I’m furious that my vacation request was denied, Civil War reenactor beards at job interviews, and more

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

1. My vacation request was denied, and I’m furious that my coworkers got to take time off then

In March, I submitted a vacation request for July 13-15. My manager denied the request, saying that it was during a “black out” period following our second quarter close. She explained that no one is allowed to take time off during any of the two weeks of a quarter close. I asked if I could appeal to her boss for an exception, with the assurance that I would be happy to work extra hours to clear my workload in advance of the days off. She still denied me, saying that she had to be fair to all of the accountants, reiterating that no one was allowed time off.

On July 15, a coworker pointed out to me that one accountant had been allowed to take 14th and 15th off, while another accountant had been allowed to take the 15th off. I was furious. I emailed my manager the above conversation and copied her two bosses. I said that it had been brought to my attention that two others had been granted vacation time when my request was denied and asked how this was fair. She did not respond to the email, but sent an instant message for me to stop by her office for “just a sec”; I responded that I was not in a constructive mood and I would prefer to wait. I stopped by her office about 4:50 (as I was leaving) but she had apparently already left for the day – computer off, lights out. Am I wrong to be so upset?

I can understand why you’re upset, but I think you were in the wrong to be so aggressive about it. Cc’ing her bosses was pretty out of line. This is really between the two of you, and you hadn’t even talked about it with her yet to discover if there was a reasonable explanation (more on that in a minute). Also, responding to her meeting request by saying that weren’t not in a constructive mood is not great; it’s essentially saying, “I’m having a tantrum.” These aren’t personal relationships; they’re business relationships, and you’re generally expected to pull it together and operate professionally when your boss wants to talk to you.

As for the situation itself: It’s possible that your coworkers were on FMLA leave or had some kind of emergency (granting leave for illness or a personal emergency are very different than granting vacation request during blackout periods). You don’t know yet, and you definitely don’t want to get this pissed off and then discover the person was out because of a death in the family or for crucial medical treatment.

2. Beards at interviews … and Civil War reenactor beards

When I am clean-shaven, I look like I am about 12 years old. (I’m 40.) I work in a conservative field, but it is not uncommon for men in the field to have near and trimmed mustaches and beards. However, I’ve always heard that a man should be clean-shaven for an interview.

I don’t want to shave because, as I said, I have a horrible baby-face and want to be taken seriously as an adult. Should I shave anyway?

Along the same lines, I’m a U.S. Civil War reenactor and my facial hair is a style common to that era. (Sideburns to the jawline, short beard to the chin, then up to the mustache. My chin itself is hairless.) However, the style is obviously not common in the modern world. My resume lists that I am a reenactor, and I wear the style I do for the historical accuracy when I am on the field. Given the rarity of my facial hair style in modern society, should I shave it before an interview?

In most fields, it’s fine to have facial hair for an interview. If you normally wear a beard, you wouldn’t need to shave just for a job interview (although it should be neatly trimmed). But you’re right that the style you wear is a very distinctive look, so I think it’s less about whether you can have facial hair at an interview (yes) and more about whether it’s an issue to have really unusual facial hair (like this, or a handlebar mustache). I want to tell you that it’s totally fine, and with some interviewers it probably would be — but with others, you’re going to be “the guy with the Civil War beard” and it’s going to get in the way of their assessment of you as a candidate.

I’d say play it safe and shave it, but it depends on how strongly you feel about maintaining it and how much you care if it’s a sticking point for some interviewers.

3. My boss asked how much he’d need to pay me not to work a second job

If my boss says to me, “How much do I have to pay you so that you don’t have to work a second job?” but he a) said it two weeks ago and I kind of laughed it off, b) is probably sincere, but I know for a fact that they hired me at a higher salary than they ever have for my current position and c) I never negotiated for my salary, but just took the first offer because they never opened up the discussion for salary negotiations…what do I do?

I’m getting paid more at this job than I ever have, but it’s still not enough because my $109,000 worth of student loans came due. In the meantime, I’m killing myself working two jobs that are both very stressful (60 hours of customer service a week).

Well, it seems like he asked you a pretty straightforward question, so I would go back and tell him! Say this: “Were you really serious the other day when you asked how much I’d need to earn here in order not to have to work a second job?” Assuming he says yes, give him the real answer.

That’s not a question a smart manager would ask without meaning it. See what he says.

4. I don’t want a baby shower at work

I have worked at my current job for many years, and I am thrilled to be expecting my first child! As is the norm in most office settings, we host baby showers for expectant mothers and fathers, regardless of how many children someone has had. The grandeur of these events will vary based on your perceived importance within the group and how much you are liked. It’s usually a surprise.

Is there a polite way for me to decline the offer of a baby shower at the office? I have been mistreated by multiple managers over the years, and do not wish to be on the receiving end of what feels like an extremely insincere gesture or any related gifts. I also do not agree with playing favorites in the office.

Talk to the person most likely to organize it — or to at least know who is organizing it — and say, “I know we often do showers for expecting parents. I’d prefer not to have one, and I was hoping you could help me make sure no one inadvertently organizes one. It would be a kind gesture, but I wanted to speak up now since it’s really not something I want.”

Be prepared for questions about why, though. One possible response is to just fall back on, “Oh, just not really my thing.” You could also add, “We’re waiting until the baby is here to see what we need,” although that risks people thinking you’d be okay with a shower with an atypical theme (like kids’ books, or parenting tips, or so forth).

5. Do I have to be paid for the time I spend sleeping on business trips?

I have a question about travel reimbursements. I just started a new job, my first salaried position. My job has involved a lot of travel with overnight stays. Does that count as overtime work? Do I need to be compensated for all the time I spend away (e.g., eight hours sleeping, etc.)? And if so, how do I ask for that?

Nope. First, if you’re exempt, you just get paid your regular salary regardless of how much time you work. But if you’re non-exempt (meaning eligible for overtime pay), then you’d get paid your regular salary, plus pay for any additional hours worked over 40 in a week. “Hours worked” really does mean hours worked — so if you’re attending a mandatory evening event, they have to pay you for that time. But if you’re hanging out in your hotel room, sleeping, or your time is otherwise your own while you’re on the trip, that’s not paid time. In other words, if you’re just working eight-hour days while you’re on the trip, it’s not going to impact what you’re paid.

Time spent in the act of traveling, like sitting on a plane or driving to your destination, works a little differently (and again, still only talking about non-exempt employees here). If you’re doing the actual traveling during your normal work hours, you have to be paid for that time. If the travel happens outside your regular work hours, they don’t have to pay for you it (like if you have an evening flight that’s outside of the times you normally work).

{ 366 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    OP2, your facial hair sounds awesome! Maybe if you don’t want to be clean-shaven you could temporarily grow in the chin part of the beard to turn it into a regular beard for a while. Then when you have a job it’ll be straightforward to revert to your current style with just a shave.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, that was my thought, too. The idea that men should be clean-shaven for a job interview sounds like it’s advice from the 70s!

      1. Pokebunny*

        Unless you’re a genetically unable to grow more than a messy stubble. *weeps quietly in corner*

        1. Adlib*

          My husband can’t grow the area where the mustache would meet the beard so he always has the “Lincoln/Amish” look. He gets told he looks like Lincoln A LOT. (He doesn’t – he’s much better-looking!)

        2. Michelle*

          I have one son who can grow a Duck Dynasty beard (he doesn’t let it get that long, but it could!) and one son who tries but it usually looks like a messed up wire brush.

        3. Library Director*

          My son’s friends curse them. Three Days=Full Beard. My youngest son is even luckier, his upper facial cheeks remain baby smooth. It sortta makes up for that mid-20s baldness.

      2. SophieChotek*

        With many friends that do re-enacting and understanding desire for historical inaccuracy, I would hate for you to have to shave your beard also; hope you can find a path that works for you too!

      3. Kelly L.*

        I think it’s meant to be “clean-shaven” as opposed to “5:00 shadow,” rather than “clean-shaven” as opposed to other intentional facial hair styles.

        1. bridget*

          I think the 70’s was also the height of “beards are for hippies,” at least in the minds of older conservative people, so to be taken seriously in a conservative environment clean-shaven was a way to signal that you weren’t part of the counter-culture. Or at least this is the ostensible reason why BYU (where I went to school for a time) instituted a no-beards policy in the 60’s-70’s. It still exists today, but feels increasingly silly.

      4. Jim*

        Absolutely. A few weeks ago I attended an interview for a professional IT job with a Wolverine type beard in progress. Got a written offer the next day!

        Pretty sure the beard didn’t make any difference… either way :)

    2. Blue_eyes*

      This was my thought as well. Grown in a full beard and trim it neatly before interviews.

    3. Meg*

      I had this exact same thought when I read the question and answer. It seems easier to grow out a normal beard and shave back to a funky beard than to start over completely.

    4. Erik*

      I am OP2.

      I would grow in a fuller beard, but cannot grow hair on the front of my chin. I tried for several years to grow a goatee, but gave up when all I could get was mustache down to my jaw, then across. That was when I switched to my current facial hair, which doesn’t required hair on the chin.

      I was told by career services in law school (yes, that is my field) that men should be clean-shaven for interviews. I always thought it was weird, given that a lot of male attorneys have facial hair (including interviewers!), but didn’t want to risk losing a job because I had a beard.

      1. David*

        I’ve been a lawyer for 15 years, and I’ve had both beards and long hair at various points in my career. The advice you’ve gotten from your school’s career services is good, but generic.
        Law firms are looking to hire people that their clients will trust and send more work to. Generally, than means they emphasize a clean-cut, conservative look, but it also depends on your area of focus (IP and technology law: whatever. Complex commercial litigation: better get a good razor) and other factors. When I wore long hair it worked to my advantage – as long as I was wearing a suit everyday. So that’s the question to ask yourself: would you spend $100s per hour for your services looking like that?
        A more holistic view might be you should wear to the interview what you’ll be comfortable wearing to work. You don’t want to get hired by someone impressed by your sharp, clean-cut appearance only to have you show up a few months later looking totally different.

    5. blushingflower*

      Yep. Don’t shave the whole thing, but maybe either grow it in (depending on if you have time) or otherwise trim it to a more modern style.

  2. Mike C.*

    As a dude, so long as your facial hair is neat and doesn’t get in the way of using any safety equipment needed for the job, go wild. The whole “a man should be clean shaven for an interview” rule sounds like something someone made up to be unnecessarily judgemental.

    1. Noah*

      This is pretty much my feeling too. I’m sure there are some jobs and fields where it would be unacceptable, but in general I’m so used to seeing beards that it doesn’t phase me one way or another unless they are not well kept.

      1. DoDah*

        I worked for a SW company. The SVP of Sales (and co-owner) hated beards–so he used to tell the sales guys that they had to remain clean shaven. As sales people left the company (they have a high turnover)–I would run into them ’round the city–and they almost grew beards. I guess they wanted to get it out of their system :)

    2. i don't know*

      I think people misunderstand the “clean shaven” rule . I always assume it meant that if you are usually beardless, you should be clean shaven and not look like a hobo.

      Like the OP, I look very young when I shave, but I can’t grow a beard. Which is a bit of a crappy situation.

        1. Tia*

          Only Don Johnson (Miami Vice era) looks like Don Johnson with stubble. Everyone else looks like they’ve forgotten to shave.

            1. Cleopatra Jones*

              Man, I love George Michael and have since his Wham! days but I when I look back at those 80’s videos, I swear that 5:00 shadow drawn on.

      1. Overeducated*

        This makes sense. I worked in a very very conservative setting (uniform required, dyeing hair “unnatural colors” and conspicuous jewelry not allowed), so if this rule were common anywhere it would have been there, but most of my male coworkers had neat beards and probably could have gotten away with Civil War styles provided they were well trimmed.

      2. EmmaLou*

        The actual definition of “clean-shaven” means without mustache or beard. Some jobs still require customer facing jobs to be clean-shaven, so if you normally wear a beard, Alison, do you think he should bring it up?

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          IME it also can come up in jobs where you have to wear a respirator that can make a good seal to your face, like some laboratory or manufacturing jobs, or possibly firefighting, although since the last one tends to be government-run, they’re more likely to have an accommodation at the ready because some religions require beards or side curls.

          1. (Not an IRS) Auditor*

            Pretty sure that safety trumps religion, at least for firefighting. Being able to wear a respirator is a bona fide qualification of the position.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              I think The Expendable Redshirt answered it perfectly. Remember, it’s “reasonable” accommodation, and even in the private sector, that doesn’t mean minimal expense or minimal inconvenience. In my experience most local, state, and federal employers want to be seen as accommodation-friendly anyway.

          2. The Expendable Redshirt*

            The Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan patented a gas mask that could be worn over his beard. As a Sikh, his beard was very important.

            For the OP, I think a well groomed look is sufficient.

    3. Naomi*

      I wonder if the clean-shaven rule dates from a time when it was less socially acceptable to have a beard. (Not the Civil War era, obviously.)

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        From what I can gather, beards are much trendier now. Perhaps due to austerity it saves on razors and water!

        Seriously though, there is a difference between a goatee and the Santa Claus/Captain Bird’s Eye special.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yeah, I would assume it means “don’t roll in looking like the president of the ZZ Top fanclub.”

      2. Slippy*

        It is also simpler advice to give. Otherwise you need to be much more specific about what amount of hair vs stubble, styles, and norms.

    4. RobM*

      I’ve heard this before but I always assumed it meant that you should look neat for your normal look, e.g. if I’m normally clean-shaven then I should shave that morning, or if I have a beard then it should be neat and trimmed, not due a cut. I never thought it might mean that anyone with a beard _must_ shave it off.

    5. Dynamic Beige*

      That was something I learned recently, that certain kinds of workplaces require men to be clean shaven because beards interfere with a mask’s ability to form a seal with skin. Someone I know switched jobs and their workplace no longer has a section that deals with chemicals(? I can’t remember) so he can now grow facial hair.

      If you’re applying for a job where this would be the case, your facial hair might disqualify you or put you in the Maybe pile. I can also see how certain front-facing jobs, where appearance is kind of part of the job, might also not be too thrilled with it. But if neither of those are concerns for your profession, it shouldn’t be that big a deal and you probably don’t want to work for someone who makes it a big deal.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t make a big deal of it myself. I’m not a huge fan of beards, but that’s a personal preference re guys I date–not guys at work, where I could not possibly care less.

  3. Purple Dragon*

    I hope you take this as a learning experience that you really need to get all the information before firing off an email to your boss and her bosses. I’m sorry but I can’t see this working out well irrespective of the reasons the others were given time off. In my experience going over your bosses head like this then refusing to discuss it with her would be grounds for disciplinary action.
    My advice is to apologise to your boss first thing and let her know that you can see how your reactions were – not good. I wish you the best and hope you’ll update us.

    1. Random Lurker*

      I’ve been the manager in a situation like OP #1, and you are right about disciplinary action. It did not end well for the employee in my version. OP, I don’t want to pile on here, but please understand that this is a career limiting move you’ve made, and for multiple reasons. You have:
      1. Acted emotionally without the facts;
      2. Called your boss out to her manager(s) in writing;
      3. Refusing a basic request for a discussion.
      Any one of those three alone is an issue that would be cause for corrective action (verbal feedback, written warning). You put all 3 together, and you are now in dying for this hill territory.

