is employee taking too much sick leave, I keep getting surprise raises, and more

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

1. Is my employee taking too much sick leave?

I’m a relatively new manager and I’m struggling a little with how to handle one of my employee’s use of sick leave. I work in an industry that has a public-facing desk that needs to be covered when we are open. If somebody calls out sick, I have to pay an additional person to cover that desk. My budget for that is quite limited.

One of my employees, I’ll call her Jane, is an exemplary employee. However, she calls out at the last minute at least once every other month. At least once in the past nine months, she’s blown completely through her accrued sick leave. I don’t want to be that boss that encourages sick people to come to work, and I certainly feel for her (I have a chronic illness, and before it was under control, I blew through sick leave too), but at the same time, her absences put a strain on my budget. Is this bad enough to address, or am I blowing this out of proportion?

If she has the sick leave to take, it’s not really fair to tell her that she can’t take it. I get that it’s putting a strain on your budget, but you have an exemplary employee who’s doing nothing more than using the benefits that are part of her compensation, and doing it because she’s sick. (Paying salaries might put a strain on your budget too, but you pay them because that’s how you attract and keep good employees. Or you change your salary structure — but you can’t resent people for cashing their paychecks.)

At most, you could talk to her and find out if there’s any way to plan more in advance (for example, if she’s using the time for doctor’s appointments, it’s possible she has more flexibility on when and how far in advance she schedules them), but depending on what the time is for, that may not be possible.

For what it’s worth, I do think you’d have more standing to talk to her if her absences were much more frequent than it sounds like they are. There’s a point where someone might be calling out so much that it’s getting in the way of their being able to do their job reliably. (For example, in this post, the person was taking more than their allotted amount of sick time and it was regularly interfering with other people’s work.) But that doesn’t sound like the case here.

2. I keep getting surprise raises — but not as much as I planned to ask for

I’ve been working at a small retail business (nine employees) for nearly two years. Since I was hired as the ecommerce manager, I’ve steadily grown business, improved sales, and taken on numerous projects and responsibilities that were not originally part of my job. There are some perks that make the job especially appealing — flexible work hours, casual environment, a really excellent employee discount, and a very short commute. I enjoy my job a lot, but the pay is well under market value.

I planned on asking for a raise when I reached the one-year mark. I was surprised when I noticed on my paycheck that I’d been given one around that time. My boss didn’t let me know I was getting a raise — it was a total surprise. The raise was a small one and lower than what I’d planned on asking for. I wasn’t sure what to do — it didn’t feel right to ask for another raise when I’d just been given one. I let it go because I love my job and planned to sit down with my boss a month or so before my two-year work anniversary and make my case for higher pay.

Today I discovered I’ve been given another surprise raise! It’s still under what I would like to be paid and what I feel is fair for the work I’m doing. I’m unsure of what to do. Is it appropriate to ask for a wage increase? My workload continues to expand and my sales are better than ever, but I feel like I can’t ask for higher pay because I was just given higher pay.

Your boss has discovered a way to keep raises down — award them before people have a chance to ask for a higher amount. (I don’t actually think that’s his intentional strategy, but it would be a pretty crafty one if it were.)

Anyway, you absolutely can ask for more. I’d say this: “I noticed an increase in my last paycheck. Thank you! I actually was hoping to talk to you about my salary, because I was hoping you’d consider moving me to $X. My thinking is ____ (fill in your case for the higher raise here).”

3. Responding to a rude rejection letter

A friend of mine received the following rejection letter today: “Thank you for your interest in the kitchen assistant/pot wash position. We haven’t reviewed your application. Unfortunately, and I ain’t going to bother and you are not the right or fit for the position at this time. You are useless and a crap worker. I am not sorry for the disappointing news. Worst of luck in your job search.”

It is in very poor taste and would like to know the best way to go about complaining or if there are any legal stances she could take. The person who sent the letter owns the pub, so I don’t see much point in complaining to him as he has already made his feelings pretty clear. Clearly this is not an acceptable response and he should be held accountable. What is the best course of action, in your opinion?

That’s so rude that I wonder if it was a prank by someone other than the hiring manager — like the hiring manager’s 12-year-old kid — because it’s pretty hard to imagine a normal person who hires sending that.

As for what to do, though, there aren’t really legal options here. No law prevents employers from being rude to job applicants. If your friend really felt strongly about it, she could see if her local media was interested in a local business owner treating people this way (occasionally you can get a bite from someone like a local business columnist), or she could mention it in a Yelp review, but there aren’t really options beyond that.

The nice thing about such over-the-top rudeness is that you know it’s about them and not you. I’d just roll your eyes and move on.

4. Can I ask about training in an interview?

Are there any downsides to asking your interviewer what the training plan is for a new hire? I’ve been a project manager for 12 years, so I’m confident in my skills and experience. But I’ve only ever worked for one company that had a robust training and mentoring program — everywhere else has used the “throw her into the fire, she’ll figure it out” method, which I am weary of.

I’m not looking for junior-level skill training (what does a project manager do, how to talk to clients) but company- and role-specific training (learning internal software, shadowing a colleague for “a day in the life” experience, process and SOP, best practices, tips, team culture, resources for self-service training, introductions to other teams and how they integrate with what my team does, best people to go to with questions as they come up, etc.). Maybe it’s because my current boss is a jerk, but I know if I were interviewing with him and asked for training details, he’d give me the stink-eye and cross me off his list of candidates because if I need training, I must not be skilled enough for the job.

I fear that expressing an interest in a training program could trigger a hiring manager to think: needy, not a self-starter, not confident in her skills and experience, needs hand-holding, won’t be a good fit, will be too much work to ramp her up, not worth the trouble, etc. Am I just paranoid because this is the current environment I work in, or do other hiring managers think this way? Is this something people talk about in interviews?

It’s fine and normal to ask about role-specific training during an interview. Many candidates ask about it, and no reasonable hiring manager will be put off by that. And if you find one who is, that’s a useful thing, since it will help you to screen out that person, which is exactly what you want to do if you want to avoid ending up working for someone like your current boss.

5. Difference in legal protections when you work for a smaller employer

I have spent the last 10+ years working for large public corporations. A bit fatigued of the grind and the politics, I am currently exploring a new opportunity that moves away from that structure. The company I’m speaking with has fewer than five employees and is privately run. There are a lot of attractive benefits to moving away from corporate, but is there anything I should be aware of regarding legal benefits and protections that may not exist due to the size of the company? (In my state, most labor laws like mandatory sick days, maternity leave, etc, kick in for companies with 4-15 employees.)

At the federal level, a lot of protections don’t kick in until an employer has 15 employees (most of the major discrimination and harassment laws), 20 employees (COBRA, which allows you to keep your health insurance after leaving your job, although you have to pay for it yourself), or 50 employees (Family and Medical Leave Act, the law that projects your job while you take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for your or a family member’s health situation). Those are some pretty big benefits to give up, so it’s worth considering carefully if the trade-offs are worth it to you.

It’s also worth noting that smaller organizations often have more dysfunction — there’s less oversight and there’s less to dilute it (one awful manager can have an outsized impact). So you’d want to be very careful about doing a lot of due diligence so that you’re sure you know what you’re getting into as far as culture, management, and coworkers.

{ 345 comments… read them below }

  1. Cecily*

    Actually, I totally believe that the owner of a pub/bar/whatever would send a rejection letter like that.

    1. WonderingOne*

      Its always annoying when people are rude, so I feel for OP’s friend. On other hand, I don’t think its realistic or helpful want to complain and “make him accountable”. Dealing with rudeness is like the happiness you can get from random acts of kindness – part of life. You can’t change other people. Let it go.

      1. Mike C.*

        You can certainly give other folks looking to work there additional information. That’s certainly helps.

          1. Random Lurker*

            Disagree. Yelp is to review a business from a customer perspective, not the professionalism of a potential employer. I know some people feel strongly about not giving money to a business that treats employees bad, but I doubt that this story will have an impact on Yelp to the average Yelp reader.

          2. Laura*

            This is not correct. Yelp reviews need to be representative of consumer experiences, so OP’s friend shouldn’t write a review. It would get taken down anyway.

            1. LadyCop*

              I agree. Someone with such blatant disregard for professionalism makes me wonder if health and safety standards mean anything to them, which would be very relevant.

    2. ginger ale for all*

      That kind of letter says more about the person who wrote it rather than the person who received it. A bullet was dodged. If your friend is really bothered, just let them vent and help them to let it go.

    3. Merry and Bright*

      I wouldn’t stoop to that level – especially in a professional context – but I would so love to send a response in kind, telling them how they are obviously so bad to work for and I will avoid drinking in their pub, etc!

      Seriously, even if it is a prank rejection letter it still tells you what a lucky escape you had, OP. I hope you soon find somewhere much better to work.

      1. Koko*

        Yes, even if it were a prank letter…for all you know it’s a sign you’d be working with that guy who improvised homemade bombs and set them off at work, and pooped on people from above, as “pranks.”

    4. Kelly L.*

      I’m wondering if the manager knows the OP’s friend and there’s bad blood from some past job. I remember the restaurant scene in OldTown was filled with interpersonal drama, and everybody switched restaurants a lot, and everybody ended up working pretty much everywhere at some point. So if you had an enemy at McDonald’s, you might well find them doing the hiring at Long John Silver’s when you tried to get hired there.

      1. MK*

        Honestly, unless, as you describe, there is a personal connection of some kind (as in, the manager is a close friend of the dumped ex-partner the OP’s friend), this letter must have been written by a lunatic.

        1. Mickey Q*

          At least the person got a reply. These days you usually don’t hear anything when they’ve rejected you. Ha.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Well, given the intrigue rampant in local restaurant scenes, maybe a trusted employee of this guy is an enemy of OP’s friend from another restaurant, and they got the boss riled up with stories of her previous awfulness.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Not saying she actually was awful, just that maybe hiring manager was fed tales of awfulness from a current employee.

        2. Rebecca in Dallas*

          That was my thought exactly. Either the applicant worked with the owner previously or someone else that works there now. Either way, sounds like it’s better she avoid it!

      3. Log Lady*

        That’s what I was thinking, as well. Either he knows her and has beef with her, or one of his budies has some problem with her. Word will get out eventually that he’s a jerk. She’s probably not the only one to be treated like this.

      4. AMT*

        This was the first thing that popped into my head, too. The hiring manager probably wouldn’t use the term “crap worker” without having any experience with OP’s friend’s work. Still unprofessional and unnecessary, but much less baffling coming from someone who has been burned by OP’s friend (or thinks s/he has) rather than a random stranger.

      5. NK*

        Yep. If they hadn’t even reviewed the application, how would they know this person was such a crap worker? Either the owner knows this person or has heard about them through someone else. The only other remotely reasonable explanation is that it was some kind of messed up prank.

    5. Anonymouss*

      Honestly, it sounds like the kind of rejection letter a place like Crabby Joe’s would send out. Though I think if someone were applying for a place like that they’d know this could be the kind of thing they’d do.

      Given their surprise at the letter I doubt that’s the case. (or they really weren’t looking at the type of place they were applying).

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, who knows, maybe he wants free publicity and is if the mind set that even negative publicity is ok. There’s probably people out there that would get a kick out of the owners attitude. (Or maybe I just watch too much Shameless.)

    7. SystemsLady*

      I’m surprised Always Sunny hasn’t done this letter almost verbatim I can see it happening so much at some places (well, in the form of a rejection letter…).

  2. Cam*

    One sick day every other month? That’s not even close to excessive. Sure, some people are super healthy and never get sick, but that’s not most people. Half a dozen sick days in a year seems about normal for a lot of people, especially those with young kids.

    1. Anonomnom*

      Especially someone who is first to interact with everyone that comes through the door. They’re more likely to be exposed to something someone brought in.

    2. Glasskey*

      I thought initially that the OP was referring to a single day every other month but then when I read the comment about blowing through the entire leave balance at least once in the past 9 months, I thought otherwise. I still agree with the advice, though.

      1. JessaB*

        Blowing through the balance though depends on how you earn leave. If you get it in a lump sum that’s bad, if you earn about a day a month or less, that’s not. If you have something chronic and earn 4 hours a pay period you can easily burn that out to zero (but still have leave coming to you later in the month.) and still not be over using leave.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s what I thought was happening–she was out a day right after she’d just earned it, that kind of thing.

        2. Kira*

          Agreed, using up accrued leave calls to mind someone being out two days early in the year, not someone usingets tons of leave.

      2. OP1*

        We accrue leave throughout the year. When she blew through it last time, she ended up using vacation time to cover the rest. She’s very close to using it all up again.

        Admittedly, my previous POW gave us THREE WEEKS of sick leave, but slapped us on the wrist if we used more than 5 days of it a year. Thank you, Chocolate Teapot Guild, for making me realize that was a terrible way of doing business.

        1. E*

          In my experience, sick leave is usually use it or lose it, so why a company would penalize someone for using the benefits that have been granted to them is ridiculous. I can understand that you are in a difficult situation when you need to fill the position on short notice, but honestly your budget should allow for the expectation that all sick days in a year will be used, especially based on historical info for this employee.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yeah, I think the problem here is not that she’s using her rightfully accrued leave but the short notice. Of course whatever she’s using it for might be the kind of thing where you wake up sick, not where you know it’s coming.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            We get 12 sick days per year, and they don’t expire. Any hours in excess of 960 expire on January 1 each year, so employees who store up a large number of hours are encouraged to donate their expiring hours to the catastrophic leave bank, which assists employees who have serious illness or accidents and have used all their own sick and vacation hours.

            When my daughter was hospitalized a few years ago with a burst appendix and then afterward when she was under the care of an infectious disease specialist for the nasty intestinal infection that resulted, I had enough sick leave accrued to take of for six weeks without touching vacation time.

          3. myswtghst*

            I think this is a great point – rather than trying to get an employee not to take sick leave which they’ve earned (and let’s assume they truly need), maybe see if the budget can be adjusted at all to ensure there are funds for coverage. I recognize that may not be a simple / easy thing to do, but it seems like it would be more beneficial in the long run than getting a reputation for policing sick days.

