did take a sick day, because I had a cold that was so bad I couldn’t get out of bed, and I took the day to rest. By the end of the day I felt significantly better, and I was able to return to the office the next day with just a slightly sore throat. After that, it was clear to me that taking a sick day makes a world of difference in the recovery process.

    Now, if you’re thinking “harumph, must be nice that you could take the whole day off, but some of us have important jobs,” I get that. It *was* nice that I didn’t have any critical, time sensitive tasks or big meetings, and if you do, then yeah, I get feeling the need to take some Dayquil and suck it up. But if someone CAN take a sick day, even if it’s for a cold, it can really help them get back on their feet more quickly.

    1. Matt*

      The thing about colds is how contagious they are … and even if there is something ever-so-important that workday, the question is if it’s worth potentially knocking out the rest of the office.

      For some reason I *always* catch the colds of my office-mate … whenever he sits at his desk opposite to mine, sneezing and coughing and blowing his nose all day long, I can be sure to feel the dreaded first signs of sore throat two or three days later.

    2. Hlyssande*

      My mom was of the ‘just go and try it’ school of thought when it came to being sick when I was growing up. It’s been a really hard habit to break.

      I’m just glad that I realized how sick I was and got myself to a doctor when I had influenza in college.

      1. Jinx*

        The nurse at my high school had a rule where they wouldn’t send you home in the morning if you got sick shortly after arriving – you had to at least “try” to get through the first couple of periods. I eventually started calling my dad from the office to pick me up instead of trying to convince the nurse, since he’d actually believe me if I said I was sick. :/

        1. KR*

          I had the opposite problem – my dad was a firm believer that I should at least “try” to go to school and get through the school day if I woke up sick, but once I was past sophomore year of high school I didn’t even care. I would go to the nurses office when I first walked in and tell her that I tried to stay home sick, but my dad didn’t want me to and she would send me home. I’ll also forever be grateful for her letting me go home/rest in the nurses office no questions asked when I had anxiety related migraines and panic attacks in school – just as a shout out to my school nurse who will never read this.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Oh yeah, my dad was like that too–which had a tendency to end in my barfing at school, embarrassing myself, and having to go home anyway.

    3. INTP*

      Yeah, I find that when I’m sick, I’m basically going to stay sick until I get a day or two to rest. If my workplace is not sick-day-friendly (work piles up, or we only get 5 sick days a year and I need them for appointments and upset stomachs), I might have to delay that to the weekend – but that’s definitely not better for my employer since I’ll basically be doing very little besides spreading germs until the weekend arrives. If it’s an option, though, I always rest ASAP (and that’s full rest – I don’t understand people going to the gym with a cold!).

    4. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I have learned that cold medicine and I don’t mix well – I can take cold medicine and be physically present at my desk but getting almost nothing done because I’m in such a fog (or some days actually doing negative work by screwing things up) for a couple of days or I can take the sick day, deal with or delagate the very most imporant items on my to-do list via email, stay in bed for almost 24 straight hours and then be a functional-ish human being and employee the rest of the week.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve gone in when feeling somewhat under the weather and then found I couldn’t finish out the day. In those cases, it usually could go one way or the other–if I truly felt ill, I would call in. But I find that if I go home and rest, I’m usually okay by the next day–I’ve fought it off. If I push through, then there is a chance that won’t be the case.

    6. Ife*

      It can take a lot of time to unlearn the habit of going in even when you’re sick. I have had days at work where I’m just physically there, using all my energy to stare at the computer. It was motivated by a combination of guilt (“you’re not that sick if you’re not vomiting”) and lack of sick days. Now that I have actual sick days and coworkers who use their sick days, I am getting better at leaving when I feel sick, and at staying home/working from home if I think I need to.

      1. KR*

        I had to call out sick a few weeks ago. I was fighting a cold, planning on flying that weekend, had not had any introvert-downtime in forever, and had a million and one things to do that week to prepare for the trip and no time at all. I called out, took a day and relaxed and did all the chores I had to do, and got to bed early that night and it was so rewarding. I realized that I wouldn’t be any good at work anyway because I would be so distracted and by taking a day I was more productive the rest of the week.

