my boss keeps leaving work to go to her second job

A reader writes:

As a long-time reader, I’m fully aware that Other People’s Time Off Is None Of My Business, unless it’s affecting your work, in which case you can approach your boss about the work segment. But what if it’s your boss’s time off creating the issue?

We work for a very small nonprofit (fewer than 10 people), which falls under the umbrella of a larger organization, and my boss’s boss is the executive director. My boss has six of us as direct reports — no other management or supervisors to report to. My location has just our immediate staff and my boss — my boss’s boss works in a different building about 5km away, and we see her very rarely.

The issue is that my boss has a second job as a manager at a retail store, and part of her job there is managing staffing. When there are unexpected call-outs or holes in the schedule there, she will leave our job to go work there. Sometimes it’s half a day, sometimes it’s a whole day, and usually there isn’t more than an hour’s notice, or she’ll just phone first thing in the morning and say she can’t come in because she’s working her other job. This happens consistently about once every week.

I know it’s her prerogative as the manager to flex her schedule and none of my business, but bottlenecks form when she isn’t available to sign off or approve things and they stack up. She’s canceled and rescheduled meetings both with us and other outside the agency, including performance reviews and team meetings. And to be honest, it’s frustrating for the rest of us working here when we’re having a busy, all-hands-on-deck day and she takes off to work at her second job without so much as a “sorry I’m leaving you in the lurch!”

When we’ve approached her about this before, we’ve tried to tactfully say that it’s difficult for us to get our reports submitted on time since we’re unable to do so without her signature, or that canceling meetings on the spur of the moment and rescheduling causes the rest of us problems with our own schedules. Her reaction has always been to give us her standard spiel of how difficult it is to work two jobs to make ends meet, how much she doesn’t like either of her jobs, and we all need to be flexible. We are trying to be flexible, and we’re trying our best, but having her pop in and out is creating stress, work problems, and conflict among all of us. Should we try approaching her again, or as a group, or try to reach out to her boss?

I wrote back and asked: “Is your sense that her boss knows what she’s doing — and if her boss doesn’t know, do you think she would care if she did?” The response:

I think my boss definitely knows what she’s doing isn’t totally kosher, which is why she tries to deflect us talking about it into a general discussion of how difficult it is to make ends meet. As for her boss, I truly could not say — I think I’ve only spoken to her maybe once, and I have no idea what their relationship is like, whether she knows, or anything else. I can say that the one time the ED sat it on a team meeting, she was very taken aback and slightly horrified to see that my boss didn’t have an action plan to correct some issues we were having (my boss’s plan be “well, try harder?”), but I don’t know if that would translate to my boss’s overall performance.

Okay, yeah, I think you should probably talk to your boss’s boss — this is a serious enough thing that it warrants looping her in.

And it sounds like your boss’s boss has been taken aback by your manager’s negligence in the past, so that’s another point in favor of talking to her now.

This would be a lot easier if you worked in the same location that she does, because you could find a pretense for popping into her office and mention it then. But you can still do a version of that over the phone — it just won’t quite as organic.

The easiest opening will be the next time your manager unexpectedly leaves to go to her other job and it’s holding something important up on your end. Ideally, it should be something that you’re legitimately worried about waiting on her for, so that you have a plausible reason to ask her boss for help. When that happens, contact her boss and say this: “Jane is out working at her other job, and we can’t move X forward while she’s gone so I wondered if we should bring it to you.”

That right there might be enough to get Jane’s boss to express surprise and ask you more questions. But if it doesn’t, you could then say: “Can we bring you this sort of thing in the future? About once a week, Jane will leave for a half day or whole day to go work at her other job, and it can really hamstring us when it happens. Since she’s out so much, it would be great if we had a back-up when she’s not here.”

Since this is likely to get back to Jane, it would be smart to say something to Jane when she’s back like, “Hey, I wanted to let you know that when you were out yesterday, I asked Lucinda to sign off on X since we were about to miss the deadline. I explained that you were out at your other job.”

And yes, there’s some risk in going over your boss’s head. It’s possible that her boss will decline to get involved and will just punt it back to Jane to handle, and it’s possible that Jane will handle it pretty badly. If that happens, you can point out to Jane that you’ve talked to her about this before so she was aware of the concerns, and that she was out that day and someone needed to handle X. And really, if she’s trying to make you think it’s okay for her to be out as much as she is, then it’ll be hard for her to argue that you did anything wrong by mentioning it to her boss, right?

But I think the odds are high enough that her boss would be alarmed if she knew the full extent of what she’s doing that it’s worth speaking up. (Or at least it’s worth someone on your team speaking up; it doesn’t have to be you. If there’s a group of you who are concerned about this, your best spokesperson may be the person with the strongest standing with your boss and the organization.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 132 comments… read them below }

  1. FlibertyG*

    If I were this OP, I think I’d also ask at least once how the boss wants me to handle things that need immediate sign off. My boss travels a lot, often with little notice, and I was really frustrated with how things would pile up in his absence – we were missing deadlines and I felt it made me look bad. But I named the problem, and we worked out a new process where he could approve things by email at certain windows (he agreed to check email at noon when he was on the road) and we created an alternate approver. It smoothed out the stress for me. The rescheduling of internal meetings you might just have to make peace with. We assume most internal meetings here are taking with a grain of salt honestly.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I agree with asking how the boss wants certain things to be handled– unless, of course, the OP has already done that! And by asking, I mean it needs to be an explicit question: “When you’re out at your other job, how should we handle sign-offs and urgent situations, like [example]?”

