accepting a big favor from employees, taking time off when you’re a one-person department, and more

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

1. Should I accept a huge favor from my new staff members?

I’m a mid-level manager with a large, field-based team. I think I have a real camaraderie with the team, and upward feedback surveys show that as well. At most, I see each team member a few times a month, but we talk often.

My team knows that I am single, new to the area, and recently bought a home. Some of them offered to help me move, which of course I declined. I even got texts the day of the move, asking if there was anything they could help with, or offering to move anything I didn’t trust the movers to do!

Today I was talking to “Bob” and “Todd” on the phone and they asked how I was settling in. I said “great” and made a comment about how many odds and ends there are to buy, and that I should rent a van or something. They asked why I needed a that and I replied that I wanted to buy a rug, but can’t fit in in my car. Bob and Todd then offered to help — Bob has a large truck, and Todd offered to help carry. They even proposed a day after work to go. Am I crazy for considering it? Is this out of bounds? I wouldn’t ever want them to feel like I’m taking advantage of their kindness, so I would give them money or a gift card to a restaurant I know they like. What do you think?

If you were peers, I’d tell you to accept their offer at face value (but not to pay them, because it can seem insulting to hand cash to someone who wanted to do you a favor, although buying them a meal or another gift is fine). But as their boss, the power dynamics make it trickier. Their offer might be entirely genuine and they might make the same offer to any colleague, but it’s a muddier area because you have power over them. (And imagine if you needed to give one of them very negative feedback a few days after they do you this favor — it’s messy.)

The reality is that a lot of managers would take them up on this offer anyway, and honestly, if you do, it will probably end up being just fine. But there’s definitely risk to it. If you want the safest course of action, it would be to decline the help, but tell them how much you appreciate the thought and that the offer was really kind of them to make. (Be sure that you leave them feeling warm and fuzzy about the whole interaction, not like you snubbed their genuine offer of help.)

2. Taking time off when I’m a one-person department

I’m the only person in the IT department serving support for 600+ employees at a company, which is crazy alone. I requested time off over a month in advance and sent a message to all department heads to ensure anything I needed to complete would be done a week prior to my absence. Now, one of the owners of the company is requesting me to send them a back-up plan.

No one can take over my position and they cannot afford to hire someone new. I work salaried so my hours are insane and I’m constantly exhausted. I need this vacation or I’m sure to quit. Do you have any advice on what I can send them as a “back-up” plan? I do not want to have to answer my phone or emails.

Given the constraints of the current situation (including that they wouldn’t be able hire someone new that fast anyway), it sounds like they need an IT firm that can provide backup support when you’re not available. It’s not just for this vacation; what would they do if you were out sick or hit by a bus or quit and left the position vacant? There are loads of reasons why there needs to be a back-up plan in place beyond just this vacation.

Ideally, you would have pitched this long before your vacation was looming, but you can do it now and point out that it will be necessary plenty of other times in the future as well. If they balk at the price or the logistics and pressure you to be available on your vacation instead, say this: “That really won’t be possible. I’m exhausted and in need of a real vacation where I can disconnect from work.” If needed, you can change that last sentence to “the place I’m going doesn’t have reliable phone or internet.”

Also, one IT person for 600 people is insane. It might be worth you considering switching jobs (unless you love it there, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case) because this sounds pretty bad.

3. How can I push back on being forced to ask for donations?

My office is doing a fundraising challenge. Previously the fundraising team has sent out general emails about incentives for staff members who get people we know to donate, which I have ignored. I just learned that during tomorrow’s all-staff meeting, we are going to have to populate a list of names of people we know, tweet/Facebook/email them right there (to ensure we do it?), and continue to follow up for the next few weeks until they give.

I don’t want to do this. Besides my personal distaste for asking people for money, this request is particularly tone-deaf given our nonprofit is trying to fight a growing perception of being transactional (rather than community-centered), and several of the people expected to fundraise are losing their jobs (to budget cuts) next month.

I’ve read the posts about employers expecting employees to donate, but I’m not sure what to do when they’re expecting me to be the solicitor. (Note: I’m currently in my notice period, so I’m not worried about job security if I politely refuse, but I don’t know what to say.) What would you do?

Gross. Try saying, “My friends and family have made it clear they’ll unfriend people who solicit them for donations, so this isn’t possible for me.”

If you’re asked if that’s really true of all of them, say, “Yes, all of them. They really hate this stuff.”

The fact that you’re in your notice period will make holding firm on this especially easy, but hopefully you’ll inspire some of your colleagues to do the same.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with involving staff members in fundraising work. It’s the insistence that people mine their personal contacts without giving them a choice that’s tacky and inappropriate. It’s fine to say “hey, we’d love it if you’d think about people in your network who might be interested in this.” It’s not okay to say “you must harass your personal contacts whether you want to or not.”

Read an update to this letter here.

4. My boss sends non-stop thank-you emails

My new boss sends me emails that just say “thank you!” Or “thank you so much!” as replies to almost every email I send to her or that she is copied on from me. I try to appreciate the gratitude, but we are crazy busy and they just feel like a waste of time for her and for me. I often receive them late at night, and while I myself often work at night or on weekends and don’t mind receiving requests in off hours, it feels like an unnecessary interruption to my downtime to send an email with essentially no content. My uncharitable instincts tell me an email that just says “thank you!” sent at 10 p.m. is just to let me know she’s working so late, but I don’t actually think that’s the case.

My passive aggressive instinct is to send her a reply that just says “You’re so welcome!” every time but that doesn’t solve anything. I’m usually all in favor of direct communication but I’m really afraid of coming across as super whiny for complaining about something so small. We are new to working together, and I would like to put my best foot forward. Also, does she think I’m ungrateful for all of her work because I don’t acknowledge every communication with a two word email?

Let it go.

It takes her two seconds to send, and it takes you two seconds to read and delete. And it shouldn’t be interrupting your downtime unless you’re checking your work email already, in which case that’s not really downtime.

She’s a big thanker. There are worse offenses. Your best bet is to shrug it off.

5. Interviewing when you’re not sure you want to leave your current job

I currently work at a startup and I really love it there! However, I have some worries about our future sustainability for various reasons. I don’t think we’re going to go under immediately or anything, but I know that when you work for early stage startups, there’s always that risk!

I’m not actively job hunting but I have been keeping my eyes open a little wider lately for these reasons. A job at a larger company where I have friends recently opened up. They encouraged me to apply and I decided to give it a shot.

I’m genuinely not sure if I want to take another job or not. Like I said, I love my current job. But it seems foolish not to look into other opportunities if they come along. If we go under in a few months, I’d definitely be bummed out for passing up this chance to interview. But is it unethical to interview for a new job if I’m not sure I’m ready to leave my old one? If I were to hypothetically get an offer and then decide I didn’t want to leave my current job, how should I handle that?

So not unethical! Just like it’s not unethical for them to interview you without being sure they’d hire you.

If you were sure you wouldn’t take the job if offered and were just using them for interview practice or really weird entertainment, then yeah, that would be shady. But it’s totally normal to interview even if you’re not absolutely sure you’re ready to leave your current job. In fact, interviewing can be part of how you figure that out — sometimes you might find that you prefer your current job to any of your other options, and other times you might realize that you can do much better.

If you end up getting an offer and decide you don’t want to accept it, you’d just say, “Thank you so much. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided not to move on right now, but I really appreciate the time you spent talking with me.” (However, if you realize after you interview — but before you get an offer — that it’s a definite no for you, it’s courteous to let them know at whatever point you’re sure you want to withdraw, rather than waiting for them to put together an offer.)

{ 253 comments… read them below }

  1. M_Lynn*

    #4 I am just like your boss. I tend to use those replies that just say “thank you” in replace of “ok, noted.” It’s more an acknowledgement of “hey you communicated info to me that I needed to know” rather than actual gratitude, though I am a genuinely appreciative person. Especially when your boss is responding to emails late at night, I’m guessing that she’s just clearing through her inbox and acknowledging emails that don’t require a real response, but she’s signaling to you that she’s received the message. Especially in a busy office, I’m relieved when I know my boss is reading my emails!

    So yeah, just let it go. If you can change your mental categorization of the email from actual gratitude to general acknowledgement (like the discussion on “I’m fine, how are you?” from yesterday), you may not become as irritated. Really, “my boss says thank you too much” is soooo not a problem.

    1. Lexa*

      I too often send emails that just say “thanks,” “got it,” or “done.” But it’s not just to be polite — it helps me keep track of what I’ve done. I know if I’ve responded to the email that I took the next steps on that task (even if I didn’t need anything further from the email sender).

      1. my two cents*

        I do it because it also helps signal that you received their response. Working in support, there’s often email attachments that can get stripped or weird mail spam filter problems that crop up, and a single ‘thanks for sending this!’ is significantly less irritating than, say, them sending a read receipt.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          I do this for the same reason.

          Also, it can be demoralizing to work hard on a report or longish e-mail and get no reaction at all from your boss. You don’t even know if they read it or not. When I send “Thanks, Ceresi.” e-mails, I’m communicating 1) I read and acted on the information you provided, and 2) I appreciate your contribution.

        2. Amber T*

          If I ask someone to send me something, or if someone is routinely sending me something as part of their job or a project or something, I always respond with a “thanks!” Sure, on the one hand I’m thanking them for doing their job/what I asked/their part, but more importantly, I’m acknowledging receipt and saying “yes, I got this, your responsibility on this part is over.”

          I hate not getting a quick response email (“thanks!” or “got it!” or something similar) when I send someone something. It’s not the thanking aspect, it’s that I worry it got caught in a spam filter, or they missed it and it’ll look like my fault, or there might still be more for me to do. (That sounds like a lot of anxiety when it’s usually not a very big deal, but neither is acknowledging receipt.)

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I, too, am a person who sends “thank you” emails (and cards, and notes) frequently. And with that bias in mind, I say:

      Let it go, OP, and in particular, please let go all of the weird passive-aggressive intent you’re reading into your boss’s motivations for sending those emails. Your boss is not emailing thank you’s at 10 p.m. to signal that she’s “working hard late in the evening (unlike you),” nor is she judging you for failing to send a “you’re welcome” response. She’s acknowledging receipt and letting you know she appreciates whatever you did. Seriously, that’s it.

      1. Nolan*

        Seconding the part about not expecting (and in my case, not even wanting) to get a “you’re welcome” back. The “thank you” is part confirmation, part recognition of your work, and doesn’t need to be answered.

    3. Optimistic Prime*

      Yes, this. In fact, at my current job it was communicated to me that people here would prefer a “got it” or “thanks” to no reply, because then people start to wonder whether or not you’ve seen the mail.

      1. MillersSpring*

        Exactly. “Thank you” emails fly around a lot at the company where I work, and the purpose is to acknowledge receipt and indicate that you’re aware of and have noted the content.

        1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

          Er… One IT guy for 600 people? We have one IT guy for 50 and we are absolutely ok, company wide, to murder a co-worker just to get two minutes of his attention.
          You are an army of one, man. The Rambo of non-functioning printers. But this is maybe not your war and it might be wise to explore other batterfields, with less lonely job conditions.

