my manager believes that working from home is a day off work

A reader writes:

My manager, “Trish,” believes face-time = productivity. Last year, she started allowing people to work from home one day a week based on pressure from upper management because our group was not working remotely during weather-related closings. Most of us did not have the VPN required to do so and because she generally did not work from home at all.

Trish’s solution was to allow everyone to work from home one day a week and she would control the schedule. If you have off another day during the week for a scheduled day off or a holiday, your work-from-home day is cancelled. Also, we are allowed to start at 7 a.m. if we work in the office, but on work-from-home days, we must start no earlier than 7:30. I can’t see any reason for this.

You cannot work from home if you are just under the weather and don’t want to infect anyone else.

Recently, she cancelled all work-from-home for June (and was somewhat gleeful about it), stating that we had too many meetings that month.

I and another colleague have a weekly meeting with Trish. She told us that her plan for July and August was to allow everyone to choose their own work-from-home day, but if people chose Friday, they would have to work later than the 2:00 closing we get on Fridays in the summer. Also, in this meeting, she told us that she considers work-from-home days as days off for us.

There is nothing in our job that cannot be done from home, so that’s not an issue. I understand that my manager has every right to regulate work-from-home privileges. However, telling us that she considers working from home days as days off and making arbitrary changes in start times on those days frustrates me and throws off the benefits of being able to do it in the first place. Other groups in our company are allowed to work from home whenever they need to or in the event of minor illnesses, and we have many people who work from home permanently.

My other issue is that Trish nickels and dimes our PTO. I am salaried, and she made me charge a half hour of PTO one day when I had to leave a little early to go to the doctor I offered to come in early or make it up the day before or afterwards, but she was not having it. This causes me a lot of personal stress because I have a very large family and even though my husband helps with illnesses, doctor appointments, etc., I always run out of time by October. Again, other departments are allowed to make up time in these circumstances.

These two issues have made me start looking for other positions in the company, even though for the most part I am happy in my job and know that my director is trying to carve out a career path for me in our division.

I have a very good relationship with my boss and I have been told I am the top performer in my group. I know she really depends on me and gives me the hardest and trickiest work to complete because she knows I’ll do it well. My director has also tapped me for special projects to complete with other groups. I don’t let my disagreements with her decisions affect how I do my work. I always strive for excellence.

I have a quarterly performance review next month, and she always gives me a chance to discuss any of my concerns. Should I bring up my dissatisfaction with her work-from-home and PTO policies? If so, can you give me some wording to approach it tactfully?

Yes, bring it up!

It sounds like she was forced into allowing work-from-home from above, but she so dislikes it that she’s openly penalizing people for using it. And telling you that she considers telecommuting to be days off? That’s ridiculous, and I highly doubt that it was what your employer intended when they pressured her to change on this issue.

On the nickeling and diming you on PTO: It’s not uncommon for companies to handle PTO the way she is, but it’s terrible policy. Where’s the incentive for you to put in extra hours if she’s not giving you the same flexibility in return? And since other managers in your company handle it differently, it’s clearly not a company policy, just her own overly rigid preference.

Anyway, she clearly likes and values you, so you’ve got some capital to expend and some standing to speak up.

I’d say this to her: “For the most part, I’m very happy here, but there are two areas that are impacting my thinking about the role long-term. The first is that while the company has pushed the ability to work from home, you’ve been pretty clear that you don’t see it as really working and have sometimes penalized people who choose to do it, such as X and Y. One of the things that keeps me with the company is its embrace of telecommuting, and so it’s frustrating to feel like we’re out of sync with the rest of the company on this. My other concern is that I’m regularly generous with my availability — I work extra hours in the evening or over the weekend when the work requires it, and I’d like to have the same flexibility in return, meaning that I’d like to be able to leave a little early or come in a little late for doctor’s appointments and so forth without having my PTO docked in half-hour increments. As a salaried employee, I’m expected to put in the time it takes to get the job done, and it’s demoralizing to feel that’s not recognized when I need to duck out half an hour early on occasion. I know that other departments don’t handle PTO that way, and I’d like us to move more in that direction.”

You might also say, “With both of these issues, the common theme is that I want to be trusted to be responsible in managing my work and my time. I think I’ve proven my work ethic and my dependability, but both these policies make me feel that I’m not trusted to make responsible decisions.”

Frankly, you might also consider talking to someone above her if you have good rapport with them — or possibly HR, if they were involved in the nudge to get her to allow telecommuting. In fact, if you know who was responsible for that nudge, that person would probably be pretty interested in hearing about how she’s still resisting doing it. “Let your people telecommute” doesn’t mean “allow it begrudgingly and find ways to punish people for using it,” and I’d bet that someone above her would be pretty cranky if they heard this.

{ 164 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    Yeah, normally one would address stuff with the manager directly, but given how unreasonable Trish is being I would go above her head right away. She’s going to lose the company a ton of money from people leaving and lost productivity.

    She reminds me of a bad vice principal – the kind that just enjoys enforcing arbitrary rules and having a power trip over actually getting the job done.

    1. Kay*

      Trish is definitely being unreasonable but going over her head as a first step may cause problems, unless OP has reason to believe that Trish will punish her for bringing it up with her personally. In general, you shouldn’t go over your manager’s head unless you have a good reason to do so.

      1. Kay*

        Of course if Trish doesn’t adjust her position after the meeting, talk to the person above her.

      2. Mike C.*

        Yeah, I think punishment is a real risk here – it’s clear that Trish hates WFH policies and I would feel that any of her reports would face consequences for showing resistance to that belief. That, and it took someone over her head to enforce WFH policies to begin with, so go with what works.

      3. Hannah Kilcoyne*

        In my company, reviews are routed automatically to your manager and then to their manager. In the past I have had the second level manager be present during the performance review meeting. If there’s any opening for the OP to formally bring up these comments in the written review or in a meeting where the second level manager is present, I think that would be ideal. Because then it’s not going over the manager’s head, but if the manager’s knee jerk response was going to be to say no, it would be great to have her manager’s eyes on that right away. Once the manager says no, her heels might get dug in and she might not want to back track, so it would be better to make it harder for her to say no initially by asking when her manager is present.

      4. INTP*

        Plus, even if Trish’s behavior DOES make going above her head fair and reasonable, it’s still risky imo. The employees seem to be caught in a big power struggle between Trish and her management, and stepping in the middle of a power struggle is not usually a good idea, let alone a struggle between your boss and her bosses – whichever side wins, someone with influence over your career trajectory will be angry with you. Upper management is not necessarily invested in protecting you as an individual and they are likely to see your involvement as you wanting more work from home time for yourself, not as you nobly helping them out by reporting what your boss is doing. Unless I really needed the work from home days and little bits of vacation time, this isn’t a hill I would want to die on.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          All of this. So much. Power struggles don’t usually end well for the person caught in the middle.

      5. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah, I’d feel her out about it first. If Op goes to HR first, Trish may get resentful and punish the whole team even more than she is now.

  2. Corporate Drone*

    I disagree with the OP’s assessment that Trish is otherwise a good manager. She is NOT a good manager. A good manager leads and focuses on results. A good manager says “Hey, I don’t have all the answers, so I’m going to make sure my team is comprised of people who know their stuff and can help me in achieving success.” A good manager trusts her people to get the work done, however they have to get it done.

    Making you take PTO in 30 minute increments? Forcing you to use PTO when you have a raging head cold, rather than allowing you to WAH? Petty, ridiculous nonsense.

    I agree with Mike C. Don’t bother with Trish. Talk to whomever is above her. People are promoted into management because they are good at things that often do not involve the management of others. This is a prime example.

    1. JMegan*

      I would talk to Trish first, but I wouldn’t expect anything to change based on that. She has demonstrated pretty clearly to this point that she is not in favour of WFH – I doubt any kind of reasoned, practical argument from OP is going to change her mind.

