farewell party for everyone but me, company wants me to pay for email, and more

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

1. Farewell party for everyone but me

I’ve recently left my old team to transfer to an international office and received a promotion. Before I left, we had quite a few people from our team (maybe six?) leaving for various reasons over a few months time. Most went to other departments/teams within the company but two left the company altogether. All of them were given their own small party/happy hour to say goodbye and usually a gift card or small gift. However, when I left that didn’t happen.

We were all of the same level of seniority (some even less than me) and it’s not as if they had give more notice than I had – in fact, the opposite. I had been planning this move for over six months before I actually left (the legal/visa process took a long time) and my direct manager was super supportive of the move. She was really helpful in my interview process and gave me a glowing internal recommendation, so I can’t imagine there was ill will about the move or even shock that I would leave.

The last four weeks I was in the office, I had training for my new role but one of my coworkers had mentioned to me that they would have to plan something for me – since everyone else had a party. And she seemed excited. We even talked about times/days after work that would work for me. Obviously I didn’t want to send an email asking about my “free party/happy hour in my honor” or anything that made it seem like that was my expectation. Regardless, when that never happened, I was quite frankly offended and felt singled out. I still feel as if maybe these coworkers or maybe our management didn’t like me as much as the others or no one felt i deserved it.

I still get emails from some of my old team asking for work-related advice or the mass emails sharing some personal news (births, weddings, etc.) and I am but professional. However, I feel as if some of the friendliness has left those exchanges because I’m still angry/hurt. How should I handle this going forward? Do I have no right to be upset in general? Is this normal to single out one person like I have been?

I’d write this one off to the old saw about how you shouldn’t attribute to malice what can be explained by ineptness. It’s much, much more likely that your coworkers just forgot to do this than that it was a deliberate slight. Maybe the people assumed that the person who mentioned planning something to you had it covered, but it fell through the cracks for that person, and then it never happened. Also, if you being in training for your new job the last four weeks meant that you weren’t physically in your old department, it’s all the more likely that it just slipped people’s minds.

It doesn’t feel good to be forgotten, certainly, but I’d try not to let it cause bad feelings. It sounds like they treated you well while you worked there and are continuing to try to stay in touch, and that your manager was really helpful and supportive — those things matter so much more than the lack of a goodbye party. I totally get that it stings, but that’s such a small part of the larger picture — try to focus on the other things you know about these relationships.

2. Company wants me to pay to upgrade my work email storage

Our company uses Google for just about everything, including email. My free drive storage is full and I can’t clear enough space out for new emails! I am a long-time employee and keep track of emails that hold sensitive information for numerous people. There is a plan with increased storage that is only $1.99 a month, but they have told me to buy it myself. Why would I do this? I don’t have the time to keep cleaning out my email and shouldn’t be deleting some of the things I already have. I feel like they aren’t hearing me out or paying attention to the real issue here. What should I do?

They suck; of course they should pay for this. Of course, that’s assuming that they agree that you shouldn’t be cleaning out your email; it’s possible that do want you to clean it out. Sometimes employees stockpile way too much email, and it’s reasonable to tell them to at least archive some of it.

But if that’s not the situation, I’d say this: “This is a business expense. Can you help me understand why you’re suggesting that I should personally pay to be able to continue to use my workplace email account?”

3. My boss is having my employee do work for her old company

I have one subordinate who we’ll call Sherry. Yesterday Sherry met with me to express her concern over her overwhelming workload. She said she had a lot on her plate, and would I please help her prioritize. As we were looking over her project list, there were a few projects that were assigned to her from my boss (Jane). I was a bit taken aback by this since it was done without my knowledge.

Additionally, the work Jane has asked Sherry to do isn’t exactly work for our company. Jane has only been with us for about six months. Her previous position was for a very similar company (a competitor of sorts), which we think she still moonlights for. The project Sherry has been asked to do work for is marketing materials for that previous company. While it’s still possible that this project is tied to our company, it seems unlikely. As evidence, an email chain to kick off the project between Jane and the company was forwarded to me. In it Jane uses her personal email, not her company email…adding to the suspicion.

What should I do in this instance? While it’s possible it’s related to our company, Sherry’s priority should be elsewhere and not working on this Jane side project. There’s no real way to know if this is for our company or not, until it goes live and then I can bring it to other managers and ask if they had knowledge of it. Is there another option I can do here? What do you think?

Two options: If Jane strikes you as a generally reasonable and not vindictive person, you could ask her about it directly: “Sherry mentioned to me that she’s doing some marketing work for LlamaGrams Inc. We wouldn’t normally have someone doing work for another company, and especially not a competitor — can you tell me more about the context for this?” Nope, only one option. As I wrote the part I just crossed out, I realized this is so sketchy that you should go over her head — either to Jane’s boss if you have a good relationship with her or to your HR department. In either case, make sure the person knows that you need it handled in a way where you won’t suffer retaliation from Jane for reporting it.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. I’m hurt that my boss had a coworker fill in for me while I was out sick

Last week, I took two days off sick. While I was away, my boss had someone in a completely non-related role (who is still training and therefore doesn’t have a full workload yet) cover for me. My job is skilled, but it’s unfortunately one of those jobs that nearly everyone thinks they can do. While the person who covered has previous experience working in my type of role, I feel like this was way out of line, as it sends the message to everyone in my office that just anyone can step in and do my job, which I don’t believe to be true. I don’t feel like this would have happened with any other role in my office – the work would have to wait or people in the same role would cover. I feel deeply hurt and, quite frankly, completely devalued. Should I speak up? If so, what should I say?

What?! No. Don’t complain about this. You were out and your boss had someone else — who has experience doing this type of work — cover for you. That’s pretty normal, certainly reasonable, and not something to complain about it. The only way there anything complaint-worthy here is if the work wasn’t time-sensitive and could have easily waited for you to get back and your coworker messed something up. If both those things were true, it would be reasonable to ask your boss to let things wait for you in the future and to explain why. But otherwise? No.

I do sympathize with the part about everyone thinking they can do your job — but your boss didn’t go to just anyone. She went to a person with experience doing it.

5. Reassuring employers that a past medical issue won’t interfere with my work

In May 2014, I was signed off by my doctor with stress and depression, mostly job-related. My employers weren’t particularly helpful, and in July 2014 we decided to part ways. I had been working full-time while completing a part-time university degree, and I decided not to return to employment until my degree was completed, so that I could give it proper concentration. I am going to finish the degree in May, and I am now applying for jobs. I have a reasonable explanation for what to say when asked why I left my last job, but I am completely terrified of the reference my previous job might give me (a friend is checking this for me), and what to say if they mention the medical leave. If it comes up, how can I reassure potential employers that that situation won’t come up again?

“I was dealing with a medical issue that has since been resolved.” You don’t need to get into what that medical issue was (and neither should your former employer) and the prospective new employer isn’t permitted to ask. “Has since been resolved” are the key words here, since that gets at any worry that it will interfere with your work in the future.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 241 comments… read them below }

  1. snuck*

    #2 I’d be looking at what’s being stored. Gmail accounts have a rather generous storage capacity, and while you say you don’t have time to go through and clean out your mail I haven’t filled mine in over a decade, and I use it for all manner of things and have many large attachments etc in there.

    I’m not saying you should pay for this, I’m wondering why the company doesn’t want to. Is there a person in a similar role to you – how do they manage theirs? Is it possible for you to download the emails onto a hard drive and free up space?

    In the past when I’ve worked with corporate email on non-Gmail servers generally there’s been a much MUCH lower limit on memory, so we had to sort, store and manage mail well. Biggest memory suckers were attachments on meeting invites (large data packs – look for powerpoint packs and the like), attachments that were duplicates – revisions and documents for review etc. Weed those out and you’ll find your box zips down pretty quickly possibly.

    1. MillersSpring*

      Also ask if your company, such as the Legal department, has a policy on document retention. You may be keeping emails just in case you need he information in them, but the company actually may prefer that you delete them after a prescribed number of months.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Yes, or if you keep them, they may need to be kept in a place others can access them. I’m wondering what happens in this organisation when people leave/go off sick etc

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          Exactly this. We are expected to archive our emails, perhaps in multiple places, but definitely to a shared server, because we do not always stick with the same caseload. If I am promoted or leave before all of my files are closed (or heck, even afterwards, things crop up all the time) my successors need to be able to find any email correspondence I have on a case. Yes, we do print everything, but you never know.

          Archiving allows us to preserve them in a searchable format for the future.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Or even IT is sometimes in charge of archiving email. I’m thinking this is a very small company.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I want to challenge the idea that you don’t have time to clean it out. I think that maintaining your email account is part of your job.

      So I strongly recommend you set up folders, etc., and filing systems that help you separate wheat from chaff.
      And figure out some fast ways to clear it out, and do just a little bit at a time every day.

      1. snuck*

        I agree with this. Managing your email, your paperwork, your filing, your client files etc… it’s all part of the job usually. The only exception I can see is if the OP is a person who has to maintain all correspondence for legal reasons and then there should be a proper back up system for that. The OP says that some of them are important… get rid of the rest. And make the time… A quick way to file is to have the labels on things, and sort them into those folders quickly… have a folder that is ‘delete every two weeks’ and go through it, sort by date, and after two weeks just delete whatever is in there… for all the general day to day stuff that isn’t ongoing.

        1. Chriama*

          “Managing your email, your paperwork, your filing, your client files etc… it’s all part of the job usually.”

          Eh… I think it really depends on your company. I’m pretty sure google only gives you something like 5gb (and maybe even less for corporate clients, with lower rates to upgrade) and I wouldn’t be surprised if my work email had already passed that in the 2 years I’ve been at my company (we use Microsoft exchange though). Email is an important form of documentation, signoff on projects, and the like. I save a lot of stuff in file folders and Outlook folders but I also never delete anything from the deleted items folder (my reasoning being if it all disappears I won’t be left in the lurch but in the meantime I might find it helpful to refer to something I thought was no longer relevant). There are even people in my company who cc themselves on emails they send out so that everything stays in their inbox (I guess they’re afraid the sent items folder might get purged but I’ve never noticed that). Bottom line is that email is an integral tool for doing my job right, and if I had to judiciously manage the space old emails are taking up I wouldn’t have enough time to actually do the work I was hired to do (plus I’d be transferring a lot of that stuff from Outlook to regular Windows Explorer folders and everything is saved on the network anyway so I’m not sure how that’s supposed to save space).

