we got rid of our IT person and it’s been a disaster, I don’t want to take care of my boss’s fish, and more

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

1. We got rid of our IT person and it’s been a disaster

About six months ago, my company of 75+ advertising people got rid of our in-house IT person. He was admittedly overworked and stressed, but was at least available in the office every day to help with everything from broken printers to missing passwords. He was vital. Someone, somewhere, very high up in our company’s owner company (higher than our CEO, it seems) decided we didn’t need him. Or anyone.

We now call France for IT help or email them (very tough when our computers won’t turn on or log in or email isn’t working). We have pleaded to have this fixed, that we’ll take budget cuts elsewhere, but to no avail. I love my job in every other way but lose hours every day with my computer, which has been glitchy since I started 18 months ago. Once every few months, someone will come in person to “fix” things, but they are never fixed. Other coworkers have complained too, but my computer seems to be particularly bad. (I am usually pretty good at solving my own computer problems, but I’m not a magician.)

I have whined about this out loud. I have sent sweet emails to my team apologizing for not replying to emails because I’m not getting any, or not being able to do work because my files won’t open. I have lost emails and files.

I know they know this isn’t my fault, but after a certain point I also see how it’s reflecting poorly on me, especially since my coworkers need to cover for me/pick up my slack. My manager just wants this to be fixed, but doesn’t have the pull to make it happen. And again, I think eventually he’s just going to see me as the problem, out of frustration rather than logic. Especially since it keeps getting “fixed” and breaking again.

I’m at my wit’s end. I’m so angry that this (I’m sure) cost-saving measure is costing us so much, especially as we move into digital campaigns. But I am at a loss over what to do. The boss’s boss’s boss is in another country and has zero actual contact with anyone at this company. Threatening to quit won’t do much as this is New York and someone can always take my place (and will probably get a functioning computer). Actually quitting isn’t something I want, although if I get a better offer I will make a point of mentioning this in my exit interview.

Well, someone above your manager should be calculating how much this whole situation (not just yours, but everyone’s) is costing the company and making the case for changing it, and it’s troubling that that apparently hasn’t happened. For that matter, it’s also troubling that someone above your CEO is meddling in day-to-day management decisions like whether or not to cut a single IT position; that’s not typically something that’s handled at that level, so the whole thing is pretty odd.

As for what you can do, since your own manager has tried and failed and the person with authority to act on this won’t talk to anyone, there aren’t a lot of options here. But maybe there are some less-than-ideal options that would still be better than what you have now: Is there someone more junior whose computer runs better who you could swap with? Would your manager okay you buying a new computer and expensing it? Could you calculate how much money the company is spending in lost work hours due to this situation and show that it’s more than buying you a new computer would cost? Could you do whatever they’d do if your computer completely died tomorrow? (Could you, uh, hasten its death?) Would you want to bring in your own device to use? (There are huge drawbacks to that, but some people do it and you might calculate that you prefer it to the current situation.) Or, is there someone above your boss who seems to have common sense who you might mention this to?

2. I’m depressingly isolated at work

I am very isolated at work, where I am one in a group of a handful of a people who always work with their doors closed and email if they have questions for each other. And yes, I have knocked on their doors just to say “hi” (I know you think that is appalling), and they never look up from their screens — phone or computer. I do talk to people in the kitchen, started an outreach program for our department, invite people to whom I give orientations to go for lunchtime walks (sometimes they say “yes”). But I can go days without speaking to anyone — and my commute is two hours a day. Why am I driving to be alone? This is very dispiriting and depressing. I’d just like to say “hi” and “have a nice weekend” to another breathing being. I’ve been here four years, and have used up my ideas.

I’m sorry — that sounds really unpleasant if you’re someone who wants social interaction!

You’ve been there four years and you’ve made all the right efforts to reach out to people. It sounds like this culture just isn’t a good match with you; you want something with more interaction, and it doesn’t sound like this place will provide it. Why not think about looking for somewhere that’s more in line with the things you want from a workplace and from colleagues? There’s no shame in that; no office culture will be right for everyone.

3. I don’t want to take care of my boss’s fish

One of our head directors decided to get a betta fish a few weeks ago, but due to the nature of the fish (hiding or staying still for long periods of time) it has started to freak her and out she is constantly worrying if the fish is dead, so she has given me the fish, without asking me if I am willing to take care of it.

Previously I would take care of her fish on weekends, which are not part of my regular schedule but I have been covering reception tasks since a new hire is not working out the best with our team. As I will be returning to my regular schedule this week, how do I tactfully say that I do not want the responsibility of a fish at my workplace? As I have previously taken care of her fish, and it is well known that I volunteer with a nonprofit that trains support dogs, everyone assumes that it makes the most sense for me to take care of the fish, but I really hate it! I don’t think fish are good pets for quite a few reasons, and since I only work four days a week I feel I am not the best person for this as I refuse to take it home with me. As I have a front-facing role, it seems to unnerve some of my clients as well and it makes my meetings longer because everyone asks about it. Is there any way for me to tactfully give the fish back, or better yet, find a new home for it entirely?

Yes! Say this: “Now that I’m going back to my regular schedule, I need to return the fish to your care since I’ll only be here four days a week. If you don’t think you want to keep him, maybe you could ask around the office to see if anyone else would like to adopt him. Sadly, I don’t think I’m a fish person so it can’t be me. Here you go!”

If she tries to talk you into keeping him, say this: “Oh, I can’t — I’m really not a fish person. Hopefully you can find someone who’ll be excited to have him!”

4. Do you always have to use a salutation in email?

In the past you’ve discussed the proper form of address in an email, but not when it stops being required at all. When I’m emailing a client back and forth about a project, I typically always say “Hi Client,” at the beginning of every single email. I’ve been thinking about it lately and it seems rather tedious. I never do this with coworkers, but I try to be more formal with clients than coworkers. Any general rule of them that you could think of for this?

I also realized that when you start with that “Hi Client,” it makes the email preview a bit less useful, if the other person uses that preview. I know I sure do.

Clients often respond with either just my name, or just start the body of the email with no introduction. On the one hand, as a salesperson, I’m perfectly happy if the client is more casual than I am. On the other hand, is that just professional norms and I didn’t get that memo?

You’re overthinking it. It doesn’t matter — you can do it however you want. However, if you want a guideline (and you sound like you do), mirroring what the person is doing is usually a good way to go. So if they’re just plunging in with no salutation, you’d do the same.

5. Can I lose my vacation time if I don’t use it before the end of the year?

I have built up 106 hours of vacation time. My boss informed me that I will lose 66 if those hours if not used by the end of the year. But there is not enough staff to let me take those hours off. Is it legal for them to just take those hours away from me? I’m in Texas.

Yes. It’s not fair, but it’s legal. Most states, including Texas, allow employers to have “use it or lose it” policies (California is an exception).

However, you can certainly try to advocate for yourself here. Say this: “Because this time off is part of my compensation package, it’s important to me to be able to use them; otherwise I’ll essentially be losing part of my pay. Can you help me figure out how to make this work this year? Or if it’s truly not possible, can we arrange for them to still be available to me next year, so that I’m not out a major chunk of compensation?”

Also — it sounds like going forward you should plan to take time off more regularly so that you’re not accruing such a large bank of it, which you can then lose. If that’s not possible because of workload, that’s something you should point out too — as in, “The reason I’ve ended up with this number of hours is because I’ve prioritized my work. I’d like to be able to continue doing that, but if it means losing vacation time, that’s a real disincentive to do that.”

{ 368 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia

    #1 The CEO is pretty clearly not the CEO in fact if s/he can’t make a decision as small as this with this big an impact. The OP’s computer has been a continuous problem; may be time to make it a permanent problem. I’d be afraid that I would be made redundant if I couldn’t get the job done even when being sandbagged.

    1. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 21st Century

      This smells to me like an investor (or a major donor/large grant if it’s a non-profit) demanding to reduce what they see as unnecessary headcount while having no idea what kind of support normal people in a workplace need.

      1. Christine

        I had an ex that worked for a company that sent him this horrible lab top. He was a contractor and would fly out to sites and it wouldn’t work, etc. He would ship it back to them, they would repair it and send it back. After the 3rd time he did this, he ran a magnet across it.

        1. QAT Contractor

          Another possibility is to have an ‘accidental’ spill of some liquid (water, pop, tea) or maybe it fell when someone ran into your desk. I’m making the assumption that it’s a laptop and not a desktop computer.

          If you want to fix your computer problem without sabotaging it, Alison’s suggestion of possibly swapping with someone more junior could work for you, but it’ll hurt the other employee. It’s really just a transferal of the problem, not a resolution to it.

          Perhaps the next time it needs to be fixed you can ask the person fixing it what they are doing and document it so you can try it yourself in the future? After enough documentation of fixes you could have a booklet of ideas to try before needing to call up IT. Granted this is still going to cut into your productivity so keeping a log of how much time you lose to computer problems and comparing that to the cost of having an IT person on premise would hopefully be a good approach (like Alison suggested).

          If there are others having similar computer issues, get a group together to report all this. If nobody else is having these issues, ask for a trial period with a different machine so you can test whether it really is the machine or something else. Regardless of what you do, it sounds like you, specifically, need a new computer. Sorry to hear about the problems and I hope you can find a resolution instead of a transferal for this problem.

          1. Jesmlet

            I wouldn’t do anything that could be put on OP. In a cost cutting company, they’d probably make OP pay to replace it if something got spilled. Something more subtle is probably better.

            1. QAT Contractor

              Things spill all the time though. Many people have cups of coffee at their desk in the morning, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that it’s accidentally knocked over or dropped and just happens to splash all over the computer.

              Once of my coworkers actually knocked a bottle of pop over on his machine, not on purpose, but just went to grab it and his mind was focused on a work related conversation at the time. His hand just didn’t grab the bottle and instead pushed it over. Temporary lapse in motor skill.

              He was lucky that someone else sitting near by acted very quickly and popped the laptop off the docking station and pulled the battery immediately, otherwise it would have fried the machine. But even then, it was a bit messed up because the keyboard was sticky.

              However, you are right, maliciously doing it could get the OP in trouble, it’s just an optional avenue that’s available.

              (Many people do something like this with their cellphones if they pay for extended warranty and they want an upgrade, usually it’s “I dropped it while mowing and the mower destroyed it” because water damage is not covered in those warranties.)

          2. SirTechSpec

            OK, I chuckled at the suggestion to hasten its demise (surely I can’t be the only one picturing the Office Space printer), but as an IT person I have to give some serious advice here for a moment: a company where the tech is this dysfunctional probably doesn’t have a functional backup system… meaning I would NOT want to do anything to jeopardize the data on my computer until some of the issues had been properly addressed. For that matter, switching with a colleague for a couple days (though a bummer for them, if your computer is such a dud) would be an excellent exercise to help you figure out what data exists only on your computer, if any (and most of us do have some even if we don’t realize it.)

      2. Ama

        Yuuup. I worked for a grad school that was entirely underwritten by a private foundation. They were always willing to spend money on fancy rugs and furniture to make the place look expensive, but beg for badly needed admin or IT staff and it was “oh, you’re exaggerating about how many hours you are spending on X task.” My boss finally got the school director to agree to a new full-time admin — one meeting with the donor foundation and that got reduced to 2 student workers at 10 hours a week each. Meanwhile I nearly developed an ulcer from stress and overwork.

      3. Chinook

        Yup. I have worked for two companies that were essentially subsidiaries of larger, foreign companies that bought them and it was always about reducing the head count in our office and centralizing shared resources. Heck, atleast once a year seems our internal IT support team of 2 (that covers 2 provinces, one state and easily 500 people) keeps trying to get absorbed into the head office IT group workflow. Luckily, they cause so much irritation because we do things so differently up here that they are spit back out to work sort in their own bubble again. But, I can see the conversation at head office being exactly like what OP describes – why are we paying someone good money to reset passwords and do other things like that when it can be done remotely by our guys over here. What always seems to be missed, though, is that local context matters and, some times, having someone available to actually lay hands on computer tech is invaluable. (Plus, I swear that computers are semi-cognizant and know when competent IT help are physically near by because sometimes just having them present in the room is enough to cause a computer system to work properly. I call it the “magical IT presence.”)

        1. Elizabeth West

          …centralizing shared resources…

          OMG I hate this. So. Much. Marketing? Yes that can be at corporate. HR? Yes, that too. Onsite IT person? NO NO NO A THOUSAND TIMES NO.

        2. Anonymous Educator

          What always seems to be missed, though, is that local context matters and, some times, having someone available to actually lay hands on computer tech is invaluable.

          Having done both remote and local support, I can attest that local support is way better (more pleasant, less frustrating), easier, and more efficient, even if you have some kind of remote desktop software (which won’t help anyway if the user is experiencing Internet-connectivity issues).

          1. Violet Fox

            There is also the thing that since local-IT is local, it makes it actually possible to do things like talk regularly with are users and get a much better idea of how they work and what they actually need resource wise to do their work.

          2. Code Monkey, the SQL

            Absolutely!

            I am a remote contractor. When I bricked my laptop, I was out a week of work while it made its way to New Jersey so it could be plugged into a wall and the necessary software reinstalled. The poor remote support person I had to go through first was clearly at a loss with how to help me, but still had to go through his whole script before we could get to the snail-mail stage.

            Sidenote – if your company laptops only work on a company connection client, have a hub for all software updates, and a button for “Install all updates” on that hub, “Uninstall remote connection client” should not be one of those available updates, or at least really ought to have an “Are you sure?” prompt.

        3. jb

          Something I can comment on!

          My company has the same issue. They cut costs by not replacing an outgoing IT guy at a subsidiary office, stuff started breaking immediately, and now they’re spending well over twice as much as the IT guy would cost to fix things at the back end. And we can’t get another IT guy out there because “We don’t have the money, with all the expense of fixing this stuff” and upper management won’t believe the costs are directly related to lacking a local IT guy.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Although I wonder if the CEO is being completely honest about that. They might just not like owning up to unpopular decisions. Either that or they really have no idea how bad it’s gotten for the OP and her cohorts.

      1. Artemesia

        This. Either the CEO is not the CEO except in name or he hides behind mysterious others i order to not take responsibility for decisions.

        1. Judy

          I’m working at a company where our President & CEO (of Teapot Creations Ltd) reports to someone at our parent company (Teahouses Inc). We sell our products to our parent company and also to their competitors. After our in house IT guy left the company, our IT is now supplied by the corporate IT, which is several states away.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            That’s a good point, I hadn’t thought of that. I would consider the “CEO” of Teapot Creations more of a director or VP of that division of Teahouses Inc. now, but I suppose in situations like that they may keep the title if not the authority.

            1. Kyrielle

              Or they may be a CEO – at $PreviousJob, we were bought by another company, then by an investment firm. Both rolled us into their existing support structure, but neither removed our existence as a separately-identified company – a subsidiary, not a division.

              And our CEO made most of the decisions a CEO would, but sometimes a Directive From On High would come down and the CEO would need to follow it (or not be CEO anymore – he could have refused, but they’d just have ousted him in that case, I think). And it usually involved getting rid of a department (HR, in our case, not IT) or restructuring it smaller to fit with the parent company’s structure so we didn’t have someone providing services they considered redundant to their own.

              Doing that with IT strikes me as not so good of an idea, but structure-wise, I can see it happening.

    3. LBK

      I mean, I can see how “eliminating the in-house IT department” could be a decision the CEO might be involved in, especially at a company with only 75-ish employees. It just happens in this case that the “IT department” is only one person.

      1. JustaTech

        It’s one of those decisions from on high that looks great on paper and is a disaster in person. Good IT people, like good office managers, are worth their weight in saffron, but because they sound low-level are far too often first on the chopping block.

        (Bad IT people, well let’s just say that one IT guy’s laziness cost my entire building a month of work.)

        1. LBK

          Oh yeah, not agreeing that it’s a good idea – in fact, I’m actually more inclined to believe that the CEO was the one who made the call specifically because it’s so short-sighted. I can’t imagine someone closer to the IT person’s work would’ve thought he was expendable or easily replaceable with outsourced support.

        2. Anonymous Educator

          (Bad IT people, well let’s just say that one IT guy’s laziness cost my entire building a month of work.)

          And the solution to that is firing the bad IT person and hiring a good IT person, not eliminating the position altogether.

        3. TheOperaGhost

          “Worth their weight in saffron”. I love that. Saffron is so very light and so very expensive.

