I got caught lying about a sick day, my boss calls me “pet,” and more

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

1. I got caught lying about a sick day

I did something stupid. I finished college this spring and had just started working a full-time job in the industry I attended school for. The company I got the job at has a policy where new employees have a five-month probationary period, and once that is completed an employee is made permanent and receives and is able to take vacation or PTO time.

Since I was new, I did not have any days off yet. Some of my friends rented a cottage for the eclipse and the weekend before. I was able to go on the weekend since my job is only Monday to Friday, but I also wanted to see the eclipse with my friends. I called off sick for the Monday and emailed my boss that I had gotten food poisioning over the weekend. Probationary employees are able to take sick days in extreme circumstances, and I lied to my boss and told him I had been so sick I couldn’t even leave my bed at home.

I drove home after the eclispe and went back to work the next day, pretending to still feel a bit off. My boss confronted me because he had seen two pictures of me on social media (Facebook) watching the eclipse in a town hours away from the city we live in, with a beer in my hand. He fired me after I admitted I had lied about being sick. I had only worked there for two months.

I realize I made a big mistake. I don’t blame my boss for firing me. I have learned my lesson and will never repeat it. Is it worth sending an apology to my boss / the company for lying to them? How should I address this in interviews going forward? I’m afraid this will follow me if I get another job in the same industry. My boss said they would not give me a reference and would tell anyone who called I am not eligable for rehire. I am also embarassed at how stupid I was because my father has worked in the same industry his whole life (though never at the company I worked at) and I am named after him and many people know I am his son. How do I move on from this?

Yes, send a note. Say that you recognize your mistake, you’re embarrassed by your behavior, and you’re grateful that you learned this lesson early in your career, and apologize for squandering the investment they’d made in you. It’s not going to change the fundamental outcome here, but it’s likely to make your boss think less poorly of you if your name comes up again.

Beyond that: The fact that you were only there two months actually makes this easier to deal with because you can leave this job off your resume. You were only there for two months, so it’s not going to strengthen your candidacy in any real way, and including it will only raise questions. Just leave it off, don’t include them on your reference list, and move forward.

Unless your industry is really small, this probably isn’t going to follow you — although since your dad works in the same field, it’s worth talking to him to get his advice on that too. (And obviously, apologize to him for doing this in a field where people know him!)

Read updates to this letter here and here.

2. Having to get coverage to leave my desk makes me feel like a second class citizen

I’m a switchboard operator and have to rely on a different person every day to cover me while I go on a break or to lunch. This is in everyone’s job description, so it’s not like it’s news to them. Everyone else in my department can come and go as they please, but if I need to get up to do anything, I need someone to cover my desk to answer the phones. This wouldn’t be a problem if people would actually remember that they have to cover me. I send out an email every morning to the lucky coworker of the day, but this doesn’t always help. I’d say about 70% of the time, I have to call and remind them that it’s my break time, and then they seem put out that they have to cover me.

I feel like a second class citizen. That I don’t count. I have to do things just like they do, go to the bathroom, make an occasional personal call. But I feel I’m being taken for granted. I’ve talked to my supervisor about it on more than one occasion, and was told I was being difficult and hard to get along with because of this. I’ve even suggested just having one person as a back-up, and actually had a coworker volunteer to do this, but my supervisor said no.

I feel it’s a double standard, and I’m not sure what to do at this point. It would be so much easier if I could just set the phone to automated while I’m away from my desk, but the owner of the company wants a live voice at all times. I’m not sure what to do now, since it feels like all my avenues are exhausted.

This does suck, but the reality is that it’s also the nature of the job. It’s not really a double standard; it’s that you’re in a role that requires constant coverage, whereas your coworkers aren’t. The demands of the work are just different.

I can see why your boss might not want just one person as your back-up, because it means that that person would have significantly less time for her core job. By rotating your back-ups, they’re minimizing the impact on any one person’s work.

I get that it’s annoying that people can’t seem to remember to show up to cover you when you need them, but I think you’re making yourself more unhappy about this than you need to be. I suspect it’s going to be a lot better for your state of mind to just accept that people get caught up in other work and when covering for you isn’t a regular part of their schedule, they may need a reminder. I’d just look at calling them to alert them that you need them now as part of the job, rather than anything personal. (That said, if you haven’t talked to the most regular offenders about the situation and asked them to make specific changes, do that. People may have no idea that this bugs you, and just asking them to do it differently may solve some of the problem.)

Ultimately, though, if you don’t want a job that involves all this, that’s a legitimate choice to make! But it’s not unreasonable that it’s part of this job.

3. My boss calls me “pet”

I recently started a new job. My manager, Fergus, is *very* British. This is relevant because every sentence he says to me — a woman — ends with “pet.” As in: “Thanks, pet” or ¨”Would you bring those papers over here, pet.”

He isn´t otherwise overstepping, but I do feel this manner of speech is sexist and demeaning. He never talks to male staff members that way. Should I say something?

FWIW, we are in a Latin American country of which I am not a native, so I really don´t know which cultural context to interpret this in. I suspect this sort of thing wouldn´t be a big deal locally, but I find it inappropriate. We do have an HR department of sorts but I don´t think they would keep my comments anonymous.

Ick. Yes, say something. It doesn’t have to be a Big Serious Conversation. The next time he does it, just say, “I don’t like being called ‘pet’ — would you mind sticking to Jane?” If you feel more comfortable softening it a bit (which can sometimes help when you’re talking to your boss), you could change it to “This may be a cultural difference, but I don’t like being called ‘pet.’” Sometimes giving people a way to save face — by framing it just a little quirk of yours rather than a faux pas of theirs can lead to less awkwardness for everyone.

4. Can my boss stop me from bringing my own food into work?

I work in a restaurant. We have to pay for our food at work and most of it is just deep-fried frozen foods. I bring in meat and pasta and potatoes to cook whatever I make for myself for dinner, and was keeping a few spices and olive oil at the restaurant. My manager says I can’t have food at work. I had the seasonings on a small shelf that rarely gets used. He told me I’m not allowed to do that. Is he allowed to tell me I can’t have those small things?

He is. I don’t know much about restaurant health codes, but I wonder if he’s worried about potential liability from having outside food in there that he can’t control. It’s reasonable, though, to point out that you need to eat during your shift and that you don’t want to eat fried foods every day, and ask if there’s something else you can work out (for example, maybe you can cook off-menu stuff for yourself that would be healthier).

5. Forcing a birthday celebration on someone

My question is about etiquette for birthday celebrations in the office when the birthday-haver has stated they don’t want their birthday observed.

Someone in my department doesn’t want his birthday celebrated. For his birthday, my team decorated his cubicle and sent him a birthday card under the guise of “[Person] Appreciation Day” — but obviously for his birthday. I signed the card because I was told it was mandatory, but I didn’t feel okay with it.

If someone doesn’t want their birthday observed, shouldn’t we just honor that? I feel icky celebrating a birthday when the person is very “do not want.”

Yes, that’s rude and obnoxious. You don’t “celebrate” someone by doing something they’ve specifically said they don’t want.