          Bottom line is that, not knowing specific details about OP’s situation and based on the information from the letter I don’t think we can say “you just need to try harder”. It’s possible that this is all relevant information — I’ve absolutely referred to attachments and such in email months after the fact, and had stuff forwarded to me from other people what was years old. I’ve also found that it’s smaller organizations that use google instead of exchange so it’s possible they haven’t really thought through all the implications of the storage limits because OP is just the first person to run into issues with it. I doubt they’ll be the last.

          1. snuck*

            Google support site says a free account gets 15GB, a corporate account gets 30GB as standard.

            That’s a LOT of emails.

            I used to regularly work within 4GB in a corporate role, in Project Management, business analysis etc. If it was big we had to shuffle it around other ways than email, and we didn’t store it in email if it was big at all.

            1. snuck*

              Link here: https://support.google.com/a/answer/1186436?hl=en

              Storage limits

              Each Google Apps for Work user can store up to 30 GB of content for free (compared to 15 GB with Google Apps free edition or individual consumer accounts). This storage is shared between Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos. If you’re approaching the limit or if you’ve run out of storage, you can purchase additional storage or reduce your storage usage.

              Each Google Apps Unlimited or Google Apps for Education user gets unlimited storage (if you have 5 or more users) or 1 TB of storage (if you have 4 or fewer users).

              Manage your Gmail storage
              Because storage is shared between Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos, you can reduce your storage usage in any of these services to free up additional space. To reduce the storage used by files uploaded to Google Drive or photos, see Manage your Google Drive storage quota. Otherwise, continue with this article to learn how to manage your Gmail storage.
              If an account reaches the storage limit, a user can no longer send or receive any new mail and may experience general account degradation. Specifically, the sender will receive a bounce stating “The email account that you tried to reach is over quota.” Note that Gmail won’t bounce emails until you’ve had sufficient time to rectify any quota issue.

              See Your storage limit for instructions on deleting messages to reduce storage use and the Solutions section below for workarounds to a full mailbox.

              The storage available in each account is tracked by an indicator found at the bottom of every Gmail page.

            2. Kyrielle*

              At my last job, where we didn’t use Google, I had over a decade of work emails saved. (Some were relevant; some weren’t, but I had them stored in Outlook archive files and the extra ‘cost’ of the irrelevant ones was minimal, while the time to find and purge them wouldn’t have been.) More than once, I searched those and used something from among the oldest in reference to a “have we ever…?” question or “Has anyone heard of…?” or “Why did we originally decide to…?”

              I think I had 10-15 GB worth. Admittedly I didn’t get the volume of emails that a VP would, or compliance, or legal, or HR…but I’m still boggling at 30 GB going poof. (Boggling, not doubting. Any of our sales guys who worked on proposals, for example – those are not small documents and they got sent back and forth as needed!)

              1. Green*

                For most companies, Legal really prefers if you NOT keep emails beyond standard retention periods.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  That company explicitly did not object to it, as long as you were not storing excess amounts on the email server.

                  I believe that policy was in the process of changing when I left, though, and I do understand the reasoning. :)

            3. T3k*

              Where I am, they also use google mail, and in about 4 years, they’ve amassed almost 30GB. I’ve tried to get my boss to use another email for her personal stuff so the inbox doesn’t fill up with spam, but no go. I can’t even get her to use a sub-folder for her personal emails >_< I tried one time to clear out some of the junk, but gave up when I realized it wouldn't change anything around here and it'd just fill up again.

              1. Koko*

                As snuck pointed out, it’s far more likely that large file attachments are eating up that 30GB and not a ordinary email correspondence that’s just text with maybe some images or tiny files attached. It’d be more important to find those 200MB PPTs and PDFs than to worry about her exchanging a few KB of personal email.

                1. baseballfan*

                  Yep. Sort the emails by size and start at the top where there are likely some with big attachments, and delete those suckers. Lots of impact for relatively little time investment.

                  As an aside, I completely agree with those who state that maintaining one’s email box is part of the job. It’s always part of the job. I used to have a job where I routinely received 100+ emails a day, and I always had a clean inbox and regularly purged emails that were space hogs.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Yeah, I can’t remember the last time I worked somewhere that we had to delete emails because we had to think about storage, maybe back in like the early 2000’s. I’ve never deleted anything here in five years, nobody does. I had to search for something from 2012 just the other day.

      2. TheLazyB*

        A couple of people in my team regularly go over their limit so you can’t email them. Drives me nuts. We have a clear policy about not storing stuff in email, too :(

        1. Merry and Bright*

          Yep, I can vouch for this! I recently changed roles and teams. But one of the worst offenders for full mailboxes in my old area was one of the IT people!

          Also, one of the people I supported was very bad at this too. One of my tasks was to manage his inbox. When I took it on last year, he actually kept a separate subfolder to store all those “cakes in the kitchen” type emails going back to 2011. So why was is email capacity over the limit? Let’s see…

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Im thinking he set up a rule for them to go into a specific folder and just forgot about them.

                1. Koko*

                  Ha, I was just trying to say the same thing in my comment below before I saw yours, but you said it much more concisely!

                  It’s way easier to file everything than to decide what’s worth filing or not. If I had to make decisions about every email I receive my inbox would be out of control. I’d rather have a manageable inbox and a bloated archive than a crazy inbox and a lean archive.

          1. Koko*

            At our org email older than a year automatically gets archived on the employee hard drive (which is itself backed up every night on the corporate server). I do occasionally search back through threads from more than a year ago to jog my memory about something, and it’s NBD because Outlook makes it virtually the same to search an archived hard drive folder as an IMAP server folder. The only difference is if I wasn’t on my own laptop I wouldn’t be able to search those using the webmail interface. But I need emails that old so rarely and I’m using a computer other than my own so rarely that it’s not really a probably.

            I file my email daily, with a couple of folders for special types of emails that I’m mostly likely to need to reference later, but 85% of my email goes into a folder called “Archive” (even though it’s a server folder). I put everything that isn’t special email except spam/junk mail there, even if it’s a “food in the kitchen” email. I know I don’t need those emails, but it’s definitely a matter of efficiency for me. Decision-making is itself a mental task and it’s much easier to highlight an entire inbox and deselect the 5 important emails that need to be filed somewhere special and move everything else into one dump folder than to go through and make a decision about whether each email is actually worth filing vs deleting. I’ve never had enough in a 1-year period to fill my mailbox so for me it’s just not worth the time or mental energy I would spend making those decisions.

        2. SusanIvanova*

          I used a non-Microsoft mail app to connect to our Microsoft Exchange email. There was a bug I didn’t notice – if you moved mail to the trash in the app and deleted it there, Exchange didn’t see it as trashed – it saw it as a mismatch between the app and the server, and put it back! And since I was doing bulk deletes of mailing list email every 6 months or so, I didn’t notice that “everything older than 6 months” had more mail than I thought, so I’d re-delete the same email, which would then result in even more duplicates!

          Eventually I had filled up all my space and discovered the even crazier thing – you can’t *send* email when it’s full. And as it happened, the email I needed to send was “I’m home sick” – which meant using the web browser version. So I couldn’t send that, and I couldn’t send mail to IT to clear it out, so I had to delete the browser’s limit of 50 emails at a time until it got low enough that I could send email again.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        We have a generous amount of storage in our email, hosted on our own servers. Because we deal with a lot of art files, everybody gets 10gb. Not exceeding your capacity still takes management. IT isn’t wrong when it points to a certain group of us as “a buncha packrats you buncha packrats”. (I’m one of them.)

        For some people, no amount of storage is too much . We’re like that. If the OP doesn’t have a business case for why she needs more than 15gb (what I think Google is?) , I don’t blame the employer for saying the rest is on you.

        Meanwhile, I’d happily pay any fee (exaggeration) to have alllllllll the storage I needed ’cause I’m a packrat, but it’s not *that* hard to trim down. Sort your mails by size. There will be a healthy handful that are yuge. Deal with the yuge files whenever you get close to capacity and that takes care of it for me.

        1. Chriama*

          I don’t know. OP is saying she has sensitive information for people in those emails, which sounds like a business case to me. With Outlook you can at least save emails as a .msg file, but with Google the only thing I know to do is print the email to a pdf. That doesn’t preserve attachments or contact details for later use. I think it’s very possible that this company is just newer/smaller and doesn’t have a formal plan for dealing with stuff since it’s the first time they encountered it. In OP’s shoes I’d be talking to whoever told me to pay for the plan myself, showing what sort of emails I have saved and asking what the storage policy is and what stuff I should be saving vs. deleting. I know if I had to manage my email space really carefully my company would be paying for hours of my time to manage emails/reduced efficiency in my general work because I moved everything to file folders and that comes out to a lot more $$$ than just paying for the upgrade.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            If the business wants that information stored, you are 100% correct that the business should pay to store the information.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              What I don’t understand is why it should be stored on email, rather than on a shared drive – but I’ve been indoctrinated into a certain style of data storage, in organisations that would have periodic culls of personal storage, so I could be seeing it through a particular lens.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

                Yeah. It’s not a good business plan to store sensitive things in somebody’s gmail account.

                In practice, most of us use our email for business knowledge storage, so I’m not casting stones, but my IT dept would throw a fit if I suggested I needed even more capacity because all of these things in my email were business critical and could be found nowhere else.

                If the business says “these things must be stored in your gmail”, then the business should pay . I’m afraid some of us (looking in the mirror) are over storers. It’s not that different from the old days of paper when (you kids won’t remember!) a business would keep paper files for x years or until a room was full and then throw the files away. There was always wailing and weeping from some parties that anything was to be discarded. Without discarding though, you’d need to build on another room, hire an employee to microfiche, or pay for expensive archiving at a commercial facility.

                1. Ella*

                  Came here to say this. Sensitive information shouldn’t be stored in email. There has to be a more secure way to store the information.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  Yeah. It’s not a good business plan to store sensitive things in somebody’s gmail account.

                  Agreed. Also, if I got a job with a company that used Gmail instead of having its own email server (something I have literally never encountered even in small businesses), I would wonder what else they were cheaping out on. Not to mention expecting ME to pay for the upgrade? Nuh uh.