      Still, I would talk to her before going to her manager – but for the sole purpose of checking that box on the “how to escalate things in the office” list. She’s not going to change. But this way you can say that you followed the rules. She can’t complain that you didn’t give her a chance, and you can give her boss an honest answer when she asks if you talked to Trish first.

      1. Mike C.*

        See, that’s kind of weird to me. You believe she isn’t going to change so with that in mind, what is the value of checking that box in the first place?

        I mean sure, she can complain all she wants, but it doesn’t mitigate the fact that she’s a terrible manager. In fact, it confirms it. And really, if you talk to her first, she’ll have the chance to punish you and will know who to go after if you escalate further. If you go straight above her, there’s a good chance of being protected.

        1. On the Phone*

          I think the value of checking the box is to avoid going over Trish’s head, which might cause more problems.

        2. AnonEMoose*

          Office politics often don’t make sense. The value of checking the box is that the OP looks like she has behaved reasonably and responsibly, and that she has followed the rules around such things. And she doesn’t gain a reputation (however undeserved) for “going behind the boss’s back.” Appearances matter in stuff like this.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The next person up the chain is very likely to say “have you talked to Trish about this directly?” and you look much better if you can say yes.

          1. Mike C.*

            And my response would be to explain what’s been going on (along with possible solutions, I’m not going to sit there and just complain) and that I felt retaliation was a real risk. It’s been my experience that if you have good reasons and document the situation well that such requests are received appropriately and the problem is taken care of as best as the situation allows.

            Before I would take this route, speaking directly to the manger just made them unreasonable and vindictive. Obviously care has to be taken here, my own position allows for familiarity with multiple levels of management and the mixed blue/white collar environment allows for this sort of blunt talk. I don’t have a great deal of patience for “playing the game” when I’ve had more success by simply being good at my job and not being a jerk.

            1. Mike C.*

              And this isn’t to say that it’s my first step in all situations, only in situations where it’s clear the manager is being unreasonable.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure, if she truly does feel retaliation is a real risk. But there’s nothing in her letter that indicates she’s worried about that or should be. This is a manager who she otherwise likes and who appears to value her.

            3. Kate M*

              Yeah, from what’s written in the letter, I don’t see the manager being vindictive, especially if she likes OP.

              I guess there are two interpretations you could have of docking 30 minutes PTO – 1) that it’s being vindictive, or 2) that Trish is following [what she sees to be] the rules or procedures too rigidly, or thinks that being a hardass = being a good manager.

              I think I come down on the second interpretation, that she’s not being a good manager, not out of spite, but out of the idea that being strict = being a good manager, which obviously isn’t the case.

              1. Doreen*

                Or the third possibility -that Trish is not being vindictive but is rather doing exactly what the company wants her to do regarding PTO. It’s entirely possible that either the rules are different for the other departments or that those managers are being less strict than the company wants.

              2. Mike C.*

                This is really more my gut than anything else, I think reasonable people can fall either way. In particular, it’s the arbitrary rules and meticulous record keeping that are the red flags for me.

                1. No WFH.
                2. Fine, WFH, but you can’t start any earlier than 30 after folks get into work normally.
                3. Pick a day for WFH, but if it’s a Friday, you have to stay at work longer.
                4. No WFH because of ~meetings~, mwahahaha.

                No business reasons for this, either.

                So from all this, it really feels like a stupid power trip or as others have suggested she’s falling into the mode of punishing everyone. Maybe it’s just me – I don’t trust people who don’t treat other adults like adults.

        4. stuburuc*

          I’d be curious to hear AAM’s thoughts on the risk of first talking to the manager, hearing no, then going over her head. It seems like it could look like “Mom said no, so ask Dad.”, IOW, it would just irritate her further.

          I think, in this case, based on what little we know about Trish, I’d be tempted to go over her head to the boss who’s in favor of a reasonable WFH policy. More of the better to ask forgiveness thinking here.

          1. Artemesia*

            I agree. I think this is a bad manager and it is time to apply to transfer within the company and be looking outside. I mean you know she has a punitive orientation so I would expect ‘punishment’ if you push back.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Right? If she values the OP, so will another manager who isn’t “gleeful” about violating company policy in order to nitpick her personal preferences at employees.

          2. LQ*

            I think that if the director (assuming the boss of Trish) really wants to keep the OP then the OP sitting down and saying. “Hey, I’d really like to stay here and I like working with this department, but I’d really value some more flexibility. I’ve talked to Trish and she wasn’t open to it. I know the rest of the org is, and I know your other managers are (if true), is there any way to resolve this.” or whatever would likely go over very well if the Director sees that they might loose good staff it might give reason to push back with Trish. (Depending on the work and the space they might also get moved to a different manager or some such.)

          3. Juli G.*

            I’m not AAM but I think the risk is low. Clearly, someone in the company recognized that Tish isn’t being appropriately flexible already. I think OP could easily present this as “I tried to work this out with Trish but I’m still not sure I understand the WFH policy. Can we discuss how it’s used?”

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Actually, that would make a great segue for speaking to HR ” I’m not quite clear what the wfh policy is, could you clarify a few things for me?” Which would lead to “oh, hmm, that’s not what Trish is doing”.

          4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            But Mom and Dad are equals in the parenting game. This is more like “The babysitter said no, so go to Mom and Dad and ask them if they would tell the babysitter that you can do X.” Especially because it seems like Trish’s policies are out of sync with the policies of the rest of the company.

        5. neverjaunty*

          JMegan just explained that. The value is so that when you go to the boss, you can say that you raised that issue with Trish first. That doesn’t mean that the OP needs to then wait for Trish to retaliate before going to BiggerBoss. Trish will probably be an ass to the OP when OP tries to have the discussion, and that’s ammunition. “I raised this with Trish first, and she was extremely hostile and said that she wasn’t going to change her policy.”

    2. Vicki*

      At one former job, HR had to have “serious talks” with managers who were insisting on PTO for every little thing. They made certain that managers understood that 4 hours (minimum) counted as a full day for salaried people. People could be told to take half days in PTO, but never less than half.

  3. Corporate Drone*

    Oh, and you can’t work from home because there are “too many meetings” in June? This clearly demonstrates Trish’s myopia and pedestrian world view. Meetings needn’t be conducted in person. Has she never heard of a global team?

    1. LisaLee*

      I guess it’s possible that some meetings need to be (or are just easier to be) conducted in person, but seriously, is the WHOLE month of June meetings? Because that is way too many meetings.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        That was my thought, too. And of course realistically some of these could be conference calls if she wasn’t so stubborn about WFH. My last office routinely used GoTo Meeting because we had several satellite offices and getting everyone in together wasn’t a reality most of the time.

      2. LBK*

        Here here. Having been on many terrible conference calls lately, I would’ve preferred to have those meetings in person, but I do also understand that that’s part of the tradeoff for the freedom to work from home.

        I do definitely agree that having that many meetings stacked into a month that will require your entire team to attend in person is ridiculous, though.

        1. Koko*

          I straddle two teams that are like night and day on this. Both teams have remote members. One team embraced technology and every single meeting they have uses vcon, and honestly, it’s 99% as good as having everyone in the room. You can see facial expressions and nonverbal gestures, and it’s easier for the remote person to tell when they can jump in, and all our conference rooms and the remote workers have two screens so you can be projecting information on one screen and see people on the other.

          The other team has not embraced technology, they barely use vcon and spend a fortune paying for remote workers to travel to the home office every couple of weeks so they can participate in important meetings (because audio-only conference calls really do limit the ability of remote workers to participate). They’re also very fond of doing the “break this meeting of 20 people up into groups of 4-5 to brainstorm and then come back together and share ideas” tactic, which is much harder to do even over vcon, but they’re reluctant to let go of that technique in favor of “brainstorm ideas on your own in advance and come to the meeting prepared to share” or just having meetings of smaller groups to begin with.

          It kills me to see the second team throwing away so much money and carbon pollution on all those travel costs, but the second team is run by older and less technologically-savvy people, and I think they are just not really able to make that mental leap from an old-school way of having meetings to a newer way that works better with technology.