  19. EmmaUK*

    #1 – We all have different immune systems. Where I used to work there was a woman who had never taken a sick day- but I had to take plenty BECAUSE she never took a sick day.

    1. BRR*

      I lost my cool once and basically told someone who came in sick that if I get sick it should come out of their sick time (she was basically the walking dead).

      1. martinij*

        I work next to someone who doesn’t believe in Western medicine, but my immune system cannot keep up. When she is sick, she comes in and has tea with honey to help her feel better, or loads up on fruits/veggies, but even my pounding Emergen-C and loading up on Zicam doesn’t suffice. I spoke to my boss about it, but since he has done nothing I have no qualms working from home when she is under the weather and coughing into my cube.

      2. WheezySneezy*

        I have been SO TEMPTED on more than one occasion to say this to a (now former, thankfully) colleague who used to come in sick ALL THE TIME. (She’d come to work while still vomiting from a stomach bug! GAH!)

    2. C Average*

      A couple of years ago a colleague on my team was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Being a very private person, she only shared what was going on with her immediate team. She worked as much as she could through chemo and radiation. She wore a wig, and few people had any idea she wasn’t 100% healthy. (She had an insane work ethic: I’d still count her the hardest-working person I have ever met in the corporate world.)

      I’d get infuriated every time some jerk came to work sick, because I knew she was immune-compromised and had used up most of her sick days on surgery and had to be really selective about when she stayed home.

  20. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I had no idea that a LinkedIn “waiting period” was a thing. I’d probably update it as soon as I accepted an offer…or at least on my first day. I wouldn’t want people thinking I was still with my previous employer, that could make for some awkward conversations. I guess people are trying to avoid awkwardness if it doesn’t work out, and they leave or are fired within days or weeks? I get that that could be a thing, especially if you’re new to the workforce and don’t know what to look for, but even those of us who are experienced and do our due diligence shouldn’t be too embarrassed if we find an employer with no Glassdoor reviews who is very good at appearing sane externally while being a total whack-a-doo employer. You can’t predict every outcome; if you could, you could spend a day a month at the track and never have to work a day in your life!

  21. Ashloo*

    I work from home and one downside is actually never being able to call off unless it’s like a “going to the hospital” type of emergency. This is how the job is pitched (100% uptime, no exceptions) so there is no expectations otherwise; if your internet goes down in the middle of the night, you get yourself to a 24 hour cafe, etc. There’s no problem swapping things with coworkers if you know in advance, but it makes it a bit rough if you have the flu on a 3am shift.

    Thankfully I work at the same time as a coworker so we can cover a little bit for each other if someone just needs to physically lay down for an hour.

  22. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    In my previous company I generally didn’t call out when I had a cold, unless it was really bad. Mainly because I wore many hats and missing even one day of work meant I got way behind; it just wasn’t worth it to me to call out most of the time.

    In my current company, however, we pretty much encourage people to stay home. We don’t want it spreading and if you’re sick, stay home and take care of yourself. I called out for a cold twice this past year and no one thought anything of it. And now I’m in a place where I have awesome employees and the department kind of just runs itself; it’s not detrimental if I stay home.

    It’s a “know your company culture” thing.

  23. CM*

    For OP #3, I’m surprised at Alison’s answer… I wouldn’t think it was pushy if I offered to make an introduction and the person waited several weeks and followed up with me one time, by email, with a specific ask like, “When we had coffee, you offered to introduce me to X. I’d be really interested in meeting X. Would you be willing to make an email introduction, and then I’ll follow up from there?” And I wouldn’t hesitate to send an email like this either (again, one time, and after waiting a while) because I’d assume that it had just slipped the person’s mind, not that they didn’t want to do it. And I think one way to remove the awkwardness of name-dropping is, when someone is suggesting other people you can talk to, say, “Great, is it okay if I mention your name when I get in touch with them?” I can’t imagine anybody saying no to that, and then you don’t have to worry about whether it’s appropriate.

  24. ACA*

    Re #1, I’ve called out sick for a cold. Even if I’m mostly past the coughing/nose blowing stage, if I don’t have the energy to put my socks on, then I definitely won’t be able to have a productive workday – especially once you add cold medicine to the mix!