            1. valc2323*

              I think this makes a great deal of sense if it’s possible: “the person in this role has X days of leave per year. I need my coverage budget to include $$$ to cover X days, not X-5 days, because I assume she is going to use all of it.”

        2. Artemesia*

          I think the theory behind that is that sometimes there are serious medical issues and the 15 days would be kind and useful for that, but businesses that give 15 days don’t want it piddled out as ‘mental health days’ because ‘we have 15 days.’ It is insurance for the car accident, or the sudden surgery or a long illness. It is not just more vacation.

          I am old school and think people should be at work when they feel bad if they are not seriously sick or contagious — Large pools of sick leave are designed for disaster not as added vacation when you have a cold or minor issue. Some workers treat them like vacation days and use them for minor things.

          The OP seems to resent the employee putting the office in stress for trivial reasons (no idea if they are trivial reasons but using them up and using them in a distributed way like this suggests that is possible.) The OP needs to have a system in place to have other workers cover this desk during absences so coverage doesn’t have to be hired. (if possible, obviously I don’t understand the dynamics and why that is now not being done.)

        3. Batman's a Scientist*

          5 days?! That’s a horrible way of doing business. Not just because you shouldn’t punish people for using their available benefits, but also because so many people need to use more than 5 sick days a year.

      3. MashaKasha*

        It doesn’t say exactly how much, as far as I could tell. I was actually curious. How much sick leave does this company have that the term “blow through” even applies? At my work, we get three sick days a year. How do you blow through three sick days in twelve months? Being out sick for three days out of the year doesn’t seem excessive to me by a long shot. At OldJob, it was five days a year; also hardly something to “blow through”. Or am I just always finding myself in jobs with unusually low numbers of sick days?

          1. Kate M*

            I mean that’s not excessive. Back before I got on good medication, menstrual cramps could have me bedridden at least one day a month. And that’s not taking into account colds/allergies/flu/food poisoning, etc. If she has it to use, let her freaking use it. And I’ve never agreed with the policy of “accruing leave” throughout the year. You might not be able to change that policy, but I wouldn’t penalize her for that.

          2. Nerdling*

            That’s not even remotely excessive. That’s the flu, if you get unlucky and not even a day each month for someone to be sick. Let the woman use her leave!

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            Oh, wow, that’s not even a day a month. No, she’s not excessively sick even if she’s using all of this, and more.

          4. AMT*

            That’s not unusual — less than one day a month! It sounds like your company just doesn’t give you the resources to get things done when your staff uses a normal amount of sick leave. I would push back against that, not your employee’s sick day usage.

            1. doreen*

              Is it really a normal amount of sick leave to use? My experience may be atypical , but in the 30 years I’ve been working full time it has not been common for people to call in sick at the last minute ten times every year. (I’m not talking about medical appointments or procedures ) Or even to take ten days for a couple of illnesses every year. There have been a few people who are out sick for five or ten days year and year out, but most people have enough variation ( for example, two days this year, 15 next year and 4 the year after that) that I’m sure the average at my workplaces was lower than ten days per person per year.

              All of my jobs have provided at least 10 days per year to most employees , and the main disincentive to using it is that we can continue to accrue sick leave to a much higher balance than other types of leave. ( in one case, there was no limit) But that’s not enough of a disincentive to keep you from taking a sick day if you’re sick.

              1. Misc*

                It depends. I had years at a time where I had zero sick leave, and other years where I was off for about 3 weeks over the year. And then there was the year carpal tunnel struck and I had to take 2 weeks off to rest my hands because I was useless at work… in December. After a year of sick leave and flu and stuff.

                (Luckily I am not in the US and have a decent amount of sick leave which rolls over each year).

            2. Rater Z*

              Where I work, they don’t give us sick time but they will hit us with a demerit point when we call off Luckily, I have had a boss who will over-ride the point for me if necessary. He also wiped out the point a couple of times when I had to run the wife to the emergency room. We also get hit with a half point for being more than one minute late to work. Add both to any points for work problems and a total of 12 in a year gets you a one-way trip thru the door.

          5. BananaPants*

            That’s not excessive, especially since she’s public-facing and is exposed to every germ that random members of the public bring in to the building. It’s not her fault that your employer hasn’t budgeted to cover a temp/casual employee to cover employee absences.

      4. Kate M*

        I mean we get 3 sick days a year at my corporate/professional office. (That’s the limit from our parent company, thankfully my firm doesn’t adhere to it too strictly and lets you “work from home” if you’re feeling too bad.) But going through 6 days a year could totally put me over my sick leave.

      5. Sans*

        I have PTO now, but the last few jobs that separated sick leave only gave me six days a year. So being out one or two days every other month could easily use up all your sick leave in less than a year.

    3. A Non*

      My thought too. One good cold can keep me out of work for three or four days, and two colds in a year isn’t unusual for me. In the past I’ve dealt with an issue that kept me out one day every other week for a few months, and I’m currently on FMLA for a different health issue. It helps that I’m not in a job that requires bringing in someone else to cover for me.

    4. ginger ale for all*

      I am prone to migraines every 28 days or so. I am either coming in with lots of pain relievers, Pepto, and complaints or I am calling in sick. With some women, the hormones at just before that ‘special’ time trigger migraines. I can get through most of them with the help of a drugstore but others, I can only cope with a blindfold on and the a/c turned down as low as it can go. So I can see sick leave taken on a regular basis.

      1. Vanishing Girl*

        Same here! I actually can’t imagine only taking 6 sick days a year. It seems perfectly reasonable.

      2. Sans*

        Oh god, I used to get those. Best thing about menapause is I don’t have to deal with that anymore. You have my sympathies!

      3. myswtghst*

        Count me in as a hormonal migraine sufferer. I’d really rather be at work than having a migraine, trust me. The visual components of my migraines make driving highly unsafe and using a computer pretty much impossible, and medicating myself to a moderately functional state means, at best, that I can work from home very close to a bathroom.

    5. AnonymousMarketer*

      I was thinking the same thing. Anywhere I have ever worked that gave me a separate sick bank from vacation/PTO, I had at least 5 days. She may be using one extra day a year but either way, 6 days a year is not excessive in my mind.

    6. Koko*

      I’m also shocked that ~6 sick days a year is enough to have “blown through” all her accrued leave. I’m guessing they get 5 days a year? One bad case of the flu is enough to blow through that.

      1. JoAnna*

        I had the flu in March, and I was off work for 4 days (it would have been 5, but Good Friday was a paid holiday). That’s half of my allotment for the year.

    7. SystemsLady*

      It’s also likely if they have a chronic disease that they have to go in for a lot of appointments, though usually that won’t be last minute.

      (Chronic diseases can also eat up sick days by themselves, of course)

  3. Mando Diao*

    OP1: I’m usually the person who’d be frustrated by Jane, but something in your phrasing is sticking out to me. Make sure you’re not singling her out more than the other employees who aren’t in that role. While there are different standards for people working in admin/reception vs other positions, one sick day every 60 days wouldn’t even ping on my radar. I’m not even sure I’ve worked somewhere long enough to have sussed that out as a pattern in a coworker. It really sounds like it’s mostly about the budget: if you’ve allotted Jane these six sick days (and hopefully more) per year, it’s not up to her to solve the problem of how you’re going to pay for her desk coverage. Either provide the sick days or don’t.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      +1 – 6 days a year is minor, and managers need to be really careful that they’re not holding someone on front desk duty to a different standard than others, who are usually better paid and compensated.

      1. BRR*

        You can absolutely hold someone at the front desk to different standards in the same way you hold other employees to different standards based on their job’s responsibilities. But in this case employees should be able to use their benefits. I can see how it’s frustrating but there seems to be an expectation in America that employees rarely get sick given the low amount of sick time provided plus they have doctors appointments or sometimes have to take care of others. Can you think of other alternativesto? Are there other people who can take shifts covering the front desk?

        1. AF*

          I was thinking that exact thing with having an existing employee cover for her. What if Jane left her job – what would you do in the time it takes to replace her? Training someone to fill in sounds like a much better option. And that lack of contingency planning in this area (apparently on the company’s part, not the OP’s part) isn’t Jane’s fault.

    2. Chocolate lover*

      While I don’t think one day every other month is even remotely a big deal (especially while dealing with a co-worker who is out unexpectedly once or more a week, leaving us to pick up the slack), it’s not unusual to have different job expectations based on specific positions, especially one that is first point with the public. Consistently Reliable attendance seems a reasonable expectation to me (again, I’m speaking generally, sounds like Jane is a great employee who is occasionally sick, nothing major.)

    3. OP1*

      First of all, I should mention this is not an admin role. The people on our desk have masters degrees and are compensated appropriately. I agree that the problem is the budget. My director is not helpful in guiding me with this. We “officially” have a very small amount to work with, but she’s told me a few times “don’t worry about how many sub hours you’re using”. And won’t give me an actual number. I suppose I’ll just work with that until she tells me I’m using too much money.

      1. Kittymommy*

        Oh jeez, that’s got to be irritating! I can understand the frustration with that in the mix.

      2. ThatGirl*

        I totally understand the frustration, but you’ll just have to take her word for it — and probably the only way to get the budget increased is to show the need for it. Jane gets to take vacation too, right? Presumably you need a sub for those days as well. There should be sufficient budget to cover all vacation and sick days, and if your director sees that it’s all needed, perhaps the budget will increase.

      3. Red Rose*

        If you have to hire a sub anytime just one person on your staff is out, you are understaffed. What do you do if the flu goes through your department? I know the problem is the budget and it isn’t your fault, but neither is it Jane’s. Seriously, I’m very healthy and don’t even remember when I last called in sick, but I would rather people use their sick time benefit than spread germs all over the place.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Amen on all counts.

          I get very good sick time (I work for a healthcare system) but rarely need it. I donated a ton of extra hours to the employee sick leave pool, even. But I don’t want my coworkers here if they’re sick. Nobody wins in that situation: They’re miserable, not enough gets done, and everyone else gets exposed.

          LW needs to take this to his/her superiors. I work in a small department, too (four full-time, one contract) but we can have two people out and still function provided we don’t have an unusually high patron demand. One person out if we’re busy.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        Then give her a number and let her reject or accept it. I’d make that number the number of days of sick leave X hours in the day that those expected to cover the desk are provided (and explain where you arrived at the figure). If she won’t answer an open-ended questions, change the question you’re asking. (My boss is amazing at this, and I love watching her craft a question around the response she needs/wants. She’s a question ninja, and I hope to learn a lot from her.)

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          (My boss is amazing at this, and I love watching her craft a question around the response she needs/wants. She’s a question ninja, and I hope to learn a lot from her.)

          Oh, man, I wish we’d had a “question ninja” on staff at my previous job. There was one employee who everyone needed information from, and you should have seen us trying to craft our questions in just the right way to get a reasonable response from her. She was one of those people who can’t answer a simple question without backing up all the way to the beginning and retracing all the history and backstory, and any attempt to ask questions to get her to jump ahead to the pertinent part would just result in her starting back at the beginning again. So frustrating. Talking to her always reminded me of when Penny was trying to learn physics from Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, and every time she would ask a question to clarify some specific point, he would start waaay back at the beginning of the lesson with, “It was a warm evening in ancient Greece . . . “

          1. Sparkly Librarian*

            Ha! I haven’t seen that episode of TBBT, but it reminds me of the (3 or 4) times my dad tried to teach me how to drive. He insisted on starting with “This is how an engine works,” which makes some sense but was not the right approach with teenage me.

      5. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

        So you manage a reference desk at a public library, and that’s how Jane comes into contact with the public and their germs? Look, you have to have a fantastic immune system AND be scrupulous about hygiene and germs in that environment. It’s not surprising Jane would burn through her sick days. Unless you want her showing up and being unprofessional and snotting over the patrons, let her take her sick day. If you’re manager won’t tell you the budget for on-call/sub help, that’s your real problem, not Jane.

        1. OhNo*

          I didn’t see the OP mention a library (although maybe I missed it?) but speaking as someone who does, this is so very true. People who work directly with the public just get sick more often. When it comes down to it, the organization should be planning for frontend staff to average more sick days than other staff, and budget appropriately to cover all of them.

          OP, if you have any input on the budget, it might be worth bringing this up next time it’s being discussed. Clearly something in the system is wonky.

          1. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

            I don’t know of anywhere else you have staff with Master’s degrees answering questions for a wide variety of public folk and hanging out at a desk in public, working for a director, and having a borked budget system. If you do, please let me know because I might want to take my MLIS into another field.

      6. CMT*

        That is super frustrating, but I think the problem here is not with Jane, it’s with your manager. So your focus should not be on Jane, or the number of sick days she’s using, but on how to work through this with your manager.

      7. Stella Maris*

        Agree with others here, and also wondering what happens when Jane takes vacation, goes to a conference, etc.? Surely someone (or multiple someones) must cover for her then … can you not have one or more of those people cover her desk shifts on days when she’s sick? (This sounds like a library to me …. no need to confirm or deny, OP, but I’d hope your staff are more or less cross-trained for this kind of situation!)

      8. Anna*

        This is starting to sound more like you need to manage up and not down. Your director isn’t being clear with you and that is putting unnecessary stress on you, but it sounds like you need to trust that your director will give you signs that you’re reaching a max. Don’t give side-eye to your employee because your director won’t let you know what your actual budget is.

    4. Camellia*

      Unfortunately my experience is that many companies are intolerant of using UNSCHEDULED sick time. I have a generous amount of sick time, currently 15 days a year. However, if I have more than three unscheduled absences a year I can be eligible for discipline up to and including termination.

      So, since I manage a chronic condition, I have to keep a close eye on how I am doing and if I even THINK I may be getting to a point where I would need time off to get it under control I go ahead and schedule a day or two. And sometimes it turns out that I didn’t really need the time. The result of this is that I take more time off than I really need but don’t get dinged for it.

      And for me that doesn’t even make sense. My job is one where my team can spare anyone one day a month but a longer absence does have an impact. So I could take one unscheduled day a month for an entire year, for a total of twelve absences, and have no impact to my team. But I have to take off more time than that just to keep from incurring an ‘incident’ as does the rest of my team Oh well.