        4. paul

          For smallish companies I can see contracting with a regional/local IT provider as being a good option. We did that years ago and its’ worked OK. Yes there’s headaches involved with it at times, but we’re only an office of ~25 or 30, and hiring and retaining good IT staff that’s competent in all areas we need is simply beyond our resources. People that can trouble shoot hardware effectively (and providing them the resources you need to do that), wire a network, handle security, etc…you’d probably need one *really* good person to do an OK job or 2-3 decent staff to really cover it and we just can’t. But the company we contract with has offices in town, charges reasonable rates and usually doesn’t have more than a 24 hour lead time on getting to tickets so it works all right.

          1. sstabeler

            it depends on the necessary turnaround time, actually. if it needs to be fixed yesterday, then you NEED someone on-site. if it doesn’t need to be fixed for weeks, you can get away with centralising or outsourcing it.

    4. Bob

      My company acquires smaller companies about OP’s size and we often either eliminate their IT person or, more often, their IT person leaves and we eliminate the position. We tell them to call the helpdesk at HQ but they usually have unique issues related to their environment so their problems are often ignored. I’ve never been taken up on this but I have suggested hiring a local experienced IT person that left the job market such as a new stay-at-home parent to come in a couple mornings or afternoons a week. You can also hire a local company to send someone in but we’ve been quoted $100/hr even for a low-level person to change printer toner. I’d rather pay an individual $25-30/hr and let them set their own hours (within reason) which would be a sweet part-time job.

      1. Scott M

        I know it’s not really part of the conversation (and not your fault), but it amazes me that I.T. is tasked with administrative stuff like changing printer toner. Seriously, anyone who knows enough to even use the printer should be able to handle changing the toner.

        1. sstabeler

          I can think of a couple reasons, actually- 1. toner’s not exactly cheap ( the cost saving as opposed to ink is because the same quantity of toner will do more pages than if it was ink) so it’s entirely possible the company wants to ensure the toner’s going into the actual printer (they can get paranoid about what employees might try to steal) 2. computer maintenance is often considered something of a black art to people who don’t use computers a lot, so they may well just say “all problems must be fixed by IT” to ensure all action fo done by those with training.

          1. KP84

            At my last company (small firm) whenever someone mentioned to the IT guy that the toner was out he would stare at them and say “Ok, the extra toner is in the supply closet. Have at it!” At my current company (large firm) employees are forbidden from handling any toner and a special ticket has to be opened with the service desk. It takes about two or three days for it to get replaced.

    5. Wilhelmina Mildew

      The company my husband works for is a major US corporation, with it’s own CEO and everything, but it is owned by another, even LARGER corporation. It used to be a gigantic one located overseas that owned many entire smaller corporations the way it did his (and some of them were HUGE, international businesses in their own right- names you would recognize), and is now owned by a US one that is the type that buys big businesses, ‘cuts costs’ (aka screws everything up), and then sells it at a profit. The CEOs of both of these gigantic corporations can override the CEOs of any of these smaller ones pretty much anytime they want to.
      At least the one my husband ultimately works for has people with common sense, even if they are cheap and ruthless.

  2. Agammamon

    “Is there any way for me to tactfully give the fish back, or better yet, find a new home for it entirely?”

    Yes. ‘Its your fish, you take care of it.’

    ‘But . . . ‘

    ‘Your fish.’

    ‘Could you just . . . ‘

    ‘You bought it, you take care of it.’

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Sure, but in dealing with people at work and especially people senior to you, it’s generally better for the relationship if you can find a less adversarial approach that still gets you the outcome you want, and in this case the OP probably can.

      1. Lance

        Basically this. And I’m not sure an approach like ‘it’s yours, take it back’ is something I’d classify as ‘tactful’; even worse when it’s to someone who has authority over you.

        1. Agammamon

          There is that. OTOH, its worked very well for me when seniors have tried to push what are effectively *personal* tasks onto me when my role is not as a personal assistant to them.

          Being ‘tactful’ has generally resulted in them pushing harder and leaning on their seniority – without giving and outright order to comply which they didn’t have the authority to do – to push me into ‘voluntary’ compliance.

          Once I got enough of a reputation as a curmudgeon, they stopped asking me to hold their babies while they go to a meeting, walk the dog, water the plants, etc.

          I’ll definitely concede that my suggested strategy is best employed *before* you’re roped into the task though.

      2. Lauren

        I think the best way would be the same excuse the manager gave to give Nemo to OP. Just drop off the fish, and be like ‘I can’t anymore, Nemo always looks dead – I’m literally trying to poke him awake like 10x a day. Please find someone else. I’m too emotionally invested in making sure he is alive that its all I think about when I am not here. It’s time to find a full-time home for Nemo outside of the office. If your cool with it, I like to send an office-wide email alerting people that Nemo is up for adoption.’

      3. Drew

        I assume this means my approach of “I’d be happy to take care of this fish. A little lemon, a little tarragon, a nice dry white — where are you going?” is not good, either.

    2. Liane

      Actually, that sounds both condescending and parental. Not the way to talk to anyone you work with, especially someone senior to you.

    3. Shazbot

      It would be better if the LW asked the manager if it was OK for her to “rehome” the fish to someone else.

      Otherwise that poor betta is probably going to go down the toilet.

  3. ArtsNerd

    #2 – I feel you! I’ve been there, kinda. Not for 4 years, but there was a stretch where I was working in an office on an underground floor entirely by myself (my office had room for three employees, plus two other empty offices.) It was incredibly demoralizing and I spent a TON of time on instant messaging services or wandering pretty far from my ‘post’ just to get any human interaction at all. Colleagues in other buildings would make half-snide comments about my massive private office (my boss’ boss’ boss did not have her own office at this time due to an ill-conceived open plan renovation)… but I absolutely hated it. I felt so disconnected from everything.

    I can imagine actually having people there with you makes it all the more frustrating when they don’t interact at all! I agree that it’s time to look for a better fit. I’m happily in a work environment that has a really great talking-to-hunkering-down ratio for me.

    1. Stephanie

      I was there at FirstJob. I was in a windowless, interior office doing IC work. I didn’t make the connection until now that I was on IM all the time just to get some other people interaction.

    2. Not Karen

      An underground floor by yourself? Did your boss steal your stapler as well?

      Personally I would love a hidden office where I don’t have to talk to anyone, but I’m unusually introverted even for an introvert.

      1. sometimeswhy

        Yo.

        The folks at my volunteer gig keep checking in on me to make sure I’m satisfied [with the role I’ve happily done once a week for six years and to invite me to things. No. No no no. No lunch, no party, no public-facing anything so I’m “not so isolated” not even infrequently. Just no. Leave me in my box with no people and things that I find fascinating. I will do the thing you find useful until I am out of time for the day. I will do it well and I will come back next week and do it again for as long as you continue to find it useful. If you try to change my role to make me talk to people, you will never see me again.

      2. Marisol

        indeed. I once had a job where I basically saw only the same three people every day, and I found that unnerving, but if I had *no one* at all to deal with at work I think I would love it. although being underground might be creepy.

        1. Isabel C.

          I temped for a few weeks in an underground office with nobody else. It was great, especially because it was in the middle of winter and underground was warmer.

      1. Windchime

        I just started a new job a few weeks ago. I love the physical office (windows! city view!) and the people are super nice, but they do not seem to have any understanding of how to use a quiet, inside voice. When they visit with coworkers, they don’t quietly chat–they shout and laugh merrily at the top of their lungs. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was time to bust out the noise-cancelling headphones.

  4. Agammamon

    “Can I lose my vacation time if I don’t use it before the end of the year?”

    And document, document, document.

    Its a different environment, but the US military has a similar ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ policy – but you can get some carry over with your commander’s approval if you can show legitimate cause as to why you couldn’t take that leave. But that means *applying for leave even when you know it will be turned down due to operational commitments*. But now you have the paper trail to show that you’ve tried to comply and actual work has intervened.

    And, unlike the military (whose commander’s are constrained by statute), a private company’s policy can be amended on the fly (or exceptions made) at will.

    1. MK

      Well, applying for leave when you know it will be turned down can backfire, if you put yourself in the situation in the first place. In my job July is slow and August almost in a coma, while October to the holidays is a frantic period. If I work through the summer and apply for leave in November, only to have it denied, my supervisor would be highly skeptical of me saying I tried to use my time off, but sadly work intervened, and could I have the days carry over?

      It’s different if taking time off is difficult at any time, which is a problem in itself, or it just worked out awkwardly this year.

      1. Christine

        5. Can I lose my vacation time if I don’t use it before the end of the year?
        Your boss may tell you that you can roll it over in this instance, but I would be afraid to trust it. They could promise you the world, and when January runs around, it doesn’t happen. Their intention might be good, but someone higher up can turn around and say that they cannot make an exception.

        Ask if they are willing to do a payout of your leave hours. Would they be willing to do let you off every Friday for the remainder of the year? I’ve known employers that offer these great vacation packages but deny every request for vacation because it’s not a good time.

        1. Lauren

          Does quitting allow you to be paid out for vacation time? If yes, I’d consider quitting. Yup, I am weird, but they’ve put you in an impossible situation. They won’t pay out as a current employee and they won’t approve the time off or roll it over – and it sucks that they tell you only in November with the caveat that you can’t use it at all now. Call their bluff, by asking if quitting allows you to be paid for that vacation time. Ask all innocent-like, but also say – I hadn’t thought about leaving, but not being allowed to use all of my compensation, which this time does translate into actual money, is a deal-breaker for me.

          Another option is asking for a 4 day work week for the rest of the year, and truly do not be available on that day off.

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

            Does quitting allow you to be paid out for vacation time?

            The LW said they were in Texas, which does not require a payout…and you’d be surprised at the number and varying sizes of companies that don’t pay out. Usually it’s only the tech companies that are HQ’d in California.

            1. BobcatBrah

              The state of Texas doesn’t, but my Texas HQ’d company does pay out vacation regardless.

              Still wouldn’t hurt to find out what company policy is.

          2. tigerlily

            But did they actually put the LW in an impossible situation? I do payroll and track vacation/sick time for the employees of my company. It’s been company policy since we opened 34 years ago that vacation does not roll over, it’s in the employee handbook, it’s written at the top of their vacation/sick time reports they receive along with every paycheck. And yet every time I send out reminders three months before the end of the year there are people who are shocked their vacation doesn’t roll over. And sometimes it’s the same people who were shocked the year before. For some reason having vacation time that doesn’t roll over seems to be a policy a lot of people forget about or just can’t internalize for some reason.

            If I were the LW, I’d check out the employee handbook or wherever policies are written down and look up the company’s policies on vacation. If this policy is new, then I’d feel they had recourse for trying to get it rolled over or paid out. If this is the policy the company’s always had and LW just…missed it? It’ll be much harder to argue for special treatment.

            1. Lauren

              Ok, I am coloring my own situation, where we were acquired and given no access to policies for over 1 year and still the ones on the intranet are outdated according to HR. We were told on December 16th that year that roll over wasn’t an option. Too late for 30 people to suddenly take off time. It was even an announcement, but through the grapevine and then confirmed with a manager (he had only told a handful of people!). Some remote people still weren’t told and they lost 2+ weeks.

            2. paul

              I’d argue its a pretty bad policy, particularly if you do accrual rather than granting it at the start of the year; it basically means you have to guess if you’re going to be sick or have family emergencies in November/December.

          3. KMS1025

            Wait…how did “they” put the OP in an impossible position? If OP had vacation time and didn’t take it, unless employer was refusing vacation requests, they didn’t put OP into this position.

        2. YawningDodo

          +1 to the Fridays suggestion, though at this point in the year it may be difficult. One of my (exempt at the time) coworkers was in a situation where he couldn’t use all his vacation, plus our employer wanted to recognize the massive overtime he’d done for an annual event. He ended up negotiating three day weekends for the entire summer season so he could do stuff with his kids – for whatever reason an actual vacation wouldn’t have worked for him that year, but four days per week was enough that he could keep up with what was admittedly a lighter work load at that time of year.

      2. Here for Now

        This. We only allow 25% of the department off on any given day. Vacations around the big holidays can be scheduled as early as the previous Jan (we have a system to make sure everyone is given a chance at these popular days). I always have my managers start reminding their reports in July and August to have their reports get vacation scheduled. We have a use it or lose it policy and I’ve had people try to push me into a corner by allowing them time off in December even though those days are full because otherwise they will lose their vacation. It’s a tough conversation to have, but we can’t fall down on our job because they didn’t plan their vacation time properly.

        1. LawCat

          I’ll be honest, I think your company’s system sounds a little nuts. So is the only way you can get days off around big holidays (I’m thinking like Thanksgiving and Christmas) is to request the time off almost a year in advance?

          1. tigerlily

            My mom used to work for a large medical company and they could only request time off around holidays every three years. There were legalities surrounding how many nurses had to be on the floor at a time so vacation/holiday/sick time was extremely regimented.

              1. tigerlily

                More like at the beginning of the year every three years there would be a lottery for who would get what holidays off for the next three years. Then when you knew your holidays, if you wanted to take vacation to extend that holiday (like if you had Christmas day, but maybe wanted the whole week) you had about a week to make that decision and put in for it.

          2. SimontheGreyWarden

            Eh, my husband’s company does the same thing. He had to ask for time off now for next June for an important event, and even so he was told it was waitlisted because it happens to end on the 2nd of July and other more senior people had already requested to have the 2nd or 3rd off so they could have a longer 4th of July weekend.

          3. LawCat

            This just reminds of me the letter where one person effectively got all the good vacation days throughout the entire year because she signed up for all of them immediately in January.

            1. Wilhelmina Mildew

              There is a guy at my husband’s job who does this. And even worse, not only does he try to get the other guys to “buy” the good time off (“I’ll let you have X good vacations days if you pay me $Y), he comes in and works anyway on those choice days off.

          4. Here for Now

            No, you can ask for it later, but chances are the days will be filled. It really is a fair system, that is based on seniority mixed with a first come first serve. I think it’s nuts to not have some sort of system when you can only have a limited number of people off at once. It wouldn’t be fair if it was just a free for all.

          5. Emma

            Am I the only one who doesn’t think planning that far ahead is nutty? I mean, yeah, sometimes shit happens, but especially with fixed holidays and the fact that you can check the calendar for any given year quite easily, it doesn’t seem odd to have at least some sense of when you’d need time off, even a year or more ahead of time.

      3. Anonanon23

        Can it go without being said that suggestions are dependent on your work environment and schedule? Of course Agammanon’s suggestion wouldn’t fly everywhere but it might work at some companies.

    2. LBK

      I think the conversation should come first before she starts spending time documenting anything – and if the purpose of documenting is to be able to say “These are all the times I wanted to take off and you said no because it was too busy,” that feels a little too adversarial and almost petty to me. Documenting should be reserved for more serious claims like harassment.

      1. Jaydee

        You can document something without Documenting it. For example, making all requests for time off by email so you have a record of the requests and whether they were approved or denied. You don’t have to say “I am emailing this so I have a record of all the times you’ve denied my requests.” When you notice the pattern, you talk to the boss. “So, I know you said I have to use 66 hours of vacation by the end of the year or I will lose them. I’ve requested some time off recently but you’ve denied those requests because we are too busy. I can’t use them if you don’t approve some of the requests. Is there some way we can work it out so I can take a few days off here and there to use up some of that time?” And you only have to pull out your “documentation” if the boss tries to deny that he’s denying your requests or if he says there’s no way to use the time and you need to escalate to someone above him.

        1. LBK

          Eh, I think it’s an effort vs reward thing. Unless the boss is wildly unreasonable, I think it’s extremely unlikely she’d deny rejecting time off requests or even deny a general statement that it’s too busy for the OP to take time off. If the OP’s method of requesting time off already lends itself to easy tracking, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have examples in your back pocket, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to change your methodology just to prove a point that I think you won’t have to prove. Managers tend to be pretty in touch with the volume of work their department is handling.

          I just don’t think we have enough evidence in the letter to suggest that the OP should have a backup/escalation plan ready. The manager has at least had the foresight to remind the OP she’ll lose the time with 2 months still to go in the year (and people tend to take a lot of vacation in those 2 months). It may be that she just assumes the OP will take time when she needs it and the rest of the department will make do – she might be surprised to hear that the OP thinks she can’t take time off (it sounds to me like this was the OP’s own assessment of the workload, not something she’d been told by her manager).