{ 786 comments… read them below }

  1. all aboard the anon train*

    One of my biggest pet peeves is people who don’t respect the wishes of people who don’t want their birthday celebrated. I don’t like my birthday celebrated at work, and I’ve had former coworkers who think saying no celebration means I secretly want one or who force a celebration and then get upset when I’m not excited/happy about it.

    It’s really rude. I find that people who like to push celebrations on others tend to be doing it more for their own sake than for the person they want to celebrate.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I do like having mine celebrated. But I would never ever force that on someone else.

      The only reasonable explanation in what is otherwise a sea of badness is that maybe they had someone claim they didn’t want it done and then get upset and change their mind.

      In which case, I’d say adults are responsible for correctly representing their own wishes on such matters!

      1. chocoholic*

        Celebrating birthdays is a big part of my current office’s culture. When I first started here, 3 years ago, we did monthly celebrations for whoever had a birthday that month. Then those people would plan the next month’s celebration. It was kind of nice to just get together for a half hour once a month and chat and eat some cake. And it was never really mandatory to show up even if it was your birthday.

        Things have kind of evolved and as we have grown it was becoming cumbersome to do the birthdays that way, and so we went for a long time without celebrating them at all. Some people complained and so we started doing a quarterly staff meeting where we have birthday cake at the end. It celebrates 3 months worth of birthdays, nobody is named specifically really and we all get cake. It has worked out for us. Maybe that will be an option for others who have an office where the office likes to celebrate birthdays but individuals don’t want to.

      2. Lissa*

        The second paragraph is such a peeve of mine! If you say “don’t do anything”, then I’m not going to do anything! I still think nobody doing anything for people who say they don’t want it is the way to go, though, because if people stop hearing “no” as “I secretly want this” then people will have to stop saying “no” when they mean “I secretly want this”…ok, that sentence got pretty tangled.

        1. GreenDoor*

          I had a co-worker who did not want anything done for her birthday because she was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and celebrating her birthday – even if it was all orchestrated by others, was contrary to her faith.

          Another co-worker of mine is a huge privacy buff. She’s not on social media, doesn’t shop online, and so on. It’s very counter-culture of her, to be sure, but having the whole office know her birth date was quite upsetting to her and felt like a privacy violation.

          Really. If someone says they don’t want something like this, respect it!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah—this strikes me as deeply inconsiderate. It often comes from a place of kindness, but it’s a golden v. platinum rule situation (treating someone how you’d want to be treated versus how they’ve asked to be treated). And couching it as “appreciation” seems doubly frustrating. I empathize with OP and feel bad for the coworker.

      Also, signing the card is mandatory? What kind of rule is that??

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I’ve definitely been in OP’s place where you feel guilted into participating in something you know the recipient doesn’t want. Or guilted into signing a card. It’s a gross feeling.

        I know it often comes from a place of kindness, but it’s also borne out of obliviousness, too. It’s the idea that because Person A loves celebrating birthdays, then everyone else must as well because they can’t think of any reason why someone might not want their birthday celebrated. It reminds me of those ice breakers where people ask for stories about your childhood because they assume that because they had a great childhood, everyone else also had a great childhood.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Or they ask where your parents live, because they assume everyone has parents and that they are alive. Sigh.

          1. Junior Dev*

            And that they’re not estranged. (I never know how to answer when people ask if I have siblings.)

            1. Solidus Pilcrow*

              I go with however many I claim/have contact with. If you ask me about siblings, I’ll tell you I have 1 older brother. He’s the one I’ve known all my life and talk with. Technically, there are the children from our father’s second wife. They don’t get mentioned since I haven’t had any contact for decades.

            2. Julia*

              Yes, totally! I say “my parents/family are abusive. I avoid them.”
              I’m lucky that most of the people I know are nice and take that in stride. It did throw our oblivious admin a little though. Especially since she doesn’t remember most of the things I tell her, so it’s happened more than once. :D

          2. Oscar Madisoy*

            Or they ask where your parents live, because they assume everyone has parents and that they are alive.

            “My parents’ address is First Avenue South, block 3, row 5, section 5… in New Montefiore Cemetery.”

            1. SJ*

              A few months ago I was making small-talk with a coworker and asked what he was doing over the weekend. He said, “Visiting my parents.” I was like, “Oh cool, where do they live?” And then he said, “Oh, they actually passed away a while ago. I’m going to visit their graves.” I was sooooo mortified but there are SO MANY BETTER WAYS TO PHRASE THAT.

            2. Batshua*

              Your parents are in the same neighborhood as my grandparents!

              .oO(Why doesn’t that seem more morbid?!)

          3. PB*

            Or that they live together. And when you explain that they live in two different cities, they start asking for details about their divorce. Rude.

            1. Lissa*

              That people even make these assumptions still is so weird to me. Over 50% of people I know have divorced parents! Most people I know have at least some source of family badness in their lives they don’t want to talk about, so I don’t get who all these people are who are making assumptions everyone has a perfect life…. like, going through my friends I can think of 2 people who have two living still-married parents that they get along well with.

          4. One of the Annes*

            Both my parents died when I was still relatively young. I’ve gotten this question during small talk, and it’s never bothered me. People are imperfect. People trying to make friendly get-to-know you conversation sometimes don’t ask the perfect benign questions suitable for every person they meet. I certainly don’t. That’s OK. Why go looking for offense where none is meant?

            1. Thegs*

              I don’t think it is looking for offense, it’s just a desire to avoid an awkward situation. Like my father is dead, and people sometimes ask how he’s doing when making small talk. I don’t mind telling them that he died a few years ago, but inevitably when I do so they look mortified, like they just found out they ran over my dog. This puts the onus on me to smooth over the situation, which in an icebreaker situation would probably be more awkward than not.

              1. PB*

                This makes sense to me. Sometimes, people can say something insensitive without meaning it. My spouse had a but run of a luck a few years ago. When people saw him, they’d look at his expression, and say, jokingly, “Gosh, who died?” To which he responded, “My dad. Then my grandma.” They’d start to laugh, like he was making a joke, and he’d just shake his head. And then they’d fall over themselves apologizing.

              2. myswtghst*

                Yep, this. I lead a lot of ice breakers at work for groups of 4-20 people, and I make a point to stick with broad questions / requests (“Tell us a fun fact about you that’s work-appropriate”). Lots of people hate ice breakers already, so why risk making it uncomfortable when I can just ask a different question?

                1. valc2323*

                  I tend to go with completely innocuous questions, as much as possible.

                  What’s your favorite vegetable?
                  Do you prefer circles or triangles?
                  What kind of fruit do you hate?

                  Everyone’s got an answer and they’re about as noncontroversial as possible.
                  Tomatoes, circles, and raisins, btw.

                2. chomps*

                  I like your ideas valc2323. I hate broad questions, because I never know how to answer. I *still* remember my 9th grade history teacher asking us to talk about something that made us interesting as an ice breaker at the beginning of the semester and I had no idea what to say because I don’t know what’s interesting to other people. I wouldn’t be able to answer that now, 20 years later.