      1. Koko*

        That’s so ridiculous! Sure, you can preschedule medical appointments, but the nature of illness is that some mornings you just wake up puking!

      2. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

        Yeah, that seems a little crazy to me. The nature of sickness is that it’s not planned. Outside of having a chronic illness where you may have triggers or signs in advance, how else would you know in advance when you’re going to be ill?

        1. SystemsLady*

          And then you get one of my co-workers who acts like there’s something I can do to prevent/foresee having problems with my condition in the morning such that it doesn’t cause me to be late sometimes.

          Sorry, I’m injecting a hormone that gets affected by other hormones. Doesn’t always work predictably no matter how well I have the condition under control :P.

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      You just made me think of something. Op said she has to pay someone to come in and cover the front desk (on top of pay the employees sick time) can someone else, or even a couple someones that are already working that day cover up there for a few hours during the busiest time?? Like, still do their duties somewhat, but also cover the phones during peak time? I don’t know the nature of the business, but I’ve seen this done in offices I’ve worked at. But I totally agree with everyone else one day every other month is nothin.

  4. Anonomnom*

    To OP #3, I’m not sure if a small pub would be on Glassdoor but that may be another option to leave a review.

    1. Lizabeth*

      Or Yelp…with a reject letter like that the service and food at the place is bound to be iffy.

      1. rando*

        I would scan the letter and put it on yelp, the way people upload pictures of menus. I would also send to local news.

      2. Laura*

        I mentioned this above, but Yelp reviews need to be actual consumer experiences, so a review wouldn’t be appropriate in this case.

    2. Kathlynn*

      Check to see if they have a facebook page, if you don’t mind it being visible to everyone. You could also tell your friends. I’d avoid the pub, if I heard about something like this. And tell all my friends/etc.

  5. Glasskey*

    OP#4, I’m so glad you asked that question because I feel you’re pain about being thrown into the fire-that has been my job for the past 4 years. No wonder they call it burnout. I think when I ask questions about training, I may have to probe the interviewer a bit to see whether I am getting an informed response vs. a little bit of PR. At my current organization, for instance, I know there over a dozen remote managerial training courses available. And they sound really useful. Guess what, though: most haven’t been offered in ages and have no current timeline for being offered again. So you might ask your interviewer not only whether training is available, but whether he/she went through it.

    1. I am #4, today*

      I knew I wasn’t alone out there. :) I feel burnt out all the time, and so much of that stems from improper training, it’s really exhausting. I love your idea about asking the interviewer about their experience with the training, and getting an informed response vs PR. This reminded me – I was at a large company for nearly a decade and I think in that time maybe 2 of my colleagues were approved for the education reimbursement to get their MBAs… but that was something that had been highlighted as one of the biggest benefits in the offer and the interviews. They made it sound like everyone who walked in the door was getting advanced degrees on the company dime, but in reality, almost no one was given the opportunity. Definitely PR…

      1. Glasskey*

        I slept on this one last night and woke up thinking that, at least for me, there are really 3 issues at stake. One is the immediate training/onboarding–the meet & greets, the organization charts, etc. that you need right off the bat. The second is, over the long term, whom do I turn to for support and what are the tools I need to stay connected to that person and show the value of my work– aka, the “mentoring” role you mentioned. Then there’s the third issue–professional development and succession planning over the long term, investing in the person vs. worrying about plugging a vacancy with a warm body. In my situation, the burnout started with the inadequacy of #1 because it took a lot of extra energy to figure all of that out or, in some cases, create it. But it was do-able eventually. It was really the lack of #2 that wore me down–constantly feeling like I was on my own and having to figure it out due to the inaccessibility and disorganization of leadership and so running into the same walls over and over that I didn’t have the authority to tear down. My organization touts #3 as a major perk, but when you read the fine print it’s only a couple of thousand bucks, not nearly enough to pay for a master’s degree or anything substantive, and you also have to remember that the opportunities for promotion still have to be there. Inadequacy there didn’t really cause burnout in my case, but it DID contribute to a sense of hopelessness and, eventually, to the realization that I needed to go elsewhere.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I might suggest you not use the word “training,” not with 12 years of experience.

      Use phrases like “How to you help people pick up company-specific information as they transition into the role?”
      “What things did you do to help the last person get up to speed?”
      “Is there a pattern of coaching people as they learn the company’s quirks?”

      And, OP #4, you have some very specific ideas about how this could happen (very informative!), so maybe ask specifically about one or two of them, and whether they’d be open to having this happen in your situation. Giving them the impression that’d you’d initiate it, and help steer them through what you need for others.

      1. Rowan*

        I’d suggest using the word “onboarding” specifically. It’s a terrible word (far too close to “waterboarding”!), but it’s what seems to have been adopted as the standard. Many companies now have formal onboarding procedures that every new employee goes through, regardless of their level of experience, to do just what the OP asked about — get people up to speed on this company’s particular procedures and culture.

      2. I am #4, today*

        These language suggestions are really helpful. I really was so stuck on that word, training, and it didn’t even occur to me that it might be the word itself that was causing the problems I was envisioning. The company I referenced in my original question that had the great training and mentoring program had a set schedule for new hires’ first 2 weeks (all project management skills assumed, all company/role/industry specific sessions). First 2 days were orientation with HR and management, then about 2 weeks where you’d have a half day of short, very specific sessions with other team members (like, policy review and compliance with information sharing and data retention, for example, or an overview of the primary 3rd party vendors and what they each do, or an in-depth review of the invoicing/budgeting system for paying out contractors, freelancers, and tracking overall project costs, etc.), then a half day of ramping up with new work and meeting with stakeholders you’d be working with on projects. The job itself wasn’t great but I dream of joining another company where they invested so much in their new hires to set them up for success! It was also great to get to know your team members and their specialties. I doubt I’ll ever find something like that again, but it would be nice to have *some* organization around onboarding/ramp up in my next role. Thank you again for your suggestions – I’m taking them to heart!

        1. I am #4, today*

          Interestingly, at my current company, onboarding has specific definition that doesn’t relate to the role at all; it means the 2 hours you spend with HR on your first day getting all the paperwork signed, getting your badge for building access, having your email address set up, getting your laptop from IT, etc. Onboarding is over by 10am on day 1…

          1. MaggiePi*

            I would definitely refer to this as orientation, not onboarding, which just goes to show how we all speak the same language, until we don’t.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Even if you don’t join a company that invest so much in their new hires (I think that’s probably unusual), you might enquire if they’re amenable to your creating such a program for yourself, and then you might also try to create one.

          At my job, I ended up with almost no training on stuff like how to fill out paperwork when I’m hiring someone, etc., and I’ve codified those things. Which reminds me–time to update!

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Right — the documents didn’t exist when I started, but they do now, for people starting after me. Any time I learned something that was useful as a new employee, I made sure there was a way to give that knowledge to the next new employee, so that I am the last that has to learn that particular information the hard way.

        3. Murphy*

          Yeah, training may not be the right word in your circumstance, but from a hiring managers perspective I really like when applicants ask about onboarding procedures (as well as culture things and my management style). It shows an interest in succeeding at this job and not just any job (which is a sure ticket to the “no” pile for me).

        4. Navy Vet*

          It might depend on the field you are in, but IMO it can take an employee about 6 months to get up to speed in a new position. I say this, because you do have company specific training and qualifications you may be required to do when you start. As well as learning the ropes, who people are, rules, regulations etc. Each job is different, but no matter how much experience you have in your field there is a learning curve when starting any new role.

          My last job gave me almost no training, and it made things much more challenging then they needed to be. For my own success, I want to make sure the company I am interviewing at is willing to invest the time in making sure I am up to speed for the role. When I refer to “training” in the interview, I’m not referring to starting from scratch, new skill set. I’m talking about what the company does to make sure you step into the role as seamlessly as possible. Its about making sure I know what is expected of me and how to accomplish it in the new environment.

          1. anonderella*

            I wish I had your last sentence tattooed on my forehead. I don’t know what impression or change I think it’d give out, or to whom, but I just get so tired of yelling it in my head. My mental voice is raspy.

          2. I am #4, today*

            “When I refer to “training” in the interview, I’m not referring to starting from scratch, new skill set. I’m talking about what the company does to make sure you step into the role as seamlessly as possible. Its about making sure I know what is expected of me and how to accomplish it in the new environment.” This was extraordinarily helpful for me to put my own situation in context, thank you.

    3. LabTech*

      I’m also really vigilant about training, since the training directly has affected how well I’ve done in roles in the past. Usually I ask about what the manager’s approach is to train for this role, and try to gauge what the expectations are early on in the position – is it hit the ground running, or steadily get up to speed?

    4. Koko*

      So you might ask your interviewer not only whether training is available, but whether he/she went through it.

      BTW, this type of tactic is a good one to use in interviews in general. Don’t ask what the policy is. Ask the interviewer what they do or what is typical for others to do. When was the interviewer’s last vacation? Do people usually take their vacation in blocks of a week or two, or do they just take long weekends? What do people typically wear to the office? What time are people usually in the office by? How many nights a week does the interviewer typically stay late? How many nights a week does the interviewer typically work from home to finish up time-sensitive projects?

      There’s often a pretty sharp contrast between the official training policy/vacation policy/hours of business/dress code/workweek length and how the people who work there are actually expected/allowed to operate. And an interviewer may choose not to volunteer that contrast if you ask about policy, but ethical ones (most interviewers) won’t lie when directly asked about the reality.

  6. Ellie H.*

    Re. #1 – to me, too, “at least once every other month” doesn’t sound excessive and possibly not even detectable. I mean, realistically speaking, this is probably more than literally once every sixty days if the LW is noticing it – maybe something like 9 times in the last six months? I’m also curious about what “at the last minute” exactly means. Like, 8:55 am, or like just earlier the same morning. A lot of the time if you’re sick you don’t know for sure if you can come to work until you wake up that morning. I was lucky to have a really fantastic benefits plan at my last job but six sick days a year really doesn’t seem like a lot of leave to me if that’s the limit that she reached, esp. considering sometimes doctors’/dentist appointments, sick family member etc.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Yeah, or at some places there’s a policy that you have to get your boss live on the line in order to call in sick, so if you know you’re sick at 9pm the previous night, or 5:30 that morning, but the boss doesn’t come in till 8:55, then it’s going to look last-minute from the boss’s perspective every time. I’m only throwing guesses out there, but *if* this is the case, letting people use email or voice mail might help.

      Or even if employees can use email or voice mail but the boss doesn’t check it till 8:55, you could get the same effect. There’s a timestamp in that case, but the boss still doesn’t know till the last minute.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Yes, as to not knowing until the morning of whether you can come to work or not. Usually, even if I’m sick the evening before, I’ll try to see if sleeping it off helps before I make the decision to call in sick. I’m in a role that generally uses two – three person coverage, so we cover each other when one of us is out.

      I’ve seen reception jobs that have coverage for lunches and sick days provided by other admins whose job description indicates responsibility for that coverage. I wonder if it might make sense with the organizational structure at OP’s company to set up coverage duties with someone who doesn’t have to be paid on an ad hoc basis for each instance of coverage?

    3. Bobcat*

      One job I had required that you call in two hours before your shift started. But sometimes I’d work beginning at 7 am, and Management wasn’t in until 6:30. If you had an opening shift, you basically had to show up and then get sent home.

  7. Slippy*

    #1 – You could politely ask your employee what she keeps getting sick with. If it is a hygiene issue then improving the cleanliness of the workplace may help cut down on the sick leave. Having sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer does markedly cut down illness especially when employees are in public areas or using public transportation.

    #5 – Also small businesses are vulnerable to the dysfunction imposed upon them by their clients since they don’t usually have the luxury of being able to fire dysfunctional clients.

    1. roisindubh211*

      This is a good point, but I would ask in terms of how you can help, not what her illness is, because that can come across as “So what’s wrong with you?”. Better to say, is there something we can do to help, like having sanitizer etc around the desk for you and visitors to use?

      Because if it’s either a chronic condition or as suggested something menstrual, she may not want to divulge any details but this way she can say, “no it’s nothing like that” without being pressured to provide personal medical information.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, there are a lot of medical that require tome away from work that are none of the employer’s business and not contagious.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I think it would be really weird to ask how you could help an employee avoid getting sick. Maaaaybe if it were really frequent (like once a week) bit otherwise, 6 sick days a year is just a consequence of being a human being with a functioning immune system.

        1. Your Weird Uncle*

          At my last role, the company had a policy where if you called in sick more than, say, three days in a two-month period (I forget exactly what their parameters were) your name would get added to a list to be monitored by HR. Their reasoning was that they weren’t trying to police sick leave but that they wanted the opportunity to ensure there was nothing in the work environment that was causing their employees to call in.

          I genuinely think their hearts were in the right place, but as someone who would be out every so often with a nasty cold that took 3-4 days to get over, it didn’t feel great to think you were being put on a list somewhere, and it did make me have to think about how many sick days I’d taken within whatever timeframe they decided on. I am also fairly certain I made it on that list once or twice, and not once did someone from HR ask me what they could do to help me avoid getting sick.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      “You could politely ask your employee what she keeps getting sick with. ”

      No, please don’t do that. It really irks me when employees want to get into those kinds of details. You’re certainly welcome to encourage use of hand sanitizers, but she’s taking a reasonable amount of sick leave and I think it would be way out of line to ask for an accounting of all those illnesses. Some of us have weaker immune systems, or back issues, or migraines, or cramps that make you wish you were dead, etc. Really not something I see as the employer’s business.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Yes, please don’t ask. You can still put out hand sanitizing products without ever having to ask anybody anything.

        1. Navy Vet*

          In fact, I recommend putting out some strategically placed hand sanitizer during cold and flu season at least. And making Lysol available to spray door handles etc. (Phones too) I have zero problem spraying down all the surfaces when I or another is ill in the office.

          I only get 3 paid sick days a year with my current job. It’s not ideal, but at least I have some. Unfortunately I had the flu in Feb. ended up using 2 for that.

