my horse died because of my manager’s carelessness

A reader writes:

My friend and I shared a paddock in which we kept our horses. She did the morning feeds and I did the afternoon feeds. One morning, when my friend was feeding up, she discovered that my 29-year-old mare was colicing (basically a stomach upset; horses can’t throw up so if there is a blockage or something making them sick, it causes a lot of problems) and because it looked serious she called the vet. The vet refused to do more than administer painkillers and a few other drugs to make her comfortable without an owner present, so my friend tried to call me. (Colic surgery, which the vet felt she needed, can run into the tens of thousands of dollars and is pretty hard on the horse, which is why the vet refused to risk running up a bill like that on an older horse without the okay from the owner.)

My workplace doesn’t allow phones in the sheds, and when my friend couldn’t get through to me, she called my workplace. My friend explained how dire the situation was and my manager told her he would let me know immediately. Except that he didn’t. I didn’t find out until morning smoko and I found the missed calls on my phone. Unfortunately, in the three hours between my friend calling and my hearing of it, my horse’s heart rate had shot over 120 beats per minute. That 120 mark is used as an indicator that recovery is very unlikely, and I made the choice to have her put down.

I asked my manager why he hadn’t let me know what was going on and he said he was going to let me know at lunch time (approximately five hours after the call came) and I could leave then. I said the horse had died and he said I could leave.

The kicker in all of this? That morning, my manager had me hosing walkways because he “didn’t have anything else for me to do.” So I’m pretty angry that he didn’t let me know when the call came through (and let me deal with it) but what I am angriest about is that he said he would let me know what was going on straight away and then didn’t. My friend had to deal with a dying horse, my vet was in a horrible position, and my poor mare suffered unnecessarily. Knowing that I wasn’t contactable would have changed the situation with the vet, who stated that she would have put her down much earlier than she did.

I have no idea why he didn’t let me know. I pretty much booked it out of there when he said I could leave, as I was struggling to keep it together. Best guess is that he didn’t think it was important, forgot, couldn’t be bothered coming to find me (even though I was in the section of the site his office is based in), or thought that it would be fine to wait although my friend was pretty insistent on the phone. Maybe he just didn’t care. I just wish he hadn’t said he would let me know.

I’m angry, devastated, and struggling to overcome my feeling of resentment towards the manager, as well as my own guilt. While I understand that to him she was just a horse, she was my life. I’d got her for my 15th birthday (she was also 15) and she was my anchor.

Our industry (which is animal-based) runs 365 days of the year, and I’ve worked every hour of overtime, every holiday, every weekend, and every other gap he has needed me to work. I’ve worked shifts solo which normally require two or three people because he couldn’t get anyone else. I’ve never taken a day of sick leave in the three years I’ve been with my company. I’ve never been late. I needed half an hour to talk with the vet and make a plan. I would have happily worked through my breaks if it meant I’d been able to sort it out quickly.

I still carry out everything that is asked of me but my (previously high) quality of work has dropped, I don’t want to do additional overtime and now my manager and his manager want to talk. I have no idea what to say. Somehow I think “I hold you responsible for some of my horse’s suffering and now she’s died, all the money I earn doing overtime to help you out is pretty much no incentive because I spent it all on her” is not the line to go with. “I hate you” is also probably not the way to go. Help?

Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry. How awful.

At best, your manager was careless in a way that had terrible consequences. At worst, he’s a callous jerk. From knowing him, you probably know which of those is more correct.

Would it help to explain to him what you’ve explained here? You could say, “When you told my friend that you’d give me the message immediately, she and the vet acted on what you said. They didn’t take emergency measures with the horse because they assumed I’d be getting in contact right away. The situation was dire and because I didn’t know about the call until hours after you told them you’d tell me, it meant that my horse had hours of unnecessary suffering.”

If your manager has any decency at all, he will be horrified and will apologize profusely. That won’t change what happened, of course, but it’s possible that the ensuing conversation will give you some understanding of what he was thinking and, as a result, some measure of peace that you don’t currently have (in your relationship with him and about the situation in general).

It’s also possible that it won’t make you feel better at all. If that’s the case, then at some point you’ll have to decide if there’s a way to be reasonably happy continuing to work with him, or whether your peace of mind would be better served somewhere else. I wouldn’t decide that right away though — I’d sit with this for a bit and let yourself figure it out without any time pressure.

And if your manager and his manager want to talk about the change in your commitment to your job since this happened, it’s reasonable to say, “I’m pretty devastated by what happened. I hope that my long track record of high performance here will give me some room to work through this.”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 530 comments… read them below }

    1. Mustache Cat*

      Okay, now that I can actually get myself together enough to offer advice, I don’t know that I, in your shoes, would be able to repair this relationship. I feel like I would spent 100% of the time that I’d at work seething at my manager, even with an apology, understanding, or what have you. I wouldn’t be able to motivate myself to work because I’d be thinking about how this workplace killed a beloved animal.

      I’d have the conversation with your manager, so that he understands that he should never do this again, and then look for something else.

      1. Captain Radish*

        I would agree. I think the best thing to do is to find a new position internally, assuming you are still happy with the company, far away from this manager. Even if you find out it was a mistake on the manager’s part you will probably hold it over him for the rest of your tenure there.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I agree; at least personally, I wouldn’t be able to get past it, and would have to start job hunting. Looking internally is a really good suggestion!

          I am so very very sorry about your mare.

      2. Sharon*

        I’m inclined to agree with you on this. My pets are loved like family and I hold the responsibility for their care as my top personal priority. The manager’s negligence here would be absolutely unforgivable to me. I’m not one to hold grudges, but this is so far beyond the pale that I would not be ever be able to get over it.

      3. Jen S. 2.0*

        I agree. You’re likely to be able to forgive him any time soon, if ever, and I don’t blame you. An apology won’t make it much better even if you get one. I’m sad and angry for you. Tell them what Alison said above in order to get it off your chest, do your best to get through it and be professional until you can make a change in jobs, and make plans to find a job somewhere else for a fresh start.

        I’m so, so sorry about your horse.

      4. General Ginger*

        I’m afraid I agree with this; I don’t know if I would be able to get past it well enough to do good work for this manager again.

        You have my sympathy, OP.

      5. Jadelyn*

        I can’t even imagine continuing to work there. I’d probably have walked out and never spoken to any of them ever again.

      6. Ruffingit*

        Same here. Leaving or killing him would likely be my options and that second one comes with too many problems. So leaving would be the only reasonable thing.

        OP I’m so sorry this happened. Consider some grief counseling because your horse was a member of your family and her passing was traumatic for both of you. Might help to talk it out. My prayers are with you.

  1. Sandy*

    I am not typically the type of poster that advocates quitting, but I just don’t see a scenario in which this relationship can ever be repaired.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your horse and his suffering.

    1. AMG*

      I have to agree. I don’t think I could look at that manager without wanting to scream. I would just have to leave. I hate your manager.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        In the OP’s shoes, I would be having deep, dark thoughts about said manager and the pitchfork. I’d never do anything, but the thought would be there.

    2. Lil Lamb*

      I have a dog that I love like family. If my manager pulled something like this I probably would quit on the spot.

  2. JMegan*

    Oh, no. I’m so sorry to hear about your horse – not “just” a horse, but a living being who you loved, and who loved you. Your manager definitely dropped the ball here, and I’d be furious in your situation. I don’t know what kind of resolution is likely here, but I hope it gets sorted out peacefully and respectfully.

    1. JustaTech*

      Seconded! There is nothing wrong about grieving your mare! For goodness sake, you’d known each other for years, you had a huge emotional attachment, you’d worked together (riding).
      Could you ask for a day of bereavement leave? Particularly given the circumstances, it really seems like the least your manager could do.

    2. Anna the Accounting Grad*

      Heck, just the phrase “living being” should be sufficient to override being “just a horse” and meant that the manager should indeed have spoken to whomever is responsible for that animal’s welfare.

      1. Natalie*

        And really, even people who are pretty blase about animal welfare generally can understand the financial value of draft animals and livestock. The manager’s behavior here really makes no sense no matter how you view animals.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          That was my first thought – especially considering that I gathered from the story he works with these animals as part of his profession!

  3. Lizabeth*

    I’m sorry your mare was in pain longer than she needed to be. I find it hard to believe that your manager has a good reason for not telling you right away, especially since you work with animals at the job? Would they have passed the message along ASAP if it had been a family member in an accident and dying in the hospital? The manager shouldn’t be the one to determine “what” is an emergency, be it an animal, child or family issue. I agree with Alison’s wording, however, I would also say something about needing a procedure put in place for emergencies such as these to get the information to whomever ASAP. Get HR involved if necessary.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      This is what I was wondering. What if the call was about an accident with a family member? I couldn’t keep working there knowing that I won’t get emergency messages.
      Everyone will have an emergency come up at some point, and they need to get the information.

      1. INTP*

        I was thinking of that too. If they can’t relay messages immediately, then they need to let employees carry phones with them. I’d tell a few of my coworkers what happened so they would know to instruct their loved ones to keep calling until they got in touch.

        1. Fridaaaaaaaay*

          Or just go rouge and carry your phones. Honestly that’s what I’d do until I found a new job so I could quit the horrible boss. I am so sorry for your loss, OP.

      2. Felisa*

        I used to work at a pet hospital and the manager threatened to take our phones away during the day because certain staff were caught texting too often. Thankfully, we all fought back because hey, emergencies DO come up and it’s much easier for whoever to contact us directly.

        1. Jadelyn*

          That’s such a crude sidestep from dealing with an actual issue. Discipline the employees who are texting, don’t just ban phones altogether – do your job as a manager!

        2. LordofFullmetal*

          Same. We were just banned from even HAVING our phones nearby (we have to put them in the lockers, which don’t actually lock, or leave them at home) because people were using the calculators present on phones to do their JOB. One of my co-workers also got screamed at. For using the calculator on her phone to do her actual job that she is PAID for. Thinking about it still makes me angry. So now if there’s an emergency, none of us are contactable. Because we were caught doing our job.
          I’m trying to forgive my boss. I know him out of work, and he’s nice enough. But it’s SO hard right now.

    2. Mimmy*

      I find it hard to believe that your manager has a good reason for not telling you right away, especially since you work with animals at the job?

      Good point about the fact that you work with animals!

      But what I don’t get is that the manager told your friend he’d let you know immediately about the situation; but then, when you asked him about it several hours later, he said he was going to let you know at lunchtime. o_O

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I feel like it slipped his mind and he’s trying to cover it up. In his mind, if he said he was going to tell you at lunchtime, that would imply he made a thoughtful decision, rather than a stupid mistake like forgetting. He probably doesn’t want to say he forgot. But who knows?

      2. Jessica*

        I feel like he was thinking, “Oh, but if I tell her now, she’ll want to leave immediately, and I need her to do X, Y and Z. I’ll tell her at lunch so we don’t lose the whole day.”

        Which is flat-out inexcusable. It isn’t up to one’s manager to decide whether news about an employee’s personal emergency should be withheld because it might interfere with their employee’s job duties. What the F-ing F.

        This is probably not at all advisable, but I’d be reiterating the paragraph about how LW has worked every shift, hour, holiday and emergency that she’s been asked and has bent over backwards to be reliable and dependable when her manager was caught short. And yet, this single time, when her pet’s life was in danger, he could not see his way to help her out, and instead created a situation where her pet died, and her friend and her vet were both left with their hands tied, because he unilaterally did not allow her the opportunity to act. That’s BS. And I would be like, “I have been a high-performing employee in every way, and my reward for my hard work has been the death of my horse because of your actions.” And let them figure out how to respond to that.

        And probably look for a new job. LW has just been shown exactly how much they care about her as an employee–which is, not much. Find an employer who will.

    3. T3k*

      Yep, I was wondering too if it had been a person in an emergency instead, would the manager have passed it on immediately? Either way, this is a very upsetting situation, and I’d honestly start secretly carrying my phone on me because I’d have lost all trust in that manager being able to relay important calls when they come in.

    4. Jessesgirl72*

      I also would be worried about this! This time it was “just” a horse (ridiculous, doubly for someone in an animal based business!) but what if the next time it’s someone’s spouse or child? Emergency doesn’t mean 3 to 5 hours later! He absolutely needs reported to his manager. I would go into the meeting with them and explain that I am still committed to the job and doing my best at it, but that I no longer feel the incentive to working long hours of overtime for a company/manager who has shown so little concern and commitment to me.

      I would also be looking for another job.

      1. Liane*

        Yes, what if it was a human? ** Or since this is an animal-related job–what if it is ***a client’s animal*** the next time?

        **Asks the woman who has tears in her eyes right now & went around with a black cloud following her for days after learning her dog had hip dysplasia–he’s doing fine–so has tons of sympathy for your loss

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          We paid $5000 for our 2 yr old rescue to have surgery to fix a torn CCL. I wouldn’t possibly love her more if she were a human, but some people just don’t see animals that way. Normally that’s okay. However, I believe those people shouldn’t be working in animal industries.

          1. TL -*

            Most of the vets/ranchers/horse trainers I know fall along the animals aren’t people line. They’re very good at their jobs, they don’t love their animals like people, and they all would have informed the OP in this instance.

            This wasn’t a result of not loving animals like people; this manager was just callous and rude.

          2. Wilhelmina Mildew*

            My husband and I spent almost $3000 on our cat one time when he was diagnosed with diabetes, was prescribed the incorrect amount of insulin, went into insulin shock and almost died. That was almost 3 months worth of our income at the time, something we absolutely could not afford as we live paycheck to paycheck and had/have no credit cards or savings, and we were deeply in debt for YEARS because of it. But to us our cat was a precious member of our family, and we could no more have left him without care than we could have left a child without care.
            I feel so much for LW. They are a MUCH better person than I am. Had this happened to me, I would have quit ON THE SPOT, and would probably never be able to face that manager again because my grief and anger would be so deep I would not be able to trust my behavior around them. I don’t think I could even look at their face without screaming at them that they killed my horse, or even causing them physical harm. (People who think this is outrageous- think about it as if the title were “my child (spouse/parent/etc) died because of my managers carelessness” and also as if it happened TO YOU…if you could keep calm, and still deal with this person in a respectful and productive manner, you are far more advanced a human being than 99.9999% of people on earth, and would deserve a Nobel peace prize for it.)

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I wondered if they had used the word emergency or just said it was really important. Or “Please have her call me right away,” which the manager might have decided could wait.

      Not blaming the OP’s friend; I’m just trying to figure out why the manager decided to wait.

  4. blackcat*

    OP, as someone who has always had animals (including horses), I am so, so sorry for what happened. Alison’s scripts for what to say in the meeting are good. If I were you, I’d be seriously looking into finding another job. I simply couldn’t work for someone who did this to me. It’s ok if you feel the same way.

  5. Kay*

    I would murder my manager with my bare hands if this happened to me. I am only exaggerating a little bit. I have a senior horse with a colic history who is my heart and soul. Thankfully, I’ve always had managers who are extremely understanding – he colicked badly during my third week at my previous job and they gave me two days off to be with him and monitor his care.

    OP: I am so, so, so sorry. In your shoes, I’d walk away as soon as you can find other employment. This goes beyond “oops” and into profoundly irresponsible negligence. I would think that someone who works at an animal facility would understand an emergency situation with an animal! I hope he’s not blowing off situations with the animals at the facility, too.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I did, too. I am rarely of the, “You should sue them!!1!” mindset, but I would at least consult with a lawyer in this circumstance.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        It certainly wouldn’t hurt. Worst case scenario, it turns out that there is no legal recourse, but you have explored your options.

        1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

          Exactly. Go speak to a lawyer. Any legal-ish people might be better suited than I am to identify the specialty at play here (such as employment and/or whatever the legalese for “animal welfare” is). Even if filing suit doesn’t make sense, they should at least be able to give you options.

          1. Pregnant Lady Crying*

            Exactly. A Horse is a financial asset – and she lost that asset as a result of the manager’s negligence. She should sue for the value, as well as potentially emotional distress.
            A horse is often worth as much as or more than a car!

      3. AndersonDarling*

        A call to the local news station would certainly ruin the business. “Manager at local animal business let horse die rather than delivering a message. More on the 10’o clock news.”
        The OP is amazing for keeping things together for this long. I couldn’t imagine looking at my boss after this.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, do this, too. If this is a boarding facility or something I hate to think they might mess around while a pet is ill or something. This is completely unforgivable.

        2. Mononymous*

          Agree 100%. I’m a lifelong animal lover and I would absolutely want to know that someone this horrible is working for this company, so I could refuse to give them any business whatsoever. If they are so negligent as to cause an employee’s beloved animal to suffer unnecessarily like this, who knows what could happen to clients’ animals?!

        3. Another horse/pet person*

          Name & shame at very least. I would have a hard time not throwing down the gauntlet and seeking satisfaction in less ‘civilized’ ways.

        4. LBK*

          Ugh…I get the impulse, but I think at a bare minimum the OP needs to let the manager say his piece before doing something like that that would permanently tarnish his reputation. I know it feels unlikely hearing the OP’s account of it, but if he just didn’t comprehend that this was legitimately a medical emergency that needed to be addressed that second, not in 5 hours…well, I certainly wouldn’t want my reputation marred by a misunderstanding.

          1. Liane*

            AND manager’s boss needs to know if he’s managing a guy with bad judgment, no sense (common or decency), etc., so he can deal properly.

          2. Mirax*

            I kind of feel like, “fuck his reputation, an animal died in suffering because of his choices.” Like, even if he didn’t understand it… he fucked up. Even if he had no intent to be negligent, he still bears some responsibility here.

        5. Fridaaaaaaaay*

          +1. If the livelihood of the business depends on the management understanding and respecting the care of animals, then customers need to know about this. Doesn’t matter that this horse wasn’t on the business property – the manager made a fatal judgement call.

          1. LBK*

            It wasn’t a “fatal” judgment call according to the letter – per, the OP’s own description, it sounds to me like the horse was going to be put down either way:

            Knowing that I wasn’t contactable would have changed the situation with the vet, who stated that she would have put her down much earlier than she did.

            The impact of the manager’s actions was that the horse had to suffer during that time, which is clearly bad and could have been avoided, but I do not get the sense the horse’s life would’ve been saved if the message were relayed faster (and I think Alison’s title is a little misleading in that regard).

            And again, this isn’t to say that the manager acted appropriately, but I think it does *slightly* reduce the level of severity of what he did.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              So I wasn’t sure about that, because the letter also says that they originally wanted to speak to her to see if she would authorize colic surgery, since it’s expensive … and that it wasn’t until later that the horse’s heart rate had gone up so much that recovery was unlikely.

              1. LBK*

                Yeah, that did confuse me as I was reading it. I’m thinking maybe the window of time where the surgery would have been effective was slim, or maybe the situation was more severe than the vet initially assessed it to be and that it quickly became clear that the horse would have to be put down.

                I was going to say that it depends on whether the OP would have actually authorized the surgery, but I can also see that even if the OP wouldn’t have authorized it, she’d at least have that option presented to her. It’s heartbreaking enough to lose an animal you love and it’s certainly not an easy choice to make, but at least she would’ve been the one who got to make the choice instead of her manager basically making it for her.

              2. Kay*

                So, from the equine medical perspective: yes, there is often a window during which, if surgery is authorized quickly, the horse can be saved even from really severe colics. It’s also true that OP might not have authorized the surgery, but there are SO many factors that go into that it’s not a black and white issue. She was denied the chance to get the vet’s first look perspective and euthanasia quickly became a foregone conclusion. At the very least – colic is among the worst possible ways for a horse to die. It’s agonizing. Not being able to let them go quickly is just horrible.

                1. michelenyc*

                  My friend did the surgery on her horse and his personality changed. He became quite the butthead. She said if she had to do it over again she would not have done the surgery.

            2. Persephone Mulberry*

              but I do not get the sense the horse’s life would’ve been saved if the message were relayed faster.

              I disagree. The OP may have made the hard decision to not pursue further treatment, but the horse’s death wasn’t inevitable at the point of the emergency call.

              1. Ellie H.*

                I got the same impression. You really never know what could have happened and it’s impossible to say either way. The purpose of the vet needing to get in touch with the OP as soon as possible was to discuss the options which, at the time of that contact attempt, both included pursuing emergency surgery and the option of putting the horse down, they were both at least on the table at that point. I don’t think that the title is totally misleading based on the scenario.

              2. AnonEMoose*

                Whether the surgery was authorized or not, at least the poor horse would have been spared hours of pain. That’s what makes me so angry about this.

              3. TL -*

                It’s highly unlikely that the vet would have recommended that surgery for a 29 yr old horse (assuming the vet was a specialist who could have done it in the first place. My horse colicked last year and she would have been dead by the time we got her to the specialist who could do the surgery.)

                I doubt that anything could have been done to save the horse but the OP should have been told immediately and allowed to make end of life decisions.

                1. anncakes*

                  Whether the vet would’ve recommended surgery is irrelevant, as is whether the animal had a good or poor prognosis. The manager didn’t know the details of the situation and they have no standing to make the decision whether to alert the owner right away or wait. It’s not their place to make that call and they were wrong to keep that information from the owner, regardless of what was going on with the animal.

                2. TL -*

                  Yup, which is why I said that the OP should have been told immediately and allowed to make end of life decisions.

                  My parents called me immediately when my horse colicked and even though we had to put her down really quickly after that, and I was 2500 miles away, I still got to feel like I was making the right decision for her. It would’ve been much worse if they had told me after the fact.