      Hopefully you are able to salvage your relationship with your boss. I understand that you are frustrated, but in the future, ask yourself if your frustration is worth limiting your opportunities at work over. And, please, don’t use email for conversations that are better suited for face to face.

      1. Dan*

        People disagree with how absolute this statement comes across, but IMHO, in the workplace, if “let it go” is ever an option, it’s almost always the best one to take.

        When it’s not, diplomatic channels are the way to go.

        1. Joseph*

          In a similar vein, a good question to ask yourself: “Is this issue so important to me that I would legitimately consider finding new employment if it’s not resolved positively?”
          If the answer isn’t a solid Yes, then you really need to consider how hard you want to push on an issue.

        2. LBK*

          I think you can make a caveat to that while still generally holding it true, which is that you can take one step of investigation to satisfy your curiosity, and after that you need to be able to let it go. I think it would be fine for the OP to ask the manager what happened, but pretty much regardless of what the answer is, she needs to be willing to let it go after that (and maybe just stash it in a mental folder of reasons to job hunt if it turns out to be a bad explanation).

      2. nofelix*

        Yeah I think given the above, the OP is best off putting the vacation request and coworker’s leave out of her mind and focusing on an apology to her boss explaining how she understands this was out of line.

      3. Sas*

        Random Lurker, you might have been a good manager, but there are plenty out there that aren’t and would have done something like this over and over. I had something like that at one point. I asked for one evening off, and later got yelled at by the employee that covered that shift. The manager was not supposed to tell the person who’s shift they were covering, it wasn’t a secret, but that manager went out of their way to tell the person who and why in that situation. When I got back into the office, that person started screaming at me. I had to yell back, “HEY, —–!, I had covered your last minute requests to be out SEVERAL times.” So, anyways, we can not assume that this is an amazing manager who always gets things right either, can we Lurker!
        Anyways, back to the part where we share our opinions and not talk about who we are as a person, the manager could have been someone in the lw situation where she had done inappropriate things or misguided things on a regular basis. She shouldn’t have responded the way she did though. It seems through what the person wrote that possibly the manager does things such as this often. And the person that sent the message to the lw that two people were out could have been another manager? It might not have been. Anyways, what if she was horrible, hypothetically, would it still be really wrong to let the manager know that she needed a minute before she could come to the office?

        1. Sarahnova*

          Er, yes? You just do not tell your manager that you’re too mad to speak to her. It’s inappropriate, childish, and ignores the fact that she gets to tell you what to do, period.

          The manager may have made mistakes, it may even be “unfair” of her, objectively, to have granted other time off requests. OP#1’s response is still unjustifiable and very, very unlikely to get him/her what they want.

          1. Anon Accountant*

            Exactly. 1 should never underestimate the value of taking a restroom break, getting a soda, or a short walk before sending or saying an emotionally fueled response.

            After that then you feel better enough to talk to your manager instead of escalating this to her bosses. I get it and it sucks to not have time off you requested but this isn’t a hill to die on.

          2. Amy L*

            Thanks for your thoughts. I felt that it would be best to wait as I did not want to say more that I would possibly regret. I am a generally quiet person and go out of my way to avoid conflict. The situation made me unusally angry. And, yes I spoke up because it was unfair.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              It was unfair, but I think you have to disabuse yourself of the notion that work is going to be fair. People are going to be treated differently, and policies selectively implemented. It’s going to suck royally, but if you kind of go in knowing that things won’t be fair, it might help you not get unusually angry.

          3. Ralph S. Mouse*

            Well, on the other hand, how many times has someone snapped at work and gotten told, “Well, you needed to step away, or tell someone before it got to that point”? Sometimes the most responsible thing you can do is say that this isn’t a good time to talk. You can’t put someone in a position where they’re constantly getting hit with crap and expect them to also respond perfectly every single time.

          4. Amy G. Golly*

            I could imagine scenarios where, if you were extremely emotional/upset/angry and weren’t confident of your ability to keep your emotions in check, it might be better to (politely!) ask your boss for time to compose yourself, rather than subject them to your emotional response. What I mean is, saying, “Could I have a moment, please? I want to make sure I’m in the right frame of mind before we go into this” might look better than being visibly angry.

            But I’d only do that as a last resort! Sucking it up would always be option #1. And I’d phrase the request pretty much exactly like that: politely asking for time to compose myself, rather than outright refusing my boss’s request.

        2. RobM*

          It sounds like you’re projecting your issues in another job onto this situation. It’s one thing to bring your experience to the discussions but this reads like a rant where you’re bringing your emotions.

          We all get upset and angry but to actually tell your boss that you’re too angry with them to talk to them is an incredibly poor move.

          1. Sadsack*

            Right, on top of sending a rant email to her bosses without having even discussed it with her first.

          2. Sas*

            RobM, we all can have our own comments. Do you know better than everyone else? It seems as if you can’t read comments and not project your issues into each of them. It’s one thing to bring experiences into comments, and its another to be so concerned with others comments that it turns into a rant, on your part. Don’t judge! op shouldn’t have said that to the boss, I think that that was the consensus. My point was clear that some bosses can be great and some as the op wrote in later, not so much. We shouldn’t necessarily assume that the boss was acting fairly, as one commenter kind of indicated. However, we know that op shouldn’t have responded the way they did initially. I think taking some time to compose in the situation of a bad manager is not necessarily horrible.

        3. Barefoot Librarian*

          I agree with Sarah and Rob. The fact that she said she couldn’t talk to the manager because she wasn’t in a “constructive mood” hints at immaturity and essentially says she can’t control her emotions. I expect that the OP is just younger and doesn’t realize how bad that sounds.

          Believe me, I do sympathize. I’ve had bosses that have made me so angry that I’m seeing red when I go talk to them, but I put on my professional face and bite my tongue (granted those are the kind of people you don’t work for any longer than you have to) because that’s what’s expected in the professional world. I don’t think anyone is saying her manager is in the right (we just don’t have that information), they are just putting things in perspective for the OP, so she’ll know where she might do things different next time.

          1. Daisy Steiner*

            I’ve felt the benefit in the past of letting strong emotions run their course before taking action – making a cup of tea before reviewing a frustrated email then sending, for example. Do you think in the OP’s situation there would be some way to give yourself a chance to gather yourself without being obstructive? Something like “Sure, I’ve just got an email to send – could you give me 10 minutes?”. I’d be reluctant to lie but it does give you the chance to enter a more positive frame of mind before the meeting.

            1. sunny-dee*

              This is exactly what I was thinking. Taking 5-10 minutes is 1) only a minor delay and 2) can be wise if you need to regain composure. I’ve done something similar before, “absolutely, I will be there in 5 minutes.” And then stopped into a restroom to compose myself and get on a game face.

              I think the OP basically blew her off all day, and that is … really bad. Apparently, they weren’t even communicating for the rest of the day? That’s just really blowing the situation up.

            2. Megs*

              I think that’s a perfectly acceptable and appropriate “lie” for the circumstances – alternatively, I might head to the bathroom before responding to take a moment to collect myself, then respond when I get back to my desk. Taking more than a few minutes would be a problem anywhere I’ve worked, though.

            3. anonabon*

              I think she would’ve done better just to hold off on responding at all. Pretend she didn’t see the e-mail, sleep on it, see boss in the morning.

            4. blushingflower*

              Yep. You can even just say “sure, just let me hit the restroom and then I will swing by”.
              The fact that you were in the restroom doing deep breathing exercises to reset your mood is irrelevant.

          2. all aboard the anon train*

            I don’t know if I’d assume OP is younger just because of this example. I’ve seen plenty of older people act similarly. Something like this can come from people of any age.

            1. Random Lurker*

              In my example where my employee behaved like #1, he was 50+. I believe some people just never figure out the difference between professional and personal conflict resolution. Age is irrelevant.

          3. Amy L*

            Not young. In my 40’s. Immature? Shrug. I think we all have our moments when we feel slighted.

            1. some1*

              Maturity doesn’t =/= never feeling slighted. Maturity equals not allowing our feelings to cloud everything to the point that we make decisions that aren’t in our best interest.

            2. Observer*

              The issue here is not about feeling slighted. The issue is that you went ballistic as your first option, tried to make your supervisor look bad, and then blew her off because “I’m too mad to talk to you.”

              That’s a reaction that I expect from school children, not adults. I’m not saying that you are immature. But it would be useful to you to recognize that your reaction in this case most definitely was immature.

              1. Tiffin*

                The issue here is not about feeling slighted. The issue is that you went ballistic as your first option, tried to make your supervisor look bad, and then blew her off because “I’m too mad to talk to you.”

                Yes, all of this!

        4. LesleyC*

          But here’s the thing, Sas: Good employees always strive to maintain a professional demeanor, whether their managers are good or bad. Even when aggressive or uncooperative behavior seems justified by a bad manager, that behavior still makes the employee look bad–because it sends a signal that the employee has bad judgment in managing his/her office relationships, and perhaps he/she performs poorly under emotional pressure.

          You seem to have had some unfair treatment at work, and I’m sorry for that. But the hard truth is that, should you pick a fight with your boss over this situation, that would still reflect badly on you as an employee. And OP’s email reflects badly on him/her.

          In our personal relationships, we have the luxury of calling each other out and picking fights when we disagree. In manager/employee relationships, the stakes are different.

        5. Kristine*

          What kind of workplace is this where employees scream at each other? That sounds like a major issue right there.

          1. Sas*

            Not a great one. The manager was clueless and contributed to the nonsense, (what it was on a good day.) Sales. Screaming was an exaggeration, but you get the point.

        6. Stranger than fiction*

          This occurred to me too. While I never would have emailed and would have talked to my boss instead, it is possible the boss is not playing fair. If the boss was so adamant about things being fair and nobody having time off during this period, she really should have been aware of optics and said something along the lines of “I can’t grant vacations requests or time off during this period unless you have prearranged medical reasons” or something along those lines. That would have prevented this whole mess.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yes, it is very possible that the boss isn’t playing fair. But pointing out to that type of boss that you’ve noticed, and are extremely angry about it, doesn’t ever go well.

    2. Daisy*

      It reminded me of the dress-code interns. I presume the response in this case won’t be ‘because he’s missing a leg’, but there’s probably some equally good reason why the rule didn’t apply to the other people.

      1. JessaB*

        And the reason could have been that they decided that since those people asked first and gave the same reasons the OP did that they could actually relax the rule, then the OP came along and became one too many. Also if the other people are exempt, maybe an exception was made because they worked OMG crazy hours during busy time (accountants do tend to have pile ons around quarter closing or tax season or audit season,) and they were going to completely burn out. But there are a metric tonne of reasons that are reasonable to say yes to them and no to OP.

        The reason could also be like Alison said, FMLA, medical appointments, a one time thing that’s time bound (graduation mgr, this is you,) military leave, whatever. Something reasonably bound by either law or custom to permit exceptions about.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          But can’t the manager be transparent about that then? (Without giving away specific medical conditions about coworkers of course.)

          1. Graciosa*

            By definition, no.

            If you say it’s an FMLA issue, or a medical appointment even without identifying the specific medical condition, you’re still informing the affected individuals co-workers that they have a medical situation.

            This is not their business.

            Really, unless you start getting into the territory of blatant discrimination (the legally prohibited type) this should be an eyes-on-your-own-paper kind of situation.

            The manager does not have to justify management decisions to the satisfaction of an employee. The presumption that they do – and can be called on the carpet by an employee for failing to do so to the employee’s satisfaction – is what is getting this LW in trouble.

          2. Random Lurker*

            The problem I have is that the manager wasn’t given the opportunity to be transparent. If OP had gone to the manager and said, “please forgive me for asking, but I’m wondering how Jane was given today off when I was denied when previously asked? Has there been a change in policy?” – this whole situation may have played out differently. Is it possible that the manager isn’t being fair? Absolutely! But the OP’s scorch the earth reaction is never the first path to take.

              1. Amy L*

                Good point.

                I did verify that the others requested and were granted vacation. Not illness, sick child (they are both young singles), etc. That is why I lost it.

                1. anonabon*

                  I feel like people are giving your manager a lot more benefit of the doubt in this scenario then they are giving you. Wish more people were seeing your comments.

                  Personally, I do think you should have gone to your manager first before CCing her superiors; I do think you should have held back on the “not in a constructive mood” quip. However… I also understand your feeling indignant. I would, too. I tend to be more emotional, and emotional turns to belligerent in cases like this, which is why I’ve a personal policy that any tension in the workplace, I write down the details and sleep on it before confronting anybody or escalating it. Sometimes I’m able to just “let it go”, but it’s the other times — when I DO feel the need to pursue it — that cooling off has the greatest effect, because I’m able to present my case in a calm and level-headed manner.

                2. CMT*

                  @anonabon Amy L’s comments don’t really change the general advice, though. Sending “furious” emails to your boss’s boss’s boss isn’t going to get the desired outcome, which is what matters here.

                3. Observer*

                  I’m curious how you verified this. But, to be honest, it’s not really all that relevant. You still don’t have all of the facts.

                  Furthermore, even if you are correct that this was really the boss being unfair, you handled it very poorly. I’ve been on the receiving end of unfair treatment, but this kind of response simply doesn’t work well and does nothing to bolster your case.

                4. Marvel*

                  The thing is, though, it’s very unlikely that you know the full reason behind their being granted vacation time, especially if you’re hearing this secondhand. There’s a long list of reasons they could have been granted leave that your managers might not be willing to share due to privacy issues:

                  1) Something FMLA-related
                  2) A last visit to a severely ill relative
                  3) Recovery from pre-scheduled surgery
                  4) An important religious holiday or ceremony
                  5) A memorial service for the first anniversary of someone’s death

                5. catsAreCool*

                  I can understand why you feel this is unfair (although maybe there are mitigating circumstances), but either way, it would have been better to just ask the boss about it, after you’d had a chance to cool off a bit. Even if the boss is being totally unfair and knows it, asking about it in a “just curious” way is likely to get a better response than anger.

                6. myswtghst*

                  Darn lack of threading…

                  catsAreCool – I keep trying to explain this to my husband, because when he feels slighted / cheated, he immediately wants to accuse people of being unfair or trying to swindle him. In my experience, even if they are doing something deliberately, a question works much better than an accusation at getting the response you want (unless what he wants is to feel right regardless of the consequences).

      2. sunny-dee*

        Also, it could even be simply that the leave was shorter. Maybe they could cover one day, but not 3 in a blackout period. Or maybe the people aren’t even off and they’re working from home or working at a different site.

    3. Myrin*

      Something I haven’t seen others mention yet: The OP found out about the other accountants through a third-person-account. The coworker in question could easily be mistaken about someone having a day off or they could have mixed up the dates or something to that extent. Probably not super likely in this scenario since the conversation with coworker seems to have been shortly after the dates taken off (and it’s been only very recently anyway) but I wanted to point this out because as a general rule, if one must become furious, at least one should have all the facts and not have it be based on a “X heard that Y told Z” kind of scenario.

