I’m sick — why are you calling me?

A reader writes:

I work directly under my boss, who is the director of my department, as the scheduler and office manager. I don’t manage anyone.

Every time I have ever had a day off, whether it is a scheduled vacation day or a day I’ve had to call out sick (while being actually sick and unable to work productively not just playing hooky), he calls and texts me with questions, many, many times throughout the day.

It wouldn’t be bothersome if his questions were ones that only I would know the answer to, but they are not. He will call and ask me about tasks completed where he could just look in the log we keep in the office and see for himself. Oftentimes, he will ask about something very minute (which he could still see for himself in this log) that I cannot even remember.

I’ve told him multiple times that I can’t remember these things off the top of my head and that since I’m not in the office to look myself, I don’t know and couldn’t tell him, and even where to look to find the info himself. All of this to no avail.

I’ve tried not answering is texts and calls, but he just gets angry and calls and texts more telling me it’s extremely urgent.

I don’t want to tell him flat out “please do not contact me when I am not in unless it is a serious emergency” because that feels out-of-line since he’s my boss, and he would probably become more angry with me. I’m at a loss here. Do I just sit and deal with the calls and texts even though I’m off? I work hourly, so should I start clocking these calls to add to my payroll even though I am already using my PTO?

He’s totally out of line here. And it’s actually perfectly reasonable for you to hold firm about this — not necessarily that he can’t contact you outside of work at all, but definitely that he can’t expect you to respond when you’re out sick or on vacation, unless that’s something that the two of you have negotiated ahead of time.

(Speaking of which, I should note that all of the advice that follows is based on the assumption that you’re not in a field where constant availability is part of the deal. There are fields like that, but typically you know if you’re in one of them.)

I’m going to recommend at least one thing, and possibly two things.

The thing that you should definitely do is this: Starting now, whenever you take time off, state explicitly beforehand that you will not be available. For example:

* “I wanted to remind you that I’ll be on vacation tomorrow and Friday. I will not be somewhere with reliable phone service, so I won’t be able to respond to calls or texts.”

* “I have the flu and will be out sick today. I’m hoping to sleep this off, so I won’t be answering calls or texts.”

Then if he tries to reach you anyway, you ignore those calls, as you told him that you would. If he gets upset that he can’t reach you, talk to him when you’re back at work and say something like this: “I reminded you before I left that I wasn’t going to be somewhere where I’d be reachable by phone or text. Is there something you’d like me to do differently when that’s the case?”

If he’s unreasonable enough to say “find a way to be reachable,” then you say, “That won’t always be possible with everywhere I might go when I’m on vacation and not working.”

But if the conversation does go in this direction, then you definitely need to do the second thing I’m about to suggest too — which is to have a big-picture conversation with him about his expectations for your role. That means sitting down with him and saying this: “You’ve seemed frustrated when you haven’t been able to reach me by phone or text when I’m out sick or on vacation. I understand that in rare cases an emergency might come up that means you have to contact me, but in general, I’d like to know that when I’m taking time off, I’m able to fully disconnect and that you’ll understand if I’m sick or busy and can’t respond.”

If he pushes back here (saying that everything he contacts you about is an emergency, or anything else ridiculous), then you say this: “I really need to be able to take leave and have it be real leave — days where I’m not expected to work. I know that you of course need to be able to keep your own work moving on those days, but my benefits package gives me X days off a year, and it’s important to me to be able to use them. When I’m back in the office, I’ll attend to anything that’s come up right away. Based on what I know about the types of things that come up when I’m away, I think that should keep us in good shape. But if you need someone available for this work every single day of the year with no exceptions, then we need to train someone as a back-up for me when I’m out. Should we figure out who would make sense for that, or would you rather try seeing how it goes with the understanding that I won’t always be available when I’m out?”

And as for logging any work that you do when he contacts you when you’re out, yes, you should definitely log it and ask how to handle that. This isn’t entirely straightforward because while they have to pay you for that time, that’s already happening since you’re on paid leave. Ideally they’d decrease the amount of PTO you used up on those days, but some places have rigid rules about doing that, or will only lower it in half-day increments or so forth. If your workplace doesn’t have clear rules on this, then ask, “How should I handle it when I’m out on leave but Boss contacts me to do work for an hour of it?”

{ 175 comments… read them below }

  1. NonProfit Nancy*

    I never found a good solution for this, unfortunately. Although not to this extent, I’ve always struggled with how to be “off” when I’m “off,” especially since my boss is always “on” – he checks email in the evenings, when he’s sick, when he’s on vacation, on the morning of his wedding, every day of his honeymoon, etc. So that sets the tone for what I “should” be doing too. I don’t think it’s necessary for our jobs, but I feel the pressure! I’ll be looking at other people’s answers.

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        To be honest, I suspect he’s just that kind of guy and would do it at any job. Unfortunately his boss is the same (it’s kind of our culture here, to hire neurotic overachievers) so it’s reinforced.

        1. Morning Glory*

          Ha, I did this on my honeymoon a couple of times. It was like a weird compulsion I needed to satisfy in the morning before I could enjoy my day.

          Not divorced yet though :)

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      This is why I’ve hated working for nonprofits. It’s not a job, it’s a MISSION! And everything is extremely URGENT! And everybody checks their email all the time and never unplugs for a second because dangit we’re saving the world here!

      Not to denigrate the good work that nonprofits do, but people seem to turn their jobs into lifestyles in those positions, and it’s exhausting. I’d get frantic calls at 10pm about things that couldn’t even be acted on until the next morning.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yep. Plenty of nonprofits have folded and guess what? The earth is still revolving around the sun!

      2. Pup Seal*

        I work for a non-profit. My boss definitely does this. I won’t check my work email during off hours, but my boss will email and text my coworkers at 10pm at night. I’ve definitely been asked how much work can I do when I’m sick. I was even asked how much work I can do on the second week I was very sick with mono!

        One funny story, one former co-worker was laid off last year and found a new job. We still get lunch together from time to time. One time when getting lunch a few months after starting her new job, she told me my boss sent her an email on a Sunday night asking about where something was. She had planned to reply the next day. When she got to work, she saw my boss got impatient and emailed her new work email! She’s so lucky to have a new job.

        1. JustaTech*

          I had a classmate in grad school who got mono bad enough that her doctor put her on bedrest. We were in a group project together and she kept apologizing and offering to work. (It was grad school that you do while working full time.) Our whole group told her no, it’s fine, you’ve already done enough, please just rest and get better. We even told our prof that she’s done more than her share already and not to dock her points for being really, really sick.

          Now I’m wondering if her doctor prescribed bedrest because her work would not let her go.

          1. Pup Seal*

            Aww, poor girl. After missing 2 weeks of work, boss had me work half days. I don’t qualify for FLMA, so I couldn’t take more time off. I wish I could’ve had more time off. The fatigue was the worst. I made so many mistakes and couldn’t focus because of the fatigue, and there were times I had to rest my head down on my desk. Please employers, if your employee has mono, just let them rest.

        2. Umvue*

          How is it your friend is dispensable enough to have been laid off, but also critical enough that she’s expected to be instantly available by email on a Sunday night several months later? Your boss is terrible.

