someone drew genitalia on our intern’s cast, I want my employee to work on his day off, and more

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

1. Employee drew genitalia on an intern’s cast

We had an intern who has a broken arm and is wearing a cast. (The break is in her forearm and does not affect the use of her hand or elbow, and it’s an office environment with no physical work or manual labor so she is able to work still.) I manage the intern’s manager. Someone who works here drew an offensive picture on the intern’s cast when people were signing it. She was in a meeting and talking to several people, and an employee said he was going to draw something else but he drew male genitalia and wrote profanities instead. His manager did not do anything when the intern complained, and she ended up going back to the doctor to have all of it covered up because all of it was quite large and visible and embarrassing to her.

She was upset the employee was not disciplined over his joke and that the manager laughed about it and would not give her permission to leave to get the offensive material covered and made her still deal with clients and other employees for the rest of the day. She tried to use marker and white-out to cover it but it did not work and everyone saw it. She has resigned from her internship and ceased contact. She provided an email chain and photos of the cast as proof and every employee I have spoken to has corroborated her version of events. I’m at a loss as to how to deal with this. How do I deal with what happened?

The manager needs serious remedial training in some basics of managing. I’d have a very serious conversation with her and find out what she was thinking: Make her explain why she laughed, why she refused to let the intern leave, and what kind of environment she thinks she has created for people who don’t want their workplace sexualized (let alone a cast that’s attached to their body). Ask her to tell you what she knows about sexual harassment and hostile workplace laws. Tell her you have serious concerns about her judgment and how she handles employee complaints, and that as of now, you can’t trust her in the ways you need to trust the managers working under you.

How to proceed will depend a lot on her responses and demeanor in this conversation. If she’s mortified and it genuinely seems like a one-time fluke from someone who otherwise has a track record of good judgment, it might be sufficient to give her a ton of remedial coaching (and much closer oversight for a while — that’s crucial). But otherwise … she can’t be in a management position if this is representative of how she operates and if she doesn’t see what the problem is.

I’d bring HR into this too, because they need to be in the loop when you have a manager who thinks it’s okay to force someone to go around with a penis on their cast all day.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I want my employee to work on a day I said he could have off

I recently made my schedule for my employees as we are slowing down in the business that we do. One of my employees asked for the odd day off. I at the time saw no problem with this. Now one of the other employees is injured and cannot make it to work next Monday. I have asked the other employee to come in and he is committed to something else, I think that his job is his first commitment regardless. I am fairly new to the management position, and I feel I am losing control a bit. I would be able to cover but I also have a training course to go to. What are your thoughts on this?

You told him that he could have the day off, he made plans accordingly, and you need to honor that.

It’s fine to explain the situation and ask if he’d be able to change his plans, but if he can’t, then that should be the final word on it. Otherwise your employees won’t be able to count on your word when you okay time off, and you will quickly have a frustrated and resentful staff.

There are very rare exceptions to this, like serious emergencies, but that’s the kind of thing that should happen at most once every few years (and generally not even that often, if ever) and when it does you need to apologize profusely and find a way to make it up to the person. It’s not something you can do cavalierly.

3. My boss isn’t following through on re-assigning work she told me she’d move off my plate

I’m having a little trouble determining whether I should be miffed about something. I work in a department with three other graphic designers. Generally our job is to make promotional materials — pens, tote bags, and the like with company branding. But occasionally someone will ask us to design an invitation for an event. I have the most experience with this. For the past few years, I’ve been making most (if not all) of the invitations that are requested. My boss has acknowledged that I’ve been doing a lot of them of late and has told me she wants to give some of these requests to the others. I was happy about this, as these projects don’t factor in to my performance goals and they can be time consuming and annoying. During the conversation, I told her I was happy to spread the wealth and that actually I was going to request a break from invitations since I’ve been doing quite a few.

That was two months ago. I am now in the process of making three more. This is the second time we’ve had a conversation about my colleagues taking on more of these assignments and yet, I’m still doing them the majority of them. I want to be a team player and I don’t like to complain, but I’m starting to get burned out and frustrated with this. It makes me question my boss’s ability to be honest with me and I don’t know how to broach the subject without looking like a complainer. Technically making these banners is part of my job, but it’s not considered an important skill and I feel like the time I spend on them is not worthwhile and potentially limits people’s perception of my work and output.

I suppose it’s possible that she’s being dishonest with you, but it’s more likely that she just has higher priorities and hasn’t had the time to sit down and focus on changing this.

I’d be more proactive with her about it. Say something like this to her: “Since we talked about assigning some of these requests the other designers, I’m going to pull Jane and Fergus into the next few that come our way, and use that as an opportunity to get them trained on doing them. That way it’ll be easy to send others to them in the future. Sound okay to you?” And then do that.

4. Employer wants reference letters before I’m even interviewed

I am job searching and recently found a couple of positions I think I’m qualified for at local school districts. It would be an industry change for me, but the work is related to what I have done before. Both organizations, however, require applicants to submit two letters of recommendation from present or former employers. I’ve worked for several nonprofit or government agencies and I’ve never seen this sort of request before.

Would it be weird to ask for letters of recommendation for a job that I was just applying for? I would be more comfortable asking for this if I were at a later stage — such as after I had been interviewed — but I feel like I would be wasting my references’ time at this early stage. Is it a faux pas to ask my previous managers for a letter or recommendation in this sort of situation? How would I even make that request?

This appears to be a common thing that schools do. They have their own weird hiring conventions, and this is one of them. It’s definitely annoying, but since there’s no way around it if you want to work in those schools, just explain the situation to your references. You can apologize for the time it’ll take, offer to send over notes that they can more easily turn into a letter, and tell them that you shouldn’t need to ask for a new letter in the future since you should be able to use the ones they provide now.

But yeah, outside of a few outlier industries, this is not a thing that’s done. In fact, letters of recommendation are not particularly useful at all.

5. Should I thank people for LinkedIn endorsements?

I often receive “endorsements” on LinkedIn from current or former colleagues, and an email notification. Should I thank people when they endorse me? I’ve done it a few times, depending on the person and how well I know that individual, but not on a routine basis. I’ve never received a thanks for endorsing someone else. Just curious about your take on this.

No, you don’t need to send a thanks for that; it’s way more casual thing than if someone, say, wrote a LinkedIn recommendation for you. A lot of people probably won’t even remember by the next day that they did it.

For what it’s worth, I’d recommend just turning off LinkedIn’s skills endorsements altogether. They don’t carry any weight or credibility since anyone can endorse you for anything, whether they know you and have worked with you or not. They’re a really weird feature of the site.

{ 523 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Letter #1 has been pretty thoroughly covered in the comments below. Before adding a new comment on #1, please read the existing comments to see if your point has already been made. (And if you want to chime in anyway, please add it to an already-existing thread on that question.) Thanks!

  2. Sami*

    OP#4: Alison is right. Letters of recommendation are very common in education. Just explain why you need them and most people who’re familiar with school systems will understand. Like Alison said, it’d be helpful to send notes and/or your resume and any unique items from the position description that may help them tailor their letter. Good luck!

    1. New Bee*

      If the types of positions you are applying for are similar enough (or if your qualifications are the same), you can have your recommenders “genericize” the opening. It’s fine for them to say “Jane will be an excellent addition to your school or district because blah blah.” That way you can use the same letters for multiple positions.

      1. msmorlowe*

        Seconding this. Also, I’ve seen a lot of people scan their letters as PDFs and either attach that to an online application or print out the copy, keeping the original for their own files.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Yes – for school positions this generic opening and re-use of reference letters is completely normal. Your references will have to write only one letter and you’ll use that for any school positions to which you apply, so it isn’t the wasteful time sink for them that it might seem to you at first.

        1. School Psych*

          I’m a school psychologist and have applied to many districts through the generic online applications. My current district is closing a school next year so administrators were getting tons of recommendation requests that they could not keep up with. I was told by my administrators that these letters rarely get looked at in the initial application stages and schools typically just want them for your file once they decide to hire you. I applied without the letters and just put in my reference contact info. My references occasionally got surveys through email after I interviewed, but I never got asked to provide letters. Not having these reference letters did not affect the number of interviews I got at all. I think if you wanted to apply without the letters and inform your references they might get contacted to complete email surveys or provide a letter later in the process, you could do so. I’m in a shortage field, so my experience might be different than others in education, but I was specifically told by administrators in my district that do hiring that these letters don’t carry much weight if any.

          1. msmorlowe*

            I think if there’s a shortage then that can work, but there are far too many teacher where I’m living at the moment and deviations from the exact specifications of the application format can get a CV automatically dismissed.

      3. ExTeacher*

        When I was applying for teaching positions several years ago, nearly everyone requested letters of recommendation as part of the initial application packet, and all my recommenders wrote me generic “would be a great addition to your district” letters, without me even asking – that’s just the norm.

        (Which is a good thing – This was in the roughest years after the recession, and I wound up sending over 100 applications over about 6 months. I can’t imagine having to ask for new letters every single time.)

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Agreed, and it seems to apply to all kinds of roles. I applied years ago to be an office assistant at a German immersion school and had to get letters of recommendation for that.

      1. MHR*

        In Germany you need letters from all previous employers to present to your new employer. I wonder if it was a holdover from that?

    3. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      OP 4 — think of it from the school’s perspective: anyone who is going to be working with minors needs serious screening, probably including a background check. Rather than do that for everyone who applies, better to get letters of reference first so you can pare down the number of people you have to check out, because it’s expensive.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I went through all that rigamarole for an admin position with the local school system and didn’t even get called in for an interview. Never again. I felt really bad that I’d made my references jump through those hoops for no reason. If I’d interviewed and could have explained that to them, I wouldn’t have felt that way. I get the reasoning behind it, but to go to so much trouble and not even get a phone screen discouraged me from ever applying there again.

    4. Peep*

      I had to have 3 letters of reference just to apply for a certain university library job — it was a professional level, MA required. (Worse, the same job on a one year temp basis required the same 3 letters to apply! Ugh.) I knew it would cut down significantly on the number of people who applied, which was why I decided to go for it. I asked my references way in advance, apologized for the output of work but explained I thought I had a decent chance, and gave them a bunch of information to help write the letter and make it as easy on them as possible. I did get the interview, but not the job, because they already had an internal candidate that I didn’t know about. It was for a state university system but that location is the only one of the 10(ish) I know of that has required reference letters to -apply- for the job.

      I think it’s ridiculous to make people put out that much effort on your behalf, and I wish they’d come up with other ways to winnow things down rather than burdening others. Just let them know what’s going on in the process and thank them a lot!

  3. SignalLost*

    Holy heck, imagine that intern’s next interview! “Why didn’t you complete your previous internship?” “Because that employer felt it was acceptable to make me work all day with genitals drawn on a cast by another intern who was not disciplined. I felt that their response to the situation meant that they were not prepared to teach me about professional mores, which is of course a great deal of the purpose of an internship.”

    Yikes, this is potentially really bad, depending on your industry. I’ve worked at a school whose interns were blacklisted by a major local employer after one proved to not be up to our standards, let alone the company’s; he turned out to have been cheating consistently and skillfully. I can’t imagine this kind of incident being a great look if you’re in a small or gossipy industry. I think the manager needs to know that his job is very definitely on the line over this, and he needs to really, seriously improve or be fired.

    1. SignalLost*

      And I want to clarify that of course the situation as it is now is very bad indeed; I was thinking more that since this involves interns, who are pretty often in a position of interning at place A and getting long-term employment with place B, while in communication with teachers and cohorts at school C, place D, place E, etc, this story might spread more than it otherwise would. It doesn’t make it any less offensive or horrifying if this took place entirely contained within place A, it just also adds that you have a lot of people who could gossip about your company’s problem without knowing what the ultimate discipline decided on for the intern and manager was.

      1. Annonymouse*

        Actually from reading the letter it sounds like an EMPLOYEE drew the picture not an intern.

        Which is worse because:
        A) Another intern you can chalk it up to them being REALLY new and dumb about what is and isn’t appropriate in the workplace. An employee should know better.

        B) There is an inherent power disparity between the two parties. Which would make it harder for the intern to feel they can push back over it.

        C) The manager clearly sided with the employee – possibly because they think the intern is just a temporary worker bee and has no … Rights isn’t quite what I want. Maybe standing or permanence? But standing with someone who is wrong because they’ll be around longer is very wrong.

        I think both of them need to know this is very inappropriate and the one who drew it should at least be given a formal warning/time off without pay during the investigation/ possibly terminated because of the liability they exposed the company to.

        The manager shouldn’t be off the hook either. Same consequences I think. They had the power and duty to fix this and were negligent to say the least.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously. I have very little to add except to say that my jaw dropped, and I audibly said “OMG” and gasped.

      This is shockingly horrible behavior on the part of the manager. In addition to completely ignoring a serious lapse of basic norms, he then subjected the intern to ongoing humiliation and laughed it off. If he doesn’t understand that this is both callous (at best) and wildly inappropriate, he should not be managing anyone.

      And also, who’s going to talk to the employee who did this (it doesn’t sound like he’s an intern, but rather, permanent staff)? Is he going to be disciplined or receive counseling/training? Because it is mind-boggling that he would ever think it’s ok to draw genitalia on someone’s cast.

      1. Sara*

        And, maybe someone should reach out to the intern who left to apologize. She won’t come back, I’m sure, but attempting to help her find another placement or otherwise at least showing it was finally dealt with might keep her from badmouthing the company – if it was me I’d make darn sure that good students in my orbit would not even bother applying to such a place

        1. M_Lynn*

          SERIOUSLY. It is only right for the OP to reach out to her and say that this wasn’t at all the right way to handle things and she’s horrified by how the intern was treated, that she is taking discipline seriously (and give whatever details are appropriate about the manager AND the employee who committed the offense), and that the OP is so SO sorry. It’s also important that the OP offer to serve as a reference for the intern, if at all possible, or just to be able to officially explain why the intern left her position in a way that doesn’t screw her over for future jobs. I think the company should also offer to reimburse her for any costs of re-doing her cast.

              1. Mrs. Bridges*

                Because she’s acting on behalf of a larger company, not simply as herself. I’m not disagreeing with your suggestions, I had the same thought, but she should check with her company’s legal department to make sure that it’s done appropriately and without opening some new can of worms. Suppose the intern decides to sue, for example; suppose HER lawyer is willing to be unscrupulous; OP would have to be careful that she didn’t inadvertently create some terrible scenario for herself or leave herself or the company open to greater liability.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I understand the concern but think it’s highly unlikely (a) that the intern will sue, and (b) that any of the recommended actions result in OP binding the employer or increasing liability.

                  The actions that M_Lynn has suggested—apologizing to the intern for the fact that they had this experience, negotiating an appropriate explanation for why the intern quit, covering medical costs to remove/replace the cast, and serving as a strong reference—don’t leave OP’s company open to any greater liability than they currently have.

                2. Observer*

                  I think that not only do they not open any further liability – that horse has left the barn – it serves to lessen the risk. On of the things that gets looked at when staff misbehave is how the PTB respond. If they actually do something to correct the problem, that helps to protect them from the consequences of the behavior.

                3. Just Another Techie*

                  One thing I learned as the child of a doctor is that patients who believe you did your best to care for them almost never sue for malpractice, even if they were badly injured by medical mistakes. If you’re an arrogant j*ck*ss though, hoo boy do they want blood. I suspect the same is true for poorly treated employees. No one actually wants to sue. It’s a giant hassle, a huge risk (you generally have to pay a retainer upfront unless you are lucky enough to find a lawyer confident enough to take your case on contingency), it’s emotionally draining, and it potentially impacts your ability to get a job later (no one wants to hire the candidate who sued their last employer).

              2. Jen*

                This is a huge misconception that create a problems. Studies have shown that apologies make someone less likely to sue,.not more. Moreover an apology when something clearly on its face wrong has happened wouldn’t change the situation were the intern to sue (which is extraordinarily unlikely, those kinds of suits are expensive and recovery for someone like an intern unlikely to cover costs). The era of the “don’t say anything ever or apologize” lawyering was big in the 90s, but cultural understandings flipped it.

                1. SunshineOH*

                  This. And, I hate the idea that anyone would need to lawyer up just to do what’s decent.

                  And also… are all of these people 14 years old? Who think a this is funny??

                2. Trout 'Waver*

                  Honestly, I’d find it slightly humorous if it was a person who would find it humorous also, and we were out drinking the night before he got the cast off. But to do it to a coworker while she’s trying to work is so far beyond the pale that words escape me.

                3. One of the Sarahs*

                  I’ve seen this with 2 different organisations that turned out to have big discrepancies between pay for women and man whose jobs were on the same pay band.

                  Organisation A, a large, local one, gave the effected women an amount of money, as well as sorting out the pay, apologised, laid out how they would make sure they would prevent it happening in the future, and, most importantly, reassured all staff that if any of them chose to go to the employment tribunal, they wouldn’t face negativity as a result. Hardly anyone did, at all, and the apology was cited, in follow-up, as a huge reason why not – the women were recognised and empathised with.

                  Organisation B, a university, went the opposite route – taking the “never apologise, never explain” approach, and when women went to the employment tribunal, made their lives hell – and then had a swathe of follow-up tribunal cases.

                  I know the stereotype of the USA is that it’s sue-happy – but I also know that’s a stereotype, not reality. There’s evidence that the average person absolutely wants to avoid the colossal hassle and cost of a law-suit, and that genuine apologies, and mitigating actions, as M-lynne suggests, go a really long way to make people feel better.

                4. Owl*

                  I think it’s bizarre that people were even signing her cast to begin with. Do grown-ups do that? What’s the point?

                5. Will "scifantasy" Frank*

                  @Owl: Let’s go with, it’s not unheard of.

                  The point, as you asked, is to have something that turns the plaster you’re stuck with and have to look at and deal with every day into something that makes you smile when you look at it, because it has all sorts of messages of support and friendship, instead of just a block of blank immobilizing material you have to wrap when you shower.

                6. Bend & Snap*

                  Seeking legal counsel within the company isn’t “lawyering up,” it’s CYA.

                7. Kate the Purple*

                  I have to politely disagree. Apologies can be a good thing, yes. But if a company is worried about potential legal consequences, an apology could be a HUGE mistake. It’s not about preventing the other person from suing, it’s the fact that an apology could later be used as an admission of fault if the other party ever decides to sue. A lawyer can even help the company write an apology that comes from them and not the lawyer.

                8. Natalie*

                  @ Kate the Purple, IIRC that’s mostly urban legend. Many US states have statutes that specifically prohibit an apology from being used as evidence of liability, and even outside of those states I don’t believe it’s generally considered any kind of slam dunk.

                9. JHunz*

                  Kate, with all due respect, the fault ship has already sailed. The intern has photo evidence, written evidence (the email chain), and multiple corroborating witnesses. The only thing OP can do here is make a lawsuit less likely to be filed in the first place.

                10. Observer*

                  @Kate the Purple, not only is this an urban legend, in this case it doesn’t matter. There is absolutely no way the company can claim that this did not happen, so there is no issue of “admitting” something that is in question. Beyond that, for the company to NOT admit liability is what opens them up to trouble. If they try to claim that this is not an issue, that no one did anything wrong, or that nothing needs to be done about this, they WILL lose if someone decides to sue or the EEOC comes after them.

                  OTOH, if they say “this was a one off, but it was really, really bad and this is what we are doing about it” they have a chance of coming off ok. Also, if this intern came through a school program or the like, the school is likely tot take a MUCH harder line if the place refuses to admit that this was a really bad thing.

                11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @Kate, as a matter of law, in most states that’s untrue. Under federal law, and also in most states, it is impermissible to use any of the following actions to prove fault: an apology; an offer to settle; having insurance or making an insurance claim related to the underlying problem.

                  And as others have noted, there’s ample and growing evidence that sincere apologies that acknowledge that someone was wronged result in a decreased probability that the person harmed will sue.

                  And as stated above, the bad behavior has already happened. Apologizing does not increase or decrease legal liability in this context.

        2. Gingerblue*

          Total agreement–explain what’s been done to ensure this behavior isn’t repeated, tell her she’s welcome to come back, preferably working with other people, apologize profusely, and offer to pay any costs she incurred from this. (And I wonder how long this email chain she provided was? It sounds like this wasn’t just a crummy response from her manager in the moment, but included doubling down on it in writing after the fact? I mean, geez.)

          1. The Bread burglar*

            Only if whats been done is firing them both.

            Seriously this should absolutely be considered sexual harassment. He drew explicit picture on a colleagues arm without their consent (and actually said he wasnt going to -major trust violation) and then the employee was forced to walk around with it in front of their entire organisation and clients which is incredibly demeaning. That kind of stuff stays with people for years.

            1. Gingerblue*

              While I’d favor firing them both myself, I also think that even if the company is unwilling to do that, they should give the intern the agency here to either accept or reject the position. If they, say, discipline the two involved, mandate training for them, and can offer her a job in another department, it should be her choice whether that’s good enough to come back or not. After all, she presumably took this job for a reason, and she’s suffering a career or financial setback from quitting. She may very well feel that coming back is woth it if the penis-drawer has been moved to another department and the manger demoted. Adding a paternalistic scoop of “we’re going to manage her emotions about this for her” is not the way to go.

        3. JessaB*

          Not only the intern, if the intern is getting credits for this make sure she’s evaluated positively, and if necessary and she wants you to, explain to whatever professor/university/agency that placed her that her leaving was so very not her fault. If she wants you to and you have connections in your industry see if you can help her line up a replacement internship. This could seriously mess up her grades, and her future job plans. It needs to be made absolutely clear to those people responsible for that, that she’s a good worker and not a flake.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        It’s like the cave-man version of a d*ck pic: “You young female. Me draw d*ck pic. Heh. Heh.”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I kept thinking of that Uber meeting to address sexual harassment, and the attitude that if young women would just not make a fuss about having genitalia and profanity inscribed on their bodies then there wouldn’t even be a problem but noooooo, this one raised a fuss…

          It seems like there are two at-fault managers in the letter–his, who did nothing to discipline his employee, and hers, who refused to stand up for her or even let her deal with this. It seems OP doesn’t manage his manager, but she should both deal with her own report and escalate up his chain until someone doesn’t say “Ha ha good one on that intern.”