      2. Agammamon

        Not at all – part of the assumption here is that you actually *wanted* that time off and planned for time off in your yearly schedule but it was continually unavailable because of work committments.

        If you asked for time off in February, April, May, July, and August, and now they’re telling you that the rest of the year is tight too, you have something to show that its not *you* that’s sat on vacation time until it was too late but that you’ve been trying all year, all year it wasn’t possible, the reason you’re in this situation is because this particular year has been really busy and you’ve been there.

        With that, you eliminate anyone using the ‘well you waited too long to ask’ excuse.

      3. paul

        I think it can be legitmate, particularly if you’ve requested multiple times off at non-peak periods only to have them denied.

        I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people that find themselves with 2-3 weeks of use or lose time in December, but if you’ve requested time off a half dozen times throughout the year only to have it denied then that’s really on the company. No, I’m not bitter…

    3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      I’m not sure what documenting would actually prove.

      Not only is Texas notoriously employer friendly (what are lunch breaks?), they aren’t actually doing anything illegal, and in fact, it’s likely in line with the rules in the employee handbook.

      It’s sucky and I think a good manager would work toward a solution that made everyone feel good, one day a week off, coming in an hour late every day…but…they don’t have to do that.

      1. Agammamon

        The documenting is not for anything legal – its ammunition for your argument with the company management.

        One of the reasons to deny you carry-over is because you didn’t plan your time off well. If you can show that you did, its one less reason to deny you.

        They may still (again, assuming you didn’t actually sit on your request until the end of the year), but then you’ll have found out something useful about your senior management’s culture.

  5. Raquel

    For the no IT support comment: this probably isn’t what you want to hear, but sometimes when you’re working for a company that doesn’t understand the value of working technology, there isn’t a lot to sway them otherwise. Sometimes the people who make the decisions don’t understand the time cost. I think the suggestions here are great–if you can concisely summarize the hours wasted, it may actually put a monetary value in the heads of the powers-that-be. But, not every company will see it that way. I worked for a place that actually billed hourly to clients–which means you think they would care even more about wasted hours–but for some reason, they could never prioritize allocating budget to improving technology. It was endlessly frustrating, and even when we intermittently hired new tech people who I thought could help solve the problem, and the long-term it would never result in any positive changes. Instead, as time went on, the tech issues got worse and worse. I sense found another job, and after just a day or two of using their computers, I realized what a positive difference it makes to have computers that actually work! Good luck.

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

      We have very good support but there was a time, directly after (during? how long did that freaking thing last?) the great economic crash that support $$s were pulled back. It was awful. We still had our (at that time one man) dept., but we weren’t spending money on equipment and did I mention it was awful. Dude was a hero but you can only keep the hamsters jogging so long to keep servers and machines that need to be replaced still functioning.

      And of course eventually you have to spend the damn money anyway, while you are still out of pocket for all the people hours lost to remaking work from whatever crashes.

      It wasn’t a wrong decision to pull back 2008-2010, necessarily, but never want to be there again. Freaking waste.

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        there was a point to my ramble, besides my A Very Special Episode flashback, I just kind of lost it when I was posting.

        Orgs have to spend on hardware and software upgrades. (Forget the part for a sec where they also need to spend on a human being who knows what to do to be in charge of it.) If there is no budget for hardware and software, the company is going to cease to function so the only solution may be to get out of Dodge. PTB might not get the message until literally nothing works and that’s not going to be a fast clean up.

        1. animaniactoo

          We are sadly in this space with a server that’s running out of space – it already ran out of space and there’s a temporary fix that can’t be permanent and the very moment our department comes out of famine to hit the next feast mode it’ll be all over in 2 weeks flat*. And that’s after a) close to a year’s worth of warning that we were starting to have space issues and b) every department went through their files and trimmed out the unnecessary files as best as possible.

          We have a weird setup where we have in-house IT for day-to-day stuff, but an external service that handles all the “big picture” stuff on a consulting basis and we’ve been waiting for oh… 2 months or so on the proposal to replace the server. It’s a hanging of the cliff by your fingernails kind of thing.

          *In famine mode (and not just us) we’ve already gone through about 1/3 of the space freed up by the temporary fix in the past 4 or 5 weeks.

          1. MsMaryMary

            The other thing that OP should keep in mind is that even if/when TPTB see the light and hire an onsite IT person or upgrade her computer, the process will take time. OldJob had an issue with server capacity on the first business day of the month, because that’s when all of our billing and invoicing needed to process. All of our systems would grind to a halt once a month. Even after TPTB were convinced that we needed additional servers (they had a hard time understanding that it was a big problem that we ran out of capacity one day a month, even if the capacity was fine the other 29-30 days), it took months to purchase the servers and get them up and running.

          2. nonegiven

            Look, we’re either gonna have to put in a bigger hard drive or we’re gonna have to delete the first season of Battlestar.

      2. Engineer Girl

        Organizations rarely log lost production time when it is just waiting for help or a work slowdown because of failing equipment. Just like they don’t log rework because someone messed up. If they did then they would see that spending money to save money is worth it.

        1. Judy

          A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked at a company that the users had unix workstations. One of the workstations was set up as a server for the CAD program. If the power was lost and came back, everything would boot, and the server workstation would boot the slowest, since it had more things on it. The standard workstations wouldn’t know what to do if the server wasn’t found when they booted, so they would just sit there. They didn’t retry or anything, and they didn’t have a user accessible software way to fix that. So, if it happened overnight, we’d have to reboot them again to get them to connect to the server. So 50 of us would wait the 30 minutes for them to reboot.

          There was a discussion about having the support people do something to fix it, but it didn’t gain traction. One of the managers decided to force it. We had a charge code for “CAD Downtime”, and we all used it. After the second or third time that about 25 hours were charged to that code in a few weeks (during thunderstorm season), I never came in to a confused workstation again.

        2. EW

          I don’t think this is true. When we had issues with not enough licenses for a program, we were encouraged to submit help desk tickets if we couldn’t get one within five minutes. They tracked it, saw it was an issue, and bought more licenses. The companies I’ve worked for have always seemed to want to use technology to make their employees work faster and easier. There’s typically a limited bandwidth and budget so everything isn’t done at once. Whatever information they can gather (even if it’s just help desk tickets) informs their priorities.

          1. AndersonDarling

            This is a great idea. I was going to say that when someone complains that their laptop stinks an hardly ever works, well, that just sounds like whining. It really needs to be tracked.
            8:00 Took 20 minutes to boot
            8:30 crashed while loading updates. Took 15 minutes to reboot
            9:15 email unavailable for 2 hours
            1:00 froze while using photoshop. Took 10 minutes to reboot
            1:20 froze while using photoshop. Took 10 minutes to reboot
            1:40 froze while using photoshop. Took 20 minutes to reboot
            And so on … this is what gets someone a new laptop.

            1. Trillian

              Yes, one place I worked had a photocopier that jammed incessantly for months. We’d complain, the repair guy would come by for a few minutes, nothing would change. One day, after my third manual disempaction of the morning, I printed out a calendar and invited everyone to add a mark every time they unjammed it. There were dozens of marks, there for everyone — management and IT included — to see. A few days later, two guys worked over it for 6 hours and the jamming stopped.

        3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Yeah our tracking system during this time period was mostly me losing my shit on PTB about stuff as it happened.

          This can be an effective tracking system. ;)

          (Again, in fairness, it was a scary lean time for all of us. We didn’t know what was going to happen next and duct tape was cheap.)

    2. the_scientist

      I agree. We had similar computer and technology issues at my old job. I was part of a very small team within a much larger organization. But I think since my team primarily subsisted on grant funding and not organizational funding, we were incredibly disconnected from the rest of the organization……who we relied on for tech support and facility services. Our computers were giant, hulking things with floppy drives. We were still running Windows XP. There were endless compatibility issues with various programs. We didn’t have laptops, and they wouldn’t give us VPN access. One time, we lost access to the shared drives for THREE FULL DAYS. When we did submit tickets to the help desk, it would take anywhere between 7 days and 6 weeks for the issues to be resolved. I was appalled by the amount of waste caused by outdated infrastructure and indifferent IT services, but no one else seemed all that concerned about it.

      TL;DR having the tools you need to do your work properly is like, the number 1 thing you need in place at a job. If the company you work for has decided this isn’t a priority for them, I don’t think there’s much you can do except leave.

      1. TootsNYC

        TL;DR having the tools you need to do your work properly is like, the number 1 thing you need in place at a job

        As a manager, this is my most important job.
        “tools” meaning computers, etc., but also information, decisions, authority (either your own, or borrowed for the occasion). “Resources,” may be a better word.

        But computer tools are the least of these.

    3. Lora

      I KNOW, RIGHT? They track hours where I work now, and crap like, “dealing with stupid computer being broken” is also tracked. Apparently it’s totally cool to spend 10 HOURS per week messing with your computer and trying to get it to work.

      Thankfully I only have one more week in this place. Then I go to a company who understands that time is money.

    4. Happy Cynic

      “…When you’re working for a company that doesn’t understand the value of working technology, there isn’t a lot to sway them otherwise.” – Raquel’s comment

      ^ This. It sounds like you’re in a work culture that doesn’t understand that they need to keep the lights on, the restrooms cleaned, and people’s computers working. A culture failure of this magnitude is going to incur giant costs, both in time and money, while they learn very expensive lessons that one good hire won’t fix. Don’t “accidentally” destroy equipment – tech problems likely go beyond one machine, and it sounds like if anything happened they wouldn’t fix a new machine either.

      A company that fails spectacularly to get its workers what they need to do their job is a sign of a possibly sinking ship – or at least one that won’t be able to compete as time passes. You’d be surprised, at a new office, how much better life can be. Might be time to shop around!

  6. Jeff

    #1: Depending on the company and the type of work the OP does, swapping computers or bringing in a personal laptop may be frowned upon. Choosing the later may also keep the OP from being able to access shared drives or services. But what a predicament. Having 0 I.T. staff readily available for a company that size is ridiculous.

    1. Cat steals keyboard

      This. We have a written policy for using your own device and you can’t just bring and plug in a new device. Although it takes an IT dept to have such a policy.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Sure, you can do it some places and can’t in other places. It’s one option of many for the OP to consider. (And as I noted in the post, even if she’s allowed to, there are real downsides to doing it — but that’s a calculation for her to make.)

      1. Jeff

        Right, those options are worth exploring, especially if you’re at your wit’s end and need to get some work done.

    3. OldAdmin

      Another way to deal with that is to make the pain more visible!

      This means to stop fixing the computer yourself, and to let it go to a completely unusable state.
      That way, you might at least get a new one.

      I recommend giving your group a heads up before doing this, and working out alternative communication (short check in meetings etc.) while your computer is dying. ;)

      1. MsMaryMary

        Anything to make the problem more visible! For a while in the early 2000s at OldJob, they were exceedingly stingy around who could have a laptop. Even though most people worked a ton of hours, nights and weekends, only certain senior roles or roles that involved travel were approved to have laptops. So, one of my coworkers started taking his CPU home with him on the weekends. He had a monitor, keyboard, and mouse at home, and he’d just lug the CPU back and forth. Until one Friday he was in the elevator with a senior exec who asked why in the world he was carrying his computer around. My coworker replied that he had a ton of work to do over the weekend and he was more efficient working at home than driving into the office, but that he didn’t have a laptop. That coworker had a laptop the next week, and within a month we were all approved to have laptops upon request.

        1. TheCupcakeCounter

          I had a similar situation. I was a junior employee who ran a monthly meeting for an exec but had no laptop so I had to send the presentation to my boss who brought his laptop to the meeting and I ran it from there. Well…he was late tot he meeting one day. In addition the main exec had invited another exec and they to wait the 8-10 minutes (so like an hour in VIP time) until he showed up. My boss’ face when he realized what happened was the funniest mix of horror and glee. We had been campaigning to get me a laptop for months and our head of department kept saying that a junior employee such as myself just did not require one. In the few minutes it took me to get the meeting running the exec called my department head and blasted him (on speaker phone with a room full of people) about wasting so much of other people’s time because he was such a tight ass.
          My laptop was delivered the next day. The downside of this was that if he ever happened to be leaving at the same time I did and I didn’t have my laptop with me I would get blasted for wasting company resources. One of the best days of my life was when I got to give him hell during my exit interview. Happily blew up that bridge.

    4. Anonymous Educator

      Having 0 I.T. staff readily available for a company that size is ridiculous.

      Absolutely. Most of the tech support work I’ve been doing has been supporting anywhere between 30 and 1600 people, and in every single one of them, we’ve had at least 1 tech person, if not 2, 3, or 4 people. Certainly any org. with over 50 people needs at least 1 tech person, if not 2.

      Unfortunately, one time I worked at a school in which the head didn’t want to spend money to upgrade the wireless infrastructure because “no one” cares if the wireless works or not (um, except for the teachers and students, I guess?).

      I’m really not understanding how in 2016 organizations that use computers on a daily basis don’t think it makes sense to have a tech person there to support the computers. I’ve often heard fellow tech support people make jokes about when something breaks it being “job security,” and I used to think “Oh, come on!” But now I get it. Apparently some people don’t get the message that tech support is necessary (and, no, we aren’t deliberately breaking things so you think you need us).

  7. ArtsNerd

    #1 – Have you tried the following troubleshooting strategies?
    • Download a bunch of software to help ‘clean’ your hard drive and other various tools. The companies with a bunch of adult-entertainment ads and 70 popups on their sites are the most respected in the field.
    • Maybe that software missed a few files that are still screwing you up. Make sure your settings show ALL files, even system ones. Delete any and all files you can’t immediately identify.
    • Make sure you stay hydrated! Always be drinking coffee, soda, milk, or (if you must) water, directly above your CPU. While you wait for your hard drive scanner to complete, maybe you can practice some advanced sleight-of-hand with your beverage?

    1. likeOMG

      Also, pick up a USB Killer. It’ll electrocute just about any computer, and unless you’re experienced with computers/motherboard repair, it’ll be utterly bricked but appear just fine.

    2. Engineer Girl

      I found accidently knocking the laptop off the table with my elbow was effective. It really was an accident, but I was delighted with the results.

      1. Solidus Pilcrow

        At a previous job, co-worker left their laptop on top of their car. Laptop falls off in the middle of the road. Co-worker stops to try to get laptop back (it was in a bag, it might have survived). Semi-truck runs over laptop, squishing it beyond all repair.

        1. addlady

          I thought I was the only one!!! Except I didn’t see the results because it took me 10 minutes to realize what had happened, and by that time it was gone.

    3. TheBeetsMotel

      This sounds like the Andy Bernard method of computer care.

      “Accept all cookies? Why certainly!”

    4. Security SemiPro

      Putting your laptop on a nice insulating cushion and then running every program on it is pretty good. Bonus points if you have modeling or other high CPU work to do.

    5. GigglyPuff

      Ha! I used to joke that my foot would accidentally kick over my computer (which sits on the floor) when getting in and out of my chair, and it would have just “been such a horrible accident”.

      Finally got mine replaced when it stopped communicating with ITS. It was sick of me.

    6. Hellanon

      I live in California and have found that even tiny aftershocks can have a big impact on electronics as well as unfortunate gift choices.

    7. Mookie

      Make sure your settings show ALL files, even system ones. Delete any and all files you can’t immediately identify.

      This is my mother every time I step away from my laptop without putting it to sleep + enabling passcode protection. She’s a very tidy person and is just saving me the trouble. Also, she emptied my trash for me and decided to download all software updates and “file” away into obscurely-named folders for safe-keeping anything on my desktop that didn’t seem to require priority. I can thank her later, if I want. She’s giving me that option. Also, my screensaver isn’t working very well so she just disabled that. Too, I seem to be lacking for enabled keystroke functions so she went ahead and made some clever ones up for me. She’ll explain all that later. Here’s a nice cup of tea. Go on go on go on.

      1. TheOperaGhost

        My mother is a “I’ll just keep pushing buttons until it does what I want” type person. Meanwhile, in two minutes I’ve googled the exact steps she has to take in order to do whatever and have to sit there for the next 45 minutes “just in case”. She is perfectly capable of googling the answer herself as well, she just chooses not to.

      2. Xarcady

        Back when I had a desktop computer at home, my brother came to stay for a week. He was employed full-time as an IT help desk guy, and part-time teaching computer software courses.