      I get that it’s hard to make ends meet, but if you’re going to take on two management jobs, you need to have systems in place so that neither gets neglected, and this boss is seriously missing that mark.

      1. Zombii*

        I was sympathetic to the OP’s boss right up until I got to the part where she deflects any complaints about her missing work with a “poor me” story and talking about how much she hates both of her jobs. The people I’ve known who do this aren’t good at coming up with work-arounds, or those work-arounds would already be in place. They feel trapped in an untenable situation, and while that’s a huge problem, it’s not OP’s problem.

        At this point, OP’s boss’s boss needs a head’s up that OP’s boss has no business being there if she’s not going to be there, you know?

    2. nnn*

      Building on this, OP, could outright ask Jane “What do you want us to do about approvals when you’re out? Should we go to Lucinda?”

      That raises the spectre that Jane should come up with a solution or grandboss will be alerted

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      At this point, I actually wouldn’t do that — because there’s a risk the boss will say, “No, definitely don’t go to Lucinda” — and then the OP loses her ability to do what I suggested and still have plausible deniability that she wasn’t looking to expose the boss.

        1. Observer*

          This isn’t throwing someone under the bus. If Boss were doing her job, and the OP were using the Boss’ absences to excuse her misbehavior, that would be throwing her under the bus. What the OP is after is to keep the boss from throwing her and her workmates under the bus.

          1. Zombii*

            Thank you! I’m so sick of “throwing under the bus” being misused. Not covering for someone who isn’t doing their job = / = unfairly blaming someone for something that wasn’t entirely their fault.

            1. Liet-Kynes*

              There’s multiple connotations to “throwing under the bus,” and you’re chiding me for using one of them.

            1. Observer*

              I apologize. I was not trying to be nit-picky. It’s just that the term is so commonly used in a pejorative fashion, that I wanted to make sure that the OP doesn’t feel like doing this would be something reflects negatively on her and her co-workers.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Nah, I didn’t think it was a big deal until it attracted replies and then it took on more life than you’d probably intended it to have.

      1. Sadsack*

        Makes sense. Besides OP wrote that they have already had issues come up because of the manager’s absence and the manager has done nothing to correct things up to now. She should have already been thinking how to prevent these issues and she hasn’t.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. It sounds like the boss has had plenty of warning that it is a problem and you don’t want to be forbidden from going over her head. Time to drop the dime and also to think about strategy for moving on if the grandboss doesn’t improve things.

    4. Samata*

      I initially thought this too, but in re-reading, particularly this line: Her reaction has always been to give us her standard spiel of how difficult it is to work two jobs to make ends meet, how much she doesn’t like either of her jobs, and we all need to be flexible. I have changed my position to talk to boss’ boss. I just don’t think Jane is going to be on board with doing much but complaining and continuing on as is.

      1. FlibbertyG*

        But don’t you think the grandboss’ first question will be, “have you talked to Jane about this? What have you tried?”

        1. esra*

          Eh, I could see that for general problems, but this really is an issue grandboss should be dealing with.

          1. Chomps*

            I agree with Esra. I don’t think this is something OP can really deal with directly because she doesn’t have standing to.

        2. FlibbertyG*

          I guess this depends on if you think grandboss knows about the second job. I’m kind of assuming she does, since Jane has been discussing it so blatantly with her employees. Maybe she doesn’t so it won’t come to this conversation.

          1. Xarcady*

            Grandboss may know about the second job, but not that it takes Jane out of the office for extended periods of time every week.

            If Jane explained the second job as parttime, retail and “mostly” evenings and weekends, Grandboss might not realize that means at least one extended break from the office weekly.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well, they have talked to Jane about it so the answer would be yes.

          But this is not an issue where a decent boss is going to tell employees to handle it themselves.

        4. GiantPanda*

          The answer would be “Yes, we talked to her. She told us to be more flexible which is not working because of deadline A, meeting B, required signature C. Can you give us a better way to handle these problems?”
          At that point Grandboss should come up with something, at the very least talking to Jane herself.

        5. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)*

          I just echo everyone’s general sentiment that OP can confidently say: “We have talked to Jane, and she replied {insert quote}, but we are left with the same issues with X, Y & Z and need your help coming up with a solution that works best for the org.”

        6. Observer*

          And the answer would be “Yes, we have and all she does is give us a spiel about how hard it is to make ends meet, how much she dislikes her jobs and that we need to be more flexible. Having you as an alternate signer seems to be the most flexible solution for us.”

    5. SophieChotek*

      Also (besides the fact as discussed below), if the boss works in retail, things like email signatures, etc. might not work. If boss is getting called into fill in for staff members…boss may not have access to email or have time to read emails and approve X, Y, and Z, they way FlibertyG’s boss might whilst on a trip.