          (And I assume that her doctor is not providing an office visit and redoing the cast for free; this meant a possibly quite significant cost to her simply to not be forced to spend the next 6 weeks receiving comments on the genitalia someone inscribed on her–I completely sympathize with deciding not to go back.)

          1. kittymommy*

            I was wondering about the additional cost as well. If they were charged something the company should, in good faith, Matt the additional cost.
            And someone needs to have a conversation with the employee. This is ridiculous!

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This!!! That person should be seriously reprimanded or terminated and that is something else that should be discussed with his manager when also having the conversation Alison outlined.

      4. plain_jane*

        Yes, I came here to say that #1 needs to talk to HR about the employee as well as the manager who laughed it off. This needs to be documented and the employee spoken with.

        The intern who left needs to have a note put on her file that if anyone calls for a reference check or wants to know why she didn’t complete her internship that there were no issues with _her_.

        1. Justme*

          Yeah, the employee who drew the pic needs to be fired for that. I don’t often advocate firing someone on here, but this was ridiculous and inexcusable.

          1. Newby*

            Not only did he think it was ok (seriously bad judgement), he did it to someone with less power than him and then had his view that this was ok reinforced by his manager. At the very least he needs to be put on warning and receive some intensive retaining on what is appropriate in the workplace.

      5. GrandBargain*

        Why did you change the gender of the manager in your post? AAM called the manager ‘she’ in the original response… that may be because there is something in the original letter that we cannot see, or it may be that AAM is simply following the site’s usual practice of referring to unidentified individuals with ‘her’ or ‘she.’

        BTW, M or F doesn’t change the horribleness of the manager’s response and doesn’t change that the employee and manager created an incredibly hostile environment.

            1. GrandBargain*

              I see it now. Thanks. Wow, a whole thread about it. And, sorry to PCBH for jumping to my own conclusion. :)

        1. Vicki*

          I am assuming that Alison called the manager “she” because Alison defaults to “she” on all of her responses.

          Personally, I’m thinking this manager is more likely (oh gods I hope) a “he”.

    3. Junior Dev*

      What does happen to people who leave their jobs over this? I remember being afraid to speak out against a former creepy boss because it was my first job in an industry I desperately wanted to break into and I had no idea what I’d say at a future interview if I had no references and only one prematurely ended internship.

      1. SignalLost*

        I’m sure other commenters have a better response, but I feel like in the case of this intern, she has a really iron-clad reason to explain why she left (assuming the internship was of enough duration that she leaves it on her resume) because almost everyone will understand that it is not acceptable or funny to draw genitals on someone’s cast and then force that person to work (with client contact!) the rest of the day with the defacing image visible, but in your case (I am assuming you’re female-identifying from the comment below) you might honestly be SOL because so many people don’t believe that sexual harassment is a thing. I mean, OBVIOUSLY you wanted creeper!boss to creep on you, you’re just making it up that you didn’t. (This is extremely sarcastic, which I also hope is obvious.) I would probably look at reframing the answer in a really different way that’s much harder to prove – like, “I found that, while the internship was advertised as working very hands-on making web apps from the ground up, the company culture was very siloed and I was not learning the things I needed to know to be a real-world developer, so we agreed to part ways amicably” or something like that, if you can justify it. Depending on the bootcamp you did, if you can’t find something at least close to a truth about the internship as a reason you left, I might consider “I had to leave the internship early due to an unanticipated health issue that has since been resolved”, because having some jackwagon perv on you counts as a health issue in my book. (I say this depends on the bootcamp because it might work better if you’re in a self-directed program like Free Code Camp. Not sure how the timing would play out with an in-person program like Code Fellows.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think the issue with answering honestly is less that some people don’t believe sexual harassment is a thing (although that is true) and more that when you mention something really bizarre like this into an interview, it’s so shocking that it can distract from what you want them to be focused on: your skills.

          1. Junior Dev*

            Alison, where do you think the line is between “badmouthing your last employer” and “being honest about why you left”? Is it more in how you address the issue, in how bad the problem is, or what? Because with this there’s really no way to explain without the old employer looking really bad, and like you said, it ends up being a distraction.

              1. Anon for this one*

                I would vote for getting this post. I’ve been fired for some truly egregious reasons (to exact revenge on my significant other; because I was getting treatment for a potentially terminal health condition, etc.) and I always had concerns that the old “don’t speak ill of former employers” rule would ensure that I paid the price instead of the actual bad actors. So “being fired for seeking medical care” became “I had a family emergency” and the bad actors kept getting away with acting badly.

                1. Colette*

                  Telling a potential employer that you were fired because you were sick is unlikely to hurt your former employer. That’s the kind of thing you can raise internally if you want the perpetrator to face consequences, but it will more likely hurt you externally since someone who doesn’t know either of you has no way to know the full story.

                2. Say what, now?*

                  Where it’s better to call the bad behavior out is when you have someone looking to interview with the bad employer. If your friend or acquaintance were to say “Hey, I remembered that you worked for Teapots Inc. I’m thinking about applying. Do you have any advice for me?”

                  Then you might want to say something honest. Depending upon how embarrassing it might be for you to tell the whole story you might just leave it at “they are poor at handling X and I had issues getting them to take Y seriously” just broad strokes.

                3. Antilles*

                  the bad actors kept getting away with acting badly
                  The unfortunate brutal reality is that they’ll keep getting away with it regardless.
                  If you work in a medium or large industry (or something like “HR” which is not-industry specific), paths don’t really cross. The interviewer might be horrified to hear that Bad Company X tried to harvest your organs, but it won’t affect the relationships with that firm because they don’t really have any contact.
                  Whereas if you work in a small industry, experienced people *already* know who the bad firms are (but those firms are somehow surviving anyways), so you’re just another item in the “stories I’ve heard about Johnny’s Fly-By-Night Teapot Design” pile.

                4. TYI*

                  I would also like to see a post about this! I had to quity my last job because I was sexually assaulted on the job by a shareholder. Management tried to cover it up and coerce me to stay silent. They blamed me for what I was wearing, for being friendly, trying to say I led him on. They also tried to imply I had a close relationship with him. I ended having to call the police, the union, and even then the company dragged it out for a month.

                  I got an apology from the shareholder (big whoop) and management proceeded to make my life hell for the next year I was stuck there. Not to mention hostility from some of my co-workers.

            1. Jam Today*

              I decided to be really blunt about leaving a previous job after a year of harassment by a manager. The responses have been really interesting, I could probably write a few good blog posts or the thesis for a term paper on it! There is definitely a little bit of a derailment, but its been more positive than not. I had one company founder say he was glad I’d said it, because many (most?) women are so embarrassed or even still-traumatized by it that the impact of harassment on womens’ employment is really understated and poorly understood by people other than sociologists or HR professionals.

              I don’t get into the details, and nobody has asked, they can see that it still hurts me even nearly a decade later, but at least my experience at that company had been largely positive immediately prior to that and I do talk about what I accomplished there, how I worked with my team, etc. so its less of a “let me tell you about my crappy former employer!” and more of a “well I was doing really cool enjoyable stuff and then this happened”.

            2. ThatGirl*

              My husband left his last job because he was subjected to physical abuse from clients (it was a group home) and nothing was done about it, and it took him awhile to figure out how honest to be about that. The good news is that was 8 years ago and he’s got tons of job history since then, while the place he worked has since shut down.

        2. Junior Dev*

          Luckily I did end up calling out my boss and he did stop. But I remember being so scared.

          I wrote about my experiences in the tech industry in the “jobs that warped your perspective” thread. There is so much grossness out there, and it’s hard when you’re first starting out and don’t know where to turn for help.

    4. Artemesia*

      It wasn’t another intern; it was an employee. I don’t understand why Alison didn’t deal with the incident as well as the incompetent manager. The person who drew the picture should be fired or at least put on some sort of notice; the manager should be put on a PIP to maintain the management position or if the response is as lame as it has been so far, demoted at least.

      I have had to deal with a situation involving an intern who did something so horrifying that it jeopardizes an entire program (come to think of it — twice — once for a professional student who molested a client and once for an undergrad who did something shocking using employer Email) It jeopardizes the entire program. I would think a staff member doing this and then the manager treating the intern like this when she complained would jeopardize the company’s ability to maintain internship programs or recruit good candidates from that school.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, the employee needs to be dealt with too. (As for why I didn’t address it: I plead being frazzled, as evidenced by the fact that for the first time in years, I forgot to put the short-answer post up at midnight. Realized it 45 minutes later and had to scramble to finish it. I’m in the middle of buying a house and selling a house and it is chaos.)

        1. Anlyn*

          Oh man, I’m trying to do that too, and yes, it is frazzling (if that’s not a word, it should be).

        2. Artemesia*

          Didn’t mean to be so critical there. Just flabbergasted that one of the first suggestions was not firing the miscreant.

          Think of the house transition as a great time to simplify your life; I know when we moved from big house to small condo in another city after 25 years in a house, we probably saved the kids a nightmare week of cleaning out our stuff when we croak. I love having a kitchen that tiny though it is, has just the stuff we need as all the one use appliances (except toaster and espresso machine) and all the old kitchen equipment, dishes etc all got donated to refugee resettlement along with most of the furniture — and we started minimalist with only things we absolutely use every week. Transformed our lives. Our cat also made the transition seamlessly; hope yours do too.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            Take it from an adult kid who is STILL digging through a house full of stuff: they will call your memory blessed. I’m working on making sure I don’t leave a houseful of excess stuff and things to clean up after for my heirs (I have no kids, but somebody’s still got to be the executor and clean up the stuff).

            As the saying goes, “you can’t take it with you.”

            1. the gold digger*

              A week? That is an optimistic estimate. :) It took Primo a few months to clear out his parents’ house, although part of the delay was figuring out what to do with their porn collection, naked photos, and – equipment.

            2. mrs__peel*

              My mother (after spending considerable time sorting through her late parents’ possessions) has winnowed her own down to a studio apartment, specifically so I won’t have to go through that myself later. I’m definitely VERY grateful!

      2. Judy (since 2010)*

        If the university the intern attends has a formal internship program, the company may be banned from participating after this.

        1. Justme*

          And the intern could fail their internship hours for that behavior, and may have to see a disciplinary committee. If it was an intern.

    5. JamieS*

      I think the offender was an employee and not an intern. Although, as sad as it sounds, I’m finding myself hoping it was another intern. Preferably one working there as part of his middle school’s work experience program.

  4. BuildMeUp*

    #1 – And make sure the employee who did the drawing is disciplined, too!

    After this is handled, I would also follow up with the intern to let her know that the issue has been taken care of (and how you handled it), and that she is welcome to come back to her position if she wants to, but you understand if she doesn’t.

    1. Doorclosed*

      Yea I think these are both important pieces that were left out of Alison’s response. Not to mention that this sort of thing is hard for a young emoloyee who may be questioning if they did the right thing and even whether they want to work in the industry given this incident.

      1. KarenT*

        Agreed. I just can’t picture a, “Bob, no more drawing penises on the interns’ casts. Can you do that?” conversation. I’m not entirely sure I wouldn’t fire the manager, either. Her laughing, keeping the intern client facing, not letting the intern leave to fix it, and then apparently verifying this by email? That’s just as bad, if not worse behaviour.

      2. Observer*

        I have no problem with firing – this really was egregious enough. But I could see a stern “One more srong step, and you;re out. Even if it’s not as egregious, you are OUT. You’ve shown SUCH bad judgement that you’ve used up all of your good will.” accompanied by making sure that he’s kept under a microscope for a good while.

    2. Statler von Waldorf*

      I think the manager needs to be let go, as they had the greater authority and responsibility to handle the situation properly, and they did the exact opposite of that. However, I could see a teachable moment for dick-drawer. Please note that I will not be held responsible for anyone actually following this legally questionable advice, offer invalid where prohibited by law, etc.

      I would call dick-drawer into my office and offer him a choice. He can either resign, or I can draw an even bigger dick right on his face, which he would wear for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t have him meet with clients, but he will be dealing with his coworkers. I would especially make sure to schedule a meeting that he would be required to attend. I’d hope that maybe he will learn some empathy. He might quit, which wouldn’t really bother me. If nothing else, I feel fairly confident that he wouldn’t do anything that stupid again.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Agreed except most companies don’t talk openly about employees being disciplined. They could just say it’s been addressed and not go into the details.

    4. Kat A.*

      Agreed. I think Alison should have addressed the matter of the person who drew — not only a sex organ on the cast — but also profanity. That person should be fired immediately, IMO. And I’d fire the manager, too.

      Someone else chimed in that the company should cover the cost of the cast being covered. I also agree with that. The company shouldn’t wait until the former intern asks for it, they should be proactive and offer to pay and APOLOGIZE PROFUSELY for what happened.

    1. StarHopper*

      I realize what you meant (and completely agree) but my mind just went to a kitchen drawer full of, well…

      1. RVA Cat*

        Or he needs to have his own cast – like the one in a certain Key & Peele skit (parody rap video).

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Glad I’m not the only one thinking that…where else do you keep your dick drawings.

    2. Jen*

      I also don’t believe this would be an over-reaction. If the intern was from a school and I was a teacher or coordinator there, I would ban OP’s company from the internship program or warn future students about them. They treated this intern terribly.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Honestly, I’m shocked that this story hasn’t made the rounds on social media already.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          If it does, I hope it has the company name (and hopefully the manager’s name!) attached to it.

          1. Natalie*

            IMO it’s far more likely she hasn’t told anyone, or has been vague about the details. It’s really common for people targeted by outrageous behavior to feel embarrassed, especially when they are young.

        2. Jadelyn*

          That was my first thought – if I’d been that intern, I’d have immediately taken to social media with the story. Let the company deal with THAT bundle of bad press.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Complete with photos of the cast and naming & shaming the person who did it and the manager who laughed.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I don’t either, because, while it’s not like anyone was injured, it’s such a blatantly obvious example of inappropriate behavior. Like, if we can’t trust people a) not to do this and b) to discipline appropriately when it happens, we can’t trust them with all sorts of far more complex things.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Well one could argue the intern was injured, at least emotionally. She did cut off contact after all.

    3. LBK*

      I agree with Alison’s assessment that if the manager is newer/has a good track record and seems mortified when this is brought to her attention, then she can stay. But yeah, the intern needs to go. You don’t have as much investment in an intern as you do in a FTE.

        1. LBK*

          Oh, whoops, for some reason I assumed it was another intern even though it’s not specified. Maybe because I can’t imagine a grown adult employee doing something so immature.

          Either way, I still think the manager has a liiiiittle more leeway here depending on how she reacts when this is raised.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I don’t know. Someone who laughs at a complaint of sexual harassment doesn’t deserve a single inch of leeway, in my opinion. If you can’t take that situation seriously, that in and of itself is such an egregious lack of judgment that I wouldn’t want you anywhere near my staff in any capacity.

            1. LBK*

              Eh, I think there’s plenty of people who wouldn’t immediately jump to considering this sexual harassment upon first hearing about it. Most people associate that term with inappropriate touching or comments even though the legal definition is broader (and I would think this would be a borderline case anyway, since my understanding is that it has to be a pretty severe offense for a one-time occurrence to qualify as sexual harassment).

              My point is that I could feasibly see a scenario in which the manager just viewed this as a stupid, mildly offensive joke and didn’t really think it through, and if that seemed out of character for this manager I’d be willing to have stern coaching discussion with them instead of going straight to deciding they were irreconcilably unfit to manage.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I feel like unwanted exposure to images of genitalia (non-job-related, obvs for medical professionals this becomes a bit different based on context) is pretty clear-cut sexual harassment. Especially when it’s literally physically placed on someone’s body like that, in a way they can’t easily remove.

                1. LBK*

                  I think calling a crude doodle an “image of genitalia” is a bit hyperbolic, this isn’t the same as pervs who email photos of their junk to their coworkers. Anyone who attended middle school has probably been desensitized to the kind of drawing I’m assuming is in question here. I don’t think the issue is being exposed to a graphic image, it’s that it’s just not an appropriate thing to have on you at work especially when you have to be around clients, the same as profanity would be.

                2. Zahra*

                  Isn’t it technically true, though? This kind of doodle represents male genitalia and a doodle is a drawing, an image.

                  It’s not hyperbolic to name things for what they are. That one may not think of it that way doesn’t make it otherwise.

                  And some people may not want that kind of image on them in any environment, not just at work. I find such drawings childish and it definitely influences my perception of the drawer’s character, professional *and* otherwise.

      1. Hedgehog*

        I actually think the manager showed worse judgment. Or at least, equally bad judgment, but a manager should be held to a higher standard not a lower one.

    4. OhNo*

      Agreed. There is not amount of training that could really make up for that behavior, so they both need to go.

  5. MadGrad*

    #1 Is so so awful. Interns are already in a vulnerable place without people trying to make them uncomfortable and forcing them into losing out on opportunities.

    OP, was this a university credit internship? If so, you’d better do some damage control with the school as well. They’ll be unlikely to send people your way in the future if your company mistreated their students, and you owe the intern backup for her claims in case she’s having trouble there. You should also offer her (even if she isn’t answering) a stellar reference if she needs it and maybe the option of first shot at future internships on other teams. Your company failed her and she deserves any extra help you can provide.

    1. Cassandra*

      Yes, I would recommend this also. If we heard about this incident, no way would any of our students go to that place ever again unless we had ironclad reason to believe nothing of the sort would happen again, and the place can be trusted to demonstrate acceptable management practices faced with sexual harassment.

    2. Frozen Ginger*

      Even if it wasn’t for credit, if the internship was arranged through the school, you definitely need to do damage control.

      My school had several “blacklisted” employers who weren’t allowed to recruit on campus.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yes, I have been in companies where some weird stuff happened with an intern – long story short, the intern was (basically) assigned to stockroom duty. The office’s manager thought it was a source of cheap labor; he didn’t understand what an internship is supposed to provice.

      That stunt jeopardized the company’s involvement with the internship program at that university.

      1. Evan Þ*

        For a moment, I read that as if that the intern was assigned to stockroom duty after he’d gotten into weird stuff (like maybe drawing inappropriate things on another intern’s cast?) That wouldn’t be the worst way of handling the situation…

  6. Junior Dev*

    Did I miss something about what happened to the penis-drawing employee? There’s no way he should still be working there. What a disgusting creep.

    When I did my vocational training/coding bootcamp a couple years ago there was a guy in my class when would make very inappropriate sexual jokes and all kinds of bigoted (mostly sexist and transphobic) comments. I finally told him to stop and he started targeting me specifically after that. The teachers and administrators were fairly useless and it’s part of the reason I warn anyone I can in my city not to attend that program.

    Don’t be like my old teachers, OP. Deal with this. It’s unacceptable on a moral level and it will get your company into legal trouble sooner or later, even if not from this specific intern, from the next person who is treated this way.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Oh, nothing happened to him. His manager thinks he’s funny.

      Personally, I’d fire both of them.

  7. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – I feel like that’s kind of a partial answer. I mean, I agree with you, but there are two other big issues that jump out at me:

    – The employee who did this should be either fired or given a final warning. But I’d lean toward firing.

    – The company should try to make things right with the intern, including paying for whatever it cost her to have the cast covered up again (I’m sure that wasn’t a free service), and if it was a paid internship paying her for the rest of the time she would have been there, apologizing to her and her school, and making sure you give her a good reference.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      I was coming here to say exactly this.
      Perhaps there’s a way for the intern to complete her internship, especially if the staff member is fired, or if OP could find her a position on another team.

    2. Myrin*

      Agreed on all counts.

      I have to say, the only thing that’s good about this whole mess is that it’s actually the big(ger) boss who wrote in here and who has the authority and standing to do something about it. Imagine if it were just a random horrified peer. :|

      1. OhNo*

        I shudder to think. At least this workplace has the OP as a reasonable person up the chain. If there wasn’t evidence of someone in management with sense, it would be awful.

    3. Aurion*

      Agreed. I am so angry for the intern. I hope the other colleagues ripped the problem employee a new one too, though if the employee’s manager is laughing it off I don’t have high hopes there.

      That poor intern!

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. Weiner Bro needs to go! Honestly I’m even more furious at his manager – who I’m guessing either has no women on in his frat house of a team or they ‘somehow’ never stay long….

    4. Jen*

      I would also consider the impact that not disciplining the manager would have on other staff members. If I was working in this environment and I witnessed this behavior, you’d bet I would start looking for another job. Because a boss who tolerates sexual harassment is toxic.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, this is a huge point here. And if there’s a possibility you’re retaining the manager who did nothing, you really have to look at his history with female team members outside of this incident–can he retain them, and do they get recommended for promotions and growth opportunities appropriately?

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I’m glad I’m not the only one assuming the laughing manager is male even though their gender is not specified. Because… yeah.

          1. fposte*

            I read the post when it went up and Alison called the manager “he”–I see now that she’s amended it and realized she didn’t know the gender.

    5. Jubilance*

      Agreed with all of your suggestions. The employer has to make this right, and that includes serious consequences for the offenders and making the intern whole.

    6. Shadow*

      That’s a little excessive. I’d fire the culprit, discipline the manager, and call the intern to apologize and offer to bring her back under another manager.

  8. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – nothing in your letter indicates that you’re losing control. Your employee made plans based on you giving him the day off. That’s all there is. You need to honor it – trust goes both ways in an employee/manager relationship and if your employees don’t trust you to honor your commitments you’re going to be in a world of hurt.

    1. Dinosaur*

      I did my time in retail. I worked damn hard and earned promotions and raises at each company I worked at. And if I was that employee and I was forced to come in, I’d put in my two weeks right then. My time off is mine. OP, don’t try to make that employee come in.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I worked retail and in this situation I would have said yes to the manager who treated me with respect and no to the manager who didn’t.

        But honestly I think OP needs to reschedule their training course. If you want people to have certain priorities, it’s really important to lead by example and demonstrate those yourself.

      2. PaperTowel*

        I’m a bit grossed out by the comment that the employee’s first commitment is to their job. I’ve had so many min wage service jobs where management had it in their head that this job that didn’t even pay a living wage should be the thing we staff lived and breathed and committed to seven days per week if necessary, totally tone deaf. I always had much more respect for the employer who acknowledged when it came up that most staff members were there because they had bills to pay and mouths to feed and seriously, nobody’s ‘first commitment’ in their life was to flipping burgers or cleaning bathrooms (not that there’s anything wronf with either of those, I’ve done both!). It’s like expecting a career level devotion to a job from a worker doing a non career job.