      3. Triangle Pose*

        Yep. If I’m going to constantly available to handle fake emergencies, you’d better be paying me way more than nonprofit salaries.

        1. JeanLouiseFinch*

          This! For a while, I worked for a nut-job that would call at all hours and on the weekend, expecting work done by Monday or the next morning. I told him that if I was on call 24/7, then he had to pay me as much as a neurosurgeon would be paid. He left me alone after that. Another even crazier boss expected me to call in every couple of hours even though I worked part-time. This was before cell phones! I told her no way – she wasn’t paying me full time so I wasn’t on call full time. I don’t know, attorneys in general seem to think that everyone else is not supposed to have a life, but I have found that when you mention getting paid more, these jerks usually back down.

      4. H.C.*

        I think that’s bit on an overreaching; plenty of non-profits value and honor work-life balance (and sometimes, that’s sold as part of the package to candidates to make up for less than stellar pay). At my nonprofit OldJob, we were definitely discouraged from contacting sick/vacationing co-workers unless it’s an absolute emergency.

        1. MuseumChick*

          This has been my experience with non-profits. I’ve been way more of the behavior described in the OP’s post when I took a job outside of the non-profit world for year.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I work for a non-profit, albeit an academic rather than mission-driven one, and they are VERY CLEAR that we are not to work when we are not actually working. My boss wouldn’t contact me at home/when I was off unless it were a hair-on-fire emergency.

        3. Connie*

          Maybe it’s not that nonprofits do this more often, but are maybe a little better at instilling serious guilt when they do.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed—this seems like a problem across sectors; not simply a problem for nonprofits.

      5. Lord of the Ringbinders*

        Not all of them! I work with a non profit that has a policy stating no email on evenings, weekends or while on leave. Sadly I think this is far from typical.

      6. AD*

        I have to push back and say it’s the corporate environments I’ve worked where I’ve seen these expectations, rather than the not-for-profits.

        Field-dependent, of course, but many corporate cultures seem to have this unstated (but very much observed) requirement to be on and available at all times.

      7. Kristine*

        I’d had the opposite experience! Every private company I’ve worked for was all about being available for our clients 24/7 and always striving to do more, more, more. I averaged 60 hours a week at those companies.

        I work at a nonprofit now and the lights are off at 5 pm. Occasionally I’ll answer an email after hours or have to work some overtime to prep for a big event, but I’ve never worked more than 45 hours in a week and I get paid OT for everything over 40.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      My boss is the same way. Even when her mother and child were both hospitalized AT THE SAME TIME, she was still emailing and texting as usual. She has an unhealthy relationship with her job– it’s absolutely not necessary for her to work around the clock, but she does anyway.

      I’ve made it clear that I do not work when using PTO. Something I’ve found helpful is clearly putting PTO on my calendar and indicating that I am out of the office and therefore unavailable. I do not answer calls or texts after my workday is done, and I do not have my work email on my phone.

      Setting boundaries is important, and the sooner you do it, the better.

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        OP says if she ignores the calls and texts, they get increasingly aggressive. Did you have any special strategy for heading this off? With email, I like a bounce-back that they’ll get every time, reminding them that I’m not available today – but texts are tougher (and in fact I prefer not to use my cell phone in work contexts [it’s not like they pay for it!] for this reason).

        1. Not a Real Giraffe*

          This is why I love the “do not disturb” for texts. I would turn DND on for just this specific texter, therefore avoiding getting notified of his messages whatsoever. Then when I came into work the next day, “Oh I had my phone on silent all day since I was out sick/on vacation.”

          1. NonProfit Nancy*

            I definitely feel like if you can deny your boss the “reward” of reaching you, this might head it off. Right now, every time OP replies they’re reinforcing the behavior – boss got what they needed. If the whole day passes with no response at all, it may help next time the boss wants something. BUT unfortunately there may be a cost to this if boss now views you as unreliable / not committed to the job …

          2. MillersSpring*

            Being sick/on vacation is an excellent, completely justifiable reason for not responding to texts, calls and emails.

        2. Lemon Zinger*

          An email bounce-back is a great idea, but I would just not answer them at all. Same thing with texts. Most phones have a setting where you can turn off notifications for texts/calls from certain people. OP needs to utilize that.

          Most pressing is the issue that OP is hourly. Time spent working needs to be paid, and she needs to have a frank conversation with Boss about this. He may not even be aware of it– I assume he is salaried.

        3. Lovemyjob...Truly!!!*

          My husband has to use his phone as part of his job and gets texts at weird hours, on sick days and on vacations. He used to answer them all until we were looking at pictures from a family vacation and he was either not in them or focused on his phone in the background. It was a sad moment because my husband prides himself on being a dad who is present in his kids lives. Now he does like Allison suggested and preps his office for his time off and tells them straight out that he will not have phone or email access. He actually left his phone at home the first few times just so there wouldn’t be any temptation to answer it while he was away. The first two times there were a few texts, but after that they respected his requests. His boss has started to do the same. (Apparently boss was contacted by text and phone the day of his wedding by *his* boss and he had an a-ha moment that this might not a good thing to do).

        4. MathOwl*

          I’d say the OP’s demeanor when they return might help with that. If the boss gets increasingly aggressive and acts angry the next day but OP returns and calmly says: “As discussed, I wasn’t available during my day off, but now that I am present, how would you like me to handle this issue? I think we could do X or Y.”, that could refocus the conversation on what can be done now instead.

        5. JeanLouiseFinch*

          When I went on vacation from my job at a law firm, I usually told my boss that I would be out of the country and unreachable. I guess if I were still working there, I would just tell him that I always leave my cell phone at home (which is true.) I once had a friend who told her boss that she was going to St. Thomas so he could not call her at home and drag her back to the job during her vacation. She said that since she was African American, she could get away with it since he wouldn’t be looking for her to get a tan!

    3. Allison*

      Sounds like my former coworker. She was highly competitive, and would check/answer/send e-mails during her commute. She drove to work. She actually thought it was okay to handle e-mails at red lights and in traffic, because “it’s not like you’re going anywhere!” No e-mail she sent me on her way to work was that urgent! And she was the type to go home, open her work laptop, and check e-mails periodically until bed. My boss didn’t expect this from anyone on the team, she just had this insane drive to work at all hours of the day, all days of the week. I had to sometimes remind her that most nights I wasn’t even home, let alone available to keep working.

    4. Grits McGee*

      It’s so exhausting to work with and (heaven forbid) for these kinds of people. One of my coworkers disobeyed a direct order from gov. officials not to come into work because of a natural disaster. She sat in the dark for two hours and got nothing done because there was no power, which is exactly why they told us not to come in! She almost refused to evacuate when we got the order to leave the area because she “was here to work”, burden on emergency services be damned!

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        One of my coworkers at my current job did something similar a few years ago. He actually ran into a police officer on his way in who asked him where he was going to work and, upon determining that our B2B company is not providing essential services, told him to go home. There was also a flurry of emails going around from the management team to us peons that they hoped the situation would improve by the afternoon so we could come into the office. Because, you know, being out of the office for a whole day was simply unfathomable.