            2. SometimesALurker*

              I get where you’re coming from, and I agree that people are imperfect. We certainly shouldn’t go assuming that harm is meant. But, people have different reactions to things, and that’s normal. One person might be hurt by a comment that doesn’t hurt someone else. Some people might be “looking for offense,” but I think other people are just having an experience that’s different from yours.

            3. Lissa*

              I semi-agree. I lost a parent as a teen and it doesn’t emotionally hurt me when someone asks about mom but it can really bring the whole conversation down and take it to a place I don’t want it to go. I once had a *super* awkward interaction with a clerk who started asking me what I was doing for Mother’s Day and there was just…no way I could think fast enough on my feet to make what was a brief interaction weird.

              I definitely don’t think that anybody who says these things is at all looking for offense, and very often it can just be hard to know what is acceptable small talk, so I don’t think badly of anybody who asks me about my parents, not at all. Sometimes these things can seriously be a minefield. So, I really don’t understand some people’s need to make the interaction more unpleasant for the person who asked the awkward question. That said, there’s often not a way to have it be not at all awkward.

              1. Alienor*

                I would personally be amused by being called “pet,” since I’m a fan of Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope books and Vera says it to everyone she meets (as I’ve been reading the comments, I keep hearing it in the voice of Brenda Blethyn, who plays Vera in the ITV series), but I think I’m probably alone in that.

              2. Alienor*

                Sorry, that somehow popped up in the wrong thread! Meant it to be a general reply to the post.

            4. Julia*

              What makes it offensive is when the person is so oblivious they assume things – that everyone’s life is the same, that bad things never happen, etc. They try to live in a bubble of pretending and force the rest of us to live in it too. It’s very offensive and they get upset and offended if someone gets real with them. Very toxic!
              You can tell the difference between that and a well-meaning person making a mistake.
              This thing of forcing someone to celebrate their birthday was rude and offensive, and I’m sure the person who was forcing it was doing it for their own needs and didn’t give a damn about the person with the birthday.

          5. oranges & lemons*

            Yeah, I don’t really care for icebreaker questions but I think they should always be about things that everyone can answer non-awkwardly–generally something to do with the reason everyone is meeting (why are you studying this subject, what brings you to this city, why did you take up this sport, etc). You don’t want to put people on the spot, and anything too personal is likely to dredge up some awkwardness.

            1. Formica Dinette*

              “What brings you to this city” gave me a laugh because that question has caused major awkwardness for me on multiple occasions. I wanted to sink through the floor when my new co-worker responded to it with, “Have you heard of the Khmer Rouge?” They weren’t being sarcastic and they were eager to talk about it once they knew I understood what they went through, but damn…

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          I had a not-good-with-boundaries boss who was asking about best dating stories. In an office where you have people originally from heavily Muslim, conservative/traditional countries and also some people who are not happily paired off (either in the paired or the happily sense), that was navigated pretty deftly by everyone else, including one guy who dodged it with a ‘I love this story about my friend, so let me tell that one instead’ introduction.

          I swear she just uses that icebreaker to tell her ‘superstar sports player hit on me’ tale.

        1. NaoNao*

          I think it’s “mandatory” in the sense that whoever bought the card brings it to your desk with a pen in hand and waits expectantly while you sign, and you would have to make an unpleasant scene, possibly even alienating the card-buyer, to get out of it.
          That’s how I read it.

      2. Phyllis*

        Also, signing the card is mandatory? What kind of rule is that??

        I would be so tempted to sign cards: “I was told I had to sign this. Regina Phalange.

    3. Karyn*

      This. Also, I worked at a company early in my career where there were four Jehova’s Witnesses, who would have been VERY upset if someone had tried to foist a birthday celebration on them.

      1. PatPat*

        I was coming to say that as well. Jehovah Witnesses do not celebrate their birthdays because it’s against their religion to make any day special. Or at least that’s how it was explained to me by a Jehovah Witness coworker.

        1. Kix*

          Years ago, I’d been transferred to a job in a city where I didn’t know anyone. On my birthday, I’d planned to keep it low key, but when I started getting a number of calls (we sat in an open plan office), my colleagues figured out it was my birthday and rushed to get a cake to celebrate at the staff meeting. We were all the meeting room, birthday cake on the table, and our front-line supervisor, a Jehovah’s Witness, came in, saw the cake, and had a major meltdown about how he hadn’t been informed there would be a birthday celebration, he thought it was the weekly staff meeting. Long story short, our manager removed the cake and it was given to me later to take home. I was mortified. I hadn’t asked for the celebration, and through no fault of my own, my birthday was ruined. Lesson learned for me, though, I’ve taken annual leave on my birthday every since, and will forever more.

          1. CMDRBNA*

            Wow. A ‘major meltdown’? I don’t think you’re the one who should be mortified! He could have just excused himself.

          2. Observer*

            Major meltdown? That sounds rather over the top. If it really was supposed to be a meeting, then simply asking for the cake to be removed and everyone can celebrate after the formal meeting is over would have worked just fine. And if it wasn’t supposed to be a meeting, then he could have just left. Of course, if people knew about his religious issue and ambushed him, that’s a problem, but he should have deal with that separately.

          3. Esme Squalor*

            That is ridiculous. I have a director who’s a Jehovah’s Witness, and while she asks that we not acknowledge her birthday and she doesn’t participate in any one else’s, she’s very gracious about other people being into birthdays and doesn’t make it all about her.

          4. Optimistic Prime*

            Yeah, I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and while celebrating birthdays is against the religion, having a meltdown about someone else’s birthday is also not really in line with it either. You’re not supposed to make a scene and make yourself the center of attention, and if someone does celebrate your birthday without knowing you’re supposed to be gracious but gently turn down gifts and cake.

            (Also, different Jehovah’s Witnesses have different ways of dealing with it, but there’s nothing in the religion against simply being in the presence of other people celebrating a birthday…if you showed up at a monthly staff meeting and somebody pulled out a little surprise cake for Mary, there’s nothing wrong with simply not singing and not having cake.)

        2. Actual JW*

          Not to derail, but as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I would like to clarify the reason for not celebrating birthdays. It’s not that NO day should be special. For example, a couple may choose to celebrate their wedding anniversary, and we consider the annual Memorial of Jesus Christ’s death to be the most important day of the year. But birthdays are pagan in origin, and there is no Biblical evidence that we should celebrate them (the two times birthdays are mentioned in the Bible, they were celebrated by people who were not worshipers of God and are not depicted in a favorable light).

          Personally, I was EXTREMELY grateful when a previous boss asked me in our very first one-on-one if I was comfortable with getting birthday cards and Christmas cards. I told him no, but I really appreciated his thoughtfulness in even thinking to ask.

      2. Elemeno P.*

        Yes, this is a big concern. A friend of mine is a JW and she made sure that none of her coworkers know her birthday in case they try to celebrate it. Other friends of hers have sneak-invited her to birthday parties, thinking it would be okay if she didn’t know beforehand. It’s really not hard to respect someone’s religion.

