my boss grabbed my hair, no one will tell me why I’m getting rejected, and more

It’s five answers to five questions.

But first, in case you missed the late-breaking post on Tuesday, you should read about this fairly shocking development with the new overtime rule.

And now to the questions …

1. My boss grabbed my hair

I work in a big office at a public agency. Near the end of the day, I had to ask my manager for his opinion on something. As we came over to my desk, he half-jokingly complained that he wanted to get home for his anniversary, grabbed onto my hair, and shook my head a few times. This happened in front of one of my colleagues who was about to work on the same problem. In the moment, I asked him not to do it again, and we proceeded to work together on the issue.

When we were done, I approached him one-on-one at his desk, and asked him politely but firmly not to do it again. I was expecting an apology. Instead I got mumbled lines like “you already said that” and “it was only once, okay, okay.” He clearly wanted me to go away. At that point, I dropped it and went home for the day.

For what it’s worth, we’re both men (I’m 30, he’s 50ish). I don’t think he was trying to be intimidating or anything. I’m also new (been there about 10 weeks) and wary of making waves. That said, I was surprised not to get an apology, and I’m still a little shaken. Do you think this is worth escalating to the big boss? How would you proceed?

No. You told him not to do it, and he said okay. You told him again, and he said okay again. It’s been dealt with.

It sounds like he was joking and didn’t realize he was crossing a line with you. Now he knows. He shouldn’t have needed to be told and it was certainly bad judgment on his part, but you’ve addressed it. If he had pushed back when you told him not to do it again, you’d have something to escalate. But in this case you have someone who heard your no and seems to have accepted it.

Certainly if other issues emerge with your manager, it could turn out that this is part of a pattern of disrespect and violating boundaries. But unless that happens, I’d figure that you made your point and move on.

2. No one will tell me why I’m getting rejected

Why does absolutely no one tell you why you weren’t hired/why you were rejected anymore? After being rejected for a flight attendant job and having to wait six months just to do a video interview again, and then be greeted with essentially a “just because” in the form of “unfortunately, we are unable to disclose interview details” in an email, my faith in the hiring process is shot. This isn’t the first time this has happened and I have no way of knowing what it is I need to improve if no company will even so much as talk to me about what it takes.

Well, it’s not really their job to coach you on being a stronger candidate. It’s certainly nice when a company does give feedback, but it’s not something they’re obligated to do (and many companies don’t do it because some many candidates end up arguing with them or becoming hostile).

But there are other things you can do to work on being a stronger candidate — read the hell out of my (free) guide on how to prepare for an interview and do everything it suggests in there (not just one or two things but seriously everything) … talk to a brutally honest friend or former coworker about how you might be coming across … do a mock interview with someone you know who hires people and ask for blunt feedback afterwards … and look to see who did get hired for the jobs you were rejected for (check the company’s website or LinkedIn) and see what those people’s backgrounds are.

3. My coworker wants to take all of December off, leaving the rest of us to cover for him

My company provides three weeks vacation and closes down for a week at Christmas, so this gives us four weeks off in total. We’re required to book our time off for the year by the end of January. We’re allowed to move dates around throughout the year, but the idea is to kind of ensure that we don’t have 10 developers and three account managers taking a week off at the same time.

It’s the end of the year, and three colleagues on my team and I each have a few days left over. We were talking about which days we want off (the company is very flexible, but it could be an issue if all three of us want to take the same days) when our fourth coworker breezily announced that he has used almost no vacation days all year and intends to take almost all of December off. He was laughing about how HR was pushing back on this request, and said they could either make an exception to let him carry the days over or let him take them all in December.

I don’t want to cause problems for my team member, but I think it was pretty irresponsible for him not to think about the fact that the rest of us have to cover his work while he’s gone. I’m considered the back-up person for one of his accounts, which means that I’ll be responsible for all of my own work and approximately half of his for an entire month. It’s also December, which is when we’re typically winding down — the office is more relaxed, people leave a little early kind of thing — and instead I’ll be working extra hours all month. I have a couple vacation days leftover that I was hoping to use in December as well, and it looks like I won’t be able to do that without being absolutely swamped the rest of the time.

Our manager is new, and only just took over a couple of weeks ago, so this situation was beyond her control. It sounds like HR is already involved, so I’m not sure if it would make more sense to just leave it alone, or talk to HR, or to discuss the impact this employee’s vacation will have on my workload with my manager.

At first I thought what he was doing was going to prevent you from using your own vacation days in December, but it sounds like the issue is just that you’ll have to cover his work for him while he’s gone, and thus won’t get to enjoy a more relaxed December, right? If that’s accurate, I can see why you’re really annoyed, but I also don’t think it’s the kind of thing you can really push back on. It sounds like you’d normally have to cover for him when he’s out, and the issue here is just that it’s going to happen during a month that you’d (understandably) like to be more leisurely.

So I think this is a suck-it-up-for-two-weeks situation, unfortunately … but you can definitely ask your coworker and your manager to ensure that this doesn’t happen in future years.

I’m updating this answer. For some reason I originally thought you were only going to have to cover for the coworker for two weeks. Having to work extra hours and do 150% as much work as normally isn’t reasonable to expect of you for a whole month, let alone one where you want to take your own time off. Talk to your manager and say this: “I’m happy to pitch in and help cover for Fergus while he’s gone, but I can’t take on half his work, plus my own, for the full month. I’m going to be taking my own time off for the holidays, and I won’t have enough time to handle his accounts on top of my own. I could do X and Y, but I don’t see a way to take on more than that.”

4. My manager set up a conference call with my predecessor

I am an event planner who is a contractor for a nonprofit that I’ve been employed with for several years. At the end of our contracts, everyone writes wrap reports and stores files in the company’s drive for year-round employees to review in the off season and for the contractor who performs the job next year. Last Friday, my manager asked for photos from a specific event last year. There were none and I relayed that information to him. In general, the wrap report and documentation is rather thin but is not an issue for me since it’s pretty easy to connect the dots.

Monday morning, my manager comes up to me and tells me he spoke to my predecessor and received the photos from him. He also said that he set up a conference call with him, my predecessor, and me to “pick his brain” for later on that day. I was really offended that he chose to do that without asking me first. I intend to take ownership of the role in my own way with my style and abilities. I could see if I was struggling with my work, but I’ve been ahead of my deadlines and he’s expressed that he’s been happy in my work in our previous meetings. I was also alarmed because he hasn’t set up a call with anyone else in our department to “pick the brain” of their predecessors.

Although I was disappointed, I still got on the call. My manager and my predecessor pretty much did all of the talking for the entire 30 minutes and there was nothing said that didn’t already know. The one exception was my manger brought up something important that he didn’t mention to me that is something I need to be on alert for and asked my predecessor for his opinion. I thought that something like that should have been communicated to me in our weekly meetings and not have sprung up on on a call. At the end of the call, my predecessor spoke about how I can only be as successful as the information I am given and that he’s a phone call away whenever I need advice. He also mentioned that he has tons of documentation that he can send to me. Documentation that should be stored on the company’s drive the whole time and he failed to do at the end of his contract.

What do you think would be the best way to voice my concern of this to my manager? I do not really feel the need to contact my predecessor regarding for advice. Not because I’m offended by the call, but by the fact that I have believe I have enough documentation, resources, and coworkers (that are still employed by the company) around me to do this job efficiently.

Let it go. There’s really nothing to be offended here by. Maybe your manager realized that the documentation your predecessor left was thin, or maybe in talking to him about the photos, the guy offered to do a joint call if it would be helpful. Regardless, it’s not a slight toward you. Sometimes people do these sorts of phone calls because they can be genuinely useful.

But do follow up with the contractor on his offer to send the “tons of documentation.” Tell him you’d like to have it all in one place so you know what’s available, and ask him to send all of it over. Don’t get hung up on the fact that he should have already done it. He apparently didn’t, but he’s offering to now, so tell him yes.

I get that it’s annoying to get unsolicited advice from the person who used to do your job. But you’ll look stronger if you don’t seem offended by it. Certainly if it becomes a pattern and it’s interfering in your work, you’d want to address that, but it doesn’t sound like anything more than a one-off incident so far.

5. Asking to be paid for guest lectures

I recently moved to a new state and started working in a museum in a position that requires an advanced degree (MLIS or equivalent). One aspect of the job is my coworkers are guest lecturers at the local university in the school of the advanced degree. I was very excited about this possibility as I have been a guest lecturer in my old state and enjoyed the experience. The thing is, my coworkers haven’t gotten paid for any of these lectures and I found this surprising as I always did. When I mentioned that to my coworker, she said the lectures started out as a favor to one specific professor and now more professors are asking, so it has become a regular aspect of the job. She also mentioned she didn’t know she could ask for payment. She figured the trade-off for free lectures was “professional experience.”

Because I am new, I want to wait and see how things go, but if this is going to be a regular weekly thing (which so far it looks like it is), I’m not thrilled with the university not paying us for our knowledge. Is there a way I can broach the subject of me and my coworkers getting paid for our time and if so, how should we go about it?

Well, some programs pay for guest lectures and some do not. But it’s reasonable to ask about it, especially if the lectures are weekly, which is a huge time commitment. Whoever coordinates the lectures could say something like this: “We were glad to be able to help out free of charge for a while, but now that these have become a regular feature of your classes, we’d like to talk about a guest lecture fee. Is that something you’re open to?”

(Of course, make sure that this isn’t something the museum is intentionally offering for free. If someone above you has chosen to do that, you obviously wouldn’t want to mess with it.)

{ 441 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    OP3- Something you need to remember is that your coworker isn’t responsible for your increased workload when people go on vacation – your management is. They are the ones who determine staffing, work assignments and so on. Your coworker has an agreement for paid vacation with your employer and they have every right to it, like every other form of compensation.

    Get upset at your management for not providing ways to mitigate these foreseeable staffing issues.

    1. Rey*

      One thing I noticed was that the vacationer seems to be asking for an exception–to me it reads like the employer has vacation policies in place: book your time off in January (“We’re required to book our time off for the year by the end of January”) and use it or lose it (“said they could either make an exception to let him carry the days over or…”). The OP does mention flexibility, but I don’t think The Whole Month of December is the kind of flexibility the company had in mind. I think the vacationing coworker sounds like a jerk, but what OP3 needs is for management to stick to policies that are already in place.

      1. PABJ*

        Requiring everyone to have decided on their vacation plans for the whole year in January seems a little rigid to me. There are much better ways to make sure everyone isn’t on vacation at the same time.

        1. My other bike is a broom*

          True, like ensuring people take vacation throughout the year. Many companies send managers and employees a reminder if they’ve not used any holiday or only a small percentage by a certain time to avoid situations like this. I mention managers because if they are aware they can tell the employees ahead of time what options they have.

          1. Dan*

            My last job would zero out vacation time over the carry-over limit at the end of the year. My boss would send out emails in the 4th quarter telling people to take their time before they lose. We didn’t have coverage issues, so everybody could be out at the same time.

            My current job, OTOH, instead of zero-ing out unused vacation, simply caps the amount you can accrue. Once you hit the limit, you stop accruing. I’m not the biggest fan of that policy, but it does seem to severely reduce end-of-year vacation crunches.

            1. Two-Time College Dropout*

              At my first full-time job, every employee’s vacation time reset on their hire date. This gave me unrealistic expectations about how vacation time usually works–I was SHOCKED to learn that most companies have everyone’s time reset at the end of the calendar year! Why don’t more companies stagger it somehow?!??! Having everyone’s accruals expire at the same time seems like a recipe for disaster!

        2. sunny-dee*

          Except you don’t know how rigid they are. It could be that they want exact dates, which is grossly unrealistic, but they could want ranges for larger chunks of time off. Like, they probably don’t care about taking an extra day at Labor Day or for your sister’s wedding, but they want to know that you’ll need two weeks off in July. Or something.

          I do have coworkers who take a full month off, but they usually are able to schedule that almost a year in advance because it takes a lot to accommodate that. (They’re traveling internationally to visit family.) So, wrapping projects or finding coverage is easier.

          1. Jaydee*

            I think your assessment is right. Based on what the LW says, it sounds like the employer isn’t crazy strict about taking a day or two here or there but wants longer vacations and popular times (around holidays, for example) to be claimed well in advance precisely so they can have adequate staffing/coverage during those times.

        3. Mona*

          I understand hospitals work like this and in their field it kind of makes sense – you’d be screwed if your entire ER staff decided to take Thanksgiving and Christmas off all at the same time.

        4. Cath in Canada*

          My job is moving to this “book all vacation days by the end of January” system next year and people are NOT happy about it! They say we’ll be able to move the dates once they’ve been approved (which just seems like a whole load of extra work for everyone with direct reports), but it just seems like such an unnecessary hassle. Not one of the vacation days I took this year could have been planned that far ahead – I was relying on other people booking flights etc. before I could figure out my own dates. Some departments of our (massive) umbrella organisation do have minimum coverage requirements, but mine really doesn’t, which makes it even more annoying.

      2. Dan*

        By those guidelines, the OP wouldn’t/shouldn’t be able to take a few days off in December as they note that they want to do, because, well you know, all vacation days need to be booked in January.

        It’s also not clear that that the spirit of the policy prohibit taking off three weeks in a row, no matter what the month.

        I don’t think the vacationing coworker is a jerk, I think management and their policies need to work a little bit harder.

        By and large, when vacation issues pop up, it’s extremely rare that the issues are the fault of the worker trying to take vacation. If taking vacation is difficult or creates issues, that’s the fault of management for making it difficult for an employee to utilize a part of their compensation package.

        1. Colette*

          Well, if the coworker is as flippant as he comes across in this letter, he doesn’t have any concern about the work or the impact on his coworkers. That’s not a sign of a good coworker – it’s a sign he’s a jerk.

          1. Mike C.*

            Again, the coworker is not responsible for the impact of their vacation on current workloads or on their coworkers as the coworker does not have the power to manage staffing levels. This is the root of the problem and no one will solve anything for the long term unless it’s addressed.

            1. Joseph*

              The root cause may be management fault, but the co-worker’s attitude (at least as perceived by the OP) is *absolutely* part of the problem too. OP would almost certainly be a lot more forgiving of the situation if the co-worker had come in with an apologetic tone and statement like “I’m really sorry to do this, but I just realized that I have three weeks of vacation left to take. I know this is going to really hurt *your* holiday/December plans and I hate to do this to you, but I talked with HR and just don’t see any other option.”

              1. Roscoe*

                I don’t think you should have to apologize for taking a benefit that you earned. Maybe it sucks that the co-workers have to cover him, but he shouldn’t be sorry for taking it.

                1. Myrin*

                  I think what the “sorry” is meant to convey in this case is that you understand that this plan/decision of yours is burdensome for you colleagues, not some kind of “OH MY GOD I’m so SORRY, I’ll never to it again because this was horrible of me to do!” sentiment – it’s just a polite way of speaking to acknowledge the less-than-perfect situation, which the OP’s coworker doesn’t seem to be doing at all.

                2. CeeCee*

                  I agree that an employee shouldn’t apologize for using their benefits, but in this case (and I’ve witnessed enough of them in real life to not be surprised) it seems like the employee tried to pull a fast one on the company. “They’ll either have to let me use or roll it over” even though it sounds like Rolling Over isn’t their policy.

                  I think most people have enough awareness to know that waiting til last minute and then taking a month off is a less than polite thing to do. Sure, it isn’t the coworker’s fault that the OPs workload will be doubled, but I think it’s unfair to assume coworker didn’t know what they were doing.

                3. AMPG*

                  You absolutely should have to apologize when you fail to manage your own schedule so badly that you end up screwing over your coworkers in order to access your benefits. It sounds like this guy could have taken a month off if he had planned it in advance, but instead he decided to rely on the goodwill of his employer not to zero out his vacation and the willingness of his colleagues not to push back over covering all his work with no notice. That’s lousy all around.

                4. Joseph*

                  It’s not an apology for “I’m using my benefits”. It’s an acknowledgement that his lack of planning is causing a ripple effect that’s preventing others from using *their* benefits.

                5. Sadsack*

                  I also don’t see it being coworker’s responsibility to apologize for manager’s mishandling of vacation coverage. It sounds like the coworker is being flippant about his taking vacation, but I don’t think he owes an apology to anyone if he is allowed to use it.

                6. Turtle Candle*

                  Also, there are apologies and there are apologies, right? Like, one time I contracted strep throats and couldn’t do an important presentation and a coworker had to pick it up at the last minute. When I said “Oh Jane, I’m sorry you had to do that with almost no warning!” I didn’t mean that the strep was my fault–it was more like “I am regretful that an inconvenient thing happened.” Same as how “I’m sorry your dog died” is understood to be an expression of sympathy rather than a confession of dog murder.

                  I think that’s a fairly common and well-understood meaning.

            2. Meow*

              I’m not sure I completely agree with this. I do to a degree and I realize every job is a bit different. However, in my job I own the work that comes to me so if I choose to go on an extended vacation without considering the ramifications of how my work will be passed on to the larger group, thats a problem. Yes, if I do that and there is an issue it is managements responsibility, not my coworkers, to take measures to ensure that dosn’t happen again. But that doesn’t absolve me of any responsibility in he matter. I would think part of the coworkers responsibilities would include taking into account the needs of the business before planning their vacation and, in this case, I don’t think the coworker did that.

            3. Colette*

              Most professionals are expected to manage their own time to some degree, including doing things like making sure there is someone to cover for them when they’re on vacation. Casually shrugging and showing no regard for the people they’re inconveniencing is not ok, nor is it managements’ fault. Presumably the coworker had all year to take the time – this was his poor judgement.

              1. sstabeler*

                it’s a bit of both- you really shouldn’t effectively force your co-workers to give up a day off so you can take extended time off, but management really should have said “sorry, but you should have taken time off earlier” (normally I would say they should make an exception and let it roll over, but that’s ONLY in situations where the time going “use it or lose it” is because management have refused time off requests all year. When you’ve been an idiot? You lose the time off)

          1. Mike C.*

            So why didn’t management properly enforce this? Why didn’t they ensure that the promises made with regards to compensation would be made good without difficulty to the company at large?

            They are the ones with the power to prevent they issue and yet they’ve laid it all on the back of the OP.

            1. Joseph*

              Yeah, the lack of enforcement is the real crux of the issue. Or, more precisely, management is rigidly enforcing *half* of the existing policy. The policy, as stated in the letter, has two parts:
              1.) Vacation must be used in the year it’s accrued.
              2.) Vacation must be scheduled well in advance in order to prevent situations like this.
              They are being firm about the first part of the policy, while giving him a complete pass on the second. Which is weird in and of itself and also removes a simple fix for the problem: If they decided to give him some flexibility on the “same year” part (maybe tell him that they’ll make an exception, but he has to schedule it now and it has to be used up by January 31st or something), that would solve the whole issue.

              1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                This. My company handbook says that vacation requests over two weeks require not only my boss’s approval, but the head of my division’s approval.

                Additionally, the handbook outlines how long before the trip I should make a request, and as you can guess, taking more than two weeks off requires significant lead time. If I had an employee want to take a month off, I would need significant lead time to rearrange 250+ accounts, so the work stayed balanced. Or to find a freelancer who could cover, and even then, someone would still have to do the account management duties. It’s not a simple request.

                Yes, vacation is part of our compensation, but not following the rules and then just demanding to use your time is an issue too.

                1. Tammy*

                  My company’s policy handbook requires that, except for illnesses or personal emergencies, vacation requests be made with lead time at least equal to twice the amount of vacation requested. So, if you want to take two days off, you need to ask four days in advance. If you want to take a month off, you’re asking at least two months ahead of time. And our policy handbook says that “the scheduling of your planned PTO is based on the Company’s operational needs and the requests for planned PTO and leave of absence of other team members.”