  25. Preggers*

    #1 This greatly differs based on workplace norms. I worked someplace that had very generous sick leave. If I sneezed at work I would get looks like why are you here with your germs. Every other place I worked expected you there unless you had a fever and a doctor’s note.
    I tend to think of others when I’m sick. Does anyone in the office have a condition like cancer that can be impacted by me coming in with my germs? Is any thing major like deadlines or payroll going to be missed if I don’t come in? If anything major is going to be missed by my absence, then I ask myself can I do my job without spreading my germs i.e. do you have an office you work in alone or are you constantly around other people.?

  26. Granite*

    RE: Linkedin. Another option is to update on the first day, but select the option to not announce it to your connections. Anyone looking for you will see the new company/position.

  27. Mark in Cali*

    #2 – I’ve said it before on here: I hate the “I’m so swamp, just can’t,” excuse when it’s not true. Please only use it when it’s true. Otherwise, be honest. “No thanks, that doesn’t interest me.”

    1. Duncan*

      That may be preferred for social invitations, where you don’t want to be repeatedly invited to an activity that genuinely doesn’t interest you, but that generally wouldn’t fly for business invitations, at least where I work. My boss asks me to do plenty of things that don’t interest me, and I do them because it benefits a work goal. When you have the option of declining a work invitation, it should be done without causing offense. Though it’s not meant to be offensive, “not interested” may well give you a black mark in the company by making you appear apathetic, unsocial, etc. “Unavailable” is a better choice.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yes, but, “I’m sorry, I really can’t; my time outside work is heavily committed” causes less workplace-confusion than “I’m swamped”. (And it also doesn’t invite them to see if your boss can lighten your load so you can, which isn’t the desired end result either.)

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I like this phrasing. I have something scheduled after work every day through the 23rd this month (some of it work related) and honestly, I’d prefer to go to the gym then go out with coworkers.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Actually, for social situations, “having a previous engagement” is the only official socially acceptable reason for declining. Because w/ a social activity, the point is the person’s company, not the activity. And you’d never want to say, “I’m not interested in spending time with you.”
        (Of course, in real life, it wouldn’t be rude to say, “Oh, I never see horror movies–sorry. But let’s get together for coffee?”)

        And for business, I would think, “That’s not an activity that is valuable enough to spend my work energy & time on” is actually the only acceptable reason. And “I’m so swamped” means, “I have other things using up my work energy & time.”

        Complaining about the excuses people give you is actually pretty covetous. You aren’t entitled to demand the other people spend their time the way they want to.

        I will say this: for the OP, maybe it’s time to revisit WHY these people keep trying to include you, and to figure out whether that means you need to make it to some of these. If there’s no business reason, then maybe you can say: “Please don’t include me in those things anymore.”

        It can be weird when the social and business instincts & etiquette cross like this.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          “Complaining about the excuses people give you is actually pretty covetous. You aren’t entitled to demand other people spend their time the way you want.”

          THIS, so much. Actually, it very much applies in social situations, too. I might not *say* I feel like spending time alone instead of with someone else today, but it should be perfectly OK to do so. Other people are not entitled to your time.

    2. Searching*

      Hmm, but how would you know if it was true in most cases? I think that my coworkers aren’t privy to my outside of work plans most of the time, and that’s appropriate.

      And I know personally as an introvert, I truly do need some nights where my plans are “watch Netflix and go to sleep early without talking to anyone”- nights where another work commitment would be really really stressful and detrimental. And outside of self care, there could be all sorts of family, health or other considerations you as a coworker aren’t aware of that make them “swamped.”

      So I think its also important to not judge whether someone is too swamped in their professional or personal life to volunteer for outside of work activities. You are not seeing the full picture, and honestly you aren’t always owed the full picture either. Labeling someone dishonest for some misdirection to shield their personal life/ little white lie is pretty harsh.

      1. catsAreCool*

        Miss Manners says it’s OK to say you have plans, even if those plans include staying at home and watching TV. Those are still plans, right?