      2. Delta Delta*

        Ugh! I worked for a boss that had a similar issue. We had a natural disaster in my area a few years ago. I sent an email saying I’d be in, but I’d be late due to road issues caused by the disaster. Boss, who lived much closer to the office and who lost power (and thus did not know the local disaster-related updates on the news) shot back a snarky email that said, essentially, “I got here, so I fail to see why you can’t.” I showed Boss news updates when I arrived and received an apology, but the knee-jerk response was nasty enough that I still remember it.

    5. Delta Delta*

      I just left a job that was like this. Not a non-profit, but could theoretically have been based on the work and the mission. There was an unspoken expectation that vacations included constantly checking email and returning voicemails. More than once I returned calls during sporting events and concerts because it was expected that I do so, regardless of the fact I was technically on vacation. Big Boss even tried to call a co-worker once about a client issue while co-worker was away. We had to physically stop him because the rest of us knew co-worker was at his wedding and if Big Boss called right then it would have been in the middle of the ceremony (it was a mid-week afternoon wedding). I used to feel physically sick on Sundays when I’d check my phone and there’d be 8 emails from Big Boss essentially showing off that he was working. Some would be simple things. Other times they’d be these very dramatic cliffhangers that made people wonder if their jobs were in jeopardy. Ooh, I’m very tense just thinking about this right now. Yikes. And I don’t even work there anymore.

      1. KP84*

        My brother in law works for a similar guy who calls him day and night, almost always with non urgent issues. Some of the people I work with are like that as well, thinking everything they do is extremely important and needs to get done ASAP. I sometimes feel like emailing them back “You are not as important as you think you are”.

  2. Cambridge Comma*

    When the boss gets angry, what happens after that? Are there longer term consequences or could it be something you could push through in order to assert this (very reasonable) boundary?

  3. Allison*

    Sounds like he’s either become so reliant on the OP’s work he can’t function without it, even for a day or two, or he fancies himself too important to handle tasks like that and needs someone at his beck and call all day every day. Either way, he seems to have forgotten that OP is a human. Humans get sick, humans take vacation, no human works every single working hour of the year! Boss man needs to either learn to get by on his own for the occasional day where OP needs to rest, or he needs a backup who can take over OP’s work, and that might mean reaching out to a temp agency or knowing who in the office can step in to help.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      Your use of ‘beck and call’ made me wonder what Boss’ working style is when OP is in the office. Is he continually asking for things that he could do himself, or is the behaviour reserved to punish the OP when she is away?

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I wonder especially if the boss regularly calls or texts OP throughout the workday and part of the problem is him doing it out of habit. If his routine is to think “Hmm, did the Jones shipment come in yet? Let me text Jane” even when he is in the office, that’s part of the problem – he is probably sending the message before he even thinks “oh wait, Jane’s not here”. Not quite the same thing, but I always feel bad when I send an email to a co-worker when they are out, forgetting that they have email notifications set up on their phone – especially if they reply back to me on something that could have waited until they got back.

          At minimum, if he currently calls or texts all the time during the workday, you could start by being slightly less available that way (not ignoring him, but not necessarily dropping everything right away as soon as he texts or jumping to answer the minite he calls if you are in the middle of something).

          One thing that could also make a slight difference – is this your private phone, OP, or one the company provides (or provides a payment toward)? I feel like it’s slightly less terrible to be contacted on a work provided device (as that’s one of the strings that can come with it) than on a personal device.

      1. Ypsiguy*

        I was wondering that myself. Are the repeated pleas for help a passive-aggressive “punishment” for taking time off work? Or is this just everyday behavior by the boss, except by telephone instead of in person?

      2. Jokeyjules*

        I’ve been here about a year, but before I came here, he was doing all of my tasks himself. And the things he calls me about are extremely minute, he could find out for himself faster than calling and texting, and honestly have already been taken care of or can wait. I had a nasty case of food poisoning, and he’s calling me asking if I placed a monthly order that isn’t supposed to go out until the week after

        1. Meg Murry*

          I would be so tempted to give a completely honest, no filter answer. “I didn’t answer the phone earlier because I was on the toilet with severe diarrhea due to food posioning. What was so urgent now? The monthly order? Hold on, need to vomit …. Oh, yes the monthly order. Well, I wouldn’t call that urgent since it’s not due for 2 more weeks but – wait, vomiting again …. I can’t remember in my current foggy mental state, but you can check the log book on my desk. Unless this food poisoning kills me, I should be back in time to deal with it with no problems. OK, gotta go puke some more, bye.”

          OK, I personally wouldn’t be able to say that to my boss, but I have said reached the point of being extremely explicit with some family members when they try to give me grief about not attending events and won’t take “stomach bug” for an answer.

    2. Merida May*

      If I were to guess I’d say in a lot of instances it’s the former category. I used to work in support roles and as I’ve stepped out of that I find myself occasionally stumbling when it comes to basic administrative knowledge I would have known like the back of my hand two years ago. I just don’t deal with those same things every day, so it takes an extra minute to remember! Running with that, I can only speculate that if you are in a role where someone is actually assigned to you for that purpose it can create a bit of a gap when they aren’t around. I think that’s where the advice to set up a backup point of contact or procedure may be helpful.

  4. Pup Seal*

    Is the boss like this with the other employees? It would be interesting to know if the boss only does this to op or if he calls other employees constantly when they’re on their PTO too.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      This is speculation, but I bet he doesn’t. OP is the office manager — I’m guessing he doesn’t want to deal with admin tasks in the same way he might cover for a direct report whose duties are more in his wheelhouse.

  5. Bend & Snap*

    I had a boss like this, although not to this extent. His MO was to call on vacations, ask a non-urgent question, allude to the person who was out making a huge mistake that he’d uncovered and then let it hang there till you got back and he presented you with an overblown problem that was all your fault.

    In case you’re wondering, most of my horrible boss stories are about the same person.

    Anyway, is this the office culture or just your boss? Does he do this outside working hours or just when you’re taking personal time?

    My current boss is wonderful and will only get in touch in a real emergency, but when I’m home sick I tell him I’ll be resting as much as possible.


    1. Jokeyjules*

      My boss work constantly but is always complaining about it. He will call and text me while he is on vacations demanding where is this and is this done and do that, to the point where I can’t get my work done because I’m replying to him so much.
      He does it much less outside of working hours, but ALWAYS on my time off.

  6. Mike*

    Since I graduated, I have always been extremely firm about not being available when I’m sick or on vacation. My parents were the same way growing up, apart from a serious emergency. They took their time off, and after hours time to themselves and the family.

    I turn the email off on my phone, ignore phone calls and texts, and put very clearly in my out of office that I will respond to all emails when I return to the office.

    If you enable the behavior, it will become expected.

    Realistically, there are VERY few emergencies that are true emergencies. Most of the people who are constantly connected are people who have a belief that the company cannot function without them ever. I’m just not one of those people. The work, company, etc will all be here tomorrow.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      I’d *love* to advise OP that she let her boss know that her phone and email will be off, and then turn them off completely! Although a) depending on her office culture that could permanently ruin this position for her – and b) most people want to use their phones for other things, which gets them sucked back in.