                  At least in my area of the company, we don’t enforce this policy super rigidly, particularly with respect to shorter time off requests, but a policy like this would certainly give the company more flexibility to push back on requests like the LW’s coworker made.

        2. Jaydee*

          But as LW says the employer offers some flexibility, so it makes sense that employees would still be able to take a day or two off here and there without having booked those days in January.

          1. Sadsack*

            I wonder if the coworker never provided dates in January, or he provided dates that were earlier in the year and ended up not taking them, or he actually put these December dates in and the manager didn’t realize it. Whatever he did, manager should have caught this.

      3. Mike C.*

        There are certainly limits of reasonable use, but my greater point that staffing is the responsibility of management still stands as the root cause of the Op’s issue.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          I get what you’re saying, but do you really expect a company to be over-staffed to the point where an employee deciding to take a month off a few weeks from now is smooth sailing?

          I can’t hire a temp to fill in for *any* of my team, as they are all highly skilled workers. I have a stable of good freelancers, but I can’t count on the idea that they would want to take on 40 hrs/wk at a moments notice.

          I consider myself a fair, flexible manager, but there is only so much I can do.

        2. Jaydee*

          But the employer does have a process to ensure adequate staffing and coverage. They require employees to schedule vacation time well in advance so that they don’t have too many people out at the same time.

          If it’s up to management to ensure adequate coverage, then their response to co-worker should be “We can’t let you take 3 full weeks off in December. To make sure we have enough coverage, we can only approve you taking X days off in December.” If they want to be generous they could give a one-time exception to let him carry over some of his remaining days but require that they be used up by a certain date fairly early in the year or they will be lost at that point.

      4. Roscoe*

        Why is he a jerk? Because he wants to use the vacation time he has earned? There are many reasons why he may not have used vacation time through the year. And requiring it to be booked in january is a bit much

        1. MsCHX*

          Requiring it be booked in January is pretty absurd. But expecting that it’s okay to announce at the last minute that you’re going to be gone for a month is a jerk move.

          1. Roscoe*

            Well we don’t know how long this has been in the works either. We know OP may have just found out about it, but it sounds like management and HR had been in on it for a while as well. Its very possible in October he realized it, asked about it, and its been going back and forth for a few weeks. Co-workers aren’t always privvy to these things. In fact, the co-workers only knew because they were talking about it and he “brazenly” announced it

          2. paul*

            He may not have; OP mentioned they just got a new manager, so who knows what’s been discussed?

            I agree that some jobs just aren’t compatible with taking a whole month off at a stretch (mine for instance) though. I get plenty of PTO but I can’t imagine having that ever approved.

      5. Mel*

        It also sounds like the manager should have kept an eye on the vacation allotments. It sounds like employees are supposed to enter the general times they want off when they book in January, precisely so the managers can check to make sure no one is hoarding their entire vacation for December.

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          According to the OP there is a new manager who has only been there a few weeks. If they had a gap with no manager (which I have seen many times) who should be keeping an eye on this. Most likely had 2-3 other managers taking parts of the duties with a big boss sort of overseeing the rest. Things like this fall through the cracks during those transitions and last I checked as an adult it is my responsibility to manage my benefits. I have to do something to get my benefits and in this case it is schedule time off in order to get my benefit. The OP’s coworker didn’t do that. They hoarded it and announced that they were either taking the entire month off or were going to have an exception made for them. The attitude alone would piss me off and I don’t have a lot of sympathy for someone who flouts policy with no regard for others.

        2. Rachael*

          I’m a little confused. Are you saying that a manager has to track PTO time of all their employees to make sure that everyone is using their PTO? I mean, obviously a manager has access to that, but aren’t employees adults? Can’t they manage their own time? If I have three weeks of vacation stored up, I know that i have it. I am a jerk if I wait and make sure that I block out the entire month of December because I “forgot” to take vacation.

          I guess a manger can track it and be up on the employees, but I most certainly wouldn’t (as an employee) feel as if it’s their job to know that I need to take vacation. I would only expect them to manage the PTO and staffing for the days requested off and to tell employees who “forget” to go pound sand.

      6. INTP*

        Yeah, to me it sounded like the coworker purposely didn’t schedule any of his vacation so that they would HAVE to grant him the whole month of December off, when if he made that request in January they would have told him “no.”

        At the same time though, it’s the company’s responsibility to be firm on this. It was a jerk move by the coworker, and if he were my coworker I certainly wouldn’t go above and beyond to make his return to the office in January easy, but ultimately management should be the one expected to make this work in a fair way, whether that means having a plan for the excess work (since realistically, many employees are not going to be available for a lot of OT during the holidays), or calling his game of chicken and telling him that he’ll just have to sacrifice those days.

    2. Jeanne*

      I am sure the vacationing coworker is well aware that someone has to complete his work and that is difficult to do two jobs for a whole month. He has made it clear he doesn’t care and isn’t willing to abide by normal work norms like saving all your vacation for the end of the year. So yes it is also coworker’s fault.

      1. Mike C.*

        This is the wrong attitude to have here – management could easily hire temps or implement other cross-training type plans for instance.

        Getting bitter at the coworker for using the compensation promised them is absolutely nuts. The coworker isn’t assigning the extra work, management is. They are the ones making this decision and they are the ones who should take responsibility for that decision.

        1. AD*

          Mike, there is such thing as an inconsiderate colleague. No one is arguing that management isn’t ultimately responsible for staffing issues but it’s also incumbent on adult coworkers to be respectful of each other’s time.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            I completely agree.

            Unless OPs coworker has been trying to use their time off earlier in the year they’ve been inconsiderate and thoughtless to the rest of the team.

          2. Mike C.*

            The coworker has absolutely no control over how work is assigned, therefore it’s not an issue of respect or consideration to begin with.

            1. Morning Glory*

              The coworker may not control work coverage, but he is also not in the dark as to who will be covering for him.

              I may not be to blame for my colleagues having to cover for me while I am on vacation, but I also would not take off an entire month, knowing the impact it would have on them. Presumably, the OP felt the same way and spread his vacation out throughout the year. I would be pretty annoyed if I had been conscientious about minimizing my impact on them, and they did this to me.

              1. Roscoe*

                I think that is the difference. I don’t think you should have to not take off an entire month because of the impact on them. If you want a month off, and you have the time, you should be able to take it and not feel bad about it

                1. Jessie*

                  An employer is perfectly within its rights to not allow a whole month off at a time. In the US, it is entirely standard to take smaller chunks of time, and there is zero expectation that anyone has a right to use an entire year’s allotment of vacation time all at once. Unless the OPs company is an outlier in the US – or not in the US at all – then it is more than odd that the coworker thinks nothing of taking an entire month off, and no, any given employee doesn’t have some right to take a whole month off as a matter of course. Using all vacation time over the course of a year = yes. Using all vacation time at once on relatively short notice = you have got to be kidding me.

                2. Koko*

                  It all depends on company culture. It sounds like OP’s coworker violated cultural norms at the company that weren’t expressly outlawed by policy because the company had never had to deal with this situation before and hadn’t pre-emptively thought to put something in the policy about it. Hopefully they will learn from this and put additional provisions in the policy to avoid this type of situation coming up again. It’s not really cool to be the person who violates the spirit but not the letter of the rule and forces the company to keep writing increasingly clearer and more specific rules to close up loopholes.

                3. Morning Glory*

                  I am not suffering by showing a minimal amount of consideration for my colleagues. I still take most of or all of my vacation every year, and so do my colleagues.

                  And if I ever did have a big reason to take a month off, like an important trip or life event, I know my colleagues would be willing to work with me to accommodate that, because I do not make a habit of taking a month off on short notice. It’s basic human decency to accept the reality of your impact on the people you work with instead of becoming obsessively hung up on ‘what should be’.

                  That’s especially true if you talk about ‘what should be’ to justify doing what you want regardless of impact on your coworkers, but never suggest ‘what should be’ to management.

                4. Roscoe*

                  To be clear, I think management is the bigger issue. Further down, the OP for this question said it actually is stated in the manual that you can’t take more than 10 business days off at once. With that bit of inofrmation, I’ve definitely changed my tune. If it is stated, and they know that, then they are just trying to game the system. But if it isn’t stated, I don’t even think its violating the “spirit” of the law. In my job, if I wanted to take a month off at a time, I don’t think that should be an issue just because no one has done it before. That isn’t violating anything. But if management doesn’t want that, then they need to express that.

            2. LCL*

              It is an issue of consideration if vacation time is limited. Hogging all of the prime time vacation, and then bragging about it, is greedy. and kinda tacky.

              1. The Rat-Catcher*

                I think the time of year is a huge consideration too. There’s a general expectation in the US at least to be able to take off some amount of time during December due to the sheer number of holidays going on at that time. And the office is small, too, which comes with a lot of perks (I miss my small office every day), but also means that ensuring coverage is a bit harder.
                This whole situation may have played out much differently in April (provided they are not accountants doing individual taxes or something like that).

                1. The Rat-Catcher*

                  I meant to say that I agree with your “prime time vacation” comment, but not sure if that came across.

          1. Roscoe*

            True, but thats where you end up with people who don’t take time off. I had a job once where you basically were guilted everytime you took time off because of how it would affect others. At some point, you take what you earned. ITs unfortunate if it has a negative impact, but thats on management.

            1. Allison*

              Right, and coworkers who get passive aggressive and make “must be niiiiice” comments when someone does take vacation, because it’s obnoxious of them to take it at a busy time, when the reality is the company is always busy and there’s really no such thing as a “good time” for someone to take vacation.

              But I do agree that taking a whole month would put a huge burden on one’s coworkers, but management should have put a stop to that. Maybe put in limits on how much vacation can be taken at once, except in extenuating circumstances.

              1. Mike C.*

                Or maybe management can come up with an effective coverage plan and folks can properly enjoy their compensation.

                1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                  Coming up with an effective coverage plan takes time, which is why there are leave policies and procedures for making requests.

                  There has to be give and take on both sides.

            2. Temperance*

              I think that there’s a huge difference between making sure your leave isn’t overly impacting coworkers and never taking leave. This dude deciding last minute that he doesn’t want to work at all in December means that his counterpart is getting screwed out of her leave and is going to end up working even more. Not cool.

              1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                This. I know with planning I can take two weeks off and my team won’t know I’m gone, even when I’m far beyond cell phone range.

                But if I announced next week that I was out the entire month of December, everyone would be impacted.

          2. Gaara*

            Yeah. You should be able to take all of your leave, but that doesn’t mean you should save it all up for the last minute and inconvenience your coworkers!

              1. Roscoe*

                I mean it depends. If you have family out of the country, it can make total sense. Plus, lets be clear, he is taking 3 weeks off, not 4 (office is closed one week). I’ve definitely had people I know take 2-3 week honeymoons

                1. Temperance*

                  But this is somethign that is planned for. He wanted a month off, and decided to strong arm the company by ignoring their leave rules and waiting until the last minute to declare himself off for the whole month.

                2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                  I’ve managed employees who took long honeymoons, or took an extended “paternity leave.” The difference was the amount of time I had to make arrangements.

                  These are not things that can be accomplished in short time periods.

                3. Wanda888*

                  Not the Droid- Why put “paternity leave” in quotes? Do you think they weren’t actually taking care of the baby?

                4. Apollo Warbucks*


                  Most likely because it wasn’t official paternity leave, but using PTO just after the baby was born.

                5. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                  @Wanda888, it’s in quotes because my company doesn’t offer or recognize paternity leave, so it was really just extended time off from an HR point of view.

                  But he wanted to be home with the baby (whether to care for, bond, or simply stare at it – it wasn’t my business), so we cobbled a 6 week paid leave together.

                6. aeldest*

                  Wanda– I’d assume it’s because they were using PTO for it, rather than there being an actual company policy for paternity leave.

                7. Pixel*

                  Two of my co-workers took an entire month off during the summer (our slowest season) to visit family out of the country. I picked up the slack and definitely worked harder than usual that time of year, but no harder than average.
                  My spouse has an obscene amount of time off and will be taking the entire month of December off. No one will be impacted by his absence because he is responsible for his own projects and has them all covered.
                  A month away is longer than usual but certainly not unheard of. Vacations are awesome and everyone should have more of those.

                8. MsCHX*

                  Pixel, you do realize that taking the month off when no one is impacted by your work isn’t the same as taking the month off and someone has to pick up all of your work, right?

              2. I used to be Murphy*

                Eh, this isn’t really all that uncommon. In all my jobs I’ve had people take 2-3 week vacations regularly and many have taken longer (I took 4 weeks once, my boss took a 6 week one this summer). Business norms vary.

                1. Jessie*

                  But did you arrange it at the last minute? Or in advance? It just seems so very not ok to me to do this on short notice for such a long time. That’s just not any kind of business norm I’ve experienced.

              3. HRish Dude*

                I mean I’m taking a month off next July. It’s in 8 months. My manager knows about it now. My coworkers know about it. I don’t want it to impose upon them at all so we’re coming up with a plan to do it seamlessly. Asking so soon in advance when it will definitely impact everyone is absurd.

            1. Temperance*

              EXACTLY. Plus, taking an entire month off is pretty jerky, especially at the last minute. If he at least planned it and had approval earlier, he might have been able to offset the impact by doing his work ahead of time.

              1. Mike C.*

                Yet for some strange reason this is perfectly common in many nations around the world. Even then, given the polices set out by the company it was a perfectly foreseeable event and management did nothing to mitigate the issue.

                Also, why is everyone completely ignoring the times the coworker had to cover for the OP and others?

                1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                  Where do you see that it was a foreseeable event?

                  Every employee handbook I’ve ever had has said that vacation is approved at the discretion of my manager (going all the way back to Baltimore Bagel when I was 16).

                  My last few jobs have had request deadlines/timeframes. I would say most companies don’t expect to scramble at the end of the year to find coverage for an employee who decides to take a month off.

                2. MsCHX*

                  Covering for your coworkers over a long weekend is different than 3 straight weeks. If a coworker is out Th/F or F/M in PTO for example, you handle their essential tasks. If they’re gone for weeks, pretty much their entire workflow needs handling. Not the same IMO.

                3. Mike C.*

                  It’s foreseeable in the sense that the time expires at the end of the year and wasn’t used yet and it’s now the end of the year.

                4. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                  Mike if “it’s foreseeable in the sense that the time expires at the end of the year and wasn’t used yet and it’s now the end of the year,” why wasn’t it as equally foreseeable by the employee who is now trying to have the rule bent?

              2. Koko*

                Yes! My office is very liberal with vacation, both in that we get a lot of it (3-5 weeks depending on job band and tenure, and that’s on top of office closures and sick pay) and that culturally you can take vacation however you please as long as you make the proper arrangements to ensure your job gets done (which does partly involve someone else being your back-up for everything you can do ahead of time or delay til your return, but we directly notify our coworkers when we need this from them instead of management handling it). Managers are pretty willing to grant leave that hasn’t been accrued yet on good faith that the employee won’t quit before they make up the deficit, and even to give an under-the-table day off here and there.

                But what this guy did would even give us quite a bit of pause. It reminds me of a very junior employee we hired who in his first couple of years caused the vacation policy to be rewritten to specify that things he was doing weren’t actually OK. They were things nobody had ever tried to do before, that were so out of step with our culture, that even our fairly bureaucratic management hadn’t anticipated the situations and explicitly outlawed them…until he tried it. Like, booking a 3-week overseas trip on less than two months’ notice when he’d been on the job less than three months, going so far as to buy his plane tickets before informing his manager and saying he couldn’t get a refund when his manager said that it was too long to be gone when he had so little vacation accrued and we were still onboarding him. Now we have more formal policies about how much notice has to be given relative to the length of the time off. Before this clueless/inconsiderate guy came along, we never realized we needed to have that policy because everyone was reasonably polite without need for it.

        2. LQ*

          He’s a jerk because he’s laughing about it, he’s breezily informing his coworkers about the horrible December they are going to have. HAHAHA I made your life suck? That’s jerk behavior.

          Using your vacation time isn’t jerk behavior, doing it in a way to inflict the most pain possible on the people you work with and then laughing? Laughing! That is jerk behavior.

          Management can make bad decisions AND you can have jerk coworkers. Both are possible.

              1. PK*

                It’s not a tiny irrelevant thing but it’s also not particularly a requirement when it comes to using benefits.
                I get the argument that it’s not particularly nice to your coworkers but on the same token, the coworkers aren’t entitled to an easy December either. Stuff happens.

              2. Mike C.*

                Given how much I’ve said about toxic work environments I would hope that you would give me the benefit of the doubt and trust that I too believe this.

                1. LQ*

                  I do, which is why I’m so confused about your stance on this. You are driving such a hard line on this without any nuance at all and you seem so angry about it I don’t get it.

            1. MsCHX*

              Ok are you a “devils advocate” type of person??

              Just asking because I don’t do well with arguments for arguments sake and I’ll know not to engage.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                I don’t necessarily agree with him that someone should be able to 3 weeks off without much notice buy I believe Mike is being genuine and his stance on this issue is consistent with other similar issues.

              2. Mike C.*

                No, I’m not and I’m really getting tired of people acting like I am because I take a firm position on things. I honestly believe what I write, and I’m interested in having those beliefs tested out.

          1. BeautifulVoid*

            Management can make bad decisions AND you can have jerk coworkers. Both are possible.

            Yep, I’m willing to divide the blame equally here. The guy knew the policy, didn’t follow it, and has the attitude of “haha, I’m really going to get one over on the company, and screw everyone else who has to deal with the fallout”. But there are also plenty of things management could have done to prevent this situation. Maybe they do usually send out reminders about using time, maybe not; since there’s a new manager, it could have slipped through the cracks. And I have to admit, I’m not crazy about “schedule all your vacation for the year in January” policies, but I think there’s some middle ground to be found in there. Like maybe a couple days here and there isn’t a big deal (just like if someone got sick or something), but anything a week or longer has to be approved X amount of time in advance.

            Either way, regardless of the outcome*, I wouldn’t be surprised if management reevaluated their vacation policies after this. Which they probably should, anyway.

            (*I like the compromise below of letting him take a week, bank a week as a one-time thing, and having him lose a week.)

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          You don’t know that management could easily hire temps or implement other cross-training plans because you don’t know what kind of work they do. That works fine in some industries and businesses but not in others.

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

            Thank you! I can’t replace with my employees with temps. Freelancers yes, temps no.

            But I can’t count on my freelancers being able to take on work at the drop of a hat.

          2. Mike C.*

            You would need to be in a very, very specialized line of work where no form of improvement, automation, cross-training or similar contingency plans would fail to work. Even then, management could have sat down with this coworker in February and asked why time wasn’t scheduled.

            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              “You would need to be in a very, very specialized line of work where no form of improvement, automation, cross-training or similar contingency plans would fail to work.”

              Nope. I manage a team of writers and graphic designers, which is not a “very, very specialized line of work” but I cannot hire temps to do their work. There is no “automation” to creative work unless we want to take people out of the equation and push out crappy templates. My team is cross-trained, and can handle a reasonable absence. But a month on short notice is impossible.

              Also, my employees are not children they do not need me to manage their schedules and workload. I trust that they are capable of planning out their own schedules while following guidelines. If I have to sit down with someone and micromanage their vacation schedule because they can’t follow the guidelines that allow all of us to use our vacation…then I have the wrong person on my team.

              1. AD*

                Also, my employees are not children they do not need me to manage their schedules and workload. I trust that they are capable of planning out their own schedules while following guidelines. If I have to sit down with someone and micromanage their vacation schedule because they can’t follow the guidelines that allow all of us to use our vacation…then I have the wrong person on my team.