          I also have a couple of friends going through chemo and a family member with ALS. I do not F*&%! around when it comes to germs. I will spray the holy hell out of anyone who comes near me with a cold. Because, even if my immune system fights off the cold, I could carry it and give it to someone with a weakened immune system. People I love can literally die if I bring your germs to them. If I know I’ve been exposed to someone’s cold, I can not with a clear conscience see my loved ones with weakened immune systems for a bit of time.

          I guess what I’m saying is this…I know your budget does not really allow for the temps…but it’s a good thing your employee is not bringing her germs to the office. Especially if the employee is in a position like a front desk…they can spread that cold to everyone who walks by them on their way in

          1. Elizabeth West*

            That’s what LadyBoss did at Exjob. We had one giant bottle in the office and one in the break room. She also asked me to make a poster for the break room about germs, LOL. I had fun with those–I put a funny picture of a virus with arms and legs and gave it a speech bubble that said, “Rawr!” :)

      2. Bowserkitty*

        I agree. I would feel very put on the spot having to answer “sometimes it’s (insert ailment here), and sometimes it’s raging feudal dictators going to war within my uterus.”

    3. Overeducated*

      What if it’s something like “well, in April I got a bad 24 hour stomach bug, in May my kid got sick and had to stay home, and in June the nanny had to take a sick day” though? When you have to care for yourself and others, sick days go fast….my husband and I have had to take turns staying home with the kid three times in the last month alone.

    4. Megs*

      I’m absolutely on the train of don’t politely ask your employee what she keeps getting sick with. Just buy the hand sanitizer if you think it might help, but there are plenty of things your employee might not feel comfortable talking to you about that could be causing the periodic absences (period issues, mental health, IBS, etc).

    5. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      I would be uncomfortable if my boss asked me what I “kept” getting sick with. It sounds condescending and as if it’s my own fault that I’m getting sick, even if it’s not how you’re intending it.

    6. SystemsLady*

      #5: That is exactly what we are dealing with right now.

      One (technically speaking) smaller client with more money than sense has, singlehandedly, burnt out a good chunk of one department. But we need their business at the moment.

      Until recently, one manager didn’t understand why we hadn’t left for that client, who could pay us a lot more.

  8. MillersSpring*

    #4: Ask about the “onboarding process” and how they expect to get the person in the role up to speed quickly. “Onboarding” is a bit of a buzzword, but I’m concerned that if you ask about “training,” they might incorrectly infer that you’re deficient in some necessary skill for the role. Best wishes.

    1. Artemesia*

      I like this. The frame is ‘how would I get up to speed quickly on the specific procedures used here at OctopusCorp — what does your onboarding process look like?’ – In other words, I would be eager to be effective as quickly as possible versus I am terribly deficient and need ‘training.’ Subtle difference but it takes you to the same kind of information you need.

    2. binkle*

      Agree with this! I was thinking of “orientation” also, instead of “training.”

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        I wouldn’t use “orientation” either because that’s usually its own thing at a lot of companies where you meet with HR for a couple of hours, go over workplace/company policies, how to make use of your benefits, etc. It’s not really role-specific or ongoing.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          I think the more specific the OP’s questions can be, the better answers she’ll get.

          Someone with 12 years of experience asking generally about “training” is a little weird, and I see your point about the word “orientation”.

          The OP doesn’t need to be trained on how to project manage. If her previous experience is in tea saucers, and she’s come to work for Wakeen’s Organic Tea Leaves (we might expand!), she’s going to need to learn about tea leaves. So specific questions about Tea Leaf orientation/background/assistance in learning about tea leaves, that strengthen the candidacy in my book.

          Plus, she’d get to find out if anyone had even thought of that.

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            Yeah, but I think “onboarding” works better for what you and OP are talking about because it’s specifically talking about bringing a new hire on board for this new role.

          2. I am #4, today*

            This is a super helpful comment for me, I appreciate it and really like the analogy. This kind of reminds me of my interview for my second to last job, which was a major industry leap. I spoke a lot about my experience in my industry and how I thought it related to this role in a completely different field I was trying to get into, and asked detailed questions about how they thought a person with my background might transition and what that would look like. I will remember this for my next interview!

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yes, I would ask about “onboarding” specifically as it relates to your role in the company. At my workplace, “orientation” refers to a specific, scheduled day of meeting with HR, learning about benefits, taking a campus tour, hearing about the history of the university, getting an employee ID card, etc. It has nothing to do with learning the ropes of your actual job.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I like this.

      “Training” is a term usually used closer to entry level (in my business sphere, academia and California may differ). If I were hiring someone with 12 years of experience, I’d pause at that word.

      Example, we hired a seasoned manager to run our production art department. She was from outside the Teapot industry. In interviewing we discussed how she would “learn the industry”, but not training per se.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I will say this: In my industry, and in almost any job I can think of, some of the stuff OP #4 is worried about it stuff I do think it’s her job to learn on her own.

        I consider that sort of self-training to be part of what I’m paying you to do in the beginning. I didn’t just hire you to project manage; I hired you to get yourself ready to project manage, and I expect that it will take you a little energy to do so. And so I don’t think you’ll hit the ground running with your core duties.

        So I expect you to say, “I want training on the project-management software; can I take a class, or sign up for I’ll need to spend an hour a day.” And I’d want you to say, “Is there someone I can shadow?” or “Who can walk me through expense reports, the filing system, the FedEx procedures, how to order supplies?”

        Learning as you go is often a more effective way of learning the sort of company-specific stuff.

        So, interestingly, is documenting this stuff for the next hire in your department.

        1. Kelly L.*

          So there is training, you just want people to know to ask for it on their own? That’s…kind of oddly game-playing to me, or at least it seems that way.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Has to do with which level you are bringing in an employee. When you bring people in at a certain level, you’re paying for self direction.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Well, but Toots said that’s true of any job in her industry. I can see that for very high-level stuff, but not everybody is going to know what they need training on, or that it’s offered but has to be asked for, or that they have enough importance to demand to spend an hour a day on training that hasn’t been offered. It makes a lot of sense at some levels, but not for everybody.

              1. TootsNYC*

                Well, they’re expected to say, “Do you have a list of people on this project?” or “can someone show me how to FedEx something?”

                1. Kelly L.*

                  And just 24 hours ago, we were having a thread where a lot of people said “Don’t ask your co-workers questions when you don’t know how to do something. Look it up on your own.” Which goes to show you none of this is universal.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  I think it depends on what the “something” is that you don’t know how to do.

                  Format for columns in Word? Google
                  Arrange a FedEx pickup? Administrative-level colleague
                  Navigate a conversation with another department? Higher-level colleague
                  Filling out a grant form? Organization’s website
                  Check whether something meets building code? Industry reference materials

                  You’re right, it’s not universal.

              2. TootsNYC*

                also: “almost any job, “some of the stuff”….

                I qualified the hell out of that.

            2. LBK*

              Agreed – and it might even be a little demeaning to put someone at that level through a formal training program. It’s not about playing games, it’s about letting them decide on their own which things they need to learn more about.

              I understand that a lot of people don’t like learn-as-you-go training, but I think most of the time it’s more effective than trying to over-prepare someone with info that they won’t be actively using in that moment. Lots of things the OP listed (best practices, tips, introductions to other teams and how they integrate with what her team does) aren’t really useful to learn until they can be taught in context. If I give you a list of teams and people on your first day, that probably won’t mean anything to you for months until you actually need to work with them, at which point you can more organically engage them. Plus, is it really any less effective to just ask someone “Hey, I need info about the teapot flavor database, who handles that?” once you actually need to know?

              I think it often sounds better to be armed with more formal training early on, but realistically those kinds of info dumps are hard to retain and in my experience require re-training anyway once the info actually becomes relevant.

        2. rock'n'roll circus*

          This is interesting for me to think about.

          Can I assume that you work in an industry where there isn’t some sort of physical, complex product that you need to understand as a project manager? Maybe I am just thrown off, but if say, the OP was a PM who used to work in teapot manufacturing, selling to a larger company who sold dish sets — and then moved to a silver wear manufacturer, they would bring all that information of how to work with the Dish Set Company etc…. however, they would absolutely need to learn about all the components of the new parts, and how the manufacturing works etc, so they can talk about tooling changes / part changes etc.

          As Sales/PM myself, I know I would feel uncomfortable about having to consistently harass my Teapot Design engineers for information, and with the bad corporate / plant balance I have seen at many jobs I would be hard pressed to want to ask to go visit for manufacturing process learning until I got a feeling of what the relationship is, as it could ruin my relationship with the program control guys or plant manager making it much harder to deal with as a PM.

          1. LBK*

            But what you explained still doesn’t really require a formal training program. It just requires the OP setting up time with whoever the right people are to learn that info.

            Is the discomfort just at coming in as the new person and making requests like that, and you’d prefer an existing member of management to do it? I guess from my perspective once you’re at a certain level, you shouldn’t be expecting your manager to be making introductions and getting you in touch with resources (beyond telling you who you should contact).

        3. I am #4, today*

          Excellent point and very well taken. I am generally very proactive and I am definitely a self-teacher. I think I was trying to be too general in my original message to Alison and remove industry specific details, which made my examples too basic! Most of that stuff I called out, that’s easy. Show me where the intranet site is or share drive folder where I can look that stuff up myself and I’m good to go…

          In my current role, it’s ALL about specifics. My experience in project management in other industries and other companies did practically nothing to prepare me for my current role. There are a thousand quirks to doing this job that I’d never have encountered in any past project management job, and they’re not related to easy things like learning a FedEx shipping process or anything I could teach myself with (just to use 2 of those examples). I took your comment very seriously and actually caught myself thinking, “crap, am I expecting too much from my company and not doing enough myself? Did I not bring enough energy to this job, am I not asking enough questions, am I not at the level I should be with my length of experience?” But in general, I don’t think that’s the case for me. When I started, I did ask who I could shadow and what I could do to learn, what my resources were, and the answer was always, “you’ll figure it out. If you have questions, just ask the people on the team.” But you don’t always know what you don’t know, right? It’s tough to ask the right questions when you don’t know you need to know something…

          Example:We use an internally-developed software that is a complete nightmare to work in, and will eventually be rebuilt but probably not for a year or two (they’re not too invested in fixing bugs). Took me a month to find out on my own that if I add text or make changes to a certain data field then hit save/submit without scrolling all the way down to this tiny little check box that unintuitively says ‘create new’ (not located near anything that would indicate it was a required action for this particular step), and do it in that order, that my info would be saved on my end but wouldn’t carry through to another field on someone else’s end where it was required for the next action to be triggered by another team member. When I finally figured it out because someone on another team called me out on it (with a “you know you’ve been here for a while and you NEVER do this right, i always have to add that in manually for you…”), and I asked around, everyone was basically like “oh yeah, that. Annoying huh?” Apparently someone sent out a mass email about it being a known bug and it would need to be addressed in the new tool next year… BEFORE I started working in that department. If we were talking about JIRA or Salesforce here, there would be resources out there in the world for me to teach myself how to use the software and familiarize myself with the weaknesses, limitations, or bugs. But with a homegrown program like this, especially a buggy one, I do think you need to depend on your manager or colleagues to tell you what you need to know to get started. This is kind of an extreme example but man… so frustrating to hear that this unintuitive annoying little thing that I NEVER would’ve figured out on my own was making a partner feel like I didn’t know how to do my job or couldn’t follow process.

          It’s hard to know what you don’t know, to proactively ask. From this particular experience I now know to ask, “are there any known bugs in this software we use, that could potentially derail me or my stakeholders, and also can we start a central repository for documenting these issues rather than just sending an email which some people may not get?” but that’s only one issue out of countless others that I’ve encountered that are just weirdly specific and unique to this role on this team at this company… and no one thinks to share them. Like, for this type of project, you ALWAYS do this… but for this type, DON’T EVER EVEN THINK ABOUT DOING THAT! There’s no indication of why, or any documentation about it – it’s just something you should know about working with this stakeholder vs that stakeholder or on this type of deliverable vs that type. I didn’t come to this company with that highly specific knowledge… I came with over a decade of experience which gives me the right skillset to learn this job and excel at it.

          I am constantly seeking to educate myself and learn everything I can on my own, but in my particular role at my company, a week of sessions set up with my colleagues to go over certain things would’ve prevented months of really awful, humbling, embarrassing trial and error. But in that first week, I didn’t know who to set those sessions up with or what the topics would be. A “training plan” (which I know is a phrase I shouldn’t be using going forward!) would’ve helped me set up meetings with the appropriate people to learn everything I needed to learn. (Like, talk to Jim, he’s our billing expert. Ryan is your best bet for learning the ins and outs of our legal/compliance policies. Jessica is the expert who will show you the ropes in our internal software and Brianne can give you an overview of the vendors since she manages those accounts.) I’m unhappy in my current job, so I’m figuring out a lot about what I want in my next role, and what kind of company and team I want to work with next. I’ll bring the energy and the motivation to learn it all, but I will need to find out what the plan is for me to gain access to all of the information I need to know to do my specific new job successfully. I don’t like feeling like I’m set up to fail, which is how I feel now. I walked in the door, they gave me a full project workload, and they said “any questions? Go.” I’m just trying to avoid *that*. :)

          1. Kelly L.*

            Oh, man. Sympathy. I feel like I know your software well. Or its long-lost sibling.

            1. animaniactoo*

              Me as well. I have heard similar comments about software available at a company with the (initialed) url Parent company starts with a V.

              If that sounds familiar, just know that the clunkiness of it is legendary enough that it’s spread outside your company. 8•)

              1. I am #4, today*

                not my company either but funny how universal this can be! I worked for another company with similar internal software issues – to get a schedule to populate correctly you’d basically have to hit save 3 times, refresh twice, save again, then spin around and make a wish, then hit save one final time. sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. :)

                1. animaniactoo*

                  lol, that sounds like my procedure for logging in as an admin on our (external) font software.

                  Login with current password. The one I used yesterday. Get denied.
                  Login with password field blank. Get denied.
                  Login with current password. Get signed on.