        2. Managed Chaos*

          Yes, this. A “thank you” lets me know that my boss saw the e-mail, even if no action is taken.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Bingo. I send a thumbs up to texts even if they don’t require a reply, and Gmail has started adding one-click responses (Great! Thank you! Got it!) for just that purpose. I think it’s really helpful, and certainly better than an intrusive read receipt!

    4. It's-a-me*

      Always say thankyou to emails one on one, it’s acknowledging that you got the information. Perhaps the boss has experienced someone saying they didn’t get emails she has sent previously, or had complaints about being unresponsive herself, and this is her way of ensuring the letter writer knows she’s on top of things.

      I find no acknowledgement to be far more annoying than repeated thanks.

    5. Kara*

      This. I’ve never seen a “thank you” email as a big deal because literally everyone I work for/with uses some kind of brief response as am acknowledgement that they’ve seen the email they’re replying to.

      1. Elinor*

        I send “thank you” emails as well, but my supervisor has a thing about always replying to everything. My “thank you” emails get replies of “np” (no problem). It’s weird, but I just roll my eyes and move on.

    6. BWooster*

      I appreciate those because getting emails read is sometimes a challenge and requesting a read receipt is considered a bit aggressive in our office.

      1. Gov Worker*

        I request read receipts on everything. How does the recipient know you requested one? How is it aggressive?

        1. BWooster*

          On our system, it asks you if you want to send a receipt because the sender requested it. It just isn’t a done thing here.

        2. LizB*

          As a recipient, an email with a read receipt gives me a little pop-up saying “Bob requested a read receipt, would you like to send one?” It’s not like some messaging programs where a little “Seen” check mark just appears on your end; it actually requires action on the other end. It interrupts me reading the email, and in most workplaces it implies that the sender doesn’t trust the recipient to actually pay attention to their emails, which is pretty aggressive.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            And then it can lead to more aggressiveness. I never let it send a read receipt until and unless I’m able to respond immediately. Which simply isn’t usually the case.

          2. Koko*

            So much yes to the last part about how it suggests you don’t trust the recipient to manage their email like a competent worker – and also, depending on how distant the contact is, it can feel really invasive. Just because I read your email doesn’t mean I’m prepared to answer it and I don’t like the idea that someone is monitoring how much time elapses between my reading the message and my acting on it. And inevitably the people most likely to request receipts are the people least entitled to that much information about how I spend my time – it’s never a boss or someone I work with every day. It’s a vendor trying to sell me a product or a client who is trying to circumvent the normal channels for client inquiries by guessing my email address or a coworker in another department asking for a favor.

        3. the gold digger*

          To me, the implication of a read receipt is, “Ha! I have PROOF that you saw my email on Tuesday and yet it took you until Thursday to act!” I see it as the gathering of information to be used against me.

          1. baseballfan*

            Yes, this. I use return receipt on occasion when I *really* want to know if/when they saw the message, but in general I think this is a typical reaction, so I try to use it very sparingly. When I see a read receipt, my reaction is the above, unless it’s one of the few people who uses read receipt on everything. Which I really don’t understand because why would you voluntarily double your inbox volume? Whatever, it’s their funeral.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yep, it’s on the order of CCing my boss on everything. It implies I can’t be trusted to act professionally. Plus, I read a lot of my email on my phone and sometimes click on a message that wasn’t the one I wanted to open or can’t take action on right that second. I don’t need people to know that I’m checking email at 11 p.m., either.

            1. MillersSpring*

              You must have my former ToxicBoss, who insisted on being cc’d on every email we sent.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            Occasionally I get emails requestion read receipts from people sending out information to a massive amount of people. I always decline to send one and wonder if they REALLY want to receive that many read receipts or if they just don’t know how to turn them off.

        4. Joa*

          In many email systems, you have to manually respond to read receipts if you want to acknowledge them. I always decline. I personally dislike them because sometime I want a bit of processing time after reading an email. I’ve had bad experiences with senders seeing that an email was read, expecting an immediate response, and acting rude or pushy as a result.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yes, this. My system offers an option to permanently set it to send them when asked…or to not send them, which is what I picked. Read receipts are really annoying. Worse, sometimes something gets marked read because it has focus for a while *but I didn’t read it*. I fix those, but if a read receipt was set…oops.

            This is not the quick stuff. This is “oh dear, that’s a wall of text with four attachments” stuff. I glance at it, realize I don’t have time to process it, by then it has been marked read, and I mark it unread. But if it auto-sent a read receipt, that would have gone already. And been wrong. :)

        5. KellyK*

          YMMV, but I find it *really* annoying when people request read receipts on everything, both because it’s one more pop-up box to deal with and because it implies that you don’t trust people to read their email and get back to you. I would understand it if the emailer was doing it only with critical or time-sensitive stuff, but when I’m asked to verify that I read the email about getting cupcakes for Belle and Ariel because they have birthdays this month, or the generic “Hey, we updated this software,” email that goes to 50 people, it’s irritating.

          “Aggressive” might be too strong a word, though.

        6. LBK*

          Unless you truly just want to know that someone opened the email, a “read” receipt doesn’t actually tell you if the person read the email or absorbed the content. All it does is give you an accountability check on someone so you can say “I know you opened this email 3 days ago, why haven’t you answered me yet?”It applies pressure to respond that undercuts the reason most people like email, which is that it allows you more freedom to read, process and respond on your own schedule (relative to a phone call or IM, which put you on the spot).

          Of course, that’s probably exactly why people use it, but it’s annoying to people like me who always respond promptly to emails. Save them for chronic non-responders; requesting them from everyone by default is pretty grating and a little insulting since it basically implies you don’t trust me to read my emails, eg a basic duty of my job.

        7. Temperance*

          I see it as super aggressive, too. It’s showing that you don’t have enough faith in your colleagues that you’ll get a response in a reasonable fashion. This is triply true if you are lower on the totem pole, and/or you are sending low-priority requests with a read receipt.

        8. Ramona Flowers*

          I get a pop up that tells me you asked and requests that I hit yes or no to sending one. They’re not invisible!

        9. H.C.*

          Another one who’s not a fan of read receipt requests and will start declining sending them when I realize a person is doing it for every email. I’m often skimming my inbox to see what is urgent/simple/quick that I can take care of now versus things I can acknowledge or do during downtime, and I don’t want to give the read receipt impression that I had fully digested the contents of those emails.

        10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Definitely seen as aggressive at all of the places I’ve worked, and I find it micromanaging. Particularly because it has a “Big Brother” edge that indicates, “I don’t trust you to remember you read this or read it in a timely way, so I’m checking up on you to figure out if you saw this and are just ignoring me or completely failed to read.” And because it wastes my time. It’s really annoying/obnoxious, even when it’s not intended to be.

      2. Fictional Butt*

        Also, a read receipt just lets you know that they opened the email, right? (At least the ones that don’t require any work on the receipient’s behalf.) Presumably a thank-you email would indicate that they’ve actually read and processed the information enough that they consider the conversation to be over.

        1. The Supreme Troll*

          Like some of the other people commenting above have mentioned, I think sending a “read receipt” to the person getting the email every single time indicates that you don’t trust that person to have actually read (and obviously understood) the content of the letter. I always got that vibe when I received them, because they only came from employees of a department where we had a somewhat strained relationship.

          However, I admit that I have used “read receipts” myself to certain people when I wasn’t able to talk with them personally or on the phone. And this was only after I had reached out to them several times on important matters and would not receive a response.

          1. H.C.*

            Yeah, I think the problem is some senders overusing them (to the extreme of every email) – akin to people who mark every single one as “high importance” when it’s… not.

            1. Koko*

              The other day I missed a free webinar I had signed up for and they marked the “Sorry we missed you!” email as high priority. I was so appalled every time I looked at my inbox all day long and saw it there. The gall!

    7. PatPat*

      When my boss sends a thanks email she just adds her thanks to the subject line, “Re: Teapot Report Needed-Thanks!” That way I don’t even have to open the email.

    8. Mookie*

      As everyone says: this, precisely. It’s an acknowledgement of whatever you’ve done, LW4. I quite like those, because I know the particular task I’ve been assigned (or the information I’ve provided, or whatever prompted the reply itself) is done and has been received. It’s like ticking off a box for yourself, no more wondering.

      My passive aggressive instinct is to send her a reply that just says “You’re so welcome!” every time but that doesn’t solve anything.

      I have to say, I find this compulsion to somehow punish or “train” this manager extreme and a little presumptuous. As Alison writes, there are worse habits in the world, and you’re going to encounter a lot of them in your career. Now’s the time to nip in the bud the notion that you’re entitled to be this picky, frankly.

      Also, does she think I’m ungrateful for all of her work because I don’t acknowledge every communication with a two word email?

      Is this rhetorical?

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        I think it’s legitimate for OP to ask if her manager thinks she’s ungrateful for not responding in turn–Alison has mentioned many times that it can be important to follow your company’s norms and culture, and OP isn’t too crazy for thinking that not following the boss’s habits might cause the boss to look at her negatively.

        Also, I think you’re being a bit harsh on the OP–in my own department at work, it’s considered unnecessary to send these, and downright rude to send them to the boss’s already exploding inbox. If OP came from that kind of workplace where this wasn’t common, it can see that it might be confusing or a little off-putting to have somebody do that. And when the person annoying you is your boss, you can feel like you don’t have the standing to speak up and start dreaming of passive aggressive fantasies. OP acknowledged this was passive aggressive and wrote to Alison to find out what to do instead. I don’t think it’s very extreme or entitled.

        1. LW#4*

          It is definitely not the culture here. Or, it’s more normal to send the quick acknowledgment to someone you don’t work with a ton but not to someone you already interact with all day.

        2. BF50*

          My initial reading of the letter was that the boss is new to the company, not the LW, which would mean the boss is the one out of step with company culture. Going back it’s not clear, but if the LW has been there for a while and now has a new boss who is doing this, she is on more stable ground than if she’s at a brand new job.

    9. Hrovitnir*

      Yes, like some people above I strongly prefer some sort of response. I hate not knowing if people got things and I feel incredibly rude just not replying when that is the culture of a given place.

      “Cheers” is often a sign off or reply in NZ. I don’t know if that’s a thing anywhere else but I like it for feeling more like acknowledgement/light appreciation than “thank you/so much.”

    10. JokeyJules*

      Outlook has a rule setting, you could probably just have all emails that only say thank you from this person go directly to a folder.

      1. LW#4*

        I’m not sure how to set the rule so emails that only say thank you go into it, and I don’t want to miss a long email with content that also contains the words.

        1. Mints*

          You could make a rule to mark it as read, so that it it’s still in your inbox when you open it, but won’t do a pop up notification.

          Alternately, turn off push notifications? On android that’s easy to do back and forth, but I tend to turn off push notifications for most apps

    11. SarahKay*

      My manager is *so* not a morning person. So he starts at about ten-thirty and works through, usually clearing his in-box last thing. I get the thank you emails late in the evening and it truly just means that that was the time he got to them. Your manager is almost certainly the same; she’s clearing her in-box, not making a point.