            2. Pixel*

              I’m a public practice accountant. Anyone doing my job, even a fantastic, designated and experienced accountant wouldn’t know right off the bat everything there is to know about the clients, our file system and how we roll. With any luck, they will start getting productive just as the first three weeks roll by and the entire office is closed for the holidays.

          3. MillersSpring*

            +1000! Temps, contractors or freelancers won’t have the knowledge of the role or the organization that is critical in many positions. And many companies aren’t keen on hiring temps. Yes, the management failed to prepare for the apparently very real possibility that a jerk employee could announce that he wants to take off the whole month of December. But that doesn’t mean that the department or company can suddenly bring in temps to mitigate it, or that they’re willing to staff each department with extra employees all year long to ensure coverage at the holidays.

            I’m not surprised that HR is pushing back on the jerk employee, whose attitude seems to be, “Ho-ho, losers–I’m out till 2017!” He should have planned his PTO better in a cooperative arrangement with his coworkers and manager.

        4. INTP*

          But it sounds like he purposely gamed the system to get those days off. He was presumably aware of the deadline, and he didn’t schedule his vacation when he was supposed to so he could force the company’s hand and get to take all of his vacation in one month or carry it over to next year, because he knew they’d require him to spread his time out if he asked earlier in the year like he was supposed to.

          IMO, assuming he knew the deadlines and wasn’t denied requests for time off earlier in the year, they should just grant only as much time off as they would have had he requested earlier in the year, and make him lose his vacation time, assuming that doesn’t violate any state laws. I do agree with you that the company has some responsibility here. But it’s not a simple case of a coworker taking the time he’s entitled to in a reasonable way.

        5. Turtle Candle*

          These conversations always fascinate me because I get perspectives on what are clearly very different industries. In my job, temps are basically unworkable, and cross-training is difficult and expensive; advance planning for vacations is a necessity because we can’t patch over the gap easily, and so pre-distributing the load is important.

    3. justcourt*

      I agree that the issue is coverage, rather than the coworker’s vacation.

      If the coworker is allowed to take the whole month off I disagree with AMA’s advice that the OP should just suck it up. The OP said he/she will have to work extra hours with the additional work. Working long hours isn’t bad for short periods of time, but OT for a month might be exhausting. I think it might be worth it to speak to management about spreading out some of the co-worker’s work if he’s going to be out the whole month.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Yes, I think it would be really reasonable for OP to go to their manager and say, “I’ve heard rumblings that Coworker is going to be gone for all of December. I know I’m usually his backup on the X account, and I’m happy to pitch in a few days here and there, but constant coverage for an entire month is going to mean that I won’t have enough hours to service my own accounts adequately. Is Coworker actually going to be out all that time, and if so, how can we reshuffle the responsibilities, so that all our accounts are served.”

        1. Op#3*

          OP #3 here-
          Thank you for this advice and wording, I appreciate it! Will us in my next 1-1 with my manager.

      2. Dan*

        I donno… I take my vacations seriously, and have a job where I can take all of it at one and it doesn’t add more work to other coworkers. It’s actually one of things that keeps me at my current job, even though I could theoretically make more money elsewhere.

        i fall on the side of “don’t f with someone’s vacation unless you really have no other choice.” Three weeks of vacation is three weeks of vacation, taken a day, a week, or a month at a time.

        When someone else’s vacation puts an undue stress on someone else, it’s time to consider a temp. Keep in mind that it’s not just one employee we’re talking about, because presumably this person will go on vacation and need coversage too.

        1. justcourt*

          Well, I don’t think OP should try to convince his/her boss that co-worker shouldn’t go on vacation (that’s between the employer and the coworker). If OP is concerned about his/her workload (OP specifically said covering for the coworker will add several hours to his/her workday), then it’s fair for OP to see what management can do to alleviate some of that burden.

          1. LQ*

            I take my vacation seriously. But that doesn’t mean I use it as a weapon against my coworkers. I take it. I use it. Even when we were overwhelmed and I was on the edge? I took it. But I didn’t find the worst possible time and then laugh. And you know what? My coworkers were fine with it even though it was at a bad time, because I wasn’t a jerk about it.

            1. Roscoe*

              I think me and you are reading this letter very differently. It doesn’t seem like this time of year is really any worse than any other time of year at the office. Just that it means that OP has to cover him for all of the time he is out, and that makes it difficult. Nor do i think that the dude was laughing because it was going to make OPs life stressful. More laughing because him and HR are at an impasse

              1. LQ*

                That could be, and perhaps because we’ve had people we work with this deal with it differently. I definitely read that this would be an extra burdensome time to take off and that the Time Off Guy was laughing about the coworkers or at them.

            2. Mike C.*

              It’s only a weapon because management is perfectly happy to make everyone else do extra work without proper adjustments.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Some sort of mitigation plan such that the OP doesn’t end up taking on 50% more work just because their coworker goes on vacation. Maybe that means better planning and proactive enforcement of policies. Maybe better automation of procedures to optimize workflow. Maybe getting rid of these stupid “use it or lose it” policies, allowing for better roll-over or a simple pay out of a portion of their time.

                  There’s a lot of things that could be done here for a minimal cost to the company, but instead they seem happy to just make the grunts do more work because it’s easier than being creative and finding a better long term solution.

                2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

                  I don’t see how telling the coworker they simply can’t take December off isn’t a “proactive enforcement of policies.”

                  Unless this employee was entirely kept in the dark about his vacation accrual, he knew how much time he had.

                3. Mike C.*


                  Proactive meetings in the sense that there was a discussion in February when little/no time was scheduled during January.

        2. Anon too!*

          “i fall on the side of “don’t f with someone’s vacation unless you really have no other choice.” Three weeks of vacation is three weeks of vacation, taken a day, a week, or a month at a time.”

          Absolutely. Vacation taken 1 day at a time generally means that you have to just do that work at other times rather than on the specific day.

          Vacation isn’t really worth it to me taken 1 day at a time. I need to take 2 or 3 weeks to fully recharge.

          I can also think of nothing that would make me want to find a new job faster than having my vacation time denied. If I can’t use it, then it’s not a benefit.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not for a month though — the OP said she’ll need to cover for the coworker for two weeks, which is something that could happen at any time of year.

          1. Dan*

            AAM — to be clear, OP says that the office shuts down for one week at Xmas. So, OP has to cover for vacationing coworker for three weeks, not the whole month, plus gets the week off anyway.

            OP does use the language “the whole month” which I think is a little loose given that the office is closed for Xmas and OP is on vacation.

              1. DArcy*

                I think there is also a valid concern that since OP’s coworker is taking off every single work day for the entire month, the other people in the department will have minimal ability to use any of their remaining time off.

                Here’s the thing: based on what the OP said, the coworker in question chose to willfully violate company rules by not scheduling his vacation in advance and now blatantly abusing the flexibility policy which moderates those rules by trying to use “flexibility” to schedule his entire vacation block at the last second rather than to adjust previously scheduled time. Under the circumstances, I think it would be reasonable for HR to say that the coworker is not allowed to monopolize December no matter how much vacation time he has left.

                Honestly, I feel he SHOULD lose vacation time over this. Let him take two weeks, bank one week into next year, and forfeit the remainder. With the understanding that allowing him to bank any is a one time exception and the next time he pulls a stunt like this, he’s going to face losing all unspent vacation.

                1. Mike C.*

                  The company rules are unusually strict, and it’s a red herring – management still decides coverage. It’s like getting upset that a co-worker cashed their paycheck and now there’s no money left in the bank for you to get paid.

                2. CM*

                  I agree. If the rule is you have to put your vacation request in at the beginning of the year, and this coworker clearly didn’t do that, then too bad.

                3. Mike C.*

                  Also, forcing someone to lose their compensation is really, really gross. I wouldn’t expect people to say that his healthcare or paycheck should be cut, so I don’t understand why vacation is fair game.

                4. Lissa*

                  I don’t see how this is in any way equivalent to pay being not given — I mean, he did go against the vacation policy, regardless of how dumb we might think it is if they have to declare it in January, right? I don’t see why it’s “gross” if the company decided to abide by their vacation policy (which it sounds like they aren’t doing.)

                  It isn’t like this was something sprung on coworker here.

                5. DArcy*

                  The company’s vacation policy is that time off should be scheduled in January so that everyone’s vacation plans are on the table and coverage can be arranged, but they moderate that policy with being flexible if adjustments are necessary. This strikes me as a reasonable policy; if I was working for that company, I would be able to go, “I know I’ll want a week off around July for my family’s summer timeshare, and I know I’ll want a week off in late January / early February for Tet.” and then adjust for the exact dates once I know what those dates are.

                  This coworker is actively trying to cheat the system by saying, “I’ve sneakily cancelled all my previously planned vacation, so I’m sitting on my entire three weeks off and now you HAVE TO give me all my vacation in December.”

                  The company has every right to say: “No, we don’t. You chose to cancel all of your declared vacation and our flexibility policy does not allow you to demand it all at once now. You can have the normal maximum of a ten day vacation in December, and you are going to have to lose the rest because it was YOUR CHOICE to cancel your scheduled days off all year.” That is completely within the rules.

                  Like I said, if I was the HR decision maker I’d give him a one-shot offer to bank one week, and that would explicitly be a one time offer that goes off the table if he keeps pushing.

            1. Dan*

              Well, the OP clearly indicates that they know that vacation approvals must be in by January. So I really don’t think they can complain about someone else not following the “rule” when they want to break it themselves. Besides, OP does get a week off in December already.

              1. MsCHX*

                EVERYONE agents a week off in December. That is not an extra benefit to OP. She has “a couple of days” remaining if I’m not mistaken (on my phone and don’t want to go back). That’s entirely different than having all 3 weeks remaining.

                1. DArcy*

                  You are not mistaken. OP stated that she and everyone else in the department each have a “few days” of PTO left. They’re not up against an official “only one person out” rule, but they’re behaving like reasonable adults and coordinating among themselves so that everyone can use their remaining PTO without the office crashing and burning.

    4. Erin*

      Yeah, they should have noticed he hadn’t taken that time and brought this up sooner. It sounds like he has a really poor attitude about it, but it’s not just all on him.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        At my company and in my current division, if you haven’t used a certain number of days by a certain date, management will speak to you and ask you to take time off, and we’re allowed to roll over time.

    5. DCGirl*

      Yes, it’s important for management to keep an eye of employees’ vacation usage (or lack thereof) and respond accordingly to prevent situations like this. But, employees are also responsible for managing themselves as well. Part of being an adult is learning to accept the consequences of our actions and decisions, including what happens when you don’t manage your vacation time well and run out of opportunities to take it. This employee does have a share in the responsibility for this situation.

    6. TheCupcakeCounter*

      The problem is that the coworker is (somewhat) bragging that he gets the whole month off or get a rollover exemption when there is a policy in place that is supposed to prevent that. OP states there is a new manager so it isn’t her fault and depending on if there was a period of time when there was no manager in place to keep track of this and send out reminders (and in my opinion I am an adult and I know the policies so I shouldn’t need a mommy or daddy reminding me to take vacation – I either set it up to make sure I use it or I lose it if that is the policy not to mention that every pay stub I have ever received shows my PTO balance so its not like its a surprise I have it) then you can’t really blame management. The OP also says that you sign up by the end of January but have the ability to move things around so it doesn’t sound like the policy is super rigid just proactive in reminding people to take their paid vacation time and to ensure that all needed coverage is in place. I could see a scenario where someone would sign up for a couple of weeks here and there but then cancel or move it out until it was too late. Whether this was an accident or something done on purpose I don’t know but I have seen it happen before.
      Also managements solution to coverage is to have people cross-trained on each others accounts which is reasonable and common. My workload is spread over 4 people when I am out and I have small bits of other people’s jobs when they are out (for example I am doing a few daily reports for a coworker today because she is out). That has been the norm everywhere I worked even the HS and college jobs.
      I’m not sure why OP should get upset at management when they have a clearly communicated policy in place that the adult coworker chose not to follow. Something tells me that the coworker does not need to be reminded that he gets paid and to go cash his check so why should he be reminded to use his paid time off? They are both benefits he is entitled to but in order to get the benefit a step must be taken (show up and work and schedule and get approval for vacation time – doesn’t sound like he did the second or that management is in the habit of rejecting reasonable time off requests). It also doesn’t sound like he planned to be off the entire month of December earlier in the year which would have given management and the other staff time to come up with a good plan.

      1. Mike C.*

        The problem is that the coworker is (somewhat) bragging that he gets the whole month off or get a rollover exemption when there is a policy in place that is supposed to prevent that.

        If the employee was apologetic and nice the amount of extra work the OP would have to take on wouldn’t suddenly vanish. Therefore, it’s not the actual problem. The problem is that management doesn’t have an effective coverage plan. Management’s solution of increasing someone’s workload by 50% is not normal and is not reasonable. That’s not a coverage plan, that’s just passing the buck.

        I’m not sure why OP should get upset at management

        I’ve written pretty extensively about this, what was I not clear about?

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Seeing as this is isn’t your column, she may not have read your extensive writing about it. Or she may have read all your comments and not thought they were helpful or persuasive or answered her questions on the topic. Either way, your “what was I not clear about” comment seemed a bit harsh.

        2. Myrin*

          I don’t think that the amount of work not suddenly vanishing makes the delivery of the message less of a problem (or even no problem at all). To use the often-quoted example of foot stomping as an analogy: if someone doesn’t look where they’re going and steps hard on my foot, whether or not they are apologetic about it doesn’t at all impact the hurt of my foot. But I sure as hell am going to react differently to someone saying “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, can I help you sit down? Do you need anything?” from someone shrugging and going “Well, gosh, stuff like that happens. Whatever, not my fault.” and walking away. And that, as far as I can see, is not some astounding or rare concept and applies to all kinds of situations.

          1. Mike C.*

            Look, being a jerk is a problem, and maybe I should have been more sensitive to this. Outside of this person being completely toxic, the issue of lack of coverage is a more fundamental problem that needs to be solved lest someone leave on short notice on a more permanent basis.

        3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          Mike, can you please share your experience developing an effective coverage plan for an employee being gone a month?

          I’m not being a smart-aleck, but am genuinely curious. Every time I have had to plan a leave over three weeks, it has taken at least a month of planning. Our business is set to absorb a 5-10 business day leave with minimal disruption (we generally flow coverage up because my team is client facing).

          1. Mike C.*

            It’s cool, no worries.

            I’m not sure why I’d have to do it myself to recognize that it’s been done before and that there are good solutions to mitigate these sorts of issues. I’ve never flown a plane before but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out that there are ways to do it while mitigating many of the expected challenges and obstacles. In the same way (as you yourself even point out!) it can be done with some planning and flexibility.

            You’re right that it requires planning. I argue that it should have started in February when the coworker didn’t schedule any time off – a discussion between the manager and coworker could have cleared this up months ago. Ensuring that there are actually enough employees such that having one gone doesn’t mean someone else increases their own workload by 50%. Looking into long term process improvement and automation (this is a good part of what I actually do) to prevent unexpected costs and lower overall workloads. In these areas, I’ve had a great deal of success – as you steam line things, you end up having fewer fires to put out and are able to better handle surprises that come up.

            Roscoe brought this point up below, but this issue is a symptom of a much larger problem – there’s no real plan for what happens if someone leaves. This needs to be addressed or that workplace will be in serious trouble.

            1. Temperance*

              The LW clarified below that her coworker purposely gamed the system – he scheduled PTO throughout the year and canceled it, accruing this unplanned leave on purpose in a sneaky way. Does that change your mind?

        4. TheCupcakeCounter*

          Everywhere I have worked when someone goes on vacation their workload that cannot wait is spread over several coworkers. It isn’t always equal and it might not effect some as much as others but everyone pitches in. Managements role is to make sure that there are people cross-trained because in my field temps and freelancers are not an option so making sure there are others who can do parts of the job and have the appropriate security is their job. Yes my manager takes some of my stuff when I am out but his job in terms of coverage is to make sure that there are enough people here during that time that everything that absolutely needs to get done gets done. It just so happens in this situation that the OPs portion of the load is fairly significant most likely because he is the best person to work on that account. I’m sure the coworker has covered for the OP in the past and it doesn’t appear that OP has an issue covering for the coworker for a reasonable period of time. The issue is that the coworker has not given management a reasonable amount of time to plan coverage for that length of time and does not seem to care that others are impacted. Had coworker booked this time off several months ago I doubt there would be a letter because they would have time to work out a plan. If this were shift work or retail then yes management would shoulder a bigger load and bringing in temps would be a solution but I am not getting that the OP has that type of work. And there is a huge difference between self-managed account related work and shift work and the responsibility of management in how coverage is handled. I’ve worked in both and it is very different. His attitude is just rubbing salt in the wound. I just had a person in my department out for a month. It was in the works for well over a year and he busted his butt before he left to make sure everything was in good order. We also had an employee who previously worked that role come and help out part-time while he was away. Didn’t help overly much because his boss put in his notice 2 days before the guys was supposed to leave and then the other person his in role decided not to come back from maternity leave 3 days before she was due to return (a week after he had left). It was hell and caused a lot of problems even though there were very good coverage plans in place that management worked very hard on. This is a role that has about a 3 month learning curve with very confidential information so temps are not an option.

          As for why I don’t think the OP should be upset at management goes back to I don’t think managers should be responsible for babysitting their direct reports. I am an adult and expect to be treated like one and part of my adulthood is managing my time and benefits. If I don’t need to be reminded to cash my paycheck so I shouldn’t have to be reminded to take vacation. The coworker knew how much vacation he had, knew the policy was to sign up at the beginning of the year (generally these policies are to make sure that management has advance notice of any extensive leave so they can do what you suggest and ensure proper coverage without undue hardship on others or to make sure the entire building doesn’t want the same week off), and knows how coverage is usually handled. Do you honestly think you could go to your manager Oct 1 and say that you are taking the last 3-4 weeks of the year off and have it approved? And if it was approved that management would be the only ones affected? What if they had scheduled vacation during that time? Should they have to cancel that even if it was scheduled back in January per company policy? They have that benefit too and are therefore entitled to it.
          Most employee handbooks have a section on vacation policies that are very clear. I have no sympathy for anyone who ignores the clearly stated policies and expects to inconvenience others because they are entitled to it as part of they compensation package. The only exception would be if management denied his previous vacation requests that he put in following the company policy. In that case management should have to make some exceptions since they did not allow the employee to manage their time per the policy. Based on the OPs other comments regarding the flexibility after the January signup I don’t believe that is the case and believe that the coworker should have this denied as is and is not entitled to have an exception made in this case. Health insurance is part of my compensation package as well but I have to enroll in order to benefit from it. My paycheck is part of my benefit package but I have to enroll in direct deposit or take the physical check to my bank to cash it in order to benefit from it. The coworker has a responsibility to manage his time and utilize his benefits per company policy. It doesn’t appear that he followed policy and that shouldn’t be managements fault especially since the manager is new and we don’t know what the previous manager did in an effort to get this employee to use his vacation earlier in the year.

        5. AD*

          Hi Mike, you clearly feel strongly about this but your reference to tone/attitude of colleagues being irrelevant is tone deaf. Tone and attitude in communications peer/peer or manager/report are indeed VERY important. I know you’ve been around this blog long enough to have seen the aftermath of what happens when people aren’t sensitive or respectful towards each other, or haven’t communicated well.
          You believe that the entire onus of managing smooth vacation coverage is entirely on management. Fair enough. But can you have an open mind, and see how having an inconsiderate colleague poorly plan when they’re taking off adversely impacting others?
          And we’re forgetting that OP references HR is pushing back on this, while the manager in question is a newbie. Just saying “It’s all on management” isn’t the most helpful thing for OP to hear.