          1. Lora*

            I have three whom I love dearly, but they get SUPER fussy about certain things and birthdays are one of them. These are otherwise very intelligent people, but they do not understand even a little bit that I just don’t care about my birthday.
            1. I do not want gifts. I have more stuff than I know what to do with, I don’t need anything that I’m going to have to dust or wash.
            2. I don’t like sheet cake. At all. The frosting really grosses me out. I hate frosting in general.
            3. For various health related reasons, I dislike acknowledging the passage of time. It’s just one day closer to death for me.
            4. I’m a born introvert and being the center of attention is exhausting for me.
            5. My family didn’t really celebrate birthdays. They’re not Jehovah’s Witnesses or anything, it’s just that my birthday is close to Xmas and got lost in the holidays, and my cousins who were born in the spring/summer had a “combination” birthday cake in June that they all had to share. They didn’t get to pick what flavor cake, either. We celebrate other stuff, when someone from far away is visiting we get together, but we don’t do much for weddings or baby showers either.
            6. Things I want: more sleep. Really, that’s it. Maybe like win the lottery or something? I need to get some of my barn cats neutered, which involves trapping the evil little fluffy buggers and heavy gloves, but nobody wants to help me trap cats for my birthday. If I could get plenty of sleep on my birthday, that’s really really really all I want. I promise. Making me more exhausted isn’t a winning strategy; you can have cake and ice cream on your own whenever you want, without asking me to get out of bed and put on pants.

            I don’t know, I think they feel I have low self-esteem or something and maybe birthday cake will fix that? I didn’t think it was complicated.

            1. all aboard the anon train*

              I never had an individual birthday celebration until I was out of college. I was born on my grandmother’s birthday and my younger brother’s is 3 days before mine. In college, one friend had a birthday 4 days before mine and 2 friends had birthdays 5 days after mine, so it was all celebrated as one birthday.

              So, for the same reason, that one day is never really special or important to me, but when I try explaining it to people, some of them act like it’s the worst thing to ever happen or I had a cruel upbringing because I always had to share my birthday. And honestly I think it makes sense to celebrate multiple birthdays at once when they’re all close together. It’s exhausting otherwise.

              I think people who go to extremes over how someone wants to celebrate are more the ones with issues and see their issues reflected in whoever doesn’t want to be celebrated.

              1. Red 5*

                My birthday is in the middle of summer, so growing up I never had many friends my age at my parties because they would be on vacation or just not be around for me to invite. After years and years and years of having disappointing birthdays where people didn’t show up, and a few actual disastrous attempts at doing something fun, I just gave up and said I didn’t want to do anything for it anymore. One thing I’ve noticed since then is that the people who are the most offended and outraged that I just want a low key let’s not really make a big deal birthday aren’t the ones who actually show up when I do anything and it’s not like they do something super thoughtful or kind when my actual birthday rolls around.

                Thankfully as I’ve gotten older people are less interested and I can mostly get through my birthday primarily unscathed except for not knowing what to do about all the Facebook messages from people who barely acknowledge my existence the rest of the year. I still haven’t decided what I think about that new normal.

                1. all aboard the anon train*

                  When I had FB, I removed my birthday from my profile. Or hid it so only I could see it. Whatever the option was. So for the last few years before I deleted, I had no birthday wishes from all those random acquaintances. It was great.

                  I hear you on the summer birthdays. I think summer and winter holiday birthdays are the worst. Mine was close enough to the 4th of July that it was merged with other family birthdays and 4th celebrations.

                2. JeanB in NC*

                  See, I like getting Facebook birthday wishes. I’ve had birthdays in the past where no one acknowledged it except for my mother, so I really like all the FB ones.

              2. Bryce*

                My twin brother and I have a birthday tradition: call each other up, wish each other a happy birthday, chat about whatever neat gifts we’ve decided to get ourselves, and just take it as a chance to stay connected. That’s all I need, and the idea of a solo birthday sounds incomplete to me in that context.

            2. Chalupa Batman*

              “I don’t know, I think they feel I have low self-esteem or something and maybe birthday cake will fix that?”

              I’ve noticed that. I don’t like for people to make a big fuss on my birthday, to the point that I’ve taken vacation days on my birthday before. I don’t mind being wished a happy birthday and don’t begrudge other people celebrating theirs more elaborately, but it’s just not me. Now that I’m over 30, people seem to assume that not wanting to make a big deal of my birthday=some weird hangup about my age. I’m not old. I wouldn’t see it as negative if I were. Forced birthday festivities would be very uncomfortable for me. If it makes OP feel any better, as someone with personal rather than religious objections to a big birthday fuss, a card would be acceptably low key, and I wouldn’t hold it against someone that they signed it. My ire would be reserved for the cubicle decorators.

              1. LW 5*

                The cubicle was the worst! There were multiple streamers, a “Happy Birthday” banner, and CONFETTI on his desk. I was so sorry for him.

                1. Erin*

                  Birthday confetti? Nothing says here’s a mess we made just for your birthday, now you have to clean it up.

          2. Bryce*

            I have a couple of friends who, bless their hearts I love em and all, but they can’t see outside their own bubble. Think “I don’t want a birthday party, and especially not a surprise party” means I actually want one because it’s what they would want.

        1. Artemesia*

          Stunning. And if someone has made it clear they don’t celebrate their birthday, then to decorate their cube and make it a big fufuraw about ‘celebrating them’ is just downright hostile. A cake produced because others were not aware, understandable. Making a carnival out of someone’s desk when they have made it clear they don’t do this is, aggressive not even slightly thoughtful.

          I don’t ‘get’ the JW restriction; I don’t need to ‘get it’. I only need to respect it.

      3. ThatGirl*

        Funny thing, I had a manager who was JW about 10 years ago, and she made this whole Thing about how she didn’t celebrate her birthday, or Christmas, and please don’t do anything special … but you could tell she not-so-secretly did want us to make some sort of fuss over her on her bday.

        1. AnotherWitness*

          It’s a hard thing for some people who become Jehovah’s Witnesses later in life to give up, and that might have been the case with your manager. Personally, it would be extremely awkward for me if anyone at work even acknowledged it was my birthday after knowing that I don’t celebrate for religious reasons. My non-Witness family tried this several times. The first year or two, my mother would sneak attack me with “Happy Un-Birthday” lunches or gifts the day before or after my birthday, and as much as I love and appreciate her for caring, it really feels bad to have your beliefs ignored that way. (To be clear, if my mother bought me a gift or decided to throw me a party on any day of the year that was wholly unconnected to my birthday or a holiday, I would be delighted. It’s that she was trying to dodge my religious objection rather than respecting it that’s the problem, and that’s the same thing the LW’s office did.)

          1. Beachlover*

            When I was young, I had cousins that converted to JW as adults. I remember feeling bad, because their children, who were my age, were saddened by the fact that all of a sudden they ould no longer celebrate birthdays and other holidays with us, like they used to. I also remember them telling me that they could hardly wait to move out and go back to celebrating.

            1. AllTheFiles*

              My friend’s husband was raised JW but stopped as an adult. She would throw him kid-esq Birthday parties because he was all about making up for lost time. It was actually quite adorable – only because WANTED that.

      4. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

        My sister had a grade school classmate who was a Jehovah’s Witness. When someone in the class brought in birthday treats, she was not allowed to take one, and she was not allowed to attend any of the class holiday parties. (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas etc. Class parties were generally held at the end of the day, so her parents would take her out of school early on those days.)