                3. rto*

                  No excuse for the manager’s carelessness, but I agree.

                  It’s very unlikely that a vet would recommend nor an owner would consider colic surgery on a 29-year-old horse. Like a medical directive for a human, owners should leave instructions in case they be reached in a timely basis.

              4. Liane*

                Am with Persephone here. Even if it was already too late to save the mare, she would not have suffered for **hours** if the manager had passed on the message in a timely fashion.

            3. Kyrielle*

              That’s if the manager had told the vet that the OP was unreachable. But had the manager relayed to the OP, the OP might have been able to order life-saving surgery (very expensive, which is why the vet and friend needed to reach the owner – to find out if that was what was wanted) for the horse, in time for it to do some good. By the time the OP found out, the horse was too badly off to proceed that way.

              1. LBK*

                Ahh, you’re right – I missed the nuance that the vet said that she would’ve done it earlier if she knew the OP were unreachable (and therefore unlikely to be available to approve the surgery before it got worse). My mistake.

                1. OhBehave*

                  The manager did not speak with the vet. OP’s friend called and spoke with the manager.
                  OP became unreachable due to the negligence of the manager who assured the friend that he would speak with OP right away.

                2. LBK*

                  I think you’re over-parsing the semantics…the point was that if the manager had just told the friend “OP isn’t available and I won’t be able to give her this message for several hours” then the vet would’ve made a different decision.

        6. KarenD*

          Absent the OP filing a lawsuit (which would give the news outlets public records on which they could base their reporting) this is not likely to become a news story. And even if it did, OP has no guarantee that it would turn out the way she envisions.

          Without that element of an official action (police report, lawsuit) I almost always advise against going to local media; there’s all the fear and trepidation of actually contacting a reporter and putting that story out there, usually followed by the drastic letdown when the reporter says “Sorry I can’t help” or just ghosts on the injured party (a practice which is horribly rude but distressingly common).

            1. Shazbot*

              Considering how fashionable it’s been recently for the internet to squawk “Pets aren’t children!” I think this is a real concern.

              When I lost my two cats to cancer (Jan 2015 and Jan 2016) the hardest part was dealing with people who overheard me, or friends of friends on Facebook who read my posts about them, decide to lecture and criticize me for grieving for them. As you can imagine, it didn’t help in the slightest, it only added white-hot indignation, alienation, and despair to the sense of loss.

              1. Alter_ego*

                Ugh, yes, when I had to put my hedgehog down, my roommate’s manager overheard him telling a mutual friend, who expressed sadness. The manager said “yeah, I killed a spider this morning and thought about taking bereavement leave”. It’s so WTF on so many levels (including that I didn’t work for him, and neither of us took any time off, I just cried in the bathroom a few times the next few days)

                1. Mazzy*

                  I am with you. Not to mention that even if you’re not sentimental at all, death can be gross and painful to watch, no matter how tiny the animal. Then there is the body disposal issue. Not pleasant.

            2. KarenD*

              Yep, exactly so. That’s what I mean when I say “there’s no guarantee it will turn out the way she envisions.”

              That’s just one of the many problems with “he said she said” stories: Both “he” and “she” have a say, and there’s a really good chance that the management would have a very different take, even possibly a downright untruthful one that could damage OP even more. (Which is why these stories rarely make it into print/broadcast. Even “consumer action” reporters — an increasingly rare breed — are going to want to see some kind of paper trail and often will drop a story if the details aren’t generally agreed to by all parties. In a worst-case scenario, both parties tell lies that can be the basis for the other party to sue for libel, defamation or false light.)

          1. Elizabeth*

            I used to work in the news biz. This story, as sad as it is, likely wouldn’t make the news unless it’s a really slow day. Disagreements between a manager and employee are rarely newsworthy. Also, the story is done. Having a reporter investigate it isn’t likely to change anything because while the manager’s actions show poor judgement, it’s not illegal.

            My condolences to the OP.

        7. Forrest Rhodes*

          Enthusiastic second to this. OP, if I knew your geographic location I would be happy to personally drop the TV-news dime on this jerk. Your forbearance shows that you’re a much better and stronger person than I am—on reading your letter I was immediately in “rip the manager’s appendages off” territory.
          My deepest condolences on the loss of your horse. The two of you were lucky to have each other for those 15 years, and I know that isn’t nearly long enough, but it’s something good to hold onto.
          I wish you the best.

        8. Lanon*

          More like “Manager at local animal business caused horse to die an agonizing and slow death rather than delivering a message” (because thats what he did)

      4. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I would at least look into this. I sort of suspect that there might not be grounds to do much unless LW can demonstrate she lost a lot of money or something, but it’s horrific enough that I would at least see if it’s a possibility.

        1. Heather*

          Yes, and for all the manager knows, the horse could have been a grand prix jumper worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Not that the monetary value of the horse makes one bit of difference in how awful this is, but some people can only see value if it can be expressed with dollar signs.)

              1. Kay*

                Cheap horses are free. You could get a free horse tomorrow if you hit Craigslist. Well-bred, well-trained horses start at a couple thousand dollars. The vast majority of horses cost far, far more in upkeep than in purchase price.

              2. North Dakota Jones*

                In this economy and the over-saturation of grade horses in the US (thank you, backyard breeders), you can get a decent horse for free or only a free hundred.

                1. North Dakota Jones*

                  I do need to amend my comment. While backyard breeders, who breed things because “my rose dun pinto is gorgeous, no matter what anyone says about his parrot mouth, camped under back legs, skewed knees, long back, skinny neck, and temperament problems” are part of the reason for the sheer number of horses at slaughter houses, a large amount of blame is also due to the factory-type/assembly line breeding of poorly conformed and poorly trained Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds for racing and halter showing. (Seven out of 10 horses sent to slaughter houses from the US are Quarter Horses.) America has developed a horrifying system of breaking and racing/showing animals too early and then discarding them when they don’t make money or breakdown.

                  I apologize for the tangent, but I felt I needed to clarify/correct the information I provided.

              3. Shazbot*

                You can adopt a retired, rehabbed-for-a-new-career racehorse for $300-$1000.

                You can also purchase a discarded, slaughter-bound horse at an auction for that, or less. Many kill-buyers are aware that rescue efforts exist and will sell you an auction horse they have purchased for the horse’s meat-price (assuming you have a particular horse in mind and can identify it via a brand, tattoo, or auction hip number). And sometimes, once in a while, they will just give you the horse if you can provide transportation.

            1. Heather*

              Oh, totally! I guess I was thinking more about how the manager’s nonchalance is not only cruel to the OP, but misplaced, given that they theoretically could have been responsible for the destruction of something really expensive. (I’m guessing a manager who doesn’t know that colic is an emergency is also not aware that horses can be insured.)

            2. TL -*

              Normally, a horse worth that much has someone with authority to make all medical calls but euthanization available at all times, too.

            3. 2horseygirls*

              My deepest condolences, OP.

              As a fellow horse owner, if the horse was insured, that is even MORE reason for OP to be in contact with their vet. Equine insurance companies need to be notified immediately if it looks like euthanasia will be an option, and they will have input on making the call on whether a horse can be euthanized (hopefully in conjunction with the medical professional on scene), and to not have the owner in the loop would most certainly delay the process.

        2. Marisol*

          I have heard that pets are considered property and that any judgement awarded would be based on the pet’s market value or cost to replace. If nothing else, she could sue in small claims court just for the emotional satisfaction. In Los Angeles the small claims limit used to be $3000 and it only cost $75 to file. It would be totally worth it just to see the look on the manager’s face when he gets served, and if he takes a financial hit, so much the better. That’s what I’d do if actually hiring an attorney wasn’t an option.

          1. Jersey's Mom*

            State law varies quite a bit regarding animal law. Best bet is to do a bit of research. The website is an excellent resource that provides information about both existing legislation as well as specific cases for each state (and it is an easily searchable site).

          2. anncakes*

            If the horse would’ve been euthanized anyway, I doubt there’s a claim, there. I’ve never heard of anyone suing another person for indirectly causing a few hours of suffering to an animal.

          3. 2horseygirls*

            As a former equine humane investigator, depending on the state, there *might* be grounds for criminal animal aggravated cruelty charges for essentially preventing timely veterinary treatment and intervention. If OP’s friend explained what was happening, Manager was well aware that veterinary intervention was necessary. Deliberately withholding the message could possibly be construed, in the hands of a skillful attorney, as intentional infliction of pain and suffering.

            It really depends on how horses are classified by OP’s state (for example, in Illinois, they are classified as companion animals, and fall under the Humane Care for Animals Act). It depends how cooperative your district or state’s attorney feels like being. The National Center for Prosecution of Animal Abuse (NCPAA), under the National District Attorney’s Association (NDAA) would be a good resource to see if these charges would even be possible.

            1. anncakes*

              OP wrote that the vet was already with the horse and had been administering pain medication at the time the friend called. IANAL, but it seems like a weak argument to me. I don’t see how you could argue that the manager prevented timely veterinary treatment if a vet had already intervened before the manager got the call.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Actually, they’re not always expensive to purchase. Check around online and you’ll find plenty of backyard horses for a few hundred dollars. And a 29-year-old horse will have minimal market value. I don’t know if she could use the expense of vet bills, which were higher because of the delay, as leverage, though.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, it’s the upkeep that costs the most.

              A lot of people don’t realize this because horses are so big, but they’re actually kind of delicate and fiddly.

          2. fposte*

            A 29-year-old mare, unfortunately, isn’t worth that much from a legal standpoint–she’s too old to compete and usually to breed.

      5. Katie the Senual Wristed Fed*

        IANAL, but I don’t think the manager had a duty of care toward the horse, unfortunately.

        1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

          No, but OP did — and the manager’s failure to *deliver a phone message* did impact their ability to handle the situation.

        2. Dulcinea*

          I am a lawyer. The issue is what duty if care the manager had to the OP; the OP is the one who was injured by loss of the horse. I agree OP should consult a lawyer in their state to explore whether that injury is actionable.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        First, OP, I am so sorry for your loss. This sounds like a devastating and no-good situation, and I am sorry that you, your horse, your friend, and your vet all had to endure more suffering and angst than anyone needed.

        Turning to the legal question, and with the disclaimer that laws vary significantly by state (e.g., CT has a bunch of horse-friendly laws), it would be pretty difficult to prevail on a negligence case based on the facts provided in this post. The issue of whether the horse is worth money, etc., isn’t the legal hurdle that has to be cleared. To be it crassly, it’s pretty clear that the horse was worth something, and the distress suffered here is usually enough to get over the “how were you hurt/injured” hurdle. The bigger hurdles are (1) whether the manager had a legal duty to convey the information (and to convey it ASAP), and (2) the causal connection between the manager’s delay and the horse’s death (i.e., would the horse likely have passed, anyway? did the delay render treatment impossible?).

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ack! *To put it crassly

          and jinx, Katie! (I clearly didn’t refresh before posting).

        2. Jersey's Mom*

          I mention above, case law varies quite a bit by state. Check out, they keep it very up to date. Fortunately, animal law has been evolving over the past few years, thanks in part to groups like the Animal Legal Defense Fund. If anyone is thinking about pursuing legal action that involves an animal, I recommend checking the website out — animal law is a very niche practice area, and many lawyers may not be up to date with the changes due to case law.

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            As a matter of interest, about a half dozen linguistic clues suggest to me that OP is not in the United States but more likely in Australia or New Zealand. (The biggest clue is “morning smoko,” if anyone’s wondering. That’s a particularly antipodean way of abbreviating things, if I’m right that it means “morning smoke break.”) So the variations in laws will likely be even more varied.

            1. fposte*

              I had the same thought–I’ve never heard “smoko” uttered in the U.S. except by an imported Aussie.

              1. Brisvegan*

                I’m Australian and this read as a very Aussie letter to me, too, particularly “smoko.”

                OP, I am so sorry for your loss.

            2. Kas*

              New Zealander here – yes, I spotted the “smoko” too, and immediately concluded that the OP is in Australia or New Zealand.

              1. Wannabikkit*

                Precisely what I thought. In fact, I was scrolling down the comments to see if there was any mention of which country it was? I’m a New Zealander too.

      7. super anon*

        I agree – especially because (as far as I know) horses are incredibly expensive animals. Considering the horse died as a direct result of the manager’s negligence, I assume the OP would have some recourse to go after the business because the cost to replace the horse would be so high, not to mention the pain and suffering the experience caused her? But I’m neither a lawyer nor American, so my perspective may be off here.

        1. TL -*

          I don’t think the horse died as a direct result of the manager’s negligence; he did suffer because of it, certainly.
          But the prognosis of a 29 yr old horse (a horse’s lifespan is ~30 yrs, depending on breed) with severe colic is not good, and the surgery that may or may not have saved him is around $20,000 (in my hometown; easily more expensive elsewhere). That’s not a feasible expense for most people. I don’t think the OP is saying she would’ve authorized the surgery if she had known; I think she’s saying she deserved to know and to be able to make the call herself and go to her horse.

      8. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s pretty unlikely to be legally actionable for the reasons Princess Consuela Banana Hammock discussed above. There’s no harm in talking to a lawyer to be sure if that’s something the OP is interested in pursuing, but I think it’s pretty unlikely, unfortunately.

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          I’m just going to throw out “It’s pretty unlikely to be legally actionable for the reasons Princess Consuela Banana Hammock discussed above” is one of the best sentences ever written on this site.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            If she’s advising on legal matters, doesn’t that make her Princess Consuela Banana Hammock, Esquire

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I’m both, but I find all those letters/self-titles kind of obnoxious ;) I also want to emphasize that I’m not dispensing legal advice! Just explaining how negligence lawsuits work in most U.S. states.

                But on the subject of being obnoxious: In the United States, “Esquire” or “Esq.” refers to whether you’re licensed to practice law (i.e., have you passed the bar exam or “waived into” the bar for the State where you’re practicing). The J.D. just means you graduated law school. Technically you can be a J.D. who isn’t an esquire, and you can be an esquire w/o a J.D. (there are 5 states that allow you to apprentice into the bar).

          2. Lil Lamb*

            I wasn’t expecting to laugh in a comment thread like this, but Alison’s comment made me chuckle

        2. Melody Pond*

          I don’t know – in a business law class I took last year, we definitely covered tort cases where defendants were found to have violated a duty of care by not relaying messages of urgency, or standing in the way of people who were trying to relay emergency messages via telephone. Of course it’s not really my field, but the minimal level of exposure I’ve had to tort cases in two undergraduate-level classes is enough that I’m reasonably sure hurdle #1 has a chance of being cleared. Hurdle #2 might be slightly more difficult, and an attorney could obviously give better feedback, but based on the very, very little exposure I’ve had to this subject matter, I’d definitely fall in the camp of encouraging the OP to go talk to a lawyer or two (for second opinions).

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            There’s no harm in conferring with a lawyer. I just wanted to be clear that negligence cases of this nature are often hard to bring, and it may be additional grief with little actual payout for the OP.

            Most case law involving emergency messages or delivery of emergency services deal with humans and first responders (and lots of stories of fires), with some case law expanding those principles to issues involving “working” animals (think police/customs dogs, ADA dogs, farm animals). Unfortunately, most States do not treat “recreational” or “non-working” domesticated animals the same way, and the line of cases re: emergencies doesn’t really apply.

        3. Lawyer in Kentucky*

          There’s always a 3 stage analysis for any lawsuit: (1) Is there an actionable offense here (2) what are the damages, and (3) are the damages that can be recovered worth the cost and hassle and uncertainty of a suit?

          Assuming there is an actionable offense: Unless it was a race horse or another valuable animal (e.g., a stud or a brood mare with an impeccable blood line), the damages that she could get would not be worth the attorney’s fees.

          She should talk to the boss about relaying phone calls because it seems they don’t relay them promptly. There should be a policy. If not, it’s time to have one.

          Even if the answer is: we aren’t going to relay calls, it’s better to know that and operate within it than to assume something and suffer for it.

        4. Marisol*

          But what do you mean by legally actionable? Do you mean that the case would be dismissed, or that the OP would lose? If the latter, if it were me, I might sue in small claims anyway just for whatever emotional satisfaction I could get.

          1. fposte*

            If this happened in the U.S. (which I don’t think it did), you’d be limited to the value of the horse, which won’t be much for a 29-year-old horse, and you’d have to demonstrate that you wouldn’t have lost the horse without the boss’s action, which isn’t clear here at all. I understand the impulse to make the boss accountable, but I don’t think a lawsuit is likely to help, and there’s a reasonable chance it would mean the OP spends time and energy and then loses.

            1. Marisol*

              No one likes my small claims idea :(

              I realize she might not win and even if she did, the settlement would be low. And then would she even collect the judgement? Maybe not. If the goal is purely to get a monetary settlement, then suing would probably be misguided.

              I just think for me, I might feel good serving the guy with a notice to appear (or whatever it’s called when papers are served) because getting sued feels pretty bad, and I’d want the guy to feel bad. (Is there such a thing as “benign revenge”?) Years ago when I had to sue someone for damaging my car, it was a pain to stand in line at the courthouse and hire the sheriff to serve papers and all that stuff, but it wasn’t prohibitively inconvenient. And that was just for a car, not a beloved pet.

              1. Saturn9*

                Are you 5? I understand the impulse to be vindictive but being an adult sometimes means not risking one’s continued employment (and possibly future employment if it shows up in internet searches) by filing a legally baseless lawsuit for the sole purpose of making “the guy feel bad” when a conversation with the manager and his boss in the upcoming meeting could have the same outcome.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Legally actionable just means “is there a law that has been violated/broken?” And “law” refers broadly to constitutions/statutes/ordinances, as well as “common law” (i.e., rules that have been created overtime through court cases—which is what most negligence claims fall under).

            It’s kind of like when folks ask Alison if something is legal. A thing may be unethical/lousy/rotten, but it can also still be legal. When a lawyer asks if it’s legally actionable, what they’re really saying is “can I sue a person for this?”

      9. Lemon Zinger*

        I think OP would do well to do a free consultation with a lawyer. It’s possible that she could have a case against the manager.

      10. Lunchy*

        Unfortunately, I’m not sure it would do much good. Animals are (unfortunately) considered property. She couldn’t sue for the horse’s suffering because property can’t feel suffering the way humans can (according to the law). Also, it seems like we’re blaming the manager for causing the mare to suffer unnecessarily, and not singling him out as the cause of her death, so OP probably can’t sue for the value of the horse.
        This is one of those situations where the law sucks, and leaves those left behind no compensation for being wronged.

      11. eplawyer*

        Highly doubtful anything legally wrong was done.

        The horse was colicky. The vet himself didn’t want to risk the high cost due to the age of the horse. It is highly possible that even if the LW was told immediately the horse might have died anyway.

        I am very sorry for your loss, LW. Mourn for your horse. Then when you are in a different frame of mind, decide if this is a pattern with your boss or not. Also decide if you can get past it. If you can’t or its a pattern of being a twit, time to polish up the old resume.

        But don’t make any decisions while you are in mourning. You’re not just in the right frame of mind to make long term decisions that can have a huge effect on your life.

      12. Not Rebee*

        The issue here is that in a lot of ways and places, horses are considered property (in a way that is different from dogs or cats, and of course from humans). So while yes there was some negligence involved, you may not be able to sue in the same way you would if this had been a human emergency. There’s always the catch-all of “intentional infliction of emotional distress”…

        I have a friend who was hit by a car while out riding and both she and the horse suffered extensive injuries. The insurance basically paid out like the horse was a car – and equine vet bills are ridiculously large. Especially when you consider all that would have gone into that – emergency equine transport to an equine hospital, extensive surgery, a difficult recovery and monitoring process (because you can’t really put a horse on bed rest and tell it to use crutches)… she eventually had to put the horse down because the recovery itself was so difficult on the mare. Insurance basically only paid what the horse was worth – luckily a somewhat subjective number.

        As a horse person, this whole scenario is heartbreaking… I have a colic prone one myself and have done some late night vet calls. However, as someone in the legal adjacent field what I see here is not a lot of option for legal recourse. Colic is notoriously horrible – it’s the leading cause of death in horses, it basically refers to any kind of digestive distress which means it can be difficult to treat and diagnose properly even when you have a vet on hand (for example is it just a blockage or have intestines twisted etc), and even extensive and expensive surgery might not work (like any emergency surgery). As horrible as it is that he delayed, there is absolutely no guarantee that a lack of delay would have saved the horse, even if you were able to rush right into surgery – as a result, you can’t really hold him responsible for the death of the animal. Again, this is all from a legal perspective… I still think this is pretty god-awful. Perhaps you would have better luck legally pushing the emotional distress for you that has resulted from this, any vet bills for medications you would not have had the vet administer were you able to get on the phone, and possibly toss on a bit of the animal cruelty angle? Since the horse definitely did suffer unnecessarily while the vet waited for you to make a decision, and the vet likely had to give your mare something to try and keep her comfortable long after she would have if she had been able to use her own judgement going further.

        All in all, it’s super shitty. I would try and make sure that everyone knows the situation, not necessarily in a mean way but so that no one will blame you for the current standard of your work and if you choose to find employment elsewhere

      13. oh12*

        Yes! The first thing I thought was that “oops, uh… sorry” is nowhere near sufficient when an animal has died!

    1. Bexx*

      I wonder if the facility op works for reports to a state entity that regulates such a business? This may be worth reporting, even though op’s horse was not at this facility. Just a heads-up that this place is managed by someone who may not really give a s***!