      1. Audiophile*

        Exactly what I was thinking.
        Maybe those coworkers didn’t originally have those days off, maybe there were extenuating circumstances.
        But OP seemed to be running on such high emotions, that they didn’t think through these scenarios.
        Couple that with the fact that OP originally asked their manager if they could circumvent the first denial by asking manager’s boss and this looks really bad.
        That’s like asking your mom something and when she says no, saying “well let’s go ask dad, he’ll probably say yes.” That just screams “I really don’t care what you have to say or what you think. I really think you’re wrong and I’m not letting this go until I get the answer I want.”

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I think it’s more normal for employees to speak with their bosses bosses casually about stuff at some companies more than others. Here there is definitely a hierarchy one needs to respect, but other places I’ve worked it’s not a big deal.

          1. Tammy*

            I think, though, that there’s a difference between “speak with their bosses bosses casually about stuff” and “CC an email to the bosses bosses challenging a decision by your manager, without at least talking with the manager about it first.”

            In my part of my company, the senior management has a “very open door” practice – our VP even has “come by, have a bag of chips and a soda and talk about what’s on your mind” times scheduled. So casually talking about stuff is clearly fine. However, I think that even here, an action like LW#1’s would be viewed in a highly negative light.

            The issue, at least for me, isn’t so much that LW#1 “didn’t respect the hierarchy” by talking to her grandboss. The issue is that she disagreed with a decision her boss made (and which we have to assume based on the facts we have was within boss’s discretion to make) and responded by trying to essentially throw her boss under the bus with boss’s management so that they’d “make” boss make a different decision and/or “get boss in trouble” for the decision she made. (I’m reading into it here a bit, but I can’t imagine what other outcomes the LW could have been hoping for with her action.)

          2. Audiophile*

            But this isn’t casually speaking to the boss’s boss. She asked her boss if she could appeal to boss’s boss and was told no. Then when she found out additional information did exactly what she was told not to do.

      2. Katie F*

        Yeah, and especially as they were one-day and two-day times off respectively… I wonder that they weren’t last-minute doctor’s appointments, a sick child, or some other reason that the employees in question were out other than what I consider actual vacation, which is, you know, an actual day off.

        OP #1 should absolutely have scheduled a discussion with their boss FIRST to ask about the irregularities, and then if that turned out to be “Well, I just super like Myrtle so I gave her the day off!” THEN you take it over their head. This was way too reactionary and I think OP #1 is looking at a verbal warning at best and probably a write-up.

        I imagine the boss left “early” either because she was also furious (at being essentially stood-up by an employee who went above her head without speaking to her first) or because she was stopping by HR before she left to discuss options.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I hope OP #1 is looking at a verbal warning or write-up. I’m worried they may be looking at no job – I really hope not.

        2. snuck*

          Frankly if I had a super star employee who had something important (a mid week family wedding maybe) I’d consider breaking the rule for them (as part of a bigger retention strategy)… but if I had a staff member that blew up at things, regularly ignored professional norms and generally was a pain in the proverbial I’d just stick to rules – particularly if they were hard core rule sticklers themselves. Retention of that person mightn’t be a huge priority for me. And these are Accountants. Supposedly qualifed, professional, mature people.

          And I’d like to assume the manager followed her normal daily plans rather than left early on account of a huffy rude staff member – they might have already had something on right after work and not waited around, they might have had to finish early that day for a normal reason etc. We’ll never know. What we do know is that the OP stopped past at a time she was finishing work and that’s all. Maybe all these people in this office finish work before 5pm…

    4. It Can't be Monday Already!*

      We had an employee who reacted the same way to a number of everyday workplace occurrences (including assignments to which he took issue). Needless to say, we severed the employment relationship when it was obvious that the behavior was going to continue (despite a meeting with our president).

      1. some1*

        Yeah, I had a former coworker who did this whenever she was told No. That’s a big part of the reason she is a former coworker.

          1. Amy L*

            I just want to say that I did confirm (thru another manager) that the other two accountants were granted vacation time. That is why I lost my cool.

              1. Amy L*

                Well, Odd. I didn’t “pull” anything, thanks. Another manager came to me with the information, I was not going thru the department taking attendance and demanding to know everyone’s whereabouts. Geez. Manager Cathy told me that Manager Betty has given two accountants time off, even tho’ all managers knew my request had been denied. I was quietly working in my cube, unaware – thanks.

                1. Observer*

                  I saw your comment to me before I saw this. Two questions:

                  Why did Manager Cathy tell you this?

                  Did Manager Cathy give you all the details? If not, all the comments about working without full information still stand. And, if she did, then you were made privy to information that was not yours to have and of course your manager is going to want to know where you found out.

            1. Observer*

              By the way, even if it was “vacation time” you really do not know WHY they were granted vacation time. Certainly, if the manager you asked is competent, they are not going to share sensitive stuff. So, you may know for a fact that neither of these people have kids, but you cannot know that it was not FMLA related, or related to some other sensitive issue that warranted discretion.

              If you actually DID bulldoze specifics out of the other manager, then you really have set yourself up for trouble. Because no matter how unfair your manager may have been, prying into other people’s vacation etc. with their managers is a really, really bad idea.

              Also, if the vacation was granted by a different manager, why on earth were going the scorched earth rout with your manager? You don’t really think that she’s required to handle vacation requests the same way that other managers are?

              1. Amy L*

                Oh , for heaven’s sake. I did not bulldoze anyone for information. A manager came to me.

                1. Observer*

                  So, you are saying that a manager came to you and told you all the details of someone else’s leave request, including the reasons they gave for the leave request and the reasons the requests were granted? That’s pretty hair raising. Any reasonable manager is going to want to know how you got that kind of information, because that’s a level of detail it’s not normal for you to have.

                2. Amy L*

                  Observer, I do not know why Manager Cathy told me. She knew I had been denied vacation, she knew two others had been granted vacation. As I have said, I was unaware, working in my cube. She (Manager Cathy) told me that Manager Betty had sent an email asking all supervisors if anyone had been denied time off during the black out, if they had been denied, Manager Betty was also going to turn down the requests. All responses (including my manager) were that no requests had been denied, it was fine to allow the two accountants vacation. Not sick leave, not bereavement – specifically vacation. I would not have come unglued otherwise. Did Manager Cathy know I would come unglued? I doubt it, I don’t get angry very often.

                3. Observer*

                  Amy L it was “vacation”, but you don’t know what the vacation was for. Beyond that, it simply makes no sense for you to have done what you did. The fact that Manager Betty gave someone else vacation (regardless of the reason for it) is simply not relevant to you. Manager Betty is not your manager. It was not unfair of her to do so.

                  The real immediate issue is that your manager claimed that your request was denied. You should have asked your manager why she said no one’s request was denied, when she had denied your request. Sending her bosses an angry email about how it’s not fair that another person with a different manager got time isn’t the appropriate reaction. And it makes you look incredibly petty. Stick to what is relevant to you – which is that your manager denied your request then said that it didn’t happen. That IS something you have a reason to bring up.

            2. Library Director*

              Ah, but this is still the problem. You spoke with someone else and didn’t have a calm discussion with your manager. Even if you get through this it will linger in your manager’s mind. Think about it. We can be friends for years, but if I suddenly email you, your spouse, your parents, and your grandparents to complain about something. Our relationship will be forever changed. This is worse because your manager is in authority over you and whether you lost your cool or not you work the “chain of command”. Always deal with the closest person in authority first. This is your manager.

    5. catsAreCool*

      Yeah, what Purple Dragon said “apologise to your boss first thing and let her know that you can see how your reactions were – not good.”

      In the future if something like this happens, don’t do anything until you’ve cooled off, consider that there might be a good reason why this happened, and when you do ask your boss about it, just ask your boss, and ask nicely.

  4. Christopher Tracy*

    OP #1: Yikes! You went the nuclear route pretty quickly in this situation – you really should have asked your manager why the other approvals occurred in a calm, face-to-face meeting (and let her know that you weren’t looking for specifics in the event that there are some medical issues at play with your coworkers). CC’ing her bosses on the email basically calling her a liar is not going to endear you to anyone or gain you any allies higher-up the ladder going forward.

    We all make blunders in the workplace, though, and maybe this situation, and your professional reputation, can be salvaged. Ask to speak with your manager again, apologize, and try to figure out how to best get time off approved in the future. And next time, don’t go to DEFCON 1 until you have all of the facts. You heard about the time off approvals secondhand and, like Alison said, there could have been a legitimate reason that time off was approved (and could have been what your manager was trying to tell you when she IMed and asked to speak with you).

    1. Coco*

      I second this advice, and this is a mistake I could have made so I really feel for the OP. A prompt, explicit, sincere apology goes a long way in recovering from blunders. e.g. “I’m truly embarrassed that I reacted so out of line about being denied vacation time. CCing Jane and John was unprofessional and I should have spoken to you about it calmly.”

      1. baseballfan*

        This is a good script. Honest and sincere regret for acting without thinking first is a good way to approach this. Most any manager will be softened by this and willing to start fresh.

    2. EA*

      I also feel like OP might have previous issues with her boss. The “I asked if I could appeal to her boss for an exception” strikes me as a little inappropriate. I think unless it is something terrible, you should accept your boss as the authority and not try to go over her head.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yeah, I’m not sure why you’d ask someone “Is it okay if I go over your head?” unless your manager had said, for example, that she’d be happy to give you the time off but HER boss had forbidden it.

    3. Rat Racer*

      I came to say something similar and to add 2 cents from my own experience: Never send an email when you’re upset. Write it – sure – but let it simmer for at least an hour or two before pressing the “send” button.

      1. OhNo*

        Sometimes, I think even waiting a day or more might be better. OP even acknowledged they weren’t thinking clearly – “not in a constructive mood” is a pretty big giveaway – so it would have been much better to wait.

    4. Amy L*

      I understand that everyonw seems to think I over reacted and I appreciate the honesty. Both of the other accountants were given vacation time. In the last 6 to 8 months, I have been told I could not leave (at 6:30PM) to go get my kids, I could not go to a doctor’s appointment, and now the vacation denial. I have been an accountant for more than 20 years and have never encountered this before.

      1. esra*

        It might be worth having a conversation about that in person with your manager, about the overall pattern. Although you’ll be at quite a disadvantage now having sent that email + blown her off. I think Coco’s script above is a good one to get you back on the right foot.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          It might be worth having a conversation about that in person with your manager, about the overall pattern.

          This. A calm, rational discussion where you pointed out the pattern and asked for clarification as to why your requests were being denied really should have happened prior to cc’ing the big bosses. It could have been because you were asking too late and your boss needed 24-48 hours or more notice before letting you go, they really needed coverage and everyone else was gone, etc. If you didn’t like what she had to say then, then you could have asked to meet with her and her bosses to discuss the situation further.

      2. Lana Kane*

        I can totally understand the frustration, I had a similar one recently. I think, though, that the suggestion to apologize for how you handled the situation still stands, since you just have no way of knowing if there was a valid reason (FMLA, etc) for their time off. I’d request a time to meet with your boss (and I would definitely initiate this conversatio and not wait for her to approach you again) and say “I’d like to apologize for how I handled the vacation issue last week. I should have handled my frustration better. I understand that there might be extenuating circumstances for the people who did get time off. In the future I will be sure to come talk to you when I have questions regarding time off.” You aren’t apologizing for your feelings, which are understandable, but how you handled it. If you feel that your boss is amenable,you could ask if you can discuss why your previous requests have been denied. If you don’t get that impression, I’d definitely have that conversation, calmly and professionally, next time you get denied.

        For what it’s worth, I’m in a dept that got re-orged and time off requests have suddenly become impossible. I can totally understand that this kind of sea-change can be bewildering.

      3. Observer*

        So you do have a problem on your hands. But you seem to have chose the absolute worst way to handle it.

        If there is a pattern of unreasonable treatment, you document it so you have your facts in place. Then you have a conversation with your boss. If you get no relief, THEN you go to your boss’ boss. And you again present facts. You don’t have a blowup about singular incident and then blow your boss off.

        What you have basically done is blow up any high ground that you had.

      4. Katie the Fed*

        OK – that’s important context. It does sound like there’s a pattern there – I’d definitely recommend discussing with your boss.

      5. catsAreCool*

        That makes a difference. A pattern of this is something to ask about (but calmly). That sounds like they’re not treating you well. Did they give you reasons the first 2 times why you couldn’t pick up your kids or go to a doctor appt?

        1. Amy L*

          I was told I couldn’t leave until I cleared my workload for the day. In an accounting department, you are never caught up. So this made no sense to me, but I dutifully obeyed. Had to contact a friend to pick up my kids and cancelled my doctor appointment. These days, I simply say – “Oh, by the way, I am going to be late (or leaving early) tomorrow for….” I really don’t give her the chance to deny the request. I think this is also a poor choice, but what can I do.

      6. Tiffin*

        You seem to be focusing on the phrase vacation time. Just because it was a vacation day doesn’t mean it was a fun day. I had to take a vacation day to attend the funeral of a friend who passed away suddenly because friends aren’t covered under bereavement leave.

  5. The Shrieking Eels*

    It seems like any time a LW uses words like “furious” or “disgusted”, it turns out that they don’t have enough information or justification to feel that strongly.

    1. Random Lurker*

      Those are emotionally charged words. There are times when people really should be furious or disgusted, but, in so many cases, people allow emotions to be the enemy of facts.

          1. Agnes*

            “Devastated” is a word I always associated with an email I received once from a friend saying that her daughter’s leukemia had returned and they were devastated. Ever since then I have a hard time taking it seriously for anything else.

            1. AthenaC*

              That’s more than fair. I myself do a mental eye-roll when people get upset – like really, really upset – over something relatively small. When possible, people should save the intense reactions for serious things.

              1. JaneB*

                The problem is, quite often an apparently disproportionate reaction is a “last straw” issue not an “out of the blue” issue.

                Some days I am just not in a place to cope with any setbacks calmly and reasonably, never mind ones which seem unfair (unfairness, not being recognised, is a big trigger for me). I’ve learnt to try & turn my email off as far as possible, but I have said to my boss that I had an appointment any moment so could I see him later on, when actually the ‘appointment’ was to go behind a closed door and have a small private tantrum…

                1. Christopher Tracy*

                  The problem is, quite often an apparently disproportionate reaction is a “last straw” issue not an “out of the blue” issue.

                  Yeah, my guess is that OP and her boss didn’t have the best relationship to begin with. That would explain why instead of asking why the others were approved for PTO when she was told no one could have those days, she went over her manager’s head to the two people above her. The only time I’ve done this (once) was when I had zero respect for my boss based on her petty and retaliatory behavior, and I wanted her manager to know what kind of hellbeast he had running my team.

                2. AthenaC*

                  That’s true – and reading some of the comments downstream reasonably suggest a “last straw” reading of the letter.