      At my coffee shop job we don’t have access to our (personal laptops), we’re not supposed to be on our phones (unless we’re in the backroom)–and we’re usually too busy to be in the backroom…

  2. Liet-Kynes*

    “And really, if she’s trying to make you think it’s okay for her to be out as much as she is, then it’ll be hard for her to argue that you did anything wrong by mentioning it to her boss, right?”

    Muahhahaha. Jane’s playing checkers, Alison’s teaching OP how to play chess. I love it.

    FWIW, my guess is grandboss will lose her mind when she learns about this.

    1. Hills to Die on (formerly AMG)*

      I’m guessing the ED knows about the 2nd job, but was told it would not impact this job or would rarely impact the job, and that once this moves into play things will change dramatically. Either Jane will get in line quickly and be present, or lose her Schmidt and take it out on the OP. Or both. I would be prepared to keep an open line of communication with the ED in case Jane retaliated against you for “taking away” her ability to work 1.5 jobs and get paid for 2 jobs. Especially if she is really struggling with making ends meet.

      1. Liet-Kynes*

        All good points. I’ve noticed that people getting away with shadiness because reasons often feel incredibly entitled to be, and continue to be, shady.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Yep, agreed. She’s basically double dipping her salary at job 1 by working at job 2 and that surely was not part of any legit arrangement. And all that “making ends meet” talk may be a ploy to make the Op and other reports feel guilty.

        1. Newby*

          It doesn’t really matter what the “making ends meet” talk is about. It may be a real concern. However, the job still needs to get done which does not seem to be her top priority. Looping in the boss’ boss to make sure that there is an actual plan to handle this is the responsible decision regardless of the reason for the problem.

        2. Collarbone High*

          I would be surprised if either job is fully aware of what’s going on. I’ve worked retail settings where there were a handful of part-time employees with other full-time jobs who were just there for the store discount, and it was understood by everyone that their retail schedule had to work around their day jobs. But the managers? No way could they have had another job, unless it was something like jewelry parties or driving for Lyft.

          1. Zombii*

            >> But the managers? No way could they have had another job,

            I turned down a retail manager job because it was part time hours and paid hourly, but they required “open availability” and you had to sign away your soul an agreement saying that it was your primary job and you wouldn’t schedule anything to interfere with their schedule (which they said they provided 1 week in advance—but you needed to be available during the whole week in case they needed more coverage). It’s a terrible business model (for the employees) is what I’m saying.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              She probably has to be available 24/7 or how ever long the store is open each day. She can’t refuse to come into work. I do find it interesting that so often she cannot get coverage from someone else.
              However, knowing retail jobs this will continue indefinitely and it really is up to OP to say something to someone.

              OP if she is that valuable to your organization maybe someone could be her back up when she has to leave. There are good solutions for this. My first thought was, “oh, no”. But maybe your big boss has an idea that makes everyone happy. This does not have to end badly, even though it does not look good at the moment.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I kept wondering how the boss is categorized, too. If I were Lucinda and Jane is salaried, I would fire her.

        It’s bad enough to do a subpar job because you’ve decided your second job matters more, but even small nonprofits that authorize outside work are not usually signing up for an unpredictable, weekly absence that trumps everything, regardless of priority. And missing meetings with partners, funders, or other external stakeholders? Oh, helllllll no.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Actually, her categorization doesn’t matter. I would fire her. Whether she’s committing fraud is a far away second to the dysfunction she’s sowing.

          1. Snazzy Hat*

            Regarding dysfunction, my biggest eyebrow-raising moment was that she has told her underlings she dislikes both of her jobs. Boss, if you thought morale was in the toilet thanks to your constant unexpected absences from work, saying you dislike being there in the first place will send morale straight to the sewers.

      4. FlibbertyG*

        I’m really surprised so many people think the grandboss has no idea Jane has another job at all. I’d be rather surprised if she didn’t (although it’s certainly one possibility!). I wouldn’t want us to send OP in like she’s found the smoking gun only to have Grandboss say that she agreed to the arrangement and is only interested in tweaking the specific problems OP has encountered.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s why the advice isn’t to go in like that, but instead just to say, “Can we bring you this sort of thing in the future? About once a week, Jane will leave for a half day or whole day to go work at her other job, and it can really hamstring us when it happens. Since she’s out so much, it would be great if we had a back-up when she’s not here.”

        2. KHB*

          It’s possible that Jane has cleared her second job with Lucinda, but I’d be really surprised if she’s cleared all aspects of how this is working in practice (i.e., multiple full days out of the office every month with no notice and no instructions to her direct reports). We’ve seen cases before here where someone got approval for a flexible schedule or reduced hours and ended up not living up to their end of the bargain (e.g., they were supposed to work extra hours from home in the evening but decided to shoulder their coworkers with that work instead). There’s a good chance that this is another one of those.