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        They won’t have any regulatory oversight over the loss of her horse in another facility, but there is a strong possibility that some of the things she described in her letter- like working a shift solo that is supposed to have 3 people- would be something the state entity would like to know about.

        I would suggest she contacts them only after she has another job lined up, however.

        1. Bexx*

          Yes, maybe just something anonymous and only describing lack of safety. You’re right about after getting a new job, too.
          My sincere condolences, op. Every pet owner should at least have the option to be present in this type of situation.

    2. LavaLamp*

      I’m with you. I’d have to really retain my self control in a situation like this.

      I am so sorry for your loss, OP.
      Since your job involves working with animals, I suggest that you report your manager to what ever regulating body is in charge of what you do. It’s time for some sort of audit or investigation of this. . . person.

      I also advise you talk to a lawyer to at least see what your options are in this situation.
      Once again, I am so utterly sorry.

      1. Bexx*

        My spouse worked at two no-kill shelters. They were amazing about pet emergencies. This has me in total confusion. Even my worst boss ever would have relayed this message. I’m so enraged by this. And now they want to have a meeting? F them! I’d need a medication for that conversation.

        1. Shazbot*

          I’m left wondering if the “animal-related” business they are in is livestock slaughter for market. It would go a long way toward explaining the manager’s callous attitude.

    3. Adlib*

      I’m wondering since she said it was “animal-based” that it’s not actually working with animals – maybe supplies, food, etc. Still, even tangentially-related should mean this guy should know better. That phone rule is also ridiculous. So much rage.

    4. Wilhelmina Mildew*

      I am with you- I quite honestly do not know if I could face that manager without completely losing my shit and causing them some sort of physical harm. No more than I could if my managers negligence had caused the death of a child, spouse, parent, or other beloved family member.
      At the very least i would have quit on the spot and left them high & dry, no matter how much it harmed me financially or otherwise, because someone like that would not deserve all that I had done to help their business thrive.

  6. Mimmy*

    What a horrible situation :( Alison’s advice is right on the money. Keep it professional and factual (I know, easier said than done).

    Please keep us posted.


  7. TotesMaGoats*

    I’m so sorry for your loss. This is awful on so many levels. I think Alison’s response is the right way to go but I’d probably have blown up on my manager in that situation. I can’t even imagine.

  8. Fortitude Jones*

    Some people don’t look at animals that way, and I bet her manager is one of them, hence why he didn’t tell her immediately about the phone call because he didn’t think it was that serious. The boss is an ass and I doubt very much that if OP tries to explain that the horse was like family, boss will care. I hope I’m wrong though because this is effed up.

    1. justsomeone*

      Even so – they’re in an animal-related industry, so the manager’s jerkishness is pretty out of place for that kind of situation. He should be aware that animals are likely going to be VERY important to others at the organization.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Eh, I suspect the animal related industry is not one taking care of beloved animal. I’m thinking more milk farm or worse (where the animals are raised for meat) and not one where the animals are beloved and individualized.

        In that case the manager may not equate animal with beloved pet, like many of you seem to expect from an “animal-related industry.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah — there are plenty of animal-related industries where the entire model is based on horrible treatment of animals (meat, milk, eggs, fur, etc.).

            1. LBK*

              I think it depends on the farm and their business practices, but I’m skeptical that this is true. When you choose to put animals in terrible living conditions like that, I think you just assume a certain percentage of them will die – you calculate that the profit you lose on some of your animals dying is less than what you’d have to pay to treat them well.

                1. Golden Lioness*

                  That is horrible! I get so upset every time I see any articles or videos of animal cruelty. There was this video of this woman blow-torching a hog tied dog, burning him alive. I can’t even watch the ASPCA commercials… sigh!

                  Having said that I also get very upset with child or elderly mistreatment. It’s just heartbreaking!

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Seriously—I think if most (U.S.) folks actually saw how their (animal-based) food is made, they’d go vegan. These are industries that feed animal parts to other (herbivore) animals, impregnate livestock through use of a “rape rack,” tear the beaks off of egg-laying chickens just because, and store animals in densely packed and unsanitary conditions while packing them full of antibiotics and hormones. And that’s just the “good ones.”

                3. ANewbie*

                  Free range organic doesn’t have anything to do with most of that (and you’re talking about poultry species that have up to 15% mortality rates due to cannibalism, so if you don’t cage individually you have other problems). Usually they buy the flock as chicks and raise from that point. Free range also is poorly defined, so can even just mean they’re mostly thrown together in a big cage with a little time outside each day so they can clean out barn.

        2. Hrovitnir*

          Farming animals (including raising for meat) =/= not understanding the urgency of animal emergencies. It generally does mean not individualising the animals, but not all farms are horribly callous.

          Now, I believe the US does raise meat steers in pens or something?? But in NZ we have a huge dairy and beef industry (all cattle are free range, which is not to say that all farms treat their animals equally well), and while farmers are pretty hard about death, they’re also up at all hours helping their cows give birth and dealing with emergencies, so are extremely appreciative of the value of a vet. Many dairy and meat farmers care very much about their animals – but yes, send them off to die. You don’t have to appreciate that, but most farmers are extremely onto it with vet care (even if they would shoot a cow rather than pay a vet).

          For what it’s worth, I am extremely opposed to many aspects of intensive farming, but I take exception to painting all farmers as callous monsters.

          1. Heather*

            Most of the U.S.’s meat, dairy, eggs, etc. come from factory farms owned or run by huge corporations, where the animals are kept in horrifically overcrowded and inhumane conditions. There are smaller farmers who really do care about their animals, but they’re a super small minority :(

            I wish it was more like the way you describe New Zealand.

          2. Amadeo*

            Thank you. My mother’s side of the family is a farming family and they still raise beef cattle. Those cattle are on pasture all of the time, with sheds and barns to escape the weather. Most of our rural vets around here are mixed practice, seeing both the small pets and the livestock and have a booming business both ways.

            No, the cattle aren’t pets. The show calves or show adults might have names, but I doubt it (you just don’t name something you’ll eat later). You can’t be a decent, profitable small farmer if you don’t care for and take care of your stock, you’ll lose them and all your hard work would be for naught!

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I grew up on a small pig farm. We did name the pigs we raised for our own meat; we just knew that they’d be on our plates in a few months.

              All of our breeding stock had names, and we knew their personalities, too.

              1. Gene*

                It’s important to know the personalities of your boars and sows. Some you can take your attention off of, others not so much. Zeke panicking after Dorothy falls into the pigs wasn’t because she was going to get her dress dirty…

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  Agreed! We usually only had one boar at a time (very small operation), and most of them were pretty mellow. The sows were, too. When we had them outdoors, you could usually walk into the enclosure, and some of them would come up to you, sensing the possibility of treats and/or a good scratch.

  9. Charlotte, not NC*

    If I was expected to talk about my “change in commitment” after this, I’d be forced to point out that I can no longer trust my manager’s judgment. What happens if my sister is an a car accident? What happens if my husband has a heart attack? I can no longer assume reliability and common sense on the part of the person who controls my access to the phone. How can I get through a workday without that affecting my concentration?

    1. Amadeo*

      This is basically the root of it, I think. Like MustacheCat above, I’m not sure that relationship is something that can be repaired. My trust in my manager’s judgment would be completely shattered and with it my commitment to him/her. I’m not sure there wouldn’t have been yelling in his face on my behalf, after something like that. Probably something incoherent about how you don’t let a medical emergency wait 5 hours. WTF?

      As for advice for the requested meeting, I hope you get some good suggestions here along with Alison’s advice, OP. I’m so sorry!

      1. Lanon*

        Repaired? Hell no.

        That manager let this person’s loved pet die slowly and painfully because he cared just to little to relay a little message.

        Regardless of what happens, I’d NEVER EVER EVER trust that manager again.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      It could go even further. What if there is a safety situation? Will the manager take the time to relay that to the staff, or just wait for someone to be seriously injured?

      1. LesleyC*

        Yes! Is it really fair to give the manager power over which emergencies need immediate attention and which don’t?

        I echo the recommendation that others have made here–someone should ask this workplace to institute a formalized system of relaying messages.

    3. JMegan*

      Seriously. This “talk” with the two managers had better start with “We are so, so sorry that we screwed up in such a monumental fashion. We know that nothing we can say or do will make it better, but we will do anything we can to help you through this difficult time.”

      Anything other than that, including *any* talk about how the OP isn’t doing overtime any more or whatever, shows that the problem is much bigger than just this one missed phone message. If they are anything other than abjectly apologetic, it shows a lot about their commitment to the well-being of their staff and the animals under their care.

    4. the_scientist*

      Yeah, I think any conversation with the manager and his boss needs to drive this point home. Even if they think it’s “just an animal” (which I’m sorry, don’t make that judgement for the owner)….what would happen if a family member was in an accident, or a child was sick at school/daycare, or a loved one had to be taken to the hospital? Does the manager get to decide unilaterally what is important and what is not and when to notify employees of personal emergencies? Is there a company-wide emergency contact policy in place, since phones aren’t permitted at work? Is the manager’s boss okay with how the manager handled this situation (that’s a big red flag if they are?). I’d be hesitant to work for a manager with such appallingly poor judgment, especially if they’re allowed to make the decisions in these scenarios. Given that this is a company that works with animals, I’m also skeptical of how they view the importance of the health and well-being of the animals in their care.

      This is much bigger than a single missed phone call, and if the boss and manager don’t recognize that, I really don’t think the relationship can be repaired. I also think that the OP should really consider if this is the sort of place they want to work, especially since they seem like a good, dedicated employee.

      1. KR*

        Even if they think it’s just an animal – I’d say it’s pretty common knowledge that horses are very expensive to have in general and live very long lives. Not only are they a beloved pet but a long term investment. It’s not like the friend called up because the OPs gerbil wouldn’t eat. Not that gerbils are any less important than horses but they are a lot less expensive and live significantly shorter lives.

        1. Master Bean Counter*

          Seriously. I know people that have more money tied up in their horse than I’ve had tied up in my last three houses combined. A horse of any kind is a serious investment.

        2. Lanon*

          Even if it was because the Gerbil didn’t eat. If someone calls with an emergency, you tell the affected person and let them make the judgement of whether or not it can wait. It entirely boggles the mind to think a manager (someone who should know this stuff!) could not realize that.

        3. YawningDodo*

          While I get what you’re driving at, the comment about it not being like it was a gerbil is what makes me not want to look at this through a financial lens. I have two pet rabbits, one of which has had multiple medical emergencies, and if I find out he’s not eating he needs to be at the vet within the hour. I don’t expect other people to see monetary value in a relatively common small animal, despite what I’ve spent on vet bills. I do expect other people to have the decency to respect my personal decisions regarding my own pets’ welfare and to not prevent me from making those decisions in a timely manner.

      1. Elle*

        This literally happened to my neighbor. Her house was actually *on fire*, so we called the restaurant where she worked, and told them to let her know that her house was on fire, and that she needed to get home immediately. They thought it was a prank and did not relay the message. Thankfully someone else came up with her cell phone number shortly afterwards and got in touch with her that way. Several of the neighbors exchanged cell numbers after that incident.

          1. Elle*

            You know, I’m not sure. They moved out while their house was being rebuilt, and I didn’t think to ask her about it when they came back.

        1. Saturn9*

          The only kindness in this situation is that the person who got the call at the restaurant TOLD the caller that they thought it was a prank and would not be telling the coworker instead of responding with “Okay, I’ll let her know immediately.” and then… not doing that.

    5. OhNo*

      That is an excellent point, and OP should absolutely bring it up at the meeting. Phrasing it might be tricky, though, depending on how committed they are to preserving the working relationship. The only thing I can think if is: “After the incident with my horse, I was left with serious concerns about [manager]’s judgements, and my trust in [manager] and this company was severely shaken.” But that seems rather adversarial as an opening gambit.

      Anybody have good ideas for phrasing? Is there a non-adversarial way to say “you fucked up” to your manager?

      1. Jadelyn*

        In the circumstances, I think your phrasing is about as non-adversarial as it can get. It’s calm and relatively neutral, but there’s no real way to slap a smiley face on “your crappy judgment got my horse killed, you jerk.”

      2. Rosemary*

        I really like this phrasing, and the only thing I can think to add is to be prepared with examples (not all of them being of the ‘human being dying’ variety) of situations you fear happening in the future now. Per example above, what happens if your house is on fire? What if a friend/relative is having an emergency and needs your help (not necessarily medical)? Ask your bosses if you will need to trust your manager to decide FOR YOU whether these are ‘real emergencies’ or not.

        It may also help to ask if you ‘misunderstood’ work policy on emergency phone calls, and do you need to assume from here on that you will be 100% unreachable at work.

        Also, if they won’t bend their policy of cellphones at work, you could see if you could carry a pager, so that you’re not 100% reliant on your manager to pass on messages.

        1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

          After that, I wouldn’t CARE what the phone policy was at work, because that phone policy resulted in a death. I’d keep my phone on silent at work, but it would be on my person 100% of the time from now on. And if they had anything to say about it, I would continue to point out that their policy had resulted in an actual death, and management has shown can not be trusted to relay messages in the face of serious medical emergencies. I would refuse to sign any reprimands or write ups I got for carrying a phone, and I would continue to make it clear that this is entirely the manager’s fault and that I would not remove my phone from my person until they had a workable and foolproof system of relaying urgent or emergency messages to myself/my coworkers IMMEDIATELY upon getting them. Fuck these people!

      3. Evergreen*

        ‘If I’m going to be able to continue working here, I would need to know that should a similar situation come up in future that you are committed to handling it differently. The death of [horse’s name] has had a profoundly sad impact on me, especially knowing that the situation could have turned out differently if the message my friend had left had reached me sooner, as per her instructions. I’m committed to this company and want to continue to build a strong future here, but for us to start that process and move forward I need to make sure we’re on the same page about this incident’

        That’s what I’d say – but then I would happily consider someone laisses faire about this situation to be my adversary…

      4. Lanon*

        “You killed my horse you absolute callous jerk, I hope you’re happy knowing that your inability to relay a message killed both my 15 year loving companion and my trust in ever working with you again”

        Yes, agressive, I know. But that needs to be said.

  10. Sibley*

    OP, I am so sorry about your mare. I have a friend with a horse, and I have cats myself, so I’m well aware that they’re not just animals.

    Honestly, the thing that bothers me the most is that you say you’re in an industry that is animal based. Typically, I’d expect a person in those types of industries to care about animals in general, so the fact that your manager didn’t act on an emergency call about an animal makes me question if he should be working with animals at all.

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      That was what stood out to me. It makes me so sad that someone in a position of authority at a workplace that involves the care of animals didn’t see the urgency of this situation.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Eh, I suspect the animal based business is not one taking care of beloved animal. I’m thinking more milk farm or worse (where the animals are raised for meat) and not one where the animals are beloved and individualized.

        1. Mononymous*

          Oh no, I didn’t even think of that… Perhaps phones are banned not to prevent worker distraction, but to prevent them from taking photos or videos of the facilities/animal conditions. Ugh.

      1. TL -*

        In my defense, I grew up in a place with a lot of smaller and larger ranchers and nobody would’ve responded like this – the OP would’ve been called! (but also most people have horses and dogs themselves).

            1. Jessesgirl72*

              We primarily get our meat from a small family farm that uses the old more humane ways to kill the animals. Animals that don’t have all those panic hormones going through them when they are killed do, in fact, taste a lot better!

      2. Adlib*

        If that was the case, it doesn’t sound like OP would really be working there. I don’t want to assume, just sounds like it based on her intense love of her horse.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          People work all kinds of places that don’t necessarily line up with their ideals when they need money. OP could be in that situation or even the manager, the latter being “meh” about animals in general, but needing a paycheck.

          1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

            I love animals and would rather be homeless than take any job where animals are harmed. My father once told me that when he was young, he got a job at a slaughterhouse and didn’t last a week because it sickened him so badly, and it’s not like jobs were thick on the ground during the Depression. Unless OP speaks up to confirm otherwise, I am *also* going to have a really hard time assuming that someone who loves animals that deeply would sell their integrity for a paycheck.

  11. Hermione*

    I’m so, so sorry. Even if we assume the best of your manager (carelessness) this is a terrible situation and I could still see you not wanting to continue working for him.

    I like Alison’s wording here, but (and this probably depends on how much you need to keep your job) I don’t think you would be remiss if emotions got the better of you and you instead went with “I know you want to talk about my performance this past (week or month or whatever). Honestly, I am hurt and angry by your actions (inaction) on x date. I’ve been an excellent worker for this company for x years, covered shifts, worked weekends and overtime, and you ignored an emergency phone call regarding my horse for three hours and have yet to explain adequately why? At best you prolonged the suffering of my horse and denied me the opportunity to be there when she passed; at worst, you stopped me from giving the vet permission to save her life. I’m devastated that she passed, but more than that I am hurt and angry with you, and it’s clearly bleeding over to my work.” And see what they say.

    Good luck.

    1. Turtlewings*

      Honestly, this response is even more satisfying to me than Alison’s — even if Alison’s less-emotional approach might be wiser. I definitely feel like it’s important to make it clear to your boss that the pointless and dishonest delay has shattered your trust in him and severely affected your ability to work there. (The dishonesty is so startling to me–it would be one thing if he said he couldn’t give you the message until your break, but he said he would do it immediately and apparently never even planned to. There’s just no excuse for that.)

      1. Hermione*

        Good call. I was having trouble ending the statement, but maybe instead of that last line I’d say “I’m devastated that she passed, but more than that I am hurt and angry with you because you both ignored that phone call and lied to my friend about passing on the message immediately, affecting how they moved forward with her treatment. My trust in you has been broken, and I’m unsure how to move forward.”

        That said, this is in the realm of “I don’t want to repair this relationship/I don’t care if I keep my job.”

          1. Anonymonster*

            This is great and reflects the gravity of the situation.

            I’d close it with asking the head manager if s/he could reassign me to a different manager.

        1. iseeshiny*

          “…and also I hate you forever and I hope everything you love crumbles into dust before you through the carelessness of others, leaving you without comfort or recourse.”

          Ok maybe not that.

      2. KarenD*

        I agree this is a very satisfying response. I’m just not sure that the boss will see it that way. In fact, I think it’s probably not safe to assume that the boss — at least, the immediate boss, Mr. Phone-Call-What-Phone-Call — views ANYTHING the same way the OP does.

        Based on the fact that they want to talk to her about her diminished commitment to the job, it seems likely to me that they thought of the weekends, holidays and overtime as a basic part of the OP’s duties, along with the initiative to do things she wasn’t directly tasked to do. They may see it as “that’s what we were paying OP for.” It’s not a good or smart attitude to have, but it’s definitely inside the realm of possibility.

        On the other hand, it may well be that HIS boss didn’t realize the extent to which Mr. PCWPC was taking advantage of OP. And it certainly could be that Upper Boss didn’t realize exactly how badly PCWPC mangled the situation with the horse, or that one bad screwup by him is basically costing their company someone who, by any standards, was a pretty darn good employee. And yeah, it’s the past tense, because I don’t think I could work at a place like that either.

        1. Emma*

          it seems likely to me that they thought of the weekends, holidays and overtime as a basic part of the OP’s duties, along with the initiative to do things she wasn’t directly tasked to do.

          I was just coming to add this. And honestly, that’s one reason I think people need to be very strategic about what extra work/shifts/overtime they pick up, and especially not do it every time – people tend to think that if they become the go-to person, they’ll be extra valuable as a worker, but what they’re really doing is just normalizing that, just making it part of their standard job. And so then you end up with things like this, where it seems like the bosses are “concerned” that OP has dropped back to doing baseline work, because her “normal” is picking up all the extra work and so baseline work seems like slacking.

          I kind of think OP should be prepared for a really rocky discussion, and should be prepared, in addition to the bosses not seeing the phone call the same way, for them to not see her as going above and beyond. (Which, to be clear, she has been, but I’m not sure they see that.)

    2. TootsNYC*

      Me too–pointing out that YOU made an emotional commitment to them in your willingness to cover extras, work hard, etc., etc., is important, I think.

      And that it was made very clear to you that your manager has no return loyalty or consideration or commitment to YOU. So while you are certainly doing what is required of you, you have no incentive to go above and beyond anymore. And that if “going above and beyond” is something they think they’re entitled to, that’s important for you to know, because it affects your opinion of their suitability as employers.

      You’ve gone above and beyond, and he couldn’t walk over and find you right after a phone call about a sick animal.

      And that fact that you work in an animal-focused endeavor just makes that WORSE. To him, your horse should have been a living being who needed care, not a possession that needed repair.

      1. Irish Em*

        To him, your horse should have been a living being who needed care, not a possession that needed repair. SO MUCH THIS.

        Having said that, if in his mind one’s horse is considered a possession, the nearest coparison I could make is “If my car was on fire would you refuse to tell me?” Because a car would be a similar financial investment (and I say that as someone who knows the value of €500 bangers as well as €X00,000 Maseratis) even if it’s not got the emotional connection that one has with a horse (and I say *that* as someone who names and talks to cars!).

        OP’s emotional investment in the company benefitted management, management decided (or didn’t consciously decide but allowed to happen) the weight of importance on an emergency for OP, rather than let OP decide what the weight of importance was. And that *shatters* trust. So management has noticed the knock-on effect of OP’s loss, I can only hope that Manager’s Boss understands the enormity of manager’s abuse of trust more than manager seems to.