      1. Nabby*

        I didn’t do this intentionally but I have a separate work and personal phone and I’m terrible at checking both. I definitely go for several hours without being able to be reached by anyone. So my team has sent me texts or emails that I legitimately didn’t see for several hours. They’re not too intense but check their phone more often than that, but have kinda accepted the fact that I’m bad at phones.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I know the iPhone has a “do not disturb” feature that lets you block all calls/texts but also lets you designate some contacts who can get through. I assume other phones have this feature as well. Sounds like something made just for a boss like this.

        1. SL #2*

          You can also DND texts from specific people! I may or may not have done this with our coworkers’ group chat that we use to share links/photos/non-work stuff…

        2. K.*

          I love DND. I have it on from 11 PM – 7 AM, with exceptions for my immediate family and one or two close-close friends (because if they’re calling at 3 AM, it’s a legit emergency).

    2. mreasy*

      Every workplace & boss is different. It’s not always an issue of “enabling” the behavior. Some people truly believe that their employees are so lucky to have jobs that they need to be at their beck & call at all times, and that not to behave this way could endanger the employee’s job. It certainly shouldn’t be that way, but given that labor laws in the US don’t require ANY paid time off, there’s not much legal recourse here. It’s not quite fair to blame the OP for “enabling.”

    3. Allison*

      Same here. I was a contractor in my last role so I didn’t go away often, but when I did, I was very clear with everyone I worked with that I would be completely unplugged from work e-mail and all work-related systems, would not be checking in, would not be doing any work of any kind while I was away. When I was sick, I told people I would be checking in every few hours, but I would be spending the day in bed, hence the sick day rather than just working from home.

      I hate that we have to clarify these things.

  7. not so super-visor*

    For planned PTO, I always have to make my boss a sheet of FAQ’s before I leave: who also is out of the office (even though it’s on the shared calendar), where to find certain reports, who is the point person on several high touch accounts. It’s probably not normal, but I’ve kind of come to see it as normal.

    1. Becky*

      Actually I would see this as totally normal. When I am on PTO (not usually necessary for a single day, but if I’m going to be gone for a week) I always make sure that my clients know who they should contact in my absence, that whoever is covering for me has all the information they need and that any information my team needs is prepped well in advance. Then I put it all in one large email to my manager of who is covering what and what the status is of various things.

  8. Cucumberzucchini*

    In addition, after having the conversation with him, (and I know this would be really annoying but…) I would get a cheap pay as you go phone and tell him you’ve changed your number. Then give him the new number for the cheapo phone. Then when you’re sick or on vacation turn that other phone off. That way you can still use your phone but don’t have to worry about this guy bothering you. The added expense might be worth it.

    Or there may be apps or options that allow you turn off incoming calls from certain numbers so you can just turn it off and on as needed for his number.

    I recommend this because when I was in a similar situation I lived in a constant state of anxiety about my phone going off. I was in a job where there was no pushing back on the 24/7 availability but if it was just a personality issue I would have loved having a separate phone to just turn off and now worry about going off.

      1. LizB*

        I have a Google Voice number as my work number (my organization requires people in my position to maintain a work cell phone, and GV is an option for that) and when I’m out of the office, I log out of the app on my phone. I get no calls or texts to that number as long as I’m logged out, and all texts and voicemails that are sent during that time come through when I log back in. Super easy.

        If the OP does want to set up a GV number, though, I would also recommend changing her personal number. I’m sure this boss will try and call all available numbers in his quest to not let her enjoy a minute of her leave.

  9. Kittymommy*

    Oh my gosh, I feel your pain. I recently took a vacation overseas and had to inform my bosses (they’re not bad at this) and the higher up iv a neighboring department that I would be unreachable because every single time I have taken off I get phone calls and texts. I’m salaried do I kind of expect it, but I know I was on the list to make hourly (they didn’t want to give me a raise – the job needs to stay salary though) so now it kind of pisses me off when they call/text.

  10. Artemesia*

    Can you put an auto responder on your email so the boss gets the message that you are not available and will return calls on X date. The ostensible purpose is for clients or vendors or whomever calls and not necessarily the boss — but it reinforces the point. Also leave the contact for whom the person calling should contact if it is an emergency.

  11. Murphy*

    We’ve been having discussions about my upcoming maternity leave, and boss has asked a few times if he can contact me while I’m out. I’m trying to walk a fine line between “of course, if it’s really an emergency” and “It REALLY better be an emergency, because I plan on being too busy caring for my first born child to talk to you.”

    1. Liane*

      If you’re in the USA, I am pretty sure that Alsiosn has said this can’t be done under FMLA or disability

    2. Pup Seal*

      At my supervisor’s last job, one of his coworkers went on maternity leave. The day she gave birth, her boss came to the hospital to give her paper work and other projects to work on.

      1. Just Jess*

        The DAY she gave birth? I get it that people have different recovery periods, but that’s some The Good Earth, drop a baby and go back to working in the field nonsense.

      2. Bend & Snap*

        I had a coworker once who gave birth and then logged on to email. She also didn’t tell anyone she was pregnant until she was almost 8 months along, even though she was VISIBLY pregnant.

        It did not make her look dedicated. It made her look crazy.

        She also didn’t come back after her leave..

      3. not so super-visor*

        At my last job, on the day a supervisor in the department next to mine gave birth, HR & her boss showed up to the hospital to tell her that they were outsourcing all of our jobs!

      4. AdAgencyChick*


        This would shock me more if I hadn’t worked with a graphic designer whose boss came to her right after her water broke to ask whether she had prepared a set of submission forms for industry awards.

        I don’t know what she said to him, but I do know that she did not boot him out the window as he deserved. More’s the pity.

    3. Accounting*

      If ever your boss calls while you’re on mat leave…. wait until the baby is crying to call back and only half-talk to the boss (“Sorry I missed that can you say it again?” “Sorry, I need to put the phone down for a minute brb!”). Helps drive home the point for the clueless that You. Are. Busy.

      This works for non-mat leave calls too – let the boss’ call go to VM and call back in a crowded, loud area and be suuuuper pleasant but generally unhelpful as goshdarnit you just can’t hear well and can the boss repeat that again, etc.

      1. motherofdragons*

        I love this. I’d be the person who would pick up and about 1-2 minutes in, say “Shoot, my baby just threw up/pooped everywhere, I’ve got to go!”

  12. James*

    I wonder if there’s a way to “up-coach” your boss. For example, when you are taking a couple of days of vacation, try to say something like “while I’m gone, if you should need any information, all the updated information on x, y, and z is available on this log located in this place” or something similar to that, in an attempt to head off some calls/texts.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, I had this thought too. Of course it massively sucks that OP would have to spoon-feed what seems like obvious info to a grown adult, but…

      1. Stick'em with the pointy end*

        The problem is that the “grown adult” is Too. Effing. Lazy. to look at the log, even if you print it and place it right in front of them. *Sigh.* I’ve worked for too many bosses like this.

            1. Parenthetically*

              It’s paradigm shifting, and also explains why, “Oh, you should just hire a housekeeper” as a so-called solution to “My male partner ‘doesn’t notice’ messes around the house” causes me to rage blackout.