                  I think my reaction (and Agnes’s, too, it sounds like) is not uncommon when people think to themselves, “I’ve been through some stuff and survived, and you’re complaining about THIS?!” Probably polluting the normal intergenerational tensions back in the day between people who grew up during the Great Depression and their children. But that’s a far-left-field digression and doesn’t really advance the discussion.

              2. The Cosmic Avenger*

                Well, AthenaC, let’s remember that we can’t tell people how to feel. People have a right to get upset over the silliest of trivialities. But you are dead on in that they “should save the intense reactions for serious things”. The OP needed to take a deep breath and think about what to do, rather than acting out.

                Of course, keeping your reactions in check is easier if you don’t feel as offended by things, but I personally find that when you stop reacting so strongly, you soon find it easier to maintain your emotional equilibrium.

      1. WellRed*

        The word hurt in a work context drives me nuts: “I am so ‘hurt’ they didn’t give me a raise”
        Grow up, already.

        1. plain_jane*

          I am hurt though. I’m hurt when someone else gets a promotion that I don’t think they deserve. I’m hurt when someone who has been causing ongoing problems gets a bigger bonus than I do. We put a lot of effort into work, which means that ego gets involved.

          Pretending that people aren’t hurt when things go against them is being short sighted. It is precisely this feeling of hurt that leads to people looking for new jobs.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          It’s not immature to be hurt when you’re treated poorly, or unfairly. It’s not immature to be hurt when your contributions aren’t respected or acknowledged.

          1. Beezus*

            It’s not wrong to be hurt, but when you’re looking for someone else to behave differently, you can’t expect your feelings to be their motivator. If you want things to change, you need to be able to move beyond the feelings and attack the objective reason you feel that way. Being unable to separate the two things does come across as emotional immaturity.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              But that’s not what WellRed said. No, I don’t expect anyone to give a rat’s ass whether I’m hurt or not. But that doesn’t mean it’s childish for me to feel hurt, and that’s what I was responding to.

      1. Megs*

        I completely agree, but responses do require justification, and acting from a place of deep emotion like this can really be a problem.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yes, exactly. The issue is not the feelings themselves, it’s the outward response that matters. Your boss isn’t your therapist, and, while, in your head, it’s totally fine to feel upset and hurt, that shouldn’t be what other people see.

          Personally, I have started caring less about what happens to other people and more about what happens to me. My justification for promotion/raise/time off/etc. is never because-Joe-got-X, it’s about my work, what I do for my employer, and how I will manage my workload and responsibilities. It’s hard some days not to compare, but nothing productive ever comes of it.

  6. Amber*

    #3 If you really are working two jobs and it’s because of your student loans, go to whatever website that managers your loans and there are usually income-based repayment options. Meaning when you first start paying you’re monthly payments are lower then they get larger over time as you make more money in your career. For student loans, especially for that size you HAVE to think long term. Mine was about $45,000 (it’s down to $29k now) and it will take me a total of about 4 or 5 years to pay off. So assume that you will be paying yours off for 10+ years. Working 2 jobs for that long isn’t realistic. Find a way to get your loan payments down to something you can afford. Then focus your career on making more money, if a company is holding you back, job search for something that pays better. You don’t want to be financially struggling for that long.

    1. Dan*

      There are options beyond IBR as well. Almost all loan programs have a graduated repayment option, allowing you to start with interest only.

      The downside to IBR is that it only considers federal loans, so if OP has sizeable private loans, the program won’t help there.

      Am I the only one concerned that OP owes a six figure debt and works in customer service? No disrespect to the profession, but customer service doesn’t pay well (in general) and the OP owes *a lot* of money.

      As you’ve alluded, OP has some serious long term thinking to do.

      1. mander*

        Oh, and WRT working in customer service: many, many people have found that even with higher degrees it is extremely difficult to get higher level jobs because the competition is so high. This is a long-term, international problem. I’m surprised that any AAM reader is unaware of the difficulty many people face in finding suitable jobs.

        In my own case I have a PhD but for many years could not get so much as a call centre job, let alone the academic post I was aiming for. I took out stupidly large loans to cover both tuition and research costs, thinking that my eventual career would be worth it, and now have well over $100k in student loans. Even though I’m working as a professional in my field, my field is notoriously badly paid, so I’m only making £19,300 (roughly $26k at today’s exchange rate). I’m sure the OP, like many others, would love to be working in a better-paid position but depending on the circumstances that might be a distant dream right now.

        1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

          +10000000 from an AAMer with a master’s degree who makes in the low 30s in a high cost of living area. There just aren’t enough well-paying jobs to go around, and most people I know are working in jobs that pay far less than their degrees would supposedly warrant.

        2. Erik*

          I agree with this. I have a law degree and experience while in law school. I also managed to find a 5-month paid internship after being admitted to the bar. It still took over 3 years to find a permanent job as an attorney, and my pay is very low. (I can only afford to live because I live with my in-laws.)

      2. Kristine*

        >Am I the only one concerned that OP owes a six figure debt and works in customer service? No disrespect to the profession, but customer service doesn’t pay well (in general) and the OP owes *a lot* of money.

        I’m sure OP is concerned as well! Stuff like this happens and unfortunately isn’t always predictable. I have six figure loan debts stemming from my undergrad and grad school years. Just as I was about to take the world by storm with my newly minted master’s degree, the recession struck. I was an intern making minimum wage for 2 years afterward and have been trying to climb upwards ever since.

        You can’t go back and erase the debt, so you deal as best you can.

        1. Anon Moose*

          Yeah sadly, this isn’t super uncommon. If OP’s loans just recently came due after the 6 month grace period, they are likely about a year out of school. Depending on your degree, you don’t always find something related right away (or ever).

        2. INTP*

          Yeah, I would have been in the same situation if I hadn’t had smart parents who refused to cosign any private loans for me. No one knew in the mid-00s when I started college that my cohort would be graduating into a world with essentially zero entry level opportunities outside of churn-and-burn environments like sales and customer service, where turnover is too high to care about experience, or the absolute highest-demand technical fields. Guidance counselors just tried to guide us into the most prestigious schools we could get accepted to, without anyone knowing that it might not be a good investment – like when they used to tell people to buy as much house as they could afford because real estate always pays off. (And of course, once the economy picked up again, entry level jobs were going to people fresh out of school, not people who had worked at Starbucks for the past 3 years.)

      3. LBK*

        Eh, customer service has a lot of facets, and what some people call customer service can also wrap in low-level tech support, QA, operational responsibilities, etc. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean minimum wage call center work.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Exactly. I’ve held customer service positions since graduating from college, and none of them were call center jobs. In fact, one was at a law firm and the one I’m in now is in risk management and insurance. I’m also licensed in 15 states for my job and can make up to $150k a year without going into management in a low-ish cost of living area.

        2. Overeducated*

          Also in fields that are fun and competitive (think national parks, museums, etc) there are lots of people with graduate degrees and low salaries in customer facing positions.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          True, and you can sometimes transition the experience into an Account Manager role which is a customer service/sales hybrid and often pays the salary you made doing customer service plus commission and bonus. (that’s what I did, but I never even finished my degree so that’s about as far as I was ever able to progress)

          1. LBK*

            I used call centers as my example because it’s what people generally envision when they think “customer service”. My point was just that there’s lots of jobs that could fall under the customer service umbrella or that heavily utilize customer service skills. Stranger than fiction’s account manager example is a great one – you can definitely make a career out of that, especially once you’ve got the experience and seniority to take on the big accounts.

        4. OP3*

          Hello. OP here. No, not working for low wages just for the fun of it and believe it or not, I’m in a managerial position in my field. It just so happens that I’m in a field that doesn’t pay especially well across the board, hence my hesitation to ask for a raise. I fear that it seems unrealistic on my end.

          I went back to grad school mid-
          recession because post-college, the only job I could find was in a cupcake shop and I was miserable. I got this current, salaried position while I was working at yet another low-wage position after grad school, so as you might imagine, it was a godsend after spending 14 years working part-time jobs and half a dozen unpaid internships. It’s also a job that I really enjoy. Unfortunately, given my debt and the fact that I live in a high-rent city, it’s not enough.

          To the first responder, I consolidated all of my loans and am on the IBR plan, but when you’re facing an Everest of debt, even small steps seem really hard (my monthly payments are still more than I can afford).

    2. mander*

      I was going to mention IBR too. At the moment I am working full-time but my salary is so low that I am actually making payments of $0.00, but I am considered to be in a repayment status. If these are federal loans then under the IBR program I believe the balance is written off after 20 years in repayment, even if you have barely made a dent in it. If nothing else your payments will probably be much less crippling than the standard plan, even if it takes longer and ultimately costs you more money due to interest in the long run.

      1. JessaB*

        Yes, right now it’s 20 years. If we’re lucky, and elect the right people in the upcoming election cycle, there may be some decent student loan relief coming, including relief for people with much older loans. Most relief in place right now that’s actual relief, only covers new/recent loans. Some of us had loans and were paying them and then lost jobs/became disabled/both and now are scrambling. At least under IBR I’m at zero too. And yes I believe that counts toward the 20 years.

        1. Anon Moose*

          10 years with Public Service Loan Forgiveness- though it doesn’t sound like OP would qualify at the moment- you pretty much have to work for government or a nonprofit.

        2. Rodney*

          The only real downside to IBR is the debt relieved is considered taxable income by the IRS. Which means nothing during the repayment, but some people might not realize. Regardless, it’s a fantastic tool for those who qualify.

        3. Dan*

          I never understood the politics behind giving relief to new loans, not old ones. We’re at a point now where people understand (somewhat) the economics of college, and can say, “oh that’s a lot of money, maybe I shouldn’t go there.” And then the government goes and gives relief.

          I’m a very old millenial/very young Gen X. I’m of the era where school was starting to become really expensive, but there weren’t stories of $100k in debt graduates working at Starbucks sleeping in their parents’ basement.

          Yes, I’d like a bone thrown to me. While I’m doing alright, I’m not flush, and yes, I’d like a bone.

  7. Mike*

    Re #2: No don’t shave it! At least not all of it. Can you restyle it (let certain areas grow in and trim/shave others)?

    1. JessaB*

      Honestly I’d think Civil War or any other period re-enactors are kinda cool and interesting. It’d be a talking point for sure, and I’d actually use it to talk about research skills and depending on who you’re playing, organisation skills, etc. There’s a LOT of work in planning and setting up these events and a lot of it (getting people, proper costumes, proper weaponry (but safe,) proper food, horses, etc. together) is a major job.

      1. Lanya*

        Not to mention…if you live near Gettysburg, for example, or an area where Civil War reenactments are a normal part of the goings-on of local life, your interviewers might not think it’s so out of place to see an old-fashioned beard. Definitely keep it and use it as a talking point!

      2. RVA Cat*

        This, very much this.
        One caveat – and from my username you can guess I come from a place where “thah wah-ah” is still very much part of the culture, not to mention tourism etc. – but OP2 may need to measure his interview approach based on which side he reenacts. If he’s a Union reenactor, he should be good. But if he is a Confederate reenactor, he should have a script to address concerns that an interviewer might reasonably have – especially if they are not familiar with the hobby, and if say it’s a managerial position supervising a diverse team.

        1. Erik*

          RVA Cat: Actually, I interviewed for a (state government) job once that was across the street from a park with a memorial to the “Confederate Dead” of the county! The interviewer asked me which side I portray (Federal artillery). I told her the truth, but added that many reenacters who have been in the hobby a while have 2 uniforms and will sometimes fall in with a unit on the other side of the war.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Plus choreography, logistics, leadership…but I definitely get what Alison means. You don’t want to stand out so much that it completely distracts from your qualifications for that particular job. Depends on the company/industry I suppose.

    2. Vicki*

      But… if they offer you the job, you’d be the guy who grew a weird beard after he got hired.

      Isn’t it better to be honestly yourself – the self they’ll see if they hire you – at the interview?

      We get so many letters here: I hired a guy and when he showed up he wasn’t at all like he was in the interview.

  8. Chris*

    OP1, I would agree with some other comments that you need to go in apologizing, but a warning: do NOT say something about how that’s how you deal with stress, or something along that line. Your apology (and you should apologize) should basically be a full mea culpa, no extra explanations or excuses. Then ask the main question, i.e., why did they get vacation. As others have said, you have like 15% of the information, it’s far too early to go nuclear.

    OP2, maybe it’s just because I’m a fellow beardist (though a more conventional one, I admit), but your style doesn’t sound all that insane. Uncommon, yes, but it’s not a waxed handlebar, or 2-foot mountain man beard. As long as you go in neatly groomed, I think it’s fine. But that obviously depends on the industry. I work in museums/archives, and that would probably be far more accepted there than, say, a bank. But that’s overgeneralizing of course.

    1. Tuckerman*

      I agree with the full mea culpa strategy, but I wouldn’t recommend asking why someone got the time off. The manager may not even be in a position to share that information, and it makes OP look like she can’t get past this. And really, what OP wants to know is, when is she not able to take time off and are there are any circumstances where she would be able to take time off during these periods.

      1. Sadsack*

        I agree. Apologize, then go. Do not ask about others’ reasons for needing time off. It’s really none of your business.

        1. catsAreCool*

          Since the OP said in a follow up comment that this has been a pattern, I can totally understand why she’d want to know, but I think this would be a really bad time to ask.

      2. INTP*

        Agree with this. In a situation like this, it’s likely that others got the time off for reasons your boss can’t or shouldn’t share with you anyways (family/health). When your employer gives you a vague non-answer, you’ll have no idea whether it means that your boss let Jane go to the beach because she likes Jane better, or that Jane needed to receive a chemo treatment or finalize her divorce that day. And then you’ll be in the same situation of feeling screwed over, but not having all the information. The only constructive way to deal with it, imo, is to accept that you’ll never have all the information, and make a decision to trust that there’s a valid explanation for your own sanity (or a decision to leave because you don’t trust your company).

        I do agree with apologizing without excuses though. If a subordinate told me “I’m really sorry, that is just how I deal with stress,” what I would hear is that I can expect the same behavior whenever the employee is highly stressed – which I might not be willing to deal with long term.

  9. Dan*


    AAM, as general advice, compensation for travel time is really YMMV. For example, as a federal government contractor, our travel time allowance was capped at 4 hours per direction.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m talking about federal law for non-exempt employees. If you’re exempt, the law doesn’t apply. (I don’t think there’s an exception in the law for government contractors, although I could be wrong about that.)

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        It’s a long time since I was non-exempt and traveling, but as far as I can remember I didn’t get paid hourly or OT for domestic travel outside business hours (though I may never have actually done any travel outside business hours; I certainly did work outside normal hours once I reached the site, and obviously I recorded that time and was paid for it), but the one time I traveled internationally, the clock started running the minute I got in the cab to head to the airport and didn’t stop until my hotel room door closed behind me. But I assure you I was not nearly important enough to have work I could be doing on the plane. I was paid to sit in traffic, stand in line at security, drink complementary mimosas, and try to sleep on the overnight flight in business class. This was a long time ago, as I’ve said, and in the private sector, but I have serious doubts that that particular employer would have done anything more than was required of them by law for employees at my level.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The federal law for non-exempt employees says:
          – you get paid for travel time if it’s during your regular work hours (even if it’s a day you don’t normally work; the hours themselves are what’s relevant)
          – you don’t get paid for travel time outside your normal hours
          – you get paid for any time spent doing actual work (so if you work during an evening flight, you get paid for the time you work on the plane, if those aren’t your normal work hours)

          Here’s the law:

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            We have non-exempt employees that travel and they do not get any overtime. They get a comp day instead, is that within these guidelines?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Is it comp time as payment for actual hours worked, as defined at the link above? If so, that’s only legal for non-exempt employees if the comp time is taken in the same work week that it was earned. Otherwise, if they need to be paid for those hours (including overtime if it puts them over 40 hours) in money, not time.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                (But if it’s more about comp time as a reward for the burdens of traveling, in a situation where the law does not say they need to pay money, that’s legal.)