    12. Great Bosses Are The Best*

      On the opposite side of LW, I really appreciate getting the simple thank you emails. It means they read it, but also that they took an extra step of positively acknowledging my contribution or effort. Even if it’s just “Hey, here’s that PDF I just promised I’d send you,” a quick “Thanks, Sloan” makes me happy to see it. My current boss is not demonstrative in this way and while I know he appreciates my work, I miss my old boss, who was very demonstrative.

    13. bookish*

      Same. In fact, I’d say emails like this are not annoyingly over-polite, but important!!! I was instructed by my boss to do this so that she knew I was getting emails with assignments in them (which wouldn’t really require a response, other than to notify her that I got it).

      It’s a good way to be sure your emails aren’t just getting lost in the ether and the recipient is paying attention to them. It’s absolutely done in my office culture.

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 It sounds like you’ve heard this as someone discouraging you from taking leave, but might this be something that makes it easier for you to actually take the time off because it means they’re less likely to bother you asking for passwords or whatever? I read this as: essential knowledge that only you have.

    Your work situation sucks but this isn’t actually an unreasonable request.

    1. MillersSpring*

      Agreed that it’s a reasonable request. The owner is smart to ask the OP for a back-up plan. The OP could identify two or three IT firms or available freelancers who can manage a range of help desk and server issues.

      1. blackcat*

        I’d say it’s more reasonable to ask he OP’s boss for the back-up plan… I know the OP is a department of 1, but they have to have a manager outside of IT.

      2. LBK*

        I think the OP is feeling uneasy because “back-up plan” is such a vague request in this context, especially when it’s been strongly implied that they’re not willing to spend money to get the OP some help. If I were in the OP’s shoes, I’d (probably correctly) interpret “back-up plan” as “Company pressuring me to say that I’ll accept ’emergency’ phone calls or periodically check emails while on vacation”.

        I mean, the very fact that they have one person supporting SIX HUNDRED PEOPLE shows they aren’t reasonable or appreciative of everything that goes into doing IT. That is just batshit insane, and I cannot possibly imagine how you can hire 600 people while claiming you don’t have money anywhere in the budget to hire even just one more IT person. If that’s the case, you either aren’t prioritizing IT appropriately or you’re terrible at budgeting.

        1. DW*

          That’s exactly the situation at hand. “Come up with a back-up plan” is vague. I’m the only IT person in the entire company. There is no back up plan. There is no 2nd IT personnel. There isn’t a 3rd party IT solutions company ready to take our calls when I can’t.

          I’m literally the only person to handle, network, computer hardware (PCs), mobile devices, domain accounts, communications with ISPs, VoIP providers, Cellular providers, and even order approvals. Yes.. I have to receive emails from Amazon, asking me to approve of purchases made by company staff. That’s not even IT related.

          Additionally the employees aren’t in just one building. These are a mixture of office staff and field workers (remote locations) in multiple states.

          The problem is clear, my manager, and the owner of the company do not have a clue as to what goes on within IT. Their only concern is the cost.

          When I first brought up my plans for a vacation, the length totaling 10 business days, my supervisor had a face as if I was out of my mind. Though he granted me my PTO, but as if he was doing me a favor.

          What he doesn’t realize was that from the first week of Jan to April, it was a new hire frenzy. We’ve added nearly 200 new employees. I had to order 200 laptops and cell phones and create nearly 200 new domain accounts and set them all up. This while maintaining the, “desktop support” role.

          There were days I’d come to work at 4AM and leave at 6-7-8PM.

          So I think it’s fair that not only was I able to keep up with the outrageous demand as a 1 man department but my work to life balance was completely off, that I should be able to request my vacation and not acknowledge a single thing regarding my job during that time. And the audacity, after all of this, to then ask me for a, “back-up plan”.

          1. Natalie*

            I’m assuming you’re the LW?

            What you’re describing is completely bananas and untenable. Keep in mind that, as their sole IT person, you actually have a lot of leverage in this situation. If you’re comfortable, you can push back on the unreasonable hours and the complete lack of any other IT solution.

            Or you could just leave! There’s an excellent chance you will find a better job.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Yes they do indeed have leverage, because good luck finding a replacement that will be thrilled to support 600 people alone. Good grief.

          2. The Supreme Troll*

            DW, I’m assuming you’re the OP for #2. I think you need to do everything you can to stick to your guns (so to speak) when it comes to taking your vacation at the time that you had given advanced notice of to your superiors. Yes, let your bosses know that Internet/wi-fi & cell phone signals are weak and spotty where you’re traveling to (and even if they’re better than expected, a little white lie is OK in this case).

            Your “back-up plan” should be presented to your bosses in a closed-ended way. Be specific about what is needed, but try to present it in a way that does not open the door for questions or debates. Be firm on the plan.

            I certainly hope that you don’t have to quit your job; with the amount of responsibility that you have, you should be very proud. Best of luck!

          3. The Other Dawn*

            If you’re the OP, I think you need to lay it out in every dirty detail exactly what IT entails, as well as all those hours you worked and why. Granted, they still may not care, but at least you have given them a ton of information about why a one-person IT department (!) for a company of 600+ people (!!) in multiple states (!!!) isn’t sustainable or smart. And then you’ll have yet another reason to look for a different job.

            1. MillersSpring*

              +1000 This is the nitty gritty. You have to show them how impossible your workload is. They’re completely oblivious. List out your tasks to the most minute detail without prejudice.

          4. PieInTheBlueSky*

            Is there someone in your company who is an IT-savvy “superuser” who you could deputize to do the day-to-day support while you’re away? Even if they couldn’t handle network problems, for example, perhaps they could do basic troubleshooting for printer and workstation problems, reset passwords, approve Amazon purchases, or whatever minor issues that crop up daily.

            Of course, in the long term you need more help, whether it is more IT staff or a 3rd party IT services company. And your company needs an answer for the “what if I get hit by a truck” scenario.

          5. AB*

            I feel your pain. I am a one person department and the work I do is complicated and time sensitive. I am needing to have a very complicated surgery and brought this up to my manager so that I can train backup in time. I’m delaying my surgery two months in order to have this covered and have agreed to taking one week “dark” and then coming back with limited hours (from my bed). Its stressful to have so much responsibility. I hope that your boss is able to come up with a reasonable solution, it sounds like they take you for granted and work you hard.

            Enjoy your vacation!

        2. Epsilon Delta*

          At OldJob, the owner would periodically wander back to the IT alcove and question the need for technology: software that wasn’t out of warranty… servers built in the last 10 years… telephones…. And even we had an IT staff of three people!

      3. Temperance*

        I think that it should be on the owner to have a back-up plan, not LW. What happens if LW gets the flu, or has a medical crisis?

        I was here on a Wednesday and then in the ICU on a Thursday. Shit happens. This company is irresponsible for not having alternatives.

        1. MillersSpring*

          But the owner is oblivious to the OP’s immense workload and has no idea what a reasonable back-up plan would look like. The OP can lay it out and suggest options/vendors, then sail out on vacation with a clear conscience.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      It seems like something the company should have come up with a while ago. If you are going to cheap out on IT and only have one person, it is just good business practice to have a “Plan B” in case that person has to be out for a period of time (illness, injury, alien abduction, held hostage by bunnies). Of course “good business practices” may not be a habit there since they have one IT person for a 600+ person company.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Of course “good business practices” may not be a habit there since they have one IT person for a 600+ person company.

        Right? What do they mean, “can’t afford” another IT person. At 600+ people, how can they afford not to have another [at least] one?

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Seriously. That’s asking for trouble. IT is one of the most important things in a company. Without the computers and network, you’re dead in the water for most things.

          1. Sloan*

            Email went down for us a few years ago for a week. Our IT team was up for 36 hours trying to fix it, but it was a nightmare. We were functionally useless and in a law office, that does not work.

        2. Jerry Vandesic*

          It might help to collect some benchmarking data to show how understaffed they are. Something like “for every X employees most companies in our industry have Y IT people.” Try to re-set their expectations about what IT should cost. And include in that cost the need to coverage due to vacations and emergencies.

  3. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 Forcing you to share details of people you know outside work? Wow, that’s not cool. Speaking as someone who works for a non-profit, I am really careful about keeping social media stuff to a minimum because everyone knows where I work and if I’m overly pushy, or I keep hassling them for money, that would reflect really poorly on my organisation. For some people, a friend or relative’s post on social media may be the only interaction they have with that org. And you get exactly one shot at making a first impression.

    Instead, I share something about our work maybe once every 2-3 months. And when I tell people where I work and what we do, I listen to what comes next as it’s often a personal experience related to our area, or they ask for advice for someone they know, or they’ve never heard of us/don’t know much about it and are curious.

    Some people then say they’ll think about donating in future, or they choose us next time they want to raise money. One friend became a regular donor not because I asked her to but because she heard me talk about my job and decided she wanted to.

    Your organisation is run by fools who do not understand the damage this could do. If all those people they want you to hassle each tell one person, just think what they could do to your reputation.

    As to how to handle it, change your name on social media, claim you don’t use it, and get a cushion pad so you don’t hurt your head when you find you can’t stop bashing it against your desk.

    1. Artemesia*

      I don’t mind it when friends post general solicitations on Facebook or hype their non profits but any direct attempt to solicit that way is a real turn off. I’d unfriend or hide any poster who did that to me and that goes double for the children of the reasonably well off who think friends and family should finance their fancy foreign vacations (i.e. ‘mission trips’ or choir trips or whatever)

      1. kittymommy*

        Yep, I’d block anything that mentioned that organization at all, regardless of who sent it.

      2. Anna*

        I do this when I’m volunteering for our local PBS channel/radio station. I’ll post on Facebook and Twitter, but I could never call them directly. That would be so weird.

      3. Mints*

        I think a Facebook post is like a flyer, in that it’s there for information if you want, but there’s no obligation to interact with it. (All your friends can pretend they missed it.) It’s way way different than direct messages

    2. k*

      I work in nonprofit fundraising and #3 just made me cringe. It’s such an odd and misguided approach.

      1. Sloan*

        I work at a nonprofit but the majority of my fundraising efforts go towards a chronic illness I have. I try hard to limit my asks because while my nonprofit is great, my own community and our health is more important to me. On a personal level, I’d be very angry about this. Even if I support my org, no one gets to tell me what I fundraise for on my personal accounts.

    3. Jerry Vandesic*

      You might want to take a sick day tomorrow. Given that you are on your way out, there’s not a lot they could do if they didn’t like it.

  4. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 Thank yous flow downwards, like gifts, so you don’t need to worry that she thinks you’re ungrateful for her work.

    Also, Alison is right: you’re letting yourself be interrupted. Stop checking email during downtime, turn off push notifications, use your phone’s do not disturb feature or set custom notifications – in 2017 it is simply not possible for someone to interrupt you against your will, as it is entirely possible to have a smart phone on 24/7 but still screen out communication you don’t want.

    1. LW#4*

      I have DND set up on a schedule, but on an iPhone if you are using your iPhone, you still get notifications. If you have a solution for me, please share!

      1. alex*

        I mean, the little number on your mail app will increase (if you have the badges option on), but if you have separate accounts (work/personal), then you can ignore the number on the Work account.