  13. Temperance*

    It’s hilarious to me – my boss now will only call or email me if someone is actually urgent, but at my last job, which was a craptastic admin job, I had to spell out that I wasn’t going to be answering my cell phone from Mexico unless they paid the international roaming charges for me to keep it on. It wasn’t my fault that my counterpart was basically inept.

  14. whichsister*

    I had a similar problem recently. I was home sick, on bed rest for two days, with a note from the ER physician that I was NOT to return to work till Wednesday. (not to mention doped up on pain pills) But I was still required to submit 2 full days of sick leave. When I asked for two hours back since that was the amount of time I spent working, from my bed, troubleshooting issues that I was not the only one qualified to do, he said he “would see.” According to my latest pay stub it didn’t happen.

    My solution is to not answer calls fro work when I am using PTO – sick or vacation.

  15. Ann O'Nemity*

    I was in a similar position and it seemed hopeless… until I took a vacation where I knew I would have spotty connectivity. I warned my boss in advance and we planned for it. She didn’t contact me once while I was out! And it went so well that I contemplated lying about my accessibility on all future vacations. But you know what? I didn’t need to. Somehow this one incident completely changed her expectations of my availability while I was out.

    1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      I totally did this!

      I had a boss with HUGE boundary issues, so I told him I was going camping and would be totally off the grid the entire time and there would be ZERO email or cell access for me.

      It worked so well that going forward, ALL of my time off was spent “camping” as far as he knew.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I do the same thing! My boss thinks I am a rabid camper but I really haven’t gone camping since I was a kid.

    2. FN2187*

      I do this! Even when I am in a large city, I always say that I am going to be completely unreachable. It works great.

  16. Michelle*

    I’ve dealt with this same exact situation because I’m the admin assistant/office manager. Only it wasn’t my supervisor, it was other staff members. Every single time I was off, I would get multiple “quick question” calls via text or voice call and it’s totally something that the caller could handle/find/resolve. Here are a few of the most infuriating:
    • Where are the plastic utensils? The drawer is empty. (Me) Did you look under the cabinet?
    • Why won’t my document print? (Me) Well, since I’m not there, I can’t tell you. Call MIS.
    • What folder is X document in? (Me) Did you look in the shared folders?
    • When is Lucinda coming back from vacation? (Me) Did you check the staff calendar?
    Also, we have another lady who does very similar work and could helped but they “forgot”.

    The final straw was when I got a call while I away at my father’s funeral to ask if “Fergus” was coming in today? That one just pushed me over the edge. I said “Can I bury my father before I handle that or should I turn around and come back to make a simple phone call?” No more calls for the rest of the time I was away.

    When I returned, I sat down with my director and talked to him about all these unnecessary calls. I said since I was being called every single time I was off for very simple things that people could have handled on their own how should I submit those to HR to get paid? He was surprised because he did not realize how many calls I was getting. He had called me maybe 3 times to ask something that was either truly an emergency or only I could answer. He emailed people to remind them that Jane could help when I was away and I should only be called as a last result.

    A few weeks later we had an HR-type training where the question about calling hourly employees on their time off and asking non-emergency/not urgent questions was raised. The woman running the training said that you should not call hourly employees on their time off unless it was a true emergency and anything work related they worked while away would need to be paid. The calls have almost stopped completely.

    So definitely have a talk with your boss using Alison’s wording. If they need you to be available 24/7, I think they should make you exempt and give you a raise. (Of course there are qualifying factors you need to meet to be classified exempt, so you might not meet those qualifications. But they could at lease give you bump in pay to be available 24/7).

    1. Triangle Pose*

      You got a call while you were away at YOUR FATHER’S FUNERAL to ask whether Fergus was coming in that day?!?!?!

      So egregious. I’m sorry that happened to you. Glad it’s gotten better and director made that HR training happen.

    2. LBK*

      Wow, I hope you got a serious groveling apology after being called at your father’s funeral. Unconscionable.

    3. WellRed*

      The final straw was when I got a call while I away at my father’s funeral to ask if “Fergus” was coming in today? That one just pushed me over the edge. I said “Can I bury my father before I handle that or should I turn around and come back to make a simple phone call?” No more calls for the rest of the time I was away.

      You are a hero for pestered employees everywhere!

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I read that as ‘hero for postal employees everywhere’ – which I took as a hero for not coming back and using firearms to enforce reasonable boundaries.

    4. LittleLove*

      I had a friend who worked for a very well known large software firm (hint: yes, THAT one). He was attending his father-in-law’s funeral and turned off his phone during the services. When he checked the next morning, there were multiple message. When he got back to work, his boss starting chewing him out for not being available just because some family member died. He actually got up and walked out and went to work for himself. Much happier. I wish I could pull this off but, sadly, no.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      !!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD!

      Please tell me the tool who called after your father passed apologized PROFUSELY to you eventually.

  17. Katie the Fed*

    It sounds like you’ve become his security blanket – he can pepper you with little questions as much as he wants. Does he do this when you’re present in the office too? Is there someone who can fill that role while you’re gone? I have a boss like this – if something just popped in her mind she wants to discuss it NOW, and it creates this bizarre, frenetic energy because she’s constantly interrupting for whatever’s important to her at the moment. Sigh.

    Can you have a talk with him about this and say “when I’m out sick/on vacation, I really need to be able to rest and recover. I’d like to start turning off my phone so I can disconnect – can you please get with Sally for any questions that pop up?”

    1. Jokeyjules*

      He actually let’s me do my own thing in the office, and nothing I do could possibly be that important that he cannot also do well.

  18. Anon Accountant*

    Wow I could’ve written this letter and am wondering if 1 of my coworkers wrote in. I was hospitalized for 11 days after having emergency surgery then a 2nd surgery the next day and he was belligerent and obnoxious when I wasn’t able to respond to him. I’d had surgery the day before.

    He asked dumb stuff like are Chocolate Teapots books done? What do you need to finish their tax return? He could’ve checked or asked someone at the office to look for him. And I certainly didn’t know off the top of my head either.

    He treats everyone this way when they are out sick and this is 1 of the reasons why most of his staff are job searching.

    1. Shortie*

      Oh my, I feel your pain. My husband called my former boss to tell him I was being taken into emergency surgery and wouldn’t be at work, and my boss asked whether I could update something on the website before I got put under. It wasn’t even something important. I seriously do not know what is wrong with some people.

  19. Ashley H*

    I had the flu last week (awful, 1 star, would not recommend) and I have a job where the general expectation is unless you tell everyone weeks in advance that you’ll be out of the country without access to internet, you’ll be responding to emails at least once a day, even with an out of office

    I set my out of office up with “Today is Tuesday, February 14 (or whatever). I am out of the office recovering from the flu and am unable to work. I will respond as soon as possible”. That helped A LOT, and an added benefit is that when I finally did come back to work, everyone’s expectations were tempered as I caught up/worked slowly since I wasn’t 100%.

    And I just tell everyone that my vacations are international and I don’t have access to phone/email, even if I’m just going to visit my parents four hours away.

    1. mf*

      ^This. OP, whenever you take a vacation day, inform your boss that you are “camping” or “traveling internationally” with no cell signal.

      And when you’re sick, change your voicemail message: “I’m currently very sick and so will not be answering calls on X days. Please leave me a message and I will return your call as soon as I am able.”