        6. Op#3*

          The coverage plan usually works fine. In general, most people take a maximum of one week off, sometimes someone will take two. If someone takes a day or two off, it’s usually a minimal amount of additional work for the person covering.
          If there had been some notice for this person’s vacation, then the idea of hiring a temp may have been feasible

    7. Artemesia*

      I disagree. A worker who takes the entire month of December thus preventing peers from using a few days of their vacation during the holiday season is being grossly inconsiderate. He doesn’t have ‘every right’ to not use vacation during the year or coordinate it so that others have the option of using some of it in December etc etc. If the company allows it, then yeah, it is on them though.

      1. Artemesia*

        I do think that people should be able to take extended vacations and use the 3 weeks at once, but that should require extensive preplanning so that one person isn’t having to pick up a huge workload. e.g. wind down projects before the vacation and don’t take on new ones tell he gets back, organize current projects so that pieces can be done by several others, work ahead on projects so that what needs to be done in the 3 weeks is much less than in say the 3 weeks preceding the vacation. Last minute doens’t work.

    8. Mona*

      Mike C., you can blame this OP’s management all you want, but the OP has said they have a new manager. In a situation like that, I would expect there should have been an open dialogue between the manager, the person going off on vacation, and the people covering for him BEFORE this person goes on vacation. The person going on vacation shouldn’t be stopped but it is not the fault of the people who are covering him that they’ve got a new manager who isn’t handling this properly. Personnel change all the time in offices and all employees, whether or not they’ve requested vacation time or not, should be acting like team players and be part of the conversation on how all this work will be covered.

      If I sound bitter about covering for work, I am. I’m supposed to have two people covering for me while I’m away so I’m not having to do work while I’m away (otherwise, what’s the point of having a vacation?) and every single time I come back, work has piled up they’ve left it for me to handle. I realize this is an extreme case but I can identify with the OP having myself been left holding the bag and working late to cover for someone who may not do the same in return.

    9. TootsNYC*

      also, get upset at management for not planning vacation days more aggressive or earlier.

      I used to just float along, without planning my team’s vacation days. And we’d have a lot of them to use up at the end of the year.

      But my team got big enough that it became a problem, and now I start assessing vacation days in October. If I had a bigger crew, I’d be making people line up most of their vacation plans by July.

      And some companies won’t let you take more than 2 weeks off at a time; some of them are reluctant to approve more than one week at a time.

  2. Anonz*

    I’m kind of disturbed by the first one. I get that for some people, light physical contact or “horsing around” might not be a big deal, but as a domestic abuse survivor if that happened to me I’d be seriously freaked out and on edge. Any kind of unexpected touching from stangers is a no go for me. I had a problem with my coworker at my new job poking me and pushing my chair and I had to tell my manager to make it stop because I couldn’t take it. I didn’t disclose my history, but it’s definitely something to think about IMO. Especially because this was his manager who should be held to a higher standard.

    1. Dan*

      I’m a big personal space freak, no matter what the gender. If you violate that space without my prior consent, my defenses go on high alert. Seriously, I have yet to have an encounter with someone violating my space who was just being “friendly” and had no ulterior motive.

      Hell, I was at an internaionally known restaurant chain in Europe, and the waiter comes up to me and the first thing he does is shake my hand. He was a hand shaker, a shoulder toucher, and a “buddy” guy, and you know what? The service stunk.

      Don’t get me wrong — you can shake my hand, and I don’t have a problem with that. The difference is that when you shake hands, the first one to offer is actually inviting you to violate his personal space. (But no further than his fore arm.)

    2. MegaMoose, Esq*

      The manager definitely crossed a line, but the letter does say it only happened once, and that the OP told the manager not to do it again twice. Unless it happens again, I’m not sure what other action should be taken. It sounds like the manager was embarrassed during the second conversation and (ideally) knows they overstepped and won’t do it again.

        1. Observer*

          I’m not sure that the manager gets it, though. No apology is bad enough, but “it was only once” really is out of line. Even once it was grossly out of line, and one time too many.

          1. CMT*

            Yeah, it doesn’t seem like the boss gets why it was so inappropriate, which I think is probably OP’s real concern. I’d be upset, too, in that situation. But, I don’t know that there’s anything OP can do about it, other than keep an eye out for similar behavior in the future.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

              I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness here, but I do think a line can and should be drawn between inappropriate physical contact and inappropriate sexual contact, and there’s nothing in the letter to imply that the latter is involved.

              As for the response, imagine that the OP wrote in after the first contact and was asking what to do. Going to the manager in private and repeating that it was inappropriate and not to do it again is perfectly reasonable. Going to HR or a higher boss seems like unnecessary escalation, especially since their response will most likely be to ask if you’ve told the person not to do it and if the behavior has been repeated. And I really think that demanding a specific response (ie. an apology the OP deems appropriately contrite) is only going to make the OP look unreasonable here.

              1. CMT*

                Ok, but I didn’t mean inappropriate in that it was approaching sexual harassment. I meant just plain not acceptable behavior for the workplace.

                1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

                  You’re right – I was conflating your comment with some of those below. It is absolutely not acceptable behavior for the workplace. I just don’t believe that it is the kind of behavior that calls for escalation. Slap on the ass? Escalate. Slap on the shoulder? Tell them firmly and clearly not to do it again, and escalate if they do it again after being told not to.

      1. Mel*

        I think the OP is unhappy because his manager never actually apologized. And so AAM is right – it’s been dealt with, so he won’t get the desired apology.

        1. CeeCee*

          In general, I think people get a bit hung up on the wording of apologies. He acknowledged you are upset, and appears embarrassed enough that it won’t happen again. Just because one doesn’t physically get the words “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean you haven’t gotten the point across.

          I accept a lot of apologies I never receive (I think that comes from a famous quote by someone.) Why waste brain space on this? Holding on because someone didn’t apologize ( but who actively acknowledged what you told them, which is more than most will do anyway) seems like it’s stealing some brainspace that could be put to better use.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Some people get hung up on wording of apologies, sure, but based on what the OP said, the manager didn’t apologize under any definition. Saying you won’t do something again–and in the manner that the manager said it–isn’t the same as acknowledging you did something you shouldn’t have in the first place. Acknowledging that someone is upset about something is not the same thing as being apologetic. And this is the kind of thing that you should make it clear you are apologetic about, even if you don’t use the words “I’m sorry.”

            That said, the OP isn’t going to get an apology and needs to move on unless this is part of a bigger pattern.

            1. CeeCee*

              I don’t disagree, but maybe the manager didn’t think he did anything to apologize for. Maybe he’s done this to other people who don’t mind and didn’t see it as a problem, other than that he upset this particular worker.

              I agree though, perhaps he should have been more apologetic about it — even if the apology was more in the vein of “I’m sorry I upset you” rather than “I’m sorry for my actions.”

              But if this was a one-off, rather than a pattern, I’d call acknowledgement a win. Sure, keep this incident in the back of your mind in case it becomes a pattern, but as of now, I’d say it’s laid to rest.

              1. Jadelyn*

                If the manager didn’t think he did anything to apologize for, then that in and of itself is a big problem. He *got physical* with a subordinate when he was frustrated, even if it was playful frustration, and that’s absolutely unacceptable. Someone who doesn’t see that as anything to apologize for, I would have a hard time trusting to recognize other totally normal and usually assumed boundaries.

                1. Emma*

                  This. That’s a big red flag, and I’m frankly not sure I could trust my manager again if he pulled this on me and then didn’t seem to get what the problem was.

      2. Bob Barker*

        I mean, someone only has to slap me across the face once for me to never want to work with that person again. There are “Oops I crossed the line” issues and then there are “Oops, I assaulted you” issues. Context may vary a little bit, but it’s not unreasonable to expect that hair-pulling would be considered the latter in most workplaces.

        It may indeed never happen again. But that relationship is irrevocably broken, and the manager screwing up his response so badly indicates that he doesn’t necessarily even understand that he’s the one who broke it. Could I take an annual review from someone who’d assaulted me, even if he’d only ever done it once? Ha ha ha no. When I’m applying for another job, and the new place wants my most recent supervisor as a reference — no. I doubt OP will ever get an apology, but I do think a chat with HR is a good idea. What if the embarrassed manager retaliates for being embarrassed? What if the manager does it to someone else?

        1. Jadelyn*

          THANK you. I feel like there’s a lot of handwaving that it’s “not that bad”, but the guy laid hands on one of his employees. There’s no way to make that okay.

          1. CeeCee*

            I think this is a bit of an extreme reaction. As a female with longer hair, I’ve had people playfully tug on my ponytail, occasionally using it to shake my head. Is it inappropriate? Absolutely. Do I ask them to stop and tell them I don’t like being touched, please don’t do it again? Absolutely. Is it assault? No. It’s a crossed line. Treating it like assault would a bit of an overreaction. It should be treated as a crossed line unless there is some type of pattern of this happening.

            I’ve also had supervisors touch my shoulder gently while introducing me to other people. I don’t like it. I’m not a toucher. But that’s a situation where a “guy laid hands on one of his employees.” And it’s not ideal but it’s not a situation where “There’s no way to make it okay.”

            Sure, if these situations continue even after the OP has asked for them to stop, then it’s obviously part of a larger problem. But I feel your reactions are a bit extreme.

            1. Hrovitnir*

              I believe it technically meets the definition of assault and regardless, it is crossing a major line. You don’t have to know your employee (that you have considerable power over) has a history of trauma to not touch them like that – just not doing it at all will entirely avoid the problem of really upsetting people with a history of assault.

              (So as to not be completely unhelpful my 2c on the actual letter is that AAM’s right that unless it happens again I’d leave it, but add that his attitude sounds gross and it’s completely understandable for you to feel gross/unsafe/violated. No one gets to decide how upsetting something like this is for you, even if they wouldn’t care.)

              1. Candi*

                Make a note and keep an eye out for other boundary violations, physical or other.

                As far as I’m concerned, though, one adult touching other without current or ongoing permission is Not Okay in about 95%* of situations -and this was definitely in that 95%. (There’s also levels of permission, such as work vs. romance, but that would make for a really long post.)

                *Other ~5%- Police, paramedics, firefolks, other emergency personnel, the subject is mentally/physically incapable of giving permission so someone else makes the current or ongoing decision, the person needs to be restrained from harming themselves or others, so on and so forth. Add any other situation that might apply.

    3. Julia*

      My boss stroked my hair once without asking for my permission and commented it was like “petting a cat.” The other people at the table looked as uncomfortable as I felt, but none of us said a word.

      1. Mabel*

        It’s sometimes hard to tell someone to stop doing something (even when it’s egregious) because it can feel like I’m criticizing the “offender.” Obviously “criticizing” someone for doing something they should have known NOT to do is not a bad thing, but after years of conditioning, it’s hard to break out of “don’t hurt people’s feelings” – especially if you’re a woman/girl. The only time this was different for me was when my colleague and I had JUST been talking about sexual harassment, and another colleague came into our office an hugged me. This person had been doing things like that for a few weeks, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything. But this time I was able to ask him to not hug me. He was a decent person who had not realized it was inappropriate, so he apologized, and we all continued our “how was your weekend” conversation for a few minutes. That was important to me because he didn’t get huffy and leave the office, so I didn’t have to feel bad about creating a boundary. (And I know I don’t/shouldn’t have to feel bad about that, but the reality is that it’s hard to enforce boundaries BECAUSE I worry about hurting someone’s feelings. I’m better at this now, but back then it was a real effort.)

      2. RVA Cat*

        That reminds me of a super-awkward mandatory happy hour prior to a merger. One of the employees from the other firm (who was widely there known to be an alcoholic) got hammered and started petting my hair. Weirded out everybody, and as people had started leaving anyway I took that as my cue to go. What’s worse is that I found out later she drove home….

    4. Mookie*

      I also had a visceral reaction to this. Pulling someone’s hair hard enough to shake their head sounds a little violent. Coupled with the handwaving, I think this boss is an ass, but I agree with Alison that the immediate problem is over.

    5. paul*

      Yeah, I can’t believe any manager thought that was OK. I mean, what the hell?! I know I’m pretty heavy into the “don’t touch me” end of the spectrum, but jeez.

    6. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I was very disturbed by the first one. And, I really feel that “it was only once” is not only in no way an apology, it also isn’t an acknowledgement of what he did wrong. It never should have happened at all.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Oh, and I’m a bit of a “touch-er”. I do — when I feel I know someone well — will touch them on the arm or shoulder and I definitely shake hands. I can hug, and will often offer hugs to acquaintences when running into them somewhere. BUT, this would have had me jumping out of my chair saying “What are you DOING?!”

        1. EddieSherbert*


          I’m generally really fine with touching… but I really don’t like people touching my hair – let alone grabbing it! I give OP a lot of credit for handling it as well as they did. I absolutely would have freaked out and probably yelled at my manager (whoops).

          1. Bob Barker*

            I don’t know what kind of saints go here that would manage to keep their composure under such circumstances, but I’m clearly not a saint where my personal bodily integrity is concerned. I get a little jittery just trying to discuss it, because no. Noooooo. No.

            Given that I don’t think I’m that far an outlier, I would like to think that the vast, vaaaast majority of workplaces already know that that kind of behavior needs immediate and severe sanction, and those that don’t need to be Told. In raised voices, with liberal effwording.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

              I would be deeply disturbed and I hope I would do exactly what the OP did: shut it down when it happened, then initiate a second conversation in private repeating that it was deeply inappropriate and not to do it again. (Realistically I probably wouldn’t have the wherewithal to say something at the time but would absolutely say something in private). The letter is about what to do AFTER those interactions, however, and I really can’t see a realistic “next step” other than doing whatever I need to do personally to move on.

              1. Bob Barker*

                Yes, I know that. (I was responding specifically to Eddie’s remark about yelling.)

                However, let me be clear: I have a very strong reaction to people violating my personal bubble in violent ways, which is to say, I would scream and fight my way out, and I would not ever be able to work with that person again (nor indeed be alone in the same room with him).

                Obviously, OP is not me, and I’m not OP. But I try to think about “next steps” given what I know of how it would go for me, and all potential paths lead to HR, or quitting on the spot.

                1. Emma*

                  I’m with Bob, and I’ll go further and say that reacting loudly or fighting against violent physical contact is neither extreme nor unusual. We call it a fight-or-flight instinct for a reason.

                  I’m not sure I consider freezing or being quiet about such an assault a better response.

                2. Hrovitnir*

                  To back Bob up, I think it’s a problem that people having an extreme reaction to violent or intrusive physical contact is seen as more of a problem than the person doing it in the first place.

                  It is the way it is so we do our best to fit in but I will absolutely defend the right of someone to have that extreme reaction. They shouldn’t have been put in a position where they had to swallow panic or anything like it in the first place, regardless of whether anyone else would be OK with it.

                  For (probably unneeded) context, I am a big fan of playful violence: I met my partner at our muay thai club and we spar and wrestle. A coworker touching me in a way that could be restraining or in any way read as sexual would make me feel nauseous or panicky. People have different experiences and I am not OK with shaming people for having an unusually strong reaction to completely inappropriate conduct.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Honestly, someone grabbing my hair at work would have their arm slapped away with considerable force and me snapping “what the FUCK is wrong with you, don’t you ever touch me like that!” I’m just kind of amazed that anyone thinks that was in any way okay or even just “not that bad”. Don’t you EVER express your frustration with someone physically, even in jest. That’s never okay.

          1. Emma*

            This. I’m also surprised at people characterizing your type of reaction (which I also share, and I know we’re not alone) as “extreme.” Am I not allowed to actually defend myself from unwanted (and in this case, violent) physical contact? Wow.

    7. Shazbot*

      Not to mention that getting their hair touched by strangers is a real problem for people with a certain hair type. Not sure if that is the case here, but hair touching can have a racial component. The manager absolutely needs to understand that he has to keep his hands to himself.

        1. Candi*

          There’s a few Not Always Right stories about it, certainly. Including one at a movie theater where the customer called for the manager because the submitter refused to allow her to touch her hair -she was part black, and she had her hair styled in a naturally springy (and from the sound of it, quite attractive) way.

          The manager was a good manager with a spine, and professionally but firmly told the customer that putting her hands on her employee was NOT okay, and it was NOT going to be allowed.

    8. Tobias Funke*

      I was shocked that Alison did not think this was a big deal. The general theme here is that it is never okay to touch someone without their permission and certainly not okay to grab them by the hair and jerk their head around. But somehow because the boss does it, it has become okay?

      I am NOT at all a “what about the mens” person but I wonder if somehow this would be read differently were the LW a woman. If someone did this to me I would probably quit on the spot.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        I don’t read her answer in any way as saying that it’s not a big deal or that because it’s the boss it’s okay. All she’s saying is that the OP reacted appropriately and that in the absence of evidence that the manager didn’t get the very clear “don’t do this again” message, there’s no further action that needs taking.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Also, I think the response really depends on context. I think the answer would have been different if the OP suggested that the hair-grabbing was sexualized, or in a context of anger or overt aggression. Instead, the OP said it was “half-joking” and didn’t feel like an attempt at intimidation. That context is important.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I didn’t say it’s okay. I specifically said he shouldn’t have needed to be told it wasn’t okay and that it was bad judgment.

        Where exactly do you see me saying it’s okay?

        My point is that the OP has addressed it and, absent evidence that it’s part of a larger pattern, there’s nothing else that needs to be done here (and indeed nothing else the OP could do that wouldn’t look like overkill since she’s already addressed it with the manager).

  3. Jeanne*

    #1, I have to partially disagree. It may have been meant as a joke but it was an incredibly bad idea. You may not be able to do anything because he’s the boss but he should have apologized profusely not just okay you said it already. Would it be ok if male boss did that to young woman employee? It would probably be taken much more seriously. I think OP should write down specifically what he remembers and when things happened in case that information is needed in the future.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      You know what? This helped me figure out what’s bothering me, and I think a lot of us, about OP#1’s boss. He is making it very clear that he’s #sorrynotsorry, he’s just upset that he got called out. That kind of response is indicative of someone who does not see a problem with harassing someone if they think it is funny.

      Of course, the boss may now avoid harassing the OP because they know they will get called out on it, but they may try to find other, different ways to harass them because “I wasn’t grabbing your hair, how could I know that that would bother you?”

      I’m not saying that there is a different way they could handle it now, just to be on the lookout for that kind of behavior.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        I don’t know that it’s sorrynotsorry, so much as it’s something he got called out about, and got embarrassed and defensive, and as a consequence did not react well. This is, like, the most common human reaction ever. Not to say that it’s ideal by any means, but it’s possible that, say, he comes from a big family where people do that stuff all the time, or it’s common in his hometown, or even that it’s common in this particular workplace (OP mentioned that they are new). Add to that that OP called them out not only in the moment, but later on (not a mistake, since it’s clear that OP wants this to *never* happen again), defensiveness is totally expected. Again, not ideal, but I think we’re assuming a lot of hostility on the part of a manager who just as likely was goofing around in a way they have done with dozens of people dozens of times before in dozens of circumstances.

        In the moment, it’s hard to say “sorry” when you’re not totally sure what went wrong, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t deeply internalized that doing that thing to that person is Not Okay.

        1. Lissa*

          Yup, I think it’s likely he got embarrassed, especially when it was brought up again. It isn’t a great reaction but it is really normal. I think at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if he feels in his heart of hearts that he was wrong, or if coworker was sensitive, whatever. As long as he doesn’t do it again.

          If I crossed a line with someone and they told me not to do it again I would probably be super embarrassed and I hope I’d react better than this but who knows…i know for me I would still never do that thing again, even if I privately thought the boundary was silly or weird (not that I in any way do and I do think the boss was out of line but even if I replace what the boss did with something I find innocuous . . .)