        If you mean a lock screen notification, you can turn any of those off, in a custom way, in Settings –> notifications.

        1. LW#4*

          I want those on most of the time, and I don’t think you can schedule them to be off. (You can schedule DND but if your phone is unlocked and you’re using it, you still get them.)

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        LW, I think you can disarm your badge notifications, and it should stop popping up when you’re using your iPhone. That’s what I do with my email, at least, and it seems to work…

        (But you’re right that you can’t schedule notifications to turn on/off the way you can with DND… or at least I don’t know how to do it :) )

  5. Fake Eleanor*

    OP #4: I know Lizzie Post from the Emily Post Institute recently discussed this issue. (I can’t remember if it was on their podcast or in some of the publicity around their new edition, or I’d link to it. Sorry.)

    She specifically brought it up as an example of etiquette that’s currently in flux. Some people think it’s rude not to send thank-you emails; some people think it’s rude to clutter someone else’s inbox with them. There isn’t an accepted, universal right answer at the moment, though if I recall correctly, things are trending towards not sending unnecessary emails.

    All of that to say: Neither of you are wrong; your boss is not intending to be rude; and Alison’s right. You should just let it go. You’ve both got good intentions and solid etiquette on your side.

    1. Zach*

      Speaking as someone who had a manager who never would reply to emails or confirm receipt of something (even when a response was required) I would much rather someone who says thanks or responds in some way. If nothing else it confirms they received it or are handling the issue. At work most folks, myself included, will usually send a thanks or got it back unless the communication clearly doesn’t require a response, or is a mass email to everyone.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. I want to know someone got it particularly if there is a request involved. I also have a quirk in my email program that means I sometimes send responses to myself instead of the intended recipient. Not getting a response is my clue to double check that.

      2. LBK*

        Totally agreed. If anything, I appreciate it more when someone gets a ton of emails because it means I know for sure that mine didn’t get lost in the hodgepodge of their inbox. Much less frustrating to take 1 second to delete a “thanks!” email than it is to have someone follow up a week later saying “Why didn’t you ever send me X?” when you did, in fact, send them X.

    2. Bea W*

      Really good point. I think the right way is whatever way is at play in your office. I hate the clutter, but as they say, “When in Rome…”

    3. Hrovitnir*

      Yes. I doubt this will ever be resolved, honestly. I fall strongly onto “some sort of reply”, and I think that’s significantly driven by the fact that I regard email as a form of conversation. So we don’t need dragged out “thanks!” “thank YOU!” or anything, but it irritates me when people just don’t reply by default. I accept that’s how some people are, but have trouble not having it colour my view if I don’t see them in person regularly.

    4. BF50*

      There is some really interesting research out there on how the brain responds to emails. They are extremely distracting and break the flow of concentration. Receiving a text or an email also causes a release of dopamine into the brain, which is why people compulsively check their emails and phones.

      The constant distractions of email can be bad enough, but it’s worse when the distraction is for something you do not need. Of course you can close your email completely and only check in at certain times, but then if you go that route, you have to spend a fair bit of time deleting all the “thank you” emails, which, if you’re busy can just make life harder.

      Really, it depends on your workflow and your volume of emails. If you are getting hundreds of emails a day, the “thank you” ones can really add up.

      I think you, if you are careful in your phrasing, you might be ok to casually mention to your manager that you trust she’s receiving your emails and that while you appreciate the sentiment, the acknowledgements are distracting and disrupting your workflow. But if it continues after you’ve mentioned it, then I would let it go.

      I know my boss’ boss hates thank you emails. She has asked her team not to send them, ever, to anyone, but especially not to her. I still get thank yous from my boss who is her direct report, but it does make the culture such that I don’t feel upset if I don’t receive one, nor do I feel obligated to send one, and when I do get a thank you, I can attribute more meaning to it than just an acknowledgement of receipt.

      1. BF50*

        That isn’t to say that I never send thank you emails, because I do. It’s just not totally invalid or crazy to not want to receive them.

        I try to follow the lead of the person I am emailing. If Sarah always says thank you, I thank her back. If Joe never does, than I don’t need to. And sometimes the other person needs legitimately needs an acknowledgement, like if you have asked them to fix something, so it really is a case by case, email by email, person by person and company culture situation.

      2. Ms*

        I wouldn’t say something to the boss unless you’re pretty close and sure she won’t take it the wrong way. There’s potential for it to feel like a personal critique (even though it’s not) and better to avoid that flowing upwards.

  6. Argh!*

    re: #5 I’ve never been absolutely sure I’d take a job before the interview even when I was desperate for the job. It’s a two-way street, and part of the interview process is for you to decide if you want to work there. In this case, if the start-up does go belly-up in the future, having had a positive interview in the other place may give you a leg up.

    1. OP5*

      Oh I never thought about it that way! It just feels so much to me like I’d be burning bridges by taking their time and not taking the job – but I’m pretty new to the industry and still getting used to the norms so that makes sense too!

      1. my two cents*

        A particular company has been trying to get me on board with them, and they brought me in to interview for 4 different positions over a year’s time.

        First two weren’t great with my own personal timeline (having been in my current role for only a year at that point), one wasn’t a great fit, and the 4th role was very close but given the particular ‘level’ of the role, the total compensation wouldn’t justify the hop. We stay in contact, and I know that if I messaged them about an open rec I’d at least have my resume fast-tracked to their HR.

        And man… it is SO much easier to interview when you already have a job you (at minimum) like.

      2. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

        Hi OP5- if/when you do get an interview, you should definitely go (my motto is “never turn down a first interview.” It’s always good to keep in practice). If, after the first interview, you decide that you don’t want to continue further, then in your “thank you” email to your interviewer, you can say something like “Thank you for the opportunity to meet and discuss “JobABC”. However, I’ve decided that the position is not what I’m looking for at this time. Therefore, I no longer wish to be a candidate for this particular position. Should another position become available that you feel matches my skills and experience, please feel free to consider me ” On the other hand, if you interview for a position that really interests you, then Go For It!!

        1. OP5*

          Thanks for the encouragement! I think it’s very likely that I will get an interview, as I was directly referred by a friend who is senior at NewJob, and I was planning on taking it, but after chatting with people here I feel much more confident about it!

  7. oddnumberedcat*

    I like receiving thank yous. For one, I know the person received the email and got what they needed, and secondly, it feels gracious (even if it’s really just another way of saying “got it”–it’s the acknowledgement, I think, that’s gracious, not gracious in a thankful sense). When people hit you up with a request, it can feel a little transactional and impersonal if they ask you for something, you deliver, and then radio silence. Did it meet what they were looking for? Did they even receive it? It’s just nice to know. Either way, thank-yous take literally a second to write and a second to delete; at best, they help, at worst, you can ignore them in 2 seconds.

    I am a little baffled by the people who write REALLY overexcited thank yous like “Thank you SO MUCH!!!!!” when all I did was forward a document or some other thing that really wasn’t a big deal, but hey, it’s not hurting anybody. I’m glad they’re that thrilled, haha.

    1. Cassie*

      I like simple “thanks” or “thank you” emails as well, to make sure they got the info they were looking for. Especially if it’s for a task that is time-consuming. I don’t expect them (that much) from my boss, though. Sometimes he sends back a thanks, sometimes he doesn’t, sometimes he asks me for the info again and I tell him I already sent it to him. And then he asks me to send it again.

      People who write REALLY overexcited thank yous are amusing. I have one person who has been sending these to me lately (and going on about how great I am) – and even after I attached the wrong file and had to send her an “oops, wrong file”, she still gushed about how great I am. At some point, it’s like, really?! Okay… :) Although sometimes I will toss in an “awesome, thanks!” if I’m feeling quirky.

  8. H.C.*

    LW 5 – It’s absolutely fine to apply, interview and even consider offers when you’re not looking to leave your CurrentJob—you’re keeping your professional options open, and it’s a good reminder to re-evaluate your CurrentJob every now and again, based on what you learn from those interviews/offers, such as whether your pay/title is on-par with what you do, do you have a healthy work-life balance, is there adequate opportunity to grow, etc..

    1. MissGirl*

      Totally agree with this. Interviewing can open your eyes to so much. You’ll either come away wanting to leave your position more or happier where you’re at.

      1. OP5*

        Yeah, even though I’m not sure what I want to do yet, I’m sure that by the time I’ve interviewed and everything with the new company it will become clear whether I want to take it or not! I just worry about how to handle my decision when the time comes. Leaving a small startup is an anxiety point too, since it feels like leaving them in the lurch. A friend recently gave me the advice, “I know you like them, but when you die none of them are going to be at your funeral. You have to do what’s best for you.”

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I think it’s kind of going to feel like that whenever you leave a job – you just have to remember that people leave jobs all the time. This is literally something they have dealt with several times before.

          Also, you can always work on documenting some of your processes and such. It’s nice to have whether or not you leave anytime soon! Someone should be able to help cover for you if you take vacation or got sick.

        2. my two cents*

          Seconding EddieSherbert… There’s never a good time to leave a position, really. If/when you do decide to leave, any additional notice beyond the standard 2 weeks will be helpful.

          But during your time in your current role, particularly so with a start up, do the best you can to document your processes and ‘insider knowledge’. You’ll look like a rockstar for sharing the info you know with others, and if you do decide to leave it will make the hand-off much smoother.

          1. Fictional Butt*

            +1 to this! Document early and often. I am about to leave my job, and will probably be replaced with someone who doesn’t really have any experience in this particular job function, which is the situation I was in when I started. I wish I had taken notes of all my “aha!” moments when I was first learning the ropes. I’m trying to document all the little quirks of the job so the next person doesn’t have to do as much trial-and-error as I did, but it’s hard to remember what the quirks are once they’ve become second nature.

  9. MadGrad*

    #1 – if they’re going so far as to plan a date for it, I’d assume they’re being genuine and take them up on it. It doesn’t sound like a huge time commitment, and they’ve offered repeatedly without obvious solicitation, so I doubt you’re taking advantage. Gifts might not be great, but treating them to food/drinks while you’re out (or heck, your whole team with special thanks to them at a later date for being so kind) could be a nice gesture if they don’t have an alternate time commitment. Unless something feels off that isn’t showing in the letter, I’d say do it!

    1. Zip Silver*

      As the guy with a truck in my friend group, I’ve usually been “compensated” with consumables. A 6 pack works just fine, but good is good too. If I offer to help though, I’m normally just happy to help because I happen to like the person.

    2. Mookie*

      I was in a similar position a few years ago. Some co-workers I supervised repeatedly offered to help me move (to another flat less than half a block away, using a shopping cart one of them owned) and it felt unfriendly not to accept. (These co-workers also invited themselves, unprompted, on dates with me, so they became group dates. I cringe at it now, but it happened and was miraculously awkward-free.) I don’t know if turning it into a social occasion, with food I cooked and drinks I mixed, doubled-down on the boundary violation front, but I did it and it seemed to work well in that particular situation. I think MadGrad’s advice is solid precisely because it’s the same thing you’d do if these people were just friends; you’d feed them lightly during and heavily thereafter, try to make it fun, and then give them a standing offer in exchange for a similar favor down the road.