        He renamed my hard drive. He changed the fonts on everything. He moved stuff to the desktop–I never have icons for anything on the desktop. He renamed folders, moved shortcuts, changed the screensaver and wallpaper, and did something that put the computer to sleep after 1.5 minutes of inactivity. Thanks, dear Bro, for fixing that which was not broken.

        He also re-programed my cable box remote, that I had spent half an hour deleting all the channels I never watch, so that all those channels came up every time I “scanned” the channels. He thought the remote was broken–had no idea you could program it to skip channels (and neither did the guy from the cable company who came to fix a problem several months later). And no idea his English major sister would know something even slightly techy that he did not.

        1. Catherine from Canada

          In my – admittedly not – humble opinion, re-arranging someone’s computer or device is like re-arranging their underwear drawer. No. Just no.

    8. Rmric0

      If your computer is running slow then you should overclock your processor, and possibly unplug the CPU fan so more energy can be diverted to core functions. That’s how computers work, right?

  8. An IT Person

    #1 – stories like this make me wonder what the price difference is between contracting out to another location and having someone on-site in that situation. Sometimes it’s viable, but with that many staff it seems reasonable to have someone onboard, even if it’s only a few days a week (and there usually is at least one person willing to work for those hours).

    Also if you have multiple computers not turning on or booting up, it looks like you have a problem bigger than not having an IT person. At least with the money they’ve presumably saved by getting rid of him, you can use this to justify replacing the faulty systems. ;)

    1. Slippy

      The price differences can be pretty significant between even a few competent IT people and offshoring. This causes the accountants to forget one of the cardinal rules of the universe…”You get what you pay for.”

      You see this in government fairly often where the contracting person is new or naive or they are not allowed by policy or statute to throw out absurdly low bids.

      1. Mockingjay

        Rockhound (Steve Buscemi in Armageddon): “You know we’re sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon, and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?”

        1. Bookworm

          Oh. Fun fact time!

          That line is a paraphrasing of something actual astronaut Alan Shepard apparently said: “According to Gene Kranz in his book Failure Is Not an Option, “When reporters asked Shepard what he thought about as he sat atop the Redstone rocket, waiting for liftoff, he had replied, ‘The fact that every part of this ship was built by the lowest bidder.'”

          There’s also a similar quote attributed to John Glenn.

    2. zora

      But it sounds like they instead centralized IT services with the owner company, not a 3rd party contractor.

  9. Amber

    “Yes. It’s not fair, but it’s legal. Most states, including Texas, allow employers to have “use it or lose it” policies (California is an exception).”

    I work in California and my company has a PTO policy, it’s something like I earn 6 PTO hours every pay period but it caps. For example, if the cap is 100 and I’m now at 100 hours saved, the next pay period where I would have earned more instead I just stay at 100 and don’t gain more until I use some. I’m guessing that’s ok in California since it’s not exactly “use it or lose it”?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yep, California allows a cap; they just don’t let you lose anything you do accrue, but companies can stop you from accruing more once you hit the cap.

    2. DCGirl

      Exactly. Vacations caps are legal in California. Use-it-or-lose-it policies are not. The reason is that California treats vacation days as deferred wages, and an employer cannot reduce your overall pay by taking vacation days away. Other states do not treat vacation days as deferred wages, which makes use-it-or-lose-it policies legal.

      1. Anne

        There are two solid reasons for use it or lose it policies: first to encourage employees to actually use their vacation and not get burnt out; and second to avoid having to carry a potentially large and often unfunded liability on your books because in most states accrued but unused vacation needs to be paid out at termination of employment.

        1. Natalie

          The cap handles the second aspect of this, and the first aspect is better addressed by culture and management than “use it or lose it”, IMO.

          1. Kyrielle

            The cap actually helps with the former, also – people who are inclined to bank lots of extra time “just in case” are often not pleased to miss out on accrual they’ve “earned” because they didn’t use enough. And “I have to take time off or I’ll stop accruing, and that’s part of my compensation,” makes a good push-back on a manager who doesn’t want you to take time off in a company culture that does encourage it, too.

            1. zora

              My bf is definitely incentivized by the cap. He is terrible about taking days off, he only does it when he’s about to hit the cap. It works! ;o)

        2. Chinook

          This happens in Canada too. Companies are allowed to cap at the required minimum vacation payout (which is 10 or 15 days, depending on how long you have worked there) and then, anything over that, can be deemed use it or lose it. Considering there are some people who, when they retire, can easily have another 6 months worth of vacation pay to live on, I can understand wanting to put the cap in place because this is a real financial liability, especially since it is treated as wages (which have to paid even if a company goes bankrupt) and not a regular debt (which can be paid out at pennies on the dollar).

          1. Crazy Canuck

            Vacation pay policies vary incredibly depending on which province you are in. In BC the law actually forces employers to ensure that their employees take an annual vacation within 12 months of becoming eligible for it. It is also illegal in BC to pay out vacation pay without the employee taking a vacation. Thus, no employee should ever have more than two years of vacation accrued, but it’s not a cap.

            That said, all provinces require vacation pay to be a certain percentage of the annual salary. That percentage depends on which province and your length of employment. You cannot “lose” vacation pay, and any unused vacation pay must be paid out if the employee leaves. I admit I could be wrong, but I’ve done payroll in five provinces and both territories in the last fifteen years, and I’m fairly sure that those polices are illegal under Canadian law, and I’m certain that they are illegal under BC labour law. Which province do you believe allows caps or use it or lose it policies?

            1. Crazy Canuck

              Replying to myself after talking with a co-worker to point out that Canada does allow use or lose it policies for vacation in excess of that required by law. If the employment standards act requires two weeks, but the company offers an extra week, that extra week can be use it or lose it. The two weeks required by law cannot.

  10. Kerr

    OP #1’s computer may be glitchier than others, but it sounds like everyone is having computer issues at this company. Unless the machines are seriously old, I doubt this is a direct problem with the computer hardware – so using a different computer is unlikely to fix the issue. (And I would be leery of connecting a personal computer to this system, since they probably aren’t keeping those machines malware-free!) Things like email going down are typically system-wide problems.

    At this point, the company isn’t even giving people the tools they need to work. There’s a huge difference between not being technologically cutting-edge, versus neglecting critical maintenance. If I were the OP, I’d seriously consider moving on to another company. I can’t see this helping the OP in the long run, especially if it compromises her ability to effectively manage digital campaigns.

    1. Violet Fox

      Regular maintenance and skilled IT people cost money. Since neither is directly related to how much money the company makes (even though they are very much indirectly related), unfortunately often companies skimp on them with the idea that it will somehow save money.

      1. RVA Cat

        Exactly, but in 2016 having operable and reliable computer systems (esp. if you’re doing digital campaigns!) is often right up there with having a roof that doesn’t leak.

        1. Nichole

          True story, I once visited a vendor to provide an assessment of their ability to perform the work we needed and found out they’d long since gotten rid of any engineering staff (leaving only manufacturing) and that all of their design documentation and plans were in a room where the ceiling had been leaking slowly for the last ten years. They didn’t really care, because they didn’t plan to build those products anymore, and were trying to stick to the few things they still knew how to do well. My assessment of them wasn’t very positive.

        2. Violet Fox

          How I describe it to my users is that we provide computers the same way we do desks and chairs. These are things that are supposed to be in your office and work. I also then remind them if there are any problems at all with their computers to contact us and we will fix.

        3. Joseph

          Honestly, at this point, having an operating computer system is probably *higher* on the priority list than non-leaky roofs. You can always put a few buckets beneath leaky roofs when it rains and survive, but a failing computer system generally means your employees literally cannot do their jobs.

    2. Ama

      It might be worth checking that the bad machines aren’t all the same model/bought at the same time. My current employer bought a batch of laptops in 2012 and they were all useless by the end of 2014 — several just stopped turning on at all. Once the bulk of the bad batch was replaced, the volume of IT issues slowed (at least those involving laptops that wouldn’t turn on or would freeze at the drop of a hat).

  11. Jeanne

    If you are proposing to carry over vacation hours, present them with a proposal to use it early in the next year. If February is a slow month, that would be good. They are not going to want you to carry over hours just to have the same problem next fall. 66 hours is only about 8 days off if you are full time. There is not enough staff for 8 days off? Or is everyone else getting vacation and you’re not? Either way, this is more your boss’ responsibility to figure out than yours. You may want to have more of a big picture conversation of what she expects you to do when you have vacation time and you’re short staffed.

    1. sssssssssss

      I agree with this.

      But does it have to be eight days in a row? Is there enough staff to cover several long weekends in a row? One person I worked with years ago did that with her vacation throughout the summer, having a four-day week all summer long. She just loved it.

      1. Anion

        I had a similar thought. It’s far from ideal, but perhaps the OP can use those hours in short increments, like leaving work an hour early every day/arriving an hour later, or working only a half-day on Fridays, or something?

        Taking full days is usually preferable, but there’s something to be said for being able to sleep in a little or duck out early and avoid traffic every day (or, as we head into the holidays, being able to leave at one every Wednesday or Friday or whatever to get shopping or other prep done, or simply to go home, snuggle under a blanket, and read). It’s kind of awesome to leave work four hours early and realize the entire afternoon is yours. And this way the staffing issue won’t be such a big deal.

      2. Mabel

        I did that, too, one year when I had to use up vacation accrued in the previous year by the end of Q1. Every Friday off in January, February, and March. The client didn’t have to pay as much for me to be there, and I got 4 day work weeks. It only works, though, if your work can be done in that amount of time. If you’re not taking vacation because doing so means you can’t meet deadlines, then this plan won’t work for you, and there are bigger issues.

      3. SJ

        I wish an admin at my previous job would have done something like that. She’s been at that organization for 25 years or something, so she has a lot of vacation, but she would just take half-days every day in the summer instead of taking full days/weeks. She’s the office manager and manages almost all the phone calls too, so it was such a pain trying to cover for her every afternoon, every single day, for weeks on end, especially when everyone else in the office was in and out during the summer for their own vacations.

        1. Xarcady

          This, frankly, was a failure on the part of the person who was supervising this admin. It’s not impossible to say, “Sally, taking half-days all summer is not working. Let’s review the vacation schedule for the summer and see where we can still let you take half-days.Then we can see how many full days you will need to take to use up your remaining vacation time, and when you can take them so that there is adequate coverage in the office. And going forward, you will be able to take only 2 weeks of half-days each summer.”

          Just because an employee wants something doesn’t mean they always get it.

    2. MashaKasha

      Agree. I’ve worked in places that had a combination of “use it or lose it” and a vacation freeze at the end of the “use it period”, and I have seen this done, i.e. the extra days carried over to next year’s slower period. Usually hush-hush, under the table, one day at a time instead of all eight at once, and as early in the year as possible (January or February and not, say, August). But either way, OP5, it might be possible for your manager to meet you halfway and help you not lose these days this one time, if you apologize profusely and promise it to her that you won’t get yourself into this situation again. It is worth a try.

    3. I used to be Murphy

      66 hours is only about 8 days off if you are full time. There is not enough staff for 8 days off?

      This is the part that gets me. We’re not actually talking about a lot of banked time here. I just checked and my vacation bank is sitting at just under 260 hours which yeah, ok, its a lot, but I’ve been here a while. But less than three weeks total PTO? That’s not a huge financial liability and taking that back seems like such a petty move for a company to make. Hell, at least pay it out if you’re going to make it so that people can’t take the benefits they’re entitled to.

    4. TootsNYC

      Yeah, I think some of this is on the boss.

      I budget for vacation coverage, and I start alerting people about using up their vacation (we’re use-it-or-lose it–the first place I’ve ever worked that I wasn’t allowed to roll over 5 days–thank God December and November are our quietest times).

      The person I don’t bug enough is me. Now that I’m at 3 weeks, I find myself scrambling to plan that week away. I’d like to travel, but I usually don’t get my act together soon enough. And now I may get a promotion to big job that would start at the same time my vacation would begin.

      My vow for next year is to start insisting people do more planning of their vacation earlier. (People = me)

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

        I was burned my first year as a new manager when one I found out in mid-November that one of my lead employees was going to lose 15 days. We scrambled and made it work, but when she came back in January we made a plan on how she would spread out her PTO.

  12. Jozie

    #5 – As of the beginning of October, I had what amounted to 21 full days of paid time off. I’ve since used some, as I can only carry over 5 days into the next year. It is actually REALLY hard for me to avoid getting to this point each year not because of workload, but because I don’t really go on trips due to being in grad school part-time…makes it hard to actually go anywhere if you have classes you don’t really want to miss. I do plan to use up all of my non-carryover days, though, so I hope OP is able to do so also!

    1. MK

      Eh, people on vacation aren’t actually obligated to go on trips, so I am not sure what’s that got to do with it? If you always end up with too many unused days off, next year take time off during weeks your school has many events, or when you do your spring cleaning (plus a few days to enjoy your clean home), or lump all your annual checkups into a few days and take them off, instead of rushing to do them after work or during your break, or use them to go shopping on Monday morning, or make your life easier in any way.

      I feel that it is a byproduct of the “you must always work, time off is for slackers” culture that people think they need a “good” reason to be away from work, like a safari in Africa. Time off is for you to recharge; it can be a Wednesday spent watching television.

      1. LQ

        I love taking Wednesdays off. You get 2 Fridays a week, and Monday is immediately followed by the day you get to say, well I have tomorrow off.

        I’ve also taken to finding afternoons or mornings and just taking a couple half days here and there. It usually works out very well for me. Time to do whatever and work on side projects.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl

        Ding ding ding ding! I was like this for a long time (and my husband, who constantly rails against the idea of the “Protestant Work Ethic” is, too!), until I finally hit the point where I am accruing significantly more time in a year than I am allowed to carry over at the end of the year. I am taking a couple of days next week for an impromptu extra long holiday weekend (Veteran’s day is already a holiday for us) prompted solely by a well-timed seminar I want to attend. I don’t have any firm plans. We may day trip somewhere (Husband freelances/works from home.) We may not.

        Even knowing my time off situation at this point in my career, I STILL have a hard time taking extra time off “just because.”

        1. Chinook

          “We may day trip somewhere (Husband freelances/works from home.) We may not. ”

          I smiled at this because you are the bad influence in your husband’s life just like my dad is to his friends. Since he has retired, so many of his friends are now work from home/independent contractor types and he has been known to call them up on a Tuesday night to encourage them to play hooky and join him on the ski hill the next day. They grumble about it but he always seems to convince at least one of his buddies to join him.

      3. YawningDodo

        I’ve gotten in the habit of taking a day off for my birthday if I have the hours to spare — the first time I did that, it was shocking to me how special and refreshing it felt to simply have a day off in the middle of the week. I have to second the idea of using it for practical things, too; it is SO much easier to run errands when the majority of other people are at work.

      4. Chinook

        “Eh, people on vacation aren’t actually obligated to go on trips, so I am not sure what’s that got to do with it? ”

        I can’t agree with this more. I took 2 weeks off this summer and went no where. DH wasn’t on vacation either. Instead, I had days where the clock didn’t matter, I could go for bicycle rides to a coffee shop and read a book with a latte and sunshine. I budgeted a few extra dollars to cover the extras (like coffee or lunch out) but it was still much, much cheaper than a hotel and flight somewhere.

        Even now, when I have to take a day off for never ending medical appointments, I treat it like a vacation (since I am a contractor and am not getting paid, I might as well make it worth the wage loss). I turn off the alarm, book the appointment later in the morning and do whatever I want for the rest of the time. There is something to be said for learning how to do “nothing” and enjoy it.

    2. MK

      The ability, (or desire) to go on trips isn’t really relevant to taking time off; you are not obligated to go away just because you don’t go to work. If you always end up with unused days, next year ask for time off beforehand to give yourself a quiet week during your busiest time at school or to get a paper done in peace. Or schedule all your annual medicals within a few days and take those off, without having to rush there before or after work or during your break. Or take a day off to go shopping on a weekday morning (Mondays are the best). Or spend a weekday on your couch at a time you feel exhausted.

      I think a milder version of the culture that sees taking time off as a sin, is when people feel they need a “good” reason to be absent from work. But really time off is there for you to get some rest.

      1. Chocolate lover

        Agreed about not needing to travel. I spend most of my vacation time just hanging out, or running errands, or just taking a break. I have a generous amount of vacation while my husband doesn’t even have half as much, and I don’t much like to travel. So I just kick back and do whatever I feel like, even if it’s nothing.