                3. Stranger than fiction*

                  Sadly this place still keeps paper printouts filed in addition to having everything backed up on servers :(
                  I hate filing more than anything and am trying my hardest right now not to see in my peripheral vision the pile of paper on the corner of my desk that needs filing

              2. Noah*

                There’s not a super easy way to get email out of Gmail. You can create mbox files, but they take forever to open if they are large and require certain software.

                With my old boss, who constantly hit his email limit in Gmail because he would never delete anything, we added his corporate Gmail address to Outlook and then grabbed everything before a certain date and moved it over to the local Outlook data file. This took hours to actually complete, so we would usually let it run overnight.

                1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  If you don’t want an mbox archive (understandable), you can download all your gmail via Thunderbird if you enable POP; just make sure you set it up before you enable it to NOT delete items after download.

                2. Marcela*

                  Really? I have Thunderbird with 3 different IMAP accounts, one of them my Gmail account. When I get emails to the “wrong address”, I just drag and drop them to the right account. Once I moved all my Gmail mails to my private account (in my home server) because I was going to delete that account, and while that took a couple of hours, mostly limited by my home bandwidth, I would not say it was difficult.

          2. AnotherFed*

            As long as the POP/IMAP settings are right on the gmail account, you can always back it up by dumping it all to Outlook or another mail client of your choice and having those clients automatically archive it for you. That’s not an elegant solution, but it’s pretty easy and low key.

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          Ugh…art files. Before my company upgraded, I lived at 90% capacity — even with using dropbox and the ftp site for sending packaged files.

          Print quality PDFs are surprisingly large.

      4. Jadelyn*

        Except that it’s entirely possible to run up against storage limits even if you *do* folder and file everything – until we recently switched to Office365 with huge data storage limits for everyone, I regularly ran into the data cap, even with regular winnowing and archiving to try to keep it under control. Especially if your job includes a lot of moving files around, such as powerpoints and excel files, the best maintenance in the world can still fail to keep up – and frankly, going through with a fine-toothed comb trying to figure out if *this* file or *that* file will be needed in the next year or two can take a lot more time than many people think.

        Really, it all comes down to, what specifically does the OP mean by “clean it out”? It may be reasonable maintenance, or it may be more than that, and we don’t know without knowing that detail.

    3. Miko*

      I used to work helpdesk for a large organisation. We would send out periodic reminders to people who were at or near the (quite generous) limit, and if you or your emails were important enough we could bump your storage limit if you asked (to a point). The message had a list of suggested options and finished with something like “if you don’t contact the helpdesk to sort something out, we will take our own steps to reduce your mailbox size” (applying a default archiving rule, clearing deleted items, etc).

      Well, one day after a routine round of mailbox pruning, we got a furious email from someone very high up in the company, demanding to know why we’d deleted all of her important emails. We started explaining the archival policy, and when we got to the point about the deleted items she suddenly went “aha!”…

      …Apparently she used deleted items as a permanent storage area for emails she wanted to come back to, because “pressing the Delete key is only one button to store it and I don’t have time to drag them to a different folder”. ?!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m blushing with shame because I used to do something sort of like this. I wasn’t using my trash folder as an archive exactly, but I purposely never emptied it and relied on finding things there in the future if the need ever came up. I mean, I would put things in folders if I thought there was a reasonable probability that I’d want it in the future, but I definitely hit delete on more borderline stuff and was cavalier about it because I figured I could always fish it out of the trash later if I needed it. In retrospect, I don’t know what I was thinking! In any case, at one point I casually mentioned this to our IT director (in a discussion about the massive size of my email, of course), and he was shocked and dismayed.

        I’ve stopped doing it, but I still don’t like emptying my email trash folder. You never know what you might want someday!

        1. Chriama*

          This is what I do now. A lot of stuff just stays in my inbox (seriously, a ridiculous amount of stuff) but some stuff I delete because I don’t specifically need it but in the future it might save a little extra effort. Not critical if I lose it, but I’m not going to take the initiative to delete it myself.

          1. Murphy*

            Because of this type of mail management we where I work your deleted items are auto-emptied every 30 days and you can’t change it. I work in government so people who don’t manage their email carefully are a FOIPP nightmare if we get a Freedom of Information request (because then you need to find every. single. email. that related to a subject, even if you went off on a tangent to talk about lunch plans with a coworker on the email chain).

        2. nofelix*

          I’ve never understood why companies are often so stingy with email storage. I have 1 terabyte cloud/email storage, so I can keep everything for years and years just in case it’s necessary. It’s so useful, and I have started collecting things. Like I have all the latest versions of common industry contracts saved. Anything that isn’t easily available online, like manufacturing standards. Yes I guess it’s hoarding, but instantly available, searchable and easy to maintain… very convenient with little cost.

          1. Violet Fox*

            For a company that does not want to use cloud storage (where I work does not for security/privacy reasons), storage when you scale it up to the number of employees even a medium sized company has is actually very expensive. Storage with backup, with failover, etc even more so. It it not little cost at all when you are talking about actually building the infrastructure and back end for it.

            1. A Non E. Mouse*

              This! We have a 2Gb limit per user, even execs. Exchange has it’s own backup quirks, especially in relation to Deleted items, mailboxes of users that have been removed from the domain, etc.

              And the number of mailboxes is not directly correlated to the number of people in your office. There are mailboxes that aren’t assigned to a user – that fax you have coming in but it doesn’t print? Mailbox, both to send and to receive. Meeting room: mailbox/calendar. Generic mailbox for invoices, generic mailbox for super special marketing campaign of the month, mailbox for the temp guy, mailbox for the LAST temp guy we still have forwarding to the manager because “something might come in”, and so on.

              It’s not just “# of people I see around me*2Gb = total storage”. It’s “(# of mailboxes*2GB)+ data size of Deleted Items Retention policy + Removed mailboxes not having aged out of retention policy ” PLUS different backups so that we can restore either entire databases or that one email you deleted on accident 45 days ago.

        3. Erin*

          What the OP needs is an easy way to archive emails so they don’t count towards the limit (locally). I keep every single email ever. When I had a 100MB limit in outlook on our network I would archive emails on a regular basis to my computer. I switched jobs and now have 50GB storage on our network. I do not ever think I’ll be surpassing this limit and stopped setting up my usual outlook archiving procedures as soon as I found that out.

          I’d find the biggest culprits (20 or so biggest emails), and explanation to your manager for why you need to keep them, and ask to have the fee for more storage covered or an alternative storage plan for these correspondences.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I’ve commented on how to do that, but it’s in moderation. Just Google “Google Takeout”, that’s their export/download portal for all Google sites.

      2. Chriama*

        How does archiving emails work anyway? I googled it once and the only suggestion was basically “save the contents of your inbox as a .msg file. But when I was in university archived emails had kind of a different format and it looked like they took up less space, but I could definitely still read all the message content.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          My IT guy goes nuts if people save .msg. He claims it screws up the servers on back up for [whatever technical reason]. (We save things to drives, not our physical computer.)

          Actual archiving, using Outlook archive, I did that one time 15 years ago and will never do it again . After I obediently archived, I then wanted to retrieve or search for a particular item and found out it was a PITA. Of course it may have improved in 15 years! But my experience was it was only good for something you didn’t really need to ever get to again, not for someone who actually uses email history as I do.

          1. Rubyrose*

            My experience with Outlook archive does not match yours – searching is just as easy as searching your inbox.
            Now, some large companies, worried about lawsuits, do not let you use archive but have their own archive software they force you to use. Those are a PITA.

            1. Erin*

              Yes, I have used archive in outlook. Typically you can set up where it stores the messages (I always choose my computer, but you could choose a network location). Then you have your “Inbox” and all sub-folders, and then the “Archive” section which you can set up to mirror the inbox folder setup. You can autoarchive so anything older than 6 months is moved to the archive, you can manually archive large emails, and you can choose to run an autoarchive with different parameters as needed.

              When you are looking for an email, you must be on your computer/connected to wherever the emails are stored in order to search. If you have email on your phone, you’ll only have the emails from your inbox, not the archive. You just choose “Try searching all mail items” if your initial search of the inbox does not bring up the correct email.

              I wish that outlook would move to the “label” system instead of a “folder” system. Sometimes I want an email to go in two buckets.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Yeah, I have an archive that I can only access at the office. Not ideal, but it’s the simplest solution, as I have it set to automatically archive messages of a certain age.

                You can have a message in two folders if you Ctrl-drag and drop it to a folder, that’ll create a copy, but that is a poor way to do it because it takes up more of your quota. Tagging would be much better, I agree.

                1. hermit crab*

                  Yeah, this definitely doesn’t address the storage size issue, but in addition to ctrl-drag you can set up rules to “copy to” instead of “move to.” I do this a lot with small files, like our weekly budget reports that are compiled into a single spreadsheet (but cover all the projects you manage).

          2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            Every time I try to access an archived email, it crashes my outlook.

            I am the only one in the company this happens to, so the running theory is that it is the size of my archive.

        2. Rubyrose*

          Depends on your email software. In Outlook you can set up a special archive folder and whatever folders you want within that archive folder. You then just drag and drop the email from your inbox to the archive folder. The archive is stored separately from your other emails, so it does not count against your email size limit.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        This is hilarious. I know people who do this.

        Then there are people like me who don’t delete anything with minimal value. I have an unbelievably gigantic number of emails in my in box and sent, yet I laugh at people who tell me their system is their deleted folder.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I feel like if I used my inbox that way, I’d lose track of things I still need to respond to/act on. Does that not happen to you? Are you flagging those in some way so they stand out?

          I like to only have things in my inbox that I still need to deal with. Then there’s an immense feeling of satisfaction when there are only a few things in there.

          1. nofelix*

            For what it’s worth you can right click an email in Outlook and mark it for ‘follow-up’ in x days. It will then appear in your tasks.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                I have a solutionew! I JUST competed the 21-day “Revive your Inbox” program and it is amazing. I now have 6 emails in my inbox, an efficient storage and email finding system, and tools to manage my incoming email efficiently. I’m an evangelist! Link in the next comment.

                1. A fly on the wall*

                  If this is some variant of Inbox Zero, please be aware of the discipline needed to use it correctly.

                  In my organization there are several people who use and advocate this method of email management (file everything in a follow up folder) that never actually get to following up.