      1. Managed Chaos*

        It sounds like they really want to help – this may even be their way of trying to bond with you. I would allow them to help and either buy them lunch or something as a thank you.

        1. OP1*

          OP1 – Thank you for the replies and thoughts everyone! I didn’t think it was a big deal, but just wanted to double check! I’ll be scouting out rug options this weekend and buying gift cards, so it will be a VERY quick trip!

          1. GermanGirl*

            Hm, as someone who has given and accepted help to/from colleagues (but not yet bosses) I’d feel awkward about getting a gift card because it has an amount of money attached to it in a way that chocolate or pizza (the usual thank you around here) don’t. I mean I know what a pizza or a box of chocolates cost, but I don’t see the price. Also, pizza is only done among my colleagues if it follows naturally from the situation – in all other cases it’s chocolates.

            1. Op1*

              Excellent point! I was thinking of a fast casual chain restaurant I know they like, but will look into that!

  10. Stingy with dinero (OP 3)*

    Thanks for answering my question, Alison! I reached out to one of my coworkers who agreed to also push back (trying your “strength in numbers” tactic). We decided to not go into our objections unless we had to (my first instinct was to send out a link to your posts, ha), but it turned out the organizers couldn’t actually bring themselves to make us do anything, so I just sat there.
    There have been some passive-aggressive comments on our chat platform about who’s “being a team player” and who’s not (and I found out some people are trying to meet their quota by soliciting other staff members), but I’ve just ignored it. I know when I leave (for a significant role bump and promotion) they are going to move my name to the “people whose networks we need to tap into” list, and depending on the person and what I know about their willingness to listen, I may give feedback about the tone-deafness of these tactics, both the crass mining of our personal circles and expecting people who are about to be out of a job to call in favors for the benefit of the org that’s letting them go.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I used to work somewhere that was putting rejected job applicants on their fundraising solicitation lists. (I did convince them to stop.)

      1. Stingy with dinero (OP 3)*

        My heart literally palpitated at this, because I think that’s how I got on a list for a place I didn’t even apply to! I had a conversation with the recruiter and now somehow they have my work and personal email addresses

        1. Is it Friday Yet?*

          If you’re receiving emails and didn’t opt in, it’s likely that they’re violating Anti-Spam laws and could be subject to fines. If you’re in the U.S., there’s ways to report it. There probably are in other countries as well.

      2. Gen*

        We used to have a script that involved asking for donations from people we were taking legal action against :/

        1. Mookie*

          This thread is mind-boggling. I was about to write that I think Stiny with dinero’s workplace is a special kind of awful, but it’s apparently not that special, either.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            I KNOW!

            Suddenly the zillions of annoying phone calls I get from every arts organization whose performances I’ve bought a ticket to, don’t seem so bad. At least they’re calling me because I bought a ticket.

            Also, how fruitful do these people expect contacts obtained in this way to be? “Hi, we’re suing you. Can we have some money?”

            1. JustaTech*

              I got so flustered by the ballet that just kept calling because I bought tickets to the Nutcracker once that I finally lied to the person on the phone and said I hated dancing and had only bought the tickets as a Christmas present.
              I felt bad, but they stopped calling! And I’ve never been back, partly for fear they’d start calling again.

        2. negemma*

          This made me laugh, because it’s one thing to add them to the solicitation list, but to actually invest time and energy into creating a specific script for them is… wow.

          1. LabTech*

            “Donate or we’ll sue! (Again!)”

            How is that even ethical? Isn’t there some formal conflict of interest in soliciting them for money?

      3. always in email jail*

        That is probably the most obnoxious thing I’ve ever heard. I would be livid.

      4. Ama*

        I got put on an org’s solicitation email list after I served as a reference for a prospective employee, which I thought was kind of icky. (I’m pretty sure she didn’t put me on the list herself, as I got the first email almost immediately after I had the reference call.)

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Wait, they’re asking this of people they have let go as well?! Holy obnoxious!

      Good for you and your coworker for refusing to participate, and congratulations on your new role!

    3. Mike C.*

      Seriously, you should give them that feedback when you leave, their practices are gross. Lots of times these things continue to happen because no one/not enough people have said otherwise. It’s likely that lots of people feel the same way you do, but don’t feel able to speak out.

      1. Stingy with dinero (OP 3)*

        I agree–given the nature of our work, there’s been talk of needing more economically diverse perspectives on staff, but then things like this happen.

    4. Simplytea*

      Hmmm. For the future (thinking out loud) if they force you to do something like this for Facebook, you can covertly change who can see the post to “Only Me” but still post it. Then you can blame it on technical issues ;)

    5. Case of the Mondays*

      It’s been years since I’ve been on FB but if it is still set up the same, I would just post a request for support/donations in my “status” and not reach out to individual people. Then I could say I “asked my contacts.” That’s also if I was going to continue working there. I agree that in your shoes I would do nothing.

  11. Stingy with dinero (OP 3)*

    Also, thank you for saying this:

    It’s not that there’s anything wrong with involving staff members in fundraising work. It’s the insistence that people mine their personal contacts without giving them a choice that’s tacky and inappropriate.

    Part of what made me nervous about saying no is this job has a strong “all hands on deck” ethos, to an extreme extent, at times. Since other people were going along with the request (and even seemed eager to participate), I needed some outside calibration for my gut instinct, which was screaming “Heck, no!”

    1. k*

      Here’s one more “Heck, no!” for you. My org will let all staff know about any upcoming fundraising pushes we’re doing and encourage them to share on social media, or let them know how they can help fundraiser, but it’s very much only if they want to. The tactic their pulling is SO. NOT. COOL.

      1. Stingy with dinero (OP 3)*

        Thanks for sharing that. These aggressive tactics are a recent development, so I wonder who’s making the decisions at the top.

    2. JulieBulie*

      There are several charities that I used to donate to, but when they started calling my house (I don’t even know how they got my unlisted number) I was so angry that I dumped those organizations in favor of similar charities that promised not to call me.

      When a charitable organization grossly oversteps, it risks alienating donors. What OP3 describes is a gross overstep. (To be fair, what AAM described in her comment above is even grosser.) Perhaps it is possible that in the short term, these tactics might yield results – but I doubt that it’s a smart strategy for the long term.

  12. Kerr*

    #2 – Is the OP the only IT person period, or just the only employee-support person in the IT department? Either one is insane, but if there are other IT people, surely they can pinch-hit for crisis issues? Or at least be there as a resource for a freelancer or outside firm, so the OP isn’t responsible for training someone before vacation?
    Side-eyeing the owner here. Not providing resources for a backup plan + asking for a backup plan at the last minute = dodgy.

    1. Darren*

      It would be so tempting to tell him “Isn’t that your job” in response to the backup plan, because really it isn’t the job of the sole IT person to work out how to keep things running when he isn’t there, that is part of the strategic plan of the business (which apparently feels it can’t hire at least a couple more IT people to ensure the load is adequately covered).

      Of course that would be best followed with a resignation letter, and having already located a better job.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I agree he should do it but it sounds like he doesn’t know squat about IT. So maybe Op, after vacation, should write out all his or her job duties, number of requests handled per day, etc.
        My significant other recently had to write a job description for a job posting for a new hire because the big boss and HR had no idea what to put.

    2. Rebecca*

      I read it as the only IT support person. What really caught my eye was this is a 600 employee company, and they can’t afford to hire someone new? As in, they can’t bring in a temp for a vacation period? Sorry, but if you own a company and are employing and paying 600 people, as the owner you need to be concerned about this. It’s not up to the support staff to provide their own backup plan. I hope the OP is job searching.

      1. Mike C.*

        Seriously. The can afford it, they just don’t want to prioritize it.

        I see this a great deal in departments that aren’t “value added”.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Ha. Yeah, at my last job as an office manager, I was the only person who didn’t have an hourly billing rate, and they jokingly referred to me as “the overhead”.

          1. JustaTech*

            If office manager is anything like lab manager they’re worth their weight in saffron! But sadly they’re also in the position that (like IT) if often only noticed when they’re not there.

        2. krysb*

          Yeah, that’s how it is in short-sighted companies that don’t understand that revenue-value-added isn’t the only type of value-added.

        3. kittymommy*

          This. I’m sorry, if you can afford 600+ employees you can handle one more body in IT.

        4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          I wish places would see these as “value protecting”, as in if they aren’t done right and something goes wrong it is going to hurt much more than the additional staff.

        5. Stop That Goat*

          It’s funny that you bring up prioritizing. That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw this.

          The fact that they don’t already have a backup plan for their crazy setup is telling. They aren’t going to care enough until something serious happens and by then, the damage will be done.

        6. oranges & lemons*

          Yeah, I interned in the technical writing department of a big international telecom company that had this issue. Every time someone in the department left, their work just got distributed among the remaining people. I was offered to be transferred to full-time after my internship but I turned it down–I could see the writing on the wall.

      2. K.*

        Yep – that stood out to me too. I’d bet my next paycheck that they CAN employ someone else or a couple of someone elses; they just don’t want to. One IT person for 600 people is straight up bonkers. OP, I’m sure you’re good at your job, but how can you adequately support a company that size solo? I’d start looking.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        I read it that way too but I still think it’s awful! We have an IT help desk that is always staffed with at least 4 people at a time, and we only have 500 people. OP, I would think about finding a place that appreciates you and understands how important IT is.

      4. Brett*

        My first thought was food service, retail, or some other industry with a large number of hourly people and a low margin. IT still matters to support POS systems and computer systems for managers, but since the vast majority of employees do not spend much time directly on a computer it makes it feel like the IT person is only there to support a small number of office staff.
        (And it makes hiring another IT person seem like a luxury. That extra IT person is the wages of 2-4 hourly employees, and feels like overkill for the office staff even if there are plenty of support tasks for the rest of the company.)

    3. JulieBulie*

      I worked for a much smaller place that had only one IT person, and when it became clear that it was too much work for one person, they outsourced the IT function and got rid of her. Theoretically, all of our IT work would be handled remotely, over the phone and remote desktop.

      But then they discovered that there are IT tasks that have to be performed on-site, hands-on. The outsource people were able to accommodate that, of course. For an extra fee. (The former IT person got a better job right away, so she wasn’t available.) Ultimately it would have been cheaper to have two IT people on staff, but some people have to learn everything the hard way. (The company imploded less than a year later, so there were a lot of lessons learned the hard way.)

      And that was just with regular IT stuff. We didn’t get hit with a virus or anything like that. If we’d ever had a serious crisis, I’m sure the outsourced support cost would have skyrocketed.

  13. NJ Anon*

    #3 Our new executive director tried to get all managers to provide a list of 10 people with contact info for them to solicit for donations. At the meeting where this was supposed to happen, not one single person complied. He wasn’t happy but couldn’t do anything about it. Even his “pets” refused. So inappropriate.

  14. AvonLady Barksdale*

    It’s not quite the same as #3, but I used to work for a place that expected us to ask our friends to participate in work activities. I don’t want to get too specific, but let’s just say a certain part of the process involved “real people”, and we were expected to use our friends. I haaaaaated it. I like to keep my work and home lives pretty separate, but more than that, there was so much pressure. I had just moved to the area, yet I was expected to round up 8 people between certain ages to spend two hours of their time with me at very short notice.