          1. LBK*

            I actually really enjoyed the monthly vcon meetings I used to have with our team in Canada, but not having to make myself presentable is one of the perks of working from home, IMO :) Don’t think our sales managers would be thrilled to have a vcon while I’m in my pajamas like I usually am while teleworking.

            1. Koko*

              Oh, we have one remote worker in particular who is known for the ratty old hoodie she’s always wearing on vcon. Someone even made her an avatar for our chat client of a figure in a hoodie!

              When I work from home I generally hold myself to a “would I wear this to 7-eleven?” dress code standard. So I get out of my pajamas and into real clothes partly for vcon and partly because it helps me mentally transition from being in bed to working if I change clothes, but it’s nothing approaching office/business casual. Jeans or shorts and a tank top usually.

              1. Jools*

                One of my colleagues has a funny story from a Skype conversation with our boss prior to her officially starting the position. She was in a different time zone, so it wound up being scheduled for late afternoon for her, early morning here. They start talking, our boss is seated at his desk wearing a nice shirt and tie, then he realizes he needs something from across the room, at which point my colleague learns that he’s still wearing his cycling shorts on the bottom…

            2. Kera*

              I work from home a lot, and if I’m skyping a client, I’ll put on a work-suitable top, but if it’s an all-internal then it’s ratty t-shirts all round. And wow, but does my director have bad taste in t-shirts! :D

          2. One of the Sarahs*

            Back in my civil service days, it was such a major victory to get certain meetings turns to teleconferences/video conferences. Sure, it’s great to have the people in the same roles in every England region in the same room for 2.5 hours, but adding up the travel time and costs, it was a crazy use of time. Plus suddenly those monthly meetings scheduled for 2.5 hours with lunch could take 1.5 hours and be a ton more effective, especially as it forced people to distribute papers in advance. I completely understand why some people want face-to-face only, but wow it was inefficient.

      3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Because many of our clients are academic institutions, we tend to have a lot of final project meetings in late May/June – a lot.

        But, canceling all work from home is ridiculous. A good manager trusts their staff to manage their time. We don’t have a set WFH schedule, more of an “if you need to, do it” situation. But I trust my team not to schedule their WFH on a day their client is in the office.

        1. Koko*

          Yep. I have a regular one day a week at home, but occasionally there’s a meeting that day where I really feel like I could contribute more in person than on the phone, so because I’m an adult I make the decision to come in that day. Sometimes I take a different day from home if I really needed the isolation time for intense projects, other times I just don’t take a day at home that week. In any case I just email my team to notify them so they know to call my cell instead of my office line if they need to phone me.

          My manager has never needed to control or object to my choices because I’ve been working long enough to know what I need to do to meet the performance standard I’m held to. In the summer or over the holidays when most of my team that isn’t already working remotely is out on vacation, I often stay home because there’s not much reason to come work in the office by myself just “because.”

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Seriously. ALL our meetings are teleconferencing! We very rarely have any in-person meetings and only when the boss is actually in our office. 90% of my team is or works remote. I only go into the office because I have a way better setup there than at home, but I could even be remote if I wanted to.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Maybe she’s the project manager someone wrote about yesterday that had never used a computer. Ever.

  4. Katie F*

    Yeah, it’s clear that Trish hates the idea of employees working from home, and has therefore decided to make it such an ordeal, and so complicated, that no one can actually make any decent use of the time. I imagine she’s hoping that if it’s such a complexity and a hairball, it will eventually be done away with because it “wasn’t successful”, even though its lack of success will be entirely due to Trish’s unhelpful, ridiculous way of implementing it.

    Work from home one day a week should be simple – you work from home, one day per week. It counts as a workday. Done.

    I also have a big problem with managers who treat salaried employees like hourly employees. You’re salaried for a reason, and you should be treated as such.

    I’d bring it up with her, and I like Allison’s advice, but i wouldn’t expect much productive ot come out of it. If Trish really hates working from home that much, she’s not likely to be flexible on helping to make it work – because she doesn’t WANT it to work, she wants it to be a failure or at least she’s unconsciously setting up situations where it will be a failure or morale problem for employees. It might really be an issue of sort of subconsciously creating the result she expects without even realizing she’s doing so – so your talk might be productive just in making her realize that her crippling regulations aren’t actually helpful and are hurting her direct reports.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      I also have a big problem with managers who treat salaried employees like hourly employees. You’re salaried for a reason, and you should be treated as such.

      So do I. Either we’re capable of exercising discretion and good judgment or we’re not – and if we’re not, we need to be made hourly and get the OT that’s possibly due us (if we’re also then non-exempt) for working longer than our set schedule.

      I bristled a few months back when at our monthly team meeting one of our division leaders laid out three start and end times we can choose from and said we need to be sure we’re doing a full 40 hours each week. Um…if I finish my work for the week in 37 hours by Friday afternoon, I’m not sitting here any longer than necessary just to say I did 40 hours. That’s ridiculous. One of my coworkers said he brought it up because there’s someone on our team who consistently skips out early and never finishes things, and then his work is reassigned to her or other people on the team. Okay, well address the lack of productivity with the offender, not the rest of us who are actually doing our jobs even if it’s not in a 40 hour block.

      1. BRR*

        I can’t stand managers who operate with a mindset of exempt means at least 40 hours a week. I’m very grateful my employer and manager believe exempt gives flexibility so that you can deal with life.

        1. Jinx*

          This is how my office is – if you finish early you are supposed to volunteer for more, instead of leaving early. I work in IT, where unfortunately there is always more work available.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        The CEO of my first software job had originally been an office products wholesaler, and he really didn’t get the difference between the kinds of employees you need. He expected to see us busy as bees when he wandered the office in the mornings, but – being a morning person – he never wandered the office in the afternoons when we were finally going full speed. But it was the insistence that we be there at 8:30 sharp that finally triggered my work-to-rule protest; I started taking precisely 1-hour offsite lunches instead of bringing it, and leaving at precisely 5:30. And looking really hard for another job.

      3. Katie F*

        Yeah, the “punish everyone to avoid having a hard conversation with ONE employee” isn’t any better and can actually be much worse, as it can be potentially ruinous for team cooperation and morale. Everyone is going to know who that one person is, and they’re not going to appreciate being punished because management makes one punitive rule rather than dealing with a single individual employee abusing a flexible policy.

        1. INTP*

          Exactly. It just makes the team hate the person who messed up and brought the rule about, and view the manager as weak and unauthoritative because they can’t handle one person doing something obviously not okay.

          I had a manager who did this. A coworker of mine was caught watching movies on his phone when he was supposed to be working. (His performance metrics were crappy too, it wasn’t a case of a brilliant person who just needs a short brain break during the day.) Her solution? “No one is allowed to wear headphones or look at their phones during the day.” I lost my headphone privileges which sucked but everyone ignored the “no looking at your phone” rule because 1) it’s completely unreasonable for a normal office job, especially for people who have small kids in school/childcare, and 2) what was she going to do anyways? Someone who can’t fire a low performer for watching movies instead of working certainly isn’t going to fire a high performer for glancing at their phones.

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            Right. These things are absolutely absurd (and my coworker claims she knows several people who have complained on this year’s employee satisfaction survey about this and a couple other issues in our division).

        2. roisindubh211*

          My 3rd grade teacher used to do this, mostly to cover when she wasn’t sure who the offending student was, and expected us to turn them in/scold them through peer pressure. I was the kind of kid who’d worry the teacher forgot about a quiz, and even I thought this was ridiculous and it lost me all respect for that teacher.

      4. INTP*

        I have an issue with this as well, AND I suspect that a lot of exempt employees with such schedules are misclassified. I know that there are some situations in which it makes sense for a legit exempt employee to have a strict shift-type schedule, but that isn’t the majority of office jobs. Most people classified as exempt should be at a level where they are held responsible for getting specific things done, whatever amount of time that takes, rather than being present for a set amount of time.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Exactly. And our job does not require us to be here at strict times. In fact, most of the people in my office get here around 7:30 and leave at 4:30 when most of our clients are still working until 5:00 on the east coast (and later for the west coast folks). Having people stagger in throughout the day means we’d stay later, which provides better coverage for phone calls.