    2. fposte*

      I think it can be an incredibly bad idea and a poor response from the boss and still not be worth escalating, though.

    3. LQ*

      I’m a young woman and I’ve had that exact thing happen to me and done nearly exactly what the op did. (Which I think the OP handled quite well, stopping it in the moment and then later saying, super not ok? Great.) But sometimes saying something is not ok and then it stops? That’s the appropriate thing.

      If there was additional context around it then yes, it would be worth examining it within that additional context, but from what the OP says here (and in my situations when it has happened) it is sometimes just someone has wildly different boundaries. If they learn and respect yours going forward? Hopefully they’ll do better next time.

      But I’d say that if this was a woman in the exact same situation? I’d say the same thing.

    4. INTP*

      I think that what the boss did was pretty egregious, and he should have known to apologize to the OP, and it was absolutely not an okay situation. I agree with all of that. But I also agree with Alison’s advice here simply because I don’t think the OP has much to gain from escalating it, and it could cost him a good rapport with his boss. You can’t force your boss to feel apologetic or view it the same way you view it. HR isn’t going to do much when the boss and employee have already talked about it, the boss has promised not to do it again, so far has not done it again, and the chances of a sexual harassment complaint or something like that with consequences to the company are low. This is just one of those times when the OP has a choice between accepting what has happened and how the boss feels about it, as wrong as we might find those feelings, or deciding he can’t work under that boss anymore.

  4. AJ*

    #1 – Very disturbing… Especially since he was just talking about wanting to go home to celebrate his anniversary??? Goofing around is one thing, but grabbing someone’s hair feels way too sexual to me. Good for you for standing up for yourself. Allison, do you think you would have offered the same advice had the OP been a woman? (with a male boss)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. The OP spoke to the boss about it twice, and the boss seemed to indicate that he gets it and it won’t happen again. There really isn’t cause to escalate it. (And doing so would likely harm the relationship in ways that would harm the OP more than the boss, and I don’t think what happened warrants that risk. Some things would. This one doesn’t, in my opinion.)

      1. KM*

        I think it depends how the OP feels about it. If he feels like he was assaulted, then I understand why telling someone not to do it again and having that person say “Okay” doesn’t feel like enough. If he feels violated or humiliated or like he can’t go on working there without some acknowledgement that what happened to him was wrong, then I absolutely think he should talk to HR about it.

        If he felt like it was not a big deal, then he could absolutely choose to let it go, but he also wouldn’t be writing a letter. I don’t think we should give people one free assault so they can learn how to behave — so, if it seems like assault to the OP, then I think it’s worth it to escalate rather than spend the rest of his life feeling like he had to swallow mistreatment.

          1. JessaB*

            There’s a level of feeling assaulted that doesn’t rise to “call the cops,” but does rise to “I want to make sure you really understand that you did wrong and I don’t care if someone else didn’t complain you shouldn’t ever do it again to anyone.”

            1. Kimberlee, Esq*

              But, like, OP having a strong reaction like that, while 100% ok and understandable, doesn’t meant that the boss should never do that again to anyone. I can totally understand drawing that line at work, but since OP is new, it could even be that that sort of thing is totally part of the culture of that workplace. And even if not, there could be any number of friends or relatives that that boss could do that do and be totally fine. While drawing reasonable lines at work is a group effort for sure, OP doesn’t get to dictate what level of horseplay is acceptable in social interactions outside the workplace that OP isn’t involved in.

              1. Observer*

                There is no way a workplace culture where this kind of behavior is ok could be remotely functional. It’s hard to believe that this could even be ok in a healthy personal relationship, but NO WAY in the workplace.

                So, yeah “you really need to understand…you shouldn’t ever do that again” is perfectly appropriate.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Some cultures horse around with each other and it’s no big deal to them. It’s perfectly possible to have a culture like that that’s functional, if the people there are fine with it.

                2. Kimberlee, Esq*

                  I’d add to Alison’s reply; there are things that are bad and illegal (harassment, discrimination, etc) that employers should never do. But there are a host of other facets of work culture that some people like, some people dislike, and as long as the organization is consciously choosing, knowing they will attract X type of person and detract Y type of person, I’m pretty much OK with it.

                3. Kimberlee, Esq*

                  I mean, shaking someone’s hand is technically “grabbing and shaking someone.” There’s matters of degrees. It’s pretty easy to, say, grab someone’s ponytail and wiggle their head around in a way that I would be loathe to call “violent.”

                4. Emma*

                  Kimberlee – I’d still call that violent. And on handshakes – once you get to the point where you’re violently shaking the person’s arm, especially if they can’t disengage, I don’t have a problem calling that violent and a bodily/boundary violation either.

      2. Shazbot*

        I don’t think the manager gets it at all. “Ok, ok,” in this context reads as a deflection, not as acknowledgment of wrongdoing.

          1. catsAreCool*

            “I don’t really care what’s in his heart as long as he understands he can’t do it again” This!

            1. Laura*

              I’m confused by the sentence from AAM: “Some cultures horse around with each other and it’s no big deal to them.” I’d be very interested to know first, the definition of horsing around used here, as that term is always defined as people play-fighting mutually (like horses in a field), not one person putting their hands on another. Also I would be equally interested to know to which cultures AAM is referring as I have travelled and worked widely and have no experience of this at all.

  5. Dan*


    You’re getting rejected because, and I’m making an assumption here, that they are able to find people more qualified than you. Also keep in mind that the company has no upside in disclosing this information to you, so all they do is expose themselves to negative “consequences”, be it a rude candidate or even a lawsuit.

    I do mostly technical work, and if I get rejected for jobs where I meet 80% of the requirements, I assume that they found people who met 90%. And if I meet 90%? Then someone else met 100%. If I meet 100%? Then there are other things at play beyond my control, such as my employment status in the US, or sheer numbers of candidates such that whoever got hired was simply random chance.

    With the flight attendant stuff, if you’re getting invited to send in a video and they subsequently reject you, then you’re not being dynamic enough in the video. This is where your friends and mock interviews are going to come in handy. Remember, the hiring committee is looking at your video, and asking themselves if they want *you* to represent the airline on the front line. Do you watch your video and think, “Yes, I *want* that guy to represent my company?” You’re not going to get much feedback from the airline, because that subjective stuff is really hard to convey in the appropriate manner.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Yes to this.

      If your application is decent, it often comes down to another candidate being stronger, or a better fit, or even just that the interviewer liked them better. If there are problems with your application, they’re unlikely to give you feedback, because of the high probability that a candidate will either use it as ammunition in arguing why the interviewer was wrong, or will get defensive and yell or be otherwise nasty. It’s a lot like online dating – if you turn a guy down and he wants to know why, you don’t tell him because that’s step one in having to defend your decision (typically followed by insult to prove that you’re not worth dating).

      The best way to get an useful appraisal is often by knowing someone in the field (or a related field) and asking for a brutally honest opinion, or asking a qualified friend for the same. If you’re normally a reasonable person who can take constructive criticism well, you can get some good feedback. However, if you don’t take criticism well, or tend to be quick tempered and/or defensive, your friends aren’t likely to give you honest feedback either. I’ve seen a few people burned by providing honest, constructive feedback, only to have the recipient, who had asked for the feedback, go ballistic and cut off the friendship when they weren’t told “you’re great, everyone else is stupid not to hire you”.

    2. JessaB*

      Not to mention that Flight Attendants have a high “look” quotient. Those videos are going to be looked at with “do they fit our image.” Now it’s not like it used to be where you had to weigh x tiny amount and crazy sexist ideas, but it’s still “our uniforms come in x sizes, our jump seats take x weight, do you LOOK like you can do the physical crazy parts of the job?”

      There was this really amazing reality series about training Flight Attendants, I remember one person got cut because they weren’t to class on time because they went outside and couldn’t find an open door to get back in. If you failed like one test you could get cut. It’s called Flight Attendant school, and it’s available on You Tube, you might try looking it up if you want to be a flight attendant and see what the requirements really look like.

      They do a tonne of very physical stuff to train for rescuing people in an emergency, it’s not quite as hard as firefighter training but it’s not easy. So if your video makes you look like you can’t DO things, that might be an issue.

    3. Liz2*

      Sometimes you just don’t know. I went in for an interview as an admin for a brand new CEO, dream position in a lot of ways- the feedback from recruiter was that she was stunned because I was a perfect fit, they loved my attitude and professionalism. But the CEO did NOT want someone who would be proactive and take care of issues independently.

      Sometimes everything you’ve been told as perfect for the position is wrong in THAT position. Since then I’ve had one other person tell me to be totally passive in assisting them- the complete opposite of everyone else praising and encouraging.

      You can’t take anything in business personally.

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life*

    #2: I’ve done a lot of hiring in the past decade and I’ve learned that the people who ask for feedback with good intentions and conduct themselves professionally look and sound about the same as the people who are going to blow a gasket at the time they’re making the request for feedback. And the latter category vastly outnumbers the former. I just had a candidate who didn’t make the first cut to even phone screen respond to my email thanking them for applying and letting them know that they weren’t in the running and they responded with a string of profanity. This isn’t the first time but it certainly has put an entire stop to my willingness to give even solicited feedback – it feels like a big waste of time to contact all applicants with status updates and rejections when some are going to come back and cuss me out for taking the time.

    1. Heffalump*

      Also when previous feedback to applicants went completely unacknowledged it certainly discourages me from providing further feedback in the future. If someone has taken the time to consider your application and offer something they think might be useful, solely for your benefit and none to them, a simple thank you goes a long way.

      A couple of times I offered feedback to applicants noting I was going to contact them again next time a job vacancy arose – they never bothered replying. I took that as a strong indicator of lack of interest or lack of professional courtesy. Both are pretty strong red flags to me so I deleted their resume.

      1. Colette*

        Unless you’re asking for a response, I’m not sure what you’re expecting. You say you’re going to contact them, which doesn’t seem like it needs a response.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Right. And a lot of people are told that if they do get feedback, they shouldn’t argue back, so these people may be extrapolating that to mean don’t reply at all.

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, to me “We will contact you if a position opens up again” isn’t feedback, it’s boilerplate that may or may not be true. However, if actual feedback about the applicant’s performance was included in there, I think a thank you is in order.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Definitely, especially if they go out of their way to provide it. My most recent rejection had feedback, which almost never happens; agents are busy. It was done very nicely so I emailed back a thank you. I really, REALLY appreciated it.

        3. Heffalump*

          To clarify, I gave them feedback and detailed the reasons for wanting to offer a job when a vacancy arose. It was not a standard “I’ll keep your resume on file” line. If a hiring manager gives that much personalised information and response I think a quick acknowledgement is necessary.

        4. INTP*

          Yes, there’s no much you can reply to that other than, “Okay, thank you!” Which I’ve started doing after I learned how many people appreciate it, but I didn’t always do, because intuitively to me it felt like an email with no content other than “thanks!” was spammy and everyone always talks about how inundated with emails the resume-reviewers are.

    2. INTP*

      Yep. And then there’s the third category – the people who don’t exactly blow a gasket, but they take the feedback as an opportunity to explain why you are wrong or unfair or they just didn’t convey that aspect well in the interview but they really do have the experience you are looking for. You also see it in letters here – “I was so nervous in the interview that I didn’t explain my experience with the Percival Teapot Construction Method well, and now they’ve gone with a candidate that has more experience in it, how can I get them to reconsider?” And I think these people do ask for feedback with good intentions, they aren’t looking for an argument, which is why it’s hard to figure out who is going to listen intently and who is going to argue – they’ve just built themselves up as a great candidates in their minds, so whatever you say, they will have a reason why you’re wrong and they deserve another shot.

      I would say that in-between group forms the vast majority of candidates, and the blow-a-gaskets the second-largest group. It’s actually incredibly rare that 1) the reason for the rejection is something that the candidate can or should actually change about themselves (versus just not being a fit for that particular organization personality- or experience-wise in a subjective or non-universal way) and 2) the candidate actually listens openly to the feedback instead of arguing with it. It’s just not worth it to HR people to undergo these unpleasant and unproductive conversations for the 5% (or less) of times where they might actually help someone.

      1. fairyfreak*

        It might not be worth it for the HR people, but as part of that 5%, I was so thankful for feedback. I used a script/advise on how to ask for feedback from this site, which I’m sure helped. I made it clear that I wasn’t going to argue, and that I would appreciate the help for future interviews, since I hadn’t interviewed in so long (14 years with one company). I got great feedback, which helped me on my next interview, and led to me getting my new job.

  7. Greg M.*

    Suddenly reminded of me ripping my boss a new one when he thought it was funny to slap my ass while I was picking something up. I turned around and there was my boss and a coworker behind me and I just commented that I owed one of them a punch.

    Then he did it again later while tying my shoelace and I made it clear in no uncertain terms that it was unacceptable and he would not be doing it again.

    Before anyone says anything I didn’t consider it worth calling HR and it hasn’t happened since. I am very reluctant to drop the HR nuke unless it’s absolutely necessary. I get away with a lot in my job, I’ve told this manager to **** off on a couple occasions when he knew he deserved it with no repercussions to me at all.

    1. Greg M.*

      sorry but forgot to tie it back to the Letter. he did something stupid without thinking, it’s been made clear it’s unacceptable. It didn’t have a sexual undertone so yeah I’d say let it go, but if it happens again then definitely report it.

    2. fposte*

      Wow. That was horrible enough as a sitcom plot; I didn’t think anybody did it in real life.

      On the other hand, there’s a hilarious Key and Peele sketch about a baseball player who can’t stop slapping asses.

  8. Jen RO*

    #4 – It seems to me like both the boss and the former employee are trying to help. I would definitely see myself doing this – both from the boss’s position and from the former employee’s!

    The way I see it, the boss realized that the lack of photos/info was stopping you from doing your job effectively, so he tried to help you. (I don’t know what relationship he has with the former employee, but in my company it would be perfectly normal – we keep in touch with most people after they leave, and I have asked ex-coworkers for information before.) The former employee’s offer to help doesn’t sound weird either – I have a several ex-coworkers who have even dropped by once or twice to advise on specific matters.

    1. AthenaC*

      Agree. Particularly with the predecessor’s comment that “OP4 can only be as successful as the information given.” I read that as directed (nicely) at the boss who didn’t share relevant info with OP4.

      From what the letter said, I’m thinking that boss realized she goofed and is trying to now set OP4 up for future success.

      1. k*

        Agreed. With that comment in particular, it sounded like the predecessor was both calling out the boss for not giving OP important information, and maybe making a subtle acknowledgement to them not leaving behind all the documentation that they should/could have.

        I work in a small department that’s see quite a bit of turnover in the past years so documentation of previous projects varies. Sometimes I wish I could talk to a predecessor just to figure out what was going on with some of these things.

    2. CM*

      OP #4 sounds defensive. Even if you’re amazing at your job, it’s helpful to learn from others — especially your boss and your predecessor who your boss liked. They are trying to help you succeed. If you went into that phone call with a list of questions rather than the attitude that you already know everything, it would have been a lot more useful for you.

      1. AMPG*

        I agree. I’m currently in a situation where records from my predecessor are a mess, and I’ve realized there’s very little I can do to get anything that’s missing. I would love a phone conversation where she gave me access to a whole bunch of stuff I would otherwise have to recreate. Of course I’m putting my own stamp on the job moving forward, but having those records makes everything so much easier.

      2. Ellie H.*

        I think it’s natural to feel a bit defensive in this situation, when there is a clear system in place for documentation from previous years and predecessors for this specific purpose. Instead of following that system, which gives the person currently in the role “ownership” over the relevant historical information and how to make use of it going forward, your manager and predecessor jump in ad hoc to give you this helpful information in a specially arranged way that makes it seem like you need extra assistance and wouldn’t have known where or how to find the useful information on your own. It’s a little annoying, especially when the LW#4 has been a contractor for this organization before and knows well what the standard procedures are. I think it’s reasonable to feel a little annoyed by this, and the LW#4 stresses that she/he acted professionally and not in a way that seemed defensive.

        1. AMPG*

          I actually think OP#4 is misinterpreting the conversation, honestly. It sounds to me like her boss called her predecessor on the carpet for not following proper procedures, and the predecessor is trying to save face by making it right. I think it’s great that the OP clearly had the skill and perseverance to work around a lack of documentation, but that doesn’t mean she should be required to do that.

        2. Valerie*

          Wouldn’t it have been easier for the manager to give #4 their predecessors contact information and give them the autonomy to reach out in their own way? For them to just schedule a conference call without suggesting first seems excessive.

  9. Heffalump*

    2nd OP:

    Hiring managers won’t give feedback because there is nothing to gain and they can’t be bothered dealing with the potential offence feedback can cause. Some reasons why we’ve rejected sales applicants in the past: they were dressed completely inappropriately, they cussed during the interview, they don’t seem like they’ll stay too long, their referee was reluctant to speak to us, they are arrogant, they speak too fast, their personality will probably clash with existing staff, they were rude to our reception staff. How do we put some of this stuff delicately as constructive criticism? Reality is I am too busy with other tasks to take on the role of a job coach.

    Other times when I provided a specific reason, it drags out the rejection process. I once told an applicant we can’t hire him because we’re looking for long term staff. (He mentioned he only wanted a short term job). He immediately replied with: “What days do you want me to work? Maybe I can work something out and stay longer.” At this stage I already moved onto other applications so there was no point explaining how our rosters worked. So to avoid pointless emails back and forth I now just stick to generic rejection emails.

    1. Zip Silver*

      I recently turned down my most animated candidate for a customer facing role because she’s got a terrible smoker’s voice. She’s bubbly and chatty, but boy oh boy I don’t want her answering our phones. Obviously, telling her “oh your voice isn’t what we want on the phone” would be a nightmare.

      Candidate #2, who I hired, isn’t as engaging, but rather more professional in his demeanor, so it works out.

      1. Juli G.*

        Be careful. If that wasn’t “smoker’s voice” and was a diagnosed condition, the candidate would have been protected by the ADA.

          1. Juli G.*

            I think if a lawyer could prove that your decision was based on the voice and that you know certain medical conditions cause hoarseness, you could get yourself into trouble. Not a slam dunk but not a risk I would take.

            1. Temperance*

              Eh, I don’t think that’s a great case, and it would establish Mrs. Smoker Voice as someone who is litigious.

        1. Zip Silver*

          Which, again, is why you don’t give candidates feedback on why you turned them down. Just send a “thanks for coming in” form letter.

          1. Zip Silver*

            And, for the record, I have no idea about any sort of medical conditions that she may or may not have.

            1. KR*

              Eh I knew people growing up who had constant terribly hoarse voices due to childhood injuries or illnesses. They knew how to make themselves understood on the phone and it was no big.

              1. Liz2*

                Understood isn’t the same as pleasant to talk with. There was a country club I had to call regularly for arrangements who had the absolute screechiest person on the call in line- and no one was allowed to have direct external calls. One of those legacy nothing ever changes places so the idea of her being shifted out was never going to fly.

                I avoided calling there whenever possible and held the phone far away when I did. That’s not the impression you want to create when you have other options.

        2. Artemesia*

          A medical condition that actually impedes doing the job shouldn’t get a pass but the OP is wise to not share the information in any case.

      2. Moonsaults*

        Yeah, lots of these decisions are indeed things like that. Things that someone can’t really “help it” but they still aren’t a good fit for whatever reason. It’s hard as hell to get in trouble for not hiring someone unless they can prove (aka, you say to their face “I don’t like your phone voice.”) to them. So of course interviewers aren’t going to give a real explanation behind their decisions in the end.