    Does this ever work? And by “work”, I mean do companies manage to do this regularly without resentment?

    1. Delta Delta*

      The first thing that popped to my head is that you worked somewhere that sponsored blood drives and your employer wanted you to round up 8 people you knew to donate blood. No idea why this immediately sprang to mind.

    2. Brett*

      We had to round up family and friends to act as “casualties” in full-scale exercises.
      That actually worked :)
      (Because for some reason people really like the idea of role-playing dead and injured people in emergency management exercises, even though it is mostly lying around in the sun for a couple of hours.)

      1. Tara*

        Haha! I would love to do a role-playing thing for a friend’s work! I’m sure it would still suck to have to scrounge up friends, though.

      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        My friend had to do one a few years back where the scenario was a zombie outbreak. I think it was testing the ability to deploy vaccines and treatment quickly because if someone wasn’t treated in 2 days you couldn’t unzombify them and if they weren’t vaccinated X number of days after the index case they became zombies. They had so many volunteers they had to turn people away. Sadly, I had a role that didn’t let me become a zombie unless something went terribly wrong :(

        1. Risha*

          Oh my god, I would be so upset if my friend’s company was recruiting outside people to LARP as zombies and they didn’t invite me. That sounds like a blast.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      I had to do that for trial team in law school. Get my own witnesses and jurors and they had to be non-law students! I was fairly new to the state too. I got my parents, my brother, my husband (so non-biased LOL) and a couple of his colleagues.

  15. Alton*

    #4 Your boss is probably using these thank you emails as a way of acknowledging she got them. It might even be helpful for her, to keep track of what she has and hasn’t gotten to yet.

    Unless your job requires you to be accessible 24/7, I would focus on cutting back on the distraction factor. I would have a hard time shutting off from work if I kept getting emails, too, and that’s partly why I don’t have my work email connected to my phone. You don’t have to go that far, but I would at least cut back on checking your work email late at night or see if you can alter your alert settings if you have your email on your phone so that you don’t get notifications when you’re not working.

    1. Fictional Butt*

      Yes to this. LW, I get why you’d be stressed by your boss emailing you at night, but unless you’re expected to respond to every email immediately, this is your problem to fix. You said you often choose to work at night, so it’s not reasonable to get mad when your boss emails you then (and even if you never worked at night, your boss does, and email is not usually intended to be instant communication). It’s much easier for you to turn off your email notifications than it is for your boss to magically figure out you’re relaxing and time her emails appropriately.

    2. LW#4*

      I have my phone set to DND at night, so it won’t buzz or light up after 9 but if I’m using it (as I often am) I still get notified.

  16. Delta Delta*

    #4 – I send thank you emails all the time and I’m not going to stop. First, it lets the sender know I received what was sent. I work with a lot of people in different state government agencies, and for whatever reason their IT system randomly marks certain email as spam. When I don’t get responses to things I send, I assume I’ve been spam-blocked for whatever reason. I don’t want them to think the same thing happens on their end, so I send a quick thank you when I get a document.

    Second, it builds some good will to thank people. Again, where I am, statewide we have about 6 people who send out certain Teapot Calculation Reports after a certain Teapot Function happens (and this is something that happens a LOT). I always scan the report and if it’s fine shoot back a “Thanks!” to the person who sent it. After about 7 years of this, one of the Teapot Calculators responded saying she appreciated that I thanked her because nobody else ever did. You can bet that when I noticed an error in a Teapot Calculation Report and responded to her asking for it to be fixed that it went to the front of the line and was fixed immediately. A little gratitude goes a long way.

  17. The data don't lie*

    OP 4: Are you honestly complaining that your boss (1) actually *replies* to your emails and (2) thanks you for them? The emails I send my boss are rarely acknowledged at all, and I usually have no idea if he read them or even saw them. Sometimes I’ll ask “did you get the email I sent you about…?” and half the time he’ll say some variation of “I saw it but haven’t read it yet”. I think it would be great to receive an acknowledgement that an email was received and a bonus if the email contained an expression of gratitude!

    I also think it’s weird when people complain that they get “so many emails” or that emails are “cluttering up their inbox”. How long does it really take to delete an email? I can’t imagine how busy a person would have to be to feel so put upon by needing to delete some emails that they complained about it.

    On the plus side, if this is the biggest complaint you have about your job, it seems like your job is pretty great.

    1. Thankless Jane*

      When you get a dozens to 100+ emails a day, it quickly gets unmanageable. When you are swamped with other work and deadlines, having to sift through all of these “thank you” emails becomes a huge waste of time. It would be a lot easier if it was easy to identify which email replies were just “thank you” and which ones contained actual content relevant to your work, but since everyone also signs their emails “thank you” when they write an actual message, it’s not possible to filter or flag them. Instead I have to open each one and read it. It’s really not a good use of my time.

      1. Sylvia*

        If you’re using Gmail, you can use your settings (or maybe labs?) to see a preview of each email. It just adds a line or two after the subject line. I got hundreds of emails a day at an old job and this helped me sort and prioritize emails so it wasn’t an absolute disaster.

      2. LBK*

        Literally all you have to do is hit delete on them. It takes 1 second to “sift through” them, unless you’re pointlessly letting them sit in your inbox longer than it takes for you to see them.

        1. LBK*

          And most email clients have a preview or notification option so you can see without even having to open the email that it’s just a thank you – not sure what system you’re on that’s only displaying the subject line until you double-click to go into the email.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            Right, but there are still times when none of those things help. My boss receives over 1000 emails every day, and even though everything sorts into folders automatically and she can preview and flag and mark and all of that, it’s still very easy for emails to get lost in her inbox because it’s a damn flood. My boss would be seriously irritated if I started saying “thank you” or “got it” or anything like that in response to her; if she wants to know if I’ve got something/done something she tells me to let her know.

            On the other hand, there are different managers in our company who told me that they weren’t sure if I was receiving their emails, and asked me to send a response back so that they would know I got it. I don’t think anyone can say “It’s always normal and okay to send a thank-you email” or “It’s weird and not okay to send them”; I think it depends on the workplace and the way your coworkers use email.

            1. LW#4*

              I agree with this, and another comment that outlines it’s really personal preference. Perhaps it will become normal to state your preference in the workplace.

        2. BF50*

          I’m not pointlessly allowing my email to build up. I’m receiving a high volume of email when I need to concentrate on building a report. I finish the report and have 20+ emails. It’s just not true to imply it takes me know time to go through them and if I stopped to delete them as they came in, I would never finish the report.

          And yes, I have filters and folders. My email is well managed and I try to follow the Inbox Zero techniques, but usually end up with 3-5 emails in there.

          1. LBK*

            I build reports as well and I just use the Outlook popup, so I can delete “thank you” or other no-reply emails right from the notification without having to switch applications or anything that would severely disrupt my focus/workflow. To each their own though, I suppose.

            1. BF50*

              The outlook pop up still breaks concentration. The research says to turn it off. Yes it only takes a second to delete through the pop up, but it is proven to take you longer to get back up to full productivity after you hit it.

              1. BF50*

                That came off more terse than I intended. Basically I agree, to each their own.

                I’m not anti-thank you. While the LW is probably overreacting and ascribing some motivations to her boss that are inaccurate, there are some legitimate reasons to prefer not to get a bunch of thank you emails.

                I think she’s getting piled on a bit for even asking the question.

  18. Thankless Jane*

    #4 is a thing at my work. I mean specifically sending a two word email “thank you” is an actual thing. When I started it was pointed out to me that I didn’t do this, and that I needed to do it. Like the OP, I get a lot of email already and we’re all crazy busy. I don’t have time or patience for endless “thank you” emails. If I could filter these types of responses into a folder (or the trash), I would. It’s particularly bad when there are a half dozen or more people on the same email, and they all reply “thank you”.

    Folks I work with aren’t trying to prove anything. It just seems to be a part of the culture, and I think my boss genuinely thinks it a nice thing to do, but it would be nicer if I could reduce the amount of time waster emails in my inbox. That is more annoying to me than having to send the same types of emails. The pile on “reply all” thank yous are the worst.

    1. Morning Glory*

      At my office, thank you emails serve as the polite version of a “received, no further action needed at this time” confirmation.

      Is it possible that’s the case in your office as well?

  19. Thanks?*

    #4’s letter actually makes me feel sad, and I wish I hadn’t started my day by reading it. It just seems like such a negative way to choose to perceive something so innocuous. Everything from the negative assumption about the boss’s intention to contemplating a passive aggressive reply. I’m a thanker, and it makes me feel like … why bother?

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Alison didn’t say this outright, but in so many words, the problem is the OP’s, not the thankers. The subject does come up here quite often, and the “swamped and required to respond to every single email” people might have a valid reason for disliking it, but people like the OP really need to just get over it. And the reading malicious or passive aggressive intent into it really is an indicator that the OP has some issues she might want to consider working on, because that’s not healthy or normal.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        I think that’s pretty harsh! OP is just annoyed by a workplace practice they aren’t familiar with, and also had the self-awareness to ask someone with more knowledge and experience if they were right to be annoyed; I don’t think that makes them abnormal or unhealthy! Or that it means they have “issues” to work on! People can be annoyed by things without having something wrong with them.

        OP is here and commenting; they can read everything we post here. If I wrote in asking an email-related question and got comments saying I should consider working on my issues because my letter is not healthy or normal, that would make me feel pretty crappy and not want to write in again.

        1. LW#4*

          Thank you, seriously.

          (I get that this is a comment that just says thank you. Since I don’t already talk to you 10 times a day, this feels right to me.)

        2. Stingy with dinero (OP 3)*

          Agreed! How else do we learn if not by asking? And she hasn’t cussed out the boss or anything, so even if worst-case she remains annoyed at the emails, she’s not hurting anyone. Please remember there’s a real person (encouraged by Alison to engage with the comments because of how insightful this group is, even) on the other end.

      2. LW#4*

        Jesus Christ. I explained that these emails give me an emotional reaction but that I realize it’s not really valid. Sorry to have ruined your morning with my unhealthy issues.

    2. JulieBulie*

      I had a grandboss who sent me a bitchy reply “I am on a crusade! No more thank you emails!”

      OK. I didn’t send him any more thank yous. A couple of weeks later, he sent me a document I needed. I started to reply with a thank you, but then stopped. Why waste the electrons. But the next day, he emailed to ask me if I got it… so I replied to say yes. (But not thank you.)

      If you’re keeping count, that means he had to email me twice instead of just once, and I still had to reply. From my perspective, this was no problem. What I don’t get is, how was that an improvement from his perspective?

      1. JulieBulie*

        …my only point was – with no offense to LW4 at all – grandboss actually got a little twitchy if he didn’t get some kind of confirmation that his email had been received. But he never bothered to explain to me (or anyone that I know of) exactly how he wanted to receive that confirmation… and yet he couldn’t tolerate the thank you message even though it served that purpose perfectly.