          1. my two cents*

            OP commented a bit further down, but it sounds like OP is the top performer while the rest of the team needs some hard hand-holding and strict rules. It’s entirely possible that the manager just ran out of ideas (or was blinded by irritation when having to make WOS policies work for the not-great team), and thought painting the whole team with the rigid scheduling might make it easier on herself to hold folks accountable.

            But maybe OP could help their manager understand that it’s in turn crushing OP’s morale – and remind the manager that it’s OK to have varied rules/policies for differently-performing employees.

      5. ThatGirl*

        “Um…if I finish my work for the week in 37 hours by Friday afternoon, I’m not sitting here any longer than necessary just to say I did 40 hours. That’s ridiculous. ”

        Can you please come tell my bosses here that? Not my immediate managers so much, but the higher-ups insist on a 40-hour work week (of course we can work more than that, too!) even if it’s slow. Argh. And this is a big Fortune 500 company with flexible schedules and what not, but we MUST make that 40 hours somehow.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          I think this is where the directive in our division is coming from as well – the higher-up, mainly our division president. My previous division didn’t give a rats you-know-what when we came and went as long as we weren’t being outrageously flexible (meaning, coming in two hours late and leaving two hours early) and we got our work done.

        2. Katie F*

          This seems like a ridiculous waste of everyone’s time. I’ve long wondered why companies with the kind of focus where results can be measured by “how much gets done” vs. “how long everyone is here” don’t adapt to meet the former standard.

          My current job is exactly that – if the work gets done by Friday, the amount of time we have our behinds in our seats is secondary. I’ve worked 50 hour weeks and I’ve worked 30 hour weeks, depending on the need and what’s happening in the office at the time. Being able to measure my productivity by -what I’m actually producing- as opposed to time spent in an office has been incredibly motivating.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Right! We *have* projects with deadlines, usually anywhere from 3-7 in any given week, and we already have to quantify how far we’ve gotten on those and how much we’re doing in a week, and we’re all dedicated professionals who want the work to get done — so I don’t particularly understand why it matters whether it takes us 36 hours or 45. But to someone, it does. Which means a lot of us fudge things a bit, I suspect.

            1. Katie F*

              I think it’s a holdover of when you really couldn’t get much done outside the office – there are just some managers who sincerely believe the office version of “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean”. If you can leave at 36 hours, you MUST have not done enough that week, somehow, somewhere.

              I also think it’s the main reason we have such a problem with people on their phones, or Twitter, or FB, or whatever at work all day. People may be able to get everything done by 3, but if they still can’t leave until 5, there’s no incentive to work harder or get things finished, if they know they’ll just have to do busywork.

    2. the gold digger*

      I also have a big problem with managers who treat salaried employees like hourly employees. You’re salaried for a reason, and you should be treated as such.

      If I am not going to be paid OT for the Sunday I spent traveling to a trade show or for the eight hours I spent stuck in DTW, not arriving at my Seattle hotel until 11 p.m., then you better not dock me for taking off early the Friday before Memorial Day.

      1. Katie F*

        Well, or just having to run a quick errand or take a long lunch so you can get your hair cut or something now and then. Most salaried employees are working during essentially the entirety of basic office hours. If a salaried employee can’t step out to grab a prescription and be twenty minutes late coming back for lunch without being penalized for it… well, they’re not really salaried. The idea of salary was to give employees basic flexibility.

        1. Jadelyn*

          And let’s not forget that in this day and age, most exempt-level employees probably have a smartphone and some level of access to, at the very least, work emails no matter where they are. So an exempt employee ducked out early or took a long lunch, okay, but that employee can be on their cell phone while they’re in line at the pharmacy or under the dryer at the salon, which is something hourly people can’t do in the same way.

          I mean, I’m also of the opinion that hourly employees should be treated like responsible adults, but in particular since exempt EEs *can* be “on the clock” in a much wider variety of situations, there’s far less call to be keeping track of it like that.

      2. Journal Entries*

        I’m a salaried employee required to schedule myself for 40+ hours a week. I must punch a time clock and if I need to take any time off PTO must be used and it must be requested at least 24 hours in advance. If I am not in at my scheduled start time it is .5 point, if I leave early it is .5 point. If it’s more than 1/2 hour in early or late it’s a full point. 10 points in 12 months and you’re fired.
        Needless to say I’m leaving very soon.

        1. Kera*

          This sounds like the timecard policy at v. old job. Retention was rather an issue there, and rather caused some problems when everyone at my level in my team found new jobs and left within a month of each other.

          I understand from the industry grapevine that they’ve since changed the policy and taken the timeclock function off the entry passes.

    3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I also have a big problem with managers who treat salaried employees like hourly employees. You’re salaried for a reason, and you should be treated as such.

      Yeah, I’m slightly miffed at our school’s HR for changing the PTO policies. Our official work hours are 8-4, but I’m regularly here until 5, and right now it’s report card writing time so I’m spending pretty much all my free time on that. Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment and had to leave campus at 2:30. I didn’t need a sub or anything; all my duties were over for the day. After my appointment, I went to a cafe and wrote reports until the cafe closed, then I went home, at dinner, and wrote reports until 11pm.

      I still need to use an hour and a half of PTO because I left before 4. Ugh. Fortunately our PTO is pretty generous so I’m nowhere near running out… but still.

  5. Meg Murry*

    Do you work in a very meeting-heavy culture, where having a holiday+ work from home day (=3 days or less in office that week) makes it difficult to schedule meetings?

    Any chance that these policies are her general blanket policies because you do have people on your team that need to be micro-managed, but she would not enforce them on you, a good performer? If you straight up said to her “Trish, I would like to work from home Wednesdays from 7-4”, would she say “nope, no working at home starting at 7” or would she ok it for you or say something like “ok, but don’t tell the rest of the group?”

    It’s not a great way to manage, and I can see why you are so frustrated and want to get out from under her, but I wonder if you are in a group where she does need to micro-manage everyone else a little more and you are getting caught in the cross fire. I agree with Alison that you should make policy in a general sense and then be stricter for employees who aren’t doing good work – but if the bulk of your group isn’t up to par maybe that’s why?

    1. Laura*

      This is what I thought. OP knows she is the best on her team, but she didn’t mention the productivity of her teammates. They might need some hand-holding, which is why Trish is acting like this. Is it fair? Eh, not really. But it could be what needs to be done with these particular employees.

      My boyfriend works in sales for a fairly strict manager. He is easily the top performer in his group, but several of his coworkers are mightily dysfunctional. Because of that, his manager is rigid about taking any time off or using flex time to manage weekly hours. It’s not because “Jon” is a bad guy– it’s because the team as a whole needs that structure. My boyfriend is just the exception, but he has to be treated the same way.

      1. OP*

        Actually, I think this is what is driving some of it. We have had a string of really bad employees (people sabotaging work, people not performing up to standards, etc.). We have a fairly good group now. There is only one person who is really under performing according to Trish and I don’t think that person is all the horrible. She’s just not ever going to be a high level employee. She can’t think like one. But at least she is doing the work and trying.

      2. the_scientist*

        But isn’t that still fundamentally poor management? If you have performance issues with one employee, you address that with that employee, rather than treating competent employees like children. If your team needs structure, or has a lot of meetings that are tricky to schedule, you can set core hours, or make use of the varying technologies available for virtual meetings. Or ask managers in other departments how they handle it. Or you can be transparent with your employees and explain why your approach to WFH needs to be different. If your team is full of slackers, you should be rewarding your lone star employee because they’re going to leave ASAP otherwise.