    2. Michelle*

      This is great. OP should definitely try it. If I had access to work email at home I would do this when I am sick.

    3. Becky*

      When I am on PTO I usually say on my auto-reply that I will not have access to email. For the most part it is usually true. I like to go on cruises and I’m not about to pay by the minute on internet access to check work email!

  20. MoinMoin*

    “…or a day I’ve had to call out sick (while being actually sick and unable to work productively not just playing hooky)”
    I feel like the fact that you think this needs to be explained is indicative of your boss’ really dysfunctional perspective on taking time off. I don’t have any advice for you beyond AAM’s, but if you ever move on to a different company I just want you to be aware that having to preemptively defend your time off is not normal and I hope you don’t carry that skewed assumption with you.
    Good luck!

    1. Jokeyjules*

      He will consistently tell me that he thinks certain employees aren’t really sick, and notes that he’s legally not allowed to ask or questions.

  21. IT_Guy*

    If you want to really make your point and if you are an hourly employee, just record your time for all of his shenanigans, and ask to be paid.

    Unfortunately, I work with a group of neurotic/over-achiever/text-aholoics, and due to the nature of my job I’m on call 24/7/364. I finally had to set up my phone so that I did not get notifications when I receive texts or emails on my phone. This actually forced them to talk on the phone and realize that there was a real person on the other end of the line.

    1. Bee Eye LL*

      That’s what I do. I will respond to some emails as a courtesy when I am out sick, but on vacation time I don’t do anything work-related. However, if people start calling me (especially on my personal phone) I keep track of every last minute and always round UP in quarter hour increments.

      1. IT_Guy*

        The truly ironic thing on this is, my boss thought I basically did nothing. Since there were no alerts, no problems, no issues, I wasn’t doing my job. However my job is to specifically fix these things before they become issues.

        However I had to have surgery last year and I had to take short term disability because of the recovery time and my lack of vacation. And due to the terms of the disability program they were specifically barred from even calling me and asking questions. I had to cut short my leave time because the people who were filling in for me (who I like and respect) were threatening to quit because they couldn’t their job and and mine both!

  22. Mae*

    The problem with Allison’s often-suggested, “Is there something you’d like me to be doing differently?” phrasing is that it opens doors to more ridiculous responses, guidelines and rules from ridiculous people such as this boss in question. “Yes, I need you to be available, 24/7!” In some cases, that phrasing is warranted because it shows collaboration, but let’s not give asinine bosses the wrong impression, either. I agree with everything else, though. This is up there with the boss who showed up to that poor person’s chemo treatments.

    1. mf*

      This is a good point. The OP could do a little recon: ask other employees if this is normal–do their bosses call them repeatedly when they take PTO?

      If they say no, then the OP can bring that up if her boss suggests she should be available 24/7: “From what I’ve heard from other employees here, that’s not the norm at all.”

      The OP could also go to HR about this and phrase the question as if she’s merely inquiring about workplace norms. I would bet that they would not encourage her to take multiple work calls on her time off since she’s an hourly employee.

      1. Mae*

        Agreed. That way, it shows the employee did their research. And they can present it in a non-confrontational way. In large part, you teach people how to treat you. Unfortunately, this jerk needs to be reared in and conditioned.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      In this case, it would give her the opening to say “Okay, so if that’s what you want, we’re going to have to restructure the way I get paid.”

  23. Jokeyjules*

    OP here!
    My punishment is cold treatment from him when I return, he’s very passive aggressive and flat. During the last call, he was pointedly condescending when he said “feel better!”.
    As for other employees, he might text them once but then repeatedly assure them that it can wait until tomorrow. I will get texts after my third missed phone call that “this extremely urgent, and I need you to call me now”.
    These things are never urgent and he leaves them for me to deal with when I return anyway.

    1. mf*

      It sounds like you are the only one he’s doing this to. So it doesn’t seem like it’s a normal expectation in your industry that employees are available 24/7.

      Is he normally a high-strung, anxious person? It sounds to me as if he’s anxious about getting things done, dealing with work problems, etc, and that he’s used to relying on you to solve his problems and therefore soothe his stress/anxiety. If that’s the case, he’s really not equipped to be a good manager and the best you may be able to do is manage his expectations by reminding you won’t be available when you are taking PTO.

    2. H.C.*

      Sorry to hear and hope he doesn’t bring this up come performance evaluation time.

      When you recover, you should schedule a quick meeting to discuss time off expectations – per the 2nd part of AAM’s post.

    3. Emmie*

      I would naturally feel horrible with his reaction. I would try AAM’s suggestions. If he continues, I would work on changing my own feelings about his reactions. Then remember: his reaction is not okay or healthy, and it’s not your problem to fix.

    4. Lemon*

      Do you have any indication of why your boss is treating you differently than other employees in this regard? Also, I think it might be worth exploring why there is such a disconnect between what he thinks is urgent and what you think is urgent.

      1. Jokeyjules*

        I think why he treats me differently is that other employees won’t listen to him at all. They don’t accept his direction or critiques. Meanwhile I share an office with him and report directly to him, so there is not much room for me not to. Also other employees are more parallel to him in the hierarchy of the company than I am as an admin. asst. I have conveniently overheard several times that my position or hours could be cut at any time to save budget costs, but the other employees are extremely vital.
        And I think he has come to just say it’s urgent to get me to respond. I don’t want to leave him high and dry if something truly urgent is happening, but if I placed an order (which, again, he can easily see if I did or did not on his own) isn’t something I feel compelled to be there for him for in my off time.

        1. Mephyle*

          So, your job is non-vital, expendable in the company’s view. And yet your particular knowledge is so valuable that he must interrupt your non-work time to obtain it; he can’t respect your illness or other time off, he can’t wait for you to come back.
          I see a disconnect there. It’s one or the other, OP’s boss. I think you can leverage that (for as long as you stay there – which hopefully won’t be too much longer).

        2. Observer*

          So, stop responding to his calls. He’ll get over the coldness – and if he doesn’t that’s really his problem.

          You may also want to have a chat with HR. Among other things ask them how they want you to handle reporting your time so that you get properly compensated.

    5. LCL*

      Cold treatment from passive aggressive people is a feature, not a bug. Think of his punishment as a reward of less engagement.

    6. Redtail*

      It really sounds like he’s either punishing you for being out, or testing whether you’re ill (in a game you can’t win: if you respond then you can’t have really been ill, if you don’t then you’re not dedicated enough). If he doesn’t constantly bug you with these questions when you’re in the office, then he’s making a deliberate point of needling you when you’re out.

  24. mf*

    Alison & commentors: I really want to avoid working for a boss or employer like this. Besides just asking about “work-life balance,” do you have any suggestions on how I can screen for this kind of behavior in interviews?

    (If this question is too off-topic, I can repost the question in the open thread tomorrow.)

    1. Uzumaki Naruto*

      My thought is specific questions about what your job would look like. Particularly if you meet with peer level people, ask what they do, and when, and what different kinds of days might look like.