        I have a acquaintance who is trying to find an admin job and is having a hell of a time doing it. She’s been temping for years now and is confused why she cannot find a spot when she’s not bad at the kind of duties she’s been assigned to.

        Being in the environments she’s trying to be hired into, I know right out of the gate why she’s not getting passed most of the first interview.

        She’s kind of obnoxious, incredibly immature for her age and dresses inappropriately for her body type. My response every time I hear “I got an interview but didn’t get the job…” story, I feel really bad but you can’t say “it’s because of your personality.” even to a quasi friend >_<

  10. Heffalump*

    Agree with Alison on #1. The OP is understandably unhappy he didn’t get an apology for creepy and inappropriate hair pulling. Boss was embarrassed and didn’t respond as courteously as the OP expected. But OP made his point twice and there is no pattern of behaviour. To push this issue to Boss’s Boss would only give OP a negative reputation as someone who is pushy and quick to escalate issues.

  11. Always Thinking*

    OP #5, I’ve been doing guest lectures in library schools for many years, at 3 different universities, and I’ve never heard of guest lecturers getting paid anything more than something like a Starbucks gift card. It’s kind of a “feature” of professional schools needing actual professionals to insert some reality into a curriculum mostly run by researchers who rarely have ever worked in a library. I’ve seen one case where a tenured faculty member getting paid for a course “taught” it with a guest lecturer from an actual library every week, which made me a bit hot under the collar, but 99% of the time it’s fun and beneficial for all. I consider it part of my (already salaried) job as a professional librarian to help prepare the next generation of librarians and other information professionals. Most librarians at my university do 1-3 of this type of guest lecture per year. We certainly include that work on our own performance reviews.

    1. Amberly*

      Once or twice a year is a very different proposition than the weekly occurrence OP5 is decribing, though!

      1. Meredith*

        I don’t see where the lectures are described as being weekly. I work in an LIS Master’s program at a state university, and we don’t pay guest speakers for classes. They generally come in for one lecture, and maybe the faculty member would get them a gift card as thanks. If they were doing a weekly lecture, well, that would be a different story. They’d basically be an adjunct professor at that point and at least bring in that meagre salary. I’ve never seen guest speakers coming in for multiple weeks, though, that would be very unusual.

        OP could bring it up with the program, but be prepared to hear no. Our guests are usually professionals in town with whom we have built up relationships, and several are alumni. They lend us expertise, we help them arrange internships that help them, their institution, and our students.

        1. Sue Wilson*

          Because I am new, I want to wait and see how things go, but if this is going to be a regular weekly thing (which so far it looks like it is),</i?

          This is what the OP says.

            1. Meredith*

              Unless, as Allison says, this is a formal agreement between OP’s institution and the program, in which case it is probably part of OP’s job duties.

              1. Oryx*

                This. As a former academic librarian, I was expected to give guest lectures on a regular basis and it was understood to be part of my job duties.

    2. CM*

      OP #5 said the lectures were part of their job duties… so I don’t understand why they would get paid by the university in addition to being paid their normal salary. If this is an optional thing outside of the normal workday, then doing it once a week without payment seems like a big burden.

      1. Librarian Here*

        This seems right to me. As a Professional Librarian, I have gone guest lectures as a favor to professors in MLIS I know. Since it is over work time, and I am not required to take time off, I can’t imagine asking the University I lecture to pay me for time I’m already getting paid for. However, I have done evening lectures/special events and for those I have received a small stipend and/or travel expenses. If, however, your work is paying for the time you lecture, then I wouldn’t expect to get paid twice.

        But seriously, OP, just ask someone whose been in the position longer. They can tell you and then you can decide what to do then. However, if you are teaching or co-teaching a whole course, than you better get paid. That’s hard work!

    3. Sarahnova*

      I’m a practitioner in a business research team, and we get paid for guest lectures. It’s a fairly token fee, but it’s a fee nonetheless.
      (I’m in the UK, but I don’t think our universities are any flusher than yours.)

    4. Artemesia*

      I have used guest lecturers and they were never paid but the I didn’t rely on them to teach my class for me. Needing to do this every week is bizarre and hints at very lazy professors who have figured out how to avoid doing their job. I have known people like this, who literally line up a dozen speakers for a semester class and cut their instructional load by 40%. It is unethical IMHO. If the OP is expected to guest lecture every week versus every semester or so then either this should be a paid gig or the library should make it an explicit part of the workload.

    5. Seal*

      As an academic librarian, I’ve also done guest lectures and presentations at library schools, conferences, the local public library, etc for years. It’s part professional development for me in that it’s expected for someone at this point in my career and part outreach for the branch library that I head. The only time I got paid was when I was the instructor of record for a class I taught at the local library school one semester because I was considered adjunct faculty.

      It might help the OP to look at this in the context of their career as a whole. My guest lectures and presentations take up a good chunk of my CV, have helped me get promoted, and have helped me get interviews (although not quite a new job yet!). I’m not certainly not suggesting that the OP let anyone take advantage of them, but instead to think of this as an opportunity for professional development.

    6. cataloger*

      I can’t tell if OP #5 is upset that she and her co-workers are not personally being paid (in addition to their regular salary) or that the museum is not being paid. If it’s during regular work hours and an expected responsibility, isn’t it just part of your job?

      I work at a library with an affiliated library school, and this typically works one of two ways for us: 1) you do a few guest lectures (i’ve done up to about 4/semester this way) during regular work hours, you are not paid anything additionally (except thank-you letters from the prof for your promotion file), and it’s part of your performance review OR 2) you teach a more substantial amount (even the full class) outside of regular work hours, you are paid for the time, and it’s not part of your performance review (it’s effectively treated like a second separate job).

    7. Mela*

      This, I’m not a librarian, but I’ve guest lectured in university classes, and it’s something the non-profit I worked for offered as a free service. So as long as your management is wanting you to dedicate that much time to weekly lectures (including reduction of your workload to accommodate that) then I can’t see justification for a fee (paid to you, a fee to the institution is possible but not something to push for).

    8. H.C.*

      It depends on the university/program, at my college & grad school – even one-time guest lecturers receive an honorarium or speakers fee of some sort. So I agree with AAM’s advice to at least check if a payment is available for the service.

      And in addition to AAM’s advice on whether guest lectures are offered for free as part of your job duties or the museum’s mission, you also want to check with your museum to see if there’s a policy for such payments. Some require disclosure to your manager/HR/compliance if it goes over a certain amount, some require disclosure at all times (for transparency/conflict of interest purposes), and – if your museum is a non-profit – it may even require setting aside a certain amount/percentage of your payment to be donated back to your employer (since your association with the museum may have been a factor to the lecture opportunity.)

    9. Another Academic Librarian*

      I agree–I’ve never heard of guest lecturers in LIS classes being paid. At most, the guest speaker would be given a Starbucks gift card or a small item from the campus bookstore. To be honest, I think asking about being paid would be quite gauche!

      The payment for doing this kind of work is professional development, a line on your CV, exposure for you and your employer, and meeting service requirements (if you have them). Plus, it sounds like the OP’s employer might consider this part of her job, in which case she is already getting paid for her time and expertise.

    10. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It varies by field.

      For example:

  12. Office Manager*

    The annual leave conundrum…. ugh. At my workplace, long-time employees earn a substantial amount of leave. How and when their leave is taken is a shared responsibility between them and their boss. Since that leave represents a potential liability on our books (because the employer will have to pay the employees for that time if they quit) accounting keeps a pretty close eye on it. I do know that some employees have saved up their leave when looking for another job, hoping to cash out when they quit. We have a use it or lose it system — those balances are literally zeroed out at the end of our fiscal year, which is not the calendar year. I know they’re working on setting a cap instead, because in the current system it’s almost impossible to take paid leave at the beginning of the year, which is a quiet time for us. We had a situation awhile back that was almost similar to OP — employee wanted to take the entire last month off to burn through his leave. He and his boss had a not-great relationship; employee said it was boss’s fault for not letting him take more time off, boss said that wasn’t true. As far as I know (I’m not privy to HR decisions) they let him take half, and he lost the other half.

    1. Mike C.*

      Why is it a shared responsibility between employees and management when management completely controls coverage?

      1. Office Manager*

        Because it’s up to employees to assure they’re taking time off over the course of the year rather than getting to the last few weeks and saying, ruh roh! I’m speaking of my office, though — which is not a sweatshop and staffed by generally reasonable people, with a corporate culture that encourages taking time off.

      2. AthenaC*

        Because in some lines of work, employees are responsible to manage their workloads. Can people cover for each other? Absolutely. They do it all the time. But if I’m in the middle of coordinating a big project and I decide that THAT is when I want to take vacation, I’m being a jerk. Sure – someone can step in for me, but it’s still kinda awful of me to ask / force management to ask someone to do that.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          This. My employees share the burden for coverage because they manage their own workloads and outside of major project milestones, their own deadlines.

          Most of the time, I don’t even need to be involved when my team takes a few days or week off, other than having to sign off that I approved it.

      3. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        We do an excellent job of making sure that nearly everybody gets nearly the exact days that they want, and that everybody takes all of their given days.


        And some of that requires employees coordinating with each other for coverage. They are grown ups, they can manage it, and they do quite well.

  13. Museumarchiveslibraryworker*

    OP #5 your museum might not allow you to accept payment for such activities too, or payment would technically have go to them…

  14. Roscoe*

    #1 As Alison said, let it go. He acknowledged your concern, and won’t do it again. You seem to want to make him give you a formal apology. He may not think he has something to apologize for, but his acknowledgement of your feelings is enough. I actually agree here. I never get why people think they can demand an apology from someone. If you do that, it will be hollow at best, and its really just lip service.

    #3 I think Alison hit the nail on the head. Your issue is the workload, not your co-worker. If you can’t take on his workload, that is fair to bring up to your manager. But your issue should not be how he takes his vacation. When you have use it or lose it policies, sometimes these things happen. Its on the company to deal with. But you should not try to make him feel bad or guilty for taking the vacation time he has earned, just because you don’t agree with how he is taking it. This seems to be a more and more common thing I see. People think they have a rigth to decide what the “right” way is for others to use their vacation. They don’t.

    #4 I don’t think this is something you should let bother you too much. Sometimes people in a former job do have a lot of random tacit knowledge that doesn’t get put down on paper. If they left on good terms, and are willing to give you this information, there is nothing wrong with taking it.

    1. OP1*

      OP1 here. I agree that an insincere apology would be pointless but I was hoping that the situation warranted a sincere one. Guess not.

      1. HannahS*

        I mean, it totally does, but it doesn’t seem like your boss will give you one :/ I hope it was a one-off and your boss will treat you properly now.

      2. Roscoe*

        I can see how you can do something like that and not think you have any thing to apologize for. Like your intent wasn’t to hurt someone, but it bothered them. You take that and move on, but maybe you don’t think you really need to apologize for the action

        1. OP1*

          Might even chalk it up to generational differences. As one of Those Darn Millennials, I was taught that touching employees is Very Bad, but that might not have been the case when my boss was younger.

          1. fposte*

            I think what he did *was* pretty bad, and I think you should have gotten an apology. But things can go they way they shouldn’t have and still not warrant escalating an issue, and I’d say this is a good example of that.

          2. Observer*

            No, it was always a really bad thing to do. It’s just the the “darned millennials” are more likely to push back.

          3. catsAreCool*

            As someone from Gen X, I also think what the manager did was odd and inappropriate and warranted an apology, but I also don’t think you’re going to get one.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Uh, there are lots of things you may have to apologize for even if your intent wasn’t to hurt someone. Your intent doesn’t exonerate you when you’ve done something that a reasonable person should know not to do. The boss may think he doesn’t have anything to apologize for, but he does. He was way out of line.

          But I agree that the OP isn’t going to get an apology and should move past it if this isn’t part of a larger pattern.

  15. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#2, I just want to chip in this observation: For every qualified candidate for a job posting, there are 50-100 highly underqualified people applying. You don’t want to give individual reasons for rejection to everyone because it would be a full time job. And when you’re hiring as a hiring manager, you’re probably already short-staffed and overworked.

    And many times, the reason for rejection is that the company was just following an established protocol before making an internal hire or a nepotistic hire.

    As a job applicant, you just have to accept that the process is cold and harsh towards job applicants. It sucks, but it is what it is.

    1. Artemesia*

      It sound like the OP is getting interviews though which suggests s/he meets a minimal qualification level for consideration so the focus needs to be on interview behavior. If s/he weren’t getting interviews then attention to the resume and cover letter and also making good judgments about where to apply. But crossing that hurdle, the question is then why if deemed qualified the OP is not the one chosen and so attention to personal presentation — clothes, demeanor, interview skills becomes critical. S/he may be doing nothing wrong; sometimes it just takes a long time. I know someone who has been out of work for nearly a year who has been interviewed countless times without it resulting in a job who just got a low 6 figure job that fits her strengths perfectly and is a sizable raise over her last job (the company closed.) So there wasn’t anything wrong with her resume or her interviewing, sometimes it just takes awhile.

  16. Hi.*

    I’d be irate if I were in OP’s situation. I’m salaried and work 60+ hours a week most of the year. December is our reward – it’s slow, we can work 30-ish hours and get the job done. All year we say “at least it slows down in December” to get us through the weeks where we’re at work 14 hours a day and work on the weekends.

    If I didn’t get December to recharge, I’d lose my mind. I hope to get an update from OP!

  17. Temperance*

    LW3 : connect with your coworkers and reach out to HR to make sure the rest of you get your days.

    Your coworker purposely waited until the last minute, presumably because he knows your policy and still wanted an extended break. He had no problem leaving you all in the lurch, so I think you should respond in kind.

  18. Allie*

    For OP4 wouldn’t read too much into it. If anything it sounds like the previous person didn’t leave the information they should have, and if anything it looks bad for them, not you.

  19. Adlib*

    (Since it was mentioned in #2) Alison, thank you so much for the interview guide! I downloaded it the other day in preparation for a phone interview I have today. I have to say it’s the most prepared I’ve ever felt for an interview, and whether I get the job or not, I feel confident I can have a good interview!

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I send that guide to anyone I know is searching/interviewing and I always recommend they buy your book!

      2. Adlib*

        I asked the magic question, and the hiring manager was blown away! She actually said “great question”. I really love the position but found out I may have to support the completely opposite coast of where I live so…we’ll see. Other than that, I felt well prepared and some of the questions that were asked were ones in your guide so I wasn’t stuck searching my brain for answers!

  20. Previous Silent Stalker*

    TBH, if I had a boss pull something like in #1 I would probably instinctively smack them. Pretty hard.

    Then again, I do elbow people in the gut when they hug me from behind, so maybe I’m just a violent person.

  21. OP1*

    Hello, OP1 here. I anticipated this answer and won’t be following up with the big boss. Still, I guess my assumption that physical contact in the office should be generally limited to a handshake isn’t universally shared.

    1. CM*

      I think everybody here would agree that your boss’s behavior absolutely was inappropriate and warrants a profuse apology. (And, it seems like you’re not going to get one. So your options are limited here.)

    2. Christine*

      I do not believe in touching people at work because there is too much leeway for things to be misunderstood.

      To me, the way he touched you is something you would do to your own child, a close friend (bro-romance), etc. I hope that this is a one-time thing, you stated you didn’t like it and he’s going drop it. He’s a horse rump for not apologizing, but you’ll work with more than a few of them in your life. Hopefully this is a one-time incident, but if you see the hand coming in your direction take a step back.

      I have a co-worker (dirty old man) that likes to touch. He got me once, than the next time I saw his hand reaching for me I stepped back & held my arms up and informed him that I do not like being touched.

      OP — would you write us back in 3 – 4 months and let us know how things have played out? Good luck.

      1. Christine*

        Forgot to mention — I have a rule, you can get by with something improper with me at work once. Depending on the severity of it, I’ll call you on it at that time. Or be aware that it took place, than totally derail the 2nd attempt if I can. Than if it continues regardless of statement of discomfort, etc., I’ll take it up with my supervisor and/or HR. Now if someone grabbed my butt I would be at HR in a second filing a grievance and report it to my supervisor. The touching rules are more of a gray area for men than women. Wish you the best.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        My friends and I are all touchers/huggers, but if a close friend grabbed my hair and shook my head, that would NOT be ok with me.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s just a weird move to me. I think some of my reaction is about gender implications if it were done to me, but then it’s mostly women who have enough hair to do this with.

          But I also have no difficulty seeing this as a goofy family thing that has escaped inappropriately into the wild.

          1. catsAreCool*

            “a goofy family thing that has escaped inappropriately into the wild.” Great way to put this!

    3. Rachel in Minneapolis*

      Let me say that what happened to you was way over the boundary of professional norms. That sucks. It probably felt very demeaning. I sympathize.
      I think you had an appropriate reaction by standing up for yourself in the moment and following up afterwards. I get that the boss’s response was unsatisfactory, but you can be proud that you set a good standard for how you will accept being treated. That’s a win.

      1. LeRainDrop*

        I agree with this comment. Your boss was out of line, and I probably would have freaked out if my boss touched, let alone pulled on, my hair. I wish your boss had given you a sincere apology, but he didn’t. Stay on alert for if he ever crosses your personal boundaries again.

    4. The Expendable Redshirt*

      The assumption that physical contact in the office should be limited to a handshake isn’t shared….by your boss.

      In most jobs, a coworker tugging on the hair of another co-worker wouldn’t happen. If someone did that to me, I’d react with Strong Alarm and ask them why the hell they thought that was appropriate. It looks like your Boss was a total donkey-hat that day. Though this person was a donkey-hat, if they are a reasonable adult they won’t be pulling that stunt again.

    5. Emi.*

      OP, if you don’t mind my asking, was this a white-people-grabbing-black-people’s-hair thing? It’s totally inappropriate either way! But if it was, chances are decent that he’s not apologizing because he’s trying to avoid the topic out of embarrassment.

    6. Artemesia*

      Everyone agrees with you that it was a dick move. It is horrifyingly inappropriate. But what do you want to do about it? There is no upside in you having an extended hissy fit about it no matter how justified. You have complained twice which borders on once too many. What else do you think you can do without destroying any chance of succeeding in this place? Yes the guy was a jerk. Yes he should have been more apologetic. No he isn’t going to be. So there you are.

      1. OP1*

        Who’s having a hissy fit? I was rattled, I’m still annoyed, but I’m dropping the issue like Alison recommended. I wrote the letter over a week ago and haven’t taken any action in the mean time.

        I complained twice because I was always taught that touching employees is Very Bad and I wanted to make sure I was understood. I haven’t brought it up since.

        1. Artemesia*

          You are by your behavior here suggesting that more needs to be done. You are asking if more needs to be done. You can’t seem to hear that more cannot reasonably be done. You suggest that everyone here thinks it is just fine because they are all saying drop it. (no one here has even hinted that this was appropriate behavior.) This sounds to me like you are likely to be projecting this same attitude at work; it won’t get you anywhere.

          1. OP1*

            Didn’t mean to suggest that about the people here at all. I can see how my phrasing suggested otherwise, in retrospect. Apologies to anyone I inadvertently offended. I have no gripes with anyone other than my boss.

          2. Ellie H.*

            I think this is a major jump to conclusions! There’s nothing at all that suggests that OP#1 didn’t accept Alison’s answer, that of commenters. It seems like he’s noting that everyone agrees it is totally unacceptable behavior at work, but also that there’s not really anything to do that would benefit the situation.

            If I were OP#1 I would remain a bit frustrated that the manager didn’t react with something like “You’re right, that was totally inappropriate, I don’t know what I was thinking” or that there wasn’t more public shock because really, having your boss grab you/shake you by the hair is incredibly bizarre and a bit shocking, even if he thinks he’s joking. But there’s a huge difference between feeling that way, which I think a reasonable person would feel for at least a little while after the event, and failing to accept the situation or move on.