        Wishing only good things to OP.

    3. March(e)*

      This script is awesome.

      Op, you mention your manager and his manager want to talk. I have to wonder if your grand-manager knows about what happened to your horse. Saying this in the meeting would be beneficial, I think – if they don’t know about your manager’s negligence, then presenting the facts like this could definitely have a big impact on what happens.

      1. hbc*

        I would definitely go in assuming the grand-manager doesn’t know. If manager thinks the death of the horse is NBD, then it hasn’t even occurred to him that it’s relevant. On the other hand, if he does think it’s relevant, there’s a good chance he undersold his role in the whole thing.

        1. March(e)*

          That’s exactly what I’m thinking. If the manager waited so long to tell her and doesn’t seem phased that that decision caused her horse suffering, he probably isn’t going to tell his manager that. It was probably more a blase “Hey manager, [employee]’s pet died and ever since she hasn’t been doing very good work” and less “I waited to tell [employee] a message about her horse and she seems upset ever since”.

          I feel like manager and grand-manager are planning to discuss the change in her work and that grand-manager is missing big chunks of the story.

      2. Golden Lioness*

        And who knows? maybe the grand boss is a rational, good person and the meeting is so they can apologize and repair the relationship, though I’d personally would have a hard time after the way things went down.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      I do really like this script, but I know – personally – there’s no way I could say this while sounding calm/rational/not-crying.

      So just keep that in mind if you’re hoping to repair your relationship. I think it’s good for you to have a conversation with your manager so they know where you stand and your concerns about them…

      I don’t really think it’s good for you to scream-cry a FEELINGSBOMB at them. (Which again, I have no clue if that’s something you’d do; I just know it’s something I’d be at risk of doing!)

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The script is wonderful if you’re planning to quit or otherwise need catharsis in the form of a sound telling-off, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you have any interest in staying with your company/job (although it sounds like it would feel extremely satisfying to get off your chest). So OP, I think your approach really turns on what MustacheCat identified—are you still interested in trying to preserve whatever professional relationship is left between you and your manager/employer? If so, go with Alison’s script. If you’ve taken a step back and evaluated that you’re ready to take a match and burn that bridge down, then go with Hermione’s thoughtful and straightforward script.

    6. Golden Lioness*

      Love this response! At this point, being an animal lover myself I’d be seriously considering quitting.

    7. Rose*

      Excellent! I would add:

      1. Print it out in letter format and ask them if you can read it out loud to them (if you need to, i.e., you feel emotional or they are wildly irrational)

      2. Add: “I have always respected the rule to not have employees have phones in the sheds. However, implicit in this rule is that the workplace behaves honorably and relays emergency messages to the employee right away. Any call that someone feels is important to call the workplace to relay to us needs to be done immediately, and the message taker cannot judge whether the messages are worthy or not. If there is a pattern of someone abusing the system, I understand needing to address that. However, in this case, we have a system in place to protect the safety and well-being of the animals, but employees should also be able to trust that they can be reached in an emergency.”

    8. Wilhelmina Mildew*

      I would say it whether I needed the job or not (that is if I had not actually quit on the spot, and wasn’t in jail for physically assaulting the manager after my beloved companion died due to his gross negligence) because a highly valued employee like LW can afford to speak the unvarnished truth. Their manager & manager’s boss KNOW people like LW do not grow on trees and they are going to have a very, VERY hard time replacing them, if they can even find anyone else at all with that kind of work ethic. They are going to be VERY loathe to fire them for any reason other than them doing something blatantly egregious and rule breaking. I’d be VERY willing to gamble on that fact, and if I ended up fired over it? Well, I can get unemployment, and another job, even other housing if it came down to it, but that business is going to be screwed without me, and they are going to be hurting far worse than I will while they scramble to try and replace me with someone who was willing to work even half as hard.
      My late MIL was the same type of hard, loyal worker as LW and ended up getting fired from her job (and in her 50s, it was the first time she had EVER been let go from a job in any way) for making a mistake (can’t remember what it was now, sorry) that was not terribly serious and that at worst, she should have gotten a write up for. Joke was on them, however, when they had to hire three- that’s correct, THREE- people to do the same amount of work she (one person) did, and she got a much better, higher paying job almost immediately.

  12. JudeM*

    This is an awful thing to have happened and your manager should be ashamed of himself. I’m afraid I don’t have much in the way of constructive advice, but I do want to say that your feelings are completely valid and anyone who uses (or even thinks) the phrase ‘it was only a horse/animal’ is completely out of line and has obviously never lost a beloved pet (of any species).

  13. Zencat*

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I am and I work with some very committed folks who volunteer with rescue – both human and animal. I couldn’t imagine a scenario where my boss (and I work in a financial industry, nothing to do with animals at all) would be so callous. I, too, cannot imagine how this could be repaired… yikes.

  14. Colorado*

    As a fellow avid horsewoman, I would have lost it on my manager. I’m so sorry. You must tell him what Alison said and let him stew in it. Then decide your next step. I can’t imagine working for someone I’ve lost all respect for. And you say what you do is animal based? He should have known better. There is no excuse for forgetting(?) to relay an emergency phone call.

  15. Lamington*

    I’m so sorry to hear, hugs OP. My dog is part of my family and I would be furious and devastated if she suffered just because my manager didn’t feel this was an emergency.

  16. March(e)*

    Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry. What a horrible situation.

    OP, I agree with Alison in that you should take time to think over this whole mess and consider whether or not you can continue to work for and with this manager. I know that I personally wouldn’t be able to.

  17. Episkey*

    I am appalled at the careless attitude taken by your manager when you work in ANIMAL RELATED INDUSTRY.

    Of any kind of workplace, you would think the managers/employees in this kind would understand MORE the bond people have with their animals and the importance of emergency vet care.

    I would be furious and horribly upset as well. I don’t really have any advice, but I’m not sure this is something that can be repaired.

  18. Marcy Marketer*

    I’m so sorry this happened to you! I think you could add, at the end of Alison’s script and in the same conversation with your manager and his manager, “I am having a hard time going the extra mile in terms of taking on overtime or working longer than I’ve been scheduled because I feel like the company didn’t go the extra mile for me in a personal situation that would have made a world of difference in the suffering of my beloved pet.” You can tell then that you previously felt a bond of trust, which is why you were happy to help out in a pinch, but now you’re not sure your workplace would be willing to help you out in a pinch, and it’s made you feel differently.

    If they have any integrity, at this point, they would apologize profusely and swear that in the future, they’ll get you right away. You can also maybe try and convince them to let you have your phone in the shed?

    1. blackcat*

      It’s not that she’s not sure her workplace would be willing to help her out in a pinch, it’s that *they have proven that they will not.*

    2. Heather*

      It’s not even that the company didn’t go the extra mile for her – the manager couldn’t even be bothered to take the first step!

      I need the rage emoji for this. OP, I am so sorry. Just reading your story made me feel sick. I hope you have the option to get away from this manager, whether via internal move or a whole new company.

        1. Lora*

          Absolutely they need to pay the vet bill! Horse vet bills run into the many thousands even for relatively simple things and regular checkups/dentistry/farrier visits. I can’t imagine that OP has less than a $5000 vet bill coming due to her boss’ idiocy.

        2. DevAssist*

          ABSOLUTELY. Animals (especially horses) are incredibly expensive to care for. The manager acted in a negligent way that harmed the OP’s emotional well-being. The LEAST they could do is pay the vet bill and give OP a couple days off.

        3. Jenbug*

          That makes no sense. The vet would have been there even if the manager passed the message along immediately and the OP would be required to pay it.

          1. Kyrielle*

            The vet was there, as I read it, the whole three hours they waited for a callback. Admittedly had OP been told and decided for the surgery, it would have cost more, but had OP been told right away and amde the sad decision to have the horse put down anyway, it would have probably cost less. I cannot imagine there is no charge for the vet staying around providing palliative care to the horse for three hours.

            1. Jenbug*

              That makes sense. If that’s the case, it might not be completely out of line to ask the manager to cover the costs associated with those three hours, but it seemed like others were advocating for the manager to pay the entire bill.

              1. Kyrielle*

                I think theyprobably probably are, and I admit I want to because of my outrage at what the manager did (or more accurately, didn’t do) – as a sort of proxy charge for the emotional pain. But I suspect the “extra” charge (for the drugs/supplies in the palliative care and the vet’s additional time) is the most that can be hoped for in reality.

              2. TL -*

                The vet might not charge too much – a lot of times, if the owner is particularly distraught or something terrible like this happens, they’ll knock off the bill.

              3. Heather*

                Per the update today, the company did in fact pay the vet bill. Definitely not something they were legally required to do, but proof that they’re very decent people :)

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Ooo, I like this addendum. It could also be phrased as “I feel the company didn’t [exercise basic courtesy / do the bare minimum] for me in a personal situation . . .”

    4. Emma*

      Just – seriously, OP, if you go with some form of the “I’ve gone the extra mile for the company” thing, be prepared to discover your bosses don’t consider all that extra stuff above and beyond, especially if you’re always the one who covers. If you normally go above and beyond, a lot of bosses kind of reset their baseline expectations, and so anything less than that extra mile becomes slacking.

      Not saying that’s absolutely the case, but I’m getting a whiff of that attitude from them in the letter, and I’ve seen it happen way too often to not at least think it’s likely. So be prepared to hear your bosses don’t think you’re that exceptional, and prepare some responses just in case. (I’m no help there – the last time that happened to me I up and quit on the spot, which is not necessarily the best thing to do.)

    5. Wilhelmina Mildew*

      It’s not even that her company “didn’t go the extra mile” their manager did not even live up to the smallest, the easiest, the least exacting and most minimal standards of BASIC HUMAN DECENCY.

  19. Cranky Pants*

    I’m so upset for you, OP. I honestly don’t know how you could ever stand to look at him again let alone be civil. I know I couldn’t.

    If you think you’re going to have trouble holding it together, I would think about speaking to his manager privately before agreeing to meet with both of them. I would also be sure to mention what you said about your work history and commitment to the job before getting into the details of what happened (your paragraph that starts with Our industry (which is animal-based)… would be a good start). In case it’s not clear, explain how your horse suffered, the burden put upon your friend and your vet not to mention the anguish I am sure you must feel as a result of his incredibly insensitive actions (or lack of) at at time when he had nothing else for you to do. In short, you’ve given your all to this company under this manager and you are trying to find a way to understand how you could have been treated in such a callous way and it’s left you with far less motivation and commitment to it than you once had.

    I commend you for sticking it out. You are a stronger person than I could ever be in that situation.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Agreed. I was just wondering what the OP could do for support in the meeting. Meeting directly with the manager’s manager is a great idea. I doubt the grand-manager even knows what happened, or only knows some vague store that the manager told.

      1. JMegan*

        I know some people find it helpful to print out supportive threads from the internet (like this one!), and literally put it in their pocket when they go into meetings like this. Not that we can offer any sort of concrete support when you’re actually in there, but sometimes it’s nice to have the reminder that there are people on your side.

        Good luck, OP, whatever you decide.

        1. KR*

          +1 We are all on your side OP. I’ve had to call out of work to get my dog to the vet and my roommate occasionally has to keep in close contact (keeping my phone on me, looking at updates from my roommates) when my dog isn’t feeling good since he’s older. I’d be so mad if my work gave me a hard time about it.

    2. Em Too*

      Yes – I’d assume grandboss has no idea, and seems easier to have that conversation *not* in a discussion about your performance. If nothing else you’ll have a better idea of how to handle that meeting.

  20. Tiny _Tiger*

    I’m so sorry OP, that is absolutely horrible! Professionalism be damned in this situation, I would’ve been out for blood if this had been me. I wouldn’t care if it just “slipped” your manager’s mind (how could something expressed with that much urgency even slip someone’s mind to begin with?!), this is completely unacceptable! What if this had been an instance with a human family member (yes, I consider animals and pets as family members), would he have prioritized notifying you any more efficiently? I think it safe to say that it is completely justified for your trust in your manager to be irreparable and for you to quit.

  21. Big10Professor*

    I don’t know if it’s helpful to jump to the worst possible conclusion about the manager and his motivations. It’s possible he was dealing with other things, couldn’t immediately locate the OP, etc. Obviously the situation sucks, but people make mistakes that aren’t necessarily malicious.

    1. my two cents*

      If you’re going to restrict your employees’ access to a phone during the day, its now your responsibility as the communication-controller to forward messages in a timely fashion. Had the manager said “oh, OP can call you back over lunch” i’m quite certain the friend would have made the importance known. Instead, the manager listened to the friend (who most obviously sounded rushed/intense/emotional) and told the friend that it would be relayed immediately…and then he didn’t.

      You’re never ‘too busy’ to NOT relay an emergency phone call when you are in the communication-controlling position. And I think the malicious ‘insult to injury’ is that they’re trying to corner her for a sit-down meeting with boss’s boss about no longer wanting to work overtime.

      1. KR*

        If we have employees who don’t seem to be able to put their phones down we always tell them, “If you can’t resist looking at your phone, keep it in your locker or your car. If you need to be in close contact with someone, give them the store number for emergencies and we’ll pass along messages/pull you off whatever you’re doing to talk to them.” And most of the time, if it’s not an emergency we don’t get calls but if we do get emergency calls they are acted on immediately.

      2. Lizabeth*

        This +1

        Back before cell phones, at my former place of employment, the owner “decided” that everyone was on the phone too much so the receptionist had to take messages. We all got beepers to make sure we got our calls in a timely manner. Me because I was reffing volleyball at the time and my assigners needed to be able to get in touch with me quickly.

      3. KellyK*

        Yes, absolutely. Removing the employee’s access to a phone makes you the communications gatekeeper. You need to actually relay information about sick pets, sick kids, car accidents, and doctor phone calls in a timely fashion, or come up with an alternate system that allows that communication to happen. If neither of those things is possible (like, you work in some highly classified location on a military base or somewhere that cell phones will affect equipment), then you needed to inform people that, as a condition of their job, they’ll be out of communication for hours at a time, that you have no way to relay emergency info in a timely fashion, and that they need to come up with alternate emergency contacts for pets, children, or elderly family members. There are probably a few professions where that truly is the case. Nobody’s going to interrupt brain surgery even if the doctor’s kid is in the hospital, but the doctor knows this and has probably made other arrangements. For someone who’s not in one of those professions, not relaying emergency messages is really irresponsible.

        1. Chinook*

          ” and that they need to come up with alternate emergency contacts for pets, children, or elderly family members. There are probably a few professions where that truly is the case. Nobody’s going to interrupt brain surgery even if the doctor’s kid is in the hospital, but the doctor knows this and has probably made other arrangements.”

          DH was on base self-defense and is now a cop. For both of those cases, there will be times where he either a)cannot answer the phone or b)the phone ringing could actually cause problems so it is not on nor is it anywhere near him. Add to the mix that some of those times may be when I need/want to get in touch with him (think terrorist attack on the city where we lived or I get sick at the same time he is talking down bad guy with lethal weapon). We talked this out and came up with a system early on that involves leaving messages and not resenting or second guessing decisions made in our absence. If we had kids, you better believe that they would be given an alternative emergency contact with parental authority to make immediate decisions for those times when there isn’t time to wait. It comes with the job description and having those discussions before things go sideways helps.

          1. KellyK*

            Yep, those are the kinds of situations I’m thinking of, and I like your system. It doesn’t sound like the nature of OP’s work is such that she’d normally need those kinds of plans, but if things don’t change after the conversation with her boss and grand-boss, she should probably make them as applicable (while job-hunting).

    2. CanadianKat*

      The manager actually said that he was going to tell the OP 5 hours after the call. So he clearly didn’t think it was an emergency, or even if it was, the make-busy task of cleaning walkways was more important. Any decent person would have tried his best to let her know immediately and let her take a break (or at the very least call the vet if the OP’s job was so vitally urgent). If it slipped his mind (How can someone’s family emergency slip your mind? Only if he had his own family emergency that day is that any excuse.), or he didn’t try hard enough to find her, or anything else, – any decent person would be apologizing like a maniac, not just: “oh well, it’s only been 3 hours, and I was going to tell you within 5, so what?”

      Nope, he’s just a horrible person. No way around it.

      1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

        I have severe- and I mean crippling- ADHD (among other things) that affect my memory in bizarre and sometimes extremely confusing way- I can and have forgotten things that are EXTREMELY important, like the kind of thing people yell HOW COULD YOU FORGOT SOMETHING LIKE THAT?!?! because normal, non-neurodivergant people just *don’t*…and I would have been tripping over my own feet running to find LW to let them know there was an emergency the moment I set down that phone. And if horror of horrors I *DID* forget- I would be dying a million personal deaths in my heart for having failed my employee like that and falling all over myself to apologize. I would have probably ended up driving them home myself out of abject shame. Luckily the vast majority of my major glitches have only really affected *me*, but when my error, even a legitimately medically induced one, does affect someone else, I feel like a piece of dirt and not only sincerely apologize but do whatever I can to make amends for it.

    3. Lissa*

      I agree — he might be an idiot, not a monster — but I don’t think it really matters. When you screw up this badly in a way that has this type of consequence, even if it was just a mistake it’s still hugely horrific and you need to take responsibility. It would be one thing if the manager had explained and sincerely apologized, showing appropriate regret (and even then the OP would still be justified in being upset and angry — some things are just too big for an “I’m sorry”) but that does not remotely seem to be the case.

      Like Alison said I think the OP is the one best placed to judge what exactly the character flaw is that led to this behavior, but regardless of why, he caused a really awful thing to happen. and it doesn’t sound like something happened immediately after the phone call so he forgot, but rather that he decided it wasn’t important enough to do so. like, I agree focusing on how much the manager sucks and is the worst person ever is unlikely to be productive, but I think it’s just posters doing that not, not the OP. :)

    4. AnotherAlison*

      I would like more information on how the friend relayed the message and the urgency to the manager. I can’t imagine anyone thinking, “Oh, I’ll tell OP at lunch,” if they truly understood it was an emergency. I also can’t imagine the friend saying anything that did not adequately communicate the urgency of the situation, so I’m really perplexed here.

      It’s a sad situation, though. I’m sorry the OP lost her horse, and that it had to happen like this.

      [The best I can imagine is a situation like when you have an emergency you need to communicate to the Emergency Contact, but there is nothing the Emergency Contact can do right away; they just need to know and attend to the situation in a non-time sensitive way. Like the time my barn was broken into and all my husband’s stuff was stolen. He was out of town and flying home, so I didn’t tell him immediately (what can you do on a plane), but I planned to tell him as soon as he landed. Obviously that WAS NOT the OP’s situation, but I can see where someone could interpret it to be a case like that if all communication was not clear.]

    5. anonderella*

      I want to see where you’re coming from, but… Um, no. We already know he ‘planned to tell OP around lunchtime’, and that ‘since he didn’t have anything better for OP to do, he had OP spraying sidewalks’.

      I would not want to work for a company that prioritized its normal business over my personal-life emergencies; even on that business’ worst operation day. Even if the business was crashing, a good manager would have sent OP either home or to a private-ish space to handle whatever OP needed, and found another way to work around OP’s absence. And if the nature of OP’s job is that necessary, then they should be allowed to carry their own phones at work, so prioritize their own workloads against personal emergencies.
      ***in any case, barring grievous mass injury to the the human employees or animals at OP’s workplace, there is NO excuse for the manager to not have gone to find OP***

      Dude, the building better be on fire if my manager can’t come find me to tell me there is a personal emergency.
      And if my *pet/best friend* is in need of a life-saving measure that only I can provide, and my manger *knows this!!!* – I can’t even; must stop here.

      this is malicious at worst; thoughtless and in need of immediate action from yon high at the very, very best – and that thoughtlessness deserves punitive action. Egregious mistakes still get punished – I don’t see how you could even argue against this when the outcome was the death of a family member.

    6. Cranky Pants*

      I’m trying to put myself in his shoes and imagine taking that phone call. I can’t think of any normal scenario where I wouldn’t immediately RUN to the employee and tell her about the call.

      Malicious? Perhaps not, but it isn’t just a simple mistake either.

    7. Marisol*

      I think it’s possible that it slipped his mind and then he lied about it to make it sound like an intentional strategy rather than a mistake. But regardless, I don’t think there’s really an excuse for this. I often like to push back on outrage culture, and I wish that people would be more forgiving and tolerant of mistakes, so in other situations I might agree with you, but not in this case. I think you bring up a point worth considering though.

  22. LawCat*

    I’m horrified!! I’m so sorry, OP. I’d be in a RAGE! I would be quite tempted to, in addition to Alison’s script, say exactly what you said about yourself. “I’ve worked every hour of overtime, every holiday, every weekend, and every other gap [manager] has needed me to work. I’ve worked shifts solo which normally require two or three people because he couldn’t get anyone else. I’ve never taken a day of sick leave in the three years I’ve been with my company. I’ve never been late. I needed half an hour to talk with the vet and make a plan. I would have happily worked through my breaks if it meant I’d been able to sort it out quickly.” And add, “But again, because that didn’t happen, my horse is dead and suffered in pain for hours. I admit that manager not immediately alerting me about a dire personal emergency may be impacting my willingness to work extra shifts when the company is finding itself short staffed.”

    I’m so upset for you OP!

    God, I would really just hope they would fired me.