        1. Bryce*

          Eugh, those “not allowed to”s are hard on a kid. I’m Jewish, and back in elementary school music their solution to how to handle Christmas carols without being “insensitive” was to have me leave the room. I think that happened twice before my mom found out and had a talk with some folks. Nice thing about a small town, mom knows *everybody* (also the worst thing if you ever want to cover something up).

        2. Optimistic Prime*

          That’s how I grew up too – I was a Jehovah’s Witness as a child. I think it probably varies but it’s not as hard on the kids as you might think. Particularly if you’re raised that way, you don’t necessarily think you are missing anything – particularly if you’re in a family that does the kinds of things that happen on holidays on other days (like costume parties, or big family dinners, or gift-giving occasions). If you’re a kid who gets regular gifts and you’ve never really known what Christmas means, the idea of not having a Christmas morning doesn’t really bug you.

          The social relationship aspect is actually the harder part – it’s more about missing other kids’ birthday (and other kinds of) parties, especially as a teenager.

    4. lamuella*

      I have no problem with friends celebrating my birthday but I’d rather keep it out of the workplace. Dealing with a Mandatory Fun Event on my birthday would feel exceptionally stressful to me, which is why I usually take the day off.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I would do the same thing, but my current company doesn’t celebrate birthdays (yay!) and at my previous one, my boss’s birthday was one day after mine, and I managed to convince them to just continue to focus on his, especially given my dietary restrictions. Whew.

        I did take off my birthday or a Monday/Friday in the same week, not because of birthday celebrations, but to avoid being on-call *on my birthday*. (The vacation day – if filed for before the on-call plan for the year was made – guaranteed I would not be listed for that week.)

    5. Foreign Octopus*

      “I find that people who like to push celebrations on others tend to be doing it more for their own sake than for the person they want to celebrate.”

      This. Completely.

      Thankfully at my ex-job, the one good thing about it was that we didn’t celebrate birthdays. Boss man gave us our birthdays off every year, and if the birthday fell on a Saturday or Sunday we could choose to take either the preceeding Friday off or the following Monday. That was the only recognition of the day, and I liked that. Not that I was there long enough to celebrate a birthday but the point still stands.

      I absolutely hate celebrating my birthday. I find it awkward to be the centre of attention and I’m not particularly sentimental so it feels silly to celebrate my birthday.

      This year was a bit of a nightmare for me to be honest. I had the entire weekend planned (this is important because I’d just spent three months working six days a week with social engagements on top of that) and I was looking forward to spending it alone. I was going to go to my favourite restaurant for lunch, watch a film that afternoon in the cinema, go for a walk, and then spend Sunday watching Classic Doctor Who.

      It went wrong straight away. My parents decided to surprise me by turning up at the restaurant (not a bad thing, I love my parents and really like spending time with them) and under normal circumstances I would have been pleased, but the surprise was that they had invited a friend of mine to join them. It was awkward because I’d already told said friend I wasn’t able to go to her party in the evening because I wanted to spend the weekend alone. I did have a slight mini-meltdown at my plans being hijacked (meltdown was obviously in private) and I did have a conversation with my parents about how much I detest surprises and please call ahead next time and give me the option of saying no.

      Then on Sunday, said friend turned up unannounced at my flat to celebrate my birthday. Fortunately, I was already watching Doctor Who with my headphones on and the theme tune blaring, I didn’t hear the buzzer go but I was pretty furious with her. I’d made it very clear, to everyone, that I was spending the weekend alone and please just ignore my birthday.

      That on top of the stress that I’d been feeling from working so much, and from the social interactions I’d been taking part in (at least two a week for three months for various reasons), I spent most of the weekend in tears because I was just mentally exhausted.

      So yeah, don’t be obnoxious basically.

      1. Seal*

        Agreed. I inherited a staff member who tried to insist that the tradition in the department was to celebrate birthdays. A quick check with my other new staff members revealed that everyone HATED that “tradition”, so I immediately did away with it. And yet that one staff member still quietly gave people cards and gives at birthdays and the holidays, to everyone irritation.

        The reason I hate celebrating my birthday at work has to do with a horrific surprise party a former supervisor threw for me. This was at a part-time job where we were coaching a HS performing arts group. She got the kids involved, ordered a cake and had a singing telegram delivered to the rehearsal on my birthday. Said singing telegram was a guy dressed up in a grass skirt and coconut bra. The kids loved it; I was dying of embarrassment. Afterwards, my supervisor took me out for dinner and go-carting (something I had no interest in) and presented me with a bouquet of roses. Apparently she had long harbored a crush on me and thought my birthday would be the perfect time to let me know. As I had zero interest in her beyond a friendly professional relationship, the rest of the season was very awkward, to say the least. Worse, she took her disappointment out on the kids. Ultimately I had to file a complaint with the school district, along with a number of parents, which lead to her getting fired.

        All this was over 25 years ago, but to this day I flat-out refuse to celebrate my birthday at work and go out of my way to support those who don’t want to celebrate theirs, either.

        1. Else*

          That sounds like the worst possible birthday surprise EVER – your former boss was literally out of her mind. What was she thinking??????? I’m so sorry this happened, and I’m so impressed that the school district actually stood up for you.

          1. Observer*

            Well, they don’t seem to have had much choice. It wasn’t just the OP who complained. IT was PARENTS – she was taking her disappointment out on the kids!

            And, I suspect that the singing telegram didn’t go over so well either. At minimum I would question the judgement of someone who did that at a typical office or for a bunch of High School kids.

          2. Lucius*

            Seems like a pretty clear cut case of sexual harassment, so I would hope the school would stand up for you.

            1. Seal*

              Since it was a seasonal job, I wound up taking a job with a different HS the following year. Five years later, a different head coach at the first school invited me back to work with that same program. I was stunned to learn that the actions of my former boss had become legend with that program and in fact had lead to the school making major changes in how it was run. Fortunately, since I was considered one of the victims my reputation there was still intact.

              However, much to my disgust the woman who they had fired went off to work in another school district and wound up having a fairly successful career. I’m still not sure how the events of that summer over 25 years ago weren’t a permanent black mark on her record.

    6. Oryx*

      At ExJob I was in charge of our staff calendar, which would include birthdays for the month. I’d always put a call out for any events people wanted on the calendar and this one month, our campus president was all “Jane has a birthday on the 15th. Don’t forget to put it on there!”

      I didn’t really think anything of it and did my calendar as usual. Now, the month before some of my coworkers had printing errors so I sent it to two of them to test. Immediately, my co-worker Mary calls me. “Jane HATES celebrating her birthday so I would take that off the calendar. Todd likes to pull pranks on her right around her birthday.”

      Ah. So I call Jane.
      “Hey, Jane. Working on the calendar.”
      “That includes birthdays.”

      So Jane’s birthday came off and I sent it out to staff. This time, it’s our Campus President who called me right away. “I thought I told you to put Jane’s birthday on the calendar.”

      Way to be a jerk, Todd.