        In any case, if your manager is thanking you, count your blessings. Some managers won’t say anything to you unless it’s negative. I was stuck in that situation for several years. Having been there, I can understand why that letter would have bummed someone out. I never got a thank you from that guy for anything.

  20. Anonyforthis*

    OP1 – If you don’t let your staff know you are moving, need to get a rug, etc., then they won’t offer to help. :) While this might be a long shot, your telling them might indicate that you are, in a roundabout way, asking for their help and they are obliging you. If you don’t want to be in this situation, then rent the van, get the rug, and say no more.

    1. Sadsack*

      Yeah, next time you are asked, just say, “Things are going well, thanks for asking. Now about that new project…” Let them know you appreciate their interest, but stop going into detail.

    2. Rosamond*

      Yeah, I’m proud to say this would totally happen to me – I mean, my staff have offered out of the blue to watch my kid at the office if I ever had to bring her to work (I WOULD NEVER EVER). So I really don’t talk about any personal challenges or difficulties that would make them think they could be helpful.

    3. Chinook*

      “While this might be a long shot, your telling them might indicate that you are, in a roundabout way, asking for their help and they are obliging you.”

      I honestly think this is culturally based (big city vs. small town or blue collar vs. white collar). I could never see my colleagues here in head office offering to help me move (though they would offer sympathy) but, if I were to move to one of the towns where our field staff works and I mentioned it in passing, I would probably get at least one offer to help in some way.

      And the reverse is also true – I would offer to help someone out in a small town but not when I live in the city. If I had to think about why, it probably boils down to the fact that there aren’t (or weren’t) necessarily businesses in small towns that you can hire to do this work as well as the overarching idea that we all pitch in when someone needs a hand. And if someone turns you down, it shouldn’t be received as an insult but, instead, that the person turning it down has it covered in some other way.

      Does that make sense?

      1. Op1*

        That totally makes sense, and thank you for writing out that perspective! I try to foster a very team focused vibe, so that could be it.

        Also, when I was with the fellas it was during a 4 hour drive to a project. Usually I don’t get that personal, but even I get sick of work talk. I appreciate everyone’s thoughts.

  21. The Other Dawn*


    One IT person for 600+ people is absolutely insane. My last job had two people for 100+ people and they were running themselves ragged. I’ve been the one-person IT department (company of 15-30 people) and I honestly don’t know how you, with 600+ people, would manage to take a vacation, let alone a single day, off without something coming up. I don’t say that to discourage you from taking time off. I say that because with that many people, password resets, computer issues, whatever, are bound to come up. Who handles password resets and lockouts when you’re not there? Is there a backup person for each application that can handle that, at the very least? If not, then I would say that’s the first step in your backup plan: assign password and lockout reset rights to one or two people for each application. And any hardware or network issues, maybe find a company that does outsourced IT so they can be called when something comes up. And really, considering they won’t hire anyone else, that company/consultant should be part of the overall IT plan. (I’m not an IT expert, though, so maybe I’m missing something.)

    I really feel like you need to either push the company hard for another person (or more!), or look for another job.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Now that I’ve read some responses (sorry, I jumped in to comment too soon I guess), I’m not clear as to whether OP is a support person in that it’s just user admin-type work, or if it’s the whole shebang, such as hardware and network support, network engineering, installation of programs, etc. Either way, though, one person for 600+ is insane; I stand by that.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Seriously. I worked for a big Fortune 500 company, we had a large IT department, but there was one woman whose sole responsibility was tech support for the two big databases we kept. Even with “just” that her job was insane, she was extremely overworked, and actually ended up in the hospital having had a minor stroke (!!!) due to all the stress. I can’t even imagine one person doing everything for that many people.

    3. Friday*

      I was curious on the specifics of our IT staffing so I just checked… at 375 total staff, 10 are IT. And every one of the 10 are customer service-oriented, including the IT director. I’ve never worked anywhere where there were less than 2 folks on IT. OP, if I were you I’d be looking elsewhere. You deserve a more supportive work environment.

  22. INeedANap*

    Like others, I agree that in #4, it’s probably less of a “thank you” and more of a “I have read this e-mail and acknowledge the information in it.”

    “Also, does she think I’m ungrateful for all of her work because I don’t acknowledge every communication with a two word email?”

    I highly doubt she thinks you’re ungrateful, but you might want to consider whether it would be useful to have some acknowledgement of the e-mails she sends you – this probably depends a lot on the office culture and on the way everyone works, though. In my experience, if I don’t acknowledge an e-mail in some way, it leaves the sender wondering whether or not I’ve read it and whether or not I’m going to take care of whatever was inside the e-mail.

    Then they feel the need to follow-up with me in some way in the future that actually takes MORE time than just sending a quick “thanks” in an email – since I didn’t acknowledge the first e-mail, that usually means giving me a call on the phone or stopping by my office or using time in the weekly meeting to follow up with me in person to be sure that a) I got the e-mail and b) nothing more is required. I could communicate all of that much more efficiently with a quick response.

    Of course that’s just my experience, definitely not universal! But in this case, those “thanks” e-mails actually save a lot of time. So you might consider whether or not she’s actually trying to be more efficient, rather than wasting time sending those.

    1. LW#4*

      There seem to be a lot of responses saying that “thank you” lets me know the person has received my email and will take action. A lot of time that isn’t needed. Also we don’t really have issues with emails not being received. If I sent something, I’m sure it was received.

      Who knew offices and people could be so different? :)

      1. Nolan*

        Maybe try ending your messages to her with something like “no action needed, just an FYI” to signal to her that she doesn’t need to confirm. That may get her to reduce the number of thank yous she sends.

  23. Xarcady*

    #2. I think it’s important to realize that this is a problem the company caused, not the OP. The OP seems in great need of some time off. The company has a) not hired enough people for the job, b) not cross-trained anyone to do the OP’s job, and c) doesn’t have a back-up plan for the absence of a key employee.

    This is a problem of the company’s own making. And now they are expecting the *OP* to solve their problem in a few days, when all sorts of long-term solutions were available and ignored by management.

    OP, Alison’s advice sounds good. I think you may have to be pretty firm in making it clear that you will not be available, even for emergencies.

    I have very little sympathy for managers who don’t take the basic steps for coverage of important positions. It’s not rocket science to realize that any employee will be sick, take vacation, have an accident. Good managers plan for these things.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      “I have very little sympathy for managers who don’t take the basic steps for coverage of important positions.”

      Agreed! When I was a one-person IT department for a company of 15-30 people (a bank!), there was no one other than me with any authority in the applications. At all. Branches were open on Saturdays, but my office (admin office) wasn’t. That meant that if someone locked themselves out of the teller processing platform or the network, they basically couldn’t work. I’d asked several times to be able to assign password reset and lockout reset rights to someone in a branch, and the branches also asked, but it never got approved. My boss felt that if someone got locked out, they could call me at home and I could VPN in to do the reset. That’s fine…if I’m home. But lots of times I wasn’t home. It’s Saturday! But the company seemed to be fine with paying a teller to not work on a Saturday if he/she got locked out for some reason.

  24. Kyrielle*

    #3 – Alison’s script is much better than what I’d do, but I share it for amusement. I’d send the request to the people asking me to do it. :P I’m also sure I wouldn’t get away with it, and I’d then probably say something unfortunate. Alison’s script is much better.

    But what they are doing is seriously, superbly gross. Even my kids’ various organizations that they are members of – which are, um, not notorious for being shy about their fundraising, let us say – do not *require* them to solicit friends/family or a certain number of people or anything. They certainly *encourage* it wildly. But they don’t require it.

    This is wildly out of line. And I will bet you the problem is they’re not getting enough money, but the solution to that is not to strong-arm your employees to do it. Indeed, if the employees later tell the person what was going on (and I think most who did what was asked would also later explain why to their contacts, to try to salvage that relationship also), it’s going to – as you note! – damage the rep of this org further. (And probably well beyond the people asked – if I were being asked by a family member and found out it was under duress like this, I would be very tempted to splash my aggravation all over social media and my friends.)

    1. Stingy with dinero (OP 3)*

      Oh it is (about not raising enough money), but when people have diplomatically said “only contacting people when we want money and then being cagey about where that money goes doesn’t endear them to us” and been ignored, I don’t have much sympathy.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I can see why!

        They do seem to be good at coming up with bad solutions to the funding issue, alas….

  25. Jan Levinson*

    #4 – I honestly can’t relate to feeling like a two word email is an inconvenience to my day. As Alison points out, it literally takes a second or two to read. Even 30 “thank you” emails a day likely would accumulate to less than a minute a day. No matter how busy I am, a maximum of a minute out of my entire work day to read “thank you” emails just doesn’t seem important enough to raise an issue on.

    1. LW#4*

      I have a hard time believing you wouldn’t find 30 one second interruptions in your day irritating but it sounds like you have a different relationship to email than I do.

  26. Girl in the Windy City*

    I have a follow up question to #5. Let’s say you’re interviewing with a company but unsure whether or not you want to leave your current job. If an interviewer asks you why you’re looking to move on, how candid should you be with them? On one hand, I wouldn’t want to be so honest as to appear wishy-washy or uninterested in the position, but on the other hand a canned response like, “I’m looking for a new challenge,” seems boring and overused. What is the best way to approach this question in this situation?

    1. Manders*

      In this case, saying that you’d like to get out of a startup environment and work for a larger company would be totally understandable. I’ve also had good experiences with being specific about what I want: opportunities to develop new technical skills, the chance to work on one large project instead of bouncing around between smaller ones, etc. If that’s not something you can get at the company you’re interviewing at, the interviewer will let you know and you can end the process; if it is, that’s more information in favor of the job being a good fit for you.

    2. LadyKelvin*

      You could also bring up that while you are fairly happy in your current role X, Y, and Z in this role really interests you and you couldn’t pass up the opportunity to apply.

      1. OP5*

        That’s what I was planning on saying. I wouldn’t be interviewing just anywhere since I like my CurrentJob, but NewJob is with a company that doesn’t hire at my level very often and it’s too exciting an opportunity to ignore.

    3. Naruto*

      I would always say “I don’t want to leave my job, but I’m willing to do so for the right opportunity, and I’m interested in this position with you because of A, B, and C.”

  27. Anono-me*

    I send thank you e-mails. I reply to the sender with “Thanks” added to the front of the subject line. A brief (5-10 words) thank you note in the body of the message. It is sent “low” priority.

    I think this lets me acknowledge and appreciate the other person’s email and at the same time it obviously isn’t one more ___ thing to deal with.

  28. LizB*

    I can actually relate to #4, because I’m not a big fan of “Thank you!” email responses. I understand their function, but it’s not a function that feels useful to me personally. It’s not really about them cluttering up my inbox, as the time needed to delete them is negligible — it’s more about how receiving any email pulls my attention away from whatever I’m actually working on for a second, disrupting my train of thought. (I also hate Outlook meeting response emails for this reason.) BUT, I realize that the real problem is that I constantly have my email running. If I did the recommended thing and checked my email a few set times a day, I wouldn’t find them nearly as annoying because they wouldn’t be popping up while I’m in the middle of other things.