          1. CanCan*

            Or it could be that the Grandboss said: “Ok, let’s see how it works. If there are any problems, we may have to come up with another solution.” Not Yes, go ahead with your other job, your employees will figure things out.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I would bet money that grandboss approved the secondary employment, but not under the terms that Jane is using (i.e., no terms/limitations). I also think it’s possible that Jane is taking advantage of the distance and flexibility, and never received authorization for secondary employment.

            I think this is a precarious situation for OP to raise, but Alison has really nailed how to thread the needle (assuming grandboss is competent).

    2. ArtsNerd*

      This and the letter about the contact hitting on the OP both hit on something that I’m struggling to articulate.

      Like, the plausible deniability and the polite fictions… I used to be so resentful that they only worked one way. I couldn’t call a spade a spade but then I needed to deal with the underlying reality that was being glossed over. It puts all the onus on the person with less power in the dynamic to simultaneously accommodate and deny the other person’s behavior.

      What Alison is showing us – and it’s a revelation to me – is that it does, indeed go both ways. You just have to use the fiction as your cover in withholding whatever accommodation or acquiescence the person is seeking.


  3. FlibertyG*

    Also – if you do bring this up with your bosses’ boss, I would try to focus your conversation exclusively on the work tasks being affected. You may feel like it’s “unfair” for the boss to be always skipping out, but that’s likely not a productive avenue, as different roles may have a different arrangements. (For all you know the boss agreed to accept a lower salary for the flexibility to continue at her other job, for example, or your grandboss believes in flex time and wants it to work, or just has the philosophy that she shouldn’t intervene in other people’s scheduling decisions at this level).

    1. Liet-Kynes*

      Yes, and it would also come off as whiny. Focusing exclusively on “we can’t do this because Jane leaves several times a week” is more productive.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      But work travel is different than blowing off your main job for your second job. If the OP goes this route, she may cut off the opportunity to go to the boss’s boss.

    3. Antilles*

      Yes. OP’s discussion here needs to revolve around the work tasks and the business impacts, nothing else.
      One of the perks of being more senior is that you often get more freedom to control your schedule to handle personal business if needed. That is not the issue in play – the issue is whether or not that freedom is causing impacts to OP that need to be addressed.

      1. Sadsack*

        Although the manager’s last minute schedule changes are also impacting her employee’s schedules. Shouldn’t that be something for the upper manager to know?

      2. Koko*

        Yeah, moonlighting is extremely common in the nonprofit world, but it’s usually part-time and a management position is a full-time role, even if there are nominally set part-time working working hours. The reality is the manager is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because the buck stops with management.

        I worked a second job for the first several years of my nonprofit career. I was a delivery driver and everyone at the restaurant – especially my managers – were aware that my primary obligations were to my day job. I actually started working evening shifts an hour later than everyone else there specifically so they could accommodate the time it took me to get there from my day job without leaving early. They often called to see if I could work shifts that overlapped with my main job, and I did from time to time take advantage of the ability to flex my schedule so that I could pick up an extra driving shift, but only when the work at my day job allowed it, and I could always say no.

        For their part, my day job understood that three days a week I could not stay late unless it was a mission-critical emergency. I committed to working after midnight if something needed handling before business opened the next day, and sometimes I was firing off work emails or running reports from my phone while at my second job, but I actually never had to miss a shift at the second job for my day job thanks to the combination of both employers being understanding and me being committed enough to finding a way to get my work done at both jobs that there were never any problems to address. That’s how you make ends meet. Moonlighting is a hustle and unfortunately being a manager on the side of being a manager is not going to work out.

  4. NutellaNutterson*

    It’s the missing *external* meetings that’s likely to reflect badly on the whole organization.

    And what’s with boss telling her staff she doesn’t like EITHER job? Meaning the one she’s working while being their boss? There’s going to be a lot of dysfunction to unpack after boss gets the boot!

    1. WellRed*

      Right?! And it’s plain unprofessional ti complain to your staff how you can’t make ends meet, etc.

      1. KHB*

        Especially because as the manager, she’s probably (though not necessarily) the highest paid on the team.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yeah, geez. This is a whole matroishka doll of management dysfunction here.

        2. Breda*

          Right? It’s completely possible she has responsibilities and expenses (like children) that her employees don’t, but it’s completely unprofessional to complain about how you can’t make ends meet to people who are paid less than you.

        3. Tau*

          I had a senior team member who’d complain to me about how little he was being paid, when I was making less and he knew that very well. There are no WORDS for how infuriating it is.

          1. Liet-Kynes*

            I had someone do this. The words I found were, “As someone who makes less than you, I think you need to find someone at your pay grade to complain to about this.”

        4. RVA Cat*

          I was coming here to say exactly that. It’s so tacky for her to complain about “making ends meet” to her staff who A) make less than she does and B) are actually doing This Job instead of sabotaging it with Other Job.

      2. Shelby Drink the Juice*

        Yes! I had a manager that used to vent to me about money problems when I made $12/hour as a single income house and she made at least $80k and had a dual income household. Not only was it in the ARE YOU KIDDING ME category, she was the finance controller for the business and made me question her general finance abilities.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yeah, I once had a terrible for many reasons manager that did this and it may sound mean, but I laughed and laughed when she went to lunch one day and her car got impounded for not paying the registration (and it has to be six plus months late for that to happen), and she had to call the owner to come pick her up and take her back to the office.