      2. Bwmn

        In addition to “slacker” aspects – I also have to wonder if there’s some kind of capitalist/peer pressure dynamic at play where unless time is taken off to do something amazing/social media worthy then it’s somehow less special and therefore not worth taking days off? Or this thinking that time off needs to be for fun, and so if friends/family/partners aren’t able to join, then it’s somehow not interesting or worthwhile.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale

        I used to take two days off every October to go to yoga classes and the movies, because they were much less crowded on weekdays. It was a wonderful way to recharge and use vacation time.

        1. AndersonDarling

          I take time off to paint or do other house projects. And sometimes I’ll just buy a new PS game and take a few days off. As long as I give enough notice, no one in the office minds. Vacation is a benefit the company gives, but it’s up to you to use it.

          1. Joseph

            “I take time off to paint or do other house projects. ”
            Whenever I move, I always assume I will need 2 days of PTO shortly afterwards to deal with all sorts of house projects. Most irritatingly, utilities* often love to give some massive “window” for their arrival time, so it’s good to have that time to get things set up.
            *It will shock nobody to know that I’ve found that Comcast is the worst offender here. Most memorably, in college, they actually tried to give us an arrival ‘window’ of “8:00 AM Tuesday until 7:00 PM Wednesday”.

            1. Chinook

              I have to brag. Telus will not only give you a two hour window that can include evening and weekends, but they will even call if they are ahead of schedule and ask if you want them to come earlier. I was shocked when I scheduled them the first time because it meant no PTO was required.

              1. Salyan

                Only if you’re getting services through them. If you book through a third-party provide, but Telus has to do the install… good luck getting them to do anything.

            2. Paige Turner

              Oh, Comcast…
              And seconding time off for moving. I only took 1.5 days off when we moved into our house and I definitely should have taken the day after moving day off too, I was up late and was so sore…
              I am taking the day after Election Day off because I don’t think I’ll be in any state to get up early after whatever goes down on Tuesday.

            3. Wilhelmina Mildew

              I moved in with someone I knew, and woke up bright and early on the day the phone company was scheduled to come out and set up my phone/internet service. No one showed up. It was close to the time I had to leave for work so I called and asked WTF- oh the technician left because nobody was home! I was slack jawed with amazement. We were both home, in the kitchen & living room of a small house, curtains and front door open, lights on, cars in the driveway. No one had rung the door bell or even come up to the door at all. Oh and also they couldn’t reschedule me for two more weeks, sooorrry!
              I was LIVID. At that time a major portion of my income came from selling online, and I had gone out of my way to make sure I’d have service as soon as I moved in. I refused to hang up until I had spoken with a supervisor and gotten things resolved and I got hooked up the next morning.

        2. Manic Pixie HR Girl

          I’ve definitely taken time off to attend specific classes at my gym that are offered during times I don’t normally make it. I don’t do it often (and, more often than not, I try to work it so I schedule an appointment or something at a day/time that would facilitate it, but it wouldn’t be the sole reason), but it’s a nice thing once in a while.

      4. Oops!

        This mindset (which I think is partially caused by still being used to school where the only time off you get are official breaks so randomly choosing days to NOT go to work and also not do anything extra special just doesn’t occur to me) has caused me to accrue 500+ hours of leave. This doesn’t include sick leave or holidays the building closes for. I’ll get paid out most of this (I think our cap is 400) if I leave and it doesn’t expire as long as I’m here but seeing that number was a shock! Definitely going to have to work on giving myself permission to just relax.

        1. Graciosa

          You could have a fantastic trip around the world in 12 weeks – and get your regular paycheck the whole time.

          I’m drooling at that kind of opportunity.

          My employer doesn’t allow any rollover at all (except where legally required), but I take my vacation. I take ALL my vacation every single year.

      5. ThatGirl

        I agree, while we usually take one good weeklong vacation a year, we both have considerably more PTO than that, so I often take long weekends for “me time,” a day off at my birthday, that sort of thing. It can be really nice to have weekdays off with nowhere to go and nothing to do, or just “treat yo self” days to get a mani-pedi and go see a movie.

    3. MK

      Oh dear. Sorry for the double post; the first comments seemed to be lost, so I reposted. Now it looks like an excersice I was once made to do for Lit class: say the same thing twice using different wording.

    4. Christine

      Jozie,
      I would take vacation during exam week, etc. That would give you a break and remove some of your stress. I like taking a mental day every so often to stay home, watch TV or read in my pajamas.

    5. Judy

      When I was working full time and was in grad school, I would do what others say, take vacation time when projects or papers were due, before tests, the day of a test, etc.

      If you take the entire day of a test off, you could not only arrive at the test in a calmer mood, you could do something fun after the test to relax.

    6. SRB

      When I was in grad school part-time, I would take vacation days when I knew a test or major project was coming up, and I’d use those days to focus on that. Or if you know it’s always a struggle to get to your (example) Tuesday 5:15pm class on time with traffic, schedule a few Tuesdays PTO here and there?

    7. all aboard the anon train

      When I was in grad school, I would use some vacation time around midterm or finals weeks. Once I got to my thesis research stage, I used a big chunk when I knew I had big deadlines coming up. It actually worked out fairly well for me since I knew well in advance when to schedule it and I could give myself days off work to write or research.

      The only downside was that all my friends wanted to go on group vacations in the summer and while that was ideal for my school schedule, my work schedule had a blackout period during the summer.

    8. One Handed Typist

      I have a former coworker who never travels and rarely used vacation days. Our (California-based) company has a rather high cap, so he would have massive vacation hours saved up. He took every Monday and Friday off for two months AND a month around Christmas. Then he switched to Tuesdays and Thursdays off so he could volunteer either at his kids’ classrooms or with various organizations around town.

      That may be a good way to change your thinking about vacation days – volunteer for a quarter with your favorite charity or organization.

  13. TL

    OP #2 If you can’t give the fish back, or one of your other co-workers won’t take him. See if you can find a friend or fish store that will. If you take him to a small fish shop they may be willing to take him, or have a customer willing to take a free fish.

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        Seriously. There is no “can’t give the fish back.” Put the fish on the boss’s desk and politely deliver Alison’s script.

      2. TL

        Yes, but boss doesn’t want to have anything to do with it because as Op states it freaks Boss out, and someone who just gives you another living being to be responsible for without first asking you isn’t likely a reasonable person when it come to taking back that responsibility.

        1. Natalie

          Yep, I’d be worried that boss would flush it or something if they couldn’t find someone else to take care of it. I’m no fan of fish (as pets or food) but even I can recognize that leaving it in the bosses care could be rather cruel.

      3. Moonsaults

        It’s a living creature though and just because it’s not the OP’s overall responsibility, the next step to offer to rehome it somewhere would be the thing to do here. Unless the OP is just willing to let the fish die.

  14. Stephen Hart

    If the computer is one of the Surfaces from the last 2 years – they have been crashing and buggy since they came out – nobody can fix them. Somehow get another computer.

    1. Jeff

      Some people are still having issues. Others have had their issues fixed through firmware updates. Others have systems that have worked fine from the start.

      1. A Non E. Mouse

        Some people are still having issues. Others have had their issues fixed through firmware updates. Others have systems that have worked fine from the start.

        As an aside, we tried Surfaces in our business and had to back away from them; but they’ve been reintroduced recently and seem to be OK.

        Our main problems where (in order):
        1) Windows 8 (and then, 8.1)
        2) The original stupid port replicators OMG those were hellbeasts
        3) Our (IT) staff did NOT have one locally, so any remote calls for support were handled with a lot of Google and a little luck

        And yes, we asked for one to keep in the department (we try to have diverse equipment/software on our desks, so that at any time one of us can support a user with that hardware/software), but we were told no because “they are so expensive!”. It was an unmitigated disaster the first go-round.

  15. Fiona the Lurker

    OP #5 – my husband continually had the same problem, since for practical reasons he was always the first person in the office and actually accrued a lot of extra flexi-time in addition to more holiday than he could use. In the end the simple solution was just to take one day a week until it was all used up, and unless you have specific plans to travel that might also work for you. By adjusting the schedule you could, for example, take two long weekends every month, which shouldn’t put too much extra pressure on your colleagues. In any event, this is time you’re entitled to – and, if you were suddenly sick, your workplace would have to cope without you, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to manage a planned absence. Don’t let yourself be talked out of taking these days off, not least for the sake of your own well-being!

  16. AcademiaNut

    Would they let you reformat your computer?

    If so, I’d try backing up all the data files to an external hard disk, reformatting the computer, installing the OS from scratch, and then very carefully adding back programs and files one by one. (sort of a computer based elimination diet). If it’s crashing with a newly installed OS before you start installing software and transferring files, it’s probably hardware, and the computer needs to be sent out to be fixed. If it’s a particular program, you might be able to figure out what it is.

    When I was a grad student, our department decided it would be a great idea to not have a central sysadmin, but to let each professor handle the computers for their own group. In a STEM department, where every professor and student had at least one computer, back in the days before user friendly Linux installations. We ended up with our domain on spam blacklists, because no-one was paying attention to proper security.

  17. Myrin

    Re: salutations, I am reminded of my doctoral advisor who must be one of the top ten socially awkward people in the country. Not too long ago, he answered an email with “… Yeah, that’s all right.” and I mildly freaked out over these ellipses. Like, had I annoyed him? Was it a super dumb question? What’s going on that made him start off a message to me with what amounts to an awkward pause in written form? Well. It took another two emails from him and one from another teacher who shares his office which all started the same way to figure out that he uses ellipses when he’s too lazy to type out a full salutation. Something like that had never even occurred to me before! I just don’t use anything at all when I have an ongoing email exchange with him (because I well see how it’s somewhat awkward to have the full formal shebang when your actual message is super short or goes back and forth at a pace that’s almost like an instant messenger)! But, well, by now I’ve become used to it and just ignore it while still feeling weird about it in the back of my mind.

    1. AB

      Argh! My team put ellipses in emails all the time and it winds me up. I think it makes them look unprofessional. I used to do email customer support so good email etiquette has been ingrained in me. Ellipses, missing salutations and text speak are all pet peeves!

      However if I’m emailing someone important I will try to mirror how formal their are. But I have my limits. No ellipses!

    2. Alter_ego

      OMG is this a thing!?! I recently got an email from a client forwarded to me by my project manager, and his only comment was …we need to talk about this. Which sent me into a spiral, because the email made it look like the client was just asking for an add/service, but the annoyed tone made it sound like I have missed something, and the chat was going to be about what I had done wrong.

      When we did speak, I had done nothing wrong, he just wanted to talk to clarify some of the client requirements, no annoyance at all.

      WHY WOULD HE DO THIS TO ME!?

      1. Myrin

        RIGHT? It’s such a weird thing to do and other than him and this other teacher, I haven’t ever encountered anyone else who does this but from what I hear, it does sometimes happen to others as well.

    3. Purest Green

      My director uses trailing ellipses all the time. It makes it seem like she’s pissed or exasperated.

      “I need this fixed by tomorrow….”

      “Mr. Waywocket wants these changes….”

      “Thank you….”

        1. Myrin

          It’s like Napstablook from Undertale (a game that uses writing styles and punctuation quite fabulously, btw).

          1. Junior Dev

            Dear Ask A Manager,

            I’ve made a new friend (we even went on a date but things didn’t work out that way). However, I just found out my boss is trying to kill them. I’ve been lying and saying I didn’t see them, but I’m not sure I can keep it up much longer. What’s the most graceful way to handle this?

        2. Businesslady

          I had a coworker who did this. We were friendly so I asked her why, and she said she thought it was “friendlier”(?!?!) It totally baffled me. And, in many cases, had the opposite effect because as you note it often ends up implying the writer/speaker is trying to convey some hidden subtext. “Does this look okay?” “Sure…” “‘SURE’ BUT WHAT?!” It drove me bonkers.

          1. Mookie

            That’s cute, actually. I would never interpret it as friendly, but I kind of like that.

            When I was a very tiny yoot (so, late 80s), I didn’t understand or recognize emoticons so I would just ape correspondents and throw in colons and parentheses at the end of every paragraph. I ended up looking sociopathic, by “smiling” when discussing my grandmother’s funeral. Tone is hard.

        3. halpful

          When I do this, it’s usually because my brain *did* wander off into the aether. :) it just sorta leaves without giving me any words to end the sentence with… or it wants to jump ahead to the next part instead of finishing… either way, when I’ve been fishing for words long enough it’d be an awkward silence in speech, I tend to throw in an ellipses and … uh… damn, thinking about this seems to be making it happen more often :P anyways, yeah, I had no idea people could read that as angry, I guess I’ll have to pay more attention to that when I can…

          wow, it really is a strong habit now.

      1. Moonsaults

        I’m laughing only because I very specifically only use an ellipses to convey annoyance or at least indecisiveness. So “thank you…” is like “thanks, butthole!” in my mind.

    4. Mookie

      he uses ellipses when he’s too lazy to type out a full salutation

      Somebody needs to introduce him to the ellipsis-within-square-brackets deal. I’d have a mini-heart attack if I got one of those “stunned” ellipses. Also “Hi” as a salutation followed by a paragraph break is literally three keystrokes. It’s easier than the ellipsis! This optimization is inefficient!

        1. SRB

          Not if your email client automatically capitalizes the first letter of your line when you hit ‘enter’! :D

      1. Myrin

        Ah, I feel like “lazy” was not 100% the correct word. It’s more that he thinks it’s awkward or strangely repetitive to write out a full “Dear Ms Thinks” when the only message he has is something like “Okay, see you then” or “That’s good, let’s do it like that” and nothing more (something I agree with) but instead of not writing anything at all, then, he puts the damn ellipses there!

        But, as some might remember because I’ve talked about him before on here, he is absolutely just as awkward per email as in real life, so I really shouldn’t have been surprised by this in the first place.

        1. Mookie

          Ohhh. That makes sense. It is kind of stilted to fall back on salutation + small acknowledgement after a conversation has already started. But, as you say, the ellipsis still, momentarily, scares me when used in that context!

    5. Namast'ay In Bed

      Ha this reminds me of someone in my old job. We discovered one of our coworkers was signing off on her emails to clients with ellipses (think: “Thank you… -Sally Snappleworth”, or “It was nice talking to you… -Sally”). We were all horrified because it sounds so passive-aggressive or sarcastic! She had no idea it sounded that way, and insisted it was just a casual way of signing off, and that there was no way anyone could misconstrue her intentions.
      She asked around the office to get people’s opinions on the matter, convinced she was right. I guess she got enough horrified reactions because she stopped doing it!

      1. Mononymous

        This is my mother in text messages. Doesn’t matter what I say, her responses always come across as snarky or non-committal.

        “We’ll be there at 7!” “Ok…”
        “Did you see that show last night?” “Yes…”
        “Mom, we won the lottery!” “Nice…”

        Okay, maybe not that last one, but I wonder sometimes.

        (I love your username, by the way!)

    6. NW Mossy

      I have a colleague that thinks an ellipsis and a period are the same thing. He also tends to be very wordy over email. As a result, I skim his emails to look for a sentence like “I’m including Mossy to get her opinion on X.” If I don’t find it, I don’t ever both to read the email. He’s a delightful guy, but his email style makes me bonkers.

      1. Myrin

        My sister’s case worker at the employment agency is like that, minus the wordy part. So he only sends emails like “Hello… thank you for sending me the documents… I hope you’re doing well… give my regards to your mother… best wishes, Ellipses Man”. The missing capitalisation at the beginning of every sentence makes this even weirder, like he really is just floating along through his emails. And he is actually a very upbeat and energetic gentleman in real life!

      2. So Very Anonymous

        I know I read an article recently (not sure where/what it was) about this exact thing, which suggested that norms are changing because in textspeak using a period to end a sentence seems to convey anger or curtness, in contrast to an exclamation point which conveys a more upbeat tone. Ellipses gave off a more neutral tone, apparently. This seems ridiculous to me — a period is just a period and to read anger or curtness into it seems a little much. Ellipses to me seems vague and passive, but I wonder if that’s part of some kind of reluctance to sound definite? (Kind of the way I just used that question mark? Which sounds like uptalk?)

        1. Myrin

          I mean, I can see a full stop conveying curtness and I’m actually an exclamation point kind of person but I really do think that that’s separate from the ellipses thing. Just like words have meanings, punctuation has meanings, people – use them!

        2. she was a fast machine

          That’s so weird, because the ~hip~ kids don’t end with ellipses either, they just don’t use punctuation at all.