    2. Murphy*

      Perhaps when you reach the point of discussing PTO benefits you could say something like “one of my hobbies is deep cave spelunking, so I usually don’t have cell coverage when I’m scheduled to be off – would that be a problem?” ;)

    3. ilikeaskamanager*

      What are your expectations for availability outside of our usual work hours or while on PTO?
      What are your expectations about turnaround time for answering emails or calls outside of business hours?

      I think these questions don’t raise red flags, but do help you get some information.

      1. mf*

        Good advice. RE red flags: I would imagine that if I asked these questions and the hiring manager reacted poorly, that would indicate they WOULD expect me to be highly available outside of normal hours and during PTO. So I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t get hired for that position.

        If their expectations around availability and PTO are reasonable, then it’s likely they wouldn’t mind answering this question and my asking it wouldn’t be a deal breaker.

  25. Nan*

    Just because it rings, doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

    Or, “no, I didn’t answer, because you keep blowing up my cell and you don’t pay me enough to cover the bill” *snort*

    Can you just try sitting down with Mr. Boss and ask him why he does this? Hey, I’ve noticed you call when I’m out sick. I don’t call off unless I am truly sick, and as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I can’t always remember the info you need off the top of my head, especially when I don’t feel well. Can I create a list of where you can find things when I’m out? Would that be helpful?

    Or when you see the missed call, wait until 10pm, text him back, sorry I was sleeping because I’ve been spewing from both ends all day. See you in the morning!!!

  26. Kate, short for Bob*

    Next time you’re out sick and he phones, take the call in the bathroom, go suddenly quiet and start pouring a glass of water jerkily into the loo as if you’re throwing up. Nobody stays on the phone for that.

  27. animaniactoo*

    I would also try to present this from the standpoint of “Having to call me for mundane things is inefficient for you, so I’d also like to sort this out for that purpose.”

    So sort through a procedural flow/cheat sheet for him that he can refer to when you’re out of the office. It’s possible that while doing this you’ll find he’s forgotten/never setup a password for something that he should have access to but has just been relying on you instead of sorting it out. This will also give you the opportunity to address that so that he’ll be able to do it himself – make sure you discuss where he’s storing a physical note of the password(s) so that he doesn’t have to call you for them or because he can’t access the system again. It’s also easy to forget that there are things that are easy and commonplace for you to remember where they are/how to get into them because you deal with them all the time, but not so easy if you only access them once in a blue moon.

    My boss won’t call me for anything if I’m out unless it’s fairly important AND she can’t find the info in my (usually) meticulously organized files both on my desk and on the server. Part of that is her mentality, but it’s got a strong helping of her being aware of how everything is setup so that she can access it herself if I’m not in.

  28. slackr*

    I had a huge problem a couple of jobs ago when the boss insisted on calling my personal cell phone 2-5 times per day for silly crap when he KNEW I was on a two week vacation in Europe, and leaving panicky voice mails when I wouldn’t answer. This was 7 years ago when roaming charges were still outrageous. When I got home I submitted my $650 phone bill and a written request to be refunded 8 hours of my PTO. Boss went nuts when I gave it to accounting and his boss found out. I really didn’t mind too much, as I ended up getting paid to ride the tour bus between destinations, but new policy about contacting employees on vacation was written.

  29. T*

    Regarding Alison’s suggestion (phase 1), make sure you document what you tell him when you take time off. If you speak with him in person (rather than sending an e-mail), write down what you’ve said, when you said it, and what his response was. This is just in case he forgets and gets really upset when you don’t take his calls/texts on your next day off.

  30. animaniactoo*

    “I’ve tried not answering is texts and calls, but he just gets angry and calls and texts more telling me it’s extremely urgent.”

    Also, there’s a certain level of this that is training. When you answer or call back after the 14th call, he’s learned that it takes 14 calls to get you on the phone. Towards that, you might want to try putting *his number only* on Do Not Disturb, tell him you’re turning off the phone so you can sleep, and then just don’t call him back. Wait until you’re in the office the next day and tell him it was after business hours when you got the messages, because you pretty much slept the whole day or forgot to turn the phone back on until it was after business hours, etc.

    You can also try setting up an arrangement where if he texts you and says something is urgent, he explains why it is actually urgent. So that you can judge whether it’s urgent enough to break your “don’t call back” setup and get him that piece of info.

    1. Suz*

      “Also, there’s a certain level of this that is training. When you answer or call back after the 14th call, he’s learned that it takes 14 calls to get you on the phone.” This is exactly what my dog trainer told me in obedience school. If you always say “Sit, sit, sit” your dog learns “Sit” doesn’t mean “sit”. “Sit, sit, sit” means “sit”.

  31. What a coinkydink!*

    This just happened to my spouse. Spouse: “I’ll be out on FMLA.” Boss: “Before you go, can you just do blah blah blah?” Geez

    1. H.C.*

      Well, this is different since the boss is making the request before your spouse actually went on time off. It’s fairly common for managers to ask employees to handle certain duties (establish back up coverage of usual tasks, filing recurring reports early than usual, for example) in advance of their planned time off.

      Of course, this depends on how close to the time off date that “before you go” request came & how labor intensive those requests are.

  32. AtomicCowgirl*

    I would suggest that this situation be reviewed with a representative from HR. This kind of behavior from a manager would not be tolerated at my company. We have a great compliance & integrity policy, which not only discourages this sort of thing but provides immediate discipline for any sort of retaliation a manager might make against the employee in this situation.

    If this manager were one of my peers or subordinates I would be counseling them on appropriate expectations and behaviors with staff and start documenting in the event they did not show improvement.

  33. Mina*

    I agree with Alison’s advice above. Setting boundaries is important. Some managers might not understand that being available 24/7 isn’t necessary in order to have a good work ethic. I also agree with Alison that you’d know if you were in a position where being available 24/7 is necessary. And PTO is part of your benefits package.

    When I’m on PTO, I do usually check email on my company phone a few times to make sure there isn’t an emergency (but I don’t stay tethered to the office). This is more for my own benefit just in case there truly is an emergency or so that I’m not blindsided when I get back. My bosses have always known that they could call me if there’s truly an emergency. (Most have not taken advantage of that like OP’s boss.) I always enable my email out-of-office auto reply with alternate contacts and make sure my outgoing voice mail message indicates who else someone should call in my absence.

    One time when I was on vacation, I arranged my coverage and did the above. The day I returned from PTO, I had my weekly one-on-one call with my manager. She was short with me during the call until she blurted “It seemed like you were M.I.A. while you were out on PTO last week.” (Umm….yes, I was out on vacation!) I told her that I’d checked my email and there was nothing pressing. I also didn’t receive any messages from her.

    Nothing fell through the cracks. She was just annoyed that I wasn’t in work mode over my vacation. It was also a holiday week, so things were slow anyway. And honestly, there would not have been anything a client asked that someone else couldn’t have answered while I was away. Some people are just ridiculous about that.

    My manager was my alternate contact on my OOO reply (she told me that she would be the contact). It wasn’t like she was inundated with requests from my clients. But maybe it was too much work for her to answer the few simple questions she did reply to that week. Who knows. Before that, I had been part of teams where we were happy to pitch in for each other when the other was on PTO. So, this was surprising and disappointing.