            1. OP1*

              This is what I’m trying and apparently failing to communicate. I’ve completely accepted the conclusion that escalating would be pointless. I don’t disagree with Alison or the commenters. Doesn’t mean I’m SATISFIED, but that’s life.

              1. PK*

                Yea, he’s not going to apologize and it could be because he doesn’t view what he did as something that warrants it. Regardless of how everyone else (and you) feels about an apology, you aren’t going to change his mind.

          3. Jessie*

            Agree. OP, you seem to keep responding with a weird passive aggressive vibe of “well I just wanted to know if it was bad, because I thought it was bad, but everyone says its okay so fine.” No one is saying it is ok. We are saying it was bad of your boss, really inappropriate. But that you cannot reasonably take it further at this point. What SHOULD happen is different that what IS happening and what CAN happen. What is happening is that y our boss says he won’t do it again, but he won’t be apologizing. Taking it further is the wrong step professionally because, well, the actual problem – his overstepping bounds and grabbing you – has been solved and is not going to happen again.

            If it happens again then escalate.

      2. Jaguar*

        So, I don’t agree that it was a dick move or horrifyingly inappropriate or that the guy is a jerk.

        I wasn’t in the room, but going by what I can from the letter, it does sound harmless. That’s not an excuse of it – he should not have done it – but a lot of the language here seems to be that this was a vile act and I at least want to register my objection to that. I would not have done such a thing to a coworker because I’m well aware that many people are protective of their personal space and don’t want physical contact from people they aren’t intimately aquainted with, but what the guy did wouldn’t have bothered me and, in fact, would have opened up an avenue for bonding and breaking down the formality of the workplace and employee-boss relationship. I’ve worked for people who act similar to the boss described (less inhibited and formal) and I’ve liked them far, far more. Again, he shouldn’t have done it, but I want to at least voice that not everyone is opposed to it.

        As for the apology, I’m wondering what people want out of an apology. The words? You can get an “I’m sorry” and then behaviour happens again anyway. To me, that’s not an apology. An apology is an acknowledgement that they did something wrong, understand that, and empowered by that understanding, won’t do it again. That’s what I’m looking for when I expect an apology, and it sounds like that’s what the OP got here. It sounds like the actual words didn’t happen because the boss was embarassed by the whole situation. I could be misreading, of course, but the focus on getting the actual apology seems really besides the point here.

        1. Bob Barker*

          Well, let’s consider what “horrifyingly inappropriate” means, though. Does it mean Always wrong no matter what? Of course not. But if it’s wrong enough of the time, and if the consequences of that wrongness are severe enough, then it moves over into the “horrifyingly inappropriate” category merely by strength of what could happen. It’s kinda inappropriate to not be paying attention and hit the wrong button if you work in an office. If you work in a nuclear power plant control room, the consequences of your hitting the wrong button become a wee bit more severe; therefore your kinda-inappropriate behavior becomes VERY inappropriate.

          The likelihood of “Here, let me pull your hair, ha ha” receiving a poor reaction is reasonably hefty, I think; the likelihood of it receiving an EXTREMELY poor reaction is nonzero, and has pretty serious consequences (up to and including a police call). Therefore, people with any sense just don’t do that, because what if you guess wrongly about any given coworker. People who don’t have any sense should not be managers, and that’s why I would think HR would like to know that their hiring and promotion practices need some work. And that OP should be transferred to another manager.

          1. Jaguar*

            Well, I think calling their ability as managers into question across the board is bit much. Social interaction is not an exact science – we make mistakes, realize it, and correct. If this guy does it constantly and unfailingly after realizing it’s not alright, then sure, he shouldn’t be a manager. But the idea that someone does it once and now they’re tarred and shamed forever is a level of horrifying far exceeding a non-sexual violation of personal space. And again, I would prefer to work for people like this, so there’s a lot of grey here.

        2. Emma*

          He grabbed OP’s hair and shook him with enough force to move his head. How is that not horrifyingly inappropriate?

          I hope to god I never run into you in person if you think that’s acceptable physical contact.

          1. Laura*

            Absolutely agree with you, Emma. It’s an odd blind spot on here that your perfectly accurate comment is being judged negatively. None of us would be okay with that and all of us would take quite a time to recover from something so unexpected and assaultive.

    7. KM*

      Your boss is the one who did something wrong, but your company might suck and fail to back you up. If you’re willing to take that chance — or would rather find out if they suck because you don’t want to work there if they do — then talk to HR (or whoever stands in for HR, if you don’t have an HR person). Act like you are completely confident that this is unacceptable behavior, and that that would be recognized by any reasonable person you speak to, but do it in a calm tone of voice. And then, if they act like it’s not a big deal, be puzzled by that rather than defensive.

      If they want to know WTF you want if he already said he won’t do it again, tell them you wanted to bring it to their attention because you were surprised to see this kind of behaviour in the workplace and, when you talked to Bill (or whoever) about it, he didn’t seem to understand why it was inappropriate. Although he’s said he won’t do it again, you find it disquieting that it happened in the first place. Is there a violence and harassment policy? Have employees had training on that? How strange that this situation could even occur…

      There is a chance they’ll act like total assholes, so be prepared for that, but good luck.

    8. LQ*

      I have people touch my hair a lot (when I wear it down, I’m white but I have very very long hair). 95% of people a firm quick, “Not ok” with serious face and voice stops it. If you seem like you are joking at all they will think you are ok with it and it gets worse. It has to be very serious.

      Usually though it is effective and does get people to stop. It’s not fun, but if your boss seems like he heard you then, yeah, letting it go is the best thing to do. I get being shaken by it, but if it helps any if your boss seemed to take it seriously then my experience is he is probably embarrassed about it and won’t repeat it. The people who do it generally seem to think they are being friendly and fun.
      (There is a small % that is horrible, they push the “just joking” and keep pushing, luckily it doesn’t sound like your boss is one of those.)

    9. Crazy Canuck*

      I would agree with your assumption OP, but only with people of people of different genders. Men touching other men will be treated far less seriously then men touching women.

      1. Lissa*

        Yup, and far less seriously than women touching women. I had a coworker who used to grab my hips from behind on occasion, and nobody thought it was a big deal/told me I was overreacting what I was like “what is happening don’t do that!!”

        I mean, I sort of get it because it is less likely (not impossible) that there’s a sexual harassment component, but touching doesn’t have to be sexual to be inappropriate and unwanted.

    10. Allie*

      A place I worked at (theme park) a guy would harass female employeyes by touching their hair (for instance I used to wear my hair in a ponytail and he would bat at it as he walked by). I know that after enoguh of us complained, he was gone. I don’t know if he was.warned and I think there were other types of harassment, but the hair stuff was the most common from him. I hated it.

  22. Christine*

    2. No one will tell me why I’m getting rejected
    Please take your resume to the local unemployment office, do you have someone you trust to not hold any bunches. Ask them to review your resume, do some practice interview questions, etc. Also — if you are working, does your employer offer EAP. My anxiety has increased because of where I work & am seeing the EAP counselor t work on it. One thing I’ve started doing, is blowing my interviews, both phone & in person. I started seeing her to work on my nxiety and how it’s affecting me, but I’m going to work with her regarding the interview anxiety.

    5. Asking to be paid for guest lectures
    I’m an admin assistant at a university. We pay our guest lecturers that come from off campus, a faculty or staff member from another department will do a lecture without pay. But this is 1 – 2 times during the academic year. Your museum is being taken advantage by other departments. Are you considered professional or administrative staff? Are you exempt from OT? If non-exempt, you are supposed to be paid for the hours worked if doing this after normal working hours. That might be another way to approach it. Also look at your job description. It’s quite common in the university setting, that faculty will have “well you did this for so & so and I expect the same thing” without consideration of your work schedule, etc. If each staff member does 1 – 2 lectures year free of charge, I would recommend doing it to network, etc. If this a regular occurrence, you should be paid after – 2 lectures because it’s time consuming. You also need to see if faculty are just taking advantage. If the faculty members are taking off & using the lecturer to cover their classes, than it should be stopped. I’ve known faculty to schedule a lecturer, leave them to find the classroom, have little interaction with them beyond, come to this room & discuss this particular subject, take attendance and they are not present. It’s usually 1 or 2 faculty members that do this, if it’s happening or one particular department will take advantage.

    1. Artemesia*

      I didn’t understand that this was a library within the university. Every university I have worked with has a policy of NOT paying people within the system extra for doing this sort of thing. They might in some cases pay a distinguished speaker from outside (although most local business people and such who speak once a year or so are not paid) but they have a policy against letting an employee double dip. They are being paid by the university already and any additional speaking they do is covered by that. HOWEVER it is odd to be expected to be doing this at this level and I would think your management should be pushing back. If the talks are about how to use the library for specialized research or something like that, then that is part of the librarian’s job. If the topics are other than that, I would be wondering what was going on.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I don’t think it is, though. It sounds to me like the OP works at a museum that is completely independent from the university….but guest lecturing at the university is within the scope of the job that the museum hired her for.

    2. Moonsaults*

      I’m shivering at the “take your resume to a local unemployment office”. As someone who only posts at the local employment office, their advice on resumes is incredibly sketchy at times. I have gotten the worst resumes from people who are working with their office and getting their advice on things.

      It’s good to get some input on your resume, that I do agree with. I have had multiple friends review mine and it’s helped a lot. My point is a word of caution to just blindly trust that the employment department and the people that are working there know as much as you’d think they would, given their occupation.

        1. LeRainDrop*

          Agree — use AAM’s resume advice. I know there are folks at the UI office who genuinely want to be helpful, but their resume advice can be kind of wacky, such as putting random keywords at the top. I heard one person there pass along the idea to wear the company’s colors to your job interview so that the employer subconsciously already thinks of you as part of their team. Creative? Yes. Cringeworthy? Also yes.

          1. LeRainDrop*

            Oops, use AAM’s resume AND interview advice :-) Her free interview tips are great, but her book is even better!

          2. Moonsaults*

            The layouts are what make my eyes pop the most. I’ve seen so many creative ways of doing resumes and they’re all terrible in the end.

  23. Roscoe*

    Whats interesting about taking vacation time is how much it can vary from person to person and place to place. I think I remember a letter here at some point and the person was mad that someone took every Friday off for like 3 months to burn through their vacation. People didn’t like that. Now this guy is taking all his vacation at once, and people don’t like that either. It seems a lot of people have a very rigid idea of how people should use their vacation time, how much notice they should give, and how much it should impact others. But by definition, vacation time is YOURS to use how you want. Yes, its nice to consider co-workers when taking it, but in my opinion, that is pretty far down the list of considerations. I think it really comes down to coverage, plain and simple. If the department is spread so thin that one person leaving for more than a day, or even a week, is going to be a HUGE DEAL, there need to be provisions taken. If someone wants to take 3 weeks off at a time, and they have it, that should be their right to do without being made out to be some evil jerk. Even if they decide last minute they want to do it. Because again, anything can happen. People can get sick or injured. So if the office is going to fall apart because of it, its bad planning

    1. Mike C.*

      Because again, anything can happen. People can get sick or injured. So if the office is going to fall apart because of it, its bad planning

      This is really the heart of the matter. What the OP is going through is really just a symptom of this much larger issue.

    2. Adam V*

      (If I remember correctly, *you* were the one who were talking about taking every Friday for three months:

      Both are bad for different reasons, but there’s an underlying “it’s not a particularly *nice* thing to do to your coworkers” essence to them.

      Taking an entire month, especially without notice and during a time that your coworkers will also want to take time, forces an extreme level of work juggling. It’s easy to pick something and say “this can wait a week”, but hard to choose things that can wait an entire month.

      And yes, though you seem to pooh-pooh it, notice is important – if my manager knows I’m going to be out for a month, he won’t assign me big projects that might run into that time, or have me take something over from a coworker if I’m just going to have to hand it off to a third coworker before I go; he’ll make sure my coworkers are properly cross-trained for any duties I normally pick up, and he’ll have it in the back of his mind whenever other coworkers come along and request their own time off.

      I work with a lot of Indian coworkers, and they frequently take 2-4 week trips back to India, which I completely understand – considering how long the trip is, I wouldn’t want to make it just to spend a weekend and turn back around! – but their trips are scheduled pretty far in advance and posted up on the team calendar.

      Taking random days here and there, or a couple of week-long stretches throughout the year, are “normal” in comparison and can be dealt with fairly easily.

      1. CMT*

        I don’t think taking every Friday off for a month or two is a bad thing to do to your coworkers. It’s not a huge departure from a normal work schedule, and I know people would be able to adjust. To me it actually seems like a less disruptive way to burn through vacation time.

        1. Morning Glory*

          In that instance, I believe only one person could be off at a time so it prevented everyone else from being able to take a full week of vacation for the entire summer.

          In many offices, I agree it would not be bad.

        2. Judy*

          I think in that case, there could only be one person out in the office at a time, so the person effectively blocked anyone else from taking a week long vacation during the summer.

      2. Roscoe*

        But even that, who decided it was normal to do that. If that’s not how I like to take my vacation, why should I have to? A lot of things that have been traditionally done are changing, why should this not be one of them

    3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      It seems a lot of people have a very rigid idea of how people should use their vacation time, how much notice they should give, and how much it should impact others. But by definition, vacation time is YOURS to use how you want.

      I am a huge proponent of taking vacations and never letting PTO expire. I’ve worked with my team to make everything work including a six week “paternity leave” at a company that offers no such benefit.

      But all the things you describe are usually laid out in an employee handbook, and honestly, we are not required to approve any vacation request…and in a state where we are not required to pay out vacation, I could technically never approve my staff’s vacation time and just let it expire when they leave (it’s a jerk move and I’d never do it).

      There are generally business impacting reasons why vacation needs to be handled in a certain timeframe or a certain way. Of course there are things that come up and emergencies happen, but not using your vacation time isn’t one of them.

      Yes, we can easily slide around things to make a 5-day gap work. But anything beyond that, I’m going to need time to figure out, hence why we ask that request be made significantly in advance.

    4. Anon Again*

      To me the issue isn’t so much that the person is taking off 3 weeks all at one time, it’s the fact that this vacation was announced at the last minute, and there seems to be the expectation that this person’s other co-workers will need to pick-up the slack.

      If this vacation was scheduled back in January, per their policy, and the employee and the department had the opportunity to plan the absence, I don’t think it would be that big a deal.

      And for all the talk about temps, not every position is suitable for a temp.

      1. Jenbug*

        All of this.

        And the fact that the coworker has such a ‘whatever’ attitude about it just makes it worse.

    5. NW Mossy*

      Part of the challenge is that certain types of vacation usage (like the all-at-once approach here) don’t work that well in small departments/teams unless they’re planned out well in advance. Saying in mid-November, “Oh, BTW, I’m taking December off” is a jerk move by the employee’s part because it’s giving the manager essentially no time to make other arrangements. If he’d brought up that plan in July, it likely would have been much better received because management and his co-workers would have sufficient time to make arrangements to accommodate his desires. It’s also vital to have a conversation when your intended vacation usage bucks the norms in your office, because otherwise people will assume that you’re following those norms and heartily dislike the short notice twist ending.

      In this situation, there can be provisions for coverage, but it takes time to plan it well to be minimally disruptive to colleagues and customers. The assumption with vacation is that because you have discretion in when and how you use it, the price you pay for that flexibility is needing to work with your manager and team on coverage. A brief absence might necessitate nothing more than an out-of-office message saying that you’ll respond when you return. A longer absence will likely require someone else to step in and do the work, and even a fully cross-trained team may benefit from a refresher if they haven’t done the vacationer’s tasks in a while.

      And ultimately, it’s of profound benefit to the vacationer to work this stuff out in advance. When you don’t, it’s substantially more likely that you’ll come back to a stack of things that are half-done, not started, and/or not done to your standards. The easier you make it for others to cover your work well, the easier it will be for you when you come back.

    6. LQ*

      Maybe I’m horrible, but I always consider how it will impact my coworkers when I take vacation time. That doesn’t mean I don’t take it, but I always think it about it. I always wrap that into my thoughts when I am planning a vacation, either a big one or a little one. And it’s pretty high up on the list of considerations. I wouldn’t even consider taking a whole month off without seriously thinking about what that would mean for the people I work with.

      And I DO use my vacation. It isn’t that I don’t take it or throw it away. *I am bad with people so maybe others don’t need to do this to not be considered evil jerks, but I am certainly trying to be thoughtful and empathetic of the people around me.*

      1. Roscoe*

        I don’t think it makes you horrible. I just think its un-necessary. Taking vacation from work is a selfish act. You aren’t awful for taking everyone else into consideration. I’m just saying don’t consider me awful because I’m not.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          So then as a manager, if I don’t take into consideration your need to get away from work and deny your vacation request, does that mean I shouldn’t be considered awful?

          I mean, I’m just following the same benefits section of the employee handbook you are using, right? Or do we have a collective responsibility to follow *all* the rules and work together.

          I get that we are all offered vacation and PTO as part of our compensation package, but I know that for my state none of it is required or guaranteed and my employer could take it away at any time and there is nothing I could do besides leave.

          1. PK*

            It’s not the employees concern to cover work when they are out on vacation. Sure, it’s nice to think about but ultimately, it falls on the business to be sure that the work is being done in the absence.
            Of course you could refuse to grant any requests and interfere with the compensation package. That would in fact make you an awful manager.

            Would I be irked that I gained a heavy workload for 3 weeks? Sure. That being said, I’m guessing the employee who hasn’t taken the vacation days has been covering extra work for other vacations all year as well.

            1. NW Mossy*

              I’ve always found it coverage to be my concern, because I bear the brunt of the fallout if it’s not done well. If I assume “oh, it’ll be fine, I don’t need to do anything,” I tend to come back to a confused mishmash and spend my first two days back in the office trying to sort out what was done and what wasn’t. If I approach it with the mindset that I’m setting others up to be successful in covering for me by making sure it’s clear who’s handling what, I come back to “There’s this one thing we left for you, but otherwise, you’re current.” Having experienced both, I know which one I vastly prefer.

              1. PK*

                Sure, but you are doing that for yourself so you don’t come back to a mess. I would do the same thing myself because I don’t want to spend a lot of time adjusting when I come back. That being said, that’s my personal choice. I wouldn’t expect everyone to do the same.

            2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              it falls on the business to be sure that the work is being done in the absence.

              I can and have done this for my staff. But the request rules are in place for very specific reasons. A three-week absence requires planning, especially at a time when other employees may also be taking vacation.

              I really don’t understand the “it’s my compensation, to heck with my teammates” attitude. Especially since this isn’t someone writing in to say, “I asked for a month off six months from now, and my manager won’t approve it,” but an employee who is demanding the rules he clearly knew about be bent, to heck with how it impacts other people.

              1. PK*

                I don’t work for the teammates. Their compensation or workload isn’t really my concern. Yes, I personally wouldn’t have taken this route as a courtesy. That’s my choice though. I’m assuming you wouldn’t be making the same argument if someone was suddenly out sick for 3 weeks. Different situations because you can’t really do anything about the latter but the same result in the end.

                On a side note, any office I’ve worked in that required ‘use it or lose it’ gave warnings quite a bit ahead of time to avoid these situations. This should have been noticed a couple months ago.

          2. Roscoe*

            Yes, if you never granted people vacation, you would be considered an awful manager, and you would probably have people quitting. Its a very differnt thing to never approve vacation that people get as part of their compensation, then it is for me as an employee to not consider other employees when I take it.

            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              My example was a bit draconian…what I was trying to highlight is that vacation and most leave is actually not protected compensation the way wages are (unless you have a contract or collective bargaining agreement).