  18. Mary

    #2 If you have a 2 hour commute each way and do not interact with anyone at work would it be possible for you to work from home. Do you physically have to be in the workspace you have? This frees up 4 hours per day for you to go have coffee, meet friends and family and get that human interaction you need. You could even split your day and spend a longer lunch break catching up with local people. Just an idea.

    1. Lonely

      It’s a good idea, and I have one work-from-home day. I’ve asked for more, but manager wants me available in the office. Do you have any good counter arguments?

      1. Anon, good Nurse, Anon

        I would record exactly how often you have some interaction or issue that requires being in the office for a few weeks. Then take that to your manager. Assuming your manager is reasonable if you can show that when you are in the office you are doing things that don’t require interacting with coworkers that would be a good argument for working from home.

      2. animaniactoo

        Ask them to trial having an additional day or 2 days that you’re working from home and see how much impact it would actually have on being able to reach you at need. Say a 2 week trial to start, then a month trial to tweak if necessary/confirm if it’s working.

  19. Susan C.

    OP1, I sympathize – shortly before I joined my current company, it was also bought by a larger corp (incidentally, also headquartered in France!) and integration of intranet, HR systems and other infrastructure has been slow and sometimes painful… we’re fortunately in a good enough position to push back on many things, but efforts to bring us ‘into the fold’ continue.

    What do you know about the reasons for the acquisition? Are your corporate overlords a larger ad firm who wanted a ready made outpost in your location, or are they a completely different business who got sick of contracting their ads out? In the latter case, I might keep an ear on the ground about whether there’s any signals that relocation to HQ would be ‘welcome’ – or about corporate’s long-term plans for you in general. Good luck!

    1. Susan C.

      (just re-read and realized I might’ve misinterpreted the ownership situation – sorry if this isn’t applicable then!)

  20. BRR, ,

    #1 if you’re trying to limit your calls to France because it’s not super helpful, I might try the opposite route at this point. Call them for every problem. That’s what they are there for after all. This way all of the issues are documented and it might show how much of an issue not having in-house support is.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Yes, the HQ or CEO may think there are fewer problems than there actually are if people are just fixing them themselves or underreporting them out of frustration. It’s like working 60-70 hour weeks all year round — they don’t get a clear idea of the scope of the issue, and think it’s under control when it’s really taking a toll on the front line employees.

      1. BRR

        Even if the current IT staff in France is not helpful, it’s the first step you need to take (sort of like how Alison always has “talking to th eperson directly” as step one). And maybe they will tell someone, “these people need an in-house IT person.”

    2. Gaia

      This. We lost our local IT support a few months ago. We’ve been recruiting, but our local management (not the ones recruiting) has been reminding us to submit tickets for every issue, no matter how small and even if we fix it ourselves. The idea is that we don’t want anyone to gain the impression that we don’t need onsite support because we don’t have many issues or because we seem to fix them on our own. We need to document exactly how much trouble we have so we can back up our claim that they need to get on with it and hire someone.

      1. LQ

        We’ve been trying to encourage this. We are having a specific problem that people can basically ignore, and so they do, but it is a problem and we are having a really hard time getting people in our IT department to believe that it is a problem because people assume (correctly) that IT will just ignore it so they don’t bother to report it. We are currently working on a plan to just have someone roam the halls and ask people how many times they’ve had the problem, just the prove it is actually a problem. SUBMIT YOUR TICKETS!

      2. animaniactoo

        Plus, sometimes the record of fixes points to a specific problem that the workaround isn’t actually addressing – it just gets you through to the next time it goes kerpluey on you. So what you need to do is shock your pram, not just keep rebooting everytime it freezes because resetting the pram may actually clear whatever process keeps trying to happen which is leading to the system freeze.

    3. TootsNYC

      Right after he got laid off, a really bright “process” guy my boss and I had been working with came and gave us his parting wisdom.

      “Make it visible.”

      It’s been pretty powerful.

    4. NoMoreMrFixit

      As a former IT guy I strongly recommend this. By doing so you generate a paper trail of support tickets that can be used to justify the expense of a local IT techie.

      Years ago we had a new operations manager decide that print queues would henceforth be reset only by the operations team at the central location. After 5 calls in an hour from our satellite office because of an old flaky printer that kept timing out and jamming the queue the manager quickly backed off and local staff regained the ability to fix things without bothering them.

      BTW, I’m back in school majoring in HR and graduating in the spring. This blog is a better resource than most of my textbooks and classes!

      1. Turtle Candle

        Yes! I don’t work IT, but I do work a support-ish role, and a lot of the time people will avoid formally reporting issues because they don’t want to “bother” me, so they try to fix it themselves or leave it undone or mention it “in passing.” But we can’t justify hiring the staff we need without that evidence of tasks that need to be done. (Also we would really rather know if something is wrong rather than have it go undone, or have it done badly by a non expert…)

    5. Anonymous Educator

      Yes, this is so key—document everything, and show 1) how many problems exist that aren’t being address (or are but not in a timely fashion) and 2) how much it costs to outsource these problems.

  21. ZVA

    OP #4: I generally start out with “Hi Client, [new paragraph for rest of message]” the first time, then continue using a salutation if they do; if they don’t, I often switch to “Client, [rest of message in the same paragraph].” More casual, but to me it feels a touch more polite than jumping in without any salutation at all (tho I agree with Alison that if they’re not using one, you’re fine to follow their lead).

    1. Persephone Mulberry

      While I, on the other hand, feel leading off with just a name (no “hi” or other salutation) to be a bit on the abrupt side and I avoid doing it wherever possible, unless I’m cranky at you. ;) Once the thread of conversation is established I’ll usually drop the salutation altogether (just like I don’t say “Hey Joe” before every response in an IRL conversation)…although if there’s a lag in the exchange, for example if I have to say “I’ll get back to you on that,” I’ll start over again with the salutation when I do in fact get back to them.

      I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m weirdly anal about email salutations. Not how other people use them, just for myself.

      1. Mookie

        I also do this. I hate wasting people’s eyes on things if it’s not impolite or confusing to omit them.

      2. Anon for this

        I feel you; I’m super anal about most email stuff too. I’m still not sure my approach is “correct”—but it is very well thought out! I think it’s easy for email to feel cold/impersonal/abrupt (tho I vastly prefer it over the phone), so I do my best to mitigate that with a warm tone. To be honest, I probably overuse exclamation points in my attempts to convey cheerfulness (tho usually not more than one per email; I don’t want to overdo it)… I lead with the request or the most important info in the first sentence (best email advice I ever got) & I try to be as succinct as I can.

        Maybe I overthink this stuff, but I’m fascinated by the way people use email! Salutations, signoffs, punctuation… All rich with meaning for me.

      3. Anion

        I agree. Starting with just the name feels abrupt; almost commanding or annoyed, actually. I do what you do, and start off with “Hey Persephone! Blah blah blah,” for the initial email, and further emails would either just start with text or, if there’s been some delay in my reply, with “Hey there!”

      4. Moonsaults

        I’m right there with you on this.

        Whenever I get a response with just my name as the salutation, I’m like “Well hello to you too, jeez.” Then I abruptly omit the salutations on my end out of some kind of internal spite, haha. I know it’s not really that big it’s just one of those office petpeeves more than anything on my end.

  22. Milton Waddams

    #1: This might be a subtle way of putting the squeeze on those long-time employees who have always over-exaggerated their computer literacy, knowing that there would be a nerd they could hire to cover for them. Not the solution I would have gone for, but I can understand the appeal — sort of along the lines of the letter writer from a while back who wanted to intentionally allow their project to fail just in order to finally get enough dirt on a long-time deadwood employee to justify firing them.

    1. Bellatrix

      But that doesn’t make any sense. An advertising worker doesn’t have to know what do with a computer that won’t turn on (which could be a myriad of issues) or reconfigure the email server. Here you’re having them fail at something that’s not part of their job. I seriously doubt that’s what’s happening here.

    2. Junior Dev

      I’m a nerd who highly appreciates IT. If I’m spending my day fixing data processing for the software product I work on, I don’t want to waste time getting my Google Calendar to sync up, or whatever.

      There’s a difference between the level of tech-savvy needed to use Gmail and the level needed to fix broken computers–and even if an individual knows how to do the latter it may not be the best use of their time.

  23. OES

    #2 sounds an awful lot like someone I work with, and I’d like to offer a perspective from the other side. Our jobs are 95% independent (academia) and often require intense concentration. New colleague joined us 4 years ago, and she has complained non-stop about the lack of “collegiality” ever since. While I usually keep my door open (next door to her), she insists on saying hello as she passes by, even when I’m bent over my work, and she frequently stops by to chat, again, when I’m clearly in the middle of something. She has exhorted us in department meetings to talk with her more, and has complained to our chair that we don’t support her. I actually enjoy a bit of chatting, but I hate being interrupted when I’m working, and since new colleague really just wants to a) complain or b) brag so we can tell her how wonderful she is, conversations with her are not my favorite thing. I’ve taken to working primarily from home to avoid her. I’m not saying this is the problem with LW, but I do think Alison’s advice is the answer: she needs a new workplace, not methods to change a culture that clearly works for the others.

    1. Isabel C.

      Agreed. I sympathize, but in my last job, I didn’t talk to anyone all day and I loved it: we were all there to do our work and go home, not socialize, and the times when someone did try to get chatty/do group lunches/etc were often painful. We all wanted to be back at our desks reading–we got all our social interaction elsewhere. In my current job, I find that I surprisingly enjoy the occasional chats with co-workers, but that’s due to a number of things, including changed personal circumstances.

      LW, if they don’t talk to anyone else, it’s nothing personal and it’s working for them, so stop trying to change that. If your boss won’t let you work from home more often – and that plus a two-hour commute each way would have had me looking already, much as I’d like Introvert Land – or take a longer lunch break where you could maybe meet up with friends/get to know someone who works nearby in a different office/etc, I’d follow Alison’s advice and find a different job. Cultural mismatch is a thing, and a reasonable one.

      1. Alton

        Yes! I sympathize with the OP, but that sort of environment sounds like a dream to me. It sounds like it’s just not a good environment for the OP, which is totally fair.

      2. anooooooon

        I don’t know. I’m a super big introvert, and I get not wanting to be bothered if you’re at your desk working, but not saying a mere “hi” or answering “how was your weekend?” if you run into someone in the kitchen or bathroom or hallway just seems miserable, and I think it’d be hard for someone to not take it personally when it takes one second to say hi to someone you see in the hall.

        1. Lonely

          Ah, but this is exactly what I’m talking about — not even making eye contact in the hall — it seems personal even though I know it’s not. It’s hard to feel motivated and concentrated on the work, which I do love.

          1. Isabel C.

            The eye contact bit does strike me as odd, and I’m an introvert, but maybe it’s learned experience? Not necessarily with you, but…well, around here you learn not to make eye contact on public transit, because people will take it as a sign that you’re interested in conversation, and I’ve heard similar from my NYC friends. (And I’m not even talking about people hitting on you/asking for money/trying to tell you about their religion, but about the person who really wants to make new friends when you really want to sit quietly and decompress.) Even opening the interaction door a crack can give That One Person the opportunity to stick their foot in, so a lot of people don’t. Depending on where you live, who your coworkers are, and their past experiences, that might be what’s going on.

            Anyhow, it seems like it’s a whole-office thing, and if it works for them, it works for them, so it comes back to either needing your job to adjust a little so that you can get social contact elsewhere, or getting a different job. I like the advice above about pushing back on the WFH stuff–alternatively, do you work somewhere metro, or with a local diner/coffee shop? Maybe you could find some interaction by becoming a regular there, or finding a lunchtime meetup book club or whatnot.

        2. Isabel C.

          Oh, that would be odd–I can understand it, if your previous experience was with the sort of person with whom saying hi meant a three-hour conversation–but the quick, while-moving “hey,” “hey” exchange seems pretty standard.

    2. MashaKasha

      Uhh the frequently stopping to chat piece is a pet peeve of mine. I’m in a more or less fast-paced, deadline-driven, multitasking-based environment, so there are enough distractions during a workday to begin with just from being yanked from one task to take care of another. If a coworker popped into my cubicle for a chat on top of all that, I’d just see it as another distraction, except one that isn’t work-related and that will cause me to fall behind on my work for no apparent reason; so I would probably say hi back, but would keep the conversation brief and try to get the coworker out of my space as quickly as possible. Thankfully, this hardly ever happens at CurrentJob. Agree too that this is workplace-culture-related. If we were a more laid-back, slower environment, where we worked at one project for several months, instead of several projects over the course of a day that are all due this week, I’m sure people would happily interrupt their work for a chat, like I’ve seen it happen at other jobs.

    3. candycorn

      Agreed in many ways.

      Or a twist on the hypo, that I’m currently experiencing: we have an employee who has been doing a basically horrible job and is not a team player in a team environment, and so we–a relatively social office–have gotten to the point where no one wants to interact with that person outside of the required polite interactions. It sucks and feels like high school, but the employee effectively isolated themself. And this was even after numerous interventions, suggestions, performance improvement periods…we’re just not in a place to let this person go, so we’re putting up with whatever meager output and trying to tolerate.

      Not saying, of course, that’s what is happening in OP’s letter, but it’s another way this happens.

  24. TJ

    What are the drawbacks to bringing your own computer to work? Assuming you can access everything you need from it.

    1. Ostara

      Bringing in viruses to the network, taking home confidential information and losing the device, liability issues (“Well, it broke on a business trip so Job should pay for a new one!”). Etc…

      As an person in IT it’s mostly security issues.

    2. GigglyPuff

      They might demand to clean it out before you leave to make sure all their files are gone. Or I work with an open records policy, so my manager on day one, said don’t sync my work email to my phone just as a precaution because then it could become part of an open records request.

      1. TootsNYC

        Are you Hillary Clinton? That’s what got her into the “private email server” problem.
        She didn’t want to have her personal emails on a state.gov server, and therefore part of open records.

      2. Chinook

        “They might demand to clean it out before you leave to make sure all their files are gone.”

        This is the number one reason I am against BYOD policies. I have no issue with someone ensuring company data is removed from my device, but too often they simply default to factory resetting a machine and wiping out data they really have no reason/right to wipe out. Plus, with how everything is cloud based, can they guarantee that they won’t also wipe out any cloud storage system I use, which would include the one I manage for a volunteer group? Where exactly is the line for what they feel obligated to wipe?

    3. Jeff

      Many companies require their computers to be hooked up to a domain. That’s not an option for computers running the basic, non-Pro versions of Windows (ie. Windows 7 Home Premium) that you’ll find on store shelves. As Ostara mentioned, there are security issues that arise with personal use. If the computer malfunctions, does the company attempt to fix it, or does the employee head down to the Geek Squad? And when the employee leaves, I.T. has a lot of stuff to unwind from the machine, including the removal of business files, removing the computer from the domain, uninstalling company software and security programs, etc… a situation that would be awkward if the employee is fired.

      I’m sure an I.T. professional could think of dozens more reasons why it’s not a good idea. The ideal is for a company to have computers they own/lease, can lock down as much as possible, and can maintain and repair when needed.

    4. Slippy

      Other than furnishing equipment on your own dime that your employer is making money off of? There are security, liability, privacy, and boundary issues.

    5. Alton

      My concern is privacy. If there’s ever a records request or supoena, I don’t want to have to turn over access to personal devices or accounts. Some workplaces also require you to be connected to servers or networks that may be monitored. I don’t like doing anything too personal on my work computer because of that. I also don’t sync my work e-mail to my phone, and use an incognito window when accessing it from home. My workplace uses gmail, and I don’t want to risk that account ending up being linked at all to my personal ones.

      I’ve heard multiple stories over the years about people getting in trouble over personal stuff they had on their work computers, sometimes for good cause and sometimes not.

      1. LQ

        This! Also there is a concern that if your device has work stuff on it and work puts on programs that they can then view your private data (and even if you aren’t doing anything bad, you then have to trust that the IT department who can’t get their act together to provide devices, can protect your data) and in some cases go as far as remote wiping or bricking.

        1. A Non E. Mouse

          and in some cases go as far as remote wiping or bricking.

          This. I can do this. I have done this.

          Don’t open yourself up to this. I don’t – my personal devices are personal, and do not have work related items on them.