      2. Bend & Snap*

        I’m exempt and a lot of my travel falls on weekends. I know I can’t/don’t need to be compensated monetarily but getting a day of PTO for every day traveled on a weekend would be really nice. I’m at 8 weekend days and counting for travel this year.

      3. Dan*

        Ok, things get confusing sometimes, because many non-exempt employees do still have to account for their time (ahem, government contractors) so there are travel allowances. Or for that matter, if they don’t account time differently, they’re “allowed” to charge a certain amount of travel as a direct expense.

        Given that the OP is likely exempt, I would have advised him to do one of two things, if not both: 1) Check the employee handbook, or 2) Talk to his manager. (He used the word “need” in his question, and he really does need to bill/get paid for travel in accordance with his company’s policies.)

        The joys of trying to give somewhat nuanced advice to a broad audience with minimal information ;)

        1. paul*

          And some employers count travel time for travel outside if your regular area of business. I do a slingshot to and from Austin next week and all the time driving (16 hours worth or so) will count as work. I’m hourly so that matters. It’s sort of weird though; the travel *starts* during the normal business day but it’ll wrap up around 1am.

          Also, legalities aside, I would be livid if I was expected to get home at 1am and then get shorted hours for not showing up at 7am the next morning.

    2. Sarahnova*

      As a consultant, we used to charge travel time over 4 hours to the client at 50%. In othe words, if it takes me more than two hours one-way or four hours round trip to get to you, you pay for my travel time at 50% of my normal hourly rate. In terms of my own compensation, though, I generally tried to do a bit of work during my travel time if it was outside work hours and then took some “time off in lieu” during work hours.

    3. Jilly*

      I work for a federal contractor but do international travel. Per the regs we get one day (8 hrs) of (billable) travel in each direction (travel often takes longer than that – recent 15 hour flight from Atlanta was Johannesburg was only one of 3 legs for that trip – I left my home at 11:45am on Friday and arrived at my final destination Sunday at 2pm – which would have been 8am back home). My company may separately compensate me with some comp time because of the length of travel and how I invariably loose a weekend, but that doesn’t get billed to the contract. Some companies have a travel policy that gets them 2 billable days and since travel policies are submitted with bids and approved as part of the contract award, they do bill the two days.

  10. Bluesboy*

    #2 Are you talking here about shaving for the interview and then growing it back once you get the job?

    I think that might be a big mistake. If a beard of that style is going to be unacceptable to them during the interview, it’s going to be unacceptable for the job too. You’ll end up beardless forever, or in difficulty at work because they think your appearance is unprofessional.

    At an interview you need to not just try as hard as you can to get the job, but also see if they’re a good fit for you. If you come with the beard, you need to see that they are ok with you with a beard – if not, and the beard is a part of your look, they aren’t a good fit.

    (If, on the other hand, you desperately need a job right now I can see a logic to going in beardless and then crossing your fingers that it’ll be ok).

    By the way, as long as you keep your beard you might find you stay babyfaced – apparently it protects your skin really well and stops it from aging so…I’m 36 and look 18 underneath mine (grown when I was 19, apparently haven’t actually aged since then except around the eyes), so I feel your pain…

    And it sounds like an awesome beard, respect!

    1. Alix*

      This is pretty much exactly what I was going to say. If they have a problem with the beard, they will whether you have it at the interview or grow it later – better to weed them out early.

      1. NYC Weez*

        Yup, I was thinking this as well. I favor a slightly unconventional haircut (nothing crazy–just slightly bolder colors than the typical style where I live). I went with something more traditional when I applied to Old Job, and then spent 5 years unsuccessfully trying to stretch the boundaries of “acceptable” style there. I found that people were very judgmental and disapproving of even my dialed back style.

        After turning down an offer to move with Old Job, I ended up unemployed. In that period, I decided to revert back to the style I like as a means of filtering out company cultures I didn’t align with. Current Job didn’t even blink an eye, and after I started there, I found that my hair was not only a non-issue, but my coworkers often want me to go even crazier with it, lol.

        Without knowing your skill set, are there any things from the re-enactments that correlate to your job skills? Like going to speak to groups about the history or some of the fabrication methods? I personally prefer candidates who hone job skills outside the job in fun and unusual ways because it shows me that they are fully engaged in and excited by the types of work that I would be hiring them for.

    2. MK*

      That’s not necessarily true. I think Alison’s point was that even if facial hair is fine for a company, a style that looks straight out of the 19th century will brand the OP as “the candidate with the funny beard” (not unlike a candidate dressed all in pink will probably be marked as not-serious). It’s an unconscious bias that makes certain styles evoke particular characteristics.

      1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

        That said, I’d be interested to hear if looking especially young — which OP2 said he would if he shaves — would also raise eyebrows. (My gut says it would, though the degree to which it does would probably vary and may or may not be as bad as Ye Olde-Fashioned Beard.)

        Perhaps there’s a viable middle ground: something that makes you look professional and not like a kid but is easy enough to grow back to historically-accurate majesty for the duration of re-enactment season.

    3. Oignonne*

      Assuming the beard is some variation of the one I’m linking below, I agree. It’s unusual enough that if you want to keep this type of facial hair year-round (and not just style it this way in preparation for a couple of big events), I think you probably should wear it to the interview. While I understand that sometimes employers permit things on the job that they wouldn’t appreciate in an interview, I think this is atypical enough that interviewers should know it’s part of the package, so you can find a good fit. You’d have to bring it up at the offer stage anyway if acceptance of the beard is a must.


      1. Erik*

        Oignonne: It’s similar to that, but not as bushy. I keep it at about a 3 or 4 on the trimmer.

    4. AthenaC*

      “If a beard of that style is going to be unacceptable to them during the interview, it’s going to be unacceptable for the job too.”

      Maybe, maybe not. How often do we remind people that permanent employees have standing to do things that interviewees / interns do not? The same applies with appearance. I know I have clothes that I only wear to job interviews and then never again once I get a job; I can’t be the only one.

      That said, I think his beard sounds awesome and I would hope he can find an employer that’s not easily distracted by it.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I agree with AthenaC. Something that might get too much attention during an interview, when they have only a small amount of info about you, might not be a big deal after you’ve worked there a while and have proven yourself.

    5. AMT*

      I interviewed for my current public hospital job (and got several other job offers) with a blue streak in my hair. I’m not a big fan of overly-conservative or nitpicky work environments, so it’s a good way to weed them out. This advice obviously doesn’t apply if you’re desperate for work, but I was already employed and a good fit was important to me.

    6. LBK*

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true – you’re expected to be at your peak professionalism and image during an interview, and you aren’t usually held to that standard when you actually start working there. The most obvious manifestation of this is that you’re almost always expected to wear a suit to an interview, regardless of whether the company has a more casual dress code.

      1. KellyK*

        You’re right, but the real problem is that if he interviews without the beard, he doesn’t know whether it will be okay unless he asks directly, or until he’s already taken the job and started growing the beard back. I think whether he should shave or not depends on how badly he needs the job, but if “Can I have facial hair in a style that’s pretty much required for a hobby that’s really important to me?” is a question that will affect whether he wants the job or not, he definitely needs to ask their feelings/rules on facial hair.

    7. JessaB*

      The other issue is that if the beard is going to be a problem, you might want to know otherwise you’re going to have to go the makeup route and get a fake one to re-enact. If you’re able to grow/maintain that awesome of a beard yourself, you’re going to want to know if you are going to be able to re-grow it. So if that could be a deal breaker, it’d be better to know up front. Otherwise you can be that cool “Oh that one? He portrays x person in a Civil War thing, he’s really good at his job.”

    8. Meg Murry*

      Yes, this is what I was considering saying too. If OP currently has a job that he likes well enough and that seems to be ok with the beard, and he’s only going on an interview to see what else is out there, I think it makes sense to keep the beard and see how it goes. Same idea as how the conventional wisdom is avoid all talk of kids, family status, etc – but at my interview for my current job there was no avoiding it (I had taken time off and then worked part time in order to be a part time stay-at-home parent) and I decided to just be honest about it (but not dwell on it), because a boss that wasn’t ok with an employee with young kids wasn’t going to be a good fit, and I didn’t desperately need the job.

      That said, if this is some kind of dream position OP would be willing to give up the beard for, and would always think “I wonder if I would have gotten another interview at DreamCorp if I hadn’t had the Civil War beard” – well, he may consider shaving it for the interview, or at least trimming it to a more modern/current beard/mustache style.

      However, if OP has grown the beard since he started his current job, he also may want to consider whether it has limited him at his current position. Is he looking for a new position because he isn’t able to grow in his current role – and is that because the powers that be don’t want to put him in a customer facing or management position with his current look? He says neatly trimmed beards are common at his current job – but I imagine a Civil War beard might play differently in tech or other more casual workplace than it would in a more conservative industry like banking or law.

      I just googled “Civil War beard” and some of the looks I’m seeing are extremely bushy/long, in addition to having a cleanshaven chin with sideburns and mustache. OP – if you keep the beard, are you willing to at least trim it to be a little shorter for interviews if it’s currently bushy? I think a neatly trimmed Civil War style beard/sideburns would go over way better than any type of bushy/scraggly beard.

      I also think this type of look could potentially read “hipster”, especially if OP otherwise looks young, so it might be worth asking someone else to give you a look over in your full interview attire to make sure nothing else is outside a (conservative) norm. I think one trendy/hipster/unique/what-have-you touch can generally be pulled off – but additional details would flip OP from “guy with a unique beard” to “hipster guy” – which can have other unfortunate connotations as well, especially if OP is interviewing with people like me where I’ve had far too many bad experiences with high maintenance hipsters color my impression.

      1. PolarBearGirl*

        Thank you for making sure that my Google search history for today includes “Civil War Beard.”

        1. anonderella*

          don’t feel bad – mine includes “80’s George Michael” thanks to a comment above.
          my eyes hurt.

          1. Random Citizen*

            And “Don Johnson Miami Vice era.” Please no one look at my search history…

      2. Erik*

        My beard is very short. I had forgotten when I sent the original e-mail that men in the Civil War era did often have bushy beards, so didn’t consider how people would interpret my description.

        I was clean shaven when I interviewed for my current job and grew the beard afterwards. The beard isn’t holding me back from advancement – there is no advancement since I work at a firm with two lawyers – me, and the owner. :) I am interviewing because the area of law we practice isn’t the area I’m most interested in.

  11. Future Analyst*

    OP1, all the above is good advice, and for future situations in which you feel like something is unfair, take some time before you react. Take a breath, take a walk; if possible, sleep on it and have a calm conversation with your boss the following day. As others have pointed out, it’s entirely possible that your colleagues had mitigating circumstances that warranted exceptions. It’s also possible that your colleagues have longer tenures (and therefore more leeway, etc.), and at the end of the day, you have to remember to take a long-term approach to any conflict. Even if your boss ‘wronged’ you in this particular instance (and that’s a big if), keep in mind that you’ll need to keep working with her beyond this interaction. And whether you email or have a conversation, make sure you know what outcome you’re going for: clarification on the vacation policy is one thing, and embarrassing her in front of her managers is quite another.

    1. Tuckerman*

      “Even if your boss ‘wronged’ you in this particular instance (and that’s a big if), keep in mind you’ll need to keep working with her beyond this interaction.”
      This is so crucial. Glad you brought it up.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I have to wonder if something else is up besides the vacation? That’s a bit of an extreme reaction, and maybe the vacation thing was the straw on the camel’s back or something.
      Either way though, it wasn’t the best way to handle it without getting the full story.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I worked with someone at $LastJob whose manager was actively undermining her. If she asked for a vacation 3 months in advance, it would be granted. She would make plans and then a week or two before she was due to go on vacation, that manager would say that she couldn’t go because *manager* had decided to take that time off. Once, it may be a fluke, twice it’s a strange coincidence, three times it’s a trend and over that (which it did get to) it’s intentional.

        So I hope that OP1 had some really good reason why they needed that time off such as a wedding or other event that was a one-time only thing and that’s why they lost it. That would have been something they could have used to plead their case back in March.

        1. Sarahnova*

          This could well be true; however, even so, the OP’s best strategy is to a) practise personal “managing emotions” strategies; 2) raise the pattern with the manager in Alison’s wonderful, constructive way; 3) failing the two above, jobhunt. Losing it in a work context is never great.

          1. Dynamic Beige*

            I agree! It’s not a great idea to lose it at work… but sometimes in the moment you just don’t have the mental or emotional resources to be mature enough to pull up (or suck it up). I know I’ve been there, done that. All I meant was I hope this was one of those times, not a pattern of repeated behaviour. Whatever happens because of this, I’m sure OP is going to learn a lesson. It is unfortunate but sometimes you need that straw to break the camel’s back to make change in your life.

        2. Dan*

          Unless there was an extremely effusive apology accompanying the first two cancellations, I’d be out of there after the second one.

          You Do Not F with My Vacation, and my team knows that. (I take month long personal trips over seas. There’s a lot of complicated logistics that goes into them, and I give the boss several months notice.)

      2. Amy L*

        I would say this is true. In the past 6 – 8 months I have benn told I could not leave to go get my kids (at 6:30 PM), could not go to a doctor’s appointment and no the vacation thing. I don’t normally come unglued, I prefer to avoid conflict and complaints entirely; but this particular situation set me off.

      3. catsAreCool*

        In one of the comments, the OP, Amy L, said that there had been 2 other cases where there had been issues. I can understand why she was upset, but I agree that this wasn’t the way to handle it.

    3. Person of Interest*

      I think the advice to collect yourself is good but has to be reasonable WRT the boss’s request for the OP to “drop by for a sec.” Yes, take 10 minutes to calm yourself down before you pop in, but telling her you can’t come by today because you are too worked up is unprofessional.

  12. Mark Roth*

    Question regarding travel time…

    Is there a reason that travel outside of normal work hours doesn’t have to be paid to non-exempt employees? At least from my perspective, since the traveler has been directed to travel and has no real choice in doing so, they are at least “engaged to wait,” to use a term that does require pay.

    I understand, for example, not paying someone to drive to an alternate site instead of the usual office, but this strikes me as being quite different.

    Am I missing something?

    1. Rebecca*

      I’m looking forward to the answer for this, and thanks for asking it. I’m non-exempt, and my company always paid us for the our travel time, whether or not it was during business hours.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah, I don’t really get why the law is written that way. Doesn’t that just encourage employers to push for outside-of-normal-hours travel, and employees to try and book travel during work hours?