      1. Another Liz*

        “Yeah, I contacted Jane for approval, and she declined”. Make it a policy that only the person whose event this is can put it on the calendar. Maybe Todd won’t try to sneak around you again if he thinks you’re always checking.

    7. Lora*


      I do not celebrate my birthday. I don’t like to. I prefer to spend the day hoping that the universe’s sense of irony passes by me unscathed. This may involve a lot of tequila. I’m one day closer to death, hooray? No.

    8. Thornus67*

      I don’t like my birthday because my grandmother died on it. I try not to celebrate it, but only my dad seems to get that. Jobs have celebrated it, despite my requests not to. Even my mom celebrated it, and she know precisely why I don’t (“I know you don’t like today, but I wanted to say happy birthday “).

      It’s all incredibly rude and disrespectful.

      1. frog*

        My grandmother died on my birthday as well, and I try to observe it based on what my uncle, who’s Buddhist, told me at the time: in the particular strain of Buddhism he practices, it’s apparently considered a rare gift when someone you love dies on your birthday, because it gives you the chance to looks back on and celebrate their life at the same time you’re celebrating your own every year. Plus, I know she’d be spinning in her urn if she thought for one second I felt I couldn’t celebrate because of her. But everyone deals with that kind of grief differently.

        That said, it does make for more of a reflective, low-key kind of celebration, and I’m completely with you on not wanting the usual generic happy-clappy work birthday festivities. Usually when I pull the dead-grandmother-card, coworkers will respect my request to not be celebrated, and I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with not only coworkers, but family members, who don’t respect your wishes in that regard.

        1. Turquoise Cow*

          That’s a wonderful way to think of it. I really admire the Buddhist way of thinking sometimes.

        2. Anna*

          A friend’s birthday is 9/11. For years he didn’t feel comfortable celebrating it because it just seemed insensitive. Then his sister (my best friend) reminded him that he is a person to celebrate and he’s not personally responsible for what a group of shitty humans did on a random day in September.

        3. all aboard the anon train*

          I went to school with someone whose birthday was not only on Christmas, but her dad died on Christmas as well. A lot of people couldn’t understand why she was always sad around Christmas and excused herself from parties during that time of year. I lost touch with her after we graduated, but I do always think of her when people are sad around holidays or big events because you never know what they’re dealing with.

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        I was born on my grandparents’ anniversary. My grandfather passed away suddenly shortly before my birthday this year, so on my birthday, celebrating was the last thing on my mind.

    9. Yorick*

      Maybe they think the coworker is my grandma, who says “don’t celebrate my birthday, don’t get me anything for Christmas, etc” but would be livid if we actually didn’t.

      (of course, I’m being silly, and they shouldn’t force a celebration on their coworkers)

    10. ZK*

      It could be more than “I don’t want my birthday observed at work,” it could also be religious but he didn’t want to get into that at work. It’s not just rude, but totally disrespectful.

    11. ArtK*

      Seems like a group that has no respect for boundaries. Not only is the celebration out of line, telling the OP that signing the card was mandatory was way over the line, too.

    12. bookish*

      Also – don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, not celebrate birthdays? It can be for religious reasons that they don’t want to celebrate (as well as other personal reasons of course).

    13. Sara*

      I also don’t like to celebrate my birthday – I try not to let people know when it is – but I think people assume that I’m lying about it. I’ve been told before ‘all women like to be celebrated!’. Barf.

      My boss is really cool in this aspect because she hates it too, so we keep each other’s birthdays under wraps.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Yeah, I dated someone very briefly who thought when I said I didn’t want something, I was really lying about wanting it. So when I said I don’t like jewelry, he bought jewelry and then got upset when I didn’t want it or like it because he thought “all women really want these things, they’re just being coy”. It was a very Mr. Collins from P&P situation.

    14. OtterB*

      I still really like OldJob, where the tradition was if you wanted to celebrate something, *you* brought in food. Bagels, cupcakes, whatever. Left it very much up to the person what they wanted to do. Also, my boss at that job was the Executive Director and he told me when I first started that in all seriousness anyone who ever threw him a surprise party would be fired.

      1. TootsNYC*

        That’s how we do it in grade school, right?

        I was in charge of the monthly birthday celebrations at one of my old jobs, which involved basically sending an email to everyone whose b’day is was NOT, saying, “It’s Wakeen’s birthday next Wednesday [or, later, “this month we’re celebrating b’days for Jane, Fergus, and Lucinda]; bring food if you want, but let me know,” and then also getting one thing of food and something to drink, on the company.

        Then it was my b’day. Well, I’m not sending out that email. So I brought in food and sent an email that morning, “It’s my birthday–I brought cupcakes!”

    15. Maya Elena*

      I get the impropriety of visiting unwanted attention and junk food on coworkers, but wow, this sure is a lot of people who don’t like birthdays. (I love ’em and always hope somebody might throw me a surprise party without me asking for it, but nobody does. Alas. :-( )

    16. Sketch*

      In my former job, we did a “birthday” celebration every 3 months. We’d just list any birthdays from the last few months and there’d be cake. It was very simple and I liked that it made a connection of a few people and no one was every on the spot. One person didn’t want their birthday on the list and it was easy to just not mention it.

    17. Rachael*

      I love planning parties, but only if the person wants it! I was once asked to help plan a baby shower by a guy in another department. He had a coworker from india who was having a baby. I met with her and I got the feeling that she was uncomfortable and i asked her what was going on. She told me that she told him that she didn’t want a baby shower (reserving a table in a conference room and everyone’s eyes on her). She had told him this, but his response was to say “I am throwing you an American baby shower so that you can have that experience” and pressured her into it. I asked her what she ACTUALLY wanted and she told me that she is fine with cake, but she doesn’t want a party. People can be invited to come up to her desk and congratulate her and grab some cake throughout the day. So, that is what I went forward and did. He was so mad that I changed the party and I just thought he was so rude to think of how HE wanted to throw the party and not care about her feelings. I got the feeling that he just wanted people to give him the “what a great party. you really are a thoughtful person” and he was robbed of that ego trip.

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 I can’t decide what’s worse: if they thought the birthday recipient would change his mind once they forced the celebration onto him, or if they didn’t care and simply wanted to do the thing because, um, because…?

    Actually it would be worse if he was a JW and needed to not celebrate due to his religion. But you asked about etiquette. You are right. This is bad. “Because we want to” is a song by Billie Piper, not a reason to force unwanted celebrations on people.

    Some people don’t like being centre of attention. Some just don’t like celebrating their own birthdays. Some, like my husband, tick both these boxes.

    Who told you this was mandatory? Your coworkers? Your boss, who – if so – may be the real villain or at least the explanation?

    1. Hare*

      — “Because we want to” is a song by Billie Piper, not a reason to force unwanted celebrations on people.

      I may start adopting this excellent phrasing. A+

    2. Julianne*

      At a previous job, one of the assistant managers was tasked with checking in with new employees to find out their birthdays and birthday celebration preferences. (Good on management for recognizing that not everyone wishes to have their birthday celebrated at work.) He came to ask my new officemate about her preferences. She said that she preferred to not celebrate at work, and that she did not want her birthday to appear on the office calendar. He brought up that celebrations were not over-the-top affairs, just maybe a card and acknowledgement from coworkers. She again said thanks but no thanks. He was perplexed; she really didn’t want even a “Happy birthday” from the people she worked with? Truly, honestly, no, she told him.