          Signed,
          the IT person with The Button

          1. Chinook

            So, IT person with the button, I have a legit question. My Blackberry allows for me to segregate work and personal accounts (which is great because, when I turn off my work account, there is, to my knowledge, no work information on the phone). Is that good enough or would a company still want to remote wipe my phone because I could, technically, save something from my work account to either the phone itself or to Dropbox (where I have not only access to my personal storage but that of a larger volunteer group)?

            1. A Non E. Mouse

              I haven’t held a blackberry in my hands for nearly a decade, so I wasn’t sure. Looking at it briefly, IT can choose to just wipe the corporate information.

          2. Turtle Candle

            Yep. I looked into getting my iPad onto the work network just because I thought it would be nice for quick note-taking. Backed out precisely because the agreement I had to sign to hook it up noted that they reserved the right to review its contents, track all activities on it (including personal use), and wipe it, at any point, with no warning. Noooooope. For that price, I’ll carry a paper notebook.

    6. BRR

      The biggest one I can think of is that since you would likely have company documents on it or accessed through it, you would likely be allowing your employer to wipe the entire thing if you leave, if you lose it, or many other reasons. Basically you have to surrender your laptop to the company’s policy. Although as I typed that, this may not be a problem for the LW as they don’t have an IT person.

      Another one is wear and tear.

    7. TootsNYC

      If I were going to do that, I’d just by my own computer for work, and leave it there. I wouldn’t be carrying to back and forth, and I wouldn’t bring my current machine in from home.

      I’d just get what I needed, use it only at work, but take it with me when I leave because it’s mine because I paid for it (sure, we can scrape it clean first).

      1. Danae

        That’s what I ended up doing at the job before this one. It was a vendor contract, and the contracting company was strangely unfamiliar with the norms of the company I was contracted to (and apparently nobody actually read their contracts, because I know equipment is covered in those contracts). When I asked the person doing the hiring when and how I would pick up a laptop from them, he looked at me strangely and said, “we don’t provide computers.”

        Me: [Big company] doesn’t provide computers to their vendors.

        Dude: Well, you’ll need to purchase anything you need, then.

        Me: …can I submit an expense report for it?

        Dude: No, we don’t cover equipment for vendor contracts.

        I ended up spending $800 on a laptop for myself and keeping it at the end of the contract (wiping it afterwards, of course). I really, really wanted that job. However, I never trusted that company as far as I could throw it, because they’d demonstrated that they had no idea what they were doing.

    8. Charlotte, not NC

      BYOD is so complicated ethically, legally, and practically that I have taken an entire graduate course on it. Answering your question would literally take twelve weeks. It’s that much to deal with, truly.

    9. animaniactoo

      Apart from what others have mentioned, there’s additional wear and tear on your computer and the fact that you risk getting it banged up by carrying out and around more than you would otherwise.

      And then there’s the period where I was bringing home stuff to work on, and my computer was stolen out of my house. The artwork for the majority of our product line for the next season was on my computer. Fortunately, the owners of my company were a lot more concerned with whether I was okay than possible repercussions of the artwork getting used by somebody else (I am a stickler so for our own use we lost no more than a day’s worth of work).

  25. boop the first

    3: Give the fish to someone, if the boss just doesn’t want it anymore. Some people will love it. It’s really unusual for a betta to just hang motionless all day, which seems like a sign that it’s in a bowl and not a properly sized, filtered & heated tank. They’re pretty smart and entertaining when they’re in a good environment. If someone abandoned a puppy at your workplace, and shut it up inside a too-small box all day, every day, leaving it in its piles of filth, you all would find a home for it right?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I kept my (dear departed) betta in a bowl and he was ok– although, I did have marbles and a little plastic plant for him, plus his water was always properly treated and cleaned, and at least once a day I “exercised” him by holding up a mirror for a few minutes. His bubble nests were epic. He lived for 2.5 years and he liked to watch The Simpsons. He was a good fish.

      Yes, definitely re-home him. I found my betta really easy to care for, but there was still a weekly bowl cleaning and daily stimulation.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          He deserved it! He also got excited when I walked in the door and would swim circles around his bowl. He stayed healthy and happy, even through a few long drives during which he’d freak out and temporarily lose his color. His name was Reg, and he died in 2005, and I miss him. :)

    2. Heather

      There might be another coworker who feels sorry for the fish and will google “betta care,” go down a rabbit hole of fish information, buy the fish a 3 gallon tank to replace its crappy bowl and pellets to replace its crappy flakes, get a testing kit and take charge of water changes, and end up becoming the fish’s de facto owner.

      This is purely fictional, of course, and not based on anything in my life.

    3. FishAreNotPets

      He isn’t motionless all day, just for much of it as he hangs near the service for air or hides under his fake plant. I would love to get him a bigger bowl and something to hide in, but I’m afraid that will come across that I’m willing to continue taking care of the fish. I work in a college, and all the students love the fish, for which I feel bad for getting rid of the fish and feel like I should just make it work.

      His bowl isn’t too small, but he is unfiltered and not in a home I’d recommend. She has also provided me with nothing to balance the water for the fish. I feel like I’m playing a game of chicken where the fish is on the line and its awful.

      1. memboard

        Usual recommendation is change a percentage of the tank per week (25% sounds about right). There should be no other chemistry involved (assuming you have put conditioner in the incoming water and you are using treated city water. Treated water will be about pH 7 with not much else in it. ). That should be about all the care needed. This presumes that you don’t exceed the rule of 1inch of fish per gallon of water.

        I am guessing that it’s feeding the fish that is the time suck? Have you consider an automatic fish feeder? Top it off once a week when you change the water. This one works great: http://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/product/fish/feeding-accessories/eheim-automatic-feeding-unit Will feed the fish following the schedule you program, (multiple times a day if memory serves me).

        A bigger tank is a definite bonus. The more water in the tank, the more stable the water chemistry will be and easier it will be on the fish. A small 5 gallon tank would do. This one looks nice http://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/product/fish/fish-aquariums-kits/5-gallon-fish-tanks/marineland-portrait-glass-led-aquarium-kit Normally I would say that 5 gallon is small but for 1 fish it should be great.

  26. Liz

    In #1 I have to admit I laughed at the idea of hastening the computers death. It brought to mind some suggestions I’ve heard before when computers are malfunctioning but aren’t due for a replacement (all joking of course…at least partly):
    -Oops, I dropped it! I’m such a butterfingers
    -Oh no, this coffee just spilled all over the keyboard!
    -Whoopsie, can’t find it! Darn, I need a new one now.

    Anyone else heard creative ideas for non-working equipment in their office?

    1. Menacia

      I work in IT so I’ve heard all the excuses (I’m sure some were legit), the best was the woman who left her laptop bag behind her car and ran over it (she left it right behind the back wheel)? We don’t blink an eye anymore because computers have gotten to the point of being throwaway devices, but workers still need them. If you don’t have the tools to do your work, how are you expected to do it? This smacks of the person making the decision being someone who never had to touch a computer because he had people working for him to did that menial task, if it does not affect him, it won’t affect anyone else! Where I work, it’s well understood by our CEO (who has gone through umpteen iPhones, iPads, and laptops) how important technology is in the running of a company.

      1. Chinook

        ” (I’m sure some were legit), the best was the woman who left her laptop bag behind her car and ran over it (she left it right behind the back wheel)?”

        This may have been legit. The owner of the tech company I worked for had his fancy phone fall from his pocket when he was getting coffee. Turned out that it landed in the parking lot behind someone’s car and was run over. We know this because it was returned to him because it has a “return to x for reward” sticker on it and the phone was completely smashed. Boss was relieved to get it back because it meant no one had access to his proprietary files (he was a programmer for widely used software) because there was no way that machine was ever being turned on after it was smushed so badly.

    2. KR

      We had a tough book get run over by a DPW truck (municipal government). It only needed a screen replacement so if anything it speaks to how durable tough books are.

    3. Lauren

      Just keep claiming the blue screen of death everyday for 2 weeks until the France company says you need a new computer. Then forward their email to the appropriate party with a link to your preferred new computer that you now need overnighted to you, unless they want to drive with you to Best Buy to get a new one.

    4. Jeff

      I attended a college that provided laptops to students (it was included in tuition). If you had issues with your machine, you could take it to the I.T. shop to have it fixed. At one point in time, my computer was running extremely slow and would temporarily freeze to the point where I couldn’t really get any work done. I knew the hard drive was dying. However, the I.T. techs wouldn’t install a new one, because it kept passing the health test in the bios. It HAD to fail before they would do anything. So, I took the laptop down the hall, turned it on, and shook it for a good while. Then I took the computer back, the hard drive failed the health test, I got a new drive, and everything worked fine again.

  27. Employment Lawyer

    5. Can I lose my vacation time if I don’t use it before the end of the year?

    I have built up 106 hours of vacation time. My boss informed me that I will lose 66 if those hours if not used by the end of the year. But there is not enough staff to let me take those hours off. Is it legal for them to just take those hours away from me? I’m in Texas.
    It depends.

    Sometimes you can lose it, even if the employer is an ass.
    Sometimes you can lose it, BUT ONLY IF the employer has given you some sort of reasonable opportunity to take those hours.
    And sometimes you cannot lose it at all.

    So this is both state dependent and also fact dependent. If you have been asking for break all year and they have never said yes, perhaps you have a better case than you think. (The idea behind this is simple: an employer shouldn’t be able to hire folks based on a benefit which is not actually available.) You can talk to an employment lawyer in your state to be sure.

  28. Charlotte, not NC

    If the poster with the fish gets together with the poster who needs her computer to die…teamwork! Gumption! Bootstraps!

      1. Charlotte, not NC

        I was just thinking of a couple of gallons of dirty water spilled on a laptop, but you could go that route if you want to get fancy.

        1. Heather

          Whoops…I guess it wasn’t such a great idea to do a water change right next to my laptop, was it? My bad!

  29. crazy8s

    I see a lot of comments on #1 about “have you tried this or that?” While I know people are trying to be helpful, IMO this just enables the situation to continue. think about it this way–if the issue was related to the company not maintaining the work premises and the roof was leaking, would it be responsible or reasonable for the employees to try and fix the roof? Would it be reasonable for the company to have a maintenance person who lived in France? Computers, etc are tools that the company provides and needs to conduct business operations. Having the company face the full impact of their decision is the only way to get the situation changed.

    I speak from experience—I had a similar problem at my last job, (I was middle management) and the CEO kept telling me that it must be something I was doing wrong and would not do anything to help me. In frustration I actually hired somebody with my own money to try and deal with our computer issues. Once I left, the person they hired to replace me simply said, “I am not doing any work until you fix this intolerable situation and if you try to dock my pay I will go to the board of directors and tell them that you have not provided me with equipment that works properly,” blah, blah blah. He made a huge stink and bitched loudly to anyone who would listen. I wish I had done that, because the penny pinching CEO quickly backed down and hired IT support.

    1. Siberian

      I second this. I worked half time as a filing clerk in a doctor’s office for three years as a teenager (from 15-18). It was my first job. I put medical records into charts, back when everything was on paper. First two years I worked standing at a narrow counter in the hallway in the medical office. They moved to fancy quarters at the hospital and my new space was the medical records room. It was windowless and had the copier in it. No table or chair, just the pull out shelf that was part of the shelving units the files were in. When I quit, my replacement took one look and said, “Yeah I’ll need a table and chair.” They were in place before my two weeks notice ended. A lesson I never forgot.

    2. Artemesia

      I have known of several stories like this where someone had an intolerable workload, technology problem, unreasonable time demands etc and the person who succeeded them simply said ‘nope, not gonna’ and magically the bad situation was changed for them. Sometimes pushback works.

        1. Lauren

          I got 20k and since my boss couldn’t make less than me, he got 20k too!

          This after I was told that a promotion ‘just doesn’t make sense’. I took his word as is, and told the President of the office what I was told. Since being promoted wasn’t an option in order to be paid market rate, I quit. I had no expectation of a real counter offer at all so I didn’t even listen at first. It took them a week to agree to 20k, originally 18k and then they just gave it all to me. I got a fake title, and my job did not change at all. I prob should have taken the other gig since it was still 40k more than my new salary here, but they only gave me a day to decide. I liked the team and the easy commute, and that jerk SVP is no longer my SVP so I stuck around. Unfortunately, jerk SVP is still pulling the same gender bias BS on other women in the office that he did to me and they have no hope of a diff SVP like I did.

          This is why I think putting the idea of quitting into the bosses head will help the vacation OP. They will end up paying it out for OP rather than losing her / him.

    3. Natalie

      I’m pretty sure the suggestions to delete all the system files or spill coffee on the computer are not serious recommendations of how the OP could fix it…

      1. Anonymous Educator

        Yes, but there were other actually legitimate suggestions upthread. It isn’t the OP’s job to do her own tech support.

  30. The Wall of Creativity

    I’m trying to wean myself off of Ask A Manager. As a first step, my shrink says I’m only allowing myself to give one piece of advice per day. So here’s todays:

    Flush it down the toilet

    That’s for both OP1 and OP3. That counts as just one piece of advice, right?

  31. Jenbug

    OP#5 – you should have been aware of this policy from the get go and it’s your responsibility to manage your time off properly. Your coworkers are going to be really annoyed if they are stuck covering for you during a busy period because you couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to what time off you had available.

    This happened on my team a few years back and we were all incredibly resentful that our coworker was so irresponsible and left us all hanging.

    1. AMPG

      I think you’re being too harsh on the OP, and assuming it must be her fault that she has this time accrued. However, I was also wondering if she was really being kept from taking time off or if she was just putting pressure on herself not to. I also had a colleague who lost vacation days most years because he was always “too busy” to take time off, even though we were very clear that we would assign work around vacation requests. His supervisor even started warning him every spring that summer assignments would be happening in the next few weeks, so please put in his request, and yet he regularly waited until mid-summer and then complained that he had too many projects to take vacation. OP, talk to your supervisor about how to schedule some time around your current responsibilities.

    2. S.I. Newhouse

      I agree, that’s awfully harsh. How do you know the OP hasn’t been trying to get time off approved, and there legitimately isn’t enough staff for her to ever get it? Not that that’s a good situation, either.

      1. Jenbug

        I’m just going on what was said in the letter. The OP doesn’t say that they have had requests denied for time off. The implication in the letter is that *now* that OP needs to “use it or lose it”, there isn’t staff to cover all the required time. Which makes sense, given that we’re coming into the holidays and other employees have probably already scheduled their PTO appropriately.

        Obviously it’s a different situation if OP has had requests denied, but if that was the case, I would expect them to say as much in the initial letter.

  32. Dixieland Lawyer

    OP#3: I’m not a teacher or a parent so other folks may declare this comment crazy, but I recall caring for many classroom pets growing up – everyone takes a turn feeding them during the week to learn responsibility, it’s a treat to take them home for a weekend or a school vacation, etc. One girl even kept our class ferrets (yes, ferrets) after taking care of them over the summer – I think her parents bought new ones for the school because she had become so attached. Anyway, it seems like a better option if neither your boss nor your coworkers want to tend to the fish. Teachers/parents please weigh in if this is a terrible, burdensome idea.

    1. Red Reader

      …. What, you mean like the boss bought a fish and now all the coworkers should take turns taking care of it? That’s absurd.

      (Or do you mean donate it to a classroom for a pet?)

      1. Dixieland Lawyer

        Oh definitely not the coworkers, I meant donate it to a school as a classroom pet (I guess I didn’t actually spell it out!). I agree that would be absurd to have the coworkers take turns caring for the fish.

        1. FishAreNotPets

          OP here! We are a post-secondary facility here, and all the equipment for the fish came from what was a previous classrooms pet. Unlike in high-school, these students all stay in one classroom for the entirety of their education (2 years or so), so my director decided to do something with the unused fish supplies that were left at the school when nobody wanted a fish.

          1. Heather

            Maybe one of the students would be interested in caring for the fish, since it sounds like they are around for awhile and enjoy seeing it?

            I’m sorry your director seems to have so little sense – who decides that having aquarium supplies sitting unused is so horrible that you have to fill them with a fish you don’t want to take care of? I guess we should just be glad there wasn’t a bag marked “tiger chow” lying around.

        2. Red Reader

          Haha, oh good :)

          I had a cube fish once. His name was Cody. He died when someone surprise!fleabombed the office over the weekend (why they wouldn’t give us any heads up, I don’t know), and the department across the aisle from me was universally heartbroken. They wouldn’t let me go flush him, they insisted on having a little fishy funeral and buried him in the potted plant in their lobby area.