        2. Manders*

          I had the same sort of manager! It really is a huge red flag that something is off about that manager’s understanding of how the professional world works.

          Her salary was more than double mine, but she would often run into weird situations where she had no liquid cash on hand and she’d have a public meltdown about it. I still remember her saga of how unfair it was that she had to pay to store a jet ski her father had given her as a present.

        3. AWall*

          This is the worst. I had a manager that told me the story of how he had found his son a new job because his current job paid him f*** all and his wage was the same as mine at the time. He then went into a massive spiel about how that company is notorious for low pay, no wonder they have high staff turnover etc etc. It made me feel so bummed out and also, since my boss was the CEO and set my pay rate himself, incredibly angry. Managers just shouldn’t talk about money when it’s not directly related to the business.

    2. SignalLost*

      Yeah – I used to work at a small non profit where the president had meetings with local, state, and world leaders on the regular. I was briefly diverted in this post by considering how President Hu would have reacted if we’d told him that our president was working his other job and unreachable. :)

      More seriously, in my experience it tends to fall to the non profit to be most flexible on scheduling meetings with external partners. This manager’s behaviour is not a good look for this org. And I would put a lot of money down that the grand boss doesn’t even know about the second job, let alone how it impacts the day to day, so I think Alison’s wording is perfect.

    3. Lora*

      As far as your employees are concerned, you love every day you get to be their boss and thoroughly enjoy every moment that you have the privilege of helping them through their careers.

      Even when they are whinging about the coffee not being their favorite and whose turn it is to pick the radio station in the lab, even when they screwed up a TPS report, even when they are complaining that they shouldn’t have to clean up after themselves in the break room.

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Please keep in mind that “making ends meet” and “being flexible” and not liking either job are none of your business and not your problem to manage. It would be no different than if she had a child care or home issues that took her away from the office so frequently.

    To be sure, being flexible is super important on all levels in the office, but not to the point where it’s causing widespread problems and robs you of your ability to enjoy some flexibility of your own. (You didn’t mention that, but if one person, especially the boss, is acting this way, it’s nearly impossible for other employees to get some leeway now and then.)

    By the way, I can’t imagine a scenario where it’s okay for an employee to have two jobs that conflict with each other scheduling-wise and expect to get paid a full day’s work for both. (I have a story where a woman I used to work with did that, and I caught her at her second job at a grocery store.)

    1. Liet-Kynes*

      And, not to belabor a recently deceased equine, “being flexible” usually applies to one’s workplace duties and tasks performed for one’s employer, not accomodating your whackadoo manager dropping everything to cover a shift at her second job. It’s not reasonable to expect people to be endlessly flexible to accomodate your personal problems. Like you said, this is 100% Jane’s problem to handle herself.

      1. Annie on a Mouse*

        I’m sorry about your problems, Jane, I really am – but they are. Your. Problems.

  6. SometimesALurker*

    Making ends meet in the nonprofit world is often a real concern. The fact that someone who manages 6 people has to work a second job to make ends meet is a serious problem. However, it’s not the OP’s problem.

    In a perfect world, OP could go to boss’s boss and say that this problem is indicative of a pay problem as well, but I’m 150% sure this isn’t that world. Some nonprofit fields do have groups collecting stories about the wage problem, and a story of “even my boss has a second job to make ends meet” may be worth sharing with them, but that’s a long-term advocacy thing and doesn’t help OP’s work situation.

    1. FlibertyG*

      Yeah, it’s sad, I’m aware of a well established nonprofit in my community that offers NO benefits – so staff have to either be married to someone who offers them, under 26, or willing to pay out of pocket. And I bet the salaries aren’t raised to compensate. This is a professional and well staffed nonprofit, and it makes it super tough for those employees (and means they are more likely to need second jobs that offer benefits, I assume). But yeah for OP that’s not your circus, not your monkeys.

      1. Koko*

        It kills me to see this because those organizations are seriously limiting their efficacy by limiting their pool or talent to people who will work in those conditions. The issues we work on at nonprofits are so important. They deserve to have the best people working on them.

        Unfortunately this is largely a problem made by donors and accountability organizations who for far too long have encouraged the public to see “overhead” (AKA the salaries of the people you are trusting to fix the big problem the org was founded to fix) as a terrible thing for a nonprofit to spend money on. Donors want us to be penny-wise and pound-foolish – to borrow from Vimes, they want us to buy the boots that need replacing after one winter because they cost half as much as the boots that last for ten.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We also don’t have enough info to know it’s the case here. It’s possible, and it’s also possible that the boss is paying off massive elective debt, who knows. But it’s speculation that will take us away from what the OP is asking about.

      1. Yorick*

        We also don’t even know if she has trouble making ends meet – it could just be what she says to justify doing this.

        1. Newby*

          Does it really matter either way though? She could have a legitimate need or not. The problems being caused at work are still real. Even if she was out so often because she had a serious health condition, they would still need to figure out how to handle her frequent absences to minimize the effect it had on their work. By bringing it to grand boss’ attention that is really all that they are asking. Yes she may be fired or told to quit the other job but it may also be that grand boss is ok with the situation and will come up with another solution. All that matters is that the OP can do her job.