    1. Tiny _Tiger*

      I don’t know if I would even bring up the impact on her willingness to work the way she used to. If they can’t make the connection between the (disgraceful) negligence of her manager to alert her and her unwillingness to help them out, it will be very telling of how they operate.

      1. Cranky Pants*

        It should be obvious to the manager but we’re not dealing with someone who has a firm grasp of the obvious…obviously.

        She needs to make those points very clear for the manager’s manager so they understand the situation fully.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, OP, you already have your script.

      Print it out. Read it off.

      Also: refuse to accept the tiniest bit of criticism about working extra shifts. The ONLY place they have credibility to criticize you is if you are doing a truly crap job at your basic duties.

      And look at this: They don’t have staffing. What will they do if they drive you away? I guess if you leave, they’ll have to stop being lazy and find someone to take the shifts for good, but…

      1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

        The ONLY place they have credibility to criticize you is if you are doing a truly crap job at your basic duties.
        And I am going to emphasize, that exactly what is required of you and nothing extra is not the same as “doing a truly crap job”.

  23. Fabulous*

    This is a horrible situation. OP, I don’t know if things can be repaired, but your manager doesn’t seem to comprehend the situation at all. I think a more direct approach might be better for him to fully understand that his actions had dire consequences; Alison’s wording might be too soft in this instance. What about this:

    “Because you failed to notify me of the situation, I find I am holding you responsible for my horse’s suffering and death. While I understand her death might have been inevitable, if you had acted as you told my friend you would, her suffering could have ended hours earlier. Obviously, I am devastated at what happened. I lost my trust in you that day and I’m finding it hard right now to muster the incentive to work, but I hope that my long track record of high performance will give me some room to work through this.”

  24. Dust Bunny*

    I’m actually getting dizzy reading this. I think I need to go look at pictures of my cats until my blood pressure returns to normal.

    That you work in an animal-related industry and your manager didn’t think this was important is horrifying. (Please tell me this is not a boarding kennel? Because I hate to think how they would treat a client’s ill pet.) I wish I had any advice to give you but I don’t, both because my supervisor is a reasonable person and a pet lover who would have sent me home immediately to deal with this, and because I would have GONE BALLISTIC on a manager who pulled such a thing.

    1. Honeybee*

      Jeez, this is why I’m afraid of boarding kennels. I would hate to leave my dog at a place where the manager thinks it’s appropriate to wait until breaks or convenient times to let people know about animal emergencies.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        The one where we’ve always boarded our pets has always been very reliable, or at least, as reliable as we need them to be since nothing has ever gone wrong for us. But they’ve been good about giving our elderly dogs all their pills, etc., and other tedious things. They even let us set up an advance plan between the kennel and our vet in case our 16-year-old dog died (of old age, I mean) unexpectedly and they couldn’t reach us right away because we were overseas, so they wouldn’t have to wait until they acted.

    2. anonderella*

      I know; I’m going to drive home at lunch to pet my cat. My apt is having people come spray for bugs today, so now I’m all nervous she’s going to get into something.

  25. Michele*

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I don’t mean to bring this up in a harsh way, but would you consider legal action?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Eh, I think there’s a decent chance that she actually doesn’t, depending on the state. There’s no harm in talking to a lawyer if that’s something she wants to pursue, of course, but it’s not a slam dunk for the reasons others have pointed out.

        1. Angry animal lover*

          Fair enough. I was thinking of “emotional trauma” more than anything else, but you’re right, from state to state it might be pretty much nothing. Ugh. I have what my husband likes to refer to as “an overdeveloped sense of justice” and so I would really like to see SOMETHING happen to the manager over this…

          1. fposte*

            Suits for that aren’t as common as they’re portrayed; it’s usually for something egregiously horrible like your child died in front of your eyes. And even then the trauma has to be financially quantified–what did it actually cost you in money?

            I’m with you on the desire to see the manager punished; I just don’t think the courts are likely to offer much here.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Horses are often regarded as livestock and their “value” is market value only, which will be pretty much nil for an elderly horse. (I don’t know if maybe the vet bills, if she can demonstrate that delay cost her more, would give her more clout.)

        1. Natalie*

          Just for clarification, the law regards all animals this way, livestock or otherwise. Their value in a legal or insurance claim is simply cost, no sentimental or emotional value.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        As discussed upthread, it’s actually highly unlikely that the OP has a case.

        1. Angry animal lover*

          Yeah, sorry, I somehow managed to gloss right over the upthread discussion and see this one.

        2. Melody Pond*

          I don’t know, I’d bet OP’s chances of having a case are more in the realm of 50/50 than “highly unlikely.” Not a slam dunk by any means, but enough that talking to an attorney or two might be worth it.

          Of course, for me, I’d definitely be in the position where my trust in my manager was shattered beyond repair, and I’d be going into this “talk” with the manager and his manager ready to say so, and needing to end my employment there as a result. Talking to an attorney or two would just be the next step.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I mean, I have no idea if this case is actionable where OP is located (which sounds like Oz/NZ), but if it were filed in the U.S., it’s nowhere near a 50/50 chance of success. That said, as you, Alison and others have noted, there’s no harm in OP consulting with an attorney.

  26. LeRainDrop*

    I am so sorry for the loss of your horse and for his suffering. By the end of reading that, I was physically upset and angry on your behalf. I hope your manager or, if not him, his manager has some compassion for you with this terrible outcome. I agree with Alison’s advice.

  27. Lora*

    Oh my god, I am so, so terribly sorry. Please accept the condolences of an internet stranger. Truly, it’s heartbreaking. Horses have such a deep bond with you, it’s a powerful feeling of spiritual connection – there’s nothing like it.

    I don’t know how I would be able to continue working for such a person. Truly, I would be LIVID and soothing my anger only with fantasies of ripping out my boss’ throat with my bare hands. I don’t even know what to compare it to for non-horse people; it’s like a beloved close sibling dying. I personally would never be able to recover the relationship with the boss. It would be absolutely unforgivable. And I know exactly what you mean about the extra money – any “thank you” that came out of my mouth would be followed by a silent mental “…but you’re still the a-hole who killed my horse.”

    Honestly, if the boss and grandboss have anything to say other than “we are so terribly sorry for your loss and I know it cannot possibly make up for your pain but here is a check for $30,000 for a new horse and a flexible schedule for training and we have decided this policy of no phones in sheds is stupid and we are now letting anyone have any phone anywhere”, I would be looking for another job.

    1. Sharon*

      I feel this way also: “Truly, I would be LIVID and soothing my anger only with fantasies of ripping out my boss’ throat with my bare hands.”

      In early August, I lost my male greyhound to bone cancer in his spine. It’s a long story that I won’t tell here, but he had a total neurological collapse in the veterinary neurologists office, in extreme pain before I could get the vet and get some doggy morphine into him (and then make the decision to end his pain). I was in agony with him because for 15 minutes I could do nothing but try to keep him calm and tell him to wait until the vet got there, and it was the longest most painful time of my 53 years of life. The only “bright spot” in the whole horrible experience was that I was there for him and he didn’t suffer and die alone. The vets did the best they could as fast as they could and I don’t fault them at all. It hasn’t affected my work, but I have just a huge amount of rage against God/The Universe that I’m trying to work through. I mean RAGE. I’m LIVID at the world for abusing my sweet boy that way.

      So yeah, in the OP’s shoes I would not be able to restrain myself from violence.

      1. Tiny _Tiger*

        I’m right there with you. I get enraged just seeing newspaper reports about abused animals to the point where my hands start shaking. This situation would’ve been hopeless from the start. I definitely wouldn’t be able to be in the same room with the manager afterward and not reply scathingly to every request.

        1. Biff*

          I’ve come to accept that kind of sadism, violence and sheer evil my mind comes up with when it comes to dog beaters (my word for it, but it covers cats, horses, sneks, etc) scares me. I’m not asking for all pet owners to be perfect, but when someone actively makes the decision to cause an animal pain or suffering for no good reason, I think they lose their personhood, and I cease to care one iota about what happens to them. Zilch, nada.

  28. memoryisram*

    I am so, so sorry about this. If the meeting with the managers is anything other than “we’re so sorry” (and tbh, even if it is), I think it’s time to move on. If they seem understanding, maybe they would be able to provide a reference, etc?

  29. anonderella*

    This was very hard to read – OP, you have all my sympathies, and all my hugs.

    Your manager acted inconceivably recklessly, especially considering the responsibility he had there. Continuing to work with him would definitely make me think twice about letting him be the intercept point to my emergency situations. It must feel so heartbreakingly let down to have had that trust broken, and there is little comparison to this kind of loss. I would have an incredibly hard time keeping it together if called into a meeting with my manager and grandmanager, especially if put in the position to defend my heartbrokenness and grief. I hope they treat you reasonably; scratch that, I really hope they express mortified apologies and offer some token of reparation.

    I just can’t imagine what would make your manager treat someone who sounds like an all-star at work so thoughtlessly. The more I think about it, that seems to be the crux of the problem, how he responded to *an* (read: any) emergency (though the outcome is really where I am seeing red about your manager). If possible, maybe you could try to focus on that aspect in your meeting – not by any means to compare, but what if this had been a child or parent in need of your help? To me, what happened is just as unforgivable. I would be both devastated and outraged, and so betrayed that I wouldn’t know what to do. I think AAM may be right about finding a new place to work.

    I hope someone else has something more substantive to add – my sincerest best wishes for you, and condolences for your wonderful animal companion. *internet hugs* (also *incessant internet face smacks* for your rude, thoughtless manager.)

  30. Marisol*

    I am so very sorry for your loss OP. If I were in your shoes, I would welcome the chance to talk to the big boss and explain what happened. I think any reasonable person would feel great sympathy for you and while you manager is obviously an awful person, maybe his manager is not and will be horrified to hear what happened just like we are. Big boss should know how his manager treats his direct reports. In my company, if something like this happened, it the manager’s reputation would be hurt. Honestly it makes me wonder if the guy is psychopathic.

    As far as how to address it, either with the manager or with the big boss, I would say that while certain things are always unprofessional (yelling, swearing) I don’t see anything inherently unprofessional about calmly stating your feelings and assessment of the situation: “I feel devastated by the loss of my pet. I no longer feel motivated to go the extra mile for this company when my boss wouldn’t even address an emergency in a timely manner. I hold him responsible for my pet’s suffering, and possibly even her death, since I might have had the vet do the surgery if I had had enough time to made the decision. I will continue to perform my job duties in good faith for as long as I work here, but given the circumstances, need to dial down the extra responsibilities I have been taking on. After three years of never taking a sick day, working every holiday, handling shifts by myself, and giving extremely high-quality work throughout my time here, I feel I deserved much better treatment and so did my horse, a helpless victim. What my manager did was simply outrageous.”

    A conversation may or may not have negative consequences for you, but would not be inappropriate. Again, I am sorry.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I like this point of view, and this script, but I would absolutely start with the list of how great and reliable and generous and employee she has been.

      1. Marisol*

        Good point. “In my three years here at xzy company, I have never taken a sick day, have worked every overtime shift that was requested of me, and etc. etc… I did this because of a strongly felt work ethic, and because I like working here and assumed I was a valued employee. Last week, I received an emergency call that my horse was sick, and Manager did not relay the message to me, despite assurances to my friend that he would do so…”

  31. Anon Millennial*

    I’m so sorry for your loss. This would be a deal breaker for me regardless of whether or not my manager apologized. I agree with Alison’s advice though.

  32. animaniactoo*

    OP, I am so very very sorry for you and your loss – and your friend and the vet who also had to deal with this situation.

    Honestly, if your manager has a supervisor, I would consider escalating this up the chain. And I wouldn’t just state “because you did X, Y happened” – I would dig into it. “I need to understand why you told them you would let me know immediately if you didn’t plan to do that, and I need to know why you didn’t think this was a situation serious enough to alert me immediately.” I would point out the fact that the simple rarity of you getting an emergency call should have made it an automatic thing to alert you immediately.

    I understand it burns more because you weren’t doing anything remotely important – but I really think you should leave that out altogether, because it removes the focus from the core fact here: No matter how busy you were, when a call like that comes in for you, it calls for immediate action – no matter what you’re doing.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Sorry – I missed at the end that he and his manager want to talk to you – so yes he has a supervisor.

      I would absolutely go into that meeting with the mindset that you are going to discuss feeling completely burned by having gone above and beyond for so long, and then having this happen to you. Towards that, if they start talking to you about your unwillingess to work overtime, etc. anymore, I would turn it back on them “I understand your concern. My problem is this incident that happened, and I need to understand why you told them you would let me know…” etc. I would be very insistent that I could not address any lack on my part until this incident had been appropriately addressed because I now had serious concerns about any other emergency situation that might arise and the effects on my personal life for working there.

  33. Gene*

    I’m so sad for the OP.

    However, everyone here (including Alison) is assuming that “and now my manager and his manager want to talk” means the OP is in trouble. Maybe the grandboss found out about this and was gobsmacked at boss’s callous actions. This talk could be to offer abject apology and for the boss to essentially grovel for being an unfeeling twit. Since this is an animal-based business, I see this as a real possibility.

    1. Marisol*

      “Maybe the grandboss found out about this and was gobsmacked at boss’s callous actions.” — it seems like any reasonable person would have that reaction. Although I also wonder what the boss said to grandboss. I could see him just saying, “her attitude changed once her horse died” and leaving it at that. But even if that’s the case, it seems like when grandboss does learn the truth, he’ll be on OP’s side. Unless there are two psychopaths working in management instead of just one.

    2. Adam V*

      If I were the grandboss, I wouldn’t call a meeting for that, at least not at first – I’d come by and talk to the OP myself, offer my apologies, explain what I’m going to do to prevent this sort of situation in the future, and then ask OP if she wanted an in-person apology from the manager. (Personally, I wouldn’t want to ever have to deal with that manager again, and if they half-hearted an apology, I’d be hard-pressed to stop myself from blowing up at him.)

      So odds are the manager just told the grandboss “I can’t get coverage anymore because OP won’t work triple overtime the way she did before” and grandboss is completely in the dark about the reasons why.

  34. Grits McGee*

    Related question- how much emotion should you bring into a workplace conversation like this? In my own experience, I feel like I’ve only seen the extremes. I’ve had colleagues who’ve basically had group therapy sessions at work in which the phrase “participate in the healing process” were used, but on the other hand I was raised to never invoke feelings ever at work (ie, parental advice to not bring up that my supervisor’s jokes about “shooting up the office” made me feel unsafe because, in their words, “managers don’t want to deal with it.”)

    Does anyone have experience with finding a balance?

    1. Marisol*

      My opinion is that the rules for work and personal life are not vastly different. Although a family member might tolerate insults or yelling, it still isn’t appropriate behavior. What’s appropriate is to convey your feelings and needs in a respectful way, “I am hurt that you said that.” There is no reason any one has to stifle their emotional selves–they just need to engage with their emotions in a healthy, productive way.

      I guess I would make an exception for crying at work, which can cause someone to lose political capital and should therefore be avoided. But even that is not an absolute rule.

      Regarding the group therapy stuff, the same guidelines for intimacy and boundaries apply here too. I have friends at work that know personal things about me, and I have colleagues that I have no deep connection to that I don’t share things with. If someone asked me a personal question, my reaction would depend on the level of intimacy that I shared with them. I have some friends that I discuss my menstrual cycle with, but most people at work, if they asked me about it, I’d be offended. This is an intuitive example.

      I think the key here is to use one’s own experience as the main point of reference, rather than an objective criteria for what is/is not work appropriate. If some activity like a “healing circle” (just made that term up) made me feel uncomfortable, I would pay attention to that. Even if I couldn’t get out of doing the exercise, I would know what I felt and put up an “internal boundary” to mitigate damage. So this is kind of a consent issue, too. Did I consent to this intimacy? Do I feel ok with it, or not? If not, what must I do to get the best outcome for me?

      Don’t know if you’re into reading personal growth books, but the books about boundaries/co-dependency by Pia Melody and Melody Beattie are great for explaining this.

      Women in particular are taught to stifle themselves and live for and through other people, so it can be confusing when trying to apply an external template–that of professional norms–to what is essentially an internal experience–emotions.

      No idea if that helps or actually addresses your question but those are my thoughts.

      1. Marisol*

        Think I deleted a sentence from that first paragraph:
        My opinion is that the rules for work and personal life are not vastly different. Although a family member might tolerate insults or yelling, it still isn’t appropriate behavior. What’s appropriate is to convey your feelings and needs in a respectful way, “I am hurt that you said that.” The same is true for the workplace. There is no reason any one has to stifle their emotional selves–they just need to engage with their emotions in a healthy, productive way.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d say that in general at work, you want to maintain a relatively even emotional keel. That doesn’t mean you can’t express emotions, but they generally shouldn’t be super intense or ones that disrupt other people or interject hostility into the workplace. With something like hurt or sadness, I think it’s perfectly fine if it’s expressed very occasionally. If it’s being expressed regularly, something’s off about the situation.

      More here:

    3. Lora*

      Managers don’t WANT to deal with it but regardless we HAVE to deal with it – that’s why we get paid the big bucks.

      Everyone has a different threshold for it, really. It often depends on how much life experience you have: if you’ve been through loved ones dying, nasty divorce(s), house burning to the ground with all your worldly possessions etc. then your perception of what is worth getting upset over changes pretty significantly. For example, many of the senior managers at Current Workplace are very privileged, and revenue was about 2% less than projections last quarter. To the very privileged managers, this is a HORRIBLE DISASTER and they are running around having panic attacks. To those of us who have had a less than charmed life, meh, it’s unfortunate but hardly even merits a Hallmark card, we will just deal with it and try to ship more product next quarter.

      Death of any kind is generally a pretty clear cut reason to be very upset and concerned though. Major life events such as children, marriage, divorce, major illness, house fires, elder care, buying your first house, moving cross country, finishing your dissertation etc. are generally understood to be stressful, and while we would all prefer that it didn’t impact your work, this is not an ideal world. Reasonable managers are understanding and will give you personal time/flexible schedule if possible to deal with things. What we dislike is if you take it out on other people. You can be quietly sobbing in the restroom or whatever, need to take a walk around the block to calm down – that’s understandable, but yelling at people and having a short fuse is not.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        You made a great distinction. It’s okay to get emotional at work about non-work situations. Blowing up because you were the 3rd name listed on an email instead of the 1st- that’s bad work emotions. Getting a tragic phone call at your desk- that’s when everyone should understand that emotions happen.

    4. Emma*

      I think, generally, you should remain calm – no raised voices (even happy ones), no tears, no dramatic body language or facial expressions (not no gestures/expressions, just not dramatic or inappropriate ones – don’t let your disgust at a customer show, for example), keeping even tones, that sort of thing. The reason being, it’s really not professional, again speaking generally, to make your emotions your customers’/coworkers’ problem.

      That said, allowance does need to be made for people being, well, people (it’s not like you can really expect someone to get over grief instantly), and discussing emotions, especially when they’re part of the situation like they are here, isn’t off-limits. In fact, I think it can be more toxic to never address the emotional component – if you’re reasonably angry at your boss but never express it (relatively calmly, appropriately, using your words), that can fester and become a major problem.

      But a lot also depends on the workplace/that particular boss, and sometimes even hinting you have an emotional life can get you in trouble. Which is toxic, but happens.

  35. Seuuze*

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Your experience is heart-breaking and very sad. I am sorry your beloved horse suffered so at the end. My condolences.

  36. Erin*

    The kicker for me is that you work in an animal industry, meaning your manager should have been extra sensitive about this. But really that’s kind of irrelevant.

    I agree with Alison’s phrasing on how to explain yourself at this meeting, but honestly, even if your manager isn’t a malicious ass, and this was a careless and huge mistake, I would leave. Start job hunting *now.*

  37. Biff*

    I’m beyond horrified. I think Alison’s script assumes that the letter writer NEEDS this job, and that a repaired relationship must happen. I completely understand why that assumption is being made. However, now that the letter writer has lost a major expense, I suspect this job is no longer mission critical. I believe that this manager and this company need to be put on blast in a big way.

  38. sometimeswhy*

    There are lots of good scripts to work from above, I’d like to further suggest that no matter what you decide to say, that you walk into that meeting with your boss and your grandboss with a written statement. When they ask about your flagging dedication start with, “This is a very emotional topic for me so I’ve prepared a statement that I’d like to read now.”

    If you’re in the middle of a grand dressing down and pause to gather your thoughts or even for dramatic impact, that may allow for an interruption that may derail and not let you get out everything you want to say. It’s much harder to interrupt someone who is reading.

    1. N.J.*

      To offer a different opinion, I might advise against a prepared statement. It comes off as overly dramatic or melodramatic and could undermine the credibility of the OP’s very real pain and sadness. I would have a hard time taking someone seriously like that in a business context, unfortunately. It could certainly help to write it out and go through it beforehand…

      1. Mookie*

        Also, just the mere act of announcing the intention to read from a prepared statement feels confrontational and a little CYA-y and “legal-y,” will probably put the listeners’s backs up immediately and make them less receptive to both the emotional and the rational content of the statement. It could be read as the first step in a resignation or even a lawsuit. I understand that a slightly theatrical approach might communicate the OP’s understandable despair, but I’d only do this if I knew I wasn’t going to remain an employee; otherwise, the relationship moving forward might not be salvageable.

  39. Rebecca*

    I want to echo everyone’s sympathies and sentiments above…I am so very, very sorry. This should not have happened like this.