                  This procedure works without fail, but you don’t want to know how long it took me to narrow it down.

          2. TootsNYC*

            You wrote: “But you don’t always know what you don’t know, right? It’s tough to ask the right questions when you don’t know you need to know something…”

            But it’s also hard, when you’re in the middle of doing things, to know what it is that the newbie doesn’t know. And it’s draining to sit down and write training protocols, etc.

            The best solution is for the team/employer/manager to understand that there will be a learning curve, and to be patient and helpful during the ramp-up time.

            I’ll also say that, if you get the job, you can ask before your start for some of that sort of stuff to be set up for your first week–just ask for them to schedule you for an hour with everyone on the team. And then interview them: “What are you the expert on here? What’s the toughest challenge? What do new folks seem to ask questions about the most?”

            You can try to set up some of that stuff after you’ve accepted but before you begin.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I made a similar point upstream. (Language matters!)

      Try “transition” and “a smoother ramp up” and “getting people up to speed faster.”

      And any other “not-training” words you can come up with.

    5. I am #4, today*

      Thank you for your comment, and for the best wishes. :) I mentioned in a reply above that at my current company, onboarding refers solely to the 2 hours you spend with HR on your first day getting your laptop, ID badge, signing paperwork, etc.

      I am taking these language notes to heart – onboarding, orientation, training – all of these words have such distinct meanings to people, but they seem to vary from person to person, job to job. I definitely think that getting a feel for it in an interview makes sense – sussing out what words your interviewer seems to be using, getting an idea of what these terms mean to a hiring manager and then using the appropriate ones! I am going to be very cautious of the word training going forward, and really try to plan out my interview questions so my language is clear and understood.

      1. Rater Z*

        I spent 32 years figuring freight charges based on how companies described their products on the bills of lading. I rarely saw the products unless I ran across them at trade shows, business expos, home shows, etc. Then, it would be a case of “Oh… that’s what that is…” I am a sponge for information but I also tell people that I know a little bit about a lot of things but not much about anything.

        One thing I figured out about 25-30 years ago and it has helped a lot: Every industry has its own language and every company within an industry has its own dialect. Nobody has told me yet that I am wrong about that.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it depends. I hire senior, experienced managers to do a job that’s different from what they’ve been doing, and there’s a hell of a lot of training that goes into it. It just really depends on context. (But point taken if that’s not the OP’s context.)

  9. Tim-Tim's Teapots, Inc.*

    #2 – I’d like to hear an update on this in a few weeks, if possible.

    #3 – Uh, wow. I’m tempted to ask who this is, just because it’s so awful, but I can understand your reluctance to identify them publicly.

  10. Daisy*

    3. If it’s a brewery-affiliated pub maybe they have a customer service you could contact? Even if it’s his pub he’s representing them to an extent.

  11. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – Six days a year sounds pretty normal. I believe it is close to the national average. I would also point out that people don’t get a notice on feeling sick. You might start to snuffle that night and by the next morning it is a full on cold.
    The real issue is that your budget can’t handle normal operations. I would look at other ways to save money because you’re operating might close to the edge.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      This is mostly what I came to say.

      I feel for you OP#1 but it’s the budget, not Jane. And trust me when I say, the next Jane could take 2x or 3x time, believe me please, so take care of this Jane.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I agree with this so much!

      I manage a budget for crunch staffing, and I built in money to cover vacation days and sick days. When someone had to be out for an operation, she was able to schedule it for a slow time, so I didn’t hire a sub, but when her recovery was slower than planned, I could get someone in without blinking.

      I have 10 weeks of vacation in my department to cover. I can insist they take the time during the slow period (They’ve almost never asked for it at any other time; they’re professionals), but now and then there’s a wedding during a crunch time. Or two of us want to go out at once (with 24 weeks that are possible for no-coverage vacations, it’s not always possible to avoid it).

      I would say that OP #1 should work with whoever sets her budget and make the case that there needs to be money to cover just the basics of what the company has promised its employees in terms of sick leave and vacation.

      And maybe there’s a new way to approach front-desk coverage!

    3. OP1*

      Since I wrote to Alison, I spoke to my director, who said not to worry about the extra hours. So that’s a relief.

  12. Kera*

    1) My company recently brought in a new piece of sick leave policy that frequent and persistent short term absences trigger a conversation between the employee and their manager. If I remember correctly, it’s currently set at 3 or more absences that total 8 days or more over a rolling 12 month period. Because our HR department are keen on their tickyboxes and standardized procedure formats, this meant my boss and I had to have a conversation about my breast cancer scare, the noro outbreak that took down our entire team, and the colds I pick up when travelling for work and was there anything the company could have done to help? Which seemed ridiculous to us since we’d talked about it all at the time, but the policy is also there to pick up people who have headaches every other Friday and food poisoning on Monday like clockwork. I don’t think 6-9 days a year is unusual or unreasonable, but it might be worth a conversation with your employee in case there is something that could be done.

    3) If the pub has a brewery tie, you could complain to them, but to be honest I doubt it’d be much help and in the end I’d suggest your friend look at it like a lucky near miss – if this is what he’s like in a rejection letter, imagine what he’s like to actually work for.

    4) I really hate the word ‘onboarding’, but that’s what you’re interested in here I think – what are the company’s procedures for orientation and getting you up and running on their systems and processes? I think asking about training is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but if you’re concerned about how it could be taken, then can you phrase your question like that? (or not – do you want to work for another company that thinks training and asking for help is weakness?)

    1. Audiophile*

      I’m sorry about your breast cancer scare. Norovirus took out the entire team?

      As someone who just had mild food poisoning over the weekend, I was so glad to be off on Monday to begin with. I had trouble functioning yesterday, because I was still pretty sore.

      1. Kera*

        Not the best fun in the world, but at least it was only a scare. As other letters show, it could be vastly worse!

        We’re a small team – my boss’ kids school had a wave of it, he brought it into the office and spread it to all of us. Which was appreciated and certainly hasn’t resulted in a cheerful wave of ribbing if he’s even the least sick.

        WRT food poisoning – I’ve had similar experiences, it’s more there looks to be a substantial pattern of certain employees throwing sickies on Fridays and Mondays – employees known to be hard partiers but not hard workers. From what I saw when I went for a night out with that team, at least some of their food poisoning issues could be solved with a stop at a slightly less awful kebab shop than their usual :D

        1. Mike C.*

          Oh my gosh, I hate it when I see that 40% of sick days are taken on a Monday or Friday!

        2. Artemesia*

          I hope your boss has learned to wash his #$@% hands after using the toilet now since norovirus generally gets spread exactly that way and not through the air unless he is barfing in the office you work in. It is a hand to mouth disease almost entirely.

      2. Allison*

        I have gotten food poisoning on a Sunday night, and recently I came down with the flu on a Sunday night, so I get really annoyed when people imply that being sick on a Monday is always code for “faking it” or being hungover. I know it’s awful timing and it seems very convenient, but it does happen.

        1. Monique*

          I think it was only mentioned in the context of it being an established pattern, not a Monday or Friday here and there, which everyone understands will happen occasionally.

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            +1. Big difference between having food poisoning on a Monday and having it every Monday.

            1. Judy*

              I’ve certainly worked with people who never kept a sick leave balance. My first two jobs had sick leave accrued at each paycheck. It was fairly noticeable (being at the same level) that this one person would be sick on the Monday following the Friday paycheck that had another 8 hours of sick leave. I’ve also seen several others, but none like that first guy.

              1. the_scientist*

                Based on the comments on other letters about sick time, it seems that there is a very clear divide in the world, where some people view accrued sick leave as a benefit akin to vacation time and will not “leave it on the table”; others view it as an “insurance policy” and accrue time in the event that they need it. Which approach is “right” probably depends on a lot of factors so I won’t make any judgments, but I do think that coworkers tend to notice when someone is constantly maxing out their sick leave, but it’s usually because they are already annoyed with the person due to other performance/work issues.

                Plus, in your situation, the guy may have had a standing therapy or specialist appointment, for example, and he scheduled specifically knowing that he had accrued sick leave- so it’s best not to make assumptions.

                1. Artemesia*

                  Exactly. This is especially true when it is very generous. IMHO it is designed as insurance for a serious illness or injury when there is very generous leave policy. People who view it as a mini vacation fund or a ‘I didn’t feel like getting out of bed today and hey I have ‘days’ in my fund’ push businesses to get stingy with the sick leave.

                2. Perse's Mom*

                  @Artemesia – I don’t view it that way. I view it as a ‘keep your germs at home so the entire office doesn’t get sick’ policy. Excessively limited sick leave forces people to show up to the office while contagious; the alternative is using up that limited leave and crossing your fingers that no serious illness or injury happens, because then you’re just SOL.

              2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                The worst sick leave abuser I’ve ever known personally was the receptionist at my previous job who would always go home “sick” if she didn’t get her way about something, and usually if she was in enough of a snit to go home early in the afternoon, she’d also call in “sick” the next day, as well. We could count so reliably on her taking a “pout day” that if we knew she’d been huffy about something the day before, we’d watch the clock the next morning and know that if it was 8:30 and she hadn’t arrived yet, we could expect a call from her that she was sick.

        2. Hlyssande*

          Yeah! This year I came down with an intense cold-like thing the weekend following the new year and had to take time off to recover. I pushed harder than I should have to get back into the office to avoid being seen as a slacker and as a result, it took longer to shake the crud entirely.

    2. A Non*

      #1 reminds me of a joke – were you aware that 40% of your employees’ sick days are taken on Mondays or Fridays?! #gasp

      (In my office, taking a Friday off work is much less disruptive than any other day of the week, since about half my coworkers are off or work from home on Fridays. Everyone’s accustomed to doing quiet individual work on Fridays. It’s really kind of nice.)

    3. blackcat*

      I actually think it’s great they had conversations with people post-norovirus, because there *is* actually something they can do–they can disinfect surfaces well.

      The university were I’m at had a MASSIVE (>500 people, concentrated among students/faculty who work in the same set of buildings) norovirus outbreak, about 1 month after they drastically cut back on janitorial services. As someone who was stricken, I just kept thinking “Please, please, please, can someone from the school of public health talk some sense into our administrators! Sure, clean classrooms less, but only disinfecting bathrooms once a week is a public health disaster.”

      I still blame the university for that outbreak.

      1. Kera*

        That outbreak came to my team via my boss’s kids school! Certainly useful to talk about it afterwards, but this HR mandated meeting was six months later – a bit late for the disinfectant!

        Universities are such a lovely disease incubator at the best of times! Let’s just call your administrators penny wise and hope someone in your school of public health got a good paper out of it all. I’m in and out of different universities for work, and if I’m unlucky I can pick up different strains of freshers flu every week. Adding another level of laxity for public health would be inadvisable at best.

      2. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

        My college had the CDC come investigate an outbreak of pink eye. The CDC!!!!

        1. valc2323*

          The CDC had an outbreak of norovirus among its employees a couple of years ago and the county health department had to investigate them – you can google the news articles in Atlanta. Wasn’t fun for the people that got sick, of course, but there were plenty of smirks in the back room.

          Same deal. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands!!

    4. Katie the Fed*

      what a ridiculous sick leave policy. If people are concerned about the “out every friday/Monday” people, then deal with them directly. There’s no need to make a policy like this for everyone when most people are using sick leave responsibly.

      1. Kera*

        I would cheerfully agree. The HR software we use has all your absences front and centre anyway, so it’s easy to see who has a questionable pattern. No slight on good HR teams, but ours does seem keen on producing systematic, companywide policies with forms to be filled, signed, countersigned and filed for instances where a quiet word would be rather more appropriate.
        I mention the policy here as the idea of it – if you’re noticing a pattern of absence with a staff member, have a conversation with them in case there’s anything that can be done to help – whether it’s a case of changing the lightbulb above her desk so it’s not the last straw of her migraines, draw attention to an underused resource in the employee benefits, or whatever support LW1 can offer as a supportive manager – try that. But fundamentally, that level of illness isn’t unreasonable in and of itself.

      2. Not Today Satan*

        Yeah. And I’m loath to “justify” why people might be sick on certain days, but it seems reasonable to me that people might get sick after a long work week (stress and fatigue hurting the immune system, headaches) or on Monday (food poisoning from eating out, etc.).

        Strict sick leave policies make me so mad–they treat employees like elementary schoolers. What’s next, an office nurse who has to sign off on your leaving early?

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I was out for three days last year because of a herniated disc. I’m a mid-level manager and have a very good record. Anyway, my boss demanded a doctor’s note. I’m STILL annoyed about it. I’m not a child.

          1. Elfie*

            I got a written warning because I was out for 5 weeks with vertigo (had a doctor’s note), came back to work too soon, and was off for another week with the same thing. I would have been better off just staying off the whole time, as this counted as 2 separate absences. I’m annoyed about it still, months later, but unfortunately for me, I got sick just after my probation period at a new job (like, the day after!), so I can see how suspicious it looks.

            1. Corporate Drone*


              I had an inner ear infection in 2010, and the only symptom I had was extreme vertigo. I was out of work for 3 weeks, and when I did go back to work, I thought that the fluorescent lights were going to kill me. I also had to go to vestibular rehab for three months to work on my balance.

              It is absolutely AWFUL, and I would wish it on no one! I don’t understand how your employer justified a written warning when you had a note from your doc. Did you go out on STD? I actually did not, but it was a weird time in my group, in that our VP left the company, so another VP was babysitting. She told me just to keep up with emails as best I could. I think she did not want to deal with the paperwork hassle.

          2. Corporate Drone*

            That is ridiculous. THREE DAYS?!?!?! He wanted a note for three days??? What a jackhole.

            1. Perse's Mom*

              Our policy is the same. They’ll take you at your word for two days in a row, apparently, but that third day is just too much!

          3. Murphy*

            Policy here is if you’re out for more than three days in a row you must have a Dr. note. After three days you move from “casual illness” to “general illness” which is effectively short-term disability. Believe me, when I’ve had a staff member sick with a bad flu I have absolutely fudged the system. There’s nothing a Dr. can do for them and I don’t need them taking their sick time to go sit in a crowded waiting room just for a note. I get the basic policy, but it’s asinine in it’s application.