        You say you’re new to managing and I think this is a really valuable lesson. Your word is noticed by your staff members. If you tell them they can have the day off, you make sure you respect that later. If you promise one thing then demand another you’ll incredibly quickly lose respect and goodwill! I’ve left decent jobs due to bosses who didn’t show me or my colleagues respect.

        People have rich varied lives outside of work. The staff member could have planned to go for essential medical treatment they don’t want to share. A date to strengthen their relationship. Their kid’s school play. To work on an essay for a course. They may have brought others in and got them to change their schedules too! Even if their plan was just to sit and play video games in their pants all day that’s still a plan they are entitled to carry out. I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if you were given a day off then told to come in.

        1. Sally Sue*

          I completely agree. My job is a means to an end. It is not my first priority. A company doesn’t care about you or love you. Or even agree to take care of you. I don’t work a min. wage job and I still feel this way.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Agree. My job is this thing I have to do in order to be able to support my family. My family is my first priority. There are many jobs available where I live, but I only have one family. How is it even a question which one is the higher priority?

            Want to add, I have never had a manager who did not understand that, since they were all on the same page with me on that themselves.

          2. Grapey*

            When they do, though, I like to reward them with my loyalty. I mostly consider myself as working for my boss (a person) instead of for a company (an amorphous entity.)

        2. Jen*

          Who hasn’t heard or experienced the story of a manager at a crappy minimum wage job trying to tell someone in school they need to prioritize crappy job over education or miss their grandparents funeral for $7/hr. Managers try to foist this on in insane situations (happened to me).

          1. ...with a K*

            Happened to me too. I worked at a crappy jewelry store in the mall, and was so sick and contageous with a cold I should not have been near customers. My 25 year old boss told me I had to find a replacement to cover my shift (there were only like, 8 employees total) and no one could, so I asked if he could (he also worked the floor). He told me that his mom invited him over for dinner so I’d just have to come in sick. Quitting that job was the happiest day of my life.

            1. LadyL*

              Same thing happened to me, except I had severe food poisoning and I worked at a restaurant. A restaurant with signs posted all over the kitchen about how we were forbidden to come to work if we had certain ailments, such as food poisoning. But none of my teenaged coworkers would cover my shift, and I didn’t want to get fired as I needed the money (also I’m an authority-pleaser, something I don’t much like about myself), so I came in. I did my best to ensure minimal food contact, but I can assure you I’m far from the only person who has touched your food while contagious because they needed the job. The way we treat service workers in our society is killing us all.

              1. Iris Eyes*

                Add to that that most people in those positions can’t afford losing the $40 they would make on their shift as that’s probably at least a week of groceries, maybe two. So there are managers who only have the position because of seniority and no very few management skills/training who are asking people to do stupid and possibly illegal things and employees who have no PTO that they can use to keep a minor illness from becoming a major issue.

                Oh and the “you’re sick and if you want off you are the one who has to find someone to cover your shift even if you can’t see straight” mentality is way to rampant. Yes if you want to get a day off for some other reason but if you are sick that really should be a managers job.

                Of course even a manager who is trying to do things well gets hamstrung by the eternal mantra of keeping costs down, which prevents them from hiring enough people to be able to run the place when someone calls in sick (as they inevitably will.) Instead the managers are in a lot of cases paid less than their hourly employees because they are salaried and its ok to make them work 60+ hours to cover the lack of coverage.

          2. Lindsay J*

            Yeah, one of the places I worked for wouldn’t give kids off for prom or for graduation, and had black out days during Christmas and Thanksgiving.

            That’s shitty for adults as it is. But for teenagers you’re potentially screwing over their entire family’s holiday plans.

            For a minimum wage job.

            They also fell back hard on the “legally we don’t need to give you breaks, so if you do get one we’re doing you a favor and if you don’t you’ll just have to deal.”

            I was a low level supervisor at the time and pushed back on this shit as hard as I could, but when it’s coming from the top of the company pushing back doesn’t do much. :(

            When I worked retail I made it clear to my supervisors/managers that if I requested off it was because I really needed it and I wouldn’t be in and they could either plan ahead for my absence, or be left scrambling that day to find someone if they didn’t. (I only got away with that because I was generally a good and reliable employee and we were perpetually understaffed so firing me would have been counter-productive to them. I know for a lot of people in these types of jobs push-back isn’t an option).

            I also turned off my phone on days I was off and had plans and especially days I had requested off, because I knew that more likely than not work would call me asking me if I could come in, and would guilt trip me if I said I was unavailable.

            I really don’t miss that. It seemed like they acted like they couldn’t function without me. Yet I knew that if they needed to fire me for some reason they wouldn’t give it a second thought and would get on just fine. (And if they really couldn’t function without me they should have been paying me a lot more than $7 an hour).

            1. NoRetailNoCry*

              I worked at a grocery store in high school and they wouldn’t give me four days off to travel with my family down to Florida to visit my aunt who I hadn’t seen in years. My parents went on their own and I spent a week by myself taking care of the house/animals/gardens.

              1. Michele*

                When I was in high school, I worked a fast food job. Two weeks before I was supposed to leave for college, I wanted to take a long weekend for a trip with my parents. My boss said no because it was going to be too busy. Then he gave the next person who asked the weekend off. I quit then and there before they had a chance to hire a replacement.

            2. Wendy Darling*

              I worked as a temp in a mailroom making a couple bucks over minimum wage (but nowhere near an actual living wage in my city) and my boss told me that if I took 2 days off for my mom’s brain surgery (one day for the day of the surgery and one day to help out when she was released from the hospital) he’d replace me with a new temp so not to bother coming back.

              I regret not quitting. I regret not kicking my manager in the shin and then quitting. I regret not making a series of offensive Napoleon jokes (he was very short and a total tyrant) and then quitting. I thought I needed the money. The job didn’t even pay enough to cover both rent and food, I was borrowing money to pay for food and health insurance. From my parents, who probably would have thrown confetti and written me a check if I ragequit.

            3. Turtle Candle*

              It’s a self-reinforcing problem, too. I had to travel for a scholarship interview. My retail boss approved it and then last minute revoked his approval because of scheduling changes. I quit, because $150,000 of scholarships was worth more than a $5.25/hour grocery bagging job.

              And then I heard from coworkers that he was even worse, because he was down one reliable bagger. Whereas he could have kept me for the rest of senior year if he’d respected one four-day time off request!

          3. Insert name here*

            Yep! My retail management was like this. #2 is every bad service industry manager who is writing to an actual good manager whining about how dare her employee want to take off time he already had approved off because he should live and breathe for the job (but op is exempt from that of course!) It would be funny if it wasn’t so stereotypical and irritating when you’re the employee being told to cancel your plans (with no accommodation if it’s something nonrefundable either).
            That’s how you get high turnover…but of course it’s never the managers fault

            1. Michele*

              And the manager probably complains that they can’t find good employees and that the employees have no work ethic.

          4. Jadelyn*

            We’ve heard those stories right here, for that matter – remember the call center manager who refused to give their star employee time off to go to her college graduation? Then felt like she should track down the woman after she left to scold her for quitting over it?

            1. PhillyKate*

              I often wonder what happened to that star employee who overcame so much. Worked hard and wasn’t she in the foster care system too? I hope she is a super star making big bucks at a company that respects and values her.

          5. Cafe au Lait*

            There were multiple students in my undergraduate cohort that failed or dropped courses because their work-for-food job kept scheduling them during course hours. Quitting wasn’t really an option, yet they paid out much more money for their degree since they had to retake classes. Sometimes it felt purposefully; their manager was sabotaging their chances of obtaining a higher education.

            1. LadyL*

              On a similar topic, I remember a commenter on a different site sharing that her teen’s manager at his minimum wage retail job had apparently been spending a lot of time trying to convince her son that going to college was a waste of time and money, and that he’d be much better off transitioning to full time and working his way up to store manager someday. Sure, college isn’t for everyone, but her kid had good grades, enjoyed school, and they could afford it. The manager didn’t care about the kid’s best future, he wanted to not have to train new employees. IIRC the commenter was struggling with the impulse to rage out at the manager, and I don’t blame her one bit.

            2. HerNameWasLola*

              That makes me incredibly sad but I wonder if it’s lack of foresight on the managers part rather than outright sabotage? I used to manage student workers and never really had a problem getting them to stick to a schedule. They typically knew in advance what their classes were and when they’d have finals. Sometimes I’d have to talk with them about over-scheduling because I had been there, done that as a student and nearly flunked out of school. It was also better for me because if an emergency did come up, I wouldn’t have to scramble for coverage . My take on it was that this job wasn’t necessarily going to be their career but at least they could learn how to communicate their schedules and planned timed off. My peers who didn’t follow this model found themselves scrambling for coverage or having to find new workers later in the semesters. They had a hard time understanding the planning ahead part.

              1. Blurgle*

                I don’t think it’s deliberate sabotage but I am convinced underlying malice plays a part.

          6. Lunchy*

            One of my biggest regrets in life is that when I was in college working at Borders. We had this hellish manager – most unpleasant person alive, and incapable of empathy. I was hired initially as seasonal help, and a childhood friend died of cancer in early December. Her funeral was the week before Christmas. When I asked my manager for that Saturday off, she told me, “When we hired you, you knew you would be working these weekends – especially so close to Christmas.”
            I was petrified of losing my job, especially since I loved it aside from this manager, so I didn’t go to the funeral. It was nearly 10 years ago and I’m still kicking myself over it.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This is such a good comment and applies to *all* jobs, not just minimum wage service jobs. Work-life balance is an important thing.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Yeah, this. It’s more obviously ridiculous when it’s someone arguing that a high schooler needs to prioritize work over semester finals or something, but it’s just as ridiculous in a “career” job. I work to pay my mortgage and my groceries, and I am blessed to do something I enjoy. That’s pretty much it. My first priority is not my work. It is my family (and others have other things).

          2. Tuxedo Cat*

            Indeed. I’ve had to learn this multiple times. I find my work fulfilling and it’s important to me, but it cannot be my first priority.

        4. Anon today...and tomorrow*

          I was coming here to say that. That comment upset me too. I love where I work, love what I do, and really see myself with this company for the long haul, but it will never be my first commitment. Perhaps if I had a job where I was identified as my job (doctor, lawyer, firefighter, etc) then my commitment level would be different, but I don’t have that kind of job and don’t plan on it. I make sure that all positions I hold understand that my work-life balance is important to me and while I’m willing to do what needs to get done at the workplace, I will NEVER place it above the things outside of work.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            I don’t know about firefighters, but the mental health toll on doctors and lawyers is immense, and I know there’s a lot of discussion in both professions on how to back away from the “job first, everything else second” mentality.

            1. K.*

              I briefly dated a guy who was a named partner at a law firm and his marriage had ended because he didn’t do work-life balance well – really, at all. He was brilliant and great at his job but worked constantly and had no time for anything else – including dating, which is why we only dated briefly. The only time he unplugged was when he slept.

              1. Jen*

                I actually am an attorney and am super lucky to work for an organization that pushes work/life balance. I would honestly never even think if leaving because of how well we are treated. Big firm money just isn’t worth the lifestyle.

                1. Artemesia*

                  My husband had a small firm (3 partners, couple of associates) and all of them were committed to work life balance. My husband sang in opera and symphony chorus, his other partners had similar lives — scouting, atheletics etc as well as everyone was a parent. They had a great life; they didn’t make a lot of money; they made enough money for a great life though and an adequate retirement.

              2. Tuxedo Cat*

                I work in academia and recently have seen multiple marriage fall apart because of work-life balance issues.

                1. MashaKasha*

                  The one academic that I “briefly dated” (c) a few years ago, and his colleagues, got around this issue by completely merging work and life. They lived in a small college town and were each other’s only social circle. Whenever he wasn’t working, he was either planning social events with his coworkers, or the coworkers would just drop by his place unannounced… he ended up leaving me to date a coworker. They’re still together, traveling with 0ther coworkers, hosting parties for other coworkers, et cetera.

                  I would not last a week if I had to live like that. My work life and my personal life are very much separate.

                2. Hedgehog*

                  This surprise me, becaus my FIL is an academic, and he is always touting it as a career that provides great work-life balance and as best I can tell it seems accurate for him. He’s not at a major research university, though, so I wonder if that’s the difference.

            2. Chinook*

              I do know that work-life balance is hard for cops, especially the ones up here in Canada in small and/or under-manned detachments. But, short of there being an actual civil emergency or no one being able to cover a shift (in which case I think the previous guy gets paid major overtime to stick around until he is relieved), the most the staff seargant will do when they become short staffed is call them and then send someone to an off duty cop’s door and see if they will answer. No answer means they are short staffed and everyone sucks it up. And, if you do answer, they can’t legally order you in to cover someone else’s shift (though the guilt trip can be powerful).

              Considering that these are people who by definition are “job first” people, even they realize that your off time needs to be guaranteed otherwise you will burn out fast.

            3. Wendy Darling*

              My doctor failed to diagnose a major health issue I was having because she kept working after her husband died instead of taking some time off like she needed to. She was mentally not in top form, which is what happens when you’re grieving, so she didn’t notice a problem that would have been very minor to treat at the time but instead got so bad it could have killed me.

              Doctors NEED to have good work-life balance so they can do their jobs well! The consequences for an overworked, stressed, overtired doctor making a small mistake can be massive. I don’t understand why we make doctors work a zillion hours in a row — there are laws against letting *flight attendants* work too long but apparently it’s fine for medical professionals!

          2. LBK*

            One of the reasons I love my job is that management understands that the job isn’t my life and gives me the time I need to be a person outside of the office. That includes going out of their way to make sure I can take time off when I want it, even if it’s not going to be particularly convenient for the business (barring extreme circumstances, obviously).

            If an employee is going to commit to their employer, the employer needs to commit to the employee as well.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I think you’ve hit on something key with your last sentence, there. The manager is expecting a crazy level of commitment from the employee by saying their job should be their first commitment. Is the manager and/or company willing to offer that same level of commitment to the employee in turn? For example, if you want your employees to view work as their first commitment, the company should view its employees as its first commitment, which means you can never ever have layoffs, no matter how badly the company is doing, or if a department is being rearranged. Somehow I don’t see any company making that kind of commitment to its people.

          3. Backroads*

            You see this a lot in my field (education.) If you really care about your students, you place them above all else and live at the school. Sigh.

          4. aebhel*

            I have a job I generally love, and that I think is important, and…you know what, if I had a scheduled day off and something came up, I’d do my best to make it in. But I’m not going to screw with other people I’ve made plans with or cancel reservations or anything for my work.

          5. Michele*

            I have a job where I identify myself by what I do. I am a chemist. However, I am a chemist with a lot of other things going on in my life. I am fortunate that I work in a department that understands that we have lives outside of work, but even within this company, there are many departments that don’t. I would be looking for a different job if I worked in one of those departments.

        5. Jen*

          I agree it happens in every level. I just had the unique experience of my crappy pizza job manager telling me I need to consider “what’s important” when she tried to get me to skip an AP exam to pick up a minimum wage shift making terrible, terrible pizza. I think I knew which one of those was more important.

        6. Grey*

          I completely agree. I’m not my employer’s #1 priority, and they’ll never be my #1 priority.

          Most jobs are expendable. We have so many other things in our life that are not.

        7. Justme*

          I have a well paying job with good benefits and work for good people who value me as a worker and human being. Work is still not my top priority in life.

        8. Dust Bunny*

          I sort of get the feeling that this new manager is a very young person without sufficient experience, and maybe on a bit of a power trip.

          But I’ve had managers in the past who pulled this kind of nonsense on me–one tried to call me in while I was at a funeral–and it’s on the short list of ways to tank your employees’ morale and loyalty to you. Don’t be a glassbowl, LW.

          1. Natalie*

            I agree, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they are just modeling the crappy managers they’ve had. Bad managers seem to love to discuss their idiotic philosophies at length, so if you have no other examples it’s easy to think they are speaking gospel.

        9. Aphrodite*

          It’s always surprising to me that the retail industry–infamous for treating employees as disposable, paying them poorly, offering few if any benefits, running them ragged physically, rarely supporting them when customers turn nasty–is also one of if not the most demanding about “loyalty.” It was that way when I worked retail forty plus years ago and it seems to be worse today.

        10. Stranger than fiction*

          That comment bothered me too. Sounds so 1950 and like “we’re your employer and are doing you a favor by giving you a paycheck. How dare you ask for anything.”

            1. Michele*

              Sounds to me like many employers since the great recession of 2008. “Just be thankful you have a job. We could outsource it.”

        11. Vicki*

          Even for a career job, you need to respect time away from work. I turned down a job offer years ago because the company (the owner, not just the hiring manager) believed that employees “every waking thought’ belonged to the company. His words, verbatim.

      3. A Non E. Mouse*

        And if I was that employee and I was forced to come in, I’d put in my two weeks right then.

        I quit a job once for this.

        I’d requested the day off for an important test that would determine some scholarship funds months in advance, reminded the manager that made the schedules of it the week before, and posted the day off in the Official Space for Such Things.

        Schedule comes out, I’m on it for that day. I go to the manager that makes schedules and explain that it was a requested day off and I cannot change the test date, and he says: if you don’t come in, you’ll be written up.

        No, I won’t. Because I quit. Good luck finding someone else reliable at these crap-ass wages.

        I have never regretted it.

        1. Rae*

          A million years ago my husband worked for a university. We had planned an entire week off around a medical procedure of mine months in advance. One week before he was taking off it was announced that the Board of Trustees would be on campus, so his (horrid) boss told him that he would be cancelling the week off and be required to be on campus the entire time. My husband tried to say he couldn’t but the boss wouldn’t budge until he told her about my medical procedure which we had been trying to keep private. She begrudgingly “let” him take the time off. Then to top it off, when he returned she said AT THE MEETING with the entire staff to discuss the board being on campus “how was Rae’s surgery?”.
          He was already at his last straw before that one, but he hadn’t yet been given a start date for his new job yet so he just smiled through it.

          1. Important Moi*

            Trust that in situations like that the boss was viewed by everyone at that meeting with any sense of decency as a glassbowl.

          2. Insert name here*

            OMG that is awful.
            Sounds like OP #2 is in good company. I feel bad for their employees.

        2. Matilda Jefferies*

          Same. I had a retail job and needed a particular weekend off for an out of town family wedding. The wedding was in May – I requested the day off when I was hired in February, then again when they hired a new manager in April, then again when he was starting to make the schedules for that week. Every single time I requested it, I was told it would not be a problem.

          When the schedule came out, it turned out I had a closing shift on the Friday, Saturday off, and an opening shift on the Sunday. So technically, I had the day of the wedding off as requested, but it wasn’t anywhere close to what had been agreed to for the rest of the weekend.

          I quit on the spot. There had been other issues with that job, but this was the final straw. Not only a breach of trust on its own, but a pretty clear indication that I would never be able to expect any kind of flexibility from them going forward.

        3. Vicki*

          If I could change two things** about minimum wage jobs, I would make it illegal to “write someone up” without an official “hearing” that included HR and at least 3 co-workers. The whole idea smacks of elementary school.

          If what you did doesn’t warrant a ticket from the police, it shouldn’t warrant a demerit, a black mark, or a “write up”.

          (**Thing 1 would be making “minimum” wage actually worth something.)

      4. SQL Coder Cat*

        My husband’s last day at His Crappy Soon-to-be-old Job is tomorrow (thank God)! After over a year of complaining about understaffing, not being able to take time off, threats of disciplinary action if he called in sick, etc., when he gave his notice to Worst Boss Ever the response was “I had no idea you were unhappy!” As a going away ‘present’, WBE scheduled him for 13 of his last 14 days for a total of 125 hours. Which ended up being 130 hours as WBE also scheduled one of the other employees during her son’s high school graduation ceremony, which she’d gotten approved off back in March, and he picked up those hours because no one else was available.

        Please, OP#2, don’t be that guy. You made a commitment to let the employee have the day off, and unless you’re staffing an emergency room, the clients can wait one day.

    2. SignalLost*

      In my experience, one would rapidly lose control if one tried to renege on promised time off, and frankly the idea of control in this context is kind of skeeving me out a bit. It makes me think of Leia’s line in Star Wars – “The more you tighten your grasp, the more star systems slip through your fingers.” A manager/employee relationship should be respectful, not controlling, and I feel okay saying that this is the correct interpretation of control here.

      OP, you are not losing control by not forcing your employee to work a day you previously promised him off. For your purpose, you have an employee who has been temporarily hit by a bus and you will have to manage without him. That might mean, depending on your environment, thanking the person/people who do work Monday profusely for doing a difficult job, or bringing in doughnuts or something to acknowledge that they are in a difficult spot because of short staff, but sometimes that happens. (And I wouldn’t bring in doughnuts if that’s not something you have done in other cases, or can’t see yourself applying in the future – like, if you work retail, bringing in a treat on Black Friday to acknowledge that today will suck but your team will rise to the occasion.)

      1. Gingerblue*

        Yeah, the “control” part bothered me too–I hope the OP just meant that they felt like they didn’t have a grip on the position yet, not that employees expecting them to abide by prior agreements means their awesome and unquestionable power was insufficiently respected. But the idea that work should be this guy’s highest priority also caught my attention as a bit out of touch. His life is his highest priority, he made plans for his life when he’s not working, and OP doesn’t seem to get why it’s a big deal to expect him to come in anyway. OP, your idea of the balance of obligations in the workplace seems off–work is a thing people generally do at agreed-upon times in exchange for agreed-upon sums of money, and they get on with their lives outside of those hours. You had an agreement, and now you want to break it for your convenience. That’s not showing control, it’s chaotic, and will leave the rest of the people you manage wondering what other workplace norms you might violate. These sorts of logistical hiccups happen all the time; dealing with them smoothly is what really shows you have control of your work.

        1. Zombii*

          Eh… it’s not so out of touch in retail (or food service, or any of the other “first job” type jobs). This has been the attitude of most managers I’ve worked under—but it’s definitely not a fair attitude. Any manager who wants someone to prioritize work above everything else, and essentially wants their employees to consider themselves on-call, needs to pay their employees the equivalent. Managers who aren’t willing to pay an on-call wage need to consider what wage they are paying and recalibrate their expectations to that.