    I think that some people don’t mind being plugged in to the office all the time, but it shouldn’t be frowned upon if you actually do take your vacations. And if you’re sick, you’re sick. There have been times when I’ve been able to work from home when I was sick. And there have been other times when I was too sick to get out of bed to even check email.

    I hope OP can work this out!

  34. MommyMD*

    Next time: sorry I couldn’t answer, it was coming out of both ends. On top of it I started my period and the cramps are horrendous. Give him way too much information each time every time.

    As for vacation, remind him you won’t be reachable.

  35. whichsister*

    Oh yes, another time, I had to leave early to pick up my daughter. She struggles with a chronic medical condition and I got an urgent call from the school nurse. Boss is aware of my daughter’s condition, was standing there when I hauled out of the office to go get her on Friday afternoon so I could hopefully get her in to see doctor. But still called me and when I didn’t respond he text me (on my work cell and personal cell) that he knew I was with my daughter but he needed to speak to me (it turns out about something that could have waited till Monday.)

    Personally I think its a way some bosses maintain their sense of control.

  36. Catnip Melba Toast*

    I had a boss who was a major work-a-holic. During one conversation he bragged to me that he drove for ten hours to attend a meeting while suffering from severe flu, and had to pull over every half hour or so to throw up at the side of the road. He did not expect the same level of “dedication” from me, but only those who did were promoted. One guy got promoted after working 20 hours during a family vacation. Right then I realized that he would never promote me, and I started to formulate an exit strategy.

  37. Freya UK*

    I haven’t read all the comments so I hope I’m not repeating; I’d just buy a cheap second phone, give him the number for that one and keep it turned off outside your contracted hours/if your on holiday/off sick. Then block his number on your personal phone. What’s he going to do – fire you? Okay great, you shouldn’t be working for someone like that anyway *shrug*

  38. Anon13*

    My co-worker (not my supervisor/in the same chain of command as me, but more senior than me by a couple of years) e-mailed and and called me twice (within a 90-minute time frame) the last time I was off work for the week on a “staycation,” after I’d already worked about a third of the previous day, which was supposed to be the first day of my week off. The issue he called me about 1) wasn’t incredibly urgent (it had to be tended to within the next few days, but not immediately) and 2) was something he could have easily handled himself; it was just “beneath him.” My boss also often contacts me with non-urgent things on weekends, etc., so I knew he wouldn’t have a problem with it.

    For some reason, even though my boss has done it for my whole tenure at this job, my co-worker contacting me when I was supposed to not be working was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I went from, “vaguely unhappy but trying to stick it out to see if things improve” to “I need to start looking for something new right away.” In retrospect, there were/are (I’m still looking) a ton of other issues, that was just the thing that pushed me over the edge.

    I know none of this is all that helpful and if you like your job in other ways, obviously I’m not suggesting you quit only because of this issue, but, for me, it highlighted a difference in attitudes about work. For me, my job is what I do during the week to make money. It’s nice if it’s enjoyable and I like to get along well with the people I work with, but it’s not a huge part of my identity. For my boss and a few of my co-workers, their job is who they are. I’m not saying one is right and one is wrong, but it’s hard for a person with my attitude toward work to work at a place primarily populated with people with my boss’s/my coworker’s attitude toward work.

    1. Freya UK*

      Agree. I started a new job last Autumn and I am 100% a ‘work to live’ person – but this office is a tiny team of 5 who don’t have a problem with the ‘facetime’ thing (put politely, I very much have a problem with the concept), working through lunch, taking calls about work outside of work etc. I had to set my boundaries early-on and there’s definitely a slight ‘air’ about it from the others, particularly the MD. It’s probably not the place for me long-term for various reasons, but yeah the difference in attitude was a big, red flag when it became apparent. I guess work relationships are like romantic ones, in the sense that it’s just not going to be healthy in the long-run if you don’t share fundamental values, and respect the ones you don’t share.

  39. Jill*

    Uhhhh correct me if I’m wrong, but if she’s an hourly employee and not salaried, aren’t there labor laws preventing her from working off the clock?? My only basis is retail, not office, but if we were to work either before or after we’re clocked in, or when we’re clocked out for lunch, we would get terminated on the spot. This is because we could reasonably bring a lawsuit stating that the employer allowed/forced us to work off the clock. I could see maybe a couple texts here and there for questions that no one else could answer, but all day every day when she’s off sounds awfully illegal for an hourly employee.

    1. Elsajeni*

      Well, when she’s out on paid sick or vacation leave, she is getting paid for that time, so you don’t exactly run into the “working off the clock” issue — instead, the issue is that she’s having time deducted from her PTO pool for hours that she was actually doing work. My understanding is that that isn’t illegal, just obnoxious, so you can’t deal with it in quite the same way.

  40. Newt*

    One thing I’m really grateful for with my manager is that he’s extremely wary of his employees falling into the always-working mindset. He has the mindset himself – we get read receipts on FYI emails sent to him during weekend overtime, when he’s on holiday, when he’s off sick… but he recognises that it’s his choice and, not only does he not expect it from the rest of us, he actively works to make sure we aren’t turning into him or feeling pressured to match his hours.

    A few days ago I actually texted him on my walk home from work because a conversation we’d had as I left made me think of a suggestion. I heard nothing back that night, but the next day in the office he answered my questions, and told me outright “I didn’t respond at the time because you’d clocked out and were no longer working, but I looked into your suggestion and here’s some answers and let’s schedule a meeting to look into the idea for X date”.

  41. Cheryl*

    Please know that I have a much different life than most people. I’ve never had children and didn’t purchase a home for many years. My cliff notes are just for fun and not a solution that most people would do. When my supervisor started calling me at 10 and 11pm to discuss work I had my phone shut off (pre cell phone era) It was only a two block walk to a pay phone if I needed to call family. Since my supervisor and I were on the same work schedule, I felt he could contact me at work, not after I’d gone to bed. At another job that was retail, I was supposed to have from 6pm Monday night until 11am on Wednesday off. The store owner called me whenever he felt like it and store employees would call about things they had training on. Having a fully trained staff is rare. Retail is 70 hours a week. On the rare occasions everyone was trained and actually at work, I would head for the mountains Monday night and camp until Wednesday morning. There was no other way to get away from work.

  42. ShellyLove02*

    One of my former bosses worked 60 to 70 hour weeks (voluntarily) as a salaried employee & complained about it constantly. They would try to get staff to respond to emails, etc. on weekends, when they were on vacation or out sick. They decided to get on me the most because I was the one who consistently refused to work while sick (and they were legitimate illnesses, complete with dr’s notes & filled prescriptions) or on my days off. Nothing we worked on was critical. It could wait until the next business day. Once during a meeting (in front of colleagues & other managers) they asked me how sick could I be that I couldn’t look at emails or participate in meetings remotely. They would frequently praise others who worked weekends or late nights/early mornings and would look over at me disparangingly while making their statements. This was a corporate position, and I was also a salaried employee, but I certainly wasn’t earning enough to go through that all the time. The stress was so high that I had to take disability twice, once during my “probation” that was initiated due to a low performance rating, my first ever. Eventually I had to get out of there. That was a nightmarish experience that lasted over 2 years.

Comments are closed.