        And the “Okay, but don’t tell anyone else” is terrible management, because 1) it’s impossible to keep a regular WFH schedule a secret, and 2) the manager is forcing the employee to do their dirty work. Part of being a good manager means having tough conversations, which might include telling an employee that someone else can work from home but they can’t because their performance isn’t at the level required yet.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, it’s not good management. But given that most managers have flaws, you don’t want to set up a “if this is a bad manager, leave” answer to everything.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Oh, I agree that if she says “don’t tell anyone” that that isn’t being a good manager. I was just using it as a level to gauge the boss, whether she would in fact allow an exception to her personal policy for OP or whether she would dig in her heels and say “Nope, I said no WFH and I meant it”

      3. Tammy*

        My boyfriend is just the exception, but he has to be treated the same way.

        This strikes me as rather poor management. If I have someone on my team who has demonstrated that they need less handholding and thereby can manage a little more flexibility/autonomy, why on earth wouldn’t I want to give her that flexibility and autonomy? “Everyone on the team will be treated according to the standards of the lowest common denominator” is a far worse message to send than “people will be treated according to their performance, and high-performing people get freedom that lower-performing people do not”, IMO.

        1. Nicole*

          I had a manager who wouldn’t let me work from home because “it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else”, meaning she didn’t trust that everyone on the team would actually work if they were home. Then she was replaced with a new manager and I was allowed to work from home even though other people on the team were not. My new manager told me “being treated fairly doesn’t necessarily mean being treated equally”. I really respected her for that and have kept that distinction in mind ever since.

      4. INTP*

        But that’s very counterproductive in management. What happens is that the people who are actually capable and responsible leave, because they would rather move to an office where they can be treated with respect and flexibility because the employees are actually held accountable for performance. And high and low employees alike lose respect for the manager and don’t care about following the rules except when the boss is actually watching, because they know that the rules are unfair and silly, that they’re going to be treated as though they are, say, slacking off instead of actually working at home regardless of whether they work or not, and the boss isn’t going to fire them if she can’t even fire the weak performers who are responsible for the rules. I’ve seen it happen at my old job with the crazy manager – people joined the companies as professionals, then lost their work ethics and were lazy and immature, then left the company for new jobs where they could be treated as professionals. The only people that lasted were the ones that were lazy or inept and actually LIKED that environment because they would rather be treated like toddlers than held accountable for getting their jobs done.

        I’m not saying that these managers are bad people – in my case, I think she was just inexperienced in office environments (she was a bartender before starting as a receptionist at that company) and didn’t have natural management skills. But I think in the long-term, it’s never a GOOD way to manage. They should focus on results and retaining performers, even if it means firing some people and having half the office on PIPs.

  6. ZSD*

    My face scrunched up more and more in confusion as I read about Trish’s position on working from home.
    OP, I hope you and your colleague sat in that weekly meeting with very scrunched-up faces.

    1. WhichSister*

      Exactly…. I was waiting for the “and if the Wednesday after the full moon falls on an odd day, then all WFH schedules default to those schedules under the previous full moon, unless it’s a blue moon, in which case see addendum 3.7”

  7. Bee Eye LL*

    Regarding salaried employees and PTO, I have a friend who works for a timeclock Nazi and he said it drives the whole department crazy. They will get “spoken to” if they come in one minute late or early. The problem is there are about 20 people who all use a single timeclock and they all line up at 8am every morning. Same goes for lunch breaks. People aren’t allowed to skip lunch in order to make doctor’s appointments and things like this. None of this in our policy manual, either – it’s just the managing director’s idea of how he ought to manage.

    1. Katie F*

      A single timeclock? So there’s basically no way that an employee won’t show up as “late” now and again if they have to wait in line to clock in. Yikes.

      I feel like that would be incredibly bad for overall morale.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        Don’t you know that you’re supposed to come in early to make sure that you clock in on time?? My work has a timeclock policy, and if you clock in during the fifteen minutes prior to your scheduled work time, then you are considered as starting on-time. You have up to seven minutes after to clock in as well. So if my day starts at 8, anything from 7:45 to 8:07 is considered on-time. If you clock in during a different fifteen minute window, then only the seven minute rule applies. (So if I come in at 7:30, a punch from 7:23-7:37 would be used for that section.)

        It makes perfect sense, right? Not anywhere in there that a new employee could mess up or become confused.

        1. Bee Eye LL*

          If they clock in at 7:59 somebody will say something to them. Must be 8am on the dot every single morning.

          1. BRR*

            Has anyone asked how to handle the situation of 20 people waiting to clock in at the same time?

            1. Bee Eye LL*

              Nobody actually gets in trouble – they just have to hear about it. The whole thing is nothing more than an annoyance – a daily reminder that they are treated like children.

              1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                “We need you to stop clocking in early. You’re not authorized to work overtime.”

          2. Mona Lisa*

            That’s even worse and makes no sense! At least the leeway with our timeclock allows for the time that you could feasibly get stuck waiting behind several people who are required to use the fingerprint scanning component.

        2. animaniactoo*

          It’s likely that they’re paying in 15 minute increments, so what you’re running across is the rounding leeway to fall on one side or the other of that particular 15 minutes. With an additional rule setup not to penalize people who are getting there a little earlier than that it in order to make sure they’re on-time.

        3. Sunflower*

          Are you paid for the full 15 mins? I’m not sure about the 15 mins but I believe the 7 min thing is a law. Has something to do with the way things are rounded. It’s legal though.

          1. Mona Lisa*

            Our hourly rate is broken down into 15 minute increments, but if I clock in at 7:45, I am not paid for the additional 15 minutes I’m at work that day.

            This actually got me into trouble recently because there were several occasions where I clocked in at 7:52 and so, to make sure my department wasn’t charged overtime, I left at 4:20ish since the rounding rules had only been explained to me as the 7 minute interval. Cue a disagreement last week with HR, who had previously just corrected the time to give me 8 hours but then decided that I should be following a rule I didn’t know about and took away 30 minutes of my PTO to compensate for the missing time.

            1. Bee Eye LL*

              We used to have that policy but change it to only round the final end of day number because if you round at each punch-out, you can have a couple hours difference by the end of the week.

        4. Laura*

          Ugh, a previous employer of mine was like this. I was told on Day 1: “If you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late!” But when I tried to clock in at that time, I was slapped on the wrist and told not to clock in until 7– even though I had begun my workday at 6:45 or 6:50. It was so irritating.

        5. Katie F*

          Well, with built-in leeway (7:45 to 8:15 for clocking in and counting as “on time”) I don’t see the lack of reason but the idea of expecting everyone to clock in ON THE DOT but also have a single timeclock? That’s ridiculous.

          I used to work in a location that made everyone clock in on a specific computer, and while shifts were staggered, the 8 am group would always get crazy backed up trying to start their day, as it was the largest group.

      2. Bee Eye LL*

        Oh yeah it is. Several people have quit over the past couple of years and I know others are looking for jobs elsewhere. One mid-level supervisor spent a week in the hospital due to high blood pressure issues brought on from stress at work. It’s insane.

      3. Oryx*

        When I worked at the prison we had this. We had a 15 minute window and we weren’t allowed to clock in a minute before that. Add in security checking our bags and the first shift starting at the same time so you never knew how long it would take, we’d all get there early, just so we could hang around in front of the time clock until 7:15 am on the dot then we just took turns.