      I HATE traveling outside of work hours, though I’m an exempt employee so the pay part doesn’t make a difference to me. Trips that require Sunday travel are the worst. If I were non-exempt, I’d want to at least be getting paid to make up for the loss of a Sunday afternoon/evening!

    3. Colette*

      I suspect part of it is the sheer amount of time involved. For example, the last time I went to Botswana on work, it took me over 48 hours to get there. That would be more than a week’s pay, if it were paid as if I were working, and some of the time I was sleeping and sight-seeing.

    4. HRChick*

      Travel outside of regular work hours (doesn’t matter the day) is compensible if you are driving. It is not compensible if you are a passenger.

      I’m not sure why it’s this way. Only thing I can think is that as a passenger, you can be doing all other manner of things non work related. Still very limiting to be stuck in a plane/car though!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Driving, I would imagine, has to do with the maintenance & gas costs, not whether you can be doing other things in the meantime. Generally the presumption is that the driver is the owner of the vehicle.

        1. HRChick*

          Well, companies usually pay the car stuff separately. At least, that’s the way it’s been everywhere I work.

      2. Oryx*

        So is it that they *can’t* pay for travel outside of work hours or that they don’t have to? Because I’ve worked for places that pay for all travel, regardless of time of day and mode of transportation.

        1. Joseph*

          They are allowed to pay you if they want to (for morale/turnover purposes), but aren’t legally required to.

    5. Eric*

      My understanding is that generally speaking, traveling as a passenger doesn’t qualify as “work” under the general definition of “hours worked”. However, they made an exception for travel during regular work hours so that people didn’t see their normal paycheck go down because they were forced to travel.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, it’s a little odd and I don’t know what the reasoning behind writing the law that way was, unless it’s that you can do other things while you sit in a plane (like read) — but your time still isn’t really your own in that situation.

  13. Nea*

    OP #2: Are you in an area where there are a lot of of re-enactors already, or do you commute for your hobby? If you’re already in an area where there are a lot of others, leave the facial hair and instead start preparing a reply in case your interviewer fights for the other side.

    I work in a place where a lot of the men have “Rennfaire hair” — full beard and ponytail — and nobody blinks because we all do the Rennfaire.

    1. NM Anon*

      I’m picturing you working with lots of lovely eye candy looking like Geralt of Rivia from the The Witcher. It’s a lovely picture.

  14. Katie the Fed*

    OP#1 –

    The problem with the way you handled this is you didn’t leave any room for your boss to say “oh, you know what? Things have changed and I don’t need you for those days anymore. Take your leave!” You gave her no option but to not only refuse your request again, but possibly have a very unpleasant conversation with you about how you handled it.

    Had you played this right, you might have been able to take your vacation. Bosses make mistakes, and when people nicely bring them to me I’ll try to make it work. Something like “hey boss, I was wondering if something had changed in the manning requirements because I noticed Jane and Bob were taking leave those days, and you had too me I couldn’t?” Then you’re giving her a chance to change her mind, and not coming across like a child throwing a fit.

    1. Christy*

      Totally agree with you in principle, but from my reading it was already July 15 when OP1 realized that the two had taken leave. So OP1 had already missed the desired vacation window.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        oh good call. I was thinking she still wanted the time off because it was during the same time.

    2. Marcela*

      That sounds so nice I can’t help to remember it was the tactic my mom used. I would ask for permission, she would say ok but later change her mind. When I reacted badly, she would say that not only she had X reason to change her mind, my bad reaction was now used to say I didn’t deserve permission anyway. And later, when I was not angry anymore, she woud say “oh, but if you had asked nicely, I would have change my mind again!”. I HATE this reasoning. And I do not think OP’s boss would have “realized” an “error”.

  15. Chriama*

    OP#1 – that escalated really aggressively, really quickly. I get the impression that you don’t have the best working relationship with your manager in general? For example, when she first mentioned the blackout dates your immediate counter was to try and appeal to her boss. In general, people who have disproportionate reactions to situations set alarms off in my head. Do you see how not knowing if something relatively minor or routine might seriously set you off could cause anxiety in other people? And you also dragged your coworker into this by forwarding her email to your boss and her bosses — *especially* since it was such a hostile and aggressive reaction. Now she might be called in to discuss stuff while the bosses are figuring out what to do about your behaviour. I don’t know if this is a dysfunctional office where your behaviour just fits in or part of how you’ve always operated or learned to operate based on work or personal situations in your past, but please understand that it is not normal, professional or acceptable behaviour in pretty much any circumstance.

    1. B*

      I picked up on this as well. Always wanting to go over your boss will not work out for you in the long term. You created an adversarial situation pretty quickly with your initial request. Add the email now cc’ing the hierarchy and you are not going to come off looking well.

      As others have suggested, there are a myriad of reasons you may not know about for why those people were granted time off and you weren’t. Perhaps they asked closer and your boss realized things were done quicker then they thought and it was ok. I would take a deep breath, apologize with a yes I overreacted and it will not happen again. Then make sure it does not.

      1. Amy L*

        Ok, so the reason I asked for the appeal is that this manager has been with the company for less than a year. Me – a little over 5 years. I know that the “black out” dates and seldom enforced if an employee clears his/her workload.

        1. EmmaLou*

          Okay, I could be shoving things in that are not there, but this comment kind of sounds like you don’t respect this boss as she has less company time than you do and “doesn’t know how things have been done in the past”? Is it possible that you feel comfortable going over her head as you’ve known her bosses longer and have a history?

          1. Amy L*

            Me. Katie, on Monday (July 18). I worked as normal. Turned in reports, asked for information/clarification on other projects with said manager. I was polite but definitely not chatty. It was business as usual all week. Nothing was ever spoken about the email. Not by her or the CC’d supervisors. Nothing. Our department is under staffed – which is normal. So I really have no fear of being fired, although it obviously could happen. The morale is low and the turnover high . I can easily rattle off 10 staff that have quit in the last 18 months or so. Maybe more if I really tried to remember names and faces. And yes, I am actively seeking another job, but have told no one.

            1. Tiffin*

              So you didn’t apologize? You really should have been proactive about that. Even if the boss didn’t address the issue, it’s out there now. They know that you are capable of being wildly inappropriate and then not taking responsibility for it. They absolutely will hold that against you in the future.

              1. Amy L*

                I apologized this morning. No response or acknowledgement, but I’m really not expecting one.

            2. Dynamic Beige*

              I am actively seeking another job, but have told no one.

              I, for one, am glad of this. Because what was being said upthread about being hurt wasn’t the same thing as being immature, especially when you’ve been disrespected and treated unfairly for an extended length of time. If you hadn’t said anything about being understaffed and the amount of turnover, I would have said that layoffs were coming and you would be first in line. As it is, some people resort to these kind of tactics to drive out employees they don’t like or are not good performers.

              Sometimes, people just take against us for no obvious or apparent reason. There’s not much you can do about it, but when it’s your manager, that’s a problem. In situations like that, getting out is the only solution (save manager isn’t promoted, transferred or fired).

              Everyone has their breaking point. When that moment comes — I know this because I’ve been there/done that and I’m not proud of it — if you don’t have any resources left to marshal and save yourself (or you don’t have the opportunity to flee), you will just react and it won’t be pretty. If you’ve never been pushed to that point, consider yourself very lucky.

              The only thing I can say in the manager’s defence is that she probably had forgotten your request, because it had been so far in advance. I don’t think that she intentionally lied to the other manager who wanted to confirm if anyone had been denied. Or at least I hope she didn’t intentionally lie about it, because that would be something else entirely.

        2. Library Director*

          Oh, no. If you did that to me as your manager I’d be very unhappy. If I was your manager’s boss and this was your reason I would be very, very unhappy. If I had anything to do with the selection and hiring of your manager add a few more verys into that. It would come across to me even more as undermining your manager. I have had this happen in the work place and usually there are conversations I’ve had with the department head that the person complaining had no knowledge of. It wasn’t really her business. Less time in the company does not negate the manager’s authority.

        3. HRChick*

          Okay, so this could have been a misunderstanding?

          As a new manager, if I had been told 1. we are understaffed and 2. here are the blackout dates, I would take it as letter of law. It seems like it’s a “grey-out” date instead of black out date since it doesn’t seem to affect anything?

          1. Amy L*

            I would say that “grey out” is more accurate. That’s why – when I was first denied, I asked to appeal to her supervisors. Boss Harry has been with the department 10 plus years, as has Boss Mary. The “black out” periods are seldom enforced as long as an employee has cleared their workload. I thought my manager, being a bit new, would seek clarification, but instead I was shut down. And I accepted that, right up until I was told that others had been allowed to take vacation time.

            1. Tiffin*

              But they weren’t granted vacation time by your manager, right? One of your comments upthread implied that a different manager granted the time off; is that correct? It makes a huge difference.

              1. Amy L*

                That is correct. But Manager Betty checked with all the managers first – mine included. If anyone had been denied vacation time, Manager Betty was going to deny the two other accountants as well. Manager Betty was trying to be fair. My manager responed that no one had been denied and that it was fine for the two to take vacation.

    2. Anna*

      Not to add to a moment that’s said and done but also I wonder if the coworker who told her about the people taking PTO mentioned it out of gossip and didn’t really mean to be roped into this situation. She may need a warning she was looped in because her email was forwarded. This reminds me not to share gossip at work related to a hot button point for someone.

      1. Amy L*

        I did not forward/include another employees email. That would be horrible – to involve an unsuspecting co-worker. I was told verbally by another manager.

  16. Patrick*

    Not trying to pile on OP #1 but one common denominator I see a lot in situations like this is that the person going over their boss’s head hasn’t necessarily thought through the expected reaction from the boss’s boss. I’m sure plenty of us have worked at places where the “big boss” would immediately decide that this employee needs to go. And I don’t think that’s an inappropriate call depending on the situation.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, when it’s done punitively more often than not it’s the cc:er who looks bad.

    2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      So I didn’t immediately think of this person has to go, when I was CCed on a similar in town email from one of my direct report’s staff members… But it definitely prompted a huge conversation about the person’s attitude and place on the team.

  17. Caledonia*

    #2 – I say keep the beard! Also, do you have any reenacter events anytime soon? If there is time before/after could you ask other men with beards what they do? Could you just grow it as a normal beard and style it/shave it when you need to for reenacter purposes?

  18. Workfromhome*

    I my previous job (I’m in Canada) we were paid for any travel time required outside of work hours including applicable overtime. I realize US may be different but saying to someone I know your regular work hours are 8-5 so we booked you on a flight that leaves at 6 pm and arrives at midnight so we don’t have to pay you would suck. That’s time you would normally spend at home or doing what you want not stuck on a plane.

    1. Traveller*

      I’m not sure that this is an issue of Canada vs US as much as different practices for different employers.

      A friend of mine works for an agency related to Canada federal government and has a policy like what you describe – they are either paid out or given an equivalent number of hours off in lieu.

      I however work for a Canadian company in an exempt role. And whether I travel all day, all night, all weekend whatever I am still paid the same. I travel enough that I would have no time to actually work if they could only count me at 40h/wk. I have had weeks where I am in airports/airplanes 40+ hours, not counting the actual “work”.

  19. F.*

    #2 – I would say it is very much industry-dependent. I work for an engineering/construction inspection firm, and we have male employees with all sorts of facial hair. Some grow full-on “Grizzly Adams” style beards in the winter for warmth and shave it off for summer. Others keep at least some growth all year around. Our only caveat is that you must be able to safety wear a respirator if the jobsite calls for it.

    We are also fairly open-minded regarding other non-traditional appearance issues. Our receptionist at the engineering office has piercings, tattoos and non-natural hair coloring.

  20. Jess*

    #4 – I did not want a baby shower at work, and neither did my male coworker whose wife was due a few weeks after me. Our office liked to do potluck lunches anyway, so we asked to pick a date sometime after the babies were born to have a potluck and bring the babies in to visit. We said the only present we’d like is a onesie embroidered with the company logo– again, this fit within the office culture because we could only wear jeans on Friday if we wore a shirt with the logo, and most of us chose to wear logo shirts on non-Fridays as well. The would-be shower organizers happily agreed, and we have some cute pics of baby/parent sitting at the desk together in matching logos.

    Obviously your mileage may vary, but in general if you can suggest an alternative you’re more likely to be able to ditch the shower. And if you’re comfortable bringing the baby in sometime during or just after your leave, the kinds of people who like to organize showers like seeing the actual babies even better. Plus if it’s scheduled, then you get the win-win of people getting to see the baby without randomly interrupting the workday, and those who aren’t into babies don’t have to come.

    1. eplawyer*

      I like this idea.

      I am very troubled by the fact that the size of the party is dependent on a person’s status within the company and the level of likeabiity. In other words, the cool kids get a better party. The company needs to have a one size fits all party or knock it off all together. It’s demoralizing to go to the cool kids party with a catered lunch and lavish presents and then have your own party be about 5 people with cupcakes.

      1. (Not an IRS) Auditor*

        Yes – this is sort of a corollary to gifts flow downhill – shower size should be inverse to rank. E.G., the AA’s baby shower gifts included furniture and a stroller while at the director level there’s a cake at most.

        1. Ralph S. Mouse*

          We had the opposite happen last year and you can bet it caused hard feelings. The sweet receptionist, whom everyone loved, got a baby shower, and I’m not saying it was terrible, but she got some small presents and I think $75 on a gift card (it was one of those where everyone who wanted to pitched in). She only made about $8 an hour and her husband was an “entrepreneur” who never actually preneured much, so extra money would have helped a lot.

          About six months ago, a new manager who wasn’t particularly popular, even–one of those people who avoids work like the plague but is just nice enough that you don’t hate them–and who made a good salary, married to a person who also made a good salary, got a shower also. Aside from gifts, a diaper cake, catering, etc, she ended up with a gift card that had over $500 on it. It’s like everyone who was donating (and it was anonymous as to who’d given what) thought they would get more points for giving to a manager than a receptionist? Idk. It was gross and the receptionist is looking to leave.

      2. LD*

        Alison’s advice makes good sense because the OP doesn’t want a comparable party, she wants no party. It does come across as petty to have different size parties, but if it is not the company paying, but the organizers who are paying and/or collecting donations to support the party, that is hard to control. If that is the case, should the company step in and ban all parties because some people have coworkers who will choose to be more generous than others and pay for a bigger celebration? It’s a thorny issue when it’s condoned but not supported financially. This is how we get places that don’t allow any parties or any personal sales (I miss those Girl Scout Cookie deliveries at work!) It’s more fair, but not as much fun.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      This is such a great suggestion! Alternatives usually go over so much better than simply ditching the event entirely. Also, people bringing their babies to work is my fave. Bringing dogs: also acceptable.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ha, at NonProfit Job, we used to go, “Baby alert!” when someone would bring in an infant. Everything stopped while we all went to coo at the baby. I’m sure the baby was mightily confused–“Who are all these weirdos staring at me!?”