                2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  I don’t know what Inbox Zero is, but this doesn’t involve folders, and it’s more of a productivity management system than an email management system. it’s loosely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

                3. Koko*

                  I use a variant of Inbox Zero, but I use Outlook categories instead of folders, so that the emails are never out-of-sight, out-of-mind. I have a category for “Respond” that I make sure never has an email older than the previous business day in it, and a “Do” category for tasks, and then a few other categories where I store materials and information needed for current projects.

                  So my goal isn’t to get my entire inbox to zero, it’s to get my uncategorized emails to zero at the end of each day. To me an uncategorized email is something I might be overlooking or forgetting to do! And it makes it very efficient for me to respond to folks because when I get to the time I set aside for email, I just run down the list of “Respond” emails and do a quick hit on all of them.

              2. LQ*

                Apple Mail also has a flag which is handy and you can then just look at the flagged messages, especially if you sync with a phone or ipad. On the phone/ipad it is super easy, just swipe and one of the options is flag. I do a lot of flag on the phone to follow up later on the desktop.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, but the flag annoys me. I do not like the flag. But my system actually works pretty well! I am ridiculously organized, and everything in my life happens through email, so it’s working.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            I deal with almost everything immediately, the top of the pile is what’s undone. I do have a “stuff I need to do” folder that I drag to for something that I can’t do right away. I have that folder set to count the number of items, so I can see any pending items and how many of them there are clearly. There’s only a few things a week that I don’t deal with on first open.

            FWIW, back it the days of paper, I was a stacker. My desk was lined up with big piles of paper. The top of the stacks was what I had to do, but I was loathe to ever discard (and I don’t like files or desk drawers). Once something was done a new thing got piled on top of it. I could find anything I needed because it was a like an archeological dig.

            Now my desk is clean! :-) And outlook search is better than archeologically digging.

            p.s. I know I’m weird. all ya’ll better not be talking behind my back.

            1. Mookie*

              YES. The complicated storage hierarchy cum four foot-high paperstacks method. It served me well.

            2. the gold digger*

              My husband believes in piles, not files. He has a Leaning Tower of Visa with all of his credit card receipts from the past several years on his desk. If he drops dead, the first thing I am going to do is throw out all the crap in his office without even looking at it.

              1. Oryx*

                That’s my dad — his office used to have piles all around the circumference of his office on the floor. We finally bought him a nice big filing cabinet.

          3. Teapot Project Coordinator*

            I have folders for EVERYTHING.
            Every project gets its own folder, nested in the main folder labeled PROJECTS.
            If I email you frequently about a wide range of projects or task oriented things, you get your own folder, Generally says: “Fergus Conversations”.
            Companies(subcontractors, generally) get their own folder for things unrelated to a specific project.
            There’s an insurance folder, most companies that send daily sharepoint or shipping notices get their own folders and a “zCompleted” folder, so I can archive completed projects at the very bottom of the folder list.
            I may have issues.
            Oh and the only things that stay in my inbox are emails I need to respond to or check into. Everything else goes to its folder.
            And my email has to be empty on Friday when I leave for the weekend. Personal rule.

            1. Noah*

              See I’m the opposite, and I think it came from using Gmail’s corporate email system and their excellent searching for so long. I basically have three folders: Inbox, Pending, and Archive. I start my workday by going through email, items that require a response or action are flagged, the rest are sent to Archive or deleted. As I work through the flagged items they are either moved to Pending or Archive and the flag removed. Once I get through the Inbox I start working through Pending, to see if any are done and can be moved to Archive.

              1. Teapot Project Coordinator*

                I used to do that! Former Job used Gmail(HEAVEN, I tell you, HEAVEN) and the search in Gmail negates needing folders.
                Outlook has turned me into this crazy folder email lady.
                It’s literally unsearchable. Thus – Folders.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

                  My Outlook is easily searchable. Probably has to do with how the servers are set up/capacity/[insert tech stuff we don’t know about here]. I use Outlook search the same way I use google search, as a replacement for my brain.

                2. insert witty name here*

                  I HATE gmail with a passion. Just hate it. Give me Outlook and folders any day.

              2. Renee*

                I may need to try this. Currently I divide things up into folders when any action items are completed, but when I need to find it I almost always just search for it anyway. I color code my inbox by task and use it as my to-do list, and then I have a longer term pending that just never seems to be cleaned out (short-term pending is purple and stays in the in-box). I’d be more diligent if I could just sock them away in an “archive” file. I also have shorter term project files that I can quickly reference that I use ** to keep at the top of the list, but it sure would be easier just to have those and your pending and archive files, and just archive those folders when the projects are done. Thank you! This is super helpful.

            2. Karowen*

              You sound like me. I have folders for the three major divisions of my job, then within those are common types of tasks. Specific projects go into the appropriate task folder within the appropriate division. Once a project is completed, hie thee to the archive, which is set up exactly the same way but by year. Everything I need to respond to is flagged, and I try to have less than 10 emails in my inbox on a given day. (I currently have 108 because I haven’t cleaned recently and it’s giving me heart palpitations.)

            3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

              This, I cannot even think how to express…this gives me a panic attack to even think about. It’s like being in an elevator with 6 professional basketball players, stuck in the back corner. This would be the worst, for me. Trapped! Trapped! Trapped in folders!

              So, I may also have issues. ;)

          4. Murphy*

            I both flag and colour-code my emails (to review, for follow-up, for action, HR stuff, urgent, for filing, etc.). Then I sort my email by those categories and work my way through, starting with urgent and down to filing. And then I have flags with set reminders on when I need to follow-up on something by. It’s not a perfect system and I feel I still need to perfect it, but it’s better than nothing for me.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I still use my deleted items for borderline emails that I probably won’t need to refer back to. I empty my deleted items when I get a message that I’m getting near my storage limit, and I use auto-archive by responding “yes” whenever Outlook asks me if I want to. So, from what I’m hearing y’all say, this is a bad and ridiculous practice? And if IT knew, they would be completely exasperated?

          1. Miko*

            Oh no, that’s fine. Lots of people do that. There’s a big difference between “eh, I might want these later so I won’t go out of my way to empty this, but if I lose them it’s fine” and “this is the place where I store my most important long-term emails that I don’t want to lose”.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            What Miko said.

            You’re using your email optimally, I’d say . There are people who use their deleteds for storage, things they need to keep, and then freak out if someone says they have to empty their trash because they can’t because they truly need whatever percent of the trash.

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Oh, okay, I get it. I was missing the distinction between, “I might unexpectedly need to scrounge back through my deleted items” and “My deleted items folder is where I keep my important emails”.

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I have a lot in my inbox, but I also have 63 folders and subfolders. That helps a little, it makes me feel better about keeping mail but getting it out of my inbox. :D

      4. TootsNYC*

        “pressing the Delete key is only one button to store it and I don’t have time to drag them to a different folder”.

        My work life was revolutionized when I discovered Outlook’s keyboard shortcut for moving a file!

        and I named my most-frequently-used folder with an unusual symbol as the first character (* or – or =) so I could simply type one letter and have the folder pop up.

        It’s amazing how much that tiny efficiency helped me in terms of being willing to file emails.

    4. Government Worker*

      It hasn’t always been there, but gmail lets you search by message size(search “larger:5M” to search for everything over 5 MB). Looking at large messages always reveals a bunch of stuff that I can delete – huge graphics sent to a mailing list to advertise an event, duplicate versions of an attachment sent around a few times, attachments I know I have stored elsewhere, etc.

      I understand the limits on storage in a corporate environment, but I just started a new job and I hate the email policy, which is that everything older than 6 months is automatically deleted! We’re not supposed to archive things locally, but I can’t really see another way to function. How can they expect that we’ll never want to look back at old communications?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Your agency should have an agency record manager whose job it is to provide guidelines on how to archive things that need to be kept, and what needs to be kept. A lot of times the limits on recordkeeping are because anything that important should be archived in a certain way, not kept on the more vulnerable systems. And a lot of agencies are concerned with the cost of storage and of trying to comply with FOIA requests if everybody keeps 10 years of daily records instead of 2. (This is mostly for Federal agencies.)

        1. Judy*

          This. Your email is accessible only to you. For example, we have a project management system that has a section to store files, a discussion board, and a deliverable & task list for each project. There’s even a way to put the file in the file section, then send a customized notification which can include a review and approval. Yet people keep sending files with large attachments to the project team of 20. Pretty much everyone works on 4-7 projects at a time. That’s a lot of duplication.

          I’ve also worked at places with a records retention policy of 2 years. Anything older than 2 years should not be on your computer or on the network. You have to burn those things to CDs and send them off to the storage area.

          1. Government Worker*

            I would be more okay with the 6 month limit if there were any indication that there was some other way we were intended to manage our files and communications, but there’s really not. There’s a messy network drive for the department, and we each have individual network folders, and that’s about it.

            I haven’t been here long enough to know for sure, but I’m guessing based on past jobs that the stuff I’d want to look up in old email is useful and convenient but not mission-critical. Stuff like which person in another department helped me with my last similar request, how long after the end of an annual reporting period certain documents typically go out and to which distribution list, who was involved the last time an irregularly occurring event took place, etc. Sometimes being able to pull an old PowerPoint out of your email to find a particular slide to reuse is just the easiest option, because it’s not something you knew at the time would be useful, or how, so there was no point in saving it to another file system.

            Our personal network folders also have a default initial limit of 0.5 GB, though, so we’re just really not big on storage.

      2. JR*

        Was just coming here to say this. “size:3m” (size and larger are synonyms here) is a useful search to find things that are big enough to add up quickly. You might need some of what the search finds, but you probably won’t need most of it.

      3. Noah*

        Our inboxes at my company have a 90 day retention policy, after that it is automatically deleted. On the flipside, even if you delete something it is still archived on the server for 90 days, it just won’t show up in your inbox. If you move it to another folder you can get unlimited time, although we are encouraged to set appropriate retention policies on each folder so we only keep things for the required regulatory period.

    5. Charlotte*

      If no one will pay for it, you could feasibly set up a second Gmail account and have all of your emails forwarded to that account without saving a copy in your old account, and set it up so you can send email as your old email account. Google allows you to be signed into two+ accounts at the same time, so you could access old emails and toggle between the two. Not ideal though.