    2. newlyhr*

      Some time clock Nazis manage to be one without even needing a time clock… old boss…the CEO no less…..kept notes on his outlook calendar about when people came and went, down to the minute–and used to make us use leave time any time you didn’t work an 8 hour day—even if someone had worked extra hours during the week to address an emergency or to attend required evening meetings. It used to infuriate me and then I realized what a miserable person he must be to have that kind of obsession. I was slightly less furious, but I still got the heck outta Dodge as soon as I could. :)

      1. Desdemona*

        Ugh, I had a boss like that, too, also the CEO. You had to work at least 40 hours per week between 8-5 Monday-Friday to be considered full time. To make matters worse, he explicitly disallowed the use of PTO to “make up” your hours, unless they were used for a full day. (He’d still dock your PTO if you took an extra half hour at lunch on Monday, even if you took only a half hour on Tuesday, but the extra half hour on Tuesday meant you could keep your benefits.) If you tried to point out that you’d worked 40 full hours within the week, though not eight hours each day, he’d explain, as if you were the moron, that “comp time” is illegal, so he couldn’t not dock your PTO for the time you missed on Monday. Of course, for hourly employees, he had no qualms about shifting their hours over 40 into time periods where they’d worked fewer, to avoid paying overtime. In his twisted world view, that wasn’t “comp time” because he wasn’t actually giving somebody free time off, so it wasn’t illegal.

    3. INTP*

      I had a boss like this but since we worked in an office where it would be very strange to have a literal clock, she took on the responsibility of BEING the timeclock herself, noticing when every one of her employees arrived to the minute.

      It was actually a major part of the reason why I quit the job, along with most other high performers. The stress of freaking out when I hit a red light in the morning, knowing that too many red lights could get me a lecture, took a toll on my physical health. Just not having to worry about crazy traffic making me 5 minutes late because no one cared that closely made a huge difference in how calm I felt all day.

  8. Karo*

    Honestly, it seems like her treatment of PTO may be fueled by the WFH policy. In her mind, she’s giving you 8 hours a week with which you can do whatever you want, so the fact that you want to duck out early for a doctor’s appointment is irksome.

    If you have solid productivity stats that show that you’re equally productive on your WFH days, could you use that as a point in your favor?

    1. Ife*

      It would be so tempting in this situation to treat WFH days as “days off” like the boss describes them, or at least days of like 25-50% productivity. “Why, yes, I will schedule my doctor’s appointment, go for a leisurely stroll, and take a long lunch. Also I will be watching House of Cards when I’m at my desk.” I wouldn’t actually do it (at least not all on the same day…!), but man the temptation would be there.

  9. LQ*

    It sounds like your director is above Trish and is the one with plans for you? I’m not normally for this but if you are having a conversation with your director about hey you’re good here right? I’d absolutely bring it up with the director, even if it hasn’t come up in the quarterly review yet. I’d focus on the review, but if your director is having these casual conversations with you more often I’d say that would make sense to bring it up there.

  10. animaniactoo*

    Honestly, I would *not* talk to Trish first, because I think this is something for the company to handle with Trish about her management policies, and if you talk to Trish first, you’re going to end up with either being unable to escalate it without an issue, or having Trish “know” that you’re the one who went to HR/over her head.

    I think your best bet is to talk to HR first and ask them about what the company policy is on this stuff and whether it is supposed to vary so widely by department. If nothing springs out of that (managers get to set their own rules for their own departments line, etc.), then I think talking to Trish directly is the right next step.

    1. Laura*

      I agree with this. The idea of escalating it from Trish THEN to HR makes me uncomfortable. OP should be able to do some general fact-finding before confronting Trish about it.

    2. stevenz*

      I think this is right. Part of the problem is that practice is inconsistent across the company. That needs to be straightened out before you can make sense of how to manage it.

  11. BRR*

    I’d definitely bring it up to Trish first but I’m very skeptical of her changing her attitude. I wonder if you go to HR or your director if the “power in groups” approach would be better to try and defray any retaliation since Trish is such an opponent of WFH.

  12. newlyhr*

    The way that Trish is handling WFH may actually be a violation of company policy. I would check that out first–some companies have clear, company-wide WFH guidance; others leave it up to individual departments.

    It certainly sounds like her position is, at the least, inconsistent with your company’s culture. Many companies work hard to build company culture and don’t like it when managers fail to support it.

    That said, you really should discuss it with her first, even if it is uncomfortable. If you can stick to the issue and not make it personal, you might have more success than you think.

  13. Chickaletta*

    I like all of Alison’s advice, but I wonder if the part about telling Trish that, “(your policy is) impacting my thinking about the role long-term”, might be interpreted as a threat to resign if Trish doesn’t change her policy. I know there are people out there who would definitely take it this way, become defensive, feel they’re being manipulated, etc. I know that’s not the intended message, and I wouldn’t take it this way, but we all know there’s people out there like this. So, I wonder if this part should be left out. Thoughts?

    1. LBK*

      I actually think that’s the strongest part of the argument and it kind of should be taken as a threat; Trish needs to understand that a) the ability to WFH is a given for many people these days, and B) there’s opportunities available to high performers where the rules won’t be so strict. She needs to see that she’s not acting in a vacuum and that she can and will lose good people if she continues to operate this way.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        The problem with this thinking is, if you’re going to make a threat like this, you better be in a position to follow through. So if OP doesn’t already have another gig lined up, she may want to be careful about how this is worded so as not to have Trish call her bluff and/or retaliate or fire her.

        1. LBK*

          I don’t know if she needs to have another gig lined up immediately, otherwise what’s the point in having the conversation at all? She could just quit and move on. But I agree that it should only be said if it’s genuine.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s not a bluff — it’s a straightforward conversation with a manager who clearly values her (and who she’s described as otherwise being pretty reasonable) to say “hey, this is something that’s really affecting my satisfaction here, and I value our relationship enough to want to see if we can figure it out.”

          You can’t say this if you’re 22 and have been in your job for six months, but if you’re reasonably well established and have a manager who clearly loves your work, and she’s Not A Monster, this is a normal conversation to have.

          1. Meg Murry*

            Yes, OP has said she is already considering applying to other departments to get away from Trish’s management. It’s not a threat, it’s letting Trish know where OP stands – because it sounds to me like if Trish doesn’t ease up on this OP will move from “thinking about applying” to “actively applying”.

            1. LBK*

              It’s not a threat, it’s letting Trish know where OP stands.

              Yes, this is exactly the phrasing I was looking for.

    2. Important Moi*

      Trish is difficult now. I would imagine this “threat” would make her more difficult.

    3. Christopher Tracy*

      I’d leave it out too for that reason – anything that could remotely sound like an ultimatum should probably be avoided in this situation. OP has a good relationship with Trish until she doesn’t, and something like this could definitely be misconstrued as a threat if the person on the receiving end doesn’t like the message (and given Trish’d attitude about WFH and PTO, she won’t).

      1. LBK*

        But does that matter to the OP that much anyway? If she’s already genuinely thinking of leaving, at most she loses the potential for a good reference. From the OP’s perspective, they already have a bad relationship in the sense that Trish runs the department in a way that makes her not want to work there.

        I guess it depends how much control Trish has over the OP’s future at the company. It sounds like her director would still up for her anyway, so she may not be that concerned if her relationship with Trish goes sour before she leaves (which I’d be willing to bet it will no matter what, because Trish seems like the type to take it personally when someone quits).

        On some level, it’s only a threat if you’re not actually planning to go through with it. Depending how it’s said and positioned, a matter-of-fact statement about the impact of Trish’s management decisions is just feedback.

        1. Kyrielle*

          It’s not just the reference – Trish can, if she’s the type to do so, remove all the good assignments from OP, rescind any permission to WFH, or even potentially fire her. It’s possible that others in the company would step up to defend the OP, especially the Director, but there’s a risk they might not. That’s a pretty big risk to take – I’d leave the line about rethinking the future out.

          If Trish didn’t change stances based on the conversation, I would totally take that line to the Director, *not* as a threat but in a ‘how can we make my future here not involve reporting to Trish’ sort of way.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That would be a really unusual and extreme reaction though and there’s nothing in the letter to indicate it’s likely. It’s pretty normal to talk to your manager about things impacting your job satisfaction, as long as you do it in a collaborative, professional, calm way.

          2. LBK*

            I think that would be an unbelievably ridiculous reaction to worry about in this scenario. The OP say they have a good relationship and that Trish seems to generally be a reasonable manager aside from this point of contention. My last boss certainly didn’t get any gold stars for his management overall but we had a good enough relationship that I was able to be candid with him about starting my job search so that we could adequately prepare for my eventual leaving, and there were no repercussions. I know there are vindictive overreacters out there but in general I think the averge manager is more reasonable than you might expect, especially if you’re a valued employee.