          ***OP#2: You said you’re new to management, so don’t take this or any similar comments as an attack. Take them as a reality check and please please please work towards being one of the good managers, whose employees will do anything for them because they know that consideration is mutual. It isn’t easy but you can do it, it just takes kindness and understanding.***

          1. PaperTowel*

            Yep, so common in retail and service jobs. Seriously, if you want me to live and breathe the job and put it above my own personal commitments you’d better be prepared to pay me more than poverty wages.

            1. Jen*

              Although not just entry level. My husband’s first sign that his teapot engineer boss was toxic was when the guy complained about a woman being out for a week and a half for her wedding and then boasted that he took no paternity time.

              1. Vicki*

                This reminds me of Marissa Mayer. “I didn’t take time off after having my baby! I’m not working from home!”

          2. Jessesgirl72*

            And people who are new to management in those situations have had a lot of bad examples of what management should look like.

            It’s too bad she has to miss her training course, as I’m sure she needs it, but that is how it works.

          3. LBK*

            Agreed. I was a retail supervisor for a while and I would honestly say the #1 thing I spent my time and energy on was making sure I accommodated and respected people’s schedules. It was a chore but it was worth it because my team repaid that consideration without hesitation when I needed people to cover shifts, and I also had the best employee morale scores in our district. It makes an immense difference when people feel like their job has boundaries, especially shift work that can already make conducting your day-to-day life a hassle.

        2. LCL*

          What OP wrote is kind of a definition issue. Speaking from the scheduler’s perspective, which is one of my job tasks, OP wrote a schedule. OP did everything OP is supposed to do. Then, due to circumstances outside of OPs control, the schedule falls apart. OP is losing control OF THE SCHEDULE. When you write schedules, it is really hard to not feel like a failure when this happens. I don’t think OP meant they wanted to control their employees personal lives.

          If scheduling is your job, having the schedule fall apart because of unplanned personnel issues is your biggest source of frustration. Because you have now, through the actions of other people and fate, FAILED at your job. You have written a schedule that won’t work. Unfortunately that is part of the job. You just have to tell yourself people suck sometimes, circumstances suck, but we work around it to get the job done. Don’t take it personally.

          What helps me is I keep a word document on my drive space where I list what I consider to be lame requests for last minute days off, and why I think they are lame. It is a very sarcastic and bitter document, but it doesn’t single anyone out by name or make judgements on them, just their lame ass excuses. That should be another topic-lamest reason for requesting a day off. Better to just ask for a day off, than to tell me you must have it off AFTER the schedule has been posted, to attend a family dinner for family that lives in town.

          1. Tealeaves*

            Please, no topic on “lamest reasons for day off”. It reminds me so much of the letter where LW wasn’t allowed a day off to join a video game competition, and similar other letters where the LWs have their day off rejected for not being “valid” enough. People have their own priorities, and no one has any right to judge it. Sometimes they don’t know they need the day off until after the schedule is up.

            1. Michele*

              I agree. Plus, this wasn’t a last minute request for vacation. This was the manager trying to cancel the time off at the last minute.

        3. Nea*

          work is a thing people generally do at agreed-upon times in exchange for agreed-upon sums of money, and they get on with their lives outside of those hours

          This is brilliantly put and should be engraved in stone in several places.

      2. BRR*

        Yeah I agree that if the lw wants things to run smoothly, they will have better luck if they let this employee take the approved day off.

        Zombii said it well, these comments aren’t an attack. Being a first time manager is hard.

    3. Manuel*

      This. I don’t trust my current supervisor partly because when I was starting the position, she said to just tell her if I needed any time off for prior commitments and she would honor them. I had adjusted my volunteering schedule to my new work schedule when she called me (at home on my day off) to change my training days/hours for the next few weeks. I told her about volunteering and asked if there was any way to compromise for the two days I had already committed. First, she said she had never heard of anyone volunteering where I did, so I explained. She paused for a moment, said my training was my first priority, and ended the discussion. Two points I think it is important to note: 1) we have hundreds of volunteers and the organization is one that we work very closely with at our job and 2) she had already accommodated multiple prior commitment requests from two other direct reports that were training for the same job, at the same time.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Me. too. OP makes it sound as though she thinks her direct reports are going rogue on her, when it’s just someone wanting their manager to honor the pre-approved request. Unless there’s some really big emergency that just can’t be covered any other way, the request should be honored; first, dig very deep to find ways to accommodate your employee before asking/making them come in.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          And in retail and food, at least places I’ve worked, the manager has to cover if no one else can. Some managers in those jobs think it’s their privilege to force employees to cover so they don’t ever have to. It’s one of the fastest ways to lose good workers–they’ll be out as soon as they can find something better.

          1. ancolie*

            My first job was at a gas station/garage and while the boss/owner was schmitty in a LOT of ways, he was great with:

            1- if someone called out and he couldn’t find someone who would willingly come in to cover, well, looks like he’s working until close instead if of going home when he usually did.

            2- the absolute minimum number of workers at any time was two. Most gas station hold ups are when there’s only a single employee on duty. Even one more worker makes it more complicated and riskier to rob the place, so most would-be robbers will just go find another place instead.

    4. Adlib*

      Agreed! Last year my team lead gave me a day off and when I came back told me I shouldn’t have even asked because of the project we were working on. Why didn’t she just say no then? I fully realize that sometimes work comes first, but she was also horrible at delegating and had burned herself out. (She quit a few months after.)

      1. Kix*

        I’m a team lead, but I don’t have authority to approve time off. Our manager does that, and doesn’t have a problem giving the team time off during busy season, but I don’t get time off because I’m a lead and it’s busy season. He has no problem taking time off as well. I wish supervisors and managers would have more emotional intelligence around thing like this that may seem inconsequential, but really are not at all.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I always checked with my team lead at Exjob, not because she had authority, but to make sure she didn’t have anything urgent coming down the pipe she needed me to work on. The only time she ever said anything was after my three-week vacation, but then it was only “You were gone for a LONG time!” LOL glad you noticed, but I let you know six months before I was leaving! OldBoss merely said, “I’m glad you enjoyed your trip.”

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          Or you could tell them it’s a problem to take off at certain times?

          Other people are never going to think as much about your job as you.

    5. Backroads*

      Seems to me that when someone asks for the odd day off, they do so for a reason. He probably had something going on. If it’s not a life/death situation, honor the agreement.

    6. CBH*

      As a manager, this type situation will come up sometimes. Things change. You need to have a backup plan in place. You made a commitment to your employee, keep it. They should not have to change their plans. As Allison said, you can ask but they should not be penalized if its an answer you don’t want to hear. Can you take your training another time or online, maybe you can cover for the shortage in staff instead that day. Work life balance is important. How would you feel if the situation was reversed?

    7. Liet-Kynes*

      And hell no, his primary commitment isn’t work. If he’s got plans that he made on a day he gave you ample notice for in good faith, you need to return that good faith. You seriously need to reevaluate the atmosphere you’re creating if your attitude is that work automatically and always comes first, because expecting your employees to act like salarymen is a quick route to losing that “control” you’re so worried about.

    8. Editrix*

      #2, you don’t get to tell anyone else what their “first priority” is in life. Work is my priority *while I am at work*, in the sense that I won’t go do another job at the same time and I don’t bring my kids to work and I get my job done to the best of my ability, and that’s a fair expectation to have, but nobody but me gets to say what my first priority is. If work is yours, that’s your business, and you can come in and work the shift.

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        I took over as manager of a store once where all the employees had up and quit on the manager all on the same day. The company opted to demote the manager and move him to another location for “retraining” and I was put in charge of his store. I’ve always wondered what someone would have to do to get every employee to quit on you all on the same day. For me, it would be someone there telling me that the job should be my priority. My reaction would be “this job is replaceable…peace out!”

    9. Vicki*

      Oh, the OP is definitely losing control. Or, at least, not having the desired control. This is a Command & Control manager in the making.

      Dear OP – you do not “control” the employees. You’re their manager, not their warden. Please do not become the subject of a letter t AAM, written by an employee about you!

  9. JamieS*

    I’m confused about why male pronouns are being used for the bad manager in the first letter. I thought the default was female pronouns. Did OP #1 provide additional info that didn’t make it to print?

    I’m also curious how OP should deal with the employee who made the “joke”. Should OP leave it to the problem manager, deal with the employee directly, let someone else (HR) handle it, or leave it be?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoops, no — apparently that was unconscious bias on my part because I was totally picturing that manager as a man. I’ve changed it in the post to the normal site default of “she.”

      1. Zombii*

        Fwiw, I read the version with female pronouns and the “she said/she said” was initially confusing because the intern had been identified as female but the manager wasn’t designated at all and neither of them had codenames to swap out to make the situation easier to parse. Also probably some unconscious bias on my part, but I’m used to all the writer-tricks that make same-gender conversations more clear and I wasn’t seeing any of those.

        I’m not trying to overly criticize, just wanted to throw out a counterpoint, and I know you have other things taking up your attention, so pronouns for hypothetical people aren’t necessarily your top priority. ;P (Good luck with the houses, Alison. I hope it’s over soon and everything works out the way you want it.)

      2. Grey*

        I’ve noticed in other posts that a few bad managers were defaulted as “he”. I even mentioned it after the post a few years ago about the manager who beat on the doors and windows. But I ultimately realized it’s not that big of a deal.

        In this story, I also imagined the manager as a man. In fact, after I read “she”, I went back to the OP’s letter to see if maybe I missed something.

    2. Maya Elena*

      With all due respect, kt seems a bit nit-picky to be taking Alison, of all people, to task about her pronoun usage….

      1. Amy*

        Maybe, but I read it after she changed it, and while I was reading the OP, I was interpreting it as a male manager, and when I read Alison’s response referring to the manager as female it made me check my bias. I’m not sure if it was an unconscious “generic managers are male” bias or “people who would laugh about the weiner thing instead of taking it seriously are male” bias but either way, having it challenged is important.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yeah, I assumed it was a man. That’s definitely a bias on my part, but it isn’t “generic managers are men” or “bad managers are men,” it’s what you said–I assumed that *most* managers who would think this was funny and not a big deal would be men. That’s because of all the people I worked with, I don’t know any women who would think it was funny and appropriate, but I know several men. But still, my experience is just my experience, so I was definitely making a biased assumption.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That was my read, too. Not that men are more likely to be bad managers, but that of the people I’ve worked with who would find this situation funny and not a big deal, the majority were men. (I have had several women who take pride in being able to “bro down” who behave this way, also, though.)

          2. Thlayli*

            I agree, I can’t see a female manager thinking having a penis drawn on you is no big deal, but I can see a male manager thinking that. Of course it’s possible it is a woman, but the complete acceptance of the drawn penis makes me think man.

    3. KiteFlier*

      But the OP in letter #1 used male pronouns in the letter so the answer’s pronouns don’t match up.

      1. Relly*

        Unless I’m misreading, the male pronouns apply solely to the penis drawer — the manager is only ever referred to as “the manager.”

      2. JamieS*

        No, OP used male pronouns for the troubled “artist” not the artist’s manager. That’s what originally threw me off. The OP was describing two incidences (the drawing and the manager’s reaction) and Alison used male pronouns for the manager when she’s known for using female pronouns for unknown sex so I thought something was missing from the letter.

        I know Alison typically doesn’t change the letter content code names would’ve been helpful here since there were multiple players

    4. Case of the Mondays*

      My brain actually believed the bad manager was female. Unfortunately, I have worked in a couple of situations that are very high school clique-ish and the new manager wants to be liked by the “cool” kids that do stupid and inappropriate stuff. Some sexist underlings can make it difficult for female managers to manage. I know someone in that situation right now. Female manager won’t manage inappropriate male underling because she herself is intimidated by him. Now, there are certainly bad male managers too!! I just don’t think it is that unlikely that the bad manager in this letter was female.

    5. Christmas Carol*

      The great Miss Manners once said that when she wrote letters of complaint to companies she addressed them “Dear Sir,” and when she wrote letters of compliment she addressed them to “Dear Madam.” She explained that her assumption was that the well run organizations were most likely led by women, and ………..

  10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, it’s super demoralizing when you do everything “right,” request time well in advance, receive the greenlight, and then your manager tries to make you come in when you’ve already committed to other plans. Work is an important priority, but it’s really not fair to impose on your employee that it should be his first priority (arguably he did prioritize work by clearing the day off with you).

    Please don’t make him come in if there are other solutions. You’ll unnecessarily burn goodwill by trying to force him to come in on a day off and risk coming off like you’re power-tripping. Just treating him fairly (i.e., honoring your agreement) with your employee is going to give you a lot more credibility and build trust/expectations.

    1. Artemesia*

      Work should be the first priority of the manager too and having made the commitment, the manager is the one who should give up his training day or whatever to come in and get the job done.

      1. Lora*

        YES. OP, you must model the behavior you want to see from your employees.

        This is also something that will support any requests for more headcount in the future: “hey Big Boss, remember when I couldn’t go to training for two months because we are shorthanded? Yeah, how about we hire some more people so everyone can do training and have a day off on occasion? Thanks!”

      2. LBK*

        This is a great point; how can you say that work should be your employee’s #1 priority when you yourself are prioritizing something else that’s preventing you from covering for him? Pretty clear double standard.

        1. Hedgehog*

          Not that I think the manager’s actions are defensible, but I’m assuming the training is work-related, in which case I don’t think hypocrisy isn’t a charge that can be leveled.

          1. LBK*

            That makes it more tangentially related but it’s still not being at work; if the idea is that nothing should come before having the shift covered, that applies to the OP as much as her employee.

    2. Jady*

      No kidding with that power-tripping comment. The idea of “work always has to be first priority” is an idea that would have me job searching immediately. I work to live, not the other way around!

      There are sooo many things that are more important to me than work. My health – mental and physical, my family, heck – even my pets. I sure as f didn’t come to work after having to put one of my pets down. I was a mess!

      I’m fortunate enough to be financially comfortable and have a high demand job, though. I can quit on the spot if it came to that and have another job in a week, two max.

      It rages me how some managers take such advantage of those that are dependent on their jobs.

  11. GermanGirl*

    Cultural perspective here:

    Letters of recommendation might be worthless in corporate America but they are definitely a thing in academia worldwide.

    And public and corporate Germany has their very own flavor of “letter of recommendation meets report card” which is called Arbeitszeugnis.

    1. consultant*

      Yeah and Arbeitszeugnis is the most absurd thing I came across when applying in Europe. Completely subjective but an official document by your employer, who doesn’t have to justify the assessment of your work.

      To make it even more funny, you can’t sue even if you receive a very bad assessment after hearing you are doing great every day for years, since as every lawyer will tell you, it’s virtually impossible to prove that you were better than your boss (who can be angry that you quit for example) says.

      1. GiantPanda*

        Actually, you can sue. The German Arbeitszeugnis must be written in a benevolent spirit (“wohlwollend”). If it’s worse than “meets expectations” your employer must prove in court that there were severe performance problems, that they tried to address the problems and you didn’t improve.
        People can and do go to court over commas, typos and tiny nuances in language.
        It’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

        1. consultant*

          I can sue. But you can’t win.

          And believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

          As you write, it’s easier if you receive something worse that “meets expectations” and enforce that you get “meets expectations”. But “meets expectations” is a disastrous assessment, so it’s not much of a consolation.

        2. Jekhar*

          Yes, it must be written in a benevolent tone. But then companies started using barely secret “codes”, like the classic “always tried” (war stets bemüht), which translates to “never did more than the bare minimum”. As an employee, you can’t argue against that, because it’s a positive thing on paper. So the law won’t really help anyone.

          1. Julia*

            Since this code is so common these days you can basically mad-lib your Arbeitszeugnis using the internet, I think you can still object to that language. At least I feel like I read that.

            1. consultant*

              That’s what we discuss above. You can object if you wish, but the employer doesn’t have to change it and in most cases you can’t reinforce the change. If your assessment corresponds to the D grade you can sue the company – then you will probably get a C. If you got anything better than a D – you don’t have any chance.

              1. Jekhar*

                Yeah, sorry for opening another thread. I originally wanted my post to appear right under yours, but apparently replied to the wrong post.

      2. Myrin*

        I might be in an outlier position – I’ve always figured that I’m not because so many people here (in my geographic area, not on this site) share my experience but it appears that I’m wrong? – but with all my friends and family who work in jobs where Arbeitszeugnisse are a thing, their next employer didn’t seem to put much stock in mediocre ones? Like, if they liked all their other materials, they’d be interviewed regardless and might then be able to talk about the “meh” assessment. In which case it’s not really that different from an American reference call, I reckon.

        1. consultant*

          It depends on the company and on your job experience.

          However, the system is creating a situation in which the employer has a huge power over employees – you can work at a company for 5 years and then get a document saying you were a bad employee, which you have to attach to your every application for the rest of your life – and in which this power is completely arbitrary.

          1. Lora*

            I have a lot of German colleagues whose careers are basically stalled in the same position, same company because of this. I was surprised to hear it, I thought the unions in Germany were stronger and would do something about that.

    2. Miso*

      Ugh, don’t get me started on that. Everywhere on the internet where they have templates for it, you always read “but of course you shouldn’t just copy these phrases verbatim and personalise it to your employee”.
      I work for a city. Guess what? They literally have templates saying this phrase is this grade, that phrase is that grade and apparently can’t deviate from that at all. So. Ridiculous.

  12. Startup HR*

    #5 Skills endorsements on LinkedIn are weird, but you shouldn’t delete them or turn them off from your page. LinkedIn uses them as a part of the algorithms to determine how high up you show up in search results. You need to have a certain number of skills and endorsements for them to have their top ranking.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I had to turn them off because people kept endorsing me for things I didn’t do, or that they hadn’t worked on with me. It drove me round the bend. I also don’t trust any I see on anyone else’s profile – aside from the ones written in actual prose.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I work with someone who can barely turn on a computer and they have loads of endorsements for PowerPoint, SQL Development, CRM Development…I can guarantee that the individual doesn’t even know what those mean. That was when I realized that they were worthless and turned them off on my account.

      2. Artemesia*

        I had a cousin I had not seen in 30 years endorse me for something I have no expertise in.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Luckily, most of mine have been for skills I actually have. And I got one really nice recommendation from a former coworker; which I forgot to add to my profile, so I just did, haha.

      4. SusanIvanova*

        I went in and cleared out one endorsement for something I used to be an expert in because I hadn’t done it in over 15 years and when I did it was a specialized niche, not at all related to what recruiters want now – and they want it badly enough that the majority of my LinkedIn requests were about it.

        I was griping about it with coworkers on IRC when I got a notification that a coworker had just added it back – no, they weren’t messing with me; someone not on IRC at that time had coincidentally noticed it wasn’t on there and “helpfully” added it.

      5. many bells down*

        Yes, this. It’s lovely that my friends have such a high opinion of me, but I also had endorsements for things I’d never done, from people I had never worked with. I don’t want to show up in a search ranking for “IT Expert” because I’ve never been one!

    2. Anna*

      There are ethics opinions for lawyers where state bars tell members to disable them because they’re unauthorized specialty specifications. So that’s why some lawyers don’t use them. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are similar restrictions in other industries that have subspecialties that require particular qualifications that a person who gets recommended on LinkedIn may not have.

      1. Triangle Pose*

        +1. I’m a lawyer and I’m honestly baffled by lawyer profiles who have this feature turned on. Especially when I work with them and know they don’t do any of those things and some random connection just did drive-by endorsements.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        Linked In changed their lingo in response to that. It no longer asks for your specialties or specializations. It calls it “featured skills and endorsements” now. At least in my state we have always been allowed to say we focus our practice on x or we have experience in y we just couldn’t use the magic word “specialize.” If I was hiring a lawyer, I’d want to know if they have experience in my area of law. I wouldn’t hire a wills and trusts attorney to handle my car accident just like I wouldn’t have a heart surgeon do my brain surgery.

    3. Zombii*

      >>LinkedIn uses them as a part of the algorithms to determine how high up you show up in search results.

      That’s what those are for?! Ugh, it’s stupider than I’d thought.

    4. Important Moi*

      What other things does LinkedIn use in their algorithms, that wouldn’t be obvious?

      I had no idea the endorsements were valuable. I stopped using them when I got contacted by someone I didn’t know who asked that we be linked and I endorse them on specific skill.

    5. Antilles*

      Skills endorsements are basically worthless. On the other end of the table it basically comes across like this:
      I have no idea who endorsed you. I have no idea how much you worked with those people. I have no idea how much those people actually know about the subject in question. I have no idea how loose those people are with endorsements.
      That endorsement could be a true recommendation that Johnny is a world-class expert at Teapot Design, someone I’d trust if my life somehow depended on getting a perfect design. Or it could be that you once were part of a project tangentially related to Teapot Design and the endorser doesn’t realize that your only Teapot-related contribution was fixing the margins of the report.

      1. LeisureSuitLarry*

        I know who the people that endorse me are, and in nearly every case they don’t have any specific experience with me in a role doing the thing they’re endorsing to say if I’m any good at it. I’ve got accountants endorsing my programming skills and programmers endorsing my accounting skills. You’d think they’d at least pick something semi-related to what I actually do. In general, I just don’t like LinkedIn. It’s not a good site, and the older it gets the more it turns into Facebook for Boring People. Unfortunately, everyone expects you to have a LI account. I’ve got one, it’s updated with my jobs and descriptions and the like, but I turn hide endorsements and I don’t endorse anyone for anything. Absolutely useless.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          They aren’t necessarily picking. LinkedIn will pop up with this dumb promoter screen that says: “Is Jane good at painting teapots?” with a few quick-click links to add endorsements.

    6. CAA*

      So endorsements are there to help recruiters. Personally, I want to do anything I can to remove random recruiters from my life, so I’ll be leaving the endorsements off on my LinkedIn profile.

    7. BananaPants*

      I turned them off because a few people who I hadn’t seen in a decade were endorsing me for things I don’t actually do.

      I’m an engineer, and skills endorsements on LinkedIn are basically useless. No one I know still has them turned on.

    8. Natalie*

      That assumes, of course, that you care about how high you show up in the search results. I’m having a hard time imaging the value of that, but perhaps in some industries or areas it is actually worth something.

    9. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah I just let them alone unless it’s something I’ve seriously never ever done, which I get once in a while. Actually gives me a bit of a chuckle sometimes because I think they somehow remember me as a coworker that did that thing.