  2. NicoleK*

    #1 At Old Job, there’s the formal going away party (company sponsored cupcakes or cake) and an sometimes an informal going away party (happy hour organized by a colleague). I left Old Job right before a major holiday and no one organized a happy hour for me even though I’d organized and financially contributed toward similar celebrations for several of my close colleagues. Did it kind of suck? Yes, but it is what it is. Let it go.

    #2 Maybe your company should find another method to store sensitive emails/information besides your inbox. It’s definitely a business expense and your company should cover it or reimburse it

    #3 That sounds shady

    #4 Wish my boss would have someone fill in for me while I was out

  3. Snazzy Hat*

    I’ll eventually need to be in #5’s shoes, so thanks to the letter writer for writing, and thanks to Alison for clearing up a major worry of mine.

    1. Snazzy Hat*

      Wait, that came out weird. My health issue already happened; I was worried about potential interviews until now. There.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I’ve had to do this too, but because my kid was sick and I had missed work due to it at prior job (I really didn’t miss that much, didn’t even run out of my allotted paid time off but the boss was a giant B there and it was the type of place that didn’t want you to use it)

      2. AnotherAnon*

        yay! :) I hope to someday be in that position too. Then again, my old company is so nice I wouldn’t be surprised if they just re-hire me, and then I wouldn’t have to interview at all :)

  4. Sami*

    OP#2: make sure your boss’s boss will protect not only you but your employee as well.good luck! That is indeed sketchy.

      1. FancyPants*

        Yes, this is my main concern. Jane isn’t the most…likeable character around the office, so it’s a really delicate situation! But thank you :)

  5. Over Development*

    #1 This is perfect timing. I was actually going to post something incredibly similar in the open thread.

    Everyone that leaves my NP that isn’t fired gets a happy hour. When my coworker decided not to come back from maternity leave, my boss made a big deal over having a special baby shower/goodbye party for her.

    For me? Absolutely nothing. In fact, my boss couldn’t even be bothered to send out an email letting other members of the leadership team know that I was gone…so yeah, super awkward that people are calling me and saying, “you left? Did you get fired? Why wasn’t there a party?”

    1. Doriana Gray*

      When I made an internal transfer back in January, my old manager didn’t send out an email announcing it either because a) she was pissed and b) it made her look bad since I’d only been there for a little over a year. Also, and I didn’t know this at the time, she was already on thin ice with HR and upper management due to the high turnover on the team and the various complaints she’d received over the years. Senior management only found out I was leaving because she cc’d them on a nastygram she sent my current division’s AVP when he reached out to her to decide on a transfer date.

      Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised by the lack of an announcement, and since my new job involved a promotion and significant raise, I didn’t care. But it was awkward as hell when people who didn’t know saw me packing up my things on a Thursday afternoon so I could be ready for my Friday move. And anytime I see old coworkers from my division in the lobby, they’re always giving me hugs or greeting me with excitement, so I know the group as a whole doesn’t feel former manager’s same sense of betrayal. They tell me they miss me, but they’re happy for me and totally get why I left (my former manager, who has since been demoted, is not very popular).

      1. Over Development*

        I’m sure there is a little bit of this in the decision. Her entire team is turning over, and as much as she can couch it in “not coming back from maternity leave,” “new job,” and “husband’s work is moving them away” we were all left because she is a horrible, horrible manager.

    2. Rana*

      Yeah, I had a similar experience at one rather dysfunctional place I worked at. They decided to let me go (with minimal explanation – the most I was able to get from them was that it was something to do with me costing too much… despite working 3/4 time and having saved them a ton of future problems by fixing their primary database. Shrug.) and when they did, they just sort of told me in the morning with no prior warning that it was my last day. So I spent the rest of the day thinking that they were lucky I was an ethical person, because that is not a good way to let someone go.

      ANYWAY, because of how abruptly and weirdly they handled it, most of my coworkers – including my immediate superior! – had no clue what happened or why. In fact, my former boss freaked out at them because they did it in the middle of an important project, and demanded that they at least hire me back to help with that. I ended up agreeing to do that – at twice my previous hourly – and that’s how I learned that most of the people just thought that I’d gone on vacation or something, if they’d even noticed I was gone.

      But here’s the kick in the teeth – while I was back, they threw an enormous going-away party for one of the other employees who’d been there less time than I had, which, okay, whatever – but then the woman who’d been in charge of my being let go came looking for me wondering why I wasn’t attending the party and was surprised that I wasn’t thrilled about being expected to celebrate with people who hadn’t even realized I was gone because of how poorly she’d handled the thing.

      In retrospect, I was well out of that place, but at the time, it hurt.

  6. TootsNYC*

    Re: #5–

    I wouldn’t even get into the medical issue. Just say, “I decided it would be most effective to focus on my degree full time, and now I’m done, yay!”

    1. Delyssia*

      I agree that OP #5 has no reason to bring up the medical issue at all, but the question was specifically what to say if the medical leave comes up because the previous employer says something. In that case, I think Alison’s suggested wording is spot on.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, same — I haven’t had a ton of interviews since my similar situation, but I haven’t gotten the straightforward question of “Why did you leave this job?” If they have me walk through my resume, I just say “Was at this job, went back to school….” and elide what actually happened in between.

    3. KR*

      Also, school and work is stressful. I think it would be appropriate to say that OP was getting burnt out/sick by doing school and work together but now that shes done with school it won’t be a problem.

      1. OP #5*

        The thing that kind of gets to me is that it is a university specifically designed to be done alongside work, with the goal of you coming out looking like a [College] person, with a drive towards self improvement! I…did not manage that.

        1. Sparkly Librarian*

          Try not to feel ashamed, OP! Many people do not manage that (and I’m sure some of them are from the same program). School + work is hard. In my interview for this job, I made a big deal of the circumstances of my grad degree: I completed a 3-year program in about 2 years while working full-time. I DIDN’T highlight that I almost had a nervous breakdown my final term and negotiated a reduced schedule (4 days/week) so I wouldn’t a) fail to graduate b) drop my basket entirely.

        2. Witty Nickname*

          Not everyone can manage that. My mom? Worked 40 hours per week, then a few more hours teaching work out classes, AND took 12 hours of classes each semester (first through a local community college and then online) and graduated with a 4.0. With 2 kids still at home (first my brother and me, who were teens, and then my step-siblings who were younger).

          Me? I couldn’t do even one full time job and the minimum full time course load. I could excel at one or the other, but I don’t have the energy for both (even in my early 20’s when I had no kids and way more energy than I do now). Graduate school is a blight on my otherwise shiny academic record.

      2. Artemesia*

        I disagree. Claiming burnout is announcing ‘I will be a problem.’ Unfair sure, but perceptions being what they are about people taking medical leaves, I would use the ‘full time school’ rather than ‘medical issue now resolved.’ Use the latter one only when there is not another plausible reasons to offer.

        Vague ‘medical issues now resolved’ will be understood by most employers as a mental health issue or serious chronic illness; people who had a knee replacement or back surgery usually just say that. And there is considerable prejudice on medical and mental health issues that are likely to reoccur.

    4. TootsNYC*

      yeah, I missed that–sorry.

      when I realized, I came back to say what KR said. So I’ll just say, “What KR said,” if there’s any sense that elaboring would be helpful.

  7. Jeanne*

    For #4, sure your coworker filled in for a couple of days. But she probably didn’t do *everything* you do, just enough to keep things moving forward. I suspect that it’s partly you are feeling very replaceable and possible insecure. Try not to let it mean that much.

    1. Granite*

      This. It’s important to distinguish between “you’re replaceable” and “We want you to take time off without guilt when you’re sick. Jane won’t do it as well as you, but it’s good enough that you can take the time you need.”

      1. Boop*

        Exactly. This is why good managers and companies will cross-train employees – so that someone can fill in for you in a pinch, even if they don’t do everything exactly the same way you do. At my job we have process manuals and back-ups so that we can cover for each other if there is a situation that has to be handled immediately. This is a sign of a healthy work place!

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Also, since she’s new and doesn’t have a full plate they probably took that as an opportunity to giver her something to do.

  8. Paige Turner*

    Jane from #3 is so shady yet also bizarrely obvious in her sneaky dealings. I’d love an update to this one because I can’t imagine how Jane thought that having Sherry do this could go unnoticed when (other than not directly telling OP about it) she wasn’t trying to disguise it at all.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      This is a fireable offense at my company. Doing work for a competitor on company time using company resources?! Nope. Jane would have to go due to her lack of common sense and poor judgment.

    2. KR*

      I thought it was interesting how obvious she was too! Helping someone prioritize when you’re doing another companies work on top of your own?!

      1. FancyPants*

        Shady way for sure! But I guess I would’t say it’s overwhelmingly so? There are minor reasons why this would actually go on, but the whole dealings around it make it seem shady. I’ll definitely be updating as I find out more! (after talking to Jane’s boss directly…and very carefully :))

      2. big fat ugly bug-faced baby-eating o'brien*

        I think Sherry was either in the dark about what Jane was up to, or figured something was up but didn’t want to address it directly so brought it to a superior while playing dumb. Clever girl…

    3. JoJo*

      I’d be concerned that Sherry didn’t immediately inform me that Jane 1) was giving her work assignments, and 2) Jane was doing work for a competitor. Frankly, I’d fire both of them.

      1. Sadsack*

        That’s really not fair to your employee. Jane is two steps above her and who knows what Jane told her about the confidential nature of the project. I think much more detail is required before deciding to fire the employee.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Exactly. Something similar happened to me when I was new here. My boss’s boss was asking me for things and it wasn’t until I was totally overwhelmed one day and talked to my boss that she had to speak with her boss. She had no idea and I was too new to know or say No to a higher up. Same as sherry except I wasn’t being asked to do things for another company.

      2. NK*

        Your response seems to be very colored by your own experience. It is not at all uncommon for me to get assignments from my boss’ boss, and I am given enough autonomy by my direct boss that I am not expected to run to him to notify him every time I get such an assignment. Heck, I get asked to do things by other departments (my business partners) that I don’t always tell my boss about right away. While I understand this type of thing would be an issue in certain lines of work or at certain levels, it’s far from universal.

      3. Edward Rooney*

        I don’t see a big issue with a director assigning a task or two to an analyst/sr analyst without going through the manager first. While it is considered good form to inform the manager that said work was assigned, a boss’ boss has control over all employees underneath them.