    I can’t understand the draconian “no phones” policy in place. I know people can get distracted by their phones, and you don’t want employees walking around texting, etc. instead of working, but I fail to see why someone can’t have their phone with them, ringer on vibrate, in case of a family emergency. This was certainly a family emergency, as in my opinion, anyway, a horse is a family member.

    I hope you can find a new employer who has a soul, acts like a decent human being, and treats you properly. This is just so very, very sad.

  40. Michelle*

    OP, so sorry for your loss. And for the fact that your boss denied you the opportunity to care for and be with your beloved horse when she passed.

    I would never able to trust him or his judgment again. I would start looking to transfer to a different dept./location, or if that is not possible, a different employer. Just because someone has “manager” after their doesn’t give them the right to be so cavalier and careless about staff emergencies.

  41. Lady phoenix*

    I would request a meeting bwtween you, manager, and big boss. Then during the meeting, explain the situation. It is good to have it in writing so that facts don’t get clouded with emotion.

    I would consider something like this, “My friend called my manager about an urgent matter. My boss promised to direct me as soon as possible, only to delay the news. Because of this delay, the situation became worse and I was forced to put down a horse I could have saved if I was notified earliar. I feel like I can no longer trust my manager.”

    Then you can request a transfer or to leave. That is a decision I would think carefully on and maybe once the grieving process has ended.

    Right now, I would take the time to grieve and distance yourself from your asshole manager. This matter can be dealt with once you have had ample enough time to mourn.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Upon re-reading the letter, much rage intensified.

      I would state that if your manager and upper boss do not correct this matter, you should leave. You have put more than enough time to be considered a high-valued employee, and what your manager did was a slap in the face. Quite frankly, I would never trust to work with him ever again.

      If the Upper Boss doesn’t see this, you need to leave, because then you know that the job is too toxic to stay there.

      So let me change my script:
      “My friend called my boss about an urgent matter that I should be informed promptly about. Instead, my boss delayed to give me this news. Because of this, I was forced to put down a horse that I could have saved, have I been given the proper time to react. I feel that because of this incident, I am not being treated as a valuable employee after all this time and effort I have given to the company. I request that I be transferred to a new manager.”

  42. Milla*

    It may be more beneficial to talk with the manager’s manager alone, since the manager at fault will likely bluster and give excuses that will only upset you and make you emotional.
    The boss’s boss likely has no idea what has happened, so when they ask why a formerly stellar employee is now being average say something along the lines of:
    “Manager’s inaction during an emergency situation lead to a great personal loss for me. This loss was avoidable and in great part due to his negligence. I am now grieving and upset. Manager’s actions were very harmful to me and I feel disrespected and resentful that my loyalty and willingness to go the extra mile for you was repaid with the failure to give me an emergency message in less than three hours while we had no pressing tasks. I have still performed all of my job duties during this difficult time, letting none of them slide. In light of my exemplary past performance, I would like permission to supervise my own tasks/ have greater independence/ take steps to minimize my contact with ___ manager (give detailed plan on how this would work, including trial periods, etc.) or I would like to be transferred to ___ other manager/ department. I will continue to perform all of my core duties, and appreciate your understanding that it may take me some time to return to my former additional workload of covering for others, and taking on extra tasks.”

    The key is to offer a solution and remain calm, which would show that you are acting as the reasonable person in this situation and are willing to try and work through things. You do not want to come across as the crazy, emotional horse lady.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I wouldn’t cut out the word “horse.” I think just saying “loss” sounds more like a monetary loss only, though “grieving” does mitigate that somewhat.

    2. animaniactoo*

      Also, I said this above – but the no pressing tasks thing is a red herring. Yes, it burns more because of that – but this was an emergency situation and OP should have been notified even if they were dealing with something important. So what they were working on really shouldn’t be a focus here at all – even more so because then it may be left up to the manager’s judgment of whether it’s too important to be interrupted, when they didn’t consider an emergency an emergency when there was nothing much going on. The sole focus has to be “an emergency call was not promptly relayed to me despite assurances that it would be and an awful thing happened because of it.”

  43. A*

    I am so, so sorry to hear this.

    The OP works for one of those horrible managers who takes and takes and takes while the employee gives 200%, and can’t be bothered to be the least bit flexible when this outstanding employee has a family emergency. Yes, that horse was family. Then he gets the higher level manager involved when the employee stops giving 200% to the job after a huge loss. Even if the death wasn’t the horrible manager’s fault it would still be awful that he can’t be even a little bit understanding that this kind of loss can have a huge impact on someone’s ability to focus on work.

    The higher level manager needs to be told exactly what happened at this meeting. If anything less than huge apologies come from the both of them, it is time to move on. Lots of workplaces will appreciate an exemplary employee more.

    1. Lanon*

      If I was that manager’s boss, I would can him. Nobody with such complete disregard for their reports should be supervising anyone.

  44. WhiteBear*

    I am so sorry for your loss. This letter devastated me. I hope you dont hold yourself responsible for your horse’s suffering, as you certainly gave this horse a wonderful life. Death comes to us all and is rarely without pain and I hope you can take comfort in the fact that your horse lived a long and fulfilling life, and did so because of you. My sincere thoughts are with you.

  45. SimontheGreyWarden*

    OP, my mom was in a similar position to you a very long time ago (before I was born) though with out the a-hole boss. She had a horse who died from colic. The difference was that for her it was already too late when they found the horse (he was out in the paddock if I remember) and he had to be put down. She still talks about him, 40 years later. I know your horse was as special to you as hers was to her. I cannot imagine the cruelty behind your boss knowing that a living creature was suffering and making the active choice not to tell you. It wasn’t like there was an emergency; you weren’t a surgeon in surgery who couldn’t be reached; your boss wasn’t hit by a bus just after getting this news; your boss decided to cause you suffering because doing otherwise inconvenienced them. I could not forgive for that and I don’t think anyone would blame you if you couldn’t, either.

  46. Early Annie*

    Another fellow horsewoman here and I am so terribly sorry for your loss. While I can’t offer anything better than Alison and her community already have, I do want you to know there are many of us out here sharing your pain and outrage.

    I understand also that it may be difficult to leave a job working with animals when you, yourself, are an animal lover, so that may play into your decision as well.

    On a side note, I just want Alison to know how enriching it is to have so many people from so many industries a part of this site.

  47. MacGirl*

    Ok, I’m tearing up. I have no advice, OP. I honestly do not know what I would do in this situation (aside from grieving). I am so incredibly sorry for you loss.

    I do have a sense that some people who aren’t pet or animal owners do not understand the kind of attachment and love that those who are have for animals. I once had a coworker who spent two days very distraught because her indoor cat went missing after somehow getting outside. I sympathized and didn’t mind her leaving early to search before dark. But another coworker made an offhand comment about her doing so, which annoyed me. (Luckily, the cat found its way home a few days later. We both rejoiced in my coworker’s office.) I think it is worth communicating how important an animal companion is to a manager or coworker. In some cases, those companions are all a person has.

  48. Angry animal lover*

    I’m torn between tears and fury and can probably go with both. I am so, so sorry. I have beloved cats, one of whom I had to put down a few months ago, and my manager was so understanding whenever I needed to take her to the vet that I haven’t stopped thanking him for it since. This letter just… I have no words. Please accept an Internet hug. ((((((OP)))))))

    1. Rat Racer*

      Also sending hugs and deepest sympathy. The knowing that something could have been done and wasn’t done is just devastating. I am just so, so, so sorry that this happened to you.

  49. Alienor*

    I don’t have any advice, but I am so, so sorry about your horse. I have tears in my eyes as I sit here at my desk. May she rest in peace.

  50. Golden Lioness*

    OP, everybody has said it so well already, but as a huge animal lover I wanted to also say that I am so sorry for the loss of your horse ((((hugs))))

    What happened to you is appalling and your boss should be ashamed of himself.

  51. Elle*

    This is a terrible story, and I’m so sorry you lost your beloved horse. There are no words.
    I suspect we will see this poor excuse for a manager come up on the worst boss lineup.

  52. Irish Em*

    That is awful, OP, I am so sorry for your loss, and I’m sending you all the virtual hugs and good thoughts you need/want :'(

  53. ohmyanon*

    Depending on how the situation with your managers plays out, some other wording that might be helpful is ‘my circumstances have changed and I can no longer work the hours that I used to.’ It’s vague and might help you from bringing up emotional triggers, though I do like Alison’s wording as well. Anything you can say to keep your cool is best, though I’m sure you would much rather yell.

    If this situation with the managers works out that’s great, but it might be useful just to keep working the standard hours and to use all that overtime you used to do to look for a new job. But again as Alison said, sit on it for a little bit see how you feel though I imagine that meeting will put everything into perspective pretty quickly.

    1. Emma*

      ‘my circumstances have changed and I can no longer work the hours that I used to.’

      Just, don’t be prepared for that to go smoothly. Be prepared for, at least, pushback, and being let go at worst.

      Yes, I know OP was working extra hours, but bosses have a way of coming to expect that and seeing the baseline work as slacking, which from the letter sounds like might be happening here.

  54. CMT*

    I wish there were a workplace equivalent of DTMFA to use for terrible employers like this. I’m so sorry about your horse, OP :(

    1. Biff*

      YBIAM — Your Boss is a Monster? Can be escalated to YBIAMAMBRD, for Your Boss is a Monster And Must Be Run Down?

    2. TootsNYC*

      we do have YMSAIGTC: Your manager sucks and isn’t going to change.

      But that’s not enough for this.

  55. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    Goodness. I’d be tempted to quit the job and sue the manager for the cost of a new horse. But I’m the kind of person who’d want anyone who hurt my pets to suffer for it. Preferably repeatedly and in creative ways. You’re probably much nicer than I am.

  56. NW Mossy*

    OP, my condolences on your loss – that’s a wrenching thing to have been through, and I wish you the best in your emotional recovery.

    That being said and sincerely meant, I’m going to take a slightly different tack on this letter and consider what this looks like thus far from your superiors’ point of view. I do this not to express any solidarity with what they’ve done up until this point (which is very bad), but simply to prepare you for the fact that the forthcoming conversation with them may be difficult emotionally in a way you’re not expecting.

    If I’m your boss and boss’s boss, what I see this: a heretofore excellent employee who missed a personal call, suffered a loss, and has now had a dramatic drop-off in performance in the period following the loss. As managers responsible for keeping the business going, they are likely most concerned about your performance post-loss, not the circumstances that led to that drop-off. As a result, there’s a good chance that they want to focus the conversation around coaching you out of weaker performance rather than apologizing for your boss’s role in your horse’s death.

    I think it’s somewhat likely that this is how it’s going to go down, particularly if it’s been several weeks/months since you lost your horse. Whether fair or not, as your bosses, they’re going to be expecting you to perform at a high level regardless of what’s up in your non-work life and be disappointed if you’re suddenly half the employee you used to be. While I’d hope that they have the good sense not to, they could even go on the offensive with you and imply/state that you should be over it by now and that your job’s on the line if you “can’t get it together.”

    I sincerely hope they are not jerks and (to borrow a phrase from Alison) apologize profusely. But I think you need to go into this conversation aware of the possibility that they may not, and in fact may view your loss as irrelevant. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this, I’m afraid. I would go into it under the assumption that they’re far more worred about the loss to them (of your effort) than the loss to you of your horse. My inclination is to think that if this place was culturally predisposed to be sympathetic, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

    2. Mononymous*

      She didn’t just “miss a call” though. The boss took the EMERGENCY message, promised to pass it along immediately, and then chose to wait 5 hours before doing so. The real issue here isn’t an unfortunate accident but a deliberate and negligent choice by the boss that has had serious negative impacts, not just on the OP and her horse, but also on her relationship with the boss.

      1. NW Mossy*

        And I think we, as outside observers, recognize that. But if you’re the OP’s boss, clearly you didn’t and don’t think much of it – he didn’t follow through at the time and didn’t immediately apologize when he learned of the consequences. It’s perfectly plausible that he would conceive of it as “missing a call,” even though the full picture makes it clear that this isn’t a good representation of reality. His perspective is skewed on this, and I’m not sure even the most perfectly worded response on the OP’s part is going to fix the fact that he’s having issues seeing beyond the end of his own nose.

      2. Not A Morning Person*

        Of course, that is the perspective of many or even most commenters and perhaps, even the OP, that the manager was deliberately delaying the message (although there was mention that the call may have been forgotten in the moment and just maybe not deliberately ignored). Manager may be an insensitive jerk or a clueless dunce. We don’t really know. But either way, the OP was hurt by the action (or inaction) of the manager and is grieving the death of the horse and dealing with anger at the manager and loss of trust in the manager. NW Mossy is offering the OP advice on a potentially different perspective. Whether that different perspective is right or wrong, good or bad, it’s kind to mention it so OP can be prepared and not blind-sided by a different perspective. Others have offered very good wording and advice for how to express grief and concern. It’s also important to be aware that the managers may have a different perspective, just to help OP prepare in case the conversation is about recent performance only and ignores the manager’s actions that prevented appropriate emergency care for the horse. Just because I think a certain way and have lots of support for my views, doesn’t mean that I should ignore that others may think differently. I need to know that and be prepared so I can deal with it if that differing and perhaps insensitive and clueless perspective might derail me in the conversation.
        OP, I’m so sorry for your loss. I think I’d need to leave that job, too. I don’t think I could ever be comfortable working for a manager who caused, even by accident or by ignorance, the death of something so precious to me. You have my sympathies.

    3. Lora*

      Oh, I agree, the bosses may very well take exactly that view – they still have garbage judgment though. And nobody wants to work for a-holes with garbage judgment. Which is probably why they don’t have enough staff to go round and lean so heavily on OP. But they haven’t put two and two together on that point; “why can’t we keep employees” is the #1 red flag of PISS POOR MANAGER WORKS HERE, and it’s not exactly a subtle one.

      If I were the grandboss, though: I need to know if my employee is piss-poor because he has terrible habits from a previous job or needs training or is ignorant and honestly doesn’t know any better, vs. is my employee actually too stupid for this job (i.e. poor judgment). I can fix training and habits, if the employee is worth investing the effort. I can’t fix stupid. This is something OP can help clarify for the grandboss.

      1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

        And nobody wants to work for a-holes with garbage judgment. Which is probably why they don’t have enough staff to go round and lean so heavily on OP

        I think you may just have hit that nail solidly on the head.

    4. Observer*

      If the boss has any brains, though, he’ll understand that this is not about what happened in the OP’s *personal* life, but in her LIFE ON THE JOB.

      The drop off in work quality and quantity is not due to the loss of the horse, but due to the manager keeping the OP busy with make work rather than allowing her the common courtesy of dealing with an emergency, one with significant consequences.

    5. One of the Sarahs*

      I think the important thing is that while OP says she’s had a drop in work quality, and taking on extra responsibilities/helping out, she’s still performing at the basic level. She’s gone from super-helpful employee to fulfilling the criteria of the job.

      And that’s where it’s interesting to me, in terms of how much can an employer complain about this? “You fulfill the basic duties, but don’t choose to take overtime opportunities” should never be a reason to sack someone.

      I always hate it when employees have done the last-minute-overtime, covering shifts that help the business, skip holidays, and generally go above and beyond, and then for one reason or another scale that back, they’re penalised. (Mind you, it’s a good reason to be careful about being that employee in the first place)

      1. Emma*

        I don’t think employers should have any right to complain about employees not doing overtime/going above and beyond. But that’s the ideal.

        My lived experience, and that of many people I know, is that what really happens is that bosses come to expect the overtime, the extra mile, the going beyond the call of duty. They come to perceive “just” doing your job as slacking. Ironically, that’s especially true if you’re the one who always does extra, always covers shifts/picks up overtime, is always helpful. If you’re always the helpful one, they see that as you doing your normal job, and not as you doing extra. If you’re suddenly not doing extra, then in their eyes, you’re not really doing your job anymore.

        The last time this happened to me, I was working at a small place, volunteering for one day a week. One of the bosses came down with a serious medical issue and needed surgery – she was out intermittently for weeks at a time, so the other boss asked me to help cover. I did, happily. It somehow became me coming in six days a week, literally every hour the place was open, for no pay but “perks” like the already free coffee. My bosses would even dramatically moan about how they hated that they couldn’t pay me, how they were worried I was going to burn out. And guess what? Even when other boss was back, I was still expected to work those hours. I finally told them that I was only going to be able to work the shift I signed on for, and they were appalled. They tried to push me into working “only” three days a week instead, and were shocked when I refused. I’ve run into them socially since, and they ignore me. I also had to stop using them as a reference, because I found out they were telling people I was a slacker who randomly quit when asked to do my job.

        I’m not saying every boss is like this, but an awful lot of them are (as are other people – I’ve seen the same kind of thing destroy friendships, for one example). This is why I tell people – don’t always volunteer for extra work. Don’t be the only person who picks up shifts. Be strategic – do it occasionally, or if you really want the money do it all the time, but know that at some point, if it becomes your normal way of doing things, your bosses will treat it as normal and value it appropriately. You see it as extra, they don’t. And never, ever bank on your extra work making you extra valuable in their eyes, or earning you anything special.

        So yeah, bosses shouldn’t complain about employees not doing extra work. But bosses are often crap at recognizing when extra work is being done, or come to expect it to be done, and will complain about it anyway.

        1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

          My husband used to be the one who volunteered for extra days because we needed the money so badly, but not anymore. He got ZERO respect from his bosses for doing it. They are sad now that he doesn’t volunteer anymore, they want him there badly because he is one of the hardest workers there, but they can’t do a damn thing about it.

  57. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    I’m in agreement with Gene upthread: it’s possible that manager’s manager has noticed problems of this type before, and has called the meeting with both of them to show manager an example of what can happen. The whole “it’s just a horse” seems like anathema to the industry you’re in; maybe the grand boss wants manager to take responsibility for such a glassbowl comment.

    The point is, I wouldn’t go into it assuming that it’s two against one. Be prepared, of course (I like the written statement idea) and stick up for yourself, but give the grandboss at least a sliver of benefit of the doubt.

  58. Rusty Shackelford*

    I am very sorry for your loss.

    My concern is that your managers will not consider this a serious loss, because people are assholes. I think you need to stress the fact that you had an emergency, and it doesn’t matter whether that emergency was an injured child or a leaking water heater, or a sick horse. Your manager let you down in an emergency because he made the very bad choice to not come immediately tell you about this emergency. And therefore, knowing they do not have your back, you are less comfortable working overtime, since you may have another emergency and you now know they cannot be trusted to handle it appropriately.

    1. KellyK*

      I think this is good. If you aren’t in a position to quit on the spot (which is usually a bad idea, but pretty understandable in this case), then one of the things you really need to know going forward is how they’ll handle emergency calls. Clearly, the “manager takes a message and gets back to you when he feels like it” isn’t workable. And I think it is reasonable for this to tie directly to overtime if being at work means you’re 100% out of the loop for any family or home emergency.

      If they can’t give you some assurance that you’ll get emergency calls in a timely fashion, I’d recommend not working overtime, making sure anyone who’d contact you in an emergency is aware of the situation (and coming up with a backup plan for any other animals under your care….and of course kids if you have kids), and looking to get out as soon as possible.

    2. Rosemary*

      This, this, this.

      I understand (and share!) the impulse to say ‘If [human] was having a medical emergency, would you tell me??’ but it gets too dangerous that your manager will rejoin with ‘well OF COURSE people medical emergencies are different’. The important thing to focus on here is that you and your manager clearly have different ideas of what constitutes an emergency, so what is the plan for making sure this never happens again? (Can you be authorized to carry a cellphone with you? If this policy is because they don’t want ringtones startling animals, you can always put it on vibrate.) In the interest of making sure this doesn’t happen again, can you three have a discussion of what happened – did the manager not understand the emergency nature of the call, did he assume that pet emergencies are not emergencies, did he just plain forget to tell you? Was it incorrect to assume that you will be reachable at work, should you from here on assume that people will be unable to contact you by phone during work hours?

      I might also point out that you are dealing with not only the sudden loss of a beloved animal, but a terrible disappointment* from management that has shaken your faith in their commitment to treating you respectfully, ie, not making decisions for you about which phone calls are emergencies.

      * I want to say betrayal, but it is probably best to be less accusing in tone

      1. Pregnant Lady Crying*

        Honestly – and I hate to even say this because our society is so sue happy – you could possibly sue him for the value of the horse. The horse was your pet, your best friend – but a horse is also a huge financial ‘asset.’
        His negligence led to you losing that asset.
        I’m not a lawyer and have NO IDEA if this would even remotely hold up but I’d certainly look into it if I were you. F*** him.

        1. Erin*

          I love your user name. I’m pregnant and this post made me cry. Sigh.

          I could certainly be wrong, but I don’t think suing is appropriate. That could drag out this whole horrible situation to possibly no avail.

  59. Lemon Zinger*

    I just wanted to echo what everyone else has said: OP, I am so sorry about your mare. *Internet hugs*

  60. Persephone Mulberry*

    OP, I am so, so sorry about your loss. Short of a crisis involving my husband or kids, losing a horse this way is my worst nightmare.

    Heart-wrenching lesson for other horse lovers reading this thread: put in writing what steps your vet and barn manager are authorized to take in a life-threatening situation, in the event you can’t be reached.

    1. KellyK*

      Also a really good idea. If you have a pet you love dearly and are willing to take expensive measures to care for, make sure your vet knows this, and has a credit card on file.