            1. the_scientist*

              On behalf of reasonable adults, and also the overburdened healthcare system, BLESS YOU for being reasonable.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                My daughter’s absences from school due to illness aren’t “excused” unless she has a note from a doctor. I’m sure the overburdened health care system and my health insurance company appreciate that. :-/

            2. LabTech*

              Yup, this is why I’ve had to come to work with mono and strep (separately that is; not at the same time). I couldn’t get a doctor’s note in time for the former (by the time I got the diagnosis, I was already on the tail-end of it, thankfully), and for the latter they messed up the dates on the note, making it useless.

              And we have generous sick leave in terms of the number of days given – of course, not very useful when you’re unable to use it!

    5. Susan C*

      Can I ask what you dislike about ‘onboarding’? I’m just curious, because (being a corporate fledgling) I hadn’t even realized until this thread how new and buzzword-y the term is. (Personally, I consider it quite useful and pleasantly evocative, but ymmv, obviously)

      1. TootsNYC*

        It’s not that new a term, actually–it’s just so jargon-y.

        It’s not a natural verb–it’s not even “verbing”! “Onboard” is an adjective.
        And “onboarding” is not widely enough used to show up in the Merriam-Webster dictionaries (and M-W is pretty quick to follow word usage; they’re descriptivist). It’s in the MacMillan online dictionary, though.

        So it’s awkward, grammatically/linguistically.

        1. TootsNYC*

          came back to say:
          It is actually “verbing” (turning a different part of speech into a verb); it’s just that verbing is least awkward when it’s done with a noun.

          Though I realize, my most favorite-ist verbing example is from Calvin & Hobbes, and it verbs and adjective.
          “I love verbing words. It weirds the language.”

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I realized recently that the word ‘ask’ has been nouned. Add in some verbing, and you can make a sentence like “Let’s get together to dialog about your ask.”

                1. ThursdaysGeek*

                  And ‘to talk’ works just as well as verbing dialog. Let’s get together to talk about your request. We will be in dialog, and I’ll listen to what you ask. See? We have words that fit already, and your words don’t have to be left out either.

        2. Kelly L.*

          I don’t think onboard was even one word until it became onboarding. You get “on board” the ship, sure, but…

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          ‘Onboard’ is an adjective, and ‘boarding’ is a normal participle. It doesn’t seem that odd to me to run them together.

          That said, my company tends to use it a lot to describe the process of getting our clients set up with us. So for me, it’s normalized.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        PLEASE, no more gimmicky verb-ing!

        Just call it “orientation” or something. Orientation is for introducing somebody to an institution’s culture and practices and might or might not include actual professional training. There are perfectly good words that already exist for this process and don’t make the situation sound like an office-job parody.

        I just sat through a presentation by one of my office’s (not sure what you’d call them. They perform a professional service for us and offer some minor side perks) and it was so filled with cutesy jargon like this that the presentor just sounded silly. It didn’t sound professional at all.

        1. MaggiePi*

          I am not a fan of the term “onboarding” either, but I don’t think it’s quite as bad as “snergy” or some other buzzwords. I’ve mostly given into it because I think it’s a necessary term that other terms don’t cover.
          In my mental dictionary, “orientation” is the hours/day spent with HR goes over policies and filling out paperwork and maybe watching corporate training videos or other things that are necessary, but usually are not specific to your role.
          “Onboarding” I would consider the longer-term (a few weeks to months) transition and training period during which you, hopefully, learn the ins and outs of your role and are gradually introduced to new tasks and responsibility. It’s like learning to juggle with two things, then three, then four, etc. instead of being thrown six balls and a “how to juggle” manual and told to figure it out.

              1. anonderella*

                I was like 99% sure, but it sounds like it could be a word. I learn a lot of words here : ) Like I’m sure I’ve heard onboarding, but couldn’t tell you where. I enjoy seeing all the different perspectives on the meaning/intention behind a word, here!
                I do agree with you, too. Synergy sounds (to me) a little NewAgeHippie-ish – might be good for some business cultures, but not all.

              2. Ife*

                From now on I am going to mentally replace all corporate buzzwords with “snergy.”

        2. Artemesia*

          As others have noted ‘Orientation’ does not work for the OP’s needs at all. It is about things like signing up for insurance. ‘Training’ suggests low skill levels. So what word works here to get at the OP’s need which is specific focused training on the unique procedures, software, processes of the new rather high level job? Onboarding is jargoning but it does help make the point in this context more clearly than the other two words.

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            Training doesn’t suggest low skill level – it suggests having no previous work experience in a specific task or field. I “graduated” from an eighth month training program almost two years ago at my current company that prepared me to be placed in a high-skilled, exempt position after coming from a different field (law). My job requires licensing in 15 states and 30 hours of continuing education every two years.

      3. 42*

        Agree with everyone else, it’s jargony. Try to find a scalable alternative word to leverage.

      4. Anxa*

        I think it’s really jargon-y.

        I’ve worked in sort-white collar office-ish positions and blue collar work, but never the corporate business world and it’s been almost a decade since I worked directly with high level academic administrators.

        Thus, I’d never heard of this word. It sounds like something an MBA came up with. (No disrespect to anyone with an MBA, but they do tend to invoke a lot of eye rolls)

  13. Katie the Fed*

    OP #1 – it sounds like we’re talking about 6 days a year? That’s FAR from excessive!

    I think it would be far more useful for you to focus on mitigation strategies because this is a reasonable amount of sick leave to take. Can you adjust your budget to plan for hiring a temp for an average of 7-8 days a year for that position? Train another worker to handle that desk when she’s out? Surely there are steps you can take beyond just resenting your stellar employee!

  14. Nedra*

    Alison, can you explain the situation with sick leave and exempt employees? I think I have read you say that exempt employees cannot be docked pay if they blow through their accrued sick leave — is that correct? If so, then what is the point of having a system for accruing sick leave? Is the idea that you just keep borrowing against your future sick leave and when you leave you pay back any days you went over what you netted?

    1. Tomato Frog*

      I’m no expert and I may be off on this, but I think it just depends on the manager and workplace. They can enforce the policy if and how they want, like a dress code. So a manager might require that an employee borrow against future sick leave, discipline them if they don’t follow the rules, etc. Or they might just let it slide (like with my boss, who’s out sick about once a week). They just can’t discipline the person by docking pay — same as most workplace rules that aren’t a matter of law.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Things a company can do if you exceed your sick leave: have a talk with you about possibly losing your job if you don’t sort it out (and, if they’re large enough, if you don’t invoke FMLA, in which case you can’t lose the job at least until you’ve cleared its time limits), take the additional days you miss out of your vacation time, take you negative on sick leave, require you to take it unpaid (for exempt employees, I believe this can only be done if it has you out for an entire week, but in the case of some illnesses/injuries that would happen).

    3. Natalie*

      You can dock an exempt employees pay, but only for certain reasons and only if they were out for an entire day. From what I have read, you actually need a sick time plan in order to dock an exempt employees pa for any sick time – if you didn’t have one, you could only stop paying them if they were out for a full week. Some employers might also deduct from the sick balance for appointments and other issues that are under a full day, but IMO that’s kind of petty with an exempt employee.

  15. Rat Racer*

    #3: admittedly, it’s probably not worth speculating: but I can’t help but wonder how the Hiring Manager knows that the OP’s friend is a “crap worker” if they didn’t review her application? Just saying that not only is the vitriol wholly inappropriate, it’s also totally random.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I didn’t think it was random at all!

      It sounds like the Hiring Manager knows the friend, or has someone on his staff or among his friends who has worked with the friend before. If my friend got that letter, I’d say, “You need to look at your reputation among your former colleagues, and see if there’s anything you can do there.”

      1. Kelly L.*

        This sounds like a personal grudge (unless it’s just random bizarreness) and not a genuine work complaint–I think just applying anywhere else would go better.

        I wonder also if the manager might have the friend mixed up with someone else.

  16. Not an IT Guy*

    #3 – Not surprised one bit, once I had an interviewer escort me out then tell me I had no experience for the job (yet the ad said no experience was necessary). I have a feeling the guy just took one look at me and wanted me gone.

    #5 – Working for a large, publicly traded company can have its downsides with all the red tape and everything. But with that red tape comes more oversight that protects against dysfunction (ex: an actual HR department). Our small, dysfunctional company was purchased by a large corporation a few years ago and I have a strong feeling that had the purchase occurred a few months earlier my manager would not have been able to kick me out of the IT department.

    1. Kristine*

      I once had an interviewer berate me for not having enough experience to do the job. I was so confused because it was their choice to call me in for an interview. If I wasn’t experienced enough, why call me in? They could have done a simple phone interview if they had any questions, but they put me through 2 hours of an otherwise pleasant interview, then told me point blank I would “get eaten alive” and sent me on my way.

      1. Mononymous*

        I’ve had this happen as well–I was a newbie developer, my resume clearly reflected that, but they called me in to interview and then berated me because they were looking for 5+ years of experience. Like, did you not even read my resume?! Doing so would have saved us all a lot of time and effort!

        (This was a recruiting firm, not the actual hiring company, and because of that incident I refuse to work with that recruiting firm again unless I become desperate for a job, any job. Developers in my area tend to get a LOT of recruiter calls; there are more jobs than skilled dev job seekers around here. I now have enough experience to have gotten that job, but I’ve also been steadily employed and thus haven’t needed to give that firm the time of day.)

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Like, did you not even read my resume?! Doing so would have saved us all a lot of time and effort!

          I had a restaurant manager do this to me four years ago when I was looking for a part-time job to supplement my income. Dude had my résumé which clearly showed I had no serving experience, yet called me in for an interview anyway where he proceeded to make me wait nearly an hour passed our set interview time (and I’d taken time off work for this) before finally noticing I didn’t have the experience he was looking for and turning me down. I was not amused.

      2. Anxa*

        Same! Several times!

        I honestly think I had some really bad luck with interviews early on in my job search that just totally messed up my natural instinct and destroyed my confidence. And it’s not like I can say “well, dodged a bullet there” because I’m not just qualified enough to be picky yet.

        My favorite was when I got called in and told that my experience didn’t count because it was volunteer. I was extremely clear on my resume and cover letter and used the volunteer coordinator as one of my references (who they contacted BEFORE me). And yes, this was the org I volunteered at.

    2. Koko*

      Yes…I worked at a 4-person company for a few years before moving on a 500-person international corporation. I cannot overstate how much I love the corporate world now. I’m lucky that our company is structured to allow flexibility and innovation in our work so I don’t deal with a huge amount of red tape generally, but it’s such a blessing to have standardized HR/office policies that remain consistent day after day and year after year. I will never go back to a small shop again…

      1. Navy Vet*

        This, I was in a small rapidly growing company. When I started there were less then 20 employees and when I left they were closing in on 150.

        It was so super dysfunctional. The CEO was a professor ages, developed the technology and opened a business. (The technology is quite frankly amazing, which is the only reason I stayed as long as I did). The 4 engineering managers were students of the CEO back in his professor days and they had only had one job their entire lives. It created a strange atmosphere of entitlement, favoritism, nepotism and general dysfunction that is kind of mind boggling. As in the 4 engineers have basically forced any engineer they see as a threat to them out. And by threat, I mean anyone with really good innovative ideas.

        I now work for a company with over 110k employees. I love it. I love they have a HR department of more than one person. I love the fact that they follow rules and laws.

        I think you would be hard pressed to hear a story from a large business about the owner demanding all employees get screened to donate their livers to his brother, or showing up at an employees chemo appointment to harass them. These actions are usually done by small businesses who either do not know, or do not care to know what the law is.

      2. penny*

        #5 not directly related to your question, but you might also consider that sometimes at small companies, it may be harder to get time off for vacation & holidays because they’re are fewer people to cover. Can happen at big companies too based on departments, but probably less so. I worked at a 15 person company right out of college and hated it. Horrible management, stupid rules put in place by one person who was able to get away with it, no sense of work environment. It was hard coming into an amazing mid sized company after that because I kept expecting bad things done I was so used to it. It’s like bad workplace ptsd.

      3. Anon Accountant*

        Yes this. I can’t wait to leave my small company for a larger one. Give me bureaucracy any day over the small family run business politics. Dysfunction doesn’t begin to describe it.

        OP5 give very careful co side ration before leaving a large company where you have layers of management that can step in to handle issues as needed, HR n many other perks. Just do plenty of due diligence first.

    3. Charlotte*

      #5: I’ve worked for a few small employers (10 employees or fewer) where two were not the most functional work places; although I was provided health insurance and two weeks of vacation that I gladly took. The small company I’m at now is great–offering flexibility on vacations and appointments, profit-sharing/matching 401(k) plan, PPO health insurance. While I don’t have many protections offered under FMLA and other regulations, I’d like to point out that it’s possible to find a small business that values its employees and offers comprehensive benefits because they can and not because they have to. It’s just probably not very easy to find.

  17. Joseph*

    OP#1: It really irritates me when employers take this sort of viewpoint with sick leave or vacation. If you don’t want employees taking time off, why do you even offer that benefit? It’s your choice as the employer to decide if you offer PTO or not, but either way, you need to accept the ramifications.

    1. Allison*

      Probably because it’s considered par for the course, and employers are aware that they need to offer it or lose out on talent. But it seems like some companies (or maybe a lot) expect the benefits to be treated like decoration, like a bowl of fruit no one’s actually allowed to eat from.

      I think people assume that people only get legitimately sick a few times a year – one bad cold, one case of the flu, and one stomach bug or case of food poisoning, and that should be it. They forget about employees with chronic illnesses, compromised immune systems, kids, etc.

      1. rock'n'roll circus*

        Kids! Yes. I don’t even have kids, however my roommate at one point was a preschool teacher and she would bring in every sort of germ and I was always coming down with something, combined with my 80 hour work weeks and lack of sleep it was miserable.

        That said, since I’ve started living alone and working less crazy hours I haven’t been nearly as sick, just a couple days a year. However, when I wasn’t it was really hard on my body and I was kidding sick every couple of months.