    1. LW#4*

      I am (obviously) with you that I never want to receive an email that just says thank you. Even with filters and rules I get about 70-100 emails a day that need some kind of response or attention from me, and needless thank you emails clutter up what’s already a packed inbox.

  29. The Supreme Troll*

    For OP#4, Alison is absolutely correct; really, just let it go. Your boss is simply taking a very brief amount of time to acknowledge that she received your email, and she wants to do this in a very respectful manner. I would absolutely love it if my supervisor did this for me. I would not find it annoying at all, and I would feel that he values the “heads-up” that he receives from me.

    Also, I know that it is just my opinion, but I don’t think your boss meant any sarcasm whatsoever regarding when she sent you her reply email. You might be reading a little too much into that.

  30. MegaMoose, Esq.*

    #4: This may not apply to your situation, but if you genuinely need to be available 24/7 and are having a difficult time managing emails when you’re out of the office (and can afford it, of course), I would recommend looking into a smart watch. I thought they looked silly and redundant, but a number of my friends at large law firms (including my spouse, who is a partner) use them and love them. You can set a priority list of email addresses that push through to the watch, then get a brief preview and can delete, archive, or send a short reply in a single tap. And I can attest that as his spouse, it’s far less disturbing when we’re in the middle of doing something than when he was pulling out his phone every time it vibrated.

    1. LW#4*

      I have one! That makes the late night two word email more annoying, it literally taps me on the wrist and asks for attention.

  31. LW#4*

    To be fair, I get that an occasional “thank you” email is an appropriate acknowledgment. For someone I work closely with and talking to multiple times a day face to face and on slack…sending me multiple two word emails just feels so silly.

    “And it shouldn’t be interrupting your downtime unless you’re checking your work email already, in which case that’s not really downtime.”

    I live in a world where it’s expected that everyone at my level has email on their phone. I have Do Not Disturb set up on my phone from 9 pm to 7 am BUT if I’m using my phone (which I often am) or iPad I still get the notification.

    Also to clarify…I was describing my gut reaction to those emails. They make me *feel* like I’m being guilted into not working late at night and make me *feel* like I should fire back a you’re welcome every time. However, my cooler and more professional head prevails and I acknowledged that. I can’t control how it makes me feel, but I do have self awareness.

      1. LW#4*

        I guess I could do it manually? But I actually don’t mind receiving emails at night in general, I just don’t like receiving (what I perceive as) pointless emails at night. If I can answer a quick question to help someone who’s trying to get something done at night–great. If it’s a longer more involved request, I know it can wait. The short no content reply is what bugs me. It just feels pointless.

        I get that it’s a minor problem. I generally err pretty hard on the “just say something” side of things but even I suspected this might just make me seem whiny. Perhaps once we have worked together longer and have a closer relationship I will bring it up. “I know we’re both always slammed so you don’t have to send me a response unless I asked for something, let’s save some time.”

    1. Fictional Butt*

      I definitely understand that you want to preserve your downtime, but that is really your responsibility, not your boss’s. Is this really even connected to the “thank you” issue? If you get an email with actual substance when you’re trying to relax, do you feel compelled to check it/respond instantly? If not, then it shouldn’t matter who is emailing you or what they are saying.

      It might be good for you to set up some boundaries so that you are not constantly getting work notifications when you are trying to relax. It sounds like you have a lot of work stuff mixed in with your personal devices–an iPad and you mentioned a smartwatch above. Could you take the smartwatch off when you are not working? Divorce the iPad from your phone? The reality is, even if your boss wasn’t sending lots of thank you emails, you would still be receiving work emails while trying to relax. I think that is the underlying issue you need to fix. You can control what times you check email; you can’t control what times other people choose to email you.

    2. Natalie*

      LW, you say it’s expected that everyone have email on their phones, but it is actually expected that they have notifications? IMO those are two different things.

      I have my work email on my phone, but I have all email push notifications turned off (don’t need to know immediately that it’s REI’s anniversary sale) and for my work email specifically I turned off button notifications (the little red-circled numbers on the iPhone). The only time I see my work email is when I deliberately open the email app and look.

      From what you’ve described, it doesn’t sound like you are actually expected to respond to every work email immediately. I would take that at face value, turn off notifications, and just get into the habit of checking at certain intervals outside of work hours.

      1. Natalie*

        Oops, they’re called Badge notifications on the iPhone. So if you have an iPhone, consider turning those off for your work email address (you can turn them off just for one email address so you’ll still see a red number for personal emails).

      2. Mints*

        If I’m waiting 20 minutes for dinner to bake, I can decide whether to open Facebook or AAM or work email. I don’t want it buzzing at me at all hours. Turning off push notifications (and badges) does a lot, without really losing accessibility if you need to do something.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I do this, too, because my GrandBoss routinely sends me emails in the middle of the night. I usually put my phone on DND at night, but because my clients may have real-life-emergencies, I have to be somewhat accessible. But I also get annoyed when I get push/badge notifications when I’m using my phone or in the middle of the night, so whatever OP can do to disable these without compromising OP’s ability to work would seem worth it, to me.

  32. Agile Phalanges*

    Re: #2 – one-person department: I totally commiserate with this. I work for a tiny company–manufacturing, and only three people in the office. My duties are basically all the bookkeeping. In my role, some things could slide for a few days, like invoicing customers or paying our vendors, but payroll has to happen on the same day every week, or at most, can be run a day early one week and on time the week after to allow me a full week off if I ever were to want/need it. So far (I’ve worked here three years), I’ve never taken a full week off, and I’ve never needed more than the minimal coverage my co-workers can provide–I just catch up when I get back. But if I were to take a full week or more off, my backup would be our CPA firm–they were the ones that filled the gap between my predecessor and me. It’s not cheap, but it would be the only other option short of me training my co-worker to run payroll, trusting her to be able to do it without my guidance, AND the boss being willing to give her that kind of access, which I doubt he is. So. I do think OP2 needs to use that as their back-up plan. Find a company who does that sort of work, and have them on retainer, with whatever training and information they need to be able to step in if he/she is out suddenly and without notice, and make sure the appropriate people at his/her own company have the contact info of the consulting company.

    1. nonegiven*

      My sister got them to do direct deposit so she could do payroll remotely from anywhere and not have to be there to print the checks and stamp the signatures and deliver them to the companies she does payroll for.

  33. Regina Phalange*

    #2 — That’s insane on all the levels. I work for an outsourced IT firm (in operations), and we have clients that use us exclusively for situations like this (but less crazy, never a 1:600 ratio). It’s very common for companies to request vacation coverage for desktop or server engineers while their normal staff is out, which is typically a better /more financially reasonable option than trying to hire a temp (depending on the length of time, of course), or hiring an additional FT or PT staff person.

    Definitely talk to your management about working with an IT firm that provides these services as backup to you. I +1 Alison’s comment about this not just being for vacation, but for extended leave, accidents, or you just saying “eff this noise, I’m out.” We actually have a client who refers to our contract as “in case I get hit by a bus” (which makes me giggle), and we meet with them on a quarterly basis to ensure we’re up to date on their environment should anything go terribly wrong.

    +1 on Alison’s wording that you will be unreachable by phone and internet, because it’s sounds like if you’re reachable, they will try and reach you. Tell them you’ll be in a rainforest. ;) Good luck!

    1. Zathras*

      Regina Phalange maybe you can weigh in on this since it’s actually what you do – but isn’t it also possible to get a temporary contractor from companies like yours to help out at busy times?

      In a situation where hiring an additional full-time person would be overkill, it might still make sense to bring a second person in for 6 weeks if (say) you are going to be onboarding a large number of new employees all at once. Presumably you’d use the same company for vacation coverage so the company would have some ongoing knowledge of your infrastructure.

      (To be clear, I do not think hiring an additional full time person, or even a few additional full time people, would be overkill in OP’s situation… the idea of supporting 600 people single-handedly makes me want to hide under the bed.)

      1. Regina Phalange*

        Yup, many companies offer temp help, or in some cases, semi-perm help (we do this for a lot of clients). This is also often possible on a project basis or particularly busy time.

        But yes, I completely agree that an additional FT (or a couple FT people!) seems beyond reasonable for that many users. In financial firms, it’s normal to have a 1:50 or 1:100 tech / user ratio for desktop support (depending on the technology being used and the tech capabilities of the users). Some have a 1:25 ratio for trading firms.

        When speaking with technology firms, I’d recommend ensuring their temp support / cover engineer is familiar with the technologies the company uses (e.g. Bloomberg for financial firms), that you can switch out engineers if you’re not happy with the one they send, and that you’re getting a consist one or two people (with backfill / cross-training with other engineers in case your normal engineers are otherwise scheduled). Desktop support engineers range from just tech savvy / knowing enough to squeak by, to writing scripts to make a user’s life easier. Ensure your normal user issues are communicated to the firm (but a good firm will ask you!).

        IT is expensive, and a lot of companies see it as an annoying expense rather than a necessary investment at times. A good IT firm will also help shift that mindset of upper management.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        OP #2’s employer better hope she or he doesn’t just up and quit, because it will be very difficult to hire a replacement:
        “So I’d be the only tech person here?”
        “Yes. Our last IT person was the only tech person here.”
        “How many people are there in the company?”
        “Yeah, uh…”

        I know such ratios exist, but I’ve never seen them. I did work in one place that had one person supporting 350 users, and that was pretty bad. Eventually, I got hired as the second (so it was 2 people supporting 350—much more reasonable). 600 for one person is absolutely ridiculous.

      3. nonegiven*

        Yeah, 14-16 hour days setting up everything for that many new employees. I just can’t.

        This guy is working himself into an early funny farm.

  34. alison*

    #4…You may find that the frequency of these e-mails decreases the longer you work with her. I tend to effuse a LOT of politeness, gratitude, etc. when I work with new people but I tone it down once I’ve adequately picked up on their style of communication.

  35. Naruto*

    #5, the situation you describe is definitely ethically okay! Applying for a job doesn’t obligate you to accept an offer; as Alison said, interviewing is a two-way street, and both parties are supposed to figure out their interest based on the interview process. That’s why it’s important to ask questions etc.

    I’m dealing with a similar situation, but for me, the employer is across the country and I’d have to relocate. I was approached by a recruiter and decided to throw my hat in the ring because it’s in a place I’ve always hoped to live someday and I think the job itself could be awesome. But I’m far from sure I’d accept the job because I’m not convinced I want to leave my current home, and I’m concerned about work-life balance changes. I think this is still okay, although I feel somewhat uneasy. But I’m 100% certain that your situation — which doesn’t involve the employer incurring interview-related travel expenses, or any cost at all other than time spent talking with an applicant who is undecided — is totally fine.

  36. Cassie*

    #4 – this may be my personal preference, but I don’t think you need to respond to the thank you emails. As mentioned by other people, the thank you email is to 1) acknowledge receipt and 2) thank you for providing whatever you provided. I guess a “you’re welcome” email could 1) acknowledge receipt of the email and 2) acknowledge receipt of the thank you but it seems unnecessary on both counts.

    And don’t even get me started on “no problem” – I hate that as a response to “thank you”.

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