              You are saying that the company needs to honor the offer, but I don’t understand why you think the employee in question doesn’t need to honor the rules?

              And yikes, my team works well and has had very little turnover because we work cooperatively. I couldn’t imagine having someone work for me who didn’t give a flip how they impacted their teammates. *especially* if they were demanding to have rules bent at the expense of their teammates.

              1. Roscoe*

                I guess here is my thought, if there are no “rules” in place, then its not violating any. As i wrote below, after the OP mentioned that it states that no more than 10 days can be taken at once, my opinion changed on this situation. However, I also don’t think that if that isn’t laid out than someone should not be given part of their compensation package because you don’t like when they chose to take it.

                1. DArcy*

                  If there wasn’t a 10-day rule than wanting three weeks off would be reasonable, however the employee would still be in violation of the very reasonable policy that vacation time needs to be scheduled in advance.

          3. LQ*

            Thank you. I think this is what I’ve been trying to get at.

            We are all human beings, companies are nothing more than a collection of coworkers and bosses, human beings. And if every human being decides they are going to only care about themselves and not consider the human beings around them at all for anything, then we end up not being considerate.

            I do think I’m doing the right thing in stopping to think about my coworkers, and I like my coworkers and boss more when they stop and are considerate of me. I think this makes the work place, the company, a place that is human, and not an entity that you can’t win a battle against because it doesn’t exist. The company is humans. Being considerate to humans is ok.

            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

              Thank you. I have been genuinely sad reading these comments and seeing how little people care for the people who they spend significant amounts of their day with.

              We are not a touchy-feely, kumbaya team be any stretch of the imagination, but I am so grateful that I am surrounded by people who feel being considerate to other humans is a good thing.

              1. NW Mossy*

                I don’t think it’s so much that people don’t care for their colleagues, but more that some people work in environments where it’s either not encouraged or implicitly discouraged to be considerate because the results of being considerate are negative. They’ve simply adapted to the environment they work in, but don’t necessarily realize that the same strategy would go poorly in others.

                Many years ago, I worked at a company where bonuses were tied to how much you billed – you needed to bill a minimum threshold to qualify, and then your bonus was based on the % you went over. In general, you billed for clients assigned to you on the premise that you’d be doing the work. So far so normal, right? Except for one thing – it created a strong disincentive to help your colleagues on stuff they’d end up billing for, because that was time you weren’t spending on what you could bill. It was always tense, but exploded into a huge disaster when an employee took maternity leave during a busy season. Others put a significant amount of work in on her assigned clients, but because she was back by billing time, she billed for it and it flowed into her bonus calculation rather than theirs. I have never seen colleagues hate each other as much as I did in that job, and it made a huge difference to switch to a company that used a different structure that didn’t penalize cooperation.

              2. AD*

                Agreed. Lack of consideration is now….normal? I really wouldn’t want to work with colleagues who think like this, sorry.

              3. Roscoe*

                I can care about people enough that I wouldn’t intentionally set out to screw them over. However I’m also not planning my vacation around when its convenient for them

              4. LeRainDrop*

                Not the Droid, I’m totally with you. If it makes you feel any better, I think it is just the same couple people stating that they would not consider the impact on their co-workers before setting their vacation time.

                Part of the disconnect here may have to do with different work environments and what the actual job is. I can understand why hiring a temp may work for some jobs, but it certainly would be no solution at all for many, many others. Likewise, covering for a co-worker’s most important or urgent job duties for a week is completely different from taking over the entirety of their job for three or four weeks. Also, there are many jobs where the employees carry great responsibility for their own workload and for ensuring coverage in their absence. At my law firm, it was each attorney’s responsibility to manage their deadlines around vacation, to get a colleague up to speed if it was foreseeable a client *might* need something in your absence, and to communicate with the clients in advance about your vacation and whom to contact. Plus, of course, we were still pretty much connected by email and phone for any true emergencies.

                Part of why I loved my team so much is that we were truly collegial, willing to help each other out over vacation days and such, but that we were also respectful not to dump too much on one another if there was any possible way to avoid it. I could understand that may not always work if there’s a medical emergency, for example, but for things that could be reasonably planned, like vacation, we planned and were respectful of others. I would not want to work somewhere where that’s not the case.

  24. ilikeaskamanager*

    OP #2 There is no benefit to a company to help you improve your candidacy so you can get a job with a different company. Sorry to be harsh, but that is just how it is. In our company, we will work with internal candidates–provide feedback and coaching–but external candidates–no. We don’t have time for that. On average, we have more than 100 applicants for every job we post.

    If you want to improve your skills, my suggestion is that you work with a career counselor. Many universities have them and their services are available to alumni as well. You might have to pay a small fee, but it is well worth it if you are having trouble securing employment. It’s an investment the same way interview clothes are. Many employment security agencies also have people who will help you. We have volunteers at our church who help as well.

    1. Machiamellie*

      be careful with university career centers though – they’re often woefully out of touch with reality

  25. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Seriously, how is grabbing someone’s hair okay? The office norms for me I’ve seen so far are that you never even touch your coworkers except to shake hands when you first meet, or, rarely, to tap them on the shoulder.

    I think it’s a bit like in The Giver in my work- “it is considered extremely rude to touch one another outside of family units.” :)

    1. Anon for this Comment*

      At my workplace, hugs and the like are a pretty normal part of our corporate culture. (There’s even a thing in our harassment training to the effect that “if you’re initiating physical contact more often than the other person is initiating, you might be crossing a line.”) So this definitely can vary depending on context.

      The flip side of that, though, is that unwelcome physical contact is VERY un-okay, and is responded to swiftly and firmly.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        I guess it’s different everywhere. And people at my work still can get along and feel close; it just shows differently. Around here, people show closeness by offering snacks/small gifts or arranging to take the same continuing education credits together and then helping each other in the lectures.

    2. Lissa*

      I think this is very much culture, I’ve worked places where there is a lot of joking around/horseplay and ones where heck no you all act like it never happened if you accidentally brush up against each other. The problem I see is that a horseplay workplace leads to situations like OP1, where something suddenly goes way too far. Going from a “we play around and bother each other at work” to “hair grabbing” is bad but I see easily how it can happen, whereas going from “we are super professional and never touch” to “hair grabbing” would be way more WTF.

      Also in my experience the physical stuff tends to only happen between same-gender colleagues, in workplaces with a majority one gender. Which is it’s own special brand of potentially bad.

      So happy I now work in a place with touching. :)

  26. Mr Mike*

    OP #2: Be grateful you received a rejection after an interview! Of the 11 companies I interviewed with during my last job search, only two bothered to send any rejection at all…

  27. Op#3*

    OP #3 here
    As clarification—the company has been going through a lot of changes this year and we’ve had various managers covering our team, so I think the issue of vacation time fell through the cracks. I’ve checked our employee manual, and we do actually have a policy prohibiting employees from taking more than 10 business days consecutively.

    I want to clarify that I certainly don’t think my co-worker was laughing at me or anyone else having to cover their work. I got the impression that he felt he had kind of “gamed the system” by cancelling days and saving them.

    My co-worker originally spread his vacation out throughout the year just like the rest of us, but cancelled the days as they came up. The company is quite flexible on this, and lets us reschedule days with little notice- for instance, I cancelled a vacation day I had scheduled last week with 2 days notice and moved it to this week with no issue.

    His behaviour kind of rubs me the wrong way because I feel like the company is very flexible, encourages people to take their vacation and completely shut off, and just in general treats us like adults. I’m fairly certain that if my co-worker had just asked to take the whole month off near the beginning of the year, the request likely would have been approved and planned for. Instead, it looks like either we’ll be scrambling, or his request will be declined.

    1. LCL*

      And if you call him out directly on gaming the system he will tell you it’s managements’ fault for letting him do it. The number one spot on my little list of coworkers is the person who plays games, then when confronted shrugs and says it’s allowed so what’s the big deal?
      Of course your manager could easily fix this by adhering to your company’s written policy…
      We take vacation requests in January for the rest of the year. You get two choices. You can take other vacation throughout the year, the January process is to prevent any one person from requesting all of the holidays. We also don’t limit the number of days that can be taken consecutively.

    2. Roscoe*

      Well this does change my opinion then. If it is spelled out in the manual that you can’t take more than 10 days off at once, I definitely think its an issue. I think he should be able to take his 2 weeks leading up to the week that is off, and then lose the rest. However, I don’t think it would be fair to say he shouldn’t be able to take those 10 days.

    3. Roscoe*

      Also, do you think that he purposely cancelled the days as they came up with the purpose of taking it all at the end of the year, or do you think he just cancelled them as he went, and then all of a sudden realized it? To me, those are 2 very different scenarios that I can see different reactions to

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +1 to both your comments, Roscoe, but I would err on the side of assuming it was an accident. Especially since it sounds like it doesn’t make a different to how OP handles situation – assuming he’s purposefully making their lives harder really only serves to make her more upset.

        1. Roscoe*

          Well, not really. I’ve definitely been guilty of not using all my vacation time in a use it or lose it situation, so I used it all up at the end of my term, which in my current job is end of February. If I had a week left, and one co-worker was out on maternity leave, and one had already planned vacation, I’d still want to take my week of time before I lost it, even if it did make things a bit more difficult on my co-workers. When you chose to make it a use it or lose it policy, you have to expect some people to do that. It doesn’t make them bad. Maybe they thought they were going on a trip and it fell through. Maybe they were saving PTO in case they got sick. There are many reasons why you could end up with time left at the end of the year. But I don’t think that its inconsiderate to want to take what you earned

          1. doreen*

            It may not be inconsiderate, but it can be. My employer doesn’t exactly have a “use it or lose it” policy, but on April 1 each year any employee with more than 40 days of vacation leave would lose the excess over 40. Every year, there were people who tried to take the whole month of March off with a week or two notice. They weren’t saving the time in case they got sick, because sick time is a separate bank , and in any event , they would still have 40 days of leave even if took the excess time in July or October or February. They did it because they were hoping to get a sympathetic manager or supervisor who would approve the time off so they could “take what they earned” without paying attention to the issues that are normally used when approving vacation – is your work up to date, is there sufficient coverage , etc. Enough of them got those sympathetic managers/supervisors to make the place a ghost town during March- but the work didn’t stop even though more than half the staff was out in some offices. And because people were trying to cover another caseload in addition to their own ( it’s not a job that lends itself to temps) things fell through the cracks. And then something blew up. And the manager’s explanation was essentially that half the staff took the month of March off. That’s when we got a new policy- only 20% of each unit can be on vacation or personal leave on any given day. The managers who allowed half their staff to be off for the whole month get most of the blame for that – they should have followed the normal procedures and not approved the leave. But the people who hoarded their leave and asked for a month off with a week’s notice without caring about the position it put their co-workers in deserve some too .

      2. Op#3*

        I don’t know whether or not it was intentional. I’d err on the side of assuming he wasn’t intentionally trying to book all of December off, but I think it’s a little irresponsible not to watch your vacation balance. I don’t think it’s possible to genuinely not notice that you took almost zero vacation days for an entire year.

        1. DArcy*

          What makes me believe it’s intentional is the way you said he was chuckling over making an ultimatum to HR: either give him ALL his vacation in December, or let him roll ALL of it over to next year. As opposed to taking the normal maximum of ten days, and banking what he can’t use.

      1. DArcy*

        Yeah. It’s pretty clear that this coworker wanted a month-long vacation, so he gamed the system by scheduling a normal spread of vacation days throughout the year, but cancelled all of them and now is arguing, “I have all three weeks of vacation and I demand that you let me take all of it at once before it expires!”

    4. AMPG*

      You raise another good reason to be upset about it – by gaming the system this way, he’s set it up for management to decide that everyone has to adhere to the policy as written. This hurts you directly, as you could lose the flexibility to move your own vacation around within reasonable limits.

    5. Moonsaults*

      I’m the cynical one that had a feeling that he was doing exactly this, trying to play the system. I’ve known plenty of that kind of personality before. Ew.

      I think HR needs to stick to their handbook so they don’t open up the can of worms and not let him carry anything over and only allow the 10 day rule.

      This guy is why others can’t have nice things.

      1. RVA Cat*

        That, and honestly the OP shouldn’t be breaking their back covering for him in that case. If his work doesn’t get done, most of that needs to be on him. Management will ignore a problem if co-workers always solve it for them.

    6. CMT*

      He does sound like a jerk. I think this goes beyond “this is management’s fault, not your coworker’s”.

  28. Katie*

    LW2: Honestly, it might just be that the job got a large number of applicants. I had a relative who asked for feedback after being rejected from a job and was told, essentially, “Don’t take this personally, but a ton of people applied for that job and we don’t remember you.”

  29. steph*

    On number 5: if the lectures are done on company time, wouldn’t the payment go to the museum? Or do the lectures happen after hours?

    1. H.C.*

      That depends on the museum’s speakers fee/honoraria policy, if ther eis one. It can take a cut of the payment, it can require employee to take that time off and/or requiring disclosure (possibly approval) for transparency/conflict of interest purposes.

      And if there isn’t a policy, it’s probably a good time for the museum’s management/HR/compliance team to come up with one – especially given the regularity of these speaking gigs, even if unpaid … for now).

  30. Erin*

    #1 – You already told him and he agreed. You didn’t really need to say it a second time. A third time with a third party is really too much.

    Yes, it was inappropriate, but I think “it won’t happen again” is sufficient enough without an apology. There’s really no need to make a mountain out of a molehill unless it happens again. If it happens again, yes, different story.

    1. Allison*

      In a way, “it won’t happen again” is better than just “I’m sorry.” “Sorry” is used to often it can sound hollow and meaningless, unless it’s accompanied by an assurance it won’t happen again.

  31. Machiamellie*

    I am 100% all for giving job candidates honest feedback. However, my company’s policy is to say “Thank you but no” in a generic rejection email and that’s that. Here’s some of the reasons why.

    * Hiring a recruiter – he had said he wasn’t able to work the stated hours (a later shift than typical – 10 am to 6 pm M-F) because of xyz reason. We declined because we needed someone to work those hours. He then came back and said he talked to his wife and moved some things around and he could work like 9:30-5:30. We still said no thanks because we’d moved on to other candidates. He then started bugging our employees on LinkedIn about why he’d be so great, and started emailing me that we were being unprofessional, etc. He tried to get through to the owner of the company by calling the main line, etc.

    * We told someone that the client didn’t think he was a good fit for that role because of skillset in a particular software language, but we’d be looking for other positions for him. He started trying to contact the client directly to plead his case and how he’d learn the language better, etc. The client finally told us that they didn’t want to work with him and they were going to send him a cease and desist letter. We almost lost the client completely.

    Those are just a couple of reasons. People who take it the wrong way screw it up for everyone :(

    1. Observer*

      Re: cease and desist, does this remind anyone of the letter writer who was trying to figure out how to contact a company that had told him they would be calling the police if he contacted them? (I wonder what ever happened with that.)

  32. Allison*

    #1 That was really inappropriate and wrong, and it’s totally understandable to be shaken up, to want a real apology, and to want to escalate it further. But I’m going to echo the sentiments stated here that it’s in your best interest not to push it further unless it happens again, or he does something similar.

    On the other hand, if this guy did that to you and only said he wouldn’t do it to you again, I have to wonder if he does stuff like that to others, or he thinks that type of contact is normal. I would feel uneasy working for someone who appears to have a weird sense of boundaries.

    #2 There’s a ton of risk involved when you send someone a reason for their rejection. They might take it well, many people do, but others push back aggressively. They may disparage the company on social media or Glassdoor, they might harass you via phone or e-mail, they might even try to file some ridiculous lawsuit. You can always ask “is there anything I could work on?” but the fact is, sometimes you present yourself as best you can but you’re not what they’re looking for.

    #3 Your company’s time off system is crappy, and if they let someone take that much time off they need a good system in place to ensure coverage, without placing an undue burden on their coworkers. Taking that much time off at once is generally not normal unless there’s a good reason, like traveling for both a wedding and honeymoon, or having a baby and taking time off to take care of it, or needing to travel a huge distance to see family. And taking a lot of time off around the holidays doesn’t always seem like a big deal, some departments get swamped during that time of year whereas others see a slow period, and yes, maybe OP’s coworker should know the department would be busy and it would put people in the lurch to be gone for that long, but they might have assumed management wouldn’t let them if that was the case.

    I can see why you may think your coworker is a jerk for taking that chunk of time off, there’s a right way and a wrong way to be “that guy” (or “that woman”), but management had an opportunity to deny them and say they needed to spread out their vacation, and instead they approved the request and did a less than stellar job getting coverage. So I agree that OP should talk to management about the coverage issue, rather than resent their coworker for putting them in a bind.

    1. Temperance*

      LW clarified that her coworker originally spread his leave throughout the year, and then sneakily canceled all of it. Also, it hasn’t been approved yet.

    2. DArcy*

      Uh, the OP clearly states that management hasn’t approved the request, and the company rules do say that they need to spread out their vacation. The coworker is maliciously subverting the system for his own benefit, where they might not be able to take any of their remaining vacation days (because they’re too busy covering for the sheer amount of work he’s piling up with a month-long absence) and where they’re probably in danger of losing the ability to flex around scheduled vacation days.

  33. Way Anon For This*

    Regarding #1: All the talk about the boss being “sorrynotsorry” reminded me of the time, decades ago, when talking on the phone to a black friend of mine, I described my latest beau as having a tan so dark he looked like a n-word.

    I’m from the South; my FOO talked like that; I was raised on it. I was embarrassed as hell by my FOO, and I was embarrassed as hell that the word slipped out of my mouth. I was very emotionally immature at the time, though, so I stammered some stuff but never actually apologized. Never stopped and said, “Oh my god. That was language I was raised with, but that’s not my language. I am so sorry and I hope you can forgive me.” Nope, too freaked out by my own idiocy to get anything that mature and coherent out.

    But, while there was no apology [and, yes, I lost that friend for a long time, until I found her again and gave her the apology she deserved], I never once — not ever — uttered that word again. That was 30 years ago. I still cringe inside and feel sick to my stomach when I recall the incident.

    So the boss could be uncomfortable because he got caught, OR he could be uncomfortable because his internal dialogue at the time was, “OMG, what the h*ll was I thinking?!? I would normally never do that kind of thing to an employee of mine!” And maybe he’s too emotionally immature — or too freaked out by his own behavior — to apologize right then and there, and he’s hoping it will just go away because he knows for d*mned sure he’ll never do anything like that again.

    Or he could be an entitled @sshat on a power trip but I thought I’d throw a different perspective out there, as someone who once did something horribly egregious and didn’t handle the aftermath in the way I, or any of the AAM commenters, would have liked for me to.

    1. Hrovitnir*

      Oh my, your poor friend, I know that would have been a punch in the gut for me to hear from a good friend. Good for you for learning from it! It’s very easy to get defensive and double down.

      I agree it’s impossible to tell “embarrassed, actually understands it wasn’t cool” from “embarrassed, thinks you’re oversensitive” and so long as it doesn’t happen again and he doesn’t treat the OP worse because of it that’s the main thing. I just think how awful something like that can feel, especially with the power differential, was somewhat understated in the responses.

  34. Observer*

    #2 Something to think about. Your question gives off a bit of a sense of entitlement. If your interviews come off the same way, that’s going to be a HUGE turn off for any company.

    There are a lot of things wrong with the hiring process, but prospective employers not telling you why you didn’t get selected is not really one of them. Employers are in no way obligated – not legally, ethically or morally – to help you figure out how to get the job you want. And “we can’t discuss details” is NOT “essentially a “just because” “. It’s doesn’t mean they don’t have a reason – it means that they do not want to discuss it with you.

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