  13. A fly on the wall*

    OP4, Letters of Rec are a fact of life in school districts (and amazingly, there are places that will demand ones from your current supervisor). I suspect it comes from the relatively cyclical nature of the world (i.e. Where I am, just about everyone with ambition and ability is assumed to be looking during the summer), and the fact that the workforce is unionized at an extremely high rate, making the consequences of asking a current manager for a letter much lower.

    For what it’s worth, for mid-senior IT positions, I’ve seen more and more places not require them. It might honestly be worth giving the HR departments (in K-12 you’re unlikely to get through to the hiring manager and even if you did it would be weird) a call and asking if the letters are really necessary for this position, and explain that they’re not much used in private sector and could put you at risk. A good HR department won’t want you to do that, especially because of the dropout rate of our hires.

    P.s. It’s off topic, but good advice, if it is a unionized SD and they say they can’t negotiate, it’s usually not a ploy.

  14. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 the manager laughed about it and would not give her permission to leave to get the offensive material covered and made her still deal with clients and other employees for the rest of the day.

    So this manager not only thought this was funny, but also that it was okay for clients to see it? Which would reflect badly on the company and be humiliating for the employee?

    I don’t think I would want to take the risk of continuing to employ someone who did this. Even if it’s a one-time fluke, you’d have to be majorly lacking in basic judgement for such a fluke to even occur. This has presumably opened OP’s employer up to legal action. And it’s also just really very not okay.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah. The draw-penis-on-cast is a super common thing both in media and in real life where I live – for people who are in their early teens and younger. That this manager thought it was ~hilarious~ in a professional setting makes me think (fear) they aren’t much ahead of an adolescent, maturity and judgment-wise.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, no, the fact that the employee was going in front of clients with this is the appalling rotten cherry on the ice cream sundae of rotten vegetables and used motor oil of this situation. I can’t see any way that this manager should be keeping their job.

    3. always in email jail*

      In my mind, a “fluke” would have been for the manager to laugh and think it was funny, then realize the intern was upset and let her cover it up. This is one situation, but it involves a series of bad decisions (laughing inthe first place, not letting her cover it up, not reprimanding the employee who did it, making her have contact with customers and thinking that was appropriate….)

      1. LQ*

        Yeah, that’s kind of what I was expecting reading it. Manager laughing it off and thinking it was funny and then either intern just sort of quietly accepting that as what was normal, or intern continuing to be upset and manager stopping and letting her cover it up or go home or finding a solution. But the manager doubling down is really surprising to me. (Even in some of the work cultures where that’s been an acceptable part in the culture the managers wouldn’t have doubled down on it after seeing someone continue to be upset, they might have snarked behind the employees back later, but they wouldn’t have made the employee continue to parade it around.)

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        This is one situation, but it involves a series of bad decisions (laughing inthe first place, not letting her cover it up, not reprimanding the employee who did it, making her have contact with customers and thinking that was appropriate….)

        I wouldn’t call it a series of bad decisions. I’d call it one very bad decision: the decision that drawing genitalia and writing profanities on someone’s cast is no big deal. Everything else flows from that decision. And if you think you’re correct in that decision, everything else the manager did makes perfect sense.

        Think about it. To the “artist’s” manager, this was no more serious than someone drawing a frowny face. Imagine an intern making a fuss over someone drawing a frowny face on her cast. Imagine how you’d react if she wanted to leave to get it covered up, or if she didn’t want to be seen by customers, or if she wanted the “artist” to be reprimanded somehow.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, I agree. Once she’d decided it wasn’t a big deal then the rest of her actions make sense to me (such as they do).

        2. always in email jail*

          I guess I can’t relate, because I’d still take it seriously if someone drew a frowny face on someone else’s medical equipment/corrective device without their permission, resulting in having to pay a doctor to replace or cover it up.

          I see what you’re saying, though. I guess I mean there were multiple “pause points” during which the reality of what was happening could have hit the manager.

  15. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 I think that his job is his first commitment regardless.

    That’s not how you motivate people. That’s how you end up with miserable, burned-out staff. OP you will have much better luck at this sort of thing if you ask nicely, work to create goodwill, and don’t expect an unhealthy level of commitment to, or obsession with, work.

    1. Mookie*

      Exactly. Setting and managing work priorities for employees at work is within your purview; dictating to them how they run their life and where they commit time and headspace during hours you explicitly gave them off is absolutely not. As Ramona Flowers says, this is a common enough dilemma all managers face. Please be professional when you encounter it and offer incentives (big, juicy, polite heirloom-quality carrots that acknowledge staff have a right and expectation to a private life) to employees when you renege on your promises. This employee did the right thing by you; you wouldn’t want to demonstrate to his peers that doing so in future is for naught.

      1. PaperTowel*

        Yep! If my boss came to me, apologised, made it clear this was an optional favour and asked me if I’d be willing to swap days back again because of *this* reason, I’d be inclined to do it if I didn’t have other plans made that I wanted to keep. If they tried to tell me ‘actually you can’t have that day off after all’ when they’d already agreed to it I’d refuse, even if I had nothing planned!

        I think a point I’ve been missing in my comments though is that a lot of people don’t actually have the ability to refuse even unreasonable requests like this from management. Here in the UK we have zero hour contracts and whenever I was on those, you basically had to do anything and everything asked by your boss any time or day of the week or you would be given fewer hours the following week, it’s seriously open to exploitation and abuse and regularly was wielded in that manner. I hope this employee has protection to be able to stick up for his rights and isn’t in such a precarious position that he has to do what the manager says.

        The stress of being on those contracts gave me serious mental health issues. No control over my own life, no ability to plan stuff in the week, and even worse no guarantee or idea of how much income I’d be getting or whether I could cover my bills or not. Getting to work, and an hour later being sent home because it’s quiet. Being supposed to finish at 8pm but being kept until 1am cos we were busy. It does a lot of damage to employees’ health.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Fingers crossed for end to zero-hours shite asap.

          They *can* be good for a tiny minority, mainly charity workers (for example, the BfN used them for a bit for their home visit supporters – but that was clear it was for the worker’s benefit – they were mostly mums just off maternity leave so they wanted to be able to say “not this week” or “I’m going to do Friday this week”) – but that very small proportion where it works isn’t worth the nonsense everyone else has to put up with.

          Especially care workers. It’s against the law not to be paid for travel time between jobs – but if you ask for it, you get no hours next week :(

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I had one good zero hours job that fitted beautifully round other stuff. But there were a lot I couldn’t even apply for – I wanted to fit work around studying (I was retraining) and they expected you to be available 24/7.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I suspect that the reason people aren’t talking about the employee’s inability to refuse is that much of the readership is in the US, where very few people have employment contracts and it’s a given that you can be fired for refusing just about any management demand, no matter how unreasonable.

      2. Manuel*

        +1 for big, juicy, polite heirloom-quality carrots! Work is not my first priority in life – I work to live, not live to work.

        1. Mookie*

          Same here. And managers who think they can browbeat or ‘re-educate’ staff on this subject are destined to lose. Some people don’t take their work home with them and there are plenty of professions and trades in which this is acceptable, if not encouraged. Arbitrarily trying to limit employees’s time off in an effort to over-work them into loyal submission will never happen. You can be a great, productive, model employee (even manager in many instances) and not regard work as your primary hobby. Earning a living, full stop, is a perfectly valid lifestyle and discouraging or punishing it (when doing so is unnecessary) will cost managers access to quality staff (people who religiously protect their free time are stubborn about this like no one else, myself included). Some people work better when their dance card is full or when they do a lot of therapeutic television binging on their days and nights off. Pretending you have any say in how people track and prioritize their commitments is just laughably naive, an objectively terrible approach to management if you view management as productive rather than disciplinary, so I’m happy that the LW is interested in advice on this matter.

      3. aebhel*

        Right–forcing people to work on agreed-upon time off for anything short of a very dire emergency (which it doesn’t sound like this is) is a really good way to ensure that people just call in sick the day of rather than requesting time off in advance. Happened all the time when I was in retail, and trust me, that is a MUCH bigger scheduling headache.

    2. anon24*

      It reminds me of my boss. Whenever anyone complains or pushes back about another pointless policy change my boss says “now remember, you need this company a lot more than this company needs you. This company will still be here when you are gone”. That is his standard response instead of dealing with a situation. My co-worker is currently job searching and I am planning on quitting in the next few weeks with or without another job and my boss is convinced we are both going to be lifetime employees.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        “This company will still be here when you are gone”
        Ha! I bet you will still be around after the company is gone. The company will be dissolved and you’ll be happily working at a new job!

      2. PizzaDog*

        I’ve had that said to me before. When we merged departments with a department making $8 more per hour than us (they were going to be taking on some of our responsibilities and us all of theirs), I asked whether we’d be receiving any wage increase. The answer? “There are people in India who would do your job for $1 an hour. How would you feel if we hired them instead?” Alrighty.

    3. LQ*

      #2, I think that the employee did make the job his first commitment. He asked for the day off and you granted it. That is fulfilling the commitment.
      I’m sure you are trying your best to be a great boss, you read this site after all! But being a great boss isn’t having an iron grip on your employees lives, it’s so so much more than that. You aren’t losing control at all. And part of being a great boss isn’t really about having control. If you’ve seen places where bosses were buddy buddy and let staff run all over them I understand that you might fear losing control, but letting an employee who asked for a day off maintain that commitment isn’t that at all. At all! There are some great posts about how to be a boss here and you can read through them, but basically you don’t want to go down this path of assuming there is only work and nothing but work in the lives of your employees or you will lose control the other way. Control of the workplace is somewhere between the iron grip and flailing. This is pushing too far to iron grip.

      #3 Did your boss give you the names or do you know which coworkers would be picking it up? Do they know how to do it? If not…I’d just loop them in and start showing them how to do it. (This may be a ymmv thing but it’s worked well for me.) Sort of act a little more like a coordinator than the creator. It may depend on your workplace a lot and how the work is divided out, but if it is possible I’d start there. If not then I’d go in and talk to the boss with that expectation. “I have the invitation to the Soiree and did you want me to work with to Jack or Diane on that?”

    4. Hannah S*

      OP2, letting the employee keep the day off is the exact opposite of losing control. Letting the schedule stand will make your employees respect you far more, not less. I work at a theme park, and it’s basically low-paying shift work that was physically stressful out in the Florida swamp heat at a parent company that we all love more than it loves us. The manager I respected most at this job was Bob. I had a shift once that only 8 people were qualified to take (out of the 130 department employees in our specific area, 600+ employees across the park who could take non-specialty shifts). Of the 8, one was trying to give away his own specialty shift that day, and everyone else was either already working or was full time and already at 40+ hours for the week. I told Bob I couldn’t give it away and would be calling in personal for a family commitment (I was totally willing to take the attendance hit, just to be clear). His response was that our inability to find our own coverage told him that we did not have enough people trained, which was the company’s problem, not our’s, and deleted my shift, with no consequences to me. I realize that smaller operations might not be able to take the short-staffing as easily, and my absence that day had minimal guest impact, but that manager’s response made me respect him so much more. He was the type of manager that if I ever decided to leave my department, I would work with him as a lead in a heartbeat, no matter what the location. It ‘s a hard decision to have to make, but part of being a manager is learning how to balance the overall long-term needs of your area. Is one day being short-shifted worth the long-term good-will of this employee and any others he tells the story to?

  16. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 How does the work get assigned to you – how exactly does it end up on your plate? You mention that you’re still doing them, but it’s a bit unclear how that process works. Is your boss sending these assignments to you? If so, you could say something like:

    “As we discussed, I don’t have time to make more than 3 banners per month due to my work on the llama branding. I don’t have capacity to make this invitation and also design the new llama hats and bags. What would you like me to prioritise?”

    Because it sounds like you may need to start speaking up in the moment. Perhaps your boss has forgotten, or they think you’ll speak up when you have too much on and that that’s the point when things will get reassigned.

    Would it help to create some templates, also?

    1. Gen*

      In the mean time I think OP might benefit from keeping a track of just how many they’re doing, because if she believe she they’re harming her metrics some hard figures might help the argument to spread the load and/or find a way to include them in metrics. Right now the boss might not have a clear idea of what ‘a lot’ means in real terms

      1. JaneB*

        Was just coming here to suggest OP3 talk to her boss about possibly revising her metrics, if it looks as if reassigning isn’t a quick and simple fix.

        1. Lefty*

          Agreed! Even if some of this work gets reassigned in the future, OP should still get credit for doing well on it in the past.

      2. OP 3*

        OP 3 here! Typically the work gets assigned to me by my boss. Lately when these projects are sent to me, I’ve pushed back a little in suggesting another coworker work on them (for reason: either because they like doing a type of design or the subject is interesting to them). The response has been “I’d like you to do it.” I do think Alison is right in that my boss is very busy and doesn’t really want to think about these assignments, so she hands them to me to get them off her plate. So I don’t think it’s malicious. And it might be that I need to keep trying to suggest others.

        We all do weekly emails to my boss that list the projects we’re working on. I always include these projects and this year, I’ve started highlighting them specifically at the end of my emails with a subject heading ie:

        Project 1
        Project 2

        Unfortunately, my metrics won’t change. The truth is that these projects are not a priority for my company or my department. But, although they’re not a priority, they still need to be done to keep clients happy. And although, I’ve been praised for handling them well, I almost feel pigeonholed by them since no one really cares about them (unless there’s a problem).

        1. Snatches & Cleans*

          Honestly, I was once where you are. I had to quit and get a new job to get new opportunities. I’m in that same place again in my career, though this time I’m so close to retiring that I don’t care.

          Sometimes you just get pigeonholed — particularly if you are really good at a task. It’s tough, because when new interesting work comes in, it goes to the new guy, because you are booked. You need to find a way to become the new guy.

          1. OP 3*

            To be honest, I’m in the midst of getting certification for a different career path and my company has ample opportunities for that path. It can get frustrating to plod along on irrelevant project at my current job and I sometimes bounce between optimism for this potential change and frustration that I’m still where I’ve always been. But if I can keep playing nice with everyone in my current department, I have a pretty good shot at a position more in line with my potential career change elsewhere in the company. (My boss does tend to be a decent human being and I think would support me)

        2. LQ*

          Have you been suggesting having someone not you do it, or suggesting a specific person? I think that making the easiest thing to do for your boss saying yes is sort of the way to go. “I can show Jack how to do this invitation and make sure it gets done following all of our requirements.” That kind of thing (bonus if Jack wants to do it or has time to do it or is the person your boss thought should be doing it) can make it so much easier, boss doesn’t have to think about everyone’s schedules and what people want and plan and make decisions, they just say yes, sure that sounds good. (Assuming you’ve done a little of your own homework on this.) Make the path you want (and your boss wants!) smoother and easier for her to say yes and get them off her plate.

          1. LQ*

            (All that said it can be hard, I was in a similar situation, and I kept pushing off tiny slices, but there just wasn’t anyone really capable of doing it until really recently, so it was very hard, but all the slices I got off my plate were with this method.)

          2. OP 3*

            I do usually suggest a specific person. It’s had mixed results. There have been times when despite what’s on my plate or how many invites I’m doing, she just wants me to do it anyway. I think because she doesn’t want to deal with the potential for issues even if I would be helping on the project. Assigning it to me, basically means, she can stop thinking about it. I think it’s going to be one of those situations where it’s not going to change quickly and I’ll have to do what you did and start chipping away at it until its not a problem anymore.

            1. LQ*

              One of the things I did early on was just bring other people into projects to learn. From this I learned who liked stuff, those people were easy targets to slice work on because when they ask for it and I ask for it…so much easier. Sometimes it’s just variety. Sometimes they really like the actual work. And if your boss is at any point hiring that is the BEST time to get in on the ground floor of that and point out that if your boss wants that work off your plate, perfect time to do it.

            2. Artemesia*

              If you want to move up on another path in this company be aware that doing the junk work for a boss who is inconsiderate may cause her to derail your career change because ‘she needs you’.

            3. Elizabeth H.*

              It sounds to me like maybe the issue is that your boss just genuinely, truly does want YOU to do them (regardless of the fact that she agreed to shift some of it to others at an earlier date). That you’re the best and most efficient at it, and it is not a priority to her to have other people develop their skills to that level. I am wondering if a possible different solution might be if there are *other* tasks you do that she would be more amenable to shifting to your colleagues, to balance out the work load more?

              If it’s less a time issue than that you just genuinely do not want to do so much invitation designing all the time, I think it might just be fairly intractable at this point.

        3. fposte*

          OP, I’m a boss in a similar situation. What would help redirect me is if you talked to me outside of the assignment conversation, preferably when there are no banners in the works at all. Something like, “Hey, we talked about taking some of the banner load off me, and I’d really like it if we can make that happen. What if I train Jane on banners in more detail and then supervise her work on the next one so she’s working with a net?”

        4. AMPG*

          I do think you should push back in your next performance review about the fact that a decent-sized chunk of your time is spent doing things that aren’t part of your performance goals. Even if the company doesn’t want to prioritize them enough to make them official work tasks, they should be part of your “team player” goals or however your company measures that sort of “over and above” work.

        5. Ramona Flowers*

          I think you need to explicitly ask your boss what she wants you to prioritise.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, not to blame the Op, but one thing Ive learned is if you need your boss to fix something, do as much prep or whatever you can instead of just leaving it up to her. For example, I could go to my boss and say ” we need a nee welcome email for customers “, but that would get me a smile n nod and then crickets. But if I prepared several drafts and asked for her feedback, then things would happen. That’s why Alison’s script is great, because she’s offering her boss a solution.

      1. OP 3*

        The issue is that I don’t need my boss to fix the situation. I don’t really have issues doing these projects, except that they don’t support my bottom line. I don’t need help prioritizing my projects and don’t want to imply that the system is broken. It’s not. It’s just that the system is me and the system should be all of us.

  17. Megain*

    #3. Work is not my #1 priority. It shouldn’t be yours, either.

    #4. I just went through the tenure-track application. Most had 3-4 lor requirements to be submitted with the package. I applied for 30+ positions. I felt so bad for my letter writers. They kept saying it’s part of the process, expected etc. I asked why don’t you change the process? In this world if you’re young for a job somewhere where your boss/pic doesn’t know anyone you might as well not apply.
    Btw, my new job is at a place that didn’t require the letters up front. They called them before they invited me for the on-campus, but after the phone. I liked them right away.

    1. Sarah*

      Interfolio!! Writers upload one letter and then you can send it wherever it needs to go, and it all stays confidential.

      1. Meagain*

        Haha. Most needed to be sent as one packet. And most were personalized. We knew who was in search committees beforehand and my writers customized to each institution and person they knew on the committee.
        Plus I’m not paying each time I needed a letter to go out.

    2. Peep*

      “They called them before they invited me for the on-campus, but after the phone.”

      YES! Why won’t more people do this?? It seems so logical. A quick phone conversation will get you more useful information than a dumb letter, anyway. Also, congrats on the job!

  18. The ReFa*

    #1 If the internship was part of school/university studies, your former intern might be in trouble for walking away from the job. You should try to reach out to her to find ways to make this right. E.g., offer to confirm the events to her school if needed. Of course this goes on top of apology/offers suggested in other comments above.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Not really. Most internships nowadays have an internship coordinator, someone from the school to provide academic guidance. Chances are the intern went to the coordinator about the incident and the coordinator was the one to help them with pulling out.

  19. Anonicat*

    #1 is the kind of post that reminds me to be grateful that my present coworkers are such pleasant, considerate, reasonable people. OP1, I’m so sorry you and the intern have to deal with those knuckleheads.

  20. consultant*


    I feel so sorry for the intern. She was basically bullied out of the job. She probably won’t find anything else this summer.

    I would apologise to her profusely if I were you and think about how I could make it better for her, for example by offering her good references.

  21. Tealeaves*

    OP#2, do NOT force that employee on his day off to cancel it and come to work *no matter how trivial you think his other commitment is*. Think about it this way. You would not force the injured employee to come in as scheduled. Does this day-off-employee need to get injured too before you accept it as a valid reason for not being available? What if he gets hit by the flu or a bus on the day you need him anyway? Then not only would you have a frustrated resentful employee who will distrust you, you also have nobody to cover the shift. It’s better to just treat it as they’re out of town. Sure, it sucks that it comes down to you to save the day, but keep the long-term in mind. It’s also a good role-model for them to follow.

  22. Greg M.*

    number 1: ew, just ew. like in highschool when everyone’s 14 and the person with the cast thinks it’s funny……… but here, what the hell?

    Number 2: “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless.” there’s an idea to get out of your head right now. Plenty of employers want “company loyalty” but don’t seem to be willing to give “worker loyalty” back. He is allowed to have a life, he did everything right and made plans.

    I’m not saying that you’re not being loyal to your employees but you say you’re new to management and you’re expecting someone to make their job their number 1 priority above all else. I think you need to pause a little and reflect on how you’d feel in the same place.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      This. I am loyal to current company – because they are reasonable and honest with me. BUT – work is nowhere near number 1 priority. My kids are. At the end of the day, I work to make money to support them. The job is a means to an end. A wonderful means that I love doing… but I’m in it to be paid.

      Anyone who suggested that the job > my kids would be looking for me replacement shortly afterwards.

        1. Liet-Kynes*

          It works if you read your post in a pirate voice. “ARRR matey, ye be lookin’ for me replacement if ye dinnae respect me days off!”

  23. MommyMD*

    Day off was approved and it’s not an emergency. Stick to it. A controlling manager is not always the best manager. There’s a difference between exerting control and managing employees.

    1. LBK*

      Amen. And even then, I’d say it’s more “asserting authority” than “exerting control,” and you shouldn’t need to do it that often.

  24. Voice from the wilderness*

    I think someone better look at the legal exposure created by this disgusting situation.

    If the intern suffers actual damages, the company could have significant legal exposure.

    Some strong steps should be taken against both the guilty worker, as well as the manager.

    I think that the company should encourage the intern to return, place the manager and “artist” on unpaid leave, so that the intern won’t have to see them, and have her managed/protected by the best manager available.

    After the legal department weighs in, a decision can be made regarding the future of the deadly dumb duo; ranging from training to demotion to firing.

    Whatever it takes to try and make things right, while reducing legal liability.

  25. Fiddlesticks*

    Everyone else has already articulated my thoughts on No. 1, all I can add is: OP, please, please come back with an update.