      4. S0phieChotek*

        I agree with others; while it would be nice for the manager’s boss to tell the manager that they are assigning additional work to the manager’s direct report, I don’t see this as an issue. This happens to me quite frequently at my company; I often getting assignments from other departments–to be fair they are usually cc-ing my boss in so that my boss knows–but the actual practise seems quite common.

      5. Rusty Shackelford*

        1) sounds kind of ridiculous to fire someone over. I have a good relationship with my boss’s boss, and she often asks me to take care of something for her. I keep my boss looped in when it affects my workload, but I don’t go running down the hall to say “Jane asked me to do this project? Is it okay??” Not everyone is in a situation where they need to do that. 2) is trickier, but even the LW says the projects COULD be related to their work, so it would be really crappy to fire Sherry over something that the LW couldn’t even absolutely say was wrong.

      6. Melissa B*

        Except she did exactly what Alison would have recommended if she had written in. “My boss’ boss is having me do work for another company and I’m afraid it might not be on the up and up.” Answer- bring it to your manager and ask her to prioritize. Make it clear what the super boss asked for and which company it’s for. If it’s shady, your manager will know.

        Sounds like she did everything right. Sometimes you can’t push back on super boss, especially if you’re new, but you can let your manager know there’s something potentially shady going on.

        1. Bookworm*

          Yeah, I agree. It’s not like she’s been secretly doing this work for years. Sounds like she handled it perfectly.

    4. Witty Nickname*

      At my company we often have business relationships with companies that are also our competitors (there’s a lot of that in my industry), so it would be completely reasonable that someone would be working on something that is going to be part of a launch around a new relationship with a competitor (and someone not completely in the loop would not realize that is what it is). However, if one of my employees were working on something like that, I would expect, as their manager, to be in the loop enough to understand what they are working on. The fact that Jane didn’t tell OP about it is suspicious.

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    4. When somebody is off sick I think most companies are so busy that only the most urgent work would get covered. (e.g. The Chocolate Teapot project needs documents sending today once Big Boss has signed off)

    1. Doriana Gray*

      That’s how it is at my company. Our files are supposed to be closed within 30 days per industry standards, so when one of my teammates was out for a week, my division’s Sr. VP and my supervisor both reassigned me his files that were at days 28 & 29 to resolve. This is a common occurrence in our office, so no one would ever think to get upset about it (and they promised to do this for me when I go out for a week in June).

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      #4 is weird to me because we’re good at that, covering for people while they are out . It’s a positive thing! You can take a week’s vacation and not come back to a week’s worth of work. Makes it hard for me to understand where the OP is coming from.

      The work belongs to: The Company>The Senior Manager>The Manager> The Employee . The manager trying a new employee during a two day illness is a good thing. If new employee did well, she can sub when the OP needs a week or longer off.

      1. Random Lurker*

        I like how you’ve focused on the work/output being owned by parties greater than the individual contributor. OP #4 doesn’t even seem to be concerned about the work as much as they are concerned about the perception of how easy the work is to do. I’m not sure if it’s ego that they are seen as the only one able to do something, insecurity that they can be replaced, or both.

        In my experience, the most irreplaceable employees are not the ones who think they are the only ones who can do their job, but the ones that create processes and/or collaborate with coworkers to assist so the work gets done – regardless of who is actually doing it.

        1. Chriama*

          Yup. OP sounds like maybe they’ve dealt with people minimizing or undermining their work for so long they’ve lost perspective on what the purpose of their work is — namely, supporting the interests of their employer.

          1. Mookie*

            I thought this as well, or maybe in the past she’s worked in (toxically competitive) places where people regularly tried to cannibalize one another or were “encouraged” to “audition” for one another’s jobs in order to reduce the number of staff. LW, you’d know best whether or not you’re currently working in that kind of environment, but it sounds like your boss had your back and saved you from having to return to a flurry of rapidly approaching deadlines. In good, healthy workplaces, what happened was a good, healthy thing, and smart management on the part of your boss.

            1. Op4*

              OP4 here.

              I have no problem with this person’s capability. If it was made clear to the wider team that she had experience, or introduced as a freelancer, I would have less of a problem. But she’s part of a team where about of a third of the members regularly bypass my department, often leading to mistakes that I then get blamed for. This is just going to give those individuals an ‘it’s OK for me to do this too’ mentality. My boss knows this is a major and on going problem.

              Thinking about it, I think I feel undervalued because my boss has ignored my repeated pleas to hire some experienced freelancers for situations like this, which is virtually the only thing I even talk to him about anymore, because he ignores our entire department. I care deeply about the quality of the work — it’s why I want to get experienced people on board. Right now the only freelancer we have to cover in our design agency is a horse dentist on his off days.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

                I can’t even with the “horse dentist”. That’s fabulous.

                With the extra background, I’m following your concern now. Your problem isn’t that the boss had somebody newish do your work on those two days, your problem is this:

                she’s part of a team where about of a third of the members regularly bypass my department, often leading to mistakes that I then get blamed for

                If that’s the real problem, those two days of work aren’t going to substantially affect that problem one way or the other . I get that you are pissed over the another-nail-in-the-coffin aspect of the coverage, but if you focus on the real problem with the boss it’s a stronger argument.

                1. Op4*

                  Thank you for putting my problem into words. But I don’t feel like there’s any point bringing it up — my motivation to improve our department died completely this week. It’s the same feeling you get when you know a relationship is over. This was the final nail and confirmation that my boss simply doesn’t care. At this point, I’m putting my head down, learning as much as I can, getting a few years’ experience, then looking for a place where people appreciate my job role. I’m sad, because I really like my boss, think he’s brilliant at other parts of his job, and is an overall nice guy. But he’s got no interest in my particular role. It’s a shame, really.

              2. Temperance*

                Not knowing what you do, I can’t speak to whether it’s normal to hire experienced employees at a freelance rate vs. cross train someone already working, but from a cost perspective, I can’t imagine that hiring freelancers would be a good business decision.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

                  It sounds as if the OP is in art/design. We have two outsourced resources on standby for overflow art needs. It’s kinda SOP for art jobs. Staff in house to normal expected workflow and send overage to freelance.

              3. LQ*

                If this person is new, and especially since this person has experience in your area, have you considered trying to sort of …recruit this person to help make sure the right things get directed to the right place. Basically can you turn them into your person on the inside?

              4. Chickaletta*

                OP4 – I completely understand where you’re coming from. It sounds like we’re in the same profession and I’ve dealt with the same “anyone can do that job” mentality. I’ve even had coworkers sit at my desk and work on my files because they thought it was just kid’s play that anyone could do. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially when the boss sees nothing wrong with it.

                There is a trend in our industry that our profession is non-skilled that we’re up against every day. The pay has decreased and anyone with a computer and the applications can call themselves a graphic designer these days, since there’s no licence or certification requirements. I’ve seen lots of teenagers or hobbyists opening online graphic design businesses and charging minimum wage or even nothing – and businesses are actually hiring them. I can’t think of another profession – medical, teaching, administration, construction – where this type of practice would be as widely used as it is with graphic design.

                So, to the others out there, the reason this stings so much is because we’re in survival mode right now. Our profession is dying because there are so many people out there who think they can do our job. But if you look at all the ugly logos and ads out there, or if you talked to a printer about the crappy files they got sent all day long, or if you’ve ever sat through a horrible power point presentation, or found a newsletter difficult to read, you’d understand it’s not true. It’s a daily battle we face.

                1. MissPixel*

                  I KNEW it had to be a design position, and that’s so sad.

                  I would be upset too if I returned from being sick to find that someone had ‘tinkered’ with my files. Your boss should absolutely have an on-call freelancer, OP, but it is their decision whether or not to get one. I assume you’ve already mentioned how undervalued you feel, and if nothing is going to be done about it then I’d agree with you in learning what you can and getting out when possible.

                  My blood is boiling for you. I’m really sorry.

                2. CM*

                  Interesting… with OP#4’s update and the context you gave, this letter makes so much more sense, as does OP#4’s further update above saying they’re basically giving up (or at least trying not to care so much). I agreed with Alison’s baffled reaction above when I first read the letter, but now I get it — I’m a lawyer, and I get really annoyed when people think they can do my job (hey engineers, stop it already with “I read HIPAA and it says we don’t have to do anything”), and would also be upset and feel devalued if someone with a different skill set were asked to cover for me.

                3. Shell*

                  I think technical writing (actually, the entire writing field in general) feels similarly.

                  But yes, with this additional context, OP4’s position is much more understandable.

  10. Chriama*

    So your boss is giving your employee work without looping you in, and overburdening her to the point of exhaustion. Gross in so many ways. Misusing company resources for sure. I don’t think this is something you can salvage, since if you she wanted you to know (in order to coordinate your employee’s workload, at the very least), she would have told you. Good luck with everything, and ugh.

  11. Nico M*

    #2. Your company are mean for trying to make you pay and amateurish for not having a proper email system.

    However, for the sake of 2$ a month they are giving ownership of their communications away. Think of it as an investment in job security!

  12. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – Some jobs can’t stop because you are out. Technically the boss owns the assignment and gave it to you to complete. She reassigned it as needed. The boss has every right to give and take away assignments as needed to fill the needs of the business.
    Just an FYI – anyone can be replaced. Consider what happened heads up on that. And just because they had someone do your job while you were out doesn’t make you devalued. It would be a different thing if they took it away from you while you were working on it! Then you should worry.

    1. Doriana Gray*

      It would be a different thing if they took it away from you while you were working on it! Then you should worry.

      Not necessarily. I can think of many instances where I’ve seen managers reassign a project or task to someone else because they want to lighten the load of one of their employees so this person can focus on other things that may be more pressing from the manager’s perspective. Or they want to give another employee an opportunity to try something new so they can evaluate their staffing needs. I’d say the only time you should really worry about other people doing your work outside of someone doing it wrong and causing you more work is when your work is reassigned and your manager tells you the reason is because your work to that point was subpar.

  13. Anon for this.....*

    #4 – sorry, just don’t see this as a problem. Granted, I spent most of yesterday rounding up people to cover for me on Monday, when I’m taking the day off. I do things that no one in my department can naturally cover but have to be covered.

    #5 – do you need to divulge the medical condition? I had a serious psychiatric condition that put me in the hospital for two months and on disability for 5 years. During that time I went back to school part time and finished my degree. When I went back on the job market I just said I quit my job so I could go back to school. I never had anyone question it.