      Later he privately asked me if I thought the exchange was weird. I acknowledged that not celebrating birthdays wasn’t the norm in our office, but said we should respect employees’ stated preferences. He said something to the effect of, “Yeah, but remember how she kept bringing it up? I think that means she really wants us to celebrate it!” Dude. She kept talking about it because you kept pressing the issue! Luckily I managed to talk him out of surprising her.

      1. MashaKasha*

        “Yeah, but remember how she kept bringing it up? I think that means she really wants us to celebrate it!”

        My brain exploded. Why is it so hard to understand that, for a lot of us, after the age of, I’d guess 21 here in the US, our birthday is no longer a SUPER special day and a cause for celebration? I am another year older. Yay! Let’s get all my coworkers to sing me a song about it and then we can all eat horrible sheet cake with chemical icing.

        1. Anna*

          Speak for yourself about the super special day. I LOVE to celebrate my birthday (43)…with my friends and family and people I like. That doesn’t necessarily mean I want a big deal made of it at work. And I do like most of the people I work with.

          1. Kyrielle*

            MashaKasha said “for a lot of us” though – not all of us. I’m with you, I love celebrating with friends/family. But I know other people don’t, and I’m fine with that too. I don’t think forced workplace celebrations should ever be a thing, but if an office wants to celebrate the people who want to be celebrated, I think that’s great.

            (And I still wouldn’t sign up for it, because cake you can’t eat – and it’s always cake I can’t eat for these things, because cake I can eat costs too much for an office celebration – is not a great huzzah for birthday celebration.)

          2. MashaKasha*

            What Kyrielle said. I said “a lot of us”, because, while I know people who do love to celebrate birthdays, I also know a lot who don’t. And the coworker in the comment I was responding to, was kind of assuming that everyone does, specifically that the new officemate did, and that she was just being shy or messing with them or whatever when she said she didn’t.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          You don’t have to get at those who do like to celebrate.

          Some of us didn’t have nice birthdays as kids and are catching up.

          1. MashaKasha*

            No, I don’t have to. So I didn’t.

            Saying that many adults do not like celebrating their birthdays, and do not appreciate the assumption that they secretly want a celebration when they are explicitly saying they don’t, isn’t “getting at those who like to celebrate”.

            I did not have nice birthday parties, or any birthday parties, as a kid either. I don’t feel like catching up, but I do understand those who do.

            1. Lissa*

              Also it’s fine to celebrate your birthday even if you did have nice birthdays as a kid! It’s not like it’s more valid to celebrate as an adult if you had a bad childhood, or that you need to have in order to deserve to celebrate.

              I think part of the reason I don’t care about my birthday now is that nobody made a huge deal of it past the age of 8 or so growing up, it just wasn’t really a thing. I am legitimately birthday indifferent, having no strong feelings about in either direction, which might be weird but oh well.

      2. MyInnerDemonLikesCookies*

        Just an aside, for people whose managers do ask, and do keep a list — it’s nice if someone actually asks about their birthday. Where I used to work (2 places, actually), I did this, making a list, asking preferences. For people who celebrated their birthdays, I would pass around a card and bring in a little treat for everyone. On my own birthday? Nothing. Not that I wanted a big deal made, but it would have been nice if one person had even said happy birthday to me. I started taking a day off on my birthday after that — not being at work and having a day for myself is enough of a treat.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I usually bring a treat in for the office on my birthday. I heard it was a custom in England (not sure if that’s actually true) and took a liking to it. Best part is that it’s something delicious that I like, not some grocery store sheet cake in a flavor I don’t enjoy.

          I don’t get anything for other people on their birthdays, though. They can bring in their own treat!

    3. LW 5*

      Yep, it was my boss. I just signed my name, but I think in the future I’ll just act like I “forgot” to sign it.

  3. Naerose*

    #3 ‘Pet’ … You really want your boss to stop this? You can inform him that ‘pet’ means something very specific in the fetish community and it makes you uncomfortable for him to think of you in that way! At the very least, his google search history will be somewhat interesting from then on.

    1. Courtney*

      This feels like a very bad idea. Bringing in sexual undertones where they almost surely aren’t intended (particularly in a conversation with your boss!) seems pretty unnecessary and inappropriate.

      And yes, so is calling an employee pet. But telling him you don’t like it/asking for it to stop seems like a pretty logical first step.

    2. Gen*

      I know (speaking as someone who writes fetish stuff as a side job) that it someone went straight to the nuclear option of linking a generic term of endearment used by most of the (often elderly) people I grew up around with PETPLAY in a work environment I would be questioning that person’s judgement for quite a while. It’s not exactly a common fetish so in the event he’s never heard of it hes going to get an eyeful of stuff no one wants their boss to associate with them AND risk an IT filter catching the searches. It’s like the reverse of ‘call my boyfriend Master’ work colleagues don’t need to know what you’re into except in a few very specific industries.

      1. Anion*

        Especially since “pet” is often short for “petal,” in British vernacular, not, like, you’re someone’s actual pet.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I had no idea! I definitely always imagined “pet” like “animal I own” and it gave me the willies. “Petal” is much nicer (though I still don’t want to be called “pet”).

    3. Irishgal*

      Very unnecessary as in many parts of England “pet” is a day to day colloquial term used as a social term of endearment. Still not appropriate for the workplace.

      1. Lance*

        Yeah, it’s just harmless slang, ultimately. Ask him politely to stop (maybe a few times; it might be habit, after all), and I’m sure he will without issue.

      2. Infinity Anon*

        It seems on par with calling someone “dear” or “hon”. It feels inappropriate in a work setting but it isn’t inherently sexual or romantic. Probably sexist though in a work context.

        1. SC*

          My boss calls me “dear.” It bothered me initially, but then I heard him call his son, a male colleague, a male client, a male federal law enforcement officer (also boss’s friend) “dear.” Now I think it’s weird. But if he’s calling a male federal law enforcement officer “dear,” he’s not going to stop with me.

          1. Artemesia*

            I call my son ‘Babe’ but it would be super creepy for me to call any other man not my son or husband or grandson that.

          2. Jessica*

            This reminds me of the old Onion fake headline, “Man Ends Business Call With ‘I Love You'”.

          3. la bella vita*

            My boss routinely calls women, including myself, “my dear.” He is literally the only person who could do that in the workplace and not have it feel incredibly inappropriate – he’s in his early 70s and is the absolute best manager.

    4. Ruth (UK)*

      I have to agree that’s a pretty wild leap considering how common pet is as a term of address. It would be like reminding someone to be careful about saying “country” because the first syllable is the same as a really bad swear… (still, it’s not a term of endearment I’d want to be called at work)

      1. Sami*

        I don’t believe OP said where they’re originally from, but keep in mind that “pet” is very much *not* a common term of endearment in many places. I grew up in the American South, where terms of endearment are common enough – even with strangers – that I don’t even blink when a random older woman calls me honey or dear (older men…no. In the workplace, no.) Even so, “pet” is not standardly used and would majorly creep me out.