    1. Mainly lurking*

      OP1, please let your update include:
      1. Gross employee and his manager fired
      2. Profuse apologies to intern.
      3. Intern is not penalised for not completing her internship, and is either given full credit or opportunity to earn the rest of required credit in a different department.
      4. HR strengthens their sexual harrassment policy (or writes one in the first place?) and makes sure existing staff understand the need to comply, and this is made part of the onboarding process for new staff and interns.

      I’m sure there is more …

  26. AlwhoisthatAl*

    #2 As you are fairly new to managing this is a very important decision here. Some manager’s think that being a manager is a Boss “I tell everyone what to do and you are my slaves and I will run your lives”, other’s think that being a manager is being a Leader “I guide and help everyone to improve our work and everyone looks good”. Being a Boss will result in you being hated and if you get anywhere it will be over the broken backs of your staff, the other will result in you enjoying your work with a good team of people and getting to the same place.
    Please work your training day, be a Leader not a Boss.

  27. DArcy*

    #2 It’s not a matter of “commitment” or “control”, it’s a matter of having mutual respect. Your employee has already shown professional commitment by scheduling the day off instead of just not showing up; you need to show equal professional commitment by respecting the schedule.

    1. Daria Grace*

      YES! It’s so frustrating to be given trouble over leave requests approved well in advance when you know you could have just called in sick on the day.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yes. One time in this job (which is awesome) there was a bit of emergency, and I had holiday booked. I offered to come in, and was told “no – you have a holiday!”. I then pointed out that holiday was with family a few hundred miles away, so as long as I was *there* I could log on remotely and help out … got “hmmm… maybe…. we’ll call if it gets too bad” with lots of thanks.

      (They didn’t call :) )

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        My husband’s OldJob had it actually in the employee handbook that if they asked you to cancel a vacation they had approved the time off for, and you had airfare or anything else nonrefundable, then they had to reimburse you. It did happen very occasionally (they worked on something a lot more critical than Teapots, that created true emergencies) but it made everyone make sure it was absolutely necessary before someone was asked to cancel time off, and the employee at least wasn’t also eating costs, and knew it wasn’t some whim.

        At his current job, it’s not codified like that, but they are even more relaxed, since if a Teapot Machine stops making teapots, it’s still not an emergency. He had something come up the night of the department-sponsored afternoon at the Major League baseball game, and he was going to stay to fix it instead of going to the game, and his Manager told him to go to the game and worry about it in the morning.

    3. Artemesia*

      I remember eating in a restaurant one time at lunch when there was one waitress running her tail off and people were getting disgruntled because it was lunch and they had to get back to work and everything was going slowly because of the understaffing. Apparently two waiters had not come in. WHILE this chaos was going on and the waitress was practically running to cover tables, the manager was having lunch at one of the tables with a friend. This was like 40 years ago and it still shines in my memory as an example of terrible management. When things fall apart the MANAGER steps up and gets the job done even if it means bussing tables and getting coffee and delivering orders.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        A group I belong to liked to go to one particular restaurant, where the best waiter they have is a friend of a group member. On one visit, there were twenty-five of us, the friend/waiter was the ONLY person serving us, and the rest of the staff was standing around doing nothing to help him. It took almost an hour and a half to get everyone fed and the food was not worth the wait.

        I made sure to tip the guy directly and heavily, and I will not go if we’re meeting there. Or, like the last time, I went but didn’t order anything except a glass of water. You could blame it on the other staff, but a good manager would have seen that and done something about it.

  28. Lars the Real Girl*

    #3: Is it possible that (especially if you’re receiving these requests from people other than your boss) that when your boss said “we should spread these around” she meant “go ahead and hand these to other people when they come your way”? She may not realize that you’re looking for her to step in and actually dole out work. In her case, I would expect my employee to take my go-ahead and actually go ahead.

    Unless your office is super weird, it should be fine to fwd a request to another team member and say “hey, can you take this one on? Manager asked that we dole these out as they come in.” Throw your mgr on cc if it makes you feel better.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agree. These requests have to be coming from somewhere — unless the clients are calling OP directly to commission these invitations, which I doubt is the case, the requests are probably coming from the boss.

        In which case I would augment Alison’s advice (reminding the boss of the pattern and asking whether she’s clear to solve it by reassigning the work) with reminding the boss each time an assignment comes in. “Fergus, we talked about me not doing all of the invitations, so I’m going to have Lucinda work on this one.”

        1. Lars the Real Girl*

          The way the OP wrote it, I assumed that these were requests coming in from coworkers/other departments, but that could be wrong.

          If the requests ARE coming from her boss, then I do think your script is better.

          1. Sarah*

            Yeah, I assumed it was coming from other departments as well. If you’re not comfortable assigning work, I also think it’s fine to write back and tell people: Boss has asked me to cut back on invitations, but you should check with Jane, Bill, or Casey who also have access to this same software (or whatever).

    1. OP 3*

      Typically these assignments come from my boss, though they sometimes just end up in my inbox because people know I handle them (I send these to my boss for review). Lately – no matter how they end up on my plate – I’ve been suggesting to my boss other coworkers to manage them, which has had mixed, inconsistent results. But I’m hesitant to just assign a project to a coworker as it could be perceived as me delegating work to them, and that is definitely above my paygrade.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        Good info. So it’s a mix of both.

        If it’s just inaction and hem-hawing by your boss, would it be out of line in your relationship with her to send an email to her about one of these requests and say “if there’s no issue from your end, I’m going to ask/train Jane to do this one so we can start moving some of the work to the team.”

        If she writes back a reason not to, then you get to open the discussion back up. If she doesn’t write back (within her normal email response time x2) then I would just go ahead and tell Jane “hey, I talked to Mgr about spreading some of this invitation work around. Can you tackle this one? I can show you how I’ve done it before/give you an example/answer questions.”

  29. gingerbird*

    Wait, was it an employee or another intern who drew the general is? What happened to this person?

  30. Intern*

    #1 I would consider having company reimburse intern for the cost of the doctor visit/replacement cast or cast covering. Even with insurance, (s)he likely had a copay. (If you have a company lawyer, run it by them first though.)

  31. ThirdShiftMonster*

    Can I just say that I really appreciate your insight into the endorsements feature from linkedin? I am recently expanding on my professional profile and resume and felt really tacky and odd at having all of those tags with some random endorsements from co-workers and a few managers. I will be turning it off now. Thank you for that advice.

  32. AdAgencyChick*

    #2, “your job is your first commitment” doesn’t mean “you can’t make any other commitments.” The latter is what you’re in effect telling your employee.

    You ask, don’t tell, the employee to come in, and I think you should also offer to reimburse the cost of any tickets or other expenses he’s already committed to for that day.

    And that’s if there’s truly no way to get through one day without having both of those employees in.

    1. LeisureSuitLarry*

      “your job is your first commitment” sounds like something someone fairly new to working would say. I’m sure when I was in my 20s I probably thought that, but with a few more years under my belt (and a gut to hang over it!) I know now that there are a ton of things that come before my job. I love my job, but it’s not the very first priority.

  33. Springsteen is the best Boss*

    #1: How can the OP possibly wonder about how to handle the offending employee?The penis-drawer needs to be fired. Penis-drawers manager needs what Allison suggested: A Come-to-Jesus meeting.

    #2: For the last four years I’ve worked in retail while looking for other work. I’ve also had some health problems which have affected my attendance. Being a cashier is not my “first priority” in life, and I don’t want it to be. My best managers don’t ask why I’m requesting a day Off or say I’m unavailable for a day. New Manager understands his or her other employee is injured and unavailable. They also need to understand a day off also makes someone unavailable to come in.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I am with you at wondering about how they train management (or don’t train them!) at OP1’s company.

      Perhaps she was only asking if the manager needs to go on a PIP first, or be fired outright with the employee? Or was wondering what could be done to help the intern?

    2. Springsteen is the best Boss*

      Correction: How could they wonder about how to handle the offending employee’s manager? How could that manager possibly and so horribly mismanage this situation? And where is HR in all of this?

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I feel like a Come-to-Jesus meeting would be if the manager in question is both a normally high performer with good judgment and absurdly lucky. This is absolutely basis for firing.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Have to agree. The manager is literally laughing at sexual discrimination. And forcing the intern to sit around with a penis on her cast all day. I cannot believe the OP hasn’t fired the manager already. What kind of workplace is this?!

        (And it takes all my self-control to not type that last line in shouty capitals. I’m outraged on behalf of the intern.)

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          I think that a lot of people are exercising self control and following the rules about not piling on or insulting an OP.

          1. nonegiven*

            I go the impression OP didn’t have authority to let the girl leave or discipline the artist or the manager.

    4. Relly*

      I’d actually reverse the order for #1. Penis-drawer might fall under “very stupid mistake,” especially considering p-d’s boss apparently thinks this kind of thing is a-okay. A manager actively laughing this off, especially since she’s higher authority, seems a larger offense to me than the idiot doing the drawing in the first place. I’d have the “get on board or else” with the artist, but I’m not sure the manager is salvageable.

    5. Jesca*

      I know. Out of everything, I think this saddened me the most. I can think of only a few things more demeaning, demoralizing, and outright harrassment than this! Yet, people are really confused as to what to do. It is simple. You drag them into HR and fire and you compensate that intern. Could you IMAGINE having your EMPLOYER force you to walk around all day with a penis drawn on your body and priminantly displayed? No. No. No. Its like some bad hazing.

  34. Bend & Snap*

    #2 “I have asked the other employee to come in and he is committed to something else, I think that his job is his first commitment regardless”

    Telling someone their job should be their first commitment after they’ve made plans for their family, their health or whatever is a great way to get them on the fast train to nopetown. Please don’t ever say (or think) this when you’ve granted vacation. It will make people hate working for you and they will quit.

    Most people need their jobs to live, and taking scheduled vacation time doesn’t mean they’re not prioritizing their job.

    1. Temperance*

      I’ve only heard this sort of thing from managers are truly awful, low-level service jobs. It’s a great way to make people not give a shit.

      1. Allypopx*

        Oh I’ve definitely heard it from my boss in an office setting middle management position. I’ve also been accused of “pulling back” and “not giving 100%” for having outside of work priorities, taking vacations (aka using my ‘generous benefits package’), and not working off the clock when I was non-exempt. Toxic environments come in all shapes and sizes.

      2. Antilles*

        No, it’s sadly common everywhere. The only difference is that outside of the “truly awful, low-level service jobs”, it’s usually handled in a slightly more indirect way: You aren’t specifically *told* to cancel your vacation, but there’s “Are you sure you need that day off?”, “Well, we’re really in a crisis right now”, “We’d like you to show more initiative”, and so on. So while they aren’t explicitly telling you that This Job Is More Important Than Your Life, it is very clearly implied.

  35. Roscoe*

    #2 The fact that you wrote “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless” is very telling here. For very few people is work their first commitment. That would be family or something else. I don’t know why your employee asked for the day off, and frankly it doesn’t matter. Whether he has a trip planned or just wants to sit around an play video games, he is taking a day off that he gets. You say you are a new manager, so I won’t attack you too much. But just know you are being unrealistic here. An emergency that came up isn’t his problem, its yours, and its on you to figure out something. So maybe you have to offer someone else extra money to come in or something, but making him work a day you approved off is just wrong.

  36. Shay*

    For OP No. 2, I would just add to the above comments to be sensitive to penalizing workers who follow all the rules (and put work first by respecting you and clearing the day off with you in advance). There is something brutal about following all the rules and being in the clear only to then be treated like you are in the wrong, selfish, and potentially at risk of losing your job. The employee could have just called out sick or be a no-call no-show if the consequences are literally the same or even less severe than playing by the rules.

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      Seconding this. It’s always the conscientious employees who get screwed in these situations. That’s a really bad precedent to set. It will push out your best employees.

    2. Fictional Butt*

      Exactly! OP, you are not “losing control.” You are in control, because you know which of your employees are available that day and which are not and you can work with that reliable information. If you start randomly cancelling people’s days off after they’ve informed you in advance, then they will stop informing you in advance when they’re going to take time off. THEN you’ll have lost control.

  37. WhirlwindMonk*

    “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless”

    I know others have said this already, but #2, do yourself a favor and never, ever even think this phrase again. Just, holy cow. Part of being a manager is taking responsibility for your decisions. You gave them the time off, so you do the work that’s necessary. Between that line and the one about losing control, your thought processes are far too similar to some of the really terrible managers that get written in about on this site. Nip it in the bud before it gets out of control and you end up with all your best employees leaving and all the rest miserable.

    1. Allypopx*

      I’ve heard so many versions of this over my working life and it has made me firm in my resolve to never be this kind of manager. Work/life balance is so important, OP, and that can be hard to learn – especially as a new manager who has to deal with the fall out when the work end of things is in chaos. But you don’t want to burn out your employees. Show them respect and treat them with dignity and they’ll be more willing to help you when crunch time comes – don’t crack the whip and make them resent you. Your life will be much harder that way.

  38. Amanda2*

    #4 yes every school job you have will ask for letters. If you plan on continuing to work in a school district, ask for a letter from your supervisor from each position you successfully leave so that your letters remain current. It’s common place and supervisors/ administrators write these types of letters all the time

  39. One of the Sarahs*

    OP #2 I agree with what everyone else has said re expecting your employees’ job to be their first priority, but I also wanted to ask this:

    You started your letter saying “I recently made my schedule for my employees as we are slowing down in the business that we do.” – does this mean that you’re cutting back hours for your staff, and/or reducing opportunities for overtime/extra shifts that they’ve been used to? If it does, you need to be extra careful about how you’re framing things to yourself and your staff.

    I could be mis-reading you, but if you’re cutting back *and* expecting to be able to cancel days off at the same time, you’re going to either lose your staff, or have a very unhappy team who wish they could leave. IF you’re having to reduce their hours/shifts, they’ll absolutely know that their employment isn’t your/the businesses top priority, so it’s even more understandable if your priorities are not theirs, either.

  40. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #2 – Now that I’ve chilled a bit from the horror of Castgate – I had a manager who wasn’t too bothered with employee’s time off requests or stated availability, on your same logic — “the job is the first commitment.” This guy was universally hated and reviled, and I’m honestly not sure if anyone would have bothered to pee on him if he’d been on fire. There are a million and five ways for employees to make their managers’ lives miserable without being openly insubordinate, and believe me, we used all of them. Do not be this guy. Do yourself, your career, and your employees all the favor of not being this guy, because the minute you start revoking granted leave, you will lose control, because you’ll have lost the respect and trust of everyone who reports to you.

    People, on the whole, generally operate on GIGO principles. If you treat them like crap, all you get from them will be crap.

    1. Rebecca*

      So much this! Ex PHB was like this; she didn’t care what your plans were for time off, if she thought it wasn’t important or someone else’s plans were more important, she’d argue and say you had to come to work anyway. She would ask why you wanted time off, and because we were always understaffed (it was her fault for not clearing the dead wood, her friend included), it seemed like it was always a struggle to use our vacation benefits. And she wouldn’t approve in a timely manner, so it was hard for people who needed to make reservations…and people ended up paying more for flights and hotels. She’s schedule work for a Saturday (7 AM to Noon) on Thursday, when people already had weekend plans, and flatly state that she didn’t care what the plans were for, she expected them to be canceled. Then we would all sit there, some of us with nothing to do, because some people (the dead wood) were behind on their work. We work in an office, she lived a few minutes away, and she could have just told the behind people to show up, but no…can’t single anyone out and make them feel bad. It was miserable. SO GLAD she was shown the door and isn’t torturing, I mean managing, anyone now.

      Last Spring, I wanted a day off to go on a day trip with my Dad, and she argued with me about it, the same crap, understaffed, we’re busy, can’t you go next year, blah blah blah, and I stood my ground. I said no, my Dad is old, and I don’t know how many more days I’ll be able to spend with him. And I went. Glad I did; Dad died suddenly 2 months ago, so it was the last time we went to that place together.

      New manager doesn’t care what we’re doing, we just have to stay within the guidelines (1/2 day or 1 full day) and give a reasonable head’s up. That’s the way it should be.

  41. Fronzel Neekburm*

    Others have touched on this, but LW #2, you were not losing control. someone asked for a day off, you honored it, then the situation changed, you asked if they could change the day off…. that’s all in control. Where you lose control is the “Work should be their priority.” I’m sorry, but you need to nip this toxic thought in the bud, right now.

    Work/Life balance is important. I didn’t realize that until I got a job where I was disciplined for working 10 months and not taking a day off, having come from a more toxic environment. (Not really “disciplined” just sent home when my manager was doing the timesheets and realized i hadn’t taken a real day off – she wanted me to relax. We have a good working relationship.)

    I don’t care of that employee asked off for a wedding, family member’s death, pet’s death, video game convention, or because “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was new on Netflix that day and he’s a Titus-head. The employee asked for the day off because of something in their life was important, not work.

    I’m not trying to come down on you hard – I think you handled things well to start with. (Asking to switch a day off isn’t a big deal, but if they have committed to something, please, honor and respect that.) Take a look back in the archives at the manager who was wondering what to do because an employee, who put themselves through college after tragedy, quit because he refused to give her the morning off to attend her graduation. (But let someone with concert tickets have the day off.) Look at the responses to that. You’re new to management, so take this lesson, and realize that work is a priority – but it doesn’t supercede life. I just took a few days off for a comic book convention. You know why? Because growing up I had a strained relationship with my dad, but we communicated and bonded over that, so we were going together. We’re up against a hard deadline, my manager still insisted I go. Because life isn’t working.

    work to live. Not live to work.

    1. Buffy Summers*

      Haha, I just said that exact same thing below – work to live, not live to work. I hadn’t seen your comment, so sorry for the repeat! :)

      1. Fronzel Neekburm*

        We’re both intelligent people. That’s becuase we’re both awesome.

        Wonderful name, by the way.

  42. Buffy Summers*

    For #2, you said, “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless.”
    I think you need to seriously rethink this mindset. There are people whose life is work and who are happy with that and that’s fine – but I think most people live by the old adage, we work to live, not live to work. My job is absolutely not my first commitment. My life and my family come first, period.
    Of course, that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t ever come in and work if needed on the fly and I had plans that could be easily canceled and I work over when I need to – I’m committed to my job and I want to do the absolute best I can, so I give 100% when I’m at work. But if I had made plans with my family – especially my daughters, whom I don’t get to see very often at all – work would just have to deal without me.
    Maybe I’m looking at this wrong – but this is just how it is for me.

  43. JR*

    #1: I want to be clear on what I think is the reporting structure. The intern is managed by a person whom you manage. The “artist” (who might not be an intern) is managed by someone else whom you might not manage. The artist’s manager was inappropriate for not disciplining him. One of the managers (probably the intern’s manager, but it’s not 100% clear to me) was also inappropriate for laughing it off and not letting the intern go home immediately.

    OP, if I’m correct that there are two managers involved other than you, then you definitely need to get the other manager’s boss involved as well. That person and HR both need to know that there’s a big problem here, and multiple managers are working together to create a hostile environment that can lead to legal problems.

    1. Myrin*

      I read it the same way, with there being two managers involved, but what made me wonder is that “the manager laughed about it and would not give her permission to leave” – like you, I thought the laughing manager was the same manager who “did not do anything when the intern complained” (aka, “artist”‘s manager), however, how does this manager then have the authority to stop the intern from leaving and to assign her to clients when she is ostensibly managed by another person (OP’s report)?

      1. JR*

        Right, that’s my confusion too. My best guess is that the interned complained to her own manager (OP1’s direct report), and that’s who didn’t do anything. But regardless, at least some responsibility is on the “artist”‘s manager for not taking the problem more seriously.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I read it as the OP being both the intern’s and the penis-drawer’s grandboss. But I see it it’s not completely clear that’s not the arrangement, too.

  44. MuseumChick*

    OP1, a lot of other people have covered my initial thoughts. 1) Fire/give a final warning to BOTH the manager and the employee who drew the pictures (I lean towards firing). 2) Reach out to the intern with an apology, and let her know that you would like to cover the cost of having the image covered up and that the company will be giving her a god reference.

    A third step I would do is to have your whole company do some sexual harassment training. If there are not one, but two people, in your company who thought this wasn’t a big deal there are probably more. Additionally, make it clear that this is a workplace that will not tolerate this kind of behavior to any degree.

    1. Allypopx*

      For me this depends on performance and standing. I’d definitely have a “this is 100% a fireable offense” conversation, but if they were really worth retaining I’d implement a PIP that included written apologies to the intern and intensive sexual harassment training.

      But if this is part of a larger pattern, yeah, I agree on firing.

      1. Liane*

        For these levels of of jerk-coworker and jerk-manager, “really worth retaining” should be a very, very, high bar. Probably “see that dot on the horizon? Bar is 900 light years farther” high.

    2. OhNo*

      I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to put the whole company through sexual harassment training without evidence of a widespread problem. It is possible that the artist’s coworkers were just as horrified as the OP is, but knew the manager well enough to know that objecting would do nothing.

      However, I agree that it’s definitely worth having a conversation with the rest of the team, particularly the ones who were nearby when the incident happened. They need to know that the company will crack down hard on that kind of nonsense, and that there are people in management that they can take their concerns to safely if it ever happens again.

      1. Observer*

        You know, I think that someone below asked a question that does point to a larger problem. How is it that no one offered her some help with covering the cast until the poor intern could get home and do something?

        1. SusanIvanova*

          It mentions white-out and she probably did get some help with that – I can’t imagine doing that one-handed on a cast on the other arm. But if it was done with a marker then it would still show through.

          1. Observer*

            Yeah, but there were some other suggestions that might have worked better, but would have needed some help. And although the OP clearly spoke to a number of people (good job on that, btw!) there is no mention of anyone helping her out or being mortified on her behalf. I’d say to the OP that if no one actually said that to you (as opposed to not having included it in the interest of brevity), that’s a very, very bad sign.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        The retraining could be sending an email, or addressing this specific incident in a meeting. Give the example and then tie it to why it was inappropriate and what consequences it did and could involve.

        And if involved parties are still allowed to be with the company then an apology, especially from the manager, to the coworkers for how it negatively impacted their environment wouldn’t be out of place. This is the type of incident afterall that could be the first step (or a significant step) on the road to a very toxic department. Yes the intern is the most grieved party but the others who had to witness it and ESPECIALLY witness the lack of appropriate response were also wronged.

  45. Xarcady*

    #2. For all the good reasons stated here, let the employee have the planned day off.