    3. Meg Murry*

      But you don’t have to play the “OMG, I’m just so busy I just couldn’t!” martyr game where people try to one-up each other with their busy-ness – I agree that is annoying. But “Sorry, I can’t make it” or “I’m not available that day” is not rude. If it’s a matter of “please take me off this mailing list, I’m never going to be interested in attending your underwater basket weaving course” or some other purely social activity, that’s one thing – but you would come across as rude to tell your coworkers “Your work-related activity doesn’t interest me”

    4. Lily in NYC*

      Nope, I’m going to say whatever works best for me in that specific situation. If the person expecting me to attend something is someone I find to be unreasonable, then you better believe I’m going to say I’m too busy instead of “no thanks, that doesn’t interest me”. Because that person would be offended and would likely hold it against me.

    5. LQ*

      You need to be 100% willing to accept the truth and not argue with it if you want the truth. The moment someone tries to argue with the truth (“I don’t have the capacity for that right now.”) they loose the right to expect the truth. If you’ve ever said “but…” anything to someone’s answer? You don’t want honesty. You want the answer you want.

    6. C Average*

      “I’m swamped” is code for “this is a blanket ‘no’ for the foreseeable future.” It’s the response you give when you want to forestall any suggested alternatives.

      It would be nice if there were a socially acceptable way to say “not now and not the next time and not the time after that, so please don’t ask,” but “I’m swamped” is unfortunately the closest thing we’ve got.

  28. AndersonDarling*

    #2 I’m more concerned with leaders scheduling work related meetings after working hours. If it was a once in a while thing then I’d let it go, but if managers are regularly scheduling meetings in the after-hours, I’d bring it up to my boss and ask if this is the direction the organization is moving in. Those 5pm meetings may morph into 7pm meetings, and then you’ll be working 24/7.

    1. Searching*

      This. If they’re essential to the workplace, why can’t they happen during work hours? Are attendees allowed to count them as work and get overtime/ comp time accordingly or are they “volunteering”? I get that there will be some meetings outside 9-5 hours- for example, if board members or other working volunteers are also attending- but it does sound like these are becoming much more regular and that they are not related to the LW’s work.

    2. LW #2 OP*

      In this case it was because the meeting (a focus group) involved students as well as employees (I work in Higher Ed), so they wanted to hold it after hours, so that students could also attend. It isn’t a regular thing, thankfully, the place I work is generally pretty good at scheduling meetings during work hours.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Can you share a little bit of what the focus groups are?

        I know we had these when we were talking about new initiatives and strategic planning. I often was angling to get into all the ones I could (because I’m nosy)….

        1. LW #2 OP*

          This one was about talking with students to find out what they’re happy with, what they’d like to see the college do/change/etc in the future. (Recently I’ve been invited to a few similarly themed things by this department, because I’ve been a full time employee for 6+ years but also earned my degree here during that time so I’m like… both perspectives in one?) It is something interesting, and I think normally I might have tried more to attend, I had just been going through an extra rough few weeks with my anxiety/etc, so I had a lot less “energy” for it than I might normally have had.

          It did work out, though, I ended up saying I couldn’t make it, but most of the students couldn’t either, so the person in charge decided to try and find another way to make it happen. I’ve suggested using google groups or something similar (and opening it for, say, a week or something), because we have students all over the country and that would allow for more people to participate over time within their schedules. (Which works well with our school “mission” as a whole and conveniently also my social anxiety.)

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Yeah, this is super normal in lots of fields. We run programming for non-staff all the time, in the evening, and we always need a few staff members to attend. There’s nothing nefarious going on.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I worked with a woman who did that to her department–she would schedule basic nuts-and-bolts meetings (one held every month, to plan the next month’s project list, for example) at 7 pm. One of her staff members was livid about it! And left.

  29. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

    I called in sick two days last week because of a cold. It just knocked me on my butt. I felt horrible. Cold medicine didn’t even touch it, I just had to ride it out. I wouldn’t have even been able to work from home, I would have been falling asleep or having to put my head down if I was in the office or at home or whatever. Sometimes when you’re sick, you’re sick. And unfortunately this cold at it’s start is not a big deal, so a lot of people got it and thought it was “just” a cough, came to work and spread it around, and by the time anyone realized how bad it could be, everyone was infected.