    1. Anon for this.....*

      # 5 – OK, just reread your post and I did not really address your issue. AAM has the correct answer, if the topic comes up. I may have had it easier than you – employers would go to a 2014 reference where they may not go to one five years old. I was also trying to change fields, so my degree was in a totally different area than what I had experience in.

      1. OP #5*

        Yes, that’s my problem. It’s two years old, and my most recent employer, who all the applications *insist* on having for a reference. Luckily, I should be able to point at my shiny new degree as an explanation, and the reference should be alright.

  14. Daisy Steiner*

    #1 – It totally sucks to be left out! I know – it’s happened to me more than once, which makes it that little bit harder to ‘not attribute to malice…’etc. You’re allowed to be upset, but you have to just move on. Maybe try to pay forward this feeling by helping people not to be left out in future situations (not trying to shoehorn you into ’emotional labour’ tasks like party planning – just if it ever comes up, be an advocate for fair and robust procedures for this kind of thing).

  15. nofelix*

    #4. Are you in a design field? That’s a common one for people to assume needs no training. Either way, if the replacement didn’t ship anything while you were away then what’s the worry? I’d say use this as an opportunity: find ways to train this person so they can more effectively cover for you. Share your experience and the value of it will be more apparent to your co-workers.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Are you in a design field? That’s a common one for people to assume needs no training.

      Ugh, this. I know the OP has addressed why they’re not interested in cross-training this person further up the thread, but I just had to sympathize with this statement. I’m leaving my job next week, and my boss wanted me to take “a few minutes” to show a coworker “the basics” of Adobe InDesign. Um, no.

    2. LD*

      #4’s situation is beginning to remind me of an old Dilbert cartoon in which one of the female interns approaches Alice for help to avoid being laid off. “Alice, I need you to teach me to be an engineer. I don’t care if it takes all day.”

  16. One of the Sarahs*

    #4 – I feel for you, because I used to get a lot of job satisfaction from knowing I was the only one who could do X, or really understood Y, but it’s actually bad business, and can be a major source of stress when things go bad. I had to re-frame my thinking to understand that a good workplace will never let someone be truly irreplaceable, because what happens if I win the lottery and give it all up (or less salubrious equivalents) – or go on a long holiday etc. It’s a really good thing that they see your work as important enough to provide cover for – and you as important enough that they don’t want you overwhelmed when you came back from sickness.

    1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      Yes, exactly. Where I work, my position is the only one that DOESN’T get covered when I’m out and it makes me feel that I’m not important enough to provide cover for. I already know they don’t care if I’m overwhelmed when I come back … haha.

    2. Rebeck*

      So, how do I cross-train when it’s a complex system that I just ‘picked up’ by listening when everyone else found it too difficult to get their heads around? I know I need to train up someone else, but I don’t understand how I learnt it let alone how to train someone else. It just clicked for me.

      I’d love any suggestions.

  17. AnotherFed*

    #1 – That certainly sucks, but I wouldn’t take it as personal at all. I’m not sure how big your team is, but if 6 people and you all left within a fairly short timeframe, that’s likely pretty major turnover. Even if the typical party coordinator wasn’t one of the ones leaving, they may well be burned out or lose the ball on 1 of 7 going aways on top of doing their job, or if there is no typical coordinator, then it’s easy to drop the ball on who is organizing.

    1. T*

      Agreed. OP, you mentioned that you had helped organize some of these for others. Maybe you were the last one left with the skills/attention/thoughtfulness to plan one of these farewells. I understand why you would be offended, but hopefully having your say here will help you go back to being cordial with your former coworkers.

  18. Bluesboy*

    #3 Make sure also that you don’t drop Sherry in it!

    Alison said (rightly) to “make sure the person knows that you need it handled in a way where you won’t suffer retaliation from Jane for reporting it.” But if you’re not careful, Jane’s boss will meet with her and say “We’ve heard that you’ve been giving this work to Sherry”, and Jane will assume they heard it from Sherry in the absence of other information.

    This is delicate, as it always is when you go above someone’s head. I would consider trying to find a way for it to be ‘discovered’ independently by a higher up if you have a good relationship with Jane’s boss – for example, that she asks for a summary of what Sherry is working on, finds out and then speaks to Jane, or even happens to see the work open on Sherry’s computer or similar.

    Good luck!

    1. FancyPants*

      This is exactly my thoughts! I don’t want to seem like a tattletale (especially if it is for work…), but don’t want Sherry to get in trouble either. This is why I didn’t go into politics. Being “discovered” independently is an interesting idea tho. Thank you!

      1. TootsNYC*

        You can make it be that you asked Sherry about her workload, and that’s how you found out.

      2. auntie_cipation*

        I worked in a branch office with only one other person. Said person was highly dysfunctional and nonproductive, and absolutely hated the boss in the main office (and only liked me when I made noises suggesting I hated the boss too — anytime I appeared accepting of the boss I would be put on employee’s hate-list. Of course any observations I reported to the boss would so obviously be traced back to me as the only other employee. I was upfront with the boss about this, saying flat out “there are problems but I don’t feel comfortable being the one to report them to you” and she understood. Eventually I was able to shine a spotlight on a few areas where she could see the problems for herself on her occasional visits: “when you go in, look at the clutter on the desk” or “check the status of such-and-such” and that way the boss was able to tell the poor employee “hey, I’ve noticed X and Y on my visits” and not bring me into it at all. Of course the boss should have been noticing these things anyway, but her occasional visits were usually rushed and made to deal with one or two specific issues and she would not have organically noticed much of anything at all, if I hadn’t guided her as to what to check up on.

  19. Sally Sparrow*

    I can almost see OP4 being about me. CW has been out a few times, and Boss has told me to do a few things that CW does (either obvious, or I find out later after talking to another CW). I know CW doesn’t like it because I always get calls after she comes back about how I need to check with her before completing Boss’s tasks in case they are already done.

  20. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OP#2, you can do a few things to reduce the size of your mailbox:

    Export your Gmail: if you’ve been properly tagging things, it’s even better, because you can export each label as a separate backup. Or just export the whole thing. And once you export, you can access those messages fairly easily. But if others are relying on you to remember, I’d start telling them that you need an hour or two lead time to do research, since you are not able to keep all of your email in Gmail any longer.

    Also, I’d do a search of your Gmail for messages with attachments (click the down arrow in the search bar), then look at the oldest ones, or set the attachment size as “larger than [very large number]”, and see if you can put those files on the corporate network and do away with the messages. Attachments are often the biggest quota hogs.

  21. Cokey*

    For some reason, on my last day at the retail job I’d been in for five years, five managers were in the store (store manager, assistant store managers, shift managers). They all knew I was moving away. Only ONE of them said goodbye to me and thanked me for my work. I saw the store manager and said, “Well, that’s it for me,” and she said, “Okay, see you tomorrow.”

    1. NotMyRealName*

      On my very last shift managing a fast food restaurant, I was assigned to run the shift for the first time. 20 minutes before I was due to leave, the general manager gave me some instructions starting with “Remember, in the future…” and all I could think was how ridiculous it was.

      1. Kelly L.*

        On my last day at a Taco Bell, they’d forgotten until the last minute (I think a few other people had left the same week) and they gave me an old logo windbreaker that had gone with the uniform that preceded the current uniform. Lol.

  22. Sheila*

    Question about this line from #5: “I am completely terrified of the reference my previous job might give me (a friend is checking this for me).” If I’m reading this right, OP5 is having a friend call the previous job, pretending to ask for a reference, in order to find out what the previous supervisor says about OP5. Is that normal? Seems a little shady to me but it could also be a brilliant idea that I just never thought of.

    1. Felicia*

      That is a thing frequently recommended on this blog especially if you have concerns about your references might say, so that’s probably why it seems normal to me!

      1. Sheila*

        Thanks – I’ve only been reading the blog for a few months (about to be a manager for the first time!) so I didn’t realize this was a recommended practice.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just to be clear, I don’t recommend it as a default thing for everyone to do, just in cases where you have reason to worry about what a reference might be saying.

    2. Liana*

      I think it’s fairly normal. Alison recommends it all the time, and I’ve had professional-sounding friends do it for me on the rare occasion.

    3. Macedon*

      It’s recommended here. Bit ymmv. I find it on the slightly unethical side, but can see an argument of “Potential employer can contact whomever they want if you exclude this reference anyway.”

  23. DCGirl*

    #1 — I do sympathize, I truly do. At my office, whenever someone has an anniversary, managers are supposed to pass around a card (provided by HR) to be signed by everyone in the department and then are supposed to have a little presentation where you also get a catalog from which the anniversary person gets to pick a gift. Did I get one? No. The catalog envelope was simply dropped on my chair with the blank card and the instructions from HR still inside. I completed my master’s degree, it was posted on the Intranet with my picture, and my VP and manager said nothing. The guy in the cube next to me got a card passed around and a cupcake from Crumbs. There’s just clear favoritism, and it rankles.

    I agree that you should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, but I have nose bleeds from the altitude on the high road I’m forced to travel.

    1. notfunny.*

      my father ALWAYS talks about taking the high road, so I’m going to have a hard time stopping myself from either mentioning nose bleeds or just giggling to myself. Thank you!

    2. DCGirl*

      For everyone who liked my last line, I wish I could say that I originated it, but I first heard it on an iVillage board for women who were dealing with difficult in-laws.

  24. The Alias That Gloria Is Living Under*

    #2 Why don’t they have Google Apps for business? The price of $1.99/month is the price to upgrade one personal email account. Google Apps have a different pricing structure. They can’t even pay for Google Apps? Or their own domain?

    1. KR*

      This is what I was thinking. I want to say we get 15 gig for every person with our account along with the full Google apps suite and sharing and whatnot.

    2. Erin*


      When you explain to them why they need to pay for their own darn business expenses (not phrasing it like that, of course :)) it would be helpful to have a suggestion or two like this. That way it’s not just, “I’m not paying for this,” but, “Hey, I don’t understand why I need to pay for a business expense, but also, if you’re worried about the money I know there are a couple of cheaper options to go about this…”

    3. Noah*

      If they are grandfathered on the older, free Google Apps for Business, the $1.99 is the price to upgrade storage. A previous company I worked for was like this, they had been using Google Apps since its inception and it was completely free. You lost some of the features of the full Google Apps, but in general it was almost the same.