    Perhaps you can use this experience to formulate a plan for when this happens again–which it will. Maybe you need more employees cross-trained in different areas, so they can pitch in wherever needed. Maybe you need to hire some flex part-timers who can work extra hours if needed–this would have be made crystal clear during the interview process.

    I know it stinks that you are the only backup and that you had other plans for the day. But this will only repeat itself–maybe not with an employee on vacation, but 2 people might call out sick on the same day, someone might quit without any notice, someone might quit with notice but you might be unable to fill the position before the employee leaves. There are many reasons why you might find yourself without adequate coverage for a day or two. Appreciate the fact that you have advanced knowledge of that this time, and use the time to come up with a plan not just for the coming week, but for the future.

    1. always in email jail*

      It does stink that you will likely have to cancel your training and cover, but that’s part of being a manager. That’s why we’re paid more than non-managers- because sometimes it’s crappy. And I agree, this is a great opportunity to take a look at staffing depth and make sure there’s a plan in place for when more than one person is unavailable/ill.

  46. Jubilance*

    #1 – I have a serious question for the OP, and I hope this doesn’t come off as harsh, I just want to ask a question. You said in your letter “I’m at a loss as to how to deal with this. How do I deal with what happened?” Did you legit not understand how wrong this was, or were you wondering how you should go about dealing with the issue? Cause my first thought was “offenders need to be fired!” – did you just want confirmation that your instinct was right or did you truly not know what to do? And if you didn’t know what to do, is it because you don’t necessarily see it as a big deal or worried about legal implications or anything else?

    1. kb*

      From my read of the letter, it seemed as if the LW understood the gravity of the situation. I think there are some extra layers to this, since the harassed employee was an intern, she quit her internship, and has ceased contact. As people have said above, this could lead to the company being blackmailed by the university– so do you proactively reach out to the university’s internship coordinator? The LW also needs to investigate if there is a problem with the entire work environment regarding sexual harassment or if the problem would be solved by removing 2 people. I suspect the LW knows there’s a lot going on here and wants to make sure all bases are covered. (Also, I think writing it out and hearing other people’s opinions helps with processing the “what the????” nature of the situation.)

    2. Shadow*

      It’s really easy to armchair quarterback and a whole lot harder to deal with it in reality where you want to make sure you’re making a a smart decision and not just an emotional one.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. This stuff is easy to opine on from where we sit, but in the actual situation, it tends to be a whole lot trickier because there are other variables. For example, the manager could be highly valuable, there could be all kinds of internal politics involved, the OP could be brand new or new to managing managers, and all sorts of other things. It doesn’t necessarily change the ultimate answer, but it can really cloud the path to getting there.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, it’s easy to sit here and say what needs to happen – but if I were the OP and had gotten that info – and given the state things were at when OP became involved – I’d just be sitting there frozen for a bit with a mix of horrified outrage and “Now what??”

          Of course I’d have wanted to act. Honestly, I’d have wanted to fire the draw-er and any manager who was involved in not helping the intern. I’d probably want to have words with anyone who witnessed it also about whether they reported it – if not, why, and if so, to whom (then go have a conversation with that person).

          But my authority might not extend to all parties involved (depending on whether they all report to me or not; clearly at least some of them did report to the OP, but I’m not sure RudeArtist’s manager does, or whether they were involved in any way in this), and it’s after the fact, and do I have the authority or do I need HR or management….

          It’s easy to look at from the outside and see what justice demands. It’s harder, but still not bad, to see what the probable needed actions are.

          But in the moment in the middle? I’d be overwhelmed. I’d be worried I was over-reacting – but I’d be worried that if I “corrected” for that I’d be under-reacting instead.

          1. OhNo*

            That’s a really excellent point. When something truly egregious occurs, most people have at least a moment of, “did that just happen?” Things like this, that so thoroughly breach our perception of the social contract of proper behavior, are shocking and uncommon and it’s totally understandable that the OP needed some time to process before taking action.

            Actually, I’d say it’s a very good thing that they did take time to process, and even ask for a second opinion, before acting. It’s the management equivalent of “measure twice, cut once”.

        2. LBK*

          I also think most people have a natural aversion to having to fire someone, so particularly when a situation is so severe that your gut instinct says firing might be warranted, you want a double check on that because it’s a serious decision.

    3. CMDRBNA*

      I’m glad you posted this – that was my first thought too! I can understand being uncertain about exactly what order to take what steps in, and how to deal with this incident on its own versus the broader problem here.

      For some reason I’m more angry at the manager than at the “artist” – maybe because the manager deliberately humiliated the intern when she should have had the intern’s back? I don’t know.

      I do know that if I were in that intern’s place and I was there as part of a university or other program, I’d be sending all that documentation to whoever set the program up so that they wouldn’t place interns there before. I’d also probably be putting the entire thing on Glass Door.

      I supervised interns at a federal agency and I can’t imagine what would have happened to someone if they pulled this with one of our interns – they’d likely have gotten an EEO investigation and an official letter of reprimand in their file, plus maybe any supervisory duties yanked.

      1. Observer*

        Your point about broader culture is good. Below someone mentions that problems of “bro-y” culture.

        OP, you may want to think about the wider culture issue seriously. If you want a high profile example, look at Uber. This is a BIG company – close to $70Billion market cap, international, huge workforce, seems to always get their way.

        Yet, suddenly, they need to change their culture. It’s not because the board cares about justice or sexism or anything like that. (If you don’t believe me, consider that it took the board a full day – 7 hours! to approve all of the recommendations made by the law firm that presented the report, despite there being nothing very earth shattering there, and what happened at the all hands meeting where these changes were being announced.)

        So why are they even pretending? Because this kind of behavior tends to be self destructive in the long run. Uber is up against a brain drain, multiple investigations, at least one law suit and the potential for doaens more – and it’s losing lots of money. That’s just unsustainable.

        1. Observer*

          FYI – Kalanick got pushed out last night – a few hours after I posted. EVERY article I read about it makes the point that the investors did this because they are afraid to lose their money.

  47. Aloot*

    #1: Do have the talk with the manager like Alison suggested! Not just for the intern’s sake, but also for any and all future employees who might run into a similar situation. As well as the employees already there, this kind of info has a tendency to spread (but everyone keeps it quiet that they know) and it reflects really badly on the leadership of the company. You might think “it’s just one manager’s actions, though” but it’s the INaction from the other people in charge that is damning, since it so easily reads as condoning it.

    Did the intern who drew it get away scot free? If so, please remedy that, too.

    #2: What would you do in this situation if the employees with the day off had been 6 hours away on vacation? Don’t revoke his day off, it will be a serious misstep for you. (And there is no guarantee that he will come in even if you do revoke the day off, he could call in sick too cause the commitment he made is not one he can or wants to cancel. And then what will you do?)

    “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless.”

    Please keep that attitude to yourself (i.e. don’t tell the employee that) because it makes you seem seriously out of touch with the reality of things. And, frankly speaking, is going to make you come off as a shitty manager. People have lives outside of work, and that is always going to be more important than work. You also have no idea what the commitment actually (he could be visiting his dying great aunt that means the world to him), so don’t write it off as if it’s just a hair dresser appointment or something “trivial.”

    (And yes, using scarequotes here cause what might seem trivial to you might not be so trivial for the other party.)

  48. Observer*

    #1 I haven’t read the other comments yet, so I may be repeating. You need to take action, and you need to document this. What happened went waaay beyond “not ok” and it exposes you to serious legal problems. The event itself may or may not be “severe” enough (legally speaking) to trigger an eeoc response. But given how public this was and the supervisors direct involvement, it’s a MUCH bigger deal than if it had just been another worker acting like a jerk. And no one can claim that management didn’t know about it. Which also means that even if the eeoc doesn’t come after you, this will be exhibit 1 for any other claim against the company. Because no matter what the company lawyers say, unless both the worker who did this and the manager who ENCOURAGED him face consequences, and this is communicated to the rest of the staff, anyone suing is going to say “Of course Joe thought it was ok. Look at what happened to Intern.”

    Oh, and the other person who needs to coached and put on a very short leash is the jerk who did this.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I really feel like if I have to tell someone “Don’t draw penises and put down profanities on someone’s cast,” then I really can’t have that person working for me.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t disagree. The “very short leash” is the *minimum* that has to happen. A couple of firings would not come amiss, in my opinion.

      2. Liet-Kynes*

        I mean, basically. There’s just some things that if I have to tell you, there’s no reason for us to have the conversation at all.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Not at the level where you’re working a professional office job.

          I heard Duff Goldman say that his first job was at McDonald’s, and it was really and truly helpful to him because at McDonald’s, they are willing to teach you how to do absolutely everything down to the basics of how hot the water has to be to wash dishes, and how to wipe off a table. They expect to train people who know absolutely nothing.

          I’ve heard similar said about the Army- that they will “teach you the regulation way to wipe your own….”

          But we’re talking an office job in a professional setting. If the intern was the offender, I’d roll my eyes and have a serious talk about proper office norms. That is part of taking on an intern. But someone who presumably is a real employee?

          Ain’t nobody got time for that.

    2. Important Moi*

      Personal story time— the employee handbook stated:

      “Employees are prohibited from wearing pants of length above the knee with holes and any signs of fraying.”

      I being new at the time asked why the rule was so specific. I was told a employee wore that to work, when told to leave (to change clothes) said employee responded “The handbook doesn’t prohibit my shorts.”

  49. Em Too*

    #3 – try speaking up when a new one comes in. I’m not clear on the process, but even if she assigns it to you, you could remind her then. As long as it’s phrased as a ‘sure I can, but did you want to give Jane a go?’ it should be OK? Or if it gets to you another way just let her know that one’s arrived and suggest you pass it on as discussed.

  50. CBH*

    Situation #1
    Ask a Manager and Allison have been very informative to me over the years. I like that it covers areas that are not in the “textbooks/ professional resources”. Very few letters get me steamed, emotional and a “What in the World” thinking. #1 is one of those rare few.

    First – the offending employee needs to go, be reprimanded; this is not something to be swept under the rug. What would possibly be an excuse to drawing something inappropriate on a cast, personally or professionally? This is the real world not some high school prank. You are a professional adult, act like it. Personally I think this person needs to be fired – people have been let go for much less.

    Secondly the intern and offending employee’s manager… wow just wow. This is how you treat a position of seniority? This is a position you supposedly earned? Telling the intern to just deal with a potential sexual harassment is just ludicrous. How would you feel walking around with genitalia in permanent marker on your arm for a few weeks? This manager needs to be fired (my choice), demoted, put on major pip action and/ or required to take management class training over and over and over.

    Anyone else get the feeling that offending employee and manager might be friends that since this situation was viewed so lightly?

    OP – I give you props for realizing this is a serious issue. Thank you for at the very least coming and saying how do I deal with this. I’d definitely take to heart what everyone is saying here, talk to HR, speak with legal. Definitely apologize to the intern, do what you can to make it right financially and educational wise. The intern should not be blamed for any of this. Honestly I have no idea how your company could make this better for the intern. She came there to learn and got a childish injustice instead. OP since intern felt comfortable emailing you all the evidence, it seems that she (?) at least trusts you enough and your professional judgement, that you should be the one communicating to her. Again, I say I am glad to see you are handling the situation and not ignoring it.

    I know this is might be thewrong way to look at things, but I am thinking out loud based on being an observer of similar things. I kind of feel like the entire department needs to go to appropriate behavior / ethics training. I’m sure given all the collaboration from testimony, most would figure out that it was related to offending employee and manager. Even though all are supporting the intern, I feel like this would make a statement.
    OP good luck and keep us posted. You are doing the right thing dealing with this, taking action.

  51. Smiling*

    #2 – Like Alison said, unless this is an emergency, let them take the day off.

    I had the same thing happen to me very recently. I had a pre-scheduled minor, non-elective, medical procedure. Because the doctor said take 5 days off, I made sure the procedure was scheduled for the end of the week so that my recovery time would span the weekend and only part of the next work week. I asked and got approval 2 weeks before this was planned.

    Before the procedure, we had a private teapot showing scheduled. Twice the client backed out and finally re-scheduled for what would be my first day back at work. Before I left for the procedure, the display was already setup. I checked and double checked with my boss that no changes would be made and that everything would go as planned.

    1 1/2 days before I was scheduled to return, my boss called to say that they wanted to add more teapots to the display for showing, but that the new teapots would not come out of the kiln until the next afternoon (less than 24 hours before the showing) . I called my boss the next morning to check on the progress. He told me that they had someone else helping out and they would call me if they needed me. I got no calls that day, so I continued my last day of recovery.

    The next day, the showing took place. The only glitches were caused by problems with the electrical company which caused the display lights to keep acting up. This was totally out of anyone’s control. Still, my boss berated me for not coming in the day before. I explained that Jane set up the new teapots on display, Juan tested the lighting, and Jean made sure the programs were perfect. Everything was taken care of and there was nothing else I could do. I further said that he had the option to call me in, but never called me back.

    He said, still, I should have come in on my own and reschedule my “vacation” for another day, because I could have supervised what everyone else was doing.

    1. Desdemona*

      Ugh, the same thing happened to me! Except my boss called and threatened to bring me physically to work if I was too sick to get myself there, then still deducted the day I worked from my PTO.

  52. AFH*

    I once had someone deface my cast like that, and it was awful. I was a student at the time and someone wrote on my cast in big, high-contrast letters that I was a whore who performed sex acts in the men’s bathroom. I cannot begin to describe how hurtful it was to deal with. My school reacted the way LW#1’s subordinate did and I don’t blame the intern for quitting–I would have never set foot in that building again if I could have avoided it.

    LW#1, I would suggest contacting the intern. Tell her you’re appalled at the way she was treated and are addressing it. Tell her you’ll give her a good reference and offer to work out with her what specifically you’ll tell reference-checkers about why she left.

    And for God’s sake, fire the jerk who did this to her. He defaced her body in a way he knew would be semi-permanent. Assault doesn’t stop being assault just because he thinks it’s funny.

      1. Liet-Kynes*

        In the somewhat abstract sense that her person was violated and altered against her will, I can see it. Not the word I would have chosen, but.

      2. AFH*

        Because drawing on a person without consent (especially in permanent marker that won’t wash off) is assault, and assistive/medical devices are part of the person to whom they’re attached.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          This is just your opinion, right? Because I don’t think there’s any legal basis for this assumption.

          1. AFH*

            I’m speaking as someone who has had this very thing done to me, and it is every bit as much assault as spitting on someone, or snapping a coworker’s bra, or giving them a wedgie.

            Whether or not this specific incident would be prosecuted as criminal assault in the specific jurisdiction where it occurred isn’t productive to debate here. When someone does something that is this unacceptable at work, you don’t need to wait for a police report before you fire them.

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              I think it’s not productive to use this term because it does not contribute to anything constructive and it is so radically different from the colloquial understanding of the word “assault.” Unless you are actually filing a police report, it’s not relevant to involve this term. I’ve said this before on here but I truly don’t understand why it’s so compelling to people to identify something as possible to be sued over, as technically against the law, or similar. Unless you are talking about it in the context of debating legal action (which is unreasonable for the above incident, at least at this point from the facts at hand) it is just so irrelevant.

              1. AFH*

                I said fire the guy; I didn’t say sue him. And I said assault, not criminal assault. You’re putting words in my mouth and then criticizing me for the words you put in my mouth.

                When you have someone deface your cast with something obscene, you may call it whatever you like. I have actually had someone do it to me, and it was assault.

          2. OhNo*

            Apparently it’s legally assault in at least one jurisdiction – google for an Arlington, VA case about this. Someone did get convicted of assault for drawing genitalia on someone else’s face.

          3. OhNo*

            I just replied with an example (I think it got stuck in moderation), but on closer reading of the case I mentioned, I see that it wasn’t the artist who got charged, so nevermind!

            Googling for possible examples is leading to some really weird news articles, though. Apparently people get arrested for using sharpies in strange ways pretty often.

  53. Amber Rose*

    #2: Regarding this bit: “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless”

    Somewhere above here, Alison linked to a post called “my boss crashed an employee’s wedding and now everybody hates him.”

    That is where you’re heading with that statement. You’re leading up to being that boss. For basically everyone ever, a job is just what they use to pay the bills. Family, friends and the stuff we do outside of work are generally always going to be more important, because they are things we actually enjoy. When jobs start to encroach on that, that’s when people quit.

    Besides, you got notice about this, which is rare. What would you do if sick person had called in 20 minutes before the start of their shift? That’s the more common scenario, and one you will likely face eventually. This is a good chance to come up with some strategies.

  54. NoNameYet*

    #3 – You already had a conversation with her about this in the past, and I like Alison’s script about bringing it up in the future. I’m a fellow graphic designer and I can tell you from experience that if you are not explicit and direct, the status quo will continue!

    The other thing you mentioned– not sure how often these invitations come up but it sounds like they’re significant enough that they *should* be factored into performance objectives somehow, or at least accounted for. If everyone is expected to complete X number a year, that would help on a policy level. The way you said that indicated to me that maybe your boss isn’t acknowledging that these things actually need to be handled and delegated like other projects. If they are causing you stress, it sounds like they have risen to that level that they need to be dealt with! Otherwise, maybe this is something that can potentially be taken off your team’s plate entirely (i.e., via freelancing)

    1. OP 3*

      So, it’s a bit complicated to explain. I was simplifying the unwanted projects as invitations to keep it relatable and understandable to others. But, there is literally no expectation to have a certain number of these projects completed. It’s an unfortunate side effect of our work and when I say that no one cares about these projects (unless they go wrong or someone complains), I’m not exaggerating. Yet, there is the expectation that when they come up they need to get done. I work for a non-profit and familiar with our budget so outsourcing work isn’t financially feasible. I know it sounds as though I’m giving a bunch of excuses to your perfectly valid points. It’s something that’s been going on for quite some time and I’ve learned that accommodations need to be made in this situation, I just need to figure out a better way to spread the wealth.

      1. Sarah*

        What would happen if you said “I’m sorry, I’m too swamped with other projects this week to get to this — you can check with Boss to see who might have some time.”

      2. CBH*

        OP any chance you have a performance review coming up soon where you could bring up the lack of “spreading the wealth” as a justification for a review or compensation?

        In addition have you tried the reasoning with your boss – I’ll work on invitations, but that doesn’t leave me much time for A, B, and C – how would you like me to handle this? Also I’m concerned about how this will affect my review since I’m not able to work towards my measurable goals, can we adjust my goals mid year?.

        I’m sure you have done something like this, I’m just thinking the more direct approach as opposed to your boss saying in the future we’ll redistribute the work… and waiting for that to happen. Your boss might be busy (or whatever reason for not following through) but it’s affecting your career.

      3. OP 3*

        This is also where it gets tricky. The issue isn’t that I don’t have time to work on them, the issue is that I miss out on opportunities to work on other things that come up because I’m in the midst of them. It’s like being stuck in traffic and a friend calling you and saying if you can get to their house in 5 minutes you’ll get to meet Ryan Reynolds. And you’re at least 10 minutes away. And it seems unprofessional to say, hey I don’t want to work on the crappy projects just in case something cool comes along.

        But that said, I do have a performance review coming up and it’s something I’ll definitely add to the agenda.

  55. Observer*

    #2 You write “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless”

    You have gotten a lot of pushback on this, and rightly so. Ask yourself this: WHY do you believe this? WHY should work be a higher commitment than anything else? And WHY should his commitment to the job be higer that your commitment to the job and to keeping your word

    Keep something in mind. If you act this way, ALL of your employees will see this. And then you will REALLY lose control. Because your staff will work around you, behind you and under you, but they won’t work WITH you. They will never do anything that gives you a chance to mess them over, because they know that you will take that chance, even if it means that you don’t get the information you need to manage properly.

    1. Em*

      I was just thinking that the lesson I would learn would be to not book days off. Instead, call in sick the day I needed off. If I book the day off in advance, I might not get it even if approved, and then if I called in sick anyway, the boss wouldn’t believe me.

  56. Sarah*

    OP1: This is horrifying, and I would start with the idea that it’s a fire-able offense, and work down from there depending on the specifics and whether the original offender and manager show actual remorse and get why this was wrong aside from the fact that they got “caught.” I would also be looking at some serious training around ethics, sexual harassment, appropriate professional norms, etc. more broadly. I’m concerned that this only came to your attention when the intern let you know what had occurred, even though it sounds like multiple employees witnessed the incident but apparently didn’t think it was a big enough deal to do anything (and/or felt that they would receive zero support from management — either one is bad).

    I’m also not clear on whether this internship has any connection to a college/university. I help run an internship opportunity at my school, and if a student reported this to me, you can be sure we would never send another student to your workplace again. You may be able to salvage the situation with a sincere apology and a clear explanation of what you have done to remedy the situation so that no intern is ever placed in this situation again in this workplace.

    1. Other Duties as Assigned*

      OP1: +1 to Sarah’s comment. I run the professional internship program for my university department, and I feel I (and the university) have a moral obligation to the student participating in an internship: first, to ensure they get a quality experience that moves them toward their career goals and second, to try to avoid negative experiences. If I had a student report this to me, I’d be livid and contact the highest level of the firm I could manage to express my outrage. Still, I can’t think of any response they’d give that would make me risk another intern there.

  57. Nervous Accountant*

    Ehhhh am I the only one that thinks the actual act of drawing whatever isn’t so bad? I mean it’s definitely a know your audience type thing, and some people would find it funny…what IS wrong is forcing someone who doesnt find it funny that it’s funny and to keep it—aka how the whole mgmt handled it, that was horrible.

    1. Electric Hedgehog*

      Maybe outside of work, but in the workplace I think it’s good general practice to avoid images of people’s junk. Exceptions exist, but there should be a really good business reason for allowing something like that (porn industry, medical office, etc).

        1. Hedgehog*

          It might be a really anatomically accurate drawing, depending on the type of medical office. Not sure if that makes it better or worse.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I think the person who drew it was wildly out of line. Nothing remotely sexual has any place in the office. But even if I assume this person didn’t know that norm, *they said they were going to draw something else*. I don’t know if they said they wanted to sign it, or draw a smiley, or what – but you don’t say you’re going to do one thing and then do another – in writing – on something the person has to wear for weeks thereafter no less. And you especially don’t do it and draw something vulgar and sexual.