  21. DaisyC*

    #2, why would “civil war reenactor” be included on a resume? Isn’t it bad form to include hobbies there?

    1. Collie*

      I don’t have a lot of insight here, but perhaps it could be a bonus-points thing for particular jobs (history professor, for example). I’m not saying #2 is seeking such a position, but it’s possible. I imagine there may be some leadership roles involved, too — organizing events and such. You could definitely spin it as volunteer work, IMO.

      1. PolarBearGirl*

        Yes, I agree that hobbies as a general rule aren’t resume material, but if there are volunteer roles that are relevant to a job-seekers field, I think those are very helpful. They can help show that a job seeker understands a particular dynamic both from work experience and as a board member, for instance. If that’s part of this person’s reenactment experience, it could be another way to round out a (hairy) picture.

    2. Alton*

      I think I would see reenactment like any other volunteer experience. It depends on what you’re doing and how you can spin the experience. A lot of reenacters interact with tourists and field trip groups, for example. When I did historical interpretation, I mainly did demonstrations for groups, and it was volunteer work for a historical society that depended on revenue from events like that. I could see using my experience as an example of working with the public and volunteering.

      1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

        That’s a good point. If OP2 mostly does the sort that is a few cameras short of a film shoot, there’s probably not a lot of reason to include it unless you’re applying for something which wants a demonstrated knowledge of history. On the other hand, if OP2 answeres the questions of curious tourists/onlookers, that might be a different story, especially for a job in customer service. (In that case, my next question is whether you get bonus points for being clear to said tourists while also staying in character!)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Transferable skills!
          Or in character in the interview:

          “As a soldier in the Union Army, I was able to leverage my customer service and safety management skills to direct errant onlookers from wandering into cannon range in a way that still preserved their dignity while ensuring their legs weren’t blown off.”

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Anything related to the war in question, really! A relative of mine was in the battlefields preservation agency for a thoroughly fought-over state, and having gone on Civil War reenactments spoke hugely to his interest in and commitment to educating and remembering the CW.

    4. Lucky*

      If I received a resume with this listed, my first question would be “Blue or Gray?” One of those answers would tell me the candidate may not be a cultural fit.

      1. Alton*

        I think this might be a little unfair. I suppose some people may do reenacting because they romanticize the past, but I think most reenacters are just fascinated by history or want to teach people about it. You can’t really have a battle reenactment with only one side. I wouldn’t assume that someone who plays a Confederate soldier in a reenactment aligns themselves with Confederate ideology or history any more than I’d assume an actor in a movie does.

        It can be awkward sometimes to strike a balance between being faithful to history and being respectful and sensitive, and sometimes historical accuracy can go too far. But with battle reenactments, it’s hard to only have one side.

        1. Lucky*

          I get your point about being faithful to history and needing both sides to reenact battles, absolutely. Like Lemon Zinger proposes, I’d probably want to ask questions of someone who chose to represent the Confederacy. Maybe that’s unfair, but #2’s choice isn’t between Blue and Gray – it’s between Blue and Gray and find a different hobby. All hypothetical though, because if #2 came to interview at my office, I would assume that he’s in an old-timey country band.

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        Great point. MANY Civil War reenacters romanticize the whole thing, which is why I’d want to ask more questions if he turned out to represent the Confederacy.

    5. Liz W.*

      From a fellow living historian (who is just too tired to sit in the heat at reenactments anymore):
      I don’t list it as reenacting
      -Presentation development and public speaking skills
      -Volunteer with local parks and historic sites

      BTW, aligning mid-19th/21st century ideology to present an accurate historic impression is HARD. It takes a lot of research by all participants and good communication skills are vital (especially when portaying very not nice parts of history); this type of thing goes down for Tell me about a specific instance when you did X to solve… type questions.

      1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

        The ideology alignment and all the work it entails is why I don’t automatically say to leave it off. Depending on what you did and what you’re applying for, it may indeed demonstrate useful skills. Not everything is learned through work and school.

        Heck, for a while I thought about mentioning having written a couple of knitting patterns in my cover letters — because a good one requires clear writing and some level of numeracy. I only decided against it because it wasn’t like any of those patterns required any kind of grading — what non-crafters would call “having multiple sizes” — so said patterns woul be of limited use.

  22. Gaia*

    OP 1. I am the manager in a very similar situation except the employee in my case scheduled a meeting with my bosses (and not me) rather than email. To say that meeting did not go well for the employee is an understatement.

    You crossed a line. I understand you were upset but you did not have all the facts and you undermined your boss. If her bosses are even a tiny bit decent they are going to support her because you did not follow the proper route. You should have addressed it (calmly) with her first and, if you still felt you were treated unfairly once you had all the facts, you maybe might possibly could have addressed it (calmly) with the next level.

    But really? Your coworkers’ leave is not your business. They could have any number of extenuating circumstances. FMLA, bereavement, medical appointments not covered by FMLA, etc. Or, their leave could have been approved before the time was blacked out.

    1. Michaela T*

      I was going to caution something similar. If or when they talk to their boss about this, the OP should be prepared to not actually be given the details regarding their coworkers’ absences. It’s none of their business.

  23. Adlib*

    I’m guessing that if a coworker pointed out the other employees with time off to OP #1, then OP was grousing about it to said coworker. I’ve definitely gotten in trouble for that before (very early in my career). Not a good idea to go around complaining.

    1. Amy L*

      I was not. I was working in my cube, unaware that the other two accountants had been granted vacation. Another manager came to my desk and told me of the vacation requests, she knew mine had been denied.

      1. Dana*

        Why on earth is that manager trying to cause trouble? Something is very wrong at your company if people with management responsibilities are behaving so irresponsibly! Can you even trust the word of someone who would do that?

        1. Amy L*

          Ms. Dana, I would say that our department is very dysfunctional. I have friends in other departments (Admin, Audit, Legal, Payroll) and they are very sympathetic. I have tried moving into another department, but everywhere else in the company has very little turnover. It like we are the bastard stepchildren and no one really seems to care, as in the COO, CFO, etc.

  24. Important Moi*

    OP#1, please provide a follow up to your situation. I think many of the commenters, myself included would benefit.

    Sometimes I feel like managers get too much of the benefit on this site. I freely admit to being biased based on my experiences in work world.

    1. Christy*

      You mean like too much benefit of the doubt? Because as a non-manager I feel like I’ve gotten a ton of benefits from this site.

      And I also think that regardless of whether OP#1’s manager deserves benefit of the doubt, OP#1 definitely acted poorly. No matter how right or wrong OP#1’s manager was, OP#1 looks bad because of their reaction to whatever happened.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t think this was handled well at all by OP, but I do have to wonder what else is going on in this particular workplace given such an extreme reaction.
      Those don’t typically come out of nowhere all of a sudden (and they shouldn’t). But this letter does sort of scream the vacation thing was perhaps the straw the broke the camel’s back type of situation.

      But I don’t think the managers get too much benefit here… we’ve had lots of horrible bosses. It’s just given the context of this particular letter, we don’t have much else to go on.

      As you say Moi, I’ve been there a few times myself. Years ago I just up and quit a job over things just like this (vacation, days off, and shift requests being refused to me but not others, getting called to come in anyway when calling in sick, being forced to work 16 hour days to cover for others, etc.). After being refused a shift reassignment from night shift to days, well, that was just IT. I just quit like that. Perhaps it was unprofessional of me, but the supervisors there were playing favorites and I couldn’t see it ever changing.
      I don’t recommend this route, but yeah, sometimes you’ve just gotta.

    3. Sarahnova*

      Perhaps the manager was “unfair”, i.e. the employees who were granted time off had no more right/need to it than OP#1. But whether or no, as my granny would say, OP#1’s response is likely to blow up in his or her face – and as described, OP#1 lacks the information to know whether the manager acted “unfairly” or not.

      We don’t know whether the manager’s done anything “wrong”. We DO know the OP has.

    4. Kyrielle*

      I think it’s partly that they get the benefit of the doubt, but also partly that practicality demands handling it that way, and the site is about what works (assuming you don’t want to lose the job as part of your strategy, unless otherwise stated).

      If the manager is/managers are reasonable, going nuclear first isn’t going to help. If even one of them (or all of them) are unreasonable, going nuclear first…isn’t going to help. This is behavior that isn’t going to get the OP an apology, may not get the OP an explanation, and could cost the OP their job – whether I imagine reasonable managers at all the levels involved, or unreasonable ones.

      Is it possible the managers were unfairly playing favorites? Yes! But it’s also possible they had other reasons, and going nuclear before investigating that now leaves the OP in a situation where they may have harmed their standing, possibly even cost themselves a job, and the exceptions may have been for perfectly understandable and reasonable reasons. (Which their manager may, respecting the privacy of those individuals, have chosen not to disclose.)

      If OP is willing to lose the job – and the reference – over this, then maybe it was a hill worth dying on for them. But I don’t think 3 days of vacation, and then seeing other people get the time off, is a hill most of us would consider worth it. (And even if it was, I’d hope not to go out in a way that would permanently tarnish my reference from the place.)

    5. Alton*

      I think even when the manager is horribly in the wrong, there are usually better ways to respond than the OP did. Responding in an emotional way can make it hard to maintain any moral high ground.

      For all we know, this could be a really toxic work environment and the OP has been pushed to the limit. But it’s still preferable to respond to conflict professionally and to be the bigger person. And then if the manager really is a terror, it will be all the more obvious that they, not the employee, is the problem.

    6. hbc*

      I don’t see managers getting the benefit of the doubt in this situation. The email was simply not a good idea in any scenario:

      1) Manager good, Big Boss good–The policy was applied fairly, and OP looks bad in front of both for not having the facts, jumping to conclusions, escalating a non-issue, and getting really emotional over it.
      2) Manager good, Big Boss bad–Big Boss yells at Manager for being bothered by OP, Manager explains policy was fine, now both she and OP are on Big Boss’s bad list, and Manager is ticked at OP for starting this out of nothing.
      3) Manager bad, Big Boss good–Big Boss will not undermine Manager over a one-off vacation issue (versus a pattern of favoritism or wrongdoing), Manager’s new favorite activity is making OP’s life hell.
      4) Manager bad, Big Boss bad–It goes without saying nothing good will come of this.

      I’ve been livid about situations where I’m sure I have all the facts, and I still wouldn’t pull this because I know it’s not going to get me anywhere. Collect your thoughts and emotions, put together an email that says, “I wanted to make sure I understand the vacation policy. I was told two other accountants got time off in the closing window. Is this a special circumstance, do I need to be the first to request the time off, or is there some other criteria? I realize I don’t have all the information, and I don’t have any plan for vacation during the next close, so it’s not an urgent issue.” That’s about 1000x more likely to get a positive response–or an apology–than an accusation of unfairness.

      This isn’t pro-manager advice, this is pro-getting-what-you-want advice.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This isn’t pro-manager advice, this is pro-getting-what-you-want advice.

        Yep, that’s the whole point of the site. It’s not me being an impartial referee and issuing decrees; it’s me trying to help you get the outcomes you want.

      2. catsAreCool*

        “I still wouldn’t pull this because I know it’s not going to get me anywhere.” This!

        I can totally understand being angry about a pattern of this, but you’re right, showing anger in this situation would just make things worse.

    7. JanetInSC*

      “Sometimes I feel like managers get too much of the benefit on this site.”
      I agree! I’m much more likely to see workers being mistreated, while managers are free to implement bad decisions without any consequences. Allison herself wrote that she learned to be a good boss by not emulating her bad bosses. Really, who here hasn’t had bad bosses? The good boss is well-remembered, partly because a good boss is less common.

      1. JanetInSC*

        However, in the case of OP#1, this employee undermined her career and reputation by acting so rashly. Probably all of us have seen red from time to time, but handling it professionally is key.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Alison’s advice to OP1 is solid whether your have a good boss or a bad boss. Flying off the handle and going over someone’s head in the manner described doesn’t further the employee’s goal, regardless of the type of boss she has. If it’s a good boss, the relationship is damaged; if it’s a bad boss, they have “proof” that they’ve got an employee unworthy of respect and responsibility to handle themselves. I see a lot of the advice given here as a way to remain above the fray and minimize issues with varying qualities of bosses. Telling OP1 that she’s in the right and good for her would be terrible “advice”, even if she has the world’s shittiest boss.

        1. JanetInSC*

          Yes, I totally agree! Having a good boss or a bad boss is often irrelevant…how you respond is relevant.

    8. RobM*

      “Sometimes I feel like managers get too much of the benefit on this site. I freely admit to being biased based on my experiences in work world.”

      In this case though, either the manager is a jerk, in which case the OP has just antagonised and challenged a jerk with the power to fire them in front of said jerk’s bosses, which is kinda a bad idea; or the manager has let the other people have time off for reasons that fall outside of the normal range of things (FMLA) and the OP has just tried to drag their boss through the mud for something the boss hasn’t done wrong.

      Regardless, I don’t see the advice here as giving the manager here the benefit of the doubt, just pointing out that there _might_ be more going on than meets the eye, which kinda makes the point that _either way_ it’s a bad idea for OP#1 to effectively give their boss the middle finger.

  25. Allison*

    #1, I get why you assumed unfair treatment, or possibly suspected being lied to, but I could think of reasons why you heard those people got those dates off. It could be that they got the days off before someone decided to black those dates out, they could have gotten those days to attend weddings or other family affairs they had no say in scheduling. Either way, it might have been fine of you to calmly ask why some people could get time off during a supposed “black out” week, but pitching a fit like that was a bad idea.

  26. AthenaC*

    #2 – As a woman, I am arguably more opinionated on mens’ appearance than I should be. My own husband has a baby face that makes me look like I’m hanging out with a teenage stepson when he’s clean-shaven. Unfortunately, before he hit about 23 or 24, he couldn’t yet grow a full beard, so I was stuck looking like a woman of … questionable judgment whenever we were affectionate in public.

    Anyway, to your actual question, two things:

    1) I used to know a guy who got hired at one of the Big 4 professional services firm with the scraggliest, most disgusting-looking beard I have ever seen. I met him during the interview process and all I wanted to do was tell him to just clean up around the neck area, but I didn’t. He got hired anyway, which I was glad about because he really was a great guy and a lot of fun to work with. So there’s some anecdotal evidence in your favor. (This did happen in Alaska, though, so YMMV.)

    2) I know a guy that grew his hair out to about the middle of his back, and it. was. Magnificent. Thick, curly, a nice red-brown color. And then he cut it all off specifically because he didn’t want to risk the long hair counting against him in interviews. I don’t know if he’s going to grow it back (he better!!) but it truly was a crime against all that is good, true, and beautiful that our corporate culture would encourage such an awful haircut.

    Anyway, I vote for keeping the beard and seeing where it takes you. Good luck!

    1. Jinx*

      No advice, but sympathy on the baby-faced husband! Mr. Jinx and I are both 24, but I look older than my years and he looks younger (I swear his face looks the same as it did in high school pictures). He also can’t grow facial hair, and if the other men in his family are indication he won’t be able to until about he’s 50. I’m sure we’ll get some weird looks in the coming decades. <_<

    2. sunny-dee*

      I think of a Futurama episode where the doctor was dating a much younger woman and said, “People keep telling me that I’m robbing the cradle, but I prefer to think that she’s robbing the grave.”