        1. JMegan*

          Yep. We call it the Day Care Plague in my house. After my boyfriend moved in with my children and me, he was constantly sick for about the first six months or so. The kids and I were mostly immune, but I guess he had to build up his immunity all at once! And even now, I definitely take more sick days than my non-parenting friends do, either because I’m sick or because one of the plague carriers…er, children…is.

          1. Murphy*

            Disgusting germ trolls is what I call them.

            But yes, we have an 18 month-old who just started daycare 6 months ago so we’re still building up our immune system. Since I returned from maternity leave (6 months ago) I’ve personally taken 6 days of sick leave (granted one was throwing my back out and ending up in the ER) and taken another 3 days of family sick time (to care for a sick kid). I’m lucky that I get 10 sick days personally and another 10 days for family sick leave otherwise I’d be screwed (and my husband has similar benefits and has taken off an equal amount of sick kid time)!

            1. JoAnna*

              I have five disgusting germ trolls, three of whom go to public school and two of whom go to daycare. I’ve already blown through my sick time allotment for the year.

            2. Kyrielle*

              I occasionally refer to my kids – in the context of having brought another illness home – as my little petri dishes (not in front of them, of course).

            3. chocoholic*

              My experience (don’t know if you have older kids or not, but in case not) is that we got a lot of the nasty illnesses out of the way while my kids were in daycare. Once they started school, we have, of course, had some sick days here and there, but for the most part they both have been really healthy. I was expecting my 6th grader to be sick a lot this year just because of being in a new school and around lots of new people but she has only been out a couple of days for kind of run-of-the-mill cold that turned into a sinus infection.

              1. Alienor*

                My daughter didn’t go to daycare or preschool, and as a result she was sick *constantly* from about kindergarten through second grade. She’s a junior in high school now and this is the first year of her school career that she hasn’t been sick at all – I feel like we should throw a party!

              2. Kyrielle*

                The first 1-3 years in schools/care settings outside the home seems to be the worst – after that they’ve encountered (and their immune system has learned to handle) a good percentage of the nastiness they can encounter.

              3. Murphy*

                That’s our hope (we don’t have older kids, just the one toddler). I’m hoping that by school age she’ll be good and hardy.

      2. Joseph*

        The problem with that assumption is that once your culture starts starts getting into treating sick leave like a decoration and questioning just how sick is sick enough, it quickly gets to employees feeling like they need to drag themselves in unless they’re actively knocking on death’s door.

        1. Rater Z*

          I make the comment that I am from the generation where…if I am on my deathbed, I will just pick it up and bring it in with me.

    2. CR*

      +1 It’s not the employee’s problem if you don’t have the budget to cover her sick leave.

      1. Fjell & Skog*

        I agree. Shouldn’t they budget to have coverage for 100% of her sick days? If they don’t need it, great, but they offer the benefit of sick days, they should be able to pay for it if needed.

    3. Sunshine*

      But it’s a fair question from a new manager. Without experience, it’s hard to gauge how much is too much, and you second guess yourself. Alot.

  18. lulu*

    #2 – I have encountered those surprise raises as a way to discourage you from asking for what you want. You should really follow the advice here and ask for market-level wages, don’t be intimidated by the fact that they have already given you something.

    1. Chris*

      Agree! My company gives annual merit increases, and it just lands on your paycheck in roughly the September/October time period. If you don’t bring it up beforehand, leadership is going to decide and it is going to be 2.5 – 3.5% based on your performance review. I find it helpful to head that off each year with a convo that goes like “I know you’ll soon be making decisions about merit increases, I’d like to work with you to evaluate my salary to ensure that it is still equitable and reflects the new responsibilities I’ve taken on this year.”

      Even though OP#2’s raise has already happened, I completely agree that it is more than fine to follow up as Alison suggested.

    2. OP2*

      Last year, I figured the raise was some kind of annual par for the course thing; this year I’m suspicious that it was preemptive move. I plan on asking for a raise that puts my wages in line with market value after I wrap up my current project, though!

      1. TootsNYC*

        One nice thing about knowing what the market is (and saying, specifically, “My pay right now is below the market for my skills in our area”) is that it implies that you KNOW the market, because you’ve looked at it, and–hey, you could leave. Without actually threatening anything.

  19. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-This is not remotely excessive. This doesn’t even come close. Following this pattern your stellar employee is only out sick 6 days a year. You are lucky. I’m more concerned that your sick leave bank seems to be so low or accrual so wonky that they are burning through their leave with that minimal amount of usage. And you have to pay someone to work the front desk? That’s just odd. Cross train other staff and when she’s out sick someone or someones pick up the slack. That’s pretty much how everyone else handles that kind of coverage.

    1. Ellie H.*

      I was actually imagining this is something like an airline service desk or bookstore (maybe not exactly that, but something like that) where *all* the employees who are there that day have a specific position at all given times including being at this front desk for some period during the day. For whatever reason I didn’t get the impression that it is just Jane who’s the sole front desk person, rather that the way this workplace is staffed means you need to call in *a* reserve person to provide full coverage when someone is out. Or something like that.

    2. OP1*

      We’re all trained, and all scheduled to be somewhere at a certain time. On weekends, there are literally only enough of us here to staff the desk and that’s it – if someone calls out, then yes, we have to call in a substitute.

      1. Serafina*

        Still, that’s a problem with staffing by the management, not a problem with the worker who is by no means using “too much” sick leaves. Come on! One day every other month? So maybe six times a year? Maybe a couple multi-day bouts of the flu or bronchitis? That’s not excessive by any stretch of the imagination – that’s precisely the target that sick leave benefits are intended to cover!

        I see you have received a lot of feedback throughout the comments, and you just keep protesting about the staffing coverage. It’s attitudes here that need to change – namely, yours and/or your superiors who are putting poor staffing decisions on the shoulders of this employee. If your staffing is stretched so thin that one employee using sick days as they’re intended to be used is completely wrecking your work environment, then you need to hire or rotate in more coverage. This is not your employee’s problem to solve for you by being sick less – she is not a robot. Humans get sick without warning (moreso when a chronic condition is involved), and there is nothing she can do about it.

        1. Heatherbrarian*

          Coming in really late here, I know – but I am a librarian and halfway suspect OP #1 might be one as well. If so, I could easily be in her situation and while I and my director completely recognize that the solution is to bring in more people so we are better staffed, the fact of the matter is that money to pay substitutes or hire additional positions has to be approved in the annual budget by our town’s executive branch and then the town has to vote to approve the budget. We can request all we want, but we’re working with a conservative executive branch in a town that is currently taking on a lot of debt for capital projects, and we’re just not going to get everything we need. So the fact that our staffing is stretched thin is something we come up against every day and have to work with, but also something that is not really on our shoulders, either – it’s on the shoulders of our town council and the entire population of the town. If I were writing in as this OP you could berate me all you want but I could do nothing to change the situation other than keep requesting funds for more people and hope the people in charge of crafting the town budget made room for our needs. We do what we can to ameliorate the situation and have been lucky that we’ve gotten some additional positions in the last couple of years, but we’re still not at the staffing level we need to not worry about financial problems if we had to cover a lot of PTO for someone unexpectedly.

          (Sorry for minor rant – it’s budget season and we just got about a third of our FY18 staffing request shot down again, going into a year where significant new demands will be placed on a staff that is already stretched, so this hit a nerve.)

    3. Kyrielle*

      My previous job gave us 6 sick days per year – if you weren’t regularly sick you could accrue and bank them, and they rolled over – but anyone with a chronic illness that used very many days would end up burning vacation to cover the rest. Bleh.

  20. Always Anon*

    OP1: You said that covering for this person is stretching your budget. Why do you offer employees sick time and not budget appropriately for covering their absence?

    1. TootsNYC*

      Wow, that’s a pretty combative/attacking way to phrase that!

      I would imagine that the OP #1’s budget is pretty much set by people over her. As is the policy of offering sick time.

      And so I agree with you that the OP’s budget is not at an appropriate level, if it doesn’t allow her to adequately staff her department in conjunction with the company’s sick-leave policies. I highly recommend she pursue this question with whoever’s over her head, as well as revisit the demand to hire an extra every time someone is sick. (Maybe some staff brainstorming can come up with other ways to meet the business’s needs.)

      But I don’t think it’s necessary–or appropriate–to scold or attack the OP for the situation.

      1. Aim Away From Face*

        Um, nobody’s “attacking” or “scolding” anyone.

        You may want to dial it back a bit.

      2. OP1*

        Toots is right. I have no control over it. My predecessors allowed our budget for this sort of thing to be massively chipped away and it makes coverage for time off in general extremely hard. All of my staff work on the public desk every day, not just Jane, so it’s not like I can really just pull someone out of the back office to help.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        I don’t think it is combative. It is getting straight to the point. OP is blaming Jane for the problem when it is really a budget problem. Jane is acting well within normal business norms. On top of that she is a good employee. So OP 1 has unreasonable expectations on Jane when the real problem is management and budgeting. If you look at the original letter, OP was thinking of addressing the issue with Jane (blame the victim). OP should instead address the issue with the person that caused it – their own management.
        I think what Always Anon picked up on was that the OP was blaming the symptom instead of the root cause of the problem. Bad managers do that. Good managers look to see the cause of the problem and address that. Hopefully OP can learn from this lesson and increase their problem solving skills.

  21. I'm a Little Teapot*

    Re #3: I would post this rejection letter on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, with my info redacted but the restaurant’s visible, and hope it went viral. But I have a vindictive streak.

    1. Artemesia*

      My first thought too but then I thought twice. This is a highly personal letter — so does this person have a reputation of being a crap worker? If so then publicizing that letter is probably not in their interests.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        In addition, publicly shaming a person or business can be devastating, and probably overkill for the situation.

        1. Anxa*

          I think it would be pretty cool to devastate this person. Unfortunately, it could take down a lot of workers who already have to deal with this ass.

    2. Erin*

      I’d reply with a thank you letter.

      Dear rude hiring manager,

      Thank you so much for not hiring me. I’m relieved to know that I won’t be spending 40 hours a week in a toxic environment with you. I’m so grateful that I’ll have less stress and more time to find better employment elsewhere.

      crap worker

  22. Karo*

    Am I the only one reading #1 as Jane calls out at the last minute 6 times a year, but also at other times as well?

      1. The IT Manager*

        That wasn’t as clear in the letter as it could and is throwing many commenters off, I think.

        You have a budgeting problem when she calls out last minute. She calls out last minute every two months or so. I don’t think that’s excessive. It’s more than I need, but I am rather healthy. For someone using sick leave to take care of a young child it doesn’t seem excessive at all.

        Instead this should be addressed in your budget or work out another solution “borrowing” someone else in the office at no charge to work the front desk because your team should be allowed to take the sick leave they earn. And by its very nature some sick leave will be last minute.

      2. the_scientist*

        How many sick days, on average, are your other staff using per year? Would their absence also cause coverage issues, or is there something unique to Jane’s position that makes her absences more noticeable? One sick day every sixty days is…negligible, really. And while 10 days of sick leave isn’t terribly stingy, it’s not exactly incredible, and when you add planned use of sick time- between driving to/from the doctor’s office and waiting, you can easily be looking at half a day per appointment. Add kid’s illnesses, and it’s really easy to use your full allotment! I suggest you do some diving into the data here- is Jane truly using more sick leave than your other employees? Is Jane’s position unique in coverage requirements? Is your budget able to appropriately cover absences (it seems like it is not)? If Jane is *truly* using more sick leave, is this a performance issue? Is it reasonable to allow employees to earn 10 sick days but only be allowed to use a portion of them? It seems like your director is not terribly concerned about going over budget for emergency coverage but it seems like you might be in public services of some kind, and if you want the coverage budget to increase you’re going to need to build a business case for it.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          I was uncomfortable upthread about the fact Jane seems to be held to different standards than other workers too – IMO it’s bad practice to have structures where there’s one post that’s utterly indispensable to the point that the staff member having a migraine throws everything into chaos, because as everyone else says, what about her leave, or training and other personal development? Or if she needs to come in late/leave early because her plumbing’s broken, or has a medical emergency/wins the lottery?

          If budgeting really is the issue bottom-line issue here, maybe there needs to be a restructure within the same budget, so the task is covered by more people, and spread around more. Even if the average sick time is 4 days a year for every one else and six for Jane, hassling her about it is just more likely to make her want to leave, and then there’s real problems.

  23. eplawyer*

    #3 remember the letter from yesterday who blew her chances and then wanted to go talk to them in person to “make it right?” Doing anything about this rejection letter is heading that same way. Your friend was rejected from a job that was probably terrible anyway. Move on. Your friend should spend her energy on looking for a job elsewhere, not trying to hold this person “accountable.” We all have only so much time and energy, use it wisely.

    1. JMegan*

      Yes, I’m on Team Let It Go for this one as well. The guy was a jerk, but that’s on him, not on the OP’s friend. Of course it’s annoying and rude and unprofessional and all the rest, but it doesn’t sound to me like it’s really worth the effort to do anything other than toss the letter and move on.

  24. Naomi*

    #3, I get why you are angry and want to do something, but if rudeness were illegal, think how many people we’d have to put on trial. You can comfort yourself and your friend with the thought that someone who routinely treats people this badly is bound to see consequences in the way other people treat them in return.

  25. Allison*

    #3, I’m guessing either the pub is notorious for being run by a jerk, or the manager heard something about your friend from a previous job they had; I’m guessing it’s the latter, based on the “you’re a crap worker” line.

    I’d almost be afraid to post this on social media, if the hiring manager really did send that letter, I’d worry they’d be the type to retaliate if someone “outed” them online like that.

      1. Allison*

        I don’t have any specific retaliation scenario in mind, or I would have gone into detail in my initial post. Look, I’m not saying the hiring manager is definitely a dangerous psycho who’s going to do a very specific, bad thing to OP’s friend if they expose them, but I would be worried about angering someone who sends an aggressive letter like that without being provoked.