      The fact that he said he wanted to draw something else tells me right there that he knew this probably wouldn’t be well-received, at a minimum.

      1. Sadsack*

        Exactly. And the person who drew it really could made life difficult in other areas for the intern. Suppose she had an appointment or other plans outside the office that would be negatively effected? Church, or getting together with relatives, or anyone else, frankly. I am having trouble thinking of any adult I know who would find it funny and not a problem to have a penis drawn on her cast.

    3. Observer*

      I think you are in the minority, and rightly so.

      Firstly, sexual jokes generally don’t belong in the workplace, and therefore the default should always be NO unless you have explicit indication that it would be ok – and even then it might be out of line for a number of reasons. When this is being done by someone in a higher position (ie a regular employee) to someone in a lower position (ie intern who is always on the bottom of the heap), that becomes even more of a problem.

      In this case it’s even worse. The employee KNEW he would not have had permission to do this. He actually tricked her into this. He KNEW that she would not fine it funny and he did it anyway. That would be a problem even if all he drawn was a kitten.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Oh yeah, I missed the part where he said he was going to draw something else and I honestly thought it was another intern. My bad

        I mean I’m not saying anything done here was right, it was handled badly all around IMO.

    4. kb*

      There are definitely some audiences that would find this funny, but I think anyone who would assume it would go over well with someone they don’t know especially well (and in the workplace!) is lacking in judgment. And it sounds like this was an employee doing this to an intern– that power dynamic is way off.

      1. kb*

        And I think we’ve seen in the news recently that bro-y workplace cultures (that potentially wouldn’t find this outside the norm) are finding themselves in hot water

    5. Emily*

      Maybe it would be okay if the offender did that to his good friend who he knew would find it funny, but this is a workplace (where sexual humor should be avoided) and a person who did not give permission for him to do that and who was clearly upset by the drawing. So in this case, I would say that it’s pretty bad – in fact, I might even consider it sexual harassment.

    6. fposte*

      It wouldn’t be so bad if they were kids rather than adults serving clients and if it was on something like a paper that could be reprinted.

      But even if the intern *would* have found it funny, it’s still not acceptable at a workplace because you don’t serve clients with a penis drawn on your arm, and it was drawn on something that couldn’t just be replaced in the moment.

      I don’t think I’d have felt as victimized by it as some people describe, but that doesn’t make the action better.

    7. MuseumChick*

      It shows a total lack of judgment, respect, and professional boundaries by the person who drew it. This isn’t a frat/sorority house, it’s not a close friend’s birthday/bachelor(ette) party, its work. This is well across the the not OK at any level line.

    8. Jaguar*

      I don’t think either the person who drew it or the manager should be surprised or pretend that it’s anyone’s fault but their own if they get fired, but I agree that people advocating they get fired immediately are out for blood in a pretty extreme way. It was a joke, not malice. Dumb and immature and inappropriate, but wanting people to lose their jobs because they’re dumb and immature and inappropriate isn’t a look I’d want on me. I don’t think it should rise above a serious conversation with both of them about how wrong this was and not letting the issue drop until you’re convinced they understand what professional attitudes are here, and if that doesn’t happen, then action can escalate. Obviously this went very badly for the intern and that’s tragic, but it shouldn’t affect how the employee and his manager are treated.

      The way people so easily advocate firing makes me think people are falling into a victim/abuser way of viewing the situation, and that’s somewhat justified by how badly things turned out for the intern, but it’s really extreme to treat employees as abusers because a joke went badly.

      1. Observer*

        Seriously?! The person who drew this didn’t just draw a naughty picture somewhere. He LIED to someone lower in the power structure to essentially force a totally inappropriate image onto her – in a way and place that it couldn’t be hidden. That’s way more than “dumb and immature”.

        It also WAS malice – the “artist” KNEW that the intern would not want this and LIED to get his way. That *is* the definition of malice.

        As for the manager, “just” being dumb and immature is a problem by itself. People who are “dumb and immature” should not be managing people! In this case, though, it goes much further than that. The manager exposed the company to legal liability, because this certainly would fall under the legal definition of sexual harassment which was not dealt with. They also not only approved a “prank” that was utterly inappropriate to start with, they forced the intern into a humiliating situation and would not allow her to take reasonable steps to avoid further humiliation.

        Lastly, “It’s just a joke” is the lame excuse of jerks and abusers. Lies are nto ok, even in the service of a “joke”. Humiliating people is NOT an acceptable joke, either!

      2. Kate 2*

        But it wasn’t a joke. Employee lied about what they were going to draw because they knew Intern wouldn’t let them draw it. They did so maliciously. They may have found it funny, but they weren’t making a joke, they weren’t doing something they thought Intern and others would think is funny.

      3. Undine*

        I feel like there are several levels of nope here, that make it okay to fire Dick-guy on the spot:

        * He drew a penis on someone’s cast. So, okay, if that was his friend and and he did it on his smoke break, that’s a severe warning and the next time he’s out.
        * He drew it on the cast of someone he knew would object, lied about what he was doing, and waited until she was distracted to make sure he could get away with it. So that’s strike 2. Like someone said, even if he drew a kitten, this is merits a severe warning by itself.
        * He did it during a meeting, while the intern was working, thus prioritizing a prank over work. Severe warning number three.

        Sure put this guy on a PIP and investigate further if that’s what you need to do. Make sure it’s not BadManager who’s supervising him, though, and make sure that HR does whatever due diligence to make sure it hasn’t happened before. But the chances that Dick-guy is a conscientious high-performer who is otherwise professional and who is dedicated to his work seem to me vanishingly small. It’s more likely that when they dig, people will find out that Dick-guy has been a problem in other ways, manager has not been managing him, and there will be other people who will be glad to see him leave.

        Unfortunately, I also think the fact that BadManager let Dick-guy get away with this at first means that it’s more important to come down visibly against Dick-guy. If the consequences for Dick-guy had been immediate, if manager had been clearly angry at Dick-guy, then everyone would know that stuff was over the line. But once something has been seen as tolerated for a period of time, then you need to act more strongly to make it clear this behavior is not okay. It’s not just the intern and Dick-guy who are affected, it’s all Dick-guy’s co-workers, who need to see and hear that management do not condone this type of behavior.

        1. Jaguar*

          Anyone that’s handling this issue going in with the mindset that it’s “more likely that when they dig, people will find out that Dick-guy has been a problem in other ways, manager has not been managing him, and there will be other people who will be glad to see him leave” isn’t approaching the situation fairly.

          To address your bullet points, the first, I think, is addressed by admitting it’s really immature and unprofessional. I don’t think that alone is worthy of a firing. The second seems to willingly misunderstand the point of a prank. You don’t warn someone that you’re putting a “kick me” sign on their back. That defeats the whole point. The third seems really Draconian. By the same logic, everyone who wrote on the cast was doing something wrong, since it was prioritizing that over work.

          If you’re going to handle a situation, as the OP is, you owe it to everyone to figure out the best and worst case scenarios to broaden your decision making. There are explanations for Dick-guy’s actions and his manager’s actions that aren’t malice. If you’re building a case against them and then handling the issue, you’re managing in really bad faith.

          1. Natalie*

            The second seems to willingly misunderstand the point of a prank.

            And? The fact that it was a prank isn’t mitigating evidence.

            1. Jaguar*

              If you’re coming from the perspective that all pranks are bad, then sure, that the guy pranked the intern is grounds to dismiss or discipline him. But if you aren’t, arguing that this prank was bad because the intern didn’t know it was happening is circular.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                This prank is bad because sexually explicit drawings and profanities are inappropriate at the workplace, and *forcing* someone to display that permanently – for the length of the cast or – or forcing them to spend actual money to repair their medical device is awful (unless you are friends and have very specific knowledge that the person would think it funny – but that is a very narrow circumstance that does not apply here). Defacing a coworker’s cast – which is actually medical equipment that costs money to get, money to replace, money to fix – without their consent is beyond “prank” territory, and is even worse when it involves something that a reasonable person would know would be embarrassing and not work-appropriate.

                I do not think any of that is “circular.” (I also don’t think anyone above was arguing that it was bad only because the intern didn’t know.)

                1. NoNoNoNoNo*

                  Also aside from the cost of the cast…and an additional office visit is the time and discomfort of having it replaced.

                  Oh and lest we forget, the intern resigned hence losing the opportunities she would have gained being an intern.

                  But Penis Drawing Guy and Idiot Manager still have jobs *and* no reprimand, suspension, demotion…nada. consequences

              2. Natalie*

                Drawing a penis on your co-worker’s cast during work hours would be inappropriate in most work places even if the co-worker enthusiastically agreed to it. So the drawing co-worker has made an error in judgment there.

                That error in judgment is significantly compounded by the fact that they deceived the cast wearer in order to do it.

                One doesn’t have to be believe all pranks are bad to believe some pranks are bad.

              3. Observer*

                No, she’s arguing that when you LIE to a person in order to get them to allow something that they would not want, that’s a HUGE problem. The example that you give doesn’t mitigate it – it proves how inappropriate it is. If you put a “kick me sign” on someone and that person gets hit because of it, that’s on you, and the fact that it was “a joke” doesn’t make it any better. The fact that you didn’t tell that person, so that they are more likely to get hurt doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse!

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*

            I think the managing in bad faith has already happened, but it happened right at the intern and at her expense: they “managed” the situation so that she was forced to display sexual graffiti on her cast that was put there without her consent, and then they laughed at her for being upset about it and refused to let her leave to fix it, and *then* were fine with letting her manage the expense of an entirely new cast to get rid of the large drawings of obscenities and penis.

            That is absolutely horrendous management right there.

            1. Jaguar*

              Right. Bad things happened. Nobody disagrees with that. Now the OP has to address it, which is what I’m speaking to. My point is that the is a lot of information we don’t have, and if the OP isn’t omitting a significant amount of context, she owes it the people she manages to not assume the worst.

              1. Observer*

                She doesn’t have to “assume” anything to know that this is horrendous behavior. This is not about bad things “happening”. This is about a person DOING a bad thing, a manger allowing that bad thing and doing other bad things in support of the first bad thing.

                This was NOT an “act of god” this was an act of man, and a malicious one at that.

          3. Turtle Candle*

            Anyone that’s handling this issue going in with the mindset that it’s “more likely that when they dig, people will find out that Dick-guy has been a problem in other ways, manager has not been managing him, and there will be other people who will be glad to see him leave” isn’t approaching the situation fairly.

            I’m a little baffled by this. If I have an employee who sends a brochure to the printer that’s chockablock with typos, I’m going to pull their other brochure submissions to see if it’s a larger problem. If I have an employee who consistently underestimates how much time projects will take, I’ll be keeping an eye on their projects to try to catch and ameliorate the issue. If I have an employee who seems to make technical errors with unusual frequency, I’ll try to keep tabs to see what’s up. And so on. Why on earth shouldn’t this kind of misbehavior–which is arguably more egregious, because it’s clearly neither accidental nor a failure of training–be different? Why shouldn’t I use a history of behavior as at least a pointer toward potential issues?

            1. Jaguar*

              I seem to be doing a bad job of communicating what I’m trying to say today. My apologies. I read the comment I quoted to mean that Undine was assuming that the employee was “likely” a frequently delinquent employee. I don’t think a manager can go into a situation already assuming that. It’s poisoning the well. You’re not thinking about the situation in front of you, you’re dealing with a frequent offender you’ve only happened to catch offending once so far. That seems pretty unfair to me.

        2. NoNoNoNoNo*

          Its mind boggling that *anyone* doesn’t already know rhat drawing a penis on a coworker (coworker’s body, cast, desk, other belongings, etc.) is not ok.

          This shouldn’t even be a question in anyones mind, at all, ever. Sun rises in the east…don’t draw a dick on coworker’s cast.

      4. Turtle Candle*

        I think the joke thing is actually a red herring because–

        Obviously this went very badly for the intern and that’s tragic, but it shouldn’t affect how the employee and his manager are treated.

        …why not? Why shouldn’t doing something directly to someone, that causes a very bad outcome for them, affect their treatment? If I, voluntarily and for no good reason but my own amusement, do something to someone that directly results in a bad and tragic outcome for them, I expect there to be consequences for me. I’m honestly a little croggled by the idea that I should be free from consequences.

        1. Jaguar*

          I don’t think outcome should inform discipline. For example, if a person in office A is sexually harassing someone but that person is fine with it and a person in office B is sexually harassing someone in the exact same way and the person isn’t fine with it, I think the way it should be handled is exactly the same in either case. The intern was harmed by this to the point that she felt she had to leave, but if the intern was fine with it, the way OP deals with it in that hypothetical case should be the same. Using the outcome to determine how deal with a situation is retributive.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            I can see where you’re coming from on judging based on action rather than effect, but on the other hand, I have a great deal of difficulty seeing “drew a dick and obscene words on her body” and “laughed and prevented her from effectively hiding a dick and obscene word drawn on her body over the course of a day, in front of other people” as relatively harmless, as you seem to. I suspect that’s not something we’re going to agree on, but tolerating that is not “a look I’d want on me.” It’s a look I wouldn’t want on me. And I’d judge people who do want that look on them.

            1. Jaguar*

              I don’t see it as relatively harmless at all. I think both the person who did it and the manager who laughed it off need to be dealt with. What I’m arguing against what I think is the shockingly cavalier way so many people have advocating firing them both, and I suspect the reason people have recommended such drastic measures is because of how badly it wound up being for the intern.

              For instance, to put myself in the same situation as the intern, I think there’s a good chance I would laugh and call the coworker an idiot and that would be it. That’s not to say anything about the severity of the act, just the vast range of outcomes that could result from the act. Given my scenario, it would seem extremely harsh to fire both people, wouldn’t it? The act is exactly the same in both cases. Assuming you agree with that much, then surely you must agree that advocating firing the two is based strongly on the outcome. So now consider that tying how employees are dealt with on the basis of how bad their mistakes turned out to be is a pretty scary place for employees to be in. Every mistake someone makes can have catastrophic consequences. If I saw employees do something stupid but in my opinion not fireable and it turned into a catastrophe and they wound up fired as a result, I would switch from doing good work to doing cover my ass work almost immediately, because the signal is clear: avoiding making mistakes is the principle way to avoid being fired.

              1. Observer*

                In the case of the person who drew the stuff, perhaps it’s the same act with a different outcome. But it’s still bad enough behavior, that the organization really, really needs to come down on it hard. Because the fact that YOU laughed and that was it actually means that it’s more likely to happen to someone who would react in a more typical fashion, and because it could otherwise be used as evidence of an environment that the company knew about.

                In the case of the manager, the ACTION was very different from what you are describing. Even had the intern reacted the way you did, laughing and not disciplining the employee was inappropriate for the reasons I mentioned. But the intern did not react this way – she very reasonably asked for permission to go home to take care of it. And the manager REFUSED. Even had the intern not quit, that’s egregious. Egregious enough that unless the supervisor has a sterling track record I have to agree with Alison that “she can’t be in a management position.” (And Alison isn’t cavalier about recommending that people be fired.

              2. Undine*

                In general, I agree that it’s better to treat workers as humans that have rights, to follow procedures, and to use a PIP rather than firing someone out-of-hand. And I see why the OP might make that choice here. Not because it was a “mistake” or a “prank” — no matter what, it’s pretty horrible — but it’s fair to set the bar for immediate dismissal pretty high.

                At the same time, I do feel that this could also meet that high bar. (In fact, I googled “fired for drawing penis” and got several valid hits, including a car salesman and a cheerleader.) And my best guess, from other situations — follow-up letters here and also from personal experience — is that it’s very likely the penis artist will be unable to comply with the terms of the PIP and will eventually have to leave anyway.

              3. Undine*

                And some thoughts about the “only a prank” view. Harassers often use “jokes” and “pranks” to cover what they are doing. And to the harassers, it’s funny. And if they did it to each other, for them it’s still funny. But if you are in America (and I think most places in Europe), the legislature and judiciary have decided that certain types of pranks and jokes are in fact not funny to everyone. In fact, they frequently are used to exclude and intimidate people, and it is encoded in law that people have the right to be free of such “pranks” at work, regardless of intent or result.

          2. Observer*

            That’s not really true. Yes, there is a level at which outcome doesn’t matter. Because if you do something bad, a company needs to deal with it regardless of whether the victim wants something to be done or not. On the other hand, when your bad behavior results in a not unreasonable extremely bad outcome, I think that it is very reasonable that the consequences reflect that.

            For example, if you lie to someone about what’s in the food, even though you were warned that they have severe allergies. If they manage to figure out what you did before that person eats the food, or in time to avoid serious repercussions, you may run into trouble. If your lie about the food puts that person in the hospital or kills the victim, you are likely to face criminal charges.

            In this case, even if the intern had not quite the behavior of the picture maker was VERY bad, the the behavior of the supervisor was egregious. So, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect them to bear the extra burden of the results of their terrible behavior.

      5. Trillian*

        It’s 2017, at least where I am. At some point we have to get past the constant reset of s’plaining no, it’s not funny. Time to move on. Sexual harassment is not a joke.

    9. Kate 2*

      Well, in the first place, she was lied to, Employee deliberately drew it on Intern’s cast after getting permission to draw a completely different thing. Second of all, Intern tried to cover it up, but had to get the cast redone, which isn’t cheap. Third of all, the Intern walked around all day, in front of *clients* with it on her arm, which makes a really bad impression.

      Drawing sexual images on a part of a coworker’s body and forcing them to spend weeks with it, in front of family, friends, clients, at religious services, etc, is awful, and I think most people would call it sexual harassment. I know I would.

  58. Roker Moose*

    #4 is the bane of my existence! I recently moved from the UK to the US and I was shocked that I had to get letters of reference up front. I suppose American academics are used to it, but I felt but awful submitting my referee’s contact info with 20+ applications knowing they’d get 20+ emails asking for a letter. It’s such a drain on their time and it holds them hostage a bit– if they don’t respond to the email my application will get thrown out. It’s an awful, guilt-inducing situation for both parties.

  59. bookartist*

    I’m the production manager for a team of about a dozen visual and UI/UX designers; my job is to schedule their work lives and keep the work moving.

    LW#2: You are going to get a lot more out of your team using honey than vinegar. My team completed about 230 projects (of all levels of complexity) the first half of this year, and I promise you, we didn’t get it done by me telling them that their job was their first priority in life. My designs work overtime when (and only when) required because 1 – they have had enough time off to recharge, and 2 – they trust than when I say that something has to be done and OT is needed, they know I’ve done everything I could to avoid it. “servant leadershipServant leadership” I believe is the phrase.

    LW#3: Is there a common schedule so everyone knows who is working on what upcoming projects? If it’s worth the effort (your manager may not want to do this, which would be unfortunate as it would make their life easier as well re: tracking and expectations on all sides), I suggest you bring up having one set up for your team – then when the invites come in, they can be assigned evenly. I also strongly suggest setting up a blank template for the invites to make it as easy as possible to put the invite jobs on any designer’s desk.

  60. Freddled Gruntbuggly*

    Am I the only one who’s amazed that the intern wasn’t nearly swarmed by compassionate co-workers with immediate low-tech cover-ups even though she wasn’t permitted (!!) to leave and attempt mitigation? White-out didn’t work, but glue some paper towels over it, or tape a couple of sheets of paper around it, at least… clunky and obvious, but more aesthetic than the disgusting graffiti; or someone could have tied a scarf over it. (Tempting to yank any extra scarves around the neck of the perpetrator, however, so perhaps not a safe alternative.)

    I’m in agreement with all the other outraged commentators, and totally croggled by the manager’s incomprehensible behavior!

      1. Iris Eyes*

        I was thinking duct tape (which is probably what I would have done rather than replace the whole thing.)

  61. Kat*

    The manager’s feelings in #2 are interesting to me. I have a strong feeling that at my workplace some senior people also feel that our jobs are our first commitment, but I disagree. My job is certainly a primary commitment and when I am at work I give my 100% to doing the best I can. But when I’m away from work and when I make my own plans in my own time, I have other, just as important commitments. Striking the balance can be hard for some people precisely because they know their bosses want them to be full-on job all the time. But especially for an office position that you can switch off from when you go home, it’s just not feasible or sensible, in my opinion.

  62. NoNoNoNoNo*

    A little late to the party but…

    #1 This is so vile I don’t even have words, but I will try:
    a) sexual harassment,
    b) everything Allison saud, and
    c) penis drawing employee…and possibly the manager as well should be terminated.

    Sexual harassment should be zero tolerance. This is pretty clearly sexual harassment, a hostile workplace, and complete disregard for (more likely the enjoyment of) the humiliation of the intern.

    It was a power play on the part of the employee who -lied- about what he intended to draw. He knew what he was doing…hell he *intended* to do it purposefully to embarrass the intern.

    The manager laughed about it? WTF anyway?

    The level of disregard, hostility, and intentional infliction of distress here is way, way, way beyond over the top.

    That the manager was either complicit or *that* incompetent tells me that he should spend some time thinking about what he’s done while unemployed.

  63. NoNoNoNoNo*

    #2 “I would be able to cover but I also have a training course to go to.”

    So you can cover it but don’t *want* to correct?

    Have some integrity! You gave him the day off already and he made plans based on your promise.

    I despise managers like this.

    “Oh sure you can take the day off.”

    “Oh you made plans/spent money already?”

    “Sorry just kidding you have to work ni matter how inconvenient/how much it costs you.”

    “Sure *I* could do it but I dont want to because…boss.”
    Glad you prioritize your job but it is not everyone’s primary commitment “regardless.” Plenty of people will walk away from a crap job and crap managers.

    It is so not ok to commit off time to someone and then take it back under the guise of “primary commitment “regardless.”” Its just not. Doing that is cowardly and no way to manage people.

    That happened to me at my second ever job when I was 18. I’d already been looking for a new job and was told by my soon to be (but didn’t know it yet) new employer what a perfectly glowing recomnendation they gave me.

    Until they pulled that and I quit on the spot. My new employer after hearing me tell the story a few weeks after I’d started the new job, just for the hell of it called again as a “different job” and all of the sudden I was the antichrist.

    Fortunately I have been able to be the boss (*the* boss) most of my career. I do better stressing over my own bottom line than some corporation’s.

    If you were my employee and did something like give time off then take it away…especially since it’s *not* an emergency…and since you *can* but just don’t *want* to cover it yourself I’d be seriously considering if you were really someone I would want managing my staff.

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