      1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

        Right? Mutating and stuff. Changing your cells. Always thinking they can push in their own business.

  30. BioPharma*

    #3: I know this isn’t directly answering your question, but just FYI, when someone contacts me, I’m much more likely to act if they’re aware of a specific posting their interested in, and in fact, find it a bit annoying when they say “Let me know if something in [not my own] department opens us!” When I see someone has put in effort, I’m more willing to put in effort as well.

    1. BioPharma*

      Just to clarify, your wording of “either hiring managers or other professionals” made it seem like the interviewee stated a general “oh, let me introduce you to some folks in the industry” but if you had requested to meet a specific person, and that’s what they had agreed to do, then good job and nevermind my comment above.

    2. BRR*

      Is this how you act for information interviews? I’ve always thought the first rule of informational interviews is to not treat them like a job interview. I would be more turned off if I did an informational interview and the person asked me about a specific opening. I would be more annoyed if they asked about an opening in another department.

  31. Arielle*

    The downside to having an extremely flexible work from home and telecommuting policy (basically, anyone can work from home any time they feel like it and all of our meetings include videoconferencing) is that there’s really no such thing as a sick day. If you’re sick, unless you’re in the hospital or physically unable to leave the bathroom, you’re working from home.

    1. JaneB*

      This winter’s cold at the university I work at has one of those long lasting and persistent coughs following it… lecturing to a room full of coughers when one’s own voice is weakened by prolonged coughing is just ridiculous!

      1. JaneB*

        That came in the wrong place!

        I MEANT to comment here that there is one really annoying senior person at work who makes a point of tweeting/emailing from the bathroom when he has a bathroom-confining illness, and making sure we ALl know how dedicated he is. it’s GROSS (and I hope he disinfects his phone really well…

    2. catsAreCool*

      If someone is sick enough that he/she can’t focus at work, then it makes sense to take a sick day, even if the person works at home.

  32. newworldofwork*

    I worked for a long time in a small office and we had one person who would go through the entire year calendar for the next year and make all her vacation requests. She had lots of seniority so she had lots of time and she requested time around every single holiday. We could only have one person be off at a time. So we instituted a new policy that you could only make one vacation request more than 6 months in advance, and that we rotated peak holiday times. If I took off extended time for Christmas this year, I could not take it off next year. It wasn’t perfect but it did help.

  33. boop*

    4. Nice to hear that so many are confident enough to do that! At my work, we don’t even know what hours we’re working until less than a week beforehand. I have to cancel appointments constantly :/

    1. KR*

      I’m with you there. Job B makes a big show of saying that time off requests are just that – requests, but at least they’ll work their butt off to give you time off as long as you request it in advance. It is tricky though because you never know if you actually got the time off until the Thursday of the previous week.

  34. Cat Lady without a Cat :(*

    #1 (Staying home with a cold): I do wish more people were able/willing to stay home when they have a cold, the flu or some other contagious stuff. It’s even more important when space is tight. My company is currently under renovation, which means that our weekly mandatory all-staff meeting is squeezed into a little tiny room with no ventilation other than the one door. People are not quite sitting on each others’ laps (yet), but we are sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, knee-to-butt, literally. Now, there’s been some nasty cold going around in the office, which everybody has gotten at this point. And the managers are wondering why “the flu season is so bad this year.” Hmm…

  35. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #4 – obviously, seniority rules and rocks. BUT — BUT —

    That doesn’t mean that the senior person can hem and haw and hold everyone else’s vacation hostage.

    What I would do is this –

    Announce in December – this is how we’re gonna do it.

    Inform them that you will “honor seniority” on vacation plans until February 1. Submit va-ca plans , milestone dates, etc. before that. As a manager, I will resolve conflicts as best as I can.

    AFTER FEBRUARY 1 = First asked, first granted. So if you have a particular week you really, really want off, ask before February, otherwise that time’s going to go to the first guy or gal who requests it in writing.

    Exception – we once had clown who had seniority in a small group. He took every Friday off from June-September, thus blocking anyone from taking a full week in the summer. In that case you toss seniority out the window because the “fairness” factor comes into play.