      1. Cucumberzucchini*

        Yes, I have a ton of grandfathered Gmail hosted accounts for different domains. Wohoo free email! It’s worth keeping it free (at least it is for me) .

    4. Sydney*

      We’ve been using Google Apps since 2010 and we’re grandfathered into 50 free accounts. Each email account comes with 15 GB of storage, and you get ~ 1 TB for $1.99/month if you want to upgrade email/drive space. We also have our own domain set up with it.

      They’re probably like us. And honestly, I am the only person in my company who needs the extra storage space and it’s because I also use Google Drive. It takes a lot of emails and large attachments to get to 15 GB.

  25. Kittymommy*

    #1, not sure if this applies but it sounds like while you are assigned to a different area/branch/office you are still with the same company. Where did the others you mentioned go? If they actually left the company that seems legit to me. Everywhere I have worked throws a goodbye party if you actually leave the company completely; transfer (even if you will never work or see those people again)? Nothing.

  26. The Alias Gloria Is Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

    #1… so this happened to me. I was at OldJob for 10 years. I was relocating so I gave a long notice. Everyone knew I was leaving. Maybe that was the problem? By the time it happened it was no longer a novelty? I don’t know. But a few weeks before I left I had to get a cake and everything for a contractor who’d only been there six weeks. What did I get on my last day? Nothing. Not a thing. At the end of the day I just stood up and looked around. No one was there to see me off or tell me they’d miss me or say if I ever moved back to the area I could come back. Not even a “don’t let the door hit you in the ass” or FOAD. Nothing. I just quietly gathered my things and dropped my badge off at security on my way out. Did they forget or did they do it on purpose? Doesn’t really matter, the point is, you feel like you weren’t important to them, and that’s the part that stings.

    1. Fake Name*

      Almost the exact same thing happened to me. 10 years, several elaborate going away/baby showers and no one said goodbye my last day or was even around that afternoon as I left. Then one of them tells me about a huge party they had for him a month later when he transferred internally (and his office was moving across the hall).

      It stings and makes you feel unappreciated and undervalued. It’s also confusing – on one hand it’s hard not to take it personally and second guess what people “really” thought about you, but then most of them continue to be active on social media/email with me since I left. It’s hard and you just have to give it time to get perspective.

  27. Erin*

    #3 – I’ve had odd things happen when I was out (someone actually took my computer once), and it also makes me nervous when people come in on my projects not knowing my system for doing things – so I certainly sympathize.

    But the key here is that your boss had someone *with experience* in what you do cover for you. Even if it wasn’t time sensitive, I think it’s reasonable that if a capable person was able to get it done, and had room in their workday schedule to do so…why not just have them take care of it? If everything is back to normal now and you’re doing your job as per usual, I certainly wouldn’t bring it up.

  28. Mockingjay*

    #2: Print the emails at work and stuff them in a file. Then delete them from your account.

    I wonder, has the company grown quickly so free email service is no longer adequate? Are your coworkers experiencing the same issue? Might be time for the company to make some infrastructure investments.

    1. LiveAndLetDie*

      A full gmail inbox implies waaaaaaaay more than you would ever want to (or reasonably be able to) print and store in hard copy. Exporting and archiving the emails on a hard drive somewhere is a far more reasonable option. But they do need to come out of the gmail account, one way or another.

  29. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

    #4 – I would LOVE if someone would cover for me when I’m sick so I don’t come back to piles of work. But while other folks are out, I cover for them but only the most pressing things and I’m certain no one thinks I could do their job at the same level.

  30. Shiara*

    For #1, it’s possible that the person who is usually a big mover in getting the goodbye parties going was one of the people who left before you did, and the people who tried to pick up the slack dropped the ball/weren’t used to doing the logistical lifting to get something in place. Especially since it sounds like it’s coworkers trying to put these together, rather than a more formal system, and there’s not one standard thing that’s done (based on “small party/happy hour to say goodbye and usually a gift card or small gift”). In those situations, it’s fairly easy for a key person to leave (or just be overwhelmed by picking up the slack from several coworkers leaving) and everyone else to mostly expect that it will be handled (because it always is) and they’ll be notified when it’s going to happen.

    Of course it’s going to hurt, but it’s very doubtful it was deliberate, and if your manager has otherwise showed you that you were valued, believe it.

    1. OP 1*

      Hmmm yeah I realize I shouldn’t take it personally. But that said the person who organized these other parties is still there. Maybe she just didn’t feel like organizing another one. There aren’t alot of other women in our dept – just us two and one of the managers. While I hate to pull out the gender bias thing I actually had some other weird passive aggressive vibes from her. So it’s possible that has something to do with it.

    2. junipergreen*

      These parties/events are problematic to me, because I see them as the “emotional labor” of the office world. While I enjoy them, and have often planned them, I made a deliberate effort to stop doing them after my free party-planning services became an expectation (particularly by people who never pitched in to help: “Why are we going to Same Old Place again? I prefer the $15 cocktails at Trendy Overpriced Hot Spot on the other side of town! Who’s calling the cabs?”).

  31. NK*

    #1 – I too had the experience of a farewell party that never happened. I know it wasn’t personal; a much-loved director left at the same time as me (both internal moves) and we were supposed to have a joint farewell, but between schedules and such it just never happened. It’s just one of those things; I wouldn’t let it color your interactions with these people now. It’s likely at least some of them feel bad about it but it’s awkward now since you’ve physically left and thus too late to throw a party.

  32. boop*

    #1. That sucks. Things like that has a tendency to just… happen. Especially if you happen to be the reserved and quiet type. My birthday, for example, attracts little things like that! Like when my workplace celebrated birthdays (monthly) for three years and skipped my month EVERY YEAR. Or when a friend called me on my birthday just to gush about her plans for our other mutual friend’s birthday happening two months later. You can feel awful about it, but you can also deal with it by writing it off as a thing of Small Importance, because of course people are going to put parties on a lower priority. Life is complicated and distracting, and everyone is going to get accidentally shafted once in a while. We’re just lucky that ours was a thing of Small Importance rather than one of Life-Changing Catastrophe.

    But I’d be lying if the little things didn’t park themselves in the back of my mind to be refreshed at random and untimely moments of bitterness.

  33. leisuresuitlarry*

    Re:#4: It’s amazing to me what people will get “deeply hurt” over. It’s a business decision, not a personal one.

  34. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#1: I definitely would be peeved as you are, but I wouldn’t take it personally. As Alison said, all of the other things that people did do are far more important than the farewell party.

    And as the person who usually takes responsibility for coordinating these types of events for departing co-workers, I can tell you that a large number of people leaving fairly close together takes a toll on the planner. Things tend to get less extravagant and more likely to be forgotten the later the person’s departure, especially if the person organizing the event(s) is not particularly organized. I personally would never forget someone entirely, but I have known other planners that did. Also, as boop said above, quiet/reserved people tend to get the short end of the stick in these situations. Everyone says “happy birthday” to the person going around the office making it known that today is their birthday. The squeaky wheel gets the grease…..while the quieter person who doesn’t make a big deal is often forgotten.

    I’d focus on the positive and be grateful for those people that have continued to be great co-workers and keep in touch with you.

  35. H.C.*

    LW1 – Agree with AAM’s response (that productive working relationships – esp during your transition – in office matters much more than a goodbye party, and that it’s more likely a forgetful oversight than deliberate malice.) Also, there’s no harm in self-organizing a farewell happy hour/gathering of sorts, esp if framed as a casual get together rather than an “in my honor” affair.

  36. Tiger Feet*

    #5 – I’ve been in this position and it’s horrible. Despite it being illegal, if I eluded to a resolved “health issue”, 9/10 the interviewer would ask me for more details. I’d love to know what Alison would use as a response to that, unfortunately in a pressurised interview situation it’s really difficult to know the right thing to say. Be vague and you seem dishonest, be specific and you run the risk of scaring them off (prejudice about mental health is an unfortunate reality in the UK). Hopefully you won’t be pushed for more information. Well done on your degree!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d say cheerfully (not adversarially), “Oh, since it’s a health issue I know I’m not supposed to tell you about it” and hope that would jog them into realizing there are laws in play. (That language is intentionally imprecise — because really, you can tell them about it if you want; they just ask. But they’re unlikely to point that out to you, since they can’t without admitting they’re trying to break the law on their side.)

  37. The Expendable Redshirt*


    The ability for your to step in and keep things afloat is actually a very good thing! It means that projects continue smoothly and clients are served in a timely manner. Try seeing the coverage assigned by your employer as respectful instead of offensive. They cared enough about your work to make sure there were no catastrophes waiting when you came back. Also, coverage is never* able to completely do the job of a full time employee. Sure, they can handle some tasks, but the main person has a heck of a lot more awareness and experience regarding the job.

    I’d also propose that we are all replaceable employees in the end. And that we should have coworkers able to walk in and be able to take over. What happens of a kraken rises from the sea and eats you? You’re gone and must be replaced at work. I’m in a role where almost no one can automatically step in and do my work. The situation is no fun! When I had an emergency and had to take time off work, I came back later, there were a lot of fires to put out. Having coworkers able to step in to triage the situation is something to be grateful for.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yes! I love that people can cover for me when I’m out. Being indispensable is miserable. I much prefer to try to be invaluable. (Yes, the dictionary will say those are the same thing. But they have subtly different connotations. If I’m invaluable, they can still get by without me – they’d just rather not have to most of the time.)

  38. Left Behind*


    It could be worse. They could have planned a “party” and gone to a restaurant that serves the one type of food you don’t eat and then told you they just wanted a free meal.

    THEN they could all carpool together leaving you behind in a meeting that went long.

  39. janjsy*

    There’s an employee in my office who routinely asks for overtime so she can clean out her email. She always has hundreds (!) of unread email and cant bring herself to delete the “let’s have lunch on Friday,” emails let alone email from 10 years ago that was important but is now obsolete.

    If it isn’t an official record or something that will shed light on your activities, get rid of it.

  40. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2. Extremely weird. Although, my company wanted me to pay for my own business cell phone, while they pay for others’ phones, but I digress.

    Any business worth its salt would have its own domain. If someone were in a business-to-business relationship and the principals of one of the businesses had its employees using a freebie e-mail domain, it might raise red flags.

    Just sayin’

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