    4. PinkisSky*

      I would leave it in, OP has already said she’s looking into transferring w/in company because of Trish’s policies. I think the OP is just being upfront about it and letting Trish know that her WFH&PTO policies are driving OP out, not the work or anything else. Besides, there are different policies about transferring w/in each company, it might be entirely possible she’d need Trish’s approval or at least need to disclose to Trish when she DOES start applying to other positions in company.

  14. LBK*

    I think all of this boils down to what Alison’s cited in the title, which is that she doesn’t consider WFH days to actually be working days. Thus, she’s structuring her team’s WFH in such a way that she can be draconian about ensuring work is done – I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s also the type of person to freak out if you don’t answer your phone or respond to an IM instantly while WFH, assuming it must mean you’re slacking off (and not that you’re, y’know, in the bathroom or eating lunch, just like you could be if she tried to reach you in the office).

    I would start there in your conversation and ask Trish if there’s a reason she’s concerned about productivity while people are working from home (ie if she’s actually seen a change in how much people get done once WFH started). I suspect being able to turn around that piece of her thinking would organically free up her thinking on a lot of these other issues; if she’s confident that a WFH day is just like any other day but in a different place, then her treatment of those days will hopefully fall in line. I don’t know that you’ll be able to do it in reverse – to get her to relax the rules while at her core, she still views WFH as time off.

    FWIW, I think this can be done. My old department has gotten much more lax about WFH over time, allowing people to WFH when they’re sick and even giving a few people regular WFH days. This is a department that didn’t even provide VPN logins to people until a couple years ago, and even then it was only because of a change to the company’s business continuity policy in response to blizzards that shut down operations in some departments because public transit was closed and people didn’t have the ability to telework.

    1. Aurion*

      I agree with you. In my fantasy world, I would really love it if someone actually replied to her with “well, if you don’t actually consider WFH days to be work, why am I answering your calls?”

      But of course that would make everything worse so don’t listen to me. It’s a nice thought though.

    2. Koko*

      Yes, thank you for this. It seems like a lot of commenters are interpreting OP’s boss as a vindictive ogre who will never change her mind about anything, but I don’t get that read off this letter at all. Bosses aren’t just perfect or awful, sometimes they are just misinformed or misjudging something (and even feel strongly about their wrong idea) but are still basically a reasonable person.

  15. Important Moi*

    OP states “Other groups in our company are allowed to work from home whenever they need to or in the event of minor illnesses, and we have many people who work from home permanently.”

    Does management allow each manager to implement teleworking policies for their own group? This may be the real issue, every manager gets to implement teleworking however she sees fit.

    1. ElectricTeapots*

      Yes, I’m a bit confused about the company-wide WFH policy. I feel like there’s a bit of a gap between “allow your employees to WFH for weather-related closings” and “allow your employees 1 WFH day/week,” and I’m wondering how Trish made that jump. Would she be less draconian about it if WFH were for weather/sickness/other emergencies, which would presumably happen with less frequency than once a week?

  16. Minion*

    I like the wording that AAM has suggested. I wish I had a tiny little Alison that I could carry around and whip out in situations where I don’t know what to say. Reading that back it sounds much weirder than it did in my head.

    I really hope that, if you choose to use the approach and wording that has been suggested, you’ll come back and update us as to how that went over. I may be completely wrong, but it seems like in many updates we learn that the OP didn’t actually implement the advice given, but the situation resolved itself in other ways like OP gets a new job or Horrible Manager moves on to other opportunities, etc. Those are good resolutions and I’m always happy to see that the OP is happy and doing better, but I would like to read more of the “I did exactly what you said and then X happened as a result,” variety.

    That’s not to pick on the letter writers or to discourage anyone from updating – I really love to read the updates and I think most everyone else does as well no matter what the outcome is. One recently wasn’t resolved, but it was more an update on how the situation was progressing and that was very interesting and, hopefully, we’ll see a great resolution to that one too.

    So, please update, OP. We’re rootin’ for ya!

    1. SusanIvanova*

      Alison as a Service!

      (“aaS” gets tacked onto so many things in my industry that “Coworker as a Service” is a running joke with my team.)

  17. OP*

    Thanks for answering my question, Alison! I have my one-on-one on June 30th and will use your wording to discuss it with Trish. I will definitely go to her before mentioning it to my director who I will have a on-on-one with in July.

    And thanks everyone for your comments. I have several reasons why I feel Trish is a good manager for the most part, except for PTO and WOS. First, she’s very supportive when I have family issues (and has even let me work from home due to some before, however she has stopped it because other people in the group were taking advantage). Second, she’s definitely advocated for me with others in the company, makes sure my name gets out there, gets me face time with upper management to showcase project I’ve worked on, gives me great project. I always feel like she has my back, even if I make a mistake. She does not manage by yelling or berating like my husband’s management does. If I make a mistake, we discuss it to make sure it doesn’t happen again. She has invested heavily into my development including supporting and encouraging me to get my Master’s degree, lobbying upper management to give me special training not normally available, and coaching me on office culture and and politics that I would otherwise have not known. She’s also given me two promotions and numerous awards.

    I don’t feel like she has a punitive orientation at all. She just hates WOS and is very old school about time.

    1. Meg Murry*

      I think then given what you said here and above that you need to talk to her about making adjustment to her WFH policy on a case by case basis, not lobbying to get her to change the policy for everyone – which could just backfire and make her dig in her heels more. Her repealing it for everyone because a few people abused is very much a “the whole class stays in for recess when 2 kids act up” type of management, and it’s only going to demoralize her top performers.

      During your review (or shortly after) could you make a case for a WFH policy for *you* (for instance, Wednesdays unless there are client meetings, in which case you would be allowed to pick Tuesday or Thursday, plus the ability to use WFM on days when you are otherwise moderately ill and don’t want to expose others to your cold, etc). If necessary, you could agree to it as a “three month trial run” or similar. That way if your other co-workers whine, she could explicitly say “this is a plan OP and I have worked out. If you want to WFM, show me that you can also be a top performer and then we can talk about it.”

      If that doesn’t fly, I would bring up with your director during your one-on-one the fact that Trish is using sweeping policies to manage her lesser performing employees and top employees like you identically and that it is demoralizing to be painted with the same brush and denied benefits that are supposed to be part of company policy.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        I think then given what you said here and above that you need to talk to her about making adjustment to her WFH policy on a case by case basis, not lobbying to get her to change the policy for everyone – which could just backfire and make her dig in her heels more.

        I like this suggestion, and OP’s boss may be inclined to go along with it if she really likes her a lot and wants to keep her happy in her position.

    2. BRR*

      she has stopped it because other people in the group were taking advantage

      Is this possibly why she acts the way she does about WFH? And instead of just dealing with the people who were taking advantage of it she instituted a blanket approach?

      1. Murphy*

        It could be, or she could just a clock-watcher without any good reason. It happens (I had a colleague who was that way and he came to me a lot for advice on whether or not he was being unreasonable – he often was, but at least he was aware and wanted to change). It doesn’t make the manager a bad person, but can make them hard to work for.

    3. Kyrielle*

      Seeing this, I withdraw my concern about talking to her first – it really does sound like that should be safe. I hope it will also be more productive than I worry. If nothing else, the timing of the one-on-one schedules is good if you do have to escalate it. Fingers crossed that you don’t, and Trish is open to hearing what you have to share.

    4. animaniactoo*

      You might really want to address the issue with her that it’s essentially unfair to deny the employees who are not abusing WFH due to those who are, rather than specifically dealing with those employees on their productivity while WFH. In fact, it can be part of the standards for being able to do WFH “productivity must regularly be a minimum of 90% of in-office productivity in order to be able to continue utilizing this benefit”.