          1. Jeanne*

            You’re right. It doesn’t matter if she has debt or 12 children or wants to buy more shoes. She made a committment to this job that she is not fulfilling.

          2. Anna*

            I think that’s what Yorick is saying. We have no idea what the real situation is, but it matters not.

            1. AWall*

              Yeah, doesn’t matter why she has a 2nd job. I have a 2nd job just for the fun of it but I would never allow for it to impact 1st job. Though, of course, if she is struggling to make ends meet that may explain why she is taking risks like leaving job 1 in the lurch.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      That’s not always the case though, much as it’s a common stereotype.

      I work for a non-profit and am very happy with my pay and etc.

      1. KHB*

        Me too, although my nonprofit is a scholarly society that’s in a very different funding situation than, say, a charity that runs purely on donations. “The nonprofit world” spans a huge gamut.

      2. Doreen*

        I work for a government agency and have coworkers with second jobs at nonprofits. I don’t know how much the non-profits pay them, but a few of them earn over $120k at their government jobs. They may have any number of reasons for holding two jobs, but it’s certainly not because both jobs are low-paying

      3. Anon Anon*

        I work for a non-profit and I’m compensated reasonably with decent benefits. And the other non-profits in my industry provide a good living. There are many non-profits out there that understand that to recruit and retain good employees they must pay decent wages.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, there’s a really wide variety of types of nonprofit, as well as pay, culture, hours, etc. and we shouldn’t paint them all with the same brush.

    4. Observer*

      I think that that’s a real jump. Yes, there are NPOs that underpay significantly on the idea that “people working on poverty program should live on poverty wages” or some other idiotic rationale. But, that does not mean that this manager’s behavior is an indication of pay problems. I would say that in general, but given this manager’s ridiculous behavior, I really think it is even less likely to be an indication of a pay problem, although it might be an indication of a hiring problem.

      So, that’s not something the OP should even get within a mile of.

  7. LBK*

    Her reaction has always been to give us her standard spiel of how difficult it is to work two jobs to make ends meet, how much she doesn’t like either of her jobs, and we all need to be flexible.

    I wish I could come up with a constructive way to say “I don’t like this job either because of you”. I’m trying to figure out how to phrase it without being extremely blunt, but maybe the situation calls for being blunt; it’s really insane that she would say this to you as if she isn’t (presumably) making more money than you are and also doesn’t more or less control your job satisfaction. If she doesn’t like this job, can she even try to imagine how you must feel about it with your boss abdicating any form of management or responsibility?

    1. NW Mossy*

      I’d aim for something like “That’s tough, and I can understand. That said, your short-notice absences and lack of coverage are making it harder for us to do our jobs well too, and it’s hurting all of us. We need to figure out a way to make this work that’s sustainable, because what we’re doing now isn’t.”

      1. Liet-Kynes*

        I like that, but frankly I think this is so bonkers only the ED can deliver that line. It’s hard to manage up when your manager is this dystfunctional.

        1. LBK*

          I think to an extent, the manager has done so little to act like a manager that at some point the title is just a technicality and you gain the implicit authorization to speak to them like a peer. In other words, when you abdicate your responsibilities as a manager so egregious, I think you also forfeit the concept of insubordination and your employees are allowed to address you on a human level rather than a work level.

          1. Liet-Kynes*

            That’s a great point, actually, but I was more thinking along the lines that even on a human, peer to peer level, if you can convince yourself that this is okay, you’ve wrapped yourself in so much self-justification that even blunt talk is not going to penetrate. Jane’s just going to dance around it, she’s so far in denial.

          2. PoorDecisions101*

            Thanks – you’ve made me feel better for some of my interactions with my last boss, who would say that he loathed people management and didn’t want to do it. I was consistently trying to change his behaviour and would have extremely frank conversations with him bordering on unprofessional (or outright unprofessional).

      2. Wheezy Weasel*

        Nicely said…deflect the excuses and focus on the behavior and how it affects the company. You’re verbally backing the boss into a corner, but in a professional manner. All of those things are true: the staff is suffering and the company is suffering, and the employee is reflecting back that the status quo will not longer suffice.

    2. Cleopatra Jones*

      I once had a job where the department director consistently failed to manage the department problem child. Even when problem child outright harassed and threatened co-workers. The department director stated to me, “I don’t have time to manage problem child because I am busy working on my Ph.D.” O.O

      Imagine the sweet karmic justice that I felt many years later when that same boss applied for a position in which I was sitting on the hiring committee. I loved being able to recount that exact interaction to the rest of the committee. Former boss did not even get a phone interview.

    3. Djuna*

      I would find it so hard to bite my tongue if a boss said that to me, for precisely those reasons.
      Given that the boss did say that, though, I don’t think she’s likely to be swayed by logic, or y’know…common sense.
      This is definitely one for the grand-boss to handle.