      1. Biff*

        I love my dog deeply. She has decided I am her parent, and I accept this (my previous dogs have taken a ‘sibling’ or ‘buddy’ role, so this elevated status is new to me and I work to be worthy of it.) Trying to write down how to take care or her has been difficult to define, because for me it has nothing to do with expense, and everything to do with the outcome and the speed of the outcome. For example, I wouldn’t put her on chemo, even if it was an easily solved cancer, because 8 weeks of chemo is essentially the same as a decade of torture to a human. I would, however, happily rebuild a leg with pins (easily a 12k surgery) if they felt she’d be okay with life a week or so later. I’ve explained this to my vet, but how to go about writing it down in a codified, easy decision tree has so far eluded me.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, it’s definitely harder than it sounds, and it’s about a lot more than just the money. Making sure the vet knows your priorities and that you trust their judgment is probably a big part of it. The only blanket statement I can think of is, “If you think you have a good chance of getting them through the medical emergency and back to a decent quality of life, do whatever you think is reasonable, here’s a credit card with a limit of $X.”

        2. Persephone Mulberry*

          My only thought on this is that horses are a bit different than smaller pets because generally you are the one taking your smaller pet to the vet, so it’s unlikely that the vet will have to make a life-or-death decision on the spot, without being able to secure your input, so it’s less necessary to have a crisis plan on file. With horse emergencies, it’s common for the vet/barn manager/trusted friend to be on site before the owner.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, good point. And that sounds like something the vet would have dealt with had he known, rather than hanging on in case the owner wanted surgical intervention.

        3. Agile Phalanges*

          Yes, I had similar issues when doing an “advanced directive” for my kitties before going out of the country and being basically unreachable. It didn’t help that I had different emotional values on each of my pets, too, which feels really crass to put into writing. (Though in addition to the quality-of-life issues you emntion, it’s also hard assigning a dollar value, because of course if I’d do a $5,000 measure, I’d do a $5,005 measure, and likely a $5,050 measure, and where does it end…) But I definitely covered my wishes in writing as best I could and provided a credit card, both to my regular vet and to the emergency vet, and a copy of the guidelines as well as the contact info to my petsitter as well. Thankfully, I never needed it. Also thankfully, my horse lives with a friend who has similar philosophies as me (and you) about the cost/benefit analysis of treatments, so if I were to be unreachable, I would trust her to make decisions for my horse along the same lines I would.

      2. Biff*

        Just to be clear — I think your advice is excellent, I’m just not sure how to implement it, and I doubt I’m the only one who would struggle!

  61. Cat steals keyboard*

    I’m so sorry about your horse, OP. I think what strikes me is that if they are going to prevent you having access to a phone they shouldn’t be taking messages, saying they’ll pass them on and then not doing so. That’s too much power and not okay. Everyone needs to be contactable in an emergency as far as possible.

  62. nonegiven*

    I would tell manager’s manager about hosing walkways as busy work while your horse suffered because callous manager wouldn’t give you the EMERGENCY message. I would tell him I can’t look at manager without thinking of my horse’s extra hours of suffering because he lied and said you’d get the message right away. I would ask how manager’s manager can trust manager with the welfare of animals because you never can, again. I would ask if it was your grandmother in the hospital if he would wait until lunch time to give you the message. I would have quit on the spot.

  63. Moonsaults*

    My heart hurts so much reading this.

    Knowing how callous and bluntly put ‘f’ed up some people in that position are, regarding employees with emergencies, I have no problem thinking this guy is just a real POS who didn’t want to be bothered for whatever reason is in his head.

    I would be looking for an immediate way out of there, I don’t think they’ll treat you kindly being a reasonable person and explaining that you’re now depressed and upset in general over the loss of your mare.

  64. LCL*

    What do you want out of the meeting? An apology, keeping your job, both, something else? Because I know the first part of what you should say, but then I am stuck.
    I would tell them
    My horse had a life threatening emergency. I didn’t even know about it because of our policy of not allowing personal phones. The vet needed my permission to make treatment decisions. Because he couldn’t reach me he couldn’t provide full treatment, only painkillers. By the time I found out on break, and was able to call the vet, the window for treatment had passed and I had to tell the vet by phone to put my horse down. So my horse was put down without me even being there. Then I find out the manager knew about my horse’s situation all along, said he would tell me immediately, but didn’t, and wasn’t going to tell me until lunch break!?

    I have worked extra shifts and short staffed and haven’t missed any time in 3 years so the business would continue to be profitable and the animals would be tended. My horse was not a food animal, she was my companion for 14 years, and I didn’t get to manage her end humanely and wasn’t even there because my manager didn’t tell me!

    We have got to rethink how we handle personal emergencies. I know we can’t allow phones because of concerns over filming our operations, but there has to be a way to reach us in case of emergencies. (Then offer suggestions.)

    1. RVA Cat*

      100% this. You have every reason to be less committed to this employer who betrayed your trust.

      Why is it that it’s somehow always the best, most devoted and self-sacrificing employers that get screwed over the most?

      1. TootsNYC*

        because giving too much can condition people to think that the contribution is less than it is.

        I learned that lesson the hard way w/a roommate. I ate and spent the evening in my bedroom every night so she could watch TV in the living room. But I never said, “Hey, I want the living room on Tuesdays, so I can eat dinner at the table without TV. She assumed that my silence meant I didn’t mind, and she never saw it as the compromise it was.

        Ditto w/ overtime, etc. If you make it too easy, they’ll see THAT as the new baseline for normal.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Yes. I realized as I typed that “self-sacrificing” answered my question.

          OP, please go see a counselor not only to cope with your grief, but also to help you value yourself more objectively. It sounds like you were putting all you had in this job. Nothing will replace your beloved horse, but please maintain your boundaries by devoting the same amount of time to your other relationships and interests.

  65. Venus Supreme*

    I only read the headline and started crying. I’m scared to read any comments (or even the story) because animals are such an important part of my life. OP, my heart hurts for you and I really hope that karma comes back to them. Many many many hugs. Nothing and no one can replace the relationship you had with your horse. I’m so incredibly sorry.

  66. AnonEMoose*

    Oh, OP, I am so very sorry, and I am FURIOUS on your behalf. Your manager’s behavior was inhuman and inhumane. While I recommend that you go into the meeting prepared for them to not be understanding, I hope it turns out well.

    I’ve never been that involved with horses. But I am remembering, by contrast, the way my workplace (which is not in an industry related to animals) handled it when I had to put down a much-loved cat. Not only was my boss totally understanding about me being late that day, she checked in with me when I got there to make sure I was ok being there that day. And told me to leave if I needed to, just let her know. She and some of my coworkers even got me a small vase of flowers and a card.

    (((HUGS))) to you, OP. And again, I’m so very sorry. I hope that you’re able to work this out and move forward, or find another job with a more empathetic manager quickly.

  67. Pari*

    Did your boss understand that it was a potential life/death situation or just that the colic was really bad?

    I’m saying that because colic probably doesn’t sound life threatening to a person that doesn’t know how it can affect horses.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      It doesn’t matter: He said he would relay the message immediately and didn’t. And kept her piddling around with makework instead. And I guarantee you that the person who called was clear that this was an emergency because colic is not something horse owners understate. If her boss couldn’t tell, he should have a) asked the person on the phone and b) told the OP, who would know, and let her make the call . AS it is, he withheld information that would have allowed her to make a decision about whether it was or wasn’t.

      1. Pari*

        Yeah it’s absolutely terrible, but that’s the only possible reason I can think of that might explain why the boss didn’t say something immediately.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          He might also be a lazy, self-centered, a-hole who was mostly concerned about squeezing his dollar’s worth out of an employee and not inconveniencing himself by being short-staffed.

    2. ceiswyn*

      And that is exactly why it must not be up to the ‘gatekeeper’ in such a situation to decide what is and is not an emergency.

    3. Coalea*

      I was wondering this as well. I’m a bit surprised that so many people are prepared to vilify the manager without knowing exactly what was communicated to him. Did the friend explain the situation in detail? Did she use words like “emergency” or “life-and-death situation”? Did she communicate that time was of the essence? Or did she say something more general, like “please have OP call me right away”? How many times did the friend call the workplace? Just the once, or did she call back repeatedly? These details could explain why the manager did not understand the urgency of the situation. (Of course, it could also be the case that he understood perfectly well and just didn’t care. My point is that I don’t think we have enough information to make that determination.)

      Regardless, OP, please accept my condolences for your loss. I hope you are able to draw some comfort from happy memories of your horse.

      1. Andy and the Big Gal*

        I don’t feel it matters. The boss was told this was an emergency, he said he’d relay the message and did not. The manager deserves to be vilified. There is no explanation he can give to make this right.
        And in this meeting, Id be shaking at the gall of them to try to question my work ethic after I am a great worker and you mess up to where Death results and Im supposed to “Keep Calm and Carry on” as if nothing happened. Show you loyalty. oh no. Not happening. You get bare minimum and Id be job searching.

        1. H.C.*

          But that’s kind of Coalea’s point; this miscommunication hinges a lot on that phone call between OP’s friend and manager and more importantly, what they took away from that conversation. Was the seriousness of the horse’s condition properly communicated & understood? Did the manager actually say he’ll let OP know immediately vs “as soon as she’s free”?

          I am not necessarily shifting the blame away from the manager, but I wouldn’t go so far as saying “there’s no explanation he can give to make this right.” And per AAM’s response, this also depends on how the manager behaved otherwise throughout OP’s career.

          1. H.C.*

            *Sorry, meant to write “as soon as OP is free” in earlier comment (didn’t mean to imply a gender/sex when the post didn’t indicate one)

          2. Observer*

            There is no way that the OP’s manager said “as soon as she’s free”. Remember, the friend had tried reaching her several times, and also clearly understood the significance of the issue. Had he said that she would have followed up, and would have come away understanding that the boss had no intention of giving the OP a quick heads up.

            1. H.C.*

              well, yes – “as soon as she’s free” is probably at the extreme of that and I probably shouldn’t have portrayed it as one vs the other, but there’s still a good number of responses that could leave room for ambiguity, resulting in different understanding and expectations between OP’s friend and OP’s manager—which can happen without anyone lying.

      2. ceiswyn*

        Whether or not the manager understood the urgency of the situation is actually irrelevant in this case. The manager said he’d pass on a message IMMEDIATELY, and then not only didn’t, but apparently never intended to.

        It is not OK to lie, or to make commitments you do not intend to keep. Even outside of an emergency.

        1. Coalea*

          I 100% agree that it is not okay to lie. In this case, however, we don’t actually know that the manager lied. All we know is that the OP said that his/her friend said that the manager said that he would pass on the message immediately. I believe that is what’s referred to as “double hearsay,” which isn’t considered to be necessarily reliable.

          1. Observer*

            It’s not double hearsay. And, in this case, there is very strong reason for the OP to believe her friend. So, yes, we know that the manager lied. Either he genuinely forgot and tried to cover it up with the lie about waiting for lunch or from the get go.

            1. Saturn9*

              No, believing Friend over Manager because Friend had to witness a terrible situation that you’re mad at Manager for making worse is not a “very strong reason.”

              Friend called OP multiple times, called Manager and was told the message would be delivered “immediately” and then… waited 3 hours until OP called Friend back? I’m all for taking OP at their word but there is very clearly some missing context in this story.

        2. catsAreCool*

          “The manager said he’d pass on a message IMMEDIATELY, and then not only didn’t, but apparently never intended to.” This!

      3. Marisol*

        This is a good point to consider, as jumping to conclusions is always bad, and yet…it seems unlikely that the friend didn’t communicate the urgency. I’m imagining the conversation: “Hi OP’s boss? This is OP’s friend. I’m standing here with the vet, who is waiting for OP’s ok to perform emergency surgery…” even communicating the most bare-bones facts would seem to convey urgency. Of course anything is possible.

      4. Moonsaults*

        My reaction comes from the managers reaction after the fact. If it was truly a misunderstanding, he should have been a lot more upset that his negligence lead to the extended suffering of the sick horse.

  68. H.C.*

    OP, so sorry that this happened to you.

    In addition to AAM’s advice, I would recommend setting up an appointment or phone call with a grief counselor to help you process your thoughts and feelings during this difficult time. Ideally before your meeting with your manager & his manager — AAM’s scripts are great, but you should also prepare yourself for their possible responses (e.g. What, if anything, would’ve been an acceptable explanation for your manager’s delay in passing on the emergent message? How would you feel if your manager’s response was callous/jerky during the discussion? What would it take for you to forgive him?) Thinking & talking through these scenarios would better prepare you for that meeting.

    1. Justanotherthought*

      Yes! Agree that you should prepare yourself for this conversation by thinking about their possible responses. It’s going to be a tough meeting for you, emotionally, and having some idea of the next think you’d say would be helpful.

      Best of luck.

  69. bopper*

    I would immediately start looking for another job. And stop working overtime or extra shifts.
    When you get that job, then tell them off.

  70. OfficerEmanon*

    Agree that the root of this issue is your ability to rely on your manager’s judgment, and that you can no longer can.

    Something similar happened with my manager at my previous job. No people/pets died, but I was pregnant and recovering from surgery, and my manager loaded unnecessary work on me because she was panicking and not thinking straight – regardless of higher-ups stating that the situation was not a crisis. We didn’t even end up using any of the work I did – the situation resolved itself. I have/will never forgive her.

  71. Chriama*

    Wow, a lot of people reacted strongly to this one. Me too, and I don’t even really like animals. I’m just so angry and frustrated by the idea that this guy would act as gatekeeper and then fail so miserably at that task. Even though I had a visceral gut reaction , I think OP needs to try and be as non-emotional in the meeting as possible. Explain that the issue is the manager’s behaviour as a message keeper. Don’t get into the details of how you were doing busywork at the time or how dedicated you’ve been to the company over the years – none of that matters.

    The facts are this: your friend contacted your boss with a critical message, he promised to pass it on to you immediately, and then didn’t do so. Because of this, you missed the treatment window for your horse and had to put it down. If the boss had told your friend you were unavailable for several hours, different choices could have been made. Therefore, the boss’s actions are directly responsible for the loss of your horse and her hours of suffering. (Don’t let them interrupt you or sidetrack you while you’re laying out this summary. Just express the facts as calmly as you can).

    I would also think about what you want as an outcome, and what you’re likely to get. Do you want a formal apology, or paid time off to grieve, or something else? Also, if your work performance is suffering then you do need to address that with them. Do you want to work part time or get a break from working overtime for a while?
    I understand that it’s hard to continue to feel dedicated to an employer who would treat you like this, so maybe you should think about leaving this job altogether, and come to an agreement with your bosses about notice period and what they’ll say to future reference-checkers.

    I’m so sorry you had to deal with this, OP, and I wish you all the best.

    1. vanBOOM*

      “The facts are this: your friend contacted your boss with a critical message, he promised to pass it on to you immediately, and then didn’t do so. Because of this, you missed the treatment window for your horse and had to put it down. If the boss had told your friend you were unavailable for several hours, different choices could have been made. Therefore, the boss’s actions are directly responsible for the loss of your horse and her hours of suffering.”

      I like this.

  72. KMS1025*

    OP I am so very sorry. Heartbreak is heartbreak and greif is greif. No one gets to belittle or minimize your intense feelings. My guess is that your manager is a lunkhead who forgot to give you the message versus a cold-hearted jerk who just doesn’t care, but regardless…I could not mend this working relationship. Forgiveness is divine, but in my experience I have needed space in which to reach the point of being able to forgive. Constantly seeing this person would make me become a very bitter, disengaged employee. You don’t want that for yourself every day. My condolences on the loss of your childhood friend. You will love again, given time and space to heal.

      1. Natalie*

        Well, that’s what he says. My first thought was the same as a few other people have already posted – he forgot, panicked when the OP asked him about it, and blurted out something about planning on telling her at lunch rather than admit that he had just forgotten.

    1. Biff*

      We’ve had such a parade of bad bosses this year….. and yet this one STILL might take the cake. Good god.

      1. Marisol*

        Let’s see…would I rather be bullied to donate a portion of my liver to my boss’s brother, or have my horse die because of boss’s negligence? Uh, the former. Would I rather be browbeaten to give my boss food, or have my horse die because of boss’s negligence? Once again, I’ll take the former…etc.

        Yeah, I think we might have a winner.

        1. Biff*

          The one who shit in lunchboxes is still a strong contender for me, since some of his antics could have gotten an employee killed, and if I recall the letter, were directly responsible for one of the employees getting a serious, life-changing injury. But I agree with you, this tops a LOT of what we’ve heard so far, if you are basing it simply on the impact to the LW.

            1. Lady Phoenix*

              We also have the boss that tried to keep an employee from attending her graduation and gave out personal information about her life to everyone on the internet. Don’t forget about that person too!

              . . . Or the manager that forced the OP to “manage” a complete douchebag, only to do jack shit when OP finally demanded a meeting about all of this instead of firing the douche-canoe.

              . . . 2016 has just been a terrible year, hasn’t it. I’ll be glad when 2017 comes around and we can kiss (or rather spit) this year goodbye.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I always think, “bless the beasts and the children”. Anyone who would frig around with a kid or an animal is no one I want to be around. If we cannot protect the innocent and the vulnerable among us then give up, all is lost.

          We need a new category, “dirt of the year”.

          Very sorry, OP.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t know if the title is Alison’s or the OP’s, but I think it sounds to me like she would have ended up euthanizing the mare even had she gotten the phone call in time; a colic surgery is a lot to put a 29-year-old through. Which doesn’t make what happened okay in the *slightest*, and the OP’s grief about being unable to make that choice and do it in time to save her beloved friend pain is horrible.

      1. Biff*

        I do think Marisol’s argument hold though. Would I rather have a boss steal my lunch daily, or prevent me from being there for my dog when she is put down. The former, obviously. Would I like to lose some fingers because my boss is a jackass who doesn’t practice shop safety, or miss my dog’s last breath? Well, now that’s a conundrum.

  73. Justanotherthought*

    Oh, OP…. my heart hurts for you. I’m so sorry. This is so unfair and I can’t imagine how you feel still working for him.

    I hope you find some peace and your work situation improves – either at your current job or at another.

  74. AndersonDarling*

    OP, if you are reading this, I hope you will come back and let us know what happened. I’m going to be thinking about you and hoping for the best. I hope there is a good resolution, but if not, let us know so we can all be upset together.

  75. Lauren*

    What if this was a human? a child? an elderly parent? Forget it was a horse. It was an emergency, and this jerk took away your power to be there. Even if nothing could be done. It is YOUR call to make. OP you need a fresh start. It will fester at you if you have to be at that place let alone see that manager. Get out as fast as you can.

    Glassdoor Review – I had an emergency. My best friend was critically ill and required surgery. I can’t have phones at work, so the dr. spoke to my manager telling him it was dire situation – my manager claimed he would tell me immediately. I was needed to be consulted as I was her in case of emergency person for medical decisions. WAS being the word. My manager chose not to tell me there was even a phone call instead deciding on his own that I could be told 5 hours later at lunch. My best friend died during that time.

    1. Lauren*

      I know most people don’t go this route, but others in that company and potential employees should be aware that they too could be in this situation with a manager not conveying emergencies about their loved ones.

  76. Pari*

    With so many commenters laying the blame for the horse on the boss It makes me curious to know if the op’s anger is in part because she would have opted for the expensive surgery to save the horse.

    1. Lola*

      My feeling is that she would’ve opted for the expensive surgery to save her horse. But even if she did not want the surgery, there is even more understandable rage that she could’ve left at that moment to at least comfort the horse before it was time to be put down. Plus she could’ve made the decision to put the horse down MUCH sooner and have avoided unnecessary suffering for all parties involved.

      Even if one takes the perspective that it wasn’t really his fault because she would’ve opted to put the horse down anyways – he is the reason for the prolonged suffering of a living creature.

    2. ceiswyn*

      It doesn’t really matter.

      A living creature went through three hours of unnecessary agony because the boss decided to delay a message that he had said he would pass on immediately.

      1. YawningDodo*

        Yep, this. It doesn’t matter what the LW’s decision would have been. It matters that the LW was prevented from making that decision and the horse suffered for three hours while the vet and friend waited for word.

    3. LCL*

      A 29 year old horse? The vet probably would have recommended euthanasia. She would have conferred with the vet, and made what they mutually decided was the best decision. But she should have been able to make that choice. And they would have made it a lot faster. That’s what makes me so angry about this, the animal suffered for longer than she should have with a fatal condition.

      (My horse died of colic years ago. I wasn’t home when it happened, my parents responded, got the vet out, then they made the decision and did it without trying to find me which was I was OK with given the circumstances.)

      1. Pari*

        That the horse was 29 was exactly what made me wonder that- that the anger might be more about the insensitivity as opposed to the actual death

      2. 2horseygirls*

        I boarded with someone who hauled her 35 year old horse to a university 1.5 hours away for TWO colic surgeries withing 10 days of each other. To each their own.

        Regardless of the validity or “rightness” of whatever course of action that ensued, OP should have been the one to make the call, and she was denied that right because Manager decided to “let her know at lunch (five hours after the call came in)”. Based on that statement, Manager made the DELIBERATE choice not to notify OP — not an oversight, not an “I forgot because X”. A DELIBERATE choice.