      2. VintageLydia*

        The restaurant industry in any given area is REALLY incestuous. I’ve never met a decent bartender who hasn’t worked in nearly every bar in the city, for instance. So your reputation is incredibly important. Trying to name and shame this pub owner could realistically get the OP’s friend black listed from a lot of other jobs.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, my thought exactly – this is one of the industries where word travels absurdly fast because everyone has worked with everyone, so it’s extremely likely that this guy has strings he can pull to block the OP’s friend from other jobs.

  26. Chillfred Rabinowitz*

    #1: Ugh. You are on your way to being a bad manager employees will despise. The issue is not that your employee is taking days she’s entitled to and may legitimately feel ill. It’s that you don’t have systems in place to deal with coverage when employees are out. I get it. You’re a small organization, and you have little funds. But, you can’t expect employees to pick up the slack with their sick time.

    1. OP1*

      Thanks for assuming I’m a bad manager. I’m dealing with policies that are above me that don’t provide me adequate coverage for time off. I’ve not said a word to Jane about this – thus why I asked AAM.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Chillfred said you were “on your way”, not that you were, and since the letter started out with “I’m a relatively new manager and I’m struggling a little with how to handle one of my employee’s use of sick leave”. The letter wasn’t about “I don’t have enough money to cover subs so when somebody calls in, I’m left short”; it was about managing Jane. Whether you’ve said anything to Jane or not is irrelevant; you singled her out to AAM as a perceived problem.

        The issue here for me is that the reflex was to manage the relatively-powerless underling rather than take on the upper-level structure where the problem actually lay. That you admitted later that your predecessors let the budget for this degrade suggests that you knew all along that Jane wasn’t really the problem. So why manage her and not the true issue? Employees don’t like a manager who tries to solve things at the wrong end.

        1. Karo*

          It was still unnecessarily combative. Had Chillfred started with “The issue is not that your employee…” and gone from there, the comment might have actually been helpful. Saying that she’s on her way to being a bad manager – especially given that she has said that she is new, that she is actively searching for advice instead of flying blind, that she’s dealing with policies that have been in place for a long time – is harsh.

          The tone of the OP’s email isn’t one where she wants validation, it’s one where she’s genuinely asking for advice.

      2. Sharkey*

        I’m glad you asked. I think that it means you’re on your way to being a great manager. You don’t just arbitrarily act when you’re unsure just because you have the power to do so. You ask others with more experience managing to get some feedback. Good job! :)

    2. Juli G.*

      This is unnecessarily rude. She (or he) was asking for a gut check from Allison. OP was provided good feedback and it certainly appears she’s considering how to move forward. None of those are hallmarks of being a manager people despise.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Come on, that’s unfair. The OP wrote in asking for advice, which is not actually the sign of someone highly likely to become a bad manager.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yup, any manager that is reading this blog is walking on the path of improvement.

  27. Absentor*

    #1 I think what may be missing from this conversation is that perhaps you feel sick time is being used when the employee is not really too sick to come to work. I have also had an employee who would use her sick days as soon as they were available to her, and she seemed to do it without regard for the stress she put others under, for seemingly minor reasons. It sometimes seemed like she was using sick time like vacation time, but that was never a line of inquiry I could take.

    On top of this, you have inherited a situation beyond your control where there is not adequate funding for subs.

    As frustrating as all this is, sick leave is a benefit which must be given with grace. If her work is truly exemplary, I agree with others that you need to find other ways to deal with the absences.

  28. Anonymous Educator*

    I’m not excusing letter #3 at all, but I think the adage “Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence” applies in this situation. If you read the rejection over again, it looks as if the owner was trying (and failing miserably) to be funny by reversing what you’d usually say to an applicant. I think the main tipoff is saying you didn’t review someone’s application and then saying that person is a crappy worker. That just doesn’t make sense. Still a horrible rejection to send. Still horrible. I just don’t interpret as some personal thing the owner has against the applicant. It’s probably a (terrible) boilerplate rejection sent to everybody.

    1. esra*

      Hanlon’s Razor. It is very good to keep in mind. Either this guy was trying and failing to be funny, or is a total jerk. Regardless, bullet dodged. I wouldn’t want to work that sense of “humour.”

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I wouldn’t want to work that sense of “humour.”

        Neither would I. Bad judgment either way, for sure.

  29. OP1*

    Thanks. I do question it internally sometimes, but at the same time, it’s not my job to decide whether SHE feels ok enough to come to work. I know I’ve called out before when I feel ok hanging out in bed or on the sofa, but if I had to come to work and function I’d be miserable.

    Like I said in my letter, I get it, and I don’t want to be that boss who encourages people to come in when they’re sick. That’s why I wrote to AAM, I wasn’t sure if this was really a Jane problem, or if it was a staffing problem.

  30. B*

    #5 I cant even begin to express how true this is:

    It’s also worth noting that smaller organizations often have more dysfunction — there’s less oversight and there’s less to dilute it (one awful manager can have an outsized impact).

    My former boss/owner was 100% responsible was the disaster of a company we worked for.

    1. Anon Accountant*


      It’s amazing how badly 1 person can wreck a company and cause total chaos.

  31. Kristine*

    I would reply to that rude rejection letter: “Hahahahaha, love a boss with a sense of humor! This is the BEST ACCEPTANCE LETTER EVAH! You and I both “get it.” So when you do want me to report for work?” And see what happens. :P

  32. Kvaren*

    That’s it, I’m starting every sentence today with “Unfortunately, and I ain’t going to bother-“

  33. De Minimis*

    #5–Check the state laws, this is an “except in California” situation.

    My small employer is exempt from FMLA due to our size, but we are still under CA disability law [which has an FMLA equivalent] because they have no exemption for smaller employers.

    Small employers have pros and cons–when it’s good, it’s really enjoyable. One very common drawback I’ve seen is there often aren’t clearly defined job duties and the workload tends to be higher than in some larger organizations.
    Personally, I will probably seek out bigger employers from now on.

  34. MommaTRex*

    #3 – Hooray! Your friend was rejected from a place that is obviously horrible to work for and would drain their life force! Say congratulations and then move on.

  35. LA*

    #4 – I’d flip your question on it’s head. It sounds that you’re experienced and have a GREAT idea of what types of onboarding would help you succeed. I think that rather than asking a general “Is their training?” question, you should frame it as “I’ve found that spending time upfront doing x,y and z helps me be most successful – what do you think?”

    That would be killer for me as a hiring manager because while I always mean well in terms of offering good onboarding and training, the pace of business sometimes means we fall short. A candidate who offered me ideas about how to best support him/her has a much better chance of getting what they want!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I suggested being proactive about arranging this kind of self-training or internal training–being open about it and setting up what you need would make you a top candidate for me. That’s a huge advantage for you, so you might want to treat it as something you can bring to them, rather than something you expect them to do for you.

    2. I am #4, today*

      Awesome suggestion for wording, thank you! I got a lot of great tips today but I actually think this is the one I’m most likely to use – ‘I’ve found that spending time up front doing x, y, and z helps to set me up for success in a new role, is that possible in your organization?’ I appreciate the encouragement too, I love hearing what would make a hiring manager happy!

  36. Ruth*

    OP1: Based on some of your further comments, I see how this could be frustrating despite being what I would consider an entirely reasonable amount of sick leave, however here is my take.

    Jane is an exemplary employee. This part is very important. Jane is a frontline employee.

    So my take is either a) Jane is an exemplary employee who’s catching more bugs than usual because of all her interactions, in which case you can thank her for taking the sick time and not passing that bug into the office!! MFPOW, an 11-person office, was knocked out by a person who’d used up all his sick leave, was hit with a major cold, and I was sick for 10 days. I came to work anyway for all but 2 because literally everyone was sick by then. It’s awful. He was a frontline person too.

    or b) Jane is an exemplary employee who takes some sick days (unless she’s the kind of human who never gets sick) and some mental health days. In this case, it’s possible that her ability to do exemplary frontline service is partly predicated on her need to step away now and then. If that’s the case, it may be part of the price of having someone stay great while dealing with the various stresses of the front line–and it’s technically in her employee benefits package.

    or c) Jane has something like migraines or severe menstrual cramps which aren’t contagious but would be much more of a problem in a frontline worker who can’t disappear to the bathroom for 10 minutes to hunch over a toilet or shut her door and mostly ignore people or work with the lights out or ways other people cope with these.

    (I am personally behind-the-scenes worker but I used to be a secretary and then worked library circ desks and am forever grateful that I don’t have to any more, so I really respect people who do well in such jobs.)

  37. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #3 – if it’s a large company – I would send it back to the top of the food chain at that firm. The decision makers might not like the idea that one of their underlings is sending out rejection letters worded that way. Very bad taste, leaves a vile impression on the company and they might like to know that such stunts are being pulled in the company name. And make it clear you were glad to NOT be brought into a site like that.

    #4 – in some instances – some professions – like IS/IT – training is ESSENTIAL. If the company has no training program for its technical employees – they don’t allow conference attendance, professional groups, vendor classes, etc. — RUN LIKE HELL.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      To amplify
      #3 – if it’s a local greasy spoon, there isn’t much you can do. If it’s a restaurant in a major chain, HQ might be VERY concerned about what their local managers are doing. It comes back to haunt THEM.

      #4 – if a company does not provide technical training or wants to keep you in the dark (I have worked in places where they wanted to suppress knowledge, thinking it gives management an advantage – don’t ask me why) — it isn’t a place where you might want to advance your career. I worked in a place like that once. Wow, all I could say when I left.

      1. I am #4, today*

        You hit the nail on the head here. I am in a place where knowledge suppression is the name of the game. There are a handful of gatekeepers and it’s like playing a big stupid game to try to get the info that’s crucial to my job. I’m so over this! And it’s one of the biggest reasons I’m looking for a new job now. :)

  38. BookCocoon*

    We earn one sick day a month. I rarely have more than one day banked at any time because I get sick all the time. I catch everything. I’ve been that way my whole life (which may or may not be related to a chronic genetic illness I have). I hate it, especially because other people comment on how often I get sick as if it’s somehow my fault. (I also had a bad experience throughout my childhood of doctors acting like I was making everything up, so certain issues didn’t get addressed until I was an adult and now I have a constant fear that people will think I’m faking illness.) However, I’ve learned from experience when I should and should not come to work. I know when I reach a point that I won’t be able to be productive, and I also know when getting a single day’s rest can make all the difference in whether I get better or worse and have to be out multiple days. I would hate to have my manager judging my use of sick time when I try to be as careful with it as possible and take care of myself as best as possible.

  39. Hollis*

    For many people, having a period is basically like getting sick every single month without being able to call in sick every single month because people will think you’re faking. Of course, some people do fake. But the general sense of how many sick days is a reasonable, probably-not-fake number feels very much as though it were decided by people who have never menstruated and have never had kids. (Case in point: I’ve never had kids and it never even occurred to me that parents have to take sick days when their kids are sick until my coworker called in because her daughter had pinkeye.)

  40. Lindsey*


    I’ve gotten the impression before that a candidate was not a good fit because he was asking questions about training in the interview. He seemed like a nice, pleasant guy to work right, but I just didn’t see it working out because in reality, we don’t have a formal training program and employees here need to be able to pick things up quickly independently. Would more formalized training be good? Of course. But I don’t have the power/resources to implement that, and really if you can’t pick up the software, process, etc. skills I question how well you’d adjust to quickly evolving situations and making good decisions based on limited data with limited time, which is a big part of my job description.

    In general I think it’s better to tilt your questions away from this sort of thing. Same as how I wouldn’t recommend asking about benefits.

    This is assuming your goal is to get the job though.

    If you are not that desperate/just exploring opportunities and really want to make sure the job is a good fit, go ahead, especially if it’s something important to you and you wouldn’t want to work at a place without robust training.

    Don’t make it too obvious that you really want training a specific way- try to just sound genuinely curious, say you’ve seen companies do it both ways, both have their merits, but how is if here?

  41. J*

    OP1: Are you a public librarian by chance? Because I am, and I struggle with the same thing. I get fewer sub hours in my budget than would cover my staff’s PTO and sick time. And I often have to get a sub for a sick employee on short notice, or sometimes I have to move my hours to accommodate. It’s really hard but that part is my job. Anyway, I want to say that I empathize with you and I think you’re trying your best.

  42. newlyhr*

    I spent most of my career in a small office until my current job, and I will never go back to the small office. My biggest beef in a small office is that there simply isn’t enough redundancy to cover unexpected situations–if somebody has a major health event, in an office of 5 you might be operating with a 20% staff reduction for a long time. I wound up being the “reliable” person because I didn’t have kids and I didn’t have health problems, and I grew to resent it. Although I kept being thanked for being so reliable, I felt a lot of pressure not to take my vacation time or sick time.

    I now work in a place where life doesn’t come to a screeching halt because one person is out sick or on vacation. I LOVE LOVE my new workplace and feel valued. I am told I am a great employee and they are happy to have me. I think I have only taken two sick days in three years, but I know I can take one and won’t get the frowny face or guilt treatment upon my return.

  43. i'm number 5*

    considering all the articles i’ve read about the trend in people making big departures from corporate to work for small companies or start-ups, i was really surprised to see the majority of the comments sway towards pro-corporate. It was so valuable to take all that in, as it made me give a much harder think on the scope of the opportunity and what challenges might lie ahead. This happened conveniently around the same time as a final interview that provided a lot of clarity on the company structure and what it might feel like to work there. Ultimately I decided to pass on the position but left things on very good terms, there may even be an opportunity to consult for them which might be the best possible outcome. Thanks readers!

  44. CuhPow*

    Is it just me or are so many people just looking to take legal action for everything to get some money? Honestly something mildly offends them or is unfair? They’re asking Alison if there’s any legal recourse. Meanness, immaturity, unfairness, or general unprofessionalism are not criminal offenses. Not that most of these people are looking to take anything to criminal court over civil. Honestly these people need to ask themselves (even if there is some legal recourse): was I harmed? Permanently damaged? Hurt? In danger? Probably not illegal then. Would I be okay if punishment for this was time in jail vs. giving me money I didn’t earn? Did I lose any money or opportunities because of this? If not, stop trying to get someone’s money because they hurt your feelings.

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