  8. KHB*

    It’s really eating at me how gaslighty she’s being with this “we all need to be flexible” line. It’s what Gavin de Becker would call “forced teaming”: She’s taking a situation that’s benefiting her and harming all the rest of you, and she’s portraying it as one where you’re all in the same boat and pulling together to reach a common goal. Very much not cool.

    1. Liet-Kynes*

      The Lone Ranger and Tonto get chased into a box canyon by a band of angry Apache on the warpath. Ranger goes, “Tonto, this may be the end for us, old friend.”

      Tonto be all, “Who’s ‘we,’ white man?”

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      Yeah, she’s taking advantage of “flexible work hours” having two almost contradictory meanings. Sometimes that phrase means “you can rearrange your schedule within reason to fit your other commitments” and sometimes it means “we will rearrange your schedule at will and you have to be flexible about it if you want to keep your job”.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, she’s taking a her problem and making it an everybody problem

  9. boop the first*

    Of all the back-up 2nd jobs she could have gotten away with, she had to choose retail manager??? You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to be a retail manager because that’s your whole life now – you have to drop everything on a whim, show up at any hour of the day or night to deal with problems (and there are SO MANY PROBLEMS), and the company can ship you wherever they desire with zero input from you.

    1. Jadelyn*

      This is a great point. Retail peon works okay as a second job – although in my experience most are terrible at actually taking into consideration your main job’s schedule, no matter how much they promise they will, so it’s a constant tug of war and you’re always reminding them, no, I can’t work Tuesday afternoons, I’ve never been able to work Tuesday afternoons, I will never be able to work Tuesday afternoons, please stop scheduling me on Tuesday afternoons – but retail management? That’s practically two jobs in and of itself!

      1. Liane*

        Both (In)Famous Retailer & the Big Grocery chain where College Kids work manage to work around people’s schedules, but only IMO because the schedules are 95% computer generated with people’s Not Available times blocked by the program. (Yes the computers do make mistakes but managers at both chains are held accountable for fixing them.)

        1. Jadelyn*

          At least those programs help with that – last time I worked retail was at a small store for a mid-sized chain and the schedule was done by hand by the manager each week. I always felt bad for the students who worked part-time with us, because she kept forgetting and scheduling them during their class times and then causing a flurry of shift-switching to try to cover for it.

  10. MuseumChick*

    Holy Batman. I work in a non-profit and have for most of my professional life. This is very much not ok. I agree with Alison, pull grand boss in the next time something major is affected by your boss skipping out. As others have mentioned, keep it strictly about the work and the facts.

  11. Professor Ronny*

    All true but either the boss is working extra hours after hours to keep up with their work or the boss’s boss is not doing a good job because they have not noticed that boss is not keeping up with their job. Either scenario puts OP in a jam when they raise this with boss’s boss.

    1. KHB*

      “either the boss is working extra hours after hours to keep up with their work”

      That doesn’t make it OK, because she’s still causing chaos in the office with her last-minute schedule changes.

      “or the boss’s boss is not doing a good job because they have not noticed that boss is not keeping up with their job”

      Boss’s boss works in a different location, so I don’t agree that it’s a failing on her part for not noticing what’s going on here. But suppose you’re right, and boss’s boss is particularly unobservant. That makes it more important, not less, for OP to tell boss’s boss what’s going on, because waiting around for boss’s boss to notice it on her own is certainly going to fail.

    2. Sam*

      It’s also possible that OP and the other staffers are picking up the slack enough that nothing really stands out as problematic to the ED. If that’s the case, maybe they should scale back.

  12. MissDisplaced*

    I realize the non-profit world can be quite different, but at most companies moonlighting to this extent where you’re missing work at your day job would get one fired. Especially if the non-profit job was salaried. This whole situation feels very weird that they (might) know and would allow it to continue. But I don’t know, if your boss is a consultant, of if that’s just the “arrangement” she has with the organization it might be different.
    I think I would at least ask the boss ONE MORE TIME how she wants you to handle things that need immediate sign off or action before looping in her boss though.

    On another avenue: I once worked contract at a place where the full-time web person often worked from home because of a long commute. However, they were never really available when you called them, and only returned emails 1-2 hours later. It was eventually found out they had 2 full time jobs, one in the city and one out in the ‘burbs and were trying to be “at” both (and were fired). So… just saying, this kind of thing seldom ends well and in this case it wasn’t even that blatant or obvious.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t a nonprofit thing. It would get you fired at plenty of nonprofits too. The issue is that the boss works in a different location than her own boss does, and she’s almost certainly hiding what she’s doing from her.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This could absolutely get you fired at a nonprofit. Even groups that allow secondary employment usually don’t allow it to be taken the way Jane is doing—they require greater predictability (e.g., Jane is gone Tuesdays or takes a half day on Fridays or works 4 days @ 10 hours/day). It’s one thing when the Director is the only employee, but it’s another ballgame when you have this many direct reports. Not to mention how wildly unprofessional it is to bail like this.

      1. Lurker*

        Same. In fact, it’s in our Employee Handbook that secondary employment must be pre-approved by the Director and at no time is it to interfere with the work for NFP. (And NFP resources are not to be used for anything related to the second job.) To do otherwise could result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

  13. De Minimis*

    I agree with everyone else, please speak up! They should know about it even if it ends up being okay.