      3. blackcat*

        I (really, my mom) put down a 45 year old pony due to colic. It’s hard to know if how long a horse will be around, but you may know based on the breed. When the pony was 29, I’m 100% sure my mom would have opted for surgery, thinking the horse had a while left and no current health problems. At 45 it was a different calculation, given she had some other help problems. At the same time, there’s no way she would have done surgery on her thoroughbred when he was 29–at that age he was arthritic and deaf, among other things.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      The actual outcome is irrelevant: His delay robbed her of the choice.

      It could just has easily have been a young horse that would have survived surgery *had she been notified*, but the delay that he caused would still have made treatment impossible.

        1. catsAreCool*

          It’s so hard to lose a pet. To lose a pet and know that she went through unnecessary suffering before dying, because the manager decided to wait until lunch, that would be so tough to deal with.

          The kindest think I can think of the manager is that maybe he forgot and said he meant to tell her at lunch as sort of a cover up for forgetting. The other option would be that he lied to her friend, saying he’d tell the LW right away and deliberately didn’t, maybe because he didn’t understand the urgency. But if he didn’t understand the urgency, why would he say he’d tell the LW right away?

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think that’s where the OP is. It’s incredibly painful to have to make the decision to euthanize your beloved companion, but she was robbed of the ability to make the choice and to take care of the mare the best way she could while the horse was sick; she also can’t be 100% sure what she would have done, which is haunting.

        Plus it’s somebody being a horrible asshole at one of the worst times in your life, and not seeming to care. That is really hard to come back from.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I was told to chose between my dying father and my job. It took me YEARS to come down off the ceiling from that one.
          OP, voice of experience, it’s better to just leave. Every day, every where I turned I was constantly reminded of that situation. No reprieve. This job is probably over for you, OP. It’s okay. You can get a better job than this, you don’t have to work for Heartless People. You can do better and you will.

          1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

            No words. I am so sorry that happened to you, and I hope those that said it to you die a horrible painful suffering death- that their kids CHOOSE not to come to.

    5. Moonsaults*

      Reading the letter, it sounds like OP would have opted to put the horse down regardless. The thing now is that the horse suffered extra hours because the boss didn’t give her the message quickly. Instead of being able to talk to the vet, tell the vet to put the horse down then and there. The horse laid there in pain suffering while they waited for the call back.

      1. Gina*

        My mare had colic and was in agony. It was horrific to witness and the thought of that being prolonged unnecessarily and arbitrarily because of an idiot just sickens me. That is what is so appalling. I am so sorry OP.

  77. LawLady*

    I think it’s a really good sign that OP is meeting with both manager and manager’s manager. The manager might be an insensitive whackadoo, but I’m hopeful that big boss is not, and that he realizes how awful this is and changes OP’s reporting structure or chastens the manager or something.

  78. Boss Cat Meme*

    Oh my goodness, I am SO sorry to hear of your sad loss. Even “just a horse,” which you shouldn’t say anyway because it’s simply not true is a HUGE financial investment as well as an emotional and personal one. I give you credit for still remaining professional when asking him about this. I would have been tempted to scream at him like a lunatic when I saw him, or punch him in the face, neither of which would have been very smart at all.

    But if you really feel that you could still stay with that company, despite what you’re feeling, then this is an example of why the policy of “no calls” needs to be addressed. What about an emergency situation, in which this clearly was? What if he “forgot” and then tried to cover it by saying he was going to tell you at lunch, or whatever. That still is really unacceptable for an emergency situation. What if that had been your child, or a family member or something, and he truly forgot to tell you about it? I mean, what was HE doing at the time? If he saw you hosing horse puckey and it never even occurred to him to think, “Oh yeah, her horse is dying,” then this guy may have some serious memory issues or been kicked in the head by a horse one too many times. The company needs to have some reliable way of communicating to its employees in emergency situations like this. That’s an important issue for the company whether you stay on or not. I am so sorry.

  79. Agile Phalanges*

    I’m so sorry about your loss and what you and your friend have been through. My mare had a mild colic scare, and I can’t imagine how devastated you must be, and the trauma your friend went through trying to reach you and dealing with the vet on your behalf.

    And I can’t even imagine ever getting over what happened with your manager. Even if he really did forget to pass the message along and it wasn’t malicious, who does that? Still unforgiveable. If he was dealing with his own personal emergency, I suppose it MIGHT be forgiveable, but still un-get-over-able, at least for me. I’d be looking for another job. Please update us on how the meeting with your grand-boss goes, whether your boss ever seems to “get it,” and whether you decide to stick around or seek another job.

    Again, I’m so sorry.

  80. DCGirl*

    I’m very sorry for your loss. It brought back such memories for me.

    I once worked in fund raising at a Catholic girls’ high school, so I was one of a handful of year-round employees. One summer, the principal decided to save money by not employing a receptionist over the summer and buying an answering machine instead. This was an issue because we didn’t have direct outside phone lines on our desks; all calls went through the front desk. This was also in the pre-cell phone era. The principal would check the answering machine every morning for the previous days’ messages and transcribe them for everyone.

    One of my coworkers had small children and asked him how her mother, who babysat, was supposed to be able to get in touch with her if there were an emergency with one of the kids and no one was answering the phone at the school in real time. His response was that, if that happened, her mother should call the police and ask them to drive up to the school with a message for her. I guess he thought we were in Mayberry RFD, where the friendly deputy would do that, not inner city Baltimore, where the police had infinitely better things to do with their time.

    Neither one of us felt that we could trust him to have our best interests at heart after that, and we both ended up leaving as soon as we could.

    If I were you, I would feel the same way right now. There’s been a breach of trust that’s going to be hard to repair.

    1. Moonsaults*

      Checking the messages the day after…oh my gosh, that’s horrifying. They couldn’t even check it every few hours during the day? I leave my desk for hours sometimes, checking the messages frequently is not that difficult >:(

    2. Marisol*

      “I guess he thought we were in Mayberry RFD, where the friendly deputy would do that…” unbelievable. Either he was extremely naive, or he just didn’t give a f*ck.

  81. Pregnant Lady Crying*

    Just have to say I ugly cried – at work – for you. No worries, I’m pregnant and it happens (I went to the nursing mothers room to get some privacy), but wow. I can’t believe this and I’m so sorry. Our pets are our lives and it sounds like your horse was so much more than a pet to you. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    1. Adlib*

      I have cried more than once this week for other people’s pets whom I don’t even know. It’s part of life, but it’s so crushing. I hate that we outlive them.

    2. Cranky Pants*

      Me too, at least on the ugly crying part. So glad to be working from home with just my dog and cats as witnesses. It did upset the dog though.

  82. Hrovitnir*

    I’m so sorry for your loss. That would be haunting, and I agree that even all going perfectly your relationship with your boss is unlikely to heal. I don’t think I could get over it.

    I hope you can have some resolution with this meeting, even though I’m sure it will be difficult. If you could talk to your boss’ boss beforehand I would probably give that a go, but you can certainly bring this up in the meeting otherwise.

  83. Cucumberzucchini*

    As a horse-lover and owner I would simply quit. This would be too much for me to handle. I had a crazy job where I like you worked all the overtime, never took a vacay or sick time. But when my horse stepped on a nail, I had my cell phone, received the call and just left to be with her. If my company had tried to stop me from taking care of her when she needed me to greenlight surgery I would have quit on the spot. But you were denied even knowing about this and while the manager may not have understood the severity and time sensitive nature of Colic it doesn’t make it okay.

    Maybe you can find solace in the fact that colic surgery isn’t always successful and circumstances being different the outcome may have been the same. But I’m very sorry you weren’t given the opportunity to investigate every possible life-saving measure and for the loss of your mare :(

  84. Annabelle Lee*

    OP, I am very sorry for your loss.
    Based on my experience I think you should try to have someone else at this meeting to witness what happens and what is said. That might sound adversarial and possibly hostile but you need to protect your interests with these people. Never assume anyone in management is on your side (and I say that as a manager myself).

  85. Katy*

    Please accept my sincerest condolences, OP. Aside from all of the excellent advice given above, I wonder if you’d like to consider another arrow in your quiver when it comes to this meeting with the managers: not only have you lost a companion, you’ve also been deprived of your property. I don’t pretend to know what a horse like yours is worth in dollars and cents, but she was (in the eyes of the law) your possession, and your manager’s delay destroyed your possession. That might be language these people understand.

  86. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I personally would find that relationship with the manager irreparable … it’s just not something I’d be able to forgive. I’d find it hard to trust my manager’s judgment in emergency situations after that given that he must understand how important your mare must have been to you (you work with animals so I’m assuming he’s not the kind of person who wouldn’t have believed her to be “just an animal” right?). Again, I’m so sorry – what an awful thing to happen.

    1. nonegiven*

      It is. It’s unforgivable. I couldn’t trust that boss to tell me the sky is blue. Never again.

      Irreparably broken.

      The boss is lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.

  87. Bunny Purler*

    Oh my God. I have just had an equine week from hell myself – my friends were away for their first holiday since 2001, and one of their horses became seriously ill. He’s on the mend now, but the sheer horror of this sort of situation can’t be underestimated. OP, I am so sorry for your loss, and I am imagining my own horse kicking your manager very hard with his giant hooves.

  88. Observer*

    I think it may be worth pointing out a couple of things to your grand-boss. Firstly, as an organization that deals with animals, your boss should have been aware of the potential seriousness of the situation and how strongly animal owners feel about their animals.

    Secondly, the fact that the effectively LIED to your friend is very concerning, even if it were about something non-significant. The boss said he was going to tell the OP right away, and failed to do so. And, it’s clearly not that he got distracted and forgot, which would have been bad enough (see issue 1). When you asked the boss about it, he didn’t gasp and realize that he’s forgotten to tell you. He said that he wasn’t planning to tell you for yet another couple of hours!

    Given that you have a good track record, and it was not a busy day, it’s especially lousy that he didn’t tell you – even had he not promised to tell you. The combination is one that really mean.

  89. Not So NewReader*

    My sympathy, too, OP. May time be kind to you and may you find warm, caring people in this world.

  90. sstabeler*

    that boss is an absolute asshole, regardless of what effect the delay had.
    1) The delay in informing OP robbed the OP of any choice in putting the horse down or not. That cna make a massive difference.
    2) the OP was kept out doing MAKEWORK all the time. why ther $%&* could the manager not have, when the friend called, fetched the OP to answer the original call, rather than needing to pass a message? even if it wasn’t an emergency, if the OP was doing makework, then by definition it can wait while a phone call is answered.

    more basically, if the meeting is to criticise the performance drop, I would make sure they knew what had happened, and if both persist, I would quit on the spot.

  91. Narise*

    Agree to the meeting and say the following slowly and in an even voice-I have worked here for years and put in overtime and done the job of two or three employees at times. I rarely have received personal phone calls until that day and it was literally life or death. It would have taken five minutes to find me and give me the message and it would have taken maybe twenty minutes for me to deal with the situation. As much as I am upset about my horse suffering needlessly for hours and my friend having to deal with it alone, what I am really upset about is I never would have guessed that you would not give me a message that was so important. I want an explanation as to why this happened and what will happen in the future if there is another emergency. – Then stop talking and listen. After they say whatever they say state that you need some time to think and probably won’t be available for overtime for awhile. Be intentionally vague on your plans.

  92. Red In SC*

    So many comments, and I’m sure it’s been said before, but OP, does your company have an EAP program? The Employee Assistance Program. It’s meant to be a short term therapy.

    I used my company’s EAP when I felt a complete betrayal by my employer and manager. It actually helped me deal with the anger and sadness I was feeling. If you can, get a couple of sessions, and see if that helps you clarify.

    I’m sorry you lost your horse, and I’m so sorry she suffered. Virtual hugs to you.

  93. LW*

    Thank you to everyone who has offered condolences and my condolences to those who have shared stories of their own loses. As many of you guessed I am in Australia and have only just got home from work. My mare died on the 7th of September and I took several days off after her death. The necropsy report revealed that she had a tumour which wrapped around part of the intestine and strangled it. I had her cremated and her ashes have been scattered on several of our old trails.

    The animal based industry I work in is less of the cute and cuddly kind and more of the people eat meat kind. That said the company I work for is very driven to have high animal welfare standards and is leading its field in raising the animals we do in the kindest way possible.
    About a week after I wrote to Alison I was called into the meeting, along with my manager, his manager I also dragged in the union rep as I wanted someone in my corner. At the first Grand Boss asked me what was going on and why I’d suddenly dropped all the shifts I’d been covering. I explained what had happened and Manager beside me looked really worried.
    Grand boss listened my side of the story, paused the meeting and then went and got Great Grand Boss. I told Great Grand Boss the whole story again, though this time I struggled to keep it together and then Great Grand Boss asked Manager what his side of the story was.
    Manager said he’d stood up to get me, his phone had rung again, he had had to make a follow up call after that and then he’d forgotten about it about it until I came in for smoko.
    Great Grand Boss asked my manager what would have happened had an employee failed to contact a supervisor immediately about an animal in his care with the broken leg and needed to be euthanized. Manager awkwardly responded that the employee would have been fired. Union rep at this point switches sides and comments that my mare wasn’t in the care of the company/manager.
    Great Grand Boss concedes the point but also reminds union rep that they fired two employees’ last year for animal welfare related issues that occurred outside of work. He then dragged manager and the rep off to his office to talk.

    Grand boss was very apologetic and gave me a few weeks of paid leave plus the contact details of the company psychiatrist. I’ve had a few sessions with them and they have really helped.
    She also asked about what my plans were and if I wanted to stay with the company after I got back from leave though she understood if I didn’t. She said that she would provide me with a good reference if I needed it. I said I needed to think about it, but also pointed out that I wasn’t keen to be doing so much overtime.

    What was even nicer though, was when I went to sort out the vet bill I discovered that the company had already paid it. So, I’m still working for them and not under that manager. He is still with the company just in a very different role with little to no phone answering responsibilities.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thank you for this update! If it’s okay with you, I’m going to run it as its own post on Friday since I think a bunch of people will be really interested in it (and may not see it here).

    2. sstabeler*

      To be honest, I *really* like your Grand Boss and Great Grand Boss for three reasons. 1. their first response- unlike Boss- was to ask what was wrong. That shows they actually care about their employees, since they clearly assume an employee who has suddenly stopped performing as well as they used to has a reason for it. 2. They treated the manager in a way that was fair to him- he was given a chance to explain any mitigating circumstances (I can think of a coupe, which boil down to “the manager made all reasonable efforts to contact the employee, but couldn’t” and gave the manager a reasonable punishment ( the fact it wasn’t a horse under the company’s care mean firing is probably unjustified, but moving the manager to a role where he couldn’t make such an epic screwup again is reasonable) 3. The fact they immediately offered you PTO to recover, and paid the vet bill. The fact you didn’t even need to ask is a nice touch- the time off, particularly, shows the company really does care about it’s employees.

      I also liked the bit where Boss looked really worried. It’s always nice when an incompetent asshole ( he’s an asshole regardless of why he didn’t notify the employee) sees the consequences of their actions coming to bite them in the ass.

      1. Lanon*

        Just about the only outcome that could have happened where most people wouldn’t be inclined to violently go for the bosses throat immediately.

    3. AnonEMoose*

      I’m so glad that Grand Boss and Great Grand Boss handled this so well, and in a really caring way. And that there were consequences for the manager (I still want to put on steel toed boots and kick him very hard somewhere sensitive), and I’m especially glad that you don’t have to work under him any more.

    4. Aunt Vixen*

      Sounds like the best available ending in a variety of ways. I hope you’re doing okay, LW. I know it takes time to get over such a loss.

    5. One of the Sarahs*

      LW, I’m so sorry for your loss, but I’m pleased you had Union representation, and while the ideal would have been for all this to be avoided, I love how the company handled it – especially the comparison to staff members being fired over animal welfare.

      I hope whatever you decide about the company, you’re able to feel better about it all.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      OMG I am so relieved to hear back from you!

      I know this will never make up for what your poor horse when through or your loss of her but I have been stewing about this letter all night and was really worried about how that meeting might turn out. I am so glad it went this way!

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I am impressed with your Grand Boss and Great Grand Boss. I can see why you stayed.

      I absolutely LOVE how she respected your right to stay or go, no pressure to stay. It looks like she paid the vet bill and the time off before she knew if you were quitting or not. She gets additional points for her on that one.

      This is a great example that shows companies/bosses can step up to the plate when something crappy/nasty happens.

      I am very pleased you had this outcome, OP. You deserved the consideration you received.

  94. LW*

    That’s fine,
    I’m sorry I’d not responded earlier, I saw you had posted it as you walked out the door this morning.

  95. Anoushka*

    I’m so sorry about your horse, OP. I can’t offer advice, but I wanted to say I empathize. I had a miscarriage two weeks ago, came back to work a week ago. My manager was one of only two people who knew I was pregnant at work. He hasn’t offered condolences or anything – just said they struggled while I was away and was glad I was back. The lack of any sympathy has left me not putting my all into my work, but I don’t have words to explain. “You’re an insensitive ass and your complete lack of human feeling has left me wondering why I ever worked so hard for you” probably wouldn’t go down well. I’m sorry OP; when people don’t notice what would (very reasonably, in the case of your horse) matter to others it’s hard to know what to say.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Oh Anoushka, this is terrible. I’m sorry about what happened and how your stupid boss handled it.

      1. Anoushka*

        Thank you. He hasn’t spoken to me again this week, which suits me fine.

        The other person I told at work let me know yesterday she was 14 weeks pregnant.

        Miscarriage is the loneliest place on earth.

  96. AnonEMoose*

    I’m so sorry for your loss. (((HUGS))) if you want them.

    Is it possible that your manager might not have really known what to say, and so said nothing? It’s one of the worst things people can do – but some do it, just because they don’t know how to deal. Or they think it’s better not to mention it, for fear of upsetting the grieving person. It’s not ok, but it’s also not always malicious.

    Again, though, I mostly wanted to say how sorry I am for your loss.

  97. boop the first*

    These stories are so sad and frustrating. So many usually include “I’ve done so much for these people, I worked and worked and worked at my own expense and they totally screwed me in the end.” I’ve only ever had terrible, society’s loser type jobs, and it’s depressing to get screwed over time and time again while people who are narcissistic and undependable seem to get anything their heart desires. I wish I had the kind of strength to just say screw it and serve my own best interests, because it seems like THIS is our reward for hard work – given busywork while our family is dying.

    What if this wasn’t a horse? What if this was an aging parent with no outside access to care? Why do I get the sense that the result would have gone the same way? How do you go on knowing that this is as good as it will ever get?

  98. KJDubreuil*

    It is so sad and tragic that your horse died and that she suffered. I am so sorry.

    Am I the only one who thinks that the friend and the vet should have called the workplace again and again? Apparently they knew the owner was there, and knew she would call back if she had the message. Shouldn’t they have suspected that she didn’t know what was going on?

    I work in an animal related industry and have actually been in the position of trying to reach someone whose animal was critically ill. We call the cell, the home, the work, the emergency contact, the cell again, the mother or sister ( if we know who she is), the work, the cell over and over until we reach the person. We would never make one call, talk to someone who said they would pass along a message and then wait hours for a call back.

  99. KJDubreuil*

    I see in the update that the person who took the call got interrupted and forgot. People are commenting that it is a character flaw that the person forgot, that no reasonable person could forget something this serious, etc.

    Actually, the very act of forgetting is part of normal human psychology. It is far more common to forget things that are unusual or out of the ordinary. No one would argue that forgetting your baby in the back seat of your car when you drive somewhere, and by forgetting, allowing your baby to die of heatstroke is not very serious. Yet dozens of normal loving parents do this each year in this country. Usually when they are not the one to take the baby to day care every day, or they have gone shopping with the baby when usually the other parent does the shopping, or whatever. Baby falls asleep in the back seat, is quiet, and is forgotten.

    In this case the manager took the call, started to go find the owner of the horse, got interrupted and forgot. It was an accident. The memory did not get from short term to long term storage before it was displaced by the distraction.

    I hope you can find forgiveness and understanding in your heart.

    1. Tiger Snake*

      Except “I was distracted and forgot” is only what the manager said to the Grand Boss. When the first spoke to him herself, he said that he always intended to tell her at lunch.

      Which means he lied.

      True, we don’t know whether he lied to Op because he didn’t want to admit he’d forgotten, or to the Grand Boss because he thought it would look better and his punishment wouldn’t be as severe. I also don’t intend to speculate.

      What I do know is that the manager has not even attempted to make amends or apologize. Grand Boss and Great Grand Boss are the ones who’ve apologized, offered time off and encouragement to see grief counseling, have paid vet fees without the OP even asking. These are the actions of someone who can see that their mistake has caused harm and want to make up for it.

      A liar who has shown no remorse (only fear of recourse) doesn’t get to expect forgiveness or understanding. He gets my contempt.

      Any forgiveness at this point should be for the OP’s own sake, because it will hopefully balm the sting of bitterness and grief that comes from continuing to work with this man (manager or not). But even if she does forgive him, that doesn’t mean he gets to pretend this never happened.

    2. sstabeler*

      If the manager seemed to be genuinely repentant, I would agree with you. However, in this story, there’s no sign the manager even cares that he cost OP’s horse’s life, or, at a minimum, even if the horse was too ill to save, caused the horse to suffer in pain for HOURS longer than it had to. Forgiveness without the person being repentant is just being a doormat. Had the manager been apologetic and recognised that forgetting, in this case was seriosu, I would have agreed thye should be forgiven. but the sheer callousness- “oh, I forgot”- means forgiveness isn’t appropiate,

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