      Everybody has an off day here or there, whether it’s in the office or out, but she can set a standard that says “if you’re regularly having off days while you’re not in the office, you in particular cannot WFH” and only grant that for them on a case by case basis.

    5. LBK*

      It’s almost scary how well this describes my old manager who I mentioned above – he was a fantastic advocate for me, stood up for me when there were errors made or conflicts arose, actively helped develop my career and was supportive of me seeking opportunities for growth, etc. And he also had a sticking point about office presence – he was very much a “butt in the seat” manager for a role that definitely didn’t require it, and that covered all elements of that attitude, from punctuality to WFH. As I said above, he became much more relaxed about it over time, particularly with me; he was still strict with some people but I was more or less able to come and go as I pleased.

      Maybe that’s how you can approach the conversation, as Meg Murry suggests above? Make it more about how you personally think you’ve shown that you’ve earned this benefit and that you’ve proven that you can handle the responsibility of setting your own schedule and less about wanting her to change the policy as a whole. In this case, I think that might actually be easier than advocating for rule changes, because then you don’t have to convince her that everyone deserves that privilege.

    6. CM*

      I’ve had plenty of managers who were generally good to work for, even though there were certain areas where I had issues with them. I think a lot of the comments are adversarial, maybe because we all share your frustration about this situation or have had similar experiences. But I’m glad you’re going to bring it up with Trish and explain where you’re coming from. She probably won’t leave the meeting a changed person, but I’m sure she’ll at least consider what you have to say since you’re a valued employee and are not out to take advantage of WFH/PTO policies.

      I also had a boss who got burned by somebody who took advantage of her flexibility and basically didn’t show up for work, and that boss responded by really tightening up her policies. But over time, as she built up her team with people she could trust, she was able to relax her policies again and allow the same kind of flexibility, this time with more accountability (requiring a work plan/end-of-day report when people are telecommuting, for instance).

      Good luck with Trish!

  18. Engineer Girl*

    None of this is about WFH. Trish has clearly demonstrated that she enjoys using her power to jerk people around. The WFH, PTO are just how she implements it. Trish has shown you a charachter issue and she isn’t going to change.
    She’s been forced into WFH but she sabotages it. She treats people like non-exempt by tracking hours.
    I suspect that if you call her out on this, even nicely, that she’ll retaliate.
    I’d look for a transfer.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, this really gets at the heart about what is bothering me about this manager.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Amen. People like this don’t change and trying to make them change is a waste of time and energy.

    3. LBK*

      Hmm…I don’t know I agree if it’s really only in this one area that she’s so strict. Per OP’s comment above, it doesn’t seem like that kind of megalomania applies to any other facet of her management, so I have a hard time agreeing that this is a power play; it’s really, really, really common for WFH and office presence in general to be a sticking point for otherwise good managers, because for decades it’s been true of US culture that part of being considered a good employee is face time. A lot of companies have successfully shifted their culture away from that kind of thinking, but there’s definitely whole industries that are still catching up and there’s stragglers everywhere.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        OP stated that Trish “gleefully” canceled
        WFH in June. This in spite of directives from on high. That’s my point – she’s doing her own thing in spite of management directives.
        Trish may want to keep things the old way, it’s true. But refusing to change in spite of directives from management is a control issue.

        1. LBK*

          But I think the glee and the desire for control flow from her dislike of WFH, not the other way around. I don’t think this is necessarily indicative of any general elements of her personality because of what I said above about WFH being a weird, isolated area that otherwise good managers can have a tendency to handle poorly.

  19. Juli G.*

    This drives me crazy. Managers, do you want a free way to likely increase employee engagement? Schedule flexibility!

  20. Karina Jameson*

    I once worked for someone who said, “If you are working from home, you’re not working!” Clearly, Trish believes this as well. A very outdated way of thinking as some of the most productive people I know work from home.

    1. Katie F*

      I find this mentality so frustrating.

      In my current job, there is a lot of working from home that happens and my boss is great about it. When I’m sick, instead of bringing my germs to the office, I am able to spend the day working on the couch while I heal up. I find I’m honestly MORE productive at home than I am at work, since I don’t have any coworkers or random tasks to distract me from important projects.

      Plus, I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a boss who says “Don’t bring germs to work!” without the caveat of “except you have to, because we’re not going to give you nearly enough sick days to count and will consider you lazy for taking the ones you have.”

    2. Rana*

      Heh. All of us freelancers who have home-based businesses must have it super easy, then. Though it does make me wonder what, then, our clients are paying us for….

    3. Kera*

      I’ve not had a manager like that, though a colleague in OldJob did. We did the same job, just with different client focuses, and were expected to be able to work effectively in the office, at conferences, in hotels on the other side of the planet…… but the kitchen table was apparently not acceptable to him. It was a horribly open plan office too, with a couple of shouty types dotted around, so any work requiring quiet focus (say, writing up a report) was so much easier to do from home. Never did understand his logic.

  21. ...*

    Lol reminds me of the time I had PTO approved, strong armed to work that day, but was berated for answering a email via the work phone the COMPANY provides/required me to have…the manager, (who I don’t report to btw) assumed I wasn’t working due to that email though he received multiple earlier emails from my laptop:).

  22. Sibley*

    I work for a very large company. In my division, work from home is a perk, but we’re also aware (and management says it openly) that the #1 guy in our division doesn’t like it much. As a compromise, if you work from home you have to fill out a form documenting what you worked on and submit it to a particular mailbox. Not a big deal honestly.

    I’m positive that the reason they came up with that compromise is that this guy knows that he may not like WFH, but if it’s not an option they will lose people. My job is flexible, and is often done from offsite. Yeah, in some cases it’s easier to be in the office, but it’s not a requirement. So telling me that I couldn’t work from home at all, or actively discouraging it (I don’t consider the form we do a discouragement really) would mean I’d start talking to some of the 3-5 contacts I get a week and find a new job in a hurry.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      I work for a very large company. In my division, work from home is a perk, but we’re also aware (and management says it openly) that the #1 guy in our division doesn’t like it much.

      Our division president doesn’t like it, either, so he only allows one WFH day a month (unless of course you’re ill – then everyone would prefer you work from home until you’re better). His reason for not liking it kind of makes sense to me though – we rent space in an extremely expensive building downtown, and we get charged a ridiculous amount of money for every cubicle in our workspace. For the price of what they pay, they want people in these seats as much as possible.

      1. Kera*

        Heh – we’re rapidly running out of desk space in our office, and plans are being mooted to encourage more formalised wfh schedules with the intention of hot-desking/desk sharing so we don’t have to rent another floor.

  23. Ann Furthermore*

    My company has a new CEO who hates virtual working and is spending all his time coming up with ways to make it go away. He’s a jackass. There really isn’t anything more pressing to be worrying about? My theory is that it’s intentional, trying to get people to quit so when they inevitably outsource most of the jobs they’ll be paying out less in severance.

  24. Daria*

    OP, I think we must be at the same company. I actually just put in my notice today and lack of flexibility is a HUGE part of the reason. I have an easy to do from home job and am salaried, but everything you described is true here as well, and it comes from the one manager. I loved what I did, but I simply could not put up with being treated like a first grader anymore.

  25. Bob*

    I have worked places where telecommuting was literally a day off but they had horrible management. The places that had hardcore telecommuting had no issues with productivity because they established a criteria for what a work day at home involved. It basically means you don’t have to get dressed or drive to work but everything else is identical to being in the office. It was extremely obvious when somebody thought working from home meant checking email while running errands.

    I just wish managers would treat us like adults and simply disallow telecommuting for individuals that can’t handle it. Treat it like a perk and take it away when it gets abused.

    1. SL*

      Nah. Telecommuting means you actually answer your phone while you’re playing golf ;)

  26. SenatorMeathooks*

    This is what I would do, and in the order that follows: 1. Go to HR to clarify the work-from-home policy and time off policy. 2. Approach manager and discuss. 3. Depends on the outcome of #2.

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