    I had a situation where something didn’t seem right and I didn’t say anything because it was a coworker where I didn’t have any work relationship so I assumed they’d worked things out with their supervisor, but it turned out they hadn’t and they were scamming us by spending all their time on side projects and just collecting a salary/benefits from us.

  14. Helena*

    If the non-profit accepts government grants, your boss’s boss *definitely* needs to know what’s going on, as timekeeping compliance is a big deal for the government. If your boss is charging the government for 40 hours of labor and only doing 30 hours, the penalties could include major fines or even jail time.

  15. ggg*

    I know of a guy that did this, in even worse fashion. Basically he would show up at one company, do a single quantum of work, then head out for “offsite meetings.” Meanwhile he would go over to his other job for a short time, again do the absolute minimum, then also head out for “offsite meetings,” i.e. hanging out at the beach and going to the movies.

    Neither job knew about the other. It went on for years, until he applied for a THIRD job, and the security clearance people found him out.

    1. Anonak*

      I’m not going to lie. As much as it I agree that this is immoral, I’m kind of impressed.

  16. Jeanne*

    I have to disagree somewhat. The way I see it OP uses an excuse to talk to big boss, confesses to negligent boss, and immediately gets fired. I think OP needs to make the phone call, probably with the excuse to start with. But then lay it all out. How frequently is she missing work, what problems it’s causing (all of them not just the excuse), the attempts you’ve made to talk to her, how you are not the only one affected, anything you can add about how she could be affecting the reputation of your non-profit. Then you need to explain your voncerns about her firing you for spilling the beans. Hopefully you will get reassurances. Good luck.

  17. Statler von Waldorf*

    I mostly agree with Alison on this one. I think that how she frames the conversation with the grandboss is a good way to discretely bring the issue to his attention while maintaining plasuible deniability. I’d give 80% odds that if you handle the issue that way, grandboss will be horrified and the situation will change for the better.

    On the other hand, I give 20% odds that grandboss gives no f***s about what your boss is doing, and now you have to deal with a hostile manager who is feeling betrayed. That is a highly unpleasant situation, and it is a possibility to keep in mind. Keeping that in mind, I still think this is something worth speaking out over. However, if you are in a situation where even a small interruption of your salary could be a Big Deal ™ then it is very reasonable to play it safe and keep quiet.

    Now, my version of this story. Sorta. If you squint a bit. Anyhow, many, many years ago I was a teenager delivering pizza. A few months in, there was a new driver who was always on the schedule, but his attendance was all over the place. He would come in, cherry pick certain deliveries, and then leave. This pissed me off to no end, as I was effectively doing all his clean-up whenever he was on the schedule, and I was losing out on deliveries, which provided me with the tips that I used to pay my rent. I mentioned it to my boss, who chewed me out for daring to complain about it. I was young and really needed the job at this point, so I just shut up and took it.

    As it turned out, said driver was delivering drugs with the pizzas. It was the worst kept secret ever. You called in and if you asked for a special kind of sauce on your pizza, and the new driver would deliver it with whatever else you wanted. One day, after the new driver pushed too far I finally cracked and anonymously tipped off the local police station. I let them know the scheme and the magic phrase, and then I waited.

    It was about a week later that the everything hit the fan. As it turned out, the reason the manager chewed me out for complaining about it was that he was getting a cut of the drug sales, and was probably also laundering the profits. The driver was arrested, the boss was arrested, the guy answering the phone was arrested, lawyers got involved, multiple tax people came in for audits and in the end the business ended up getting closed. There were even phone calls in the middle of the night threatening me if I talked to the cops too, which was an unpleasant first for me. I officially plead dumb to everyone, got a new job and eventually it all died down.

    So, even if going to your grandboss goes terribly wrong, it probably won’t go this wrong. Probably.

    1. motherofdragons*

      WOW. This is epic. Bravo for doing the right thing, glad you are OK, etc., but mostly very grateful for this highly entertaining read on a Monday afternoon!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      HOLY CRAP!
      Well done. You got your message out there and you kept yourself safe. Not easy to do both at the same time. I hope you are in a much better job now.

  18. Harry Wilshaw*

    It’s very hard for OP to assess what kinds of agreements are in place for her boss and whether she is pinching a yard or a mile. I don’t recommend going to the road of group representations at this stage, as there’s a risk that it might be perceived as (or indeed be) bullying or intimidating behaviour. You should consider, as individuals, the impact that it is having on you and your perception of the impact it is having on results and efficiency for your company. Ensure that this is based on your own experience and not chats with your colleagues. Think about work-arounds and present this to your boss and make sure you ask at the end of the meeting “do you mind if a write up a note of what we agreed, so that I don’t forget” and send it to her for approval. At the same time, you need to get familiar with any policies that your company has that might indicate an appropriate and structured way to bring up your grievances if you don’t think you can talk to your boss (or that doesn’t work). Sometimes going up the line management chain is the appropriate way of dealing with this, other times that might be a designated route.

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