          … they were kind of weird.

          (Also spent the next two years asking me when I was getting another fish. No! I’m done! Get y’all’s own damn fish!)

  33. Jennifer M.

    #5 – Limited roll over is very common. My OldJob transitioned from a maximum rollover of 200 hours 88 hours of Annual Leave (vacation and holidays combined to make AL and this way you would be able to roll over 2 weeks plus have New Year’s Day (observed if it fell on a weekend) off). Anyway, the year that this transition took place, there were massive efforts to get everyone’s accruals down. For my team I approved one person to take every other Friday off and another to work shorter days in the summer. Don’t be limited by the idea of having to take off 66 hours in a row.

    And for next year, remember to take some random days off here and there. I live in the Washington DC metro area so each September, right after schools start, I like to take off a day or two to go to the various Smithsonian museums when there aren’t a million school field trips happening. Or I’ll make Columbus day weekend a 4-day weekend instead of just 3 days and use the extra day to try to get together with a more home-bound relative or see a friend who is a stay-at-home parent but usually busy on weekends.

    1. Becky

      I live in the Washington DC metro area so each September, right after schools start, I like to take off a day or two to go to the various Smithsonian museums when there aren’t a million school field trips happening.

      That’s a really good idea. If I lived in that area, I’d totally do that!

  34. Former Retail Manager

    #2….Alison covered it. 4 years is enough time at that employer to easily move on. I just wanted to offer you my sympathies. I am by no means “super outgoing” but I too enjoy the human interaction and small talk at the office and not having that to any degree would be a deal breaker for me. Sounds like you’ve done everything you can and it’s time to find a better fit for you. Best of luck!

    1. Lonely

      The trouble about moving on is that I worry about my age to be honest. And I don’t want small talk – just acknowledgment that I’m alive.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        But there’s no reason not to start looking. If your age is an issue, you’ll be no worse off than you are now. But it probably won’t be, which means you’ll be taking steps toward addressing the situation.

        1. Lonely

          I didn’t have any problem getting a job four years ago. I do sometimes wonder if ageism stands in the way of everyday friendly interactions. Although the only people I do have enjoyable relationships with are 30 year-old guys who are the age of my sons. The therapist whom I see just thinks that everyone at my workplace is on the spectrum based on my descriptions.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            So if you didn’t have any trouble four years ago, it’s unlikely that you’re going to encounter huge resistance to your age now. You’re really unhappy — why not start looking? You’ve put in four years there.

          2. LQ

            Most of my coworkers are old enough to be my parent (I’m 35, so they aren’t young) and plenty of them do have kids my age or older. That doesn’t mean I can’t have a pleasant work relationship with them. It really sounds like your workplace isn’t a good culture fit for you, and that’s totally ok. It can be a workplace that is fine and works fine and you can be fine and work fine, but not work fine in that specific workplace.

      2. Siberian

        I’m so sorry that you worry your age will make it difficult to find another job. Assuming you mean you think you’ll experience age discrimination because you are an older employee, I really understand. I’m 50 and only recently returned to the regular workforce after nearly two decades of being self-employed. My closest coworkers are 15 years younger or more. I realize that lately I’ve been on the lookout for them treating me differently because of it (a variety of things happened personally and professionally that stirred up some minor, probably baseless worries). I don’t think they actually do treat me differently, and I didn’t have any trouble getting my job due to my age. You may be older than me and feel it more keenly.

        I think age discrimination is a bigger deal in some industries than others. When I decided to close my business and go back to regular employment, I specifically pursued only openings at our local public university in part because I knew that lots of people make that transition later in their careers, and lots of people work there until retirement. There are many people in my unit who are my age or older. I’ve never heard anyone snickering about their age. It’s just not a problem. I think you’ll find that is consistent with a lot of public sector jobs. If public sector is an option for you in your area and with your skills, you might consider it.

        Lastly, in my experience most of my worries about my age are misplaced. I have ADHD, and although it’s well treated by my medication, I still do struggle with some symptoms. I find myself thinking that people might interpret my ADHD as an aging brain (“she’s become so forgetful,” etc.). And even though I’m the most technically competent computer user in our team, whenever I fumble through Excel (not one of my areas of expertise) I catch myself worrying that coworkers will think I’m too old to know how to use the application. If you’re doing any of this worrying too (maybe not about your current job where you’re so isolated, but when thinking of future positions), make sure you check worry against reality. You could just as easily picture yourself as highly experienced and a valuable asset to any team thanks to your longer career.

        I’m making a lot of assumptions here but this issue has been on my mind and I hope something in there is helpful.

  35. TotesMaGoats

    #5-You might not be able to take a week or more at a time but you could start taking Mondays and Fridays off, or some variation on that theme. I can understand feeling like you can’t miss big chunks of time but a day a week or so, can be manageable. Do what you can to use it. I always made sure my direct staff took off all the leave needed to keep them just under the carry over limit. We could carry over 400 hours at old job which seems like a lot but some of us (me) were really bad at taking leave.

    1. TootsNYC

      Take several mornings off.
      Invent a project at home, plan it out in 2 or 3 hour chunks, and make it the thing that turns your vacation into a positive achievement zone instead of a neutral time-waster.

  36. self employed

    Sorry if this makes me a jerk, but I’m cracking up at people being freaked out by a fish. It’s just so funny to me!

  37. Sunflower

    #5- OP it sounds like you need to chat with your manager regardless. I don’t mess around with my vacation- I refuse to lose even an hour of it so it’s really really really important to look at it strategically.

    Your PTO policy should have been made clear to you when you started/all throughout the year. Going forward, make sure you have a clear understanding of your company’s policy. Companies have all sorts of policies surrounding PTO and limiting the amount of time you can roll over is very common.

    If you were making reasonable vacation requests that were getting denied or felt your workload was so large you couldn’t take a vacation, you absolutely MUST tell your manager. Your manager should be able to provide guidance on that- esp because you may be thinking its too busy to take a vacation when, in reality, your manager will be able to accommodate. Your manager should also be able to provide insight as to what times are the best to take off or let you know in advance what times would or would not be approved.

    Regardless, it is up to you to manage your vacation time. I had planned to not carry over any days and somehow I am carrying over the max and need to use 2 days before the end of the year. I never had a day off refused and while I’m fine with how it turned out, I’m not thrilled. But that was on me, not my manager.

  38. Charlie

    Regarding #2: Have you considered getting involved in Toastmasters, a professional development group, a book club, some kind of sport, or something similar which you could do at lunch with other people?

  39. Rebecca

    #1 The computer issues at my current job, soon to be former job, are so frustrating, but no amount of documenting them seems to help. Mostly, we have time delays when the system simply doesn’t respond. This could take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes to even 10 or 15 minutes to “burp”. I tried to show my manager how many man hours per day were wasted, company wide, when you have 400 users waiting even a total of 15 minutes per day over the course of a work day. It was staggering: 100 user hours per day. It’s never been addressed. My theory is if my employer wants me to have good, working equipment, they’ll provide it. Otherwise, things will take as long as they take. It’s sort of sad, actually, as productivity could probably soar if we had actual working tools to get the job done.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      IBM recently did a presentation on how much money they’re saving by moving to Macs (off their own Thinkpads!) just because of the drop in support calls. At my workplace, we use all Mac hardware, even for our Windows users. I’m not an Apple fanatic (very proud Android user—hate iOS actually), but their computer hardware is pretty solid. Unfortunately, a lot of people (both consumers and business managers) get sticker shock and don’t realize you need to invest in solid equipment and the personnel to support things and have things run smoothly.

  40. Tennessee INFP

    OP #2 – I’m in the exact opposite boat! I am introverted crave isolation and hate the day to day interaction, but I work in a client facing position where I talk to people all day. It’s exhausting! Maybe we should switch jobs. ;-)

  41. Lobbyist

    Betta fish need very little to survive. You don’t even need to change their water that often. I think if your boss realized how easy it was, she might not mind? Or another co worker could do it? Or someone could take it and give it to a kid. They are easy fish.

    1. Heather

      This is actually a very common, and unfortunate, myth about bettas. See ThatAspieGirl’s comment below….they need a lot of care and aren’t appropriate for an office unless their owner is willing to take on the work (and not pass it off to someone lower in the hierarchy).

  42. ThatAspieGirl

    The fish thing…people think, “Oh, yeah, fish are easy, you can just impulse buy any fish you want without reading up on the fish at all!” As someone who used to have a community tank (and eventually had to Freecycle it due to a lack of time and a lack of money), I can tell you that it is just as important to read up on fish in general as well as the specific type of fish you want before getting the fish and while you have the fish. Things I know about beta fish care from having a (female) beta include:

    – No housing male betas with any other fish, unless you are an experienced, responsible beta breeder who knows exactly what they’re up to.
    – You can house female betas with other fish, so long as you pick out some compatible fish to be her buddies. Hint: those little skinny white fish from Walmart won’t work. A male beta also won’t work, unless…well, you get the idea, responsible breeder.
    – Despite popular belief, a beta fish needs room to swim around, as well as a clean tank (yes, TANK – not bowl, unless it’s just temporary housing while you look for a tank). Don’t just stick them in the bottom of your flower vase and expect them to like it. Don’t sit them in a fish-shaped glass jar and expect them not to jump out and die. (Yeah, seriously, betas have been known to suicide themselves by jumping if you don’t give them enough room. There are documented cases of this.) Don’t jam them into a dirty little bowl and expect them to actually survive in there.
    – A beta needs a somewhat stimulating environment. Think: how would you feel if you were cooped up in a box with nothing to do all day for your entire life? Exactly. They also need hiding places, some clear spaces (again, they gotta have space to swim!), and, of course, someone to look after them.
    – Beta fish can eat the regular tropical fish flakes, but you should feed them at least some pellets that are especially made for betas. They also enjoy freeze-dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, and mosquito larvae.

    1. FishAreNotPets

      OP here, and I couldn’t agree with you more! My main concern with the fish is that hes in a bowl thats too small. He is a male beta, housed alone, but his bowl is less than 3 gallons and unfiltered. I personally object to fish as pets in any capacity. He tries to hide under his plant but that looks really strange as well. His bowl is overdue for a cleaning but she didn’t get anything to fix the water, so now we are at a stand still, because if I take care of this fish I feel like I’ll be stuck with it.

      1. Shazbot

        Your manager might want her fish back if she puts him in a proper container. She needs to get a “betta bowl”. A small hexagonal clear plastic container, it usually comes in a kit with some rocks and a teeny plant. They do require cleaning as there is no filter but it’s uncomplicated (basically you just take everything out, wash the bowl, put everything back in, no muss no fuss).

        But the point is, bettas are very happy in these little containers. They feel secure in a small space and are less likely to try to hide. And a secure betta is a fun, interactive betta that your manager might like better.

        1. Shazbot

          I’m not actually trying to argue with ThatAspieGirl about the amount of room bettas need with this post. Room is good. But the point I was trying (and probably failing) to make is that a single, lone betta needs stimulation. And a big filterless bowl with no other fish or life of any kind is a recipe for betta death-by-ennui. At least in a small container you can fit on your desk, you can play with the betta throughout the day and keep it occupied*. It will watch you. Too big of a bowl without other fish and they sort of lose track of what’s going on around them, pull in on themselves, and their health goes downhill. If not a small betta bowl then try a half-gallon rectangular one with a lid.

          *Yes, you should play with your male betta. They respond well to tracking a pencil eraser across the side of the bowl, or your finger above the bowl, or if it is healthy and alert a small mirror placed briefly next to their bowl. (DO NOT leave the mirror there for more than a minute or so.)

  43. Garland Not Andrews

    OP #5 Does your company allow donation of PTO to an emergency pool? We have that available to us and lots of folks who have “Use or Lose” leave do that, so that someone in a bad spot can afford to take the time to care for themselves or a family member.

    1. Becky

      That’s a good idea–my company has a policy allowing people to donate PTO to others. There is also usually an option to turn unused PTO into cash donation to a charity around the holidays.

  44. Becky

    #5
    My company has a “use it or lose it” policy. You can only carry over 40 hours from year to year (which it sounds like your company has too–you have 106 hours banked and you have to use 66 or lose them, meaning 40 hours carry over).

    If you work 8 hour days then 66 hours is a little over 8 days. Maybe you can’t use all of those hours, but you might be able to use some of them. Take a couple extra days around both Thanksgiving and Christmastime–or around whichever holiday you celebrate. (If you don’t celebrate any end of the year religious holidays, take advantage of the time anyway just to relax.) Depending on your business this time of year may be slower or busier, so obviously take that into account. November and December are the slow times of the year for our office. There’s like 1 person left in the department the week between Christmas and New Year.

    You may also want to scan your company handbook/policies to see if there are any other surprises you weren’t aware of. My company makes the “use it or lose it” policy pretty clear to all new employees, as well as other policies. But if you missed this policy you might have missed others too.

    I went on a pretty big vacation this year, so I was saving up my PTO and using it very sparingly. Once I got back from big vacation though I discovered I’d been TOO miserly in using my PTO and had to use up 6 days of PTO or lose them by the end of the year. So I took a day here and there (one for a doctor’s appointment, one for some car repairs) and then I have approved from my manager an additional 3 days for Thanksgiving and made my mother very happy by deciding to visit family for Thanksgiving (I live across the country from the rest of my family). I still have one day I will need to use up, so I might take an extra day around Christmas or New Years.

  45. Heather

    Yes! I feel like this should be posted in all offices. A fish is not a plant that you can ask your admin to water once a day!

  46. ArtK

    I’m in California — I don’t know if it the law or just company policy (the last two companies, in fact), but I’m allowed to roll over 200 hours before I start losing time.

  47. CanadianKat

    #4:
    If it’s the first email in a long while, or first email starting a new train of thought, I would continue starting with “Hello Client”, “Hi Client,” or just “Client,”. Some people even do “Good morning, Client” – but I think it’s overkill; besides, it may not be morning when Client reads it.

    If it’s a reply to something, especially a brief reply, nothing wrong with plunging in without any salutation. I wouldn’t want to type “Hi Bill” more than once in a day. Email in that case is more like a conversation than a letter.

    You can also try to integrate the name in the first line, as in:
    “Thanks, Joe. I’ll forward your request to Teapots Packaging.”
    “Yes, Joe, we’ll let you know when cinnamon teapots become available.”
    “Hey Joe, you may be interested in the article below.”

    At least in Gmail, email preview groups the saluation together with a text (currently in my inbox: “Hello parents, A reminder that tomorrow is school photo”). So Client can still see most of the text, and “Hi Client” only takes up a few characters. Unless a client specifically expressed concern about this, I wouldn’t worry about how their preview looks.

    1. ZVA

      I do that integrating the name into the first thing all the time! I think it’s a great middle ground between a more formal salutation and no salutation at all.

  48. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    1) WHERE HAVE I SEEN THIS HAPPEN BEFORE???

    If the CEO is *really* a CEO, then it was his decision to wipe out IS/IT guy. Who WOULD be higher up, and in a position to foist that upon the CEO? That makes no sense at all. Lacks credibility.

    Second thing – IS/IT is an overhead category. It’s necessary overhead but it’s still overhead.

    “Good job, Bryce, you cut expenses and overhead. They’ll be something extra in your paycheck. Have a cigar!”

    Now the employees pay the price. Seen it often – sometimes where management eats humble pie, calls the dismissed employee back and if he’s available, asks him to return, saying “we can’t live without you”, love-bomb him, give him a raise, etc. But I have only seen that happen in three different arenas –

    1) in the movies
    2) in a court of law, as part of a settlement
    3) in the world of IS/IT.

  49. Editor

    #1 — No recourse.

    While this is an IT problem and also, as a bunch of commenters noted, a measurement-of-(in)efficiency problem, it’s also a problem when employees have no recourse when there are staffing, policy, or other work issues that local supervisors cannot or will not address.

    Frankly, I think this is the biggest difference between the elites and the workers, or the 1 percent and the 99 percent, or the voters and the politicians, or medical care consumers and healthcare CEOs, or adjuncts and college presidents, or any number of other social divisions that might be proposed or observed. It’s a serious, serious problem that needs to be addressed by people at the top levels who are mostly oblivious to it.

    I really wish that there was some way to flag “no recourse” problems so that they could be solved instead of festering. Could identifying employers on Glassdoor as having significant numbers of “no recourse” issues start drawing attention to this systemic, endemic problem?

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