    1. Xarcady*

      I like this plan. It gives everyone a chance to block out big events, like family weddings, that they know about ahead of time, and those who need to coordinate vacation schedules with other family members who work have some advance notice that they need to get to work on that.

      At one job, we had 10 people in the department, and needed at least eight in the office to get a day’s work done. So the rule was that only one person could be on vacation at a time. That left some wiggle room if someone called out sick.

      There was a lottery for vacation time. The first work day of the year, we all drew numbers, and could select a week of vacation in order, from first to last. Then we went in reverse order, from last to first, to select the second week of vacation. You didn’t have to choose your vacation time then, but if there were dates you really needed, you had the chance to get them.

      Then there was the year when four members of the department got married. Someone made the decision that those four would get first crack at a week of vacation time, so they could have their honeymoon immediately after the weddings. Then they had to wait until everyone else choose all their vacation time before they could pick their second week. Since we were a department that got along pretty well, no one minded this at all.

  36. AGirlCalledFriday*

    #1 – I’m a teacher, and I’m well aware that not all employees can take sick days when they have a cold…I mean, as a teacher taking a sick day can cause a week’s worth of extra work and damage student progress as they don’t do as well when I’m not here. So I do get it, but it would be nice if those who can, would do their part to stay home or allow employees to stay home. All it takes is one sick person in my school, and the illness spreads like wildfire as all the students and teachers become sick. Then you get infant children and elderly grandparents sick. I have several students with asthma, and catching a cold can land then in the hospital.

    When you come to work and you are contagious, you are spreading that cold to everyone you work with, as well as their families. Some of the people you spread it to are not equally capable of fighting it off. Colds, left untreated, can sometimes mutate into other illnesses. So, if you do have an opportunity to stay home – or keep your kids home – please be respectful of other people’s health and do so.

    1. KR*

      I’m interested in your perspective on schools being difficult when students are home sick. When I was in high school, they instituted a policy where you only had a certain number of days you could miss any class. Sick time was unlimited, but it only counted as sick time if you had a doctors note for the specific days and you needed one every time you were out. Teachers had to give you makeup work if you were out sick, but that was the only case where they had to give you makeup exams/assignments/ect. I knew students who didn’t have insurance who couldn’t afford to go to the doctor every time they were sick, or knew that they were sick but it wasn’t worth going to the doctor because all they needed was bed rest, or their parents couldn’t afford to take the day off work to drive them to the doctor. They had a lot of trouble with that. What’s your opinion on these policies coming from the perspective of a teacher?

  37. WheezySneezy*

    Regarding calling in sick for a cold… I have asthma, and one of my worst triggers is a respiratory infection (colds, flu, etc.) More than once, I have had to go to the ER or an urgent care clinic to receive breathing treatments, steroids, and antibiotics because I caught a cold from someone who couldn’t be bothered to stay home from work. (As an aside, before people start saying that colds are caused by viruses and antibiotics don’t help, the antibiotics are prescribed in conjunction with the steroids – aka immune-suppressants – to prevent a SECONDARY bacterial infection.)

    Anyway, I get really frustrated when someone shows up to work sick, even if it’s “just a cold.” (It may be “just a cold” to you but it could put me in the hospital!) As a manager, I frequently encourage/remind my team members to use their sick time or telecommute when they need to — we have sick leave for a reason! Nobody gets a prize for using the least amount of sick leave, at least not where I work. :) Haven’t there been research studies on the effects of “presenteeism” on productivity? And haven’t those studies found that the loss of productivity caused by someone taking a sick day is actually far less than the loss of productivity that results when someone comes to work sick and infects everybody else?

  38. AnotherHRPro*

    OP #1: In addition to Alison’s great advice, I would offer that you should consider if you are so sick that you are going to cancel other plans. Is your cold at a level that you wouldn’t do things that you really want to do (for example, go to a concert for your favorite band)? If you are willing to forgo going to something you really want to go to, you are too sick to work. But if you would still go to the concert you should probably go to work.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Sort of the adult’s way to apply that grade-school/high-school rule: if you’re absent during the day, you cannot participate in the extra-curricular activity in the evening.