  27. JessaB*

    OP3, may I suggest you call your student loan servicer and make sure you’re on the plan that will cost you the least to be paying off (might be income based, might be another one depending on your circumstances.) They can certainly look and see if they can save you on your monthly payment. Worst case, payment doesn’t change. Best, it goes down to something affordable at what you’re making NOW. Arrangements last a year, and if your salary goes up or down you can revist it.

  28. Adlib*

    I have to say guys with interesting facial hair (well groomed, of course) tend to be more memorable in my mind and in my experience!

  29. Former Retail Manager*

    #1….reading between the lines here, but I think there may be bigger issues between you and your manager, other than this one incident. Asking to appeal to Boss’ boss and then including them in an e-mail doesn’t seem like the reaction of someone with a good, or even neutral, rapport with their boss. It seems like the reaction of someone who is fed up.

    My gut instinct is that you probably were wronged, although of course it could be some of the other options Alison mentioned. You should definitely apologize for your overreaction, make no excuses and assure your boss it won’t happen again. You should then take a really hard look at whether you want to remain employed at this establishment. Your feelings that come through in the letter and your reaction to this situation makes it seem like there may be more underlying issues present and this was perhaps the last straw?

    Also, an update at some point in the future would be great.

  30. PolarBearGirl*

    Given that the conversation OP#1 had with a coworker was AFTER the dates of the vacation they wanted to take, at this point, the OP just comes across as wanting to be right, to prove the manager wrong, to enjoy some public and righteous indignation, or some combination. This vacation slot is gone, and no amount of complaining to the boss’s bosses (while throwing a coworker under the bus by forwarding her pile-on email to this whole group of managers) is going to result in anything good. At this point, I would even ask about who got vacation approval for anything – the goal is repairing the damage to OP#1’s professional reputation and to their working relationship with their boss.

    Going forward, I’d also be extremely wary of asking for any special arrangements around what has now been clearly outlined as a black-out period for vacations during quarter-end close. Even if you wait until next quarter (or the one after) and try to play the “you said it’s the rule but other exceptions were made” card, you look like someone who can’t respect a “no” from your manager.

    1. PolarBearGirl*

      (Sorry for the typo – should read: At this point, I WOULDN’T even ask about who got vacation approval for anything.)

  31. Aster Z*

    OP #1:
    “Am I wrong…?”

    I, for one, think it’s a good sign that you’re asking this way. A lot of questions about these kinds of situations get pile-ons in the comments because the writers only seem to be interested in undoing the damage to their careers, and not in whether they did the right (or at least a defensible) thing.

    That said, I don’t think it’s whether you should be upset that’s the main issue. You can’t really control your gut reactions to things in the moment, but you’re supposed to be able to be a grown-up and control how you behave. That may be easier if you don’t assume “fair” means “egalitarian down to every last niggling detail,” which is a mistake a lot of people make these days. Fair managers evaluate requests from all direct reports using the same criteria, but that doesn’t necessarily result in everyone’s getting the exact same arrangement every time as a result.

    OP #2:
    “Sideburns to the jawline, short beard to the chin, then up to the mustache.”

    Do you have the kind of muttonchops that look as if they were hauling you in their wake? Or do your whiskers go sproing! in all directions once you have more than a few days’ growth? If so, it might be good to trim everything so it’s more or less even, the same way you’d probably be sure your haircut looked as neat as possible on interview day even if you were normally more casual about it.

  32. MindoverMoneyChick*

    OP#3 here is some good information on IBR that people have mentioned:

    But my current business is working with young professionals trying to get a handle on their personal finances and I would say if you can manager the two jobs for a while without damaging your mental health that will be hugely beneficial to you in the long run. IBR is great for lowering your payments to a manageable level, but you will pay more in the long run. Of course the best outcome would be for your current boss to give you a raise.

    I realize you may have this already under control and know about your options, but if you want more information or just to bounce ideas off someone, feel free to email me at christinelane@mindovermoneysite.com. Helping people kill their students loans is seriously my mission in life :)

  33. Boo*

    OP#1: this reminds me of way back in my second job, when knowing my coworker wanted holiday the same month as me, I waited and waited to book it and then finally my family (I was a teen, the holiday was with them) couldn’t wait anymore and booked a date it and of course come Monday it turned out to be the same date as my coworker who’d booked hers the same weekend. We requested the dates on the same day, and my boss (my coworker’s daughter) of course approved my coworker’s and told me she didn’t care what arrangements we’d made between us, she had the final say and her mum asked first (over the weekend of course). I burst into tears and when called into a meeting with HR (a close mate of my boss’s) was too upset to explain anything about the preferential treatment. Hey I was 19, hands up I handled it really badly.

    I guess my advice to you would be: let it go. Even if there is preferential treatment going on, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by fighting it. Apologise to your boss, then try to keep your head down for a bit. Maybe distance will give you a little perspective, or you’ll find out your coworker had a valid reason to be allowed time off or maybe you’ll decide that this is not a great workplace and you want to move on. Lots of sympathy though.

  34. Anon Moose*

    OP3- in addition to the suggestions upthread about student loan repayment options, I wanted to ask why you seem to feel guilt here: “But I know for a fact that they hired me at a higher salary than they ever have for my current position”
    How is this a problem? Its completely their prerogative to hire you at whatever rate they want. And being paid fairly/ highly is a good thing, especially when your manager sounds interested in paying you more! What you DON’T want to do is think that you’d be hurting the company or your coworkers somehow by getting more pay- you wouldn’t (and anyway its not your problem to worry about that), and them paying you more means they want to keep you/ you’re more qualified.
    Also, if you didn’t negotiate then I wonder if you really do know for sure that you were hired at a high salary for your position. And if even you are sure, there could be other factors you’re unaware of. It could be that the salary scale is moving up. They also may be interested in moving you up from your current position.
    Anyway, them indicating they want to pay you more/ give you more hours is a good thing! Don’t feel guilty, go for it!

    1. SusanIvanova*

      Yes, they may have decided they’ve been underpaying for that job. At my first Silicon Valley company, there were three of us who were new to the Valley and also new to jobs in general – I was on my second, I think the others were just out of college. And the VP of Engineering who asked us about salary requirements had bought his house in the 70s, so his knowledge of cost of living was sadly out of date. It was also pre-Internet, so there wasn’t any easy way for us to find out, though the VP could’ve just asked some of the other employees. So when we all answered with requirements that would be just fine where we’d been, we were setting ourselves up to have over half our pay go to rent! When the CEO discovered that, she made sure we got the max possible raises until we’d caught up with our more savvy peers.

  35. Michelle*

    OP#4- Definitely speak up with whoever plans these things sooner rather than later. It’s much easier to stop these things from happening before the planning starts. If they ask why, use Alison’s suggestions.

    I understand the part about playing favorites, too. A couple of years ago, we had a couplet that dated, got married and had a baby and they were given a huge wedding shower and then a huge baby shower, all within about 18 months. We had 2 other showers in the same time frame- one for a wedding and one for a baby- and they were nowhere hear as big as the ones for the married couple. Really, it was so completely obvious who the “favorites” were. I felt so bad for the other coworkers. They did pretty good hiding their disappointment, but I know it stung that there life moments were not celebrated to the same degree.

    And that’s why I think anything beyond a cake and well wishes should not happen at work. Presents can be shipped or taken to the home. If you really feel like you want to give a coworker shower, it can be done outside of work. But that’s just my two cents.

  36. KR*

    Honestly, OP, reactions like this might be the reason your vacation was denied. If I have a blackout date at work where I need all my employees there, I’m much more likely to understand when my best people can’t make it and need to be elsewhere. But when the people who aren’t good performers or don’t have good attitudes, them not being able to make it in for important work days works against them. I’m trying to say this as kindly as possible, but you’re not really showing your manager that she should make an exception to the rule for you.

  37. Karo*

    #4, When I was getting married a work-friend started talking about throwing a shower for me. I explicitly told her that I didn’t want one, but also enlisted my close-friends-that-I-work-with to help me. They were the people who would be asked to help if it was going to be a surprise, and I told them in no uncertain terms that I needed there to not be a shower.

    I don’t know if it was my being-near tears asking the work-friend to not do that*, or if my close friends supported me to her, but I wound up not having to worry about it!

    *I really, truly, hate being the center of attention. My family/close friends shower was bad enough, and I love all of those people. The thought of all the friendly people I work with staring at me opening presents was…horrifying.

    1. Megs*

      Fourthed! I hate being the center of attention, and I’m not a big fan of anything that reeks of mandatory gift giving. Showers are really, really not my thing.

    2. Dan*

      We have a telecommuter who recently had a kid. For her shower, we gave her a gift card “can’t take presents on the plane, too much baggage” and took her out to lunch.

      As a fellow I-hate-being-the-center-of-attention person, I thought this was a nice way to acknowledge the big event without unnecessarily putting someone on the spot. (I didn’t organize it.)

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      Are you me? I even hate celebrating my birthday. A baby shower would be mortifying.

  38. Cass*

    I feel for the Civil War re-enactor dilemma. I was working a TV shoot on Saturday and someone we had scheduled for a talking head interview had the same facial hair style and was a re-enactor. I have to admit…I was a little thrown by it.

  39. Rachael*

    I had that happen numerous times. We were told that only one worker could be gone at a time and no one can have the last or first working day of the month off. Lo and behold there were always people out on those days. I got resentful and later asked my manager why this is happening (in a respective tone…more like “what are these people doing to you?”) and she told me that she would say no, but they would make her feel guilty and be very persistent and so she would relent. Then she said that she appreciates the employees that take “no” for an answer and loses respect for the pushy ones that force her to give the days off. So, while the manager might let the “squeaky wheels” get what they want she is actually keeping a running tally of the “squeakiness” and just might replace them if they continue to squeak.

    1. KTMGee*

      That’s pretty bogus though…if she couldn’t stand firm as a manager with very reasonable policies, but then was keeping track of everytime she allowed herself to be overruled to fire those people, that doesn’t say much about her as a boss. And it’s still unfair to you, though she allegedly respects you more.

      1. Rachael*

        While it was frustrating, I did get some added perks. I got more respect and free reign to run the department while she was gone (I was a lead). My opinion was valued and I was promoted because she trusted me – and she was very lenient about letting me have time off when it was available.

        The firing part was just a joke. Being a whiner about vacation time is not a fireable offense, but she did notice that the people more likely to harass her about vacation were the lower performers so it just factored into their whole work performance on a whole.

  40. ElCee*

    Related question to OP#2. I also am a reenactor but I wouldn’t list it on my resume since it’s a hobby. What’s the general take on that aspect? Also, I am a woman so in my case it isn’t visually apparent (and since it’s Revolutionary War/late 1700s, when NO facial hair was the fashion, it’s not an issue for the guys either), so it wouldn’t be necessary to use it to explain my appearance. But for a history-related position I can see it being useful to list on the resume.

  41. Gene*

    OP 4

    I understand you don’t want a work shower, and Alison’s advice will probably head one off. But if it doesn’t, you need to just accept the shower with the best grace you can muster. Play nice, make the proper noises, thank the gifters, all that happy horseshit.

    You don’t want to be known as “the woman who told us to F ourselves when we were trying to give her a nice party.”

    Of course, since it’s likely an ally will know when the surprise shower is to take place and can give you a heads-up, you can conveniently be out of the office that day.

  42. Young'n*

    Our dress code literally states that you can where any style of facial hair so long as it is beltway and clean. Aa fu man chu is ok as long as it is clean.

    1. Random Citizen*

      Way to go, guys. I now have “Beltway facial hair” in my search history today as well. *headdesk* Pleeaase no one look at my search history.

  43. Traveller*

    Aside from all of the other comments about how quickly the issue escalated….I also wondered whether the timing of when you put in your request was an issue. You put in the request in March, which conceivably is way too early to know if its going to be a busy quarter end & whether you could get your work cleared off or not.

    Its entirely possible that the other staff member’s requests were much more last minute (like within the last 2 weeks) — once it was clear that those staff members would be able to ensure tasks were done.

    It is worth noting that these days off are the last 2 days of the blackout period.

  44. MondayGirl*

    #1. I worked for a company where being denied time off for no reason was commonplace so we learned – if we really needed the time off (doctor’s appointment, anything non-negotiable) you had to call in sick. And the company never seemed to catch on. So I wouldn’t have put in for the 7/13 – 15 – just called in sick and avoid all this misery!!

    1. Amy L*

      No, I know my co-workers do that very thing. I think its dishonest. But perhaps I should reconsider for the next time I want to take my kids on a short trip.

      1. KellyK*

        I’d save calling in sick for things that are major, like a doctor’s appointment you can’t reschedule (and if you’re working past 6:30 regularly, I can’t see you scheduling doctor’s appointments outside work hours). If you lie about being out sick, it has the potential to come back to bite you. Even if you’re discreet enough to not post vacation pictures on Facebook or come back with a dark tan, there are tons of ways this could be found out. A coworker drives past your house and sees you loading kids and bags into the car. You can’t get your story straight and tell your boss you had the flu and a coworker you had a migraine. Etc.

        And that’s not even touching the ethics. You’re right; it’s dishonest and you shouldn’t do it, not for a fun trip. (If your employer is jeopardizing your health by making it impossible for you to get to needed doctor’s appointments, or jeopardizing your kids’ safety (depending on how old they are and where you’re picking them up from), then I think how much honesty you owe them is debatable. But those are different situations.)

  45. Kim*

    I didn’t want a baby shower, so I told the person who was organizing it Thank you, but I don’t feel comfortable with it. I feel like it is bad luck (which it is in many cultures). They let it go.

  46. OP5*

    OP #5 here. Just wanted to thank everyone for chiming in! My parents insisted that I should be paid for all the time I was away but it seemed like that wasn’t what my job did and I wanted to check in with someone who really knows what they’re talking about! (Disclaimer: I love my parents and I value their advice but sometimes they lose perspective when it comes to me).

    1. AthenaC*

      I know my parents love me very much, but when it comes to career advice, they are just the worst. They give me bad advice, I ignore it, then my mom makes fun of me for ignoring her advice …. just a really awful feeling.

  47. Little Love*

    I always understand that a request for time off was a request. Not a demand. And sometimes your request is denied.

  48. Amy Levesque*

    Follow Up – Furious about vacation denial (July 25)
    Thanks to everyone for the advice.
    Yes – the other two accounts did get vacation time when mine was denied (not emergency, sick time, FMLA, bereavement, etc). I was sure to clarify that before my “how is this fair” email was ever sent. Yes, I did apologize. To my boss in person, to all three via email. My boss really didn’t respond, she just asked what I was working on. The apology was not acknowledged by Boss Harry or Mary. No – I did not receive any type of disciplinary action. Nothing else has been said about the issue – nada. I am still employed, but also still looking for a position with a better work-life balance. These days, when I need time off, I usually just say, “Oh, I will be late/absent on … because of…”

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