      So flip it around a bit for the grownup version: If it were an “extra-curricular” activity, would you skip it? Then you should skip work.

  39. Q*

    #4 is the bane of my existence. For years our vacation policy has been exactly the same but suddenly this year everyone has tried to pull the “but I already paid for it!” excuse. I have had to tell so many people too bad so sad (only in a totally professional way). One guy even said “but my wife is going to yell at me.” Not my problem. We go by seniority and he is 26 out of 30 people. He should know better.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I had a co-worker try to go over my head – I had a planned trip and it had been approved, and he asked me to change it. I said I could not, I had commitments that were irrevocable, so he went to the boss.

      I also – many years ago – had a July trip – approved in writing in March. I bought plane tickets, booked hotels, rented a car, and even obtained my passport. Comes June – they ask me to cancel it. But they balked at paying the expenses I had shelled out (plus an extra 30 percent – you know, those are POST-tax dollars I shelled out) plus promising to allow me to have the time off before my daughter had to return to school.

  40. Margaret*

    For staying home sick, I think you should also consider how much you interact with other people, e.g., how likely you will spread the germs. Obviously that can’t always be the most heavily weighted factor (in fact, many times when you’re in close contact with other people, e.g., a teacher, it might be particularly inconvenient to be out and thus harder to justify it otherwise even though you’re spreading germs).

    I was sick with a pretty bad cold in December. The first day I felt really awful, there was an all morning company meeting. So I stayed home! In a small meeting room surrounded by everyone? My sneezes would spread my germs all over! The next day, though, I knew I could stay in my office virtually all day. I had projects to get done, but nothing that would necessitate meeting with colleagues or clients. So long as I washed or sanitized my hands frequently and tried to avoid touching things unnecessarily in communal areas like the bathroom or kitchen, I really could minimize how much I was likely spreading germs.

  41. anncakes*

    Re: #1 – taking sick days varies so, so much from job to job.

    At my old university job, I earned one paid sick day per month, and it was never an issue when I needed to use one, even though I was the only one manning the main office. I was able to take care of a lot of work from home. There wasn’t anyone there to answer the phone, but my boss was okay with that since that wasn’t really the main form of communication anyway.

    At my current job, we get ZERO paid sick days. It’s a physically demanding job, which makes it even harder to do when you’re sick and weak, and it involves a lot of client interaction. Because of the loss of wages and the problems we have with coverage (perpetually understaffed, high turnover), I can only ever take one sick day at a time and hope that it’s enough to help me start to recover. I’ve had more than one client notice that I’m sick and say they hope I feel better, and that’s always extremely awkward. I don’t want to make any of my coworkers sick and I really do worry about a client coming in who is immunocompromised and being exposed to our germs, but what option do we have? I really hate having to go in while sick, and unfortunately, the culture among most of my coworkers is that you should suck it up and come in. Some have bragged about never missing work even though they had to run to the bathroom to vomit or were diagnosed with walking pneumonia. It’s insanity. Counting down the days until I get out of there.

  42. Middle Name Jane*

    #5–I update my LinkedIn profile immediately after starting a new job or when I have other changes to make, but unless it’s something major, then I have mine set to where my network isn’t notified of changes I make to my profile.

    So if you want to update your profile but still be low-key about it, then consider that option.

  43. Maria Polinsky*

    Regarding the referrals, sometimes they intend to follow up and get busy, or sometimes they say it to “be nice.” If this is such a close knit field, then when you do hear of a job or get an interview, by all means reach back out to someone you talked to for advice. What’s the current scoop on the company? What is the most pressing priority of the field today? I would hesitate asking that person to put in a good word for you though. I’m often asked to talk to people who want to transition into my field. I’ve met them once so I really know nothing about their work performance. I’m also careful to refer them to certain resources but never promise referrals unless I have a very specific person in mind and then generally give the info immediately. I do agree though to be careful how much you are doing these interviews. Serious interest is good but you don’t want to be known as “that guy who has been calling everyone on our field.” After the second or third interview it’s no longer informational. I would instead be looking for networking events to stay connected and visible.

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