        1. AJHall*

          I’m imagining Fergus is a Geordie (from North-Eastern England, specifically Newcastle area), and it is a common term of endearment up there so I don’t think it’s inherently creepy, though it is workplace inappropriate (the rough male equivalent is “bonny lad” if she fancies giving Fergus a taste of his own medicine.)

          1. Floundering Mander*

            Exactly what I thought, AJHall. Definitely sounds like a North Eastern thing. Trying to get my Geordie neighbours to stop calling me “pet” or the Londoners I know to stop calling me “darling” or “love” would be like trying to get them to stop breathing. It is exactly the same as southern Americans saying “hon” or Californians saying “dude”.

            If this person is actually from the North East and routinely calls the OP “hinny” that’s a bit odd, as that is a much more intimate term of endearment. Still not sexual, though.

            1. Chinook*

              Terms of endearment for neighbors and even strangers even made it across the ocean. It always throws me for a loop when my MIL calls someone “maid” or BIL (married to my sister, so not related to MIL) calls someone “boy” with a tone a voice that shows they are referring to them in friendship and kindness. Both of them have been married to mainlanders for years and I swear they don’t notice when they say it.

            2. designbot*

              The difference being that both ‘hon’ and ‘dude’ are used for people of both sexes, while ‘pet’ is clearly not being used for the men at LW’s company.
              That’s why I think being more direct is really the way to go here, “could you not call me that? It’s very uncomfortable to me to be addressed so differently than the men are.” It might even make him think about it.

          2. Typhon Worker Bee*

            Yep, that’s where I’m originally from and “pet” and “bonny lad” are pretty much ubiquitous there. There are other variants, too – a beloved friend of my parents used to call my sister and me “pet lamb” when we were little, and my parents sometimes call each other “petal dust”! I like it because I grew up with it, but I wouldn’t want it at work, even from a fellow Geordie. (I actually work with a fellow Geordie, and we mostly just commiserate over how the Toon are doing and/or banter with our colleague from Middlesbrough about his team).

      2. Else*

        Depends on where you’re from, I suppose, as to whether it’s common. I’d find it super creepy – it is definitely not something that is used in the US, and the animal implications seem really off-putting to me.

        1. Lucius*

          Me, too. I was imaging Austin Powers, although it sounds like I a man off base about the actual British context. Still, totally legitimate to ask him to stop. No need to bring up the perceived creepiness.

    5. EE*

      Well, that way OP will have communicated something very personal about herself and gained nothing in the process.

      And I have known a fair few English people in the scene and they would always assume ‘pet’ meant the default ordinary term of address unless they were actually in a scene right there and then.

    6. Thistle*

      It’s a totally common phrase that get used for very female in a certain part of the UK (actually England). It wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in the UK unless you are militantly PC. But things like that don’t worry people here (perhaps on London?). If you object then remind him, but don’t flame him as it isn’t meant as anything other than an acknowledgement of speaking to a woman insteaf of a man. As it is often ingrained he may have trouble breaking this habit.

      1. Gadfly*

        Which is a problem right there–to extra-gender the conversation. It sounds like the excuse given by the ex-coworker who liked to call me doll. Ugh. I mean, why do you need to care if you are talking to a woman instead of a man unless you are doing something sexist? The problem is right there in the excuse. And if extra-PC just means calling out double standards others have decided to tolerate, it doesn’t change the basic problem that for some reason he’s decided he has to be constantly reminding everyone you are female.

        1. lamuella*

          There’s a couple of the Northern terms of endearment that are really quite sweet. I remember sitting at a bus stop in Leeds listening to two old men talk about football while waiting for different buses. One bus got there and the first old man got up to get it, saying “I’ll see you later, John love.”

          Old guys using “love” as a term of endearment us one of the sweetest things.

          1. Lila Lou*

            This made me smile. Thanks for starting my day right.

            I actually wouldn’t mind this from a British boss/peer but then I tend to think Brits can do no wrong with that accent. I understand OP’s irritation though and a breezy, “please call me Jane” should work just fine.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        I’m in England at the moment – I’d object to being called “Pet”. And I’ve never heard it used in any office in which I’ve worked.

        1. Excel Slayer*

          It’s a more Northern thing, so if you’re working in, say, London you’re unlikely to hear it.

          For what it’s worth, the people I know who use it would use it as a term of endearment for both genders. That doesn’t make it right in a work context, and I feel it’s probably gendered here though.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yeah – more like Pet in glasgow (which is where I’m from). It’s still not OK in work though – and any manager knows that you’re asking for something to hit the fan if you do that!

            I am wondering if manager is actually British tbh ;)

            1. Mary*

              I grew up in Nottingham and have lived, worked and studied in Yorkshire and Manchester, and I’d find it really normal from colleagues in manual roles, especially if they were 10-15 years older than me (I’m 38.) I wouldn’t tend to hear it from colleagues at a professional level (though I might from older colleagues), but hearing “pet”, “love”, “chuck” or “duck” from someone in estates or catering would be absolutely normal.

              When I’ve had managers with working-class backgrounds, it’s tended to be a colloquial thing: they wouldn’t necessarily say it in “manager-mode”, but they would in casual conversation or chat.

              Having said that, OP, your manager knows he’s a long way from Newcastle and shouldn’t be too perturbed by the realisation that he’s working in a different cultural context! I’d just say something like, “Sorry, I know you don’t mean anything by it, but I find it really weird being called pet! I’d really appreciate it if you could call me by my name instead?”

              1. misspiggy*

                Yes – and hearing people call each other ‘petal’ is even better (even though that does tend to get applied only to women).

                I bristle at most gendered pet names, but ‘duck’ and ‘pet’ seem to be exceptions somehow. Not sensible to use them outside their cultural context though.

                1. Clewgarnet*

                  I’m the same. Nothing gets my hackles up more than a ‘love’ or ‘sweetheart’, but ‘pet’ and ‘duck’ read to me (northern England) as gender-neutrally affectionate.

                  Of course, just because I’m okay with it, it doesn’t mean everybody should be.

                2. Gem*

                  Yay, my home is featuring on askamanager. To provide additional context to the ‘pet’ thing my student side job was in a local authority lesiure centre. A mandate came down from the central office that we weren’t allowed to use ‘pet’ with customers as it was unprofessional. Next quarter that was revoked. Apparently that one change made us seem cold and unfriendly.

                3. Floundering Mander*

                  @Gem It would certainly strike me as odd to hear my friendly local authority people scrupulously avoid calling me pet! I’m pretty sure even the mayor of Gateshead called me pet at my citizenship ceremony… ;-)

            2. Akcipitrokulo*

              “Yeah – more like Pet in glasgow (which is where I’m from).” – I meant Hen of course!

              1. UK1331*

                Yeah Pet is a common term in a lot of the North of England and Scotland, definitely no sexual connotations, but yeah, he should realise these things don’t always translate.

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                I do like it – it means I’m home! I also want to start calling young men “Son” as soon as I hit Central Station ;)

    7. S*

      Are you taking your break at set times? You can send a calendar invite for each day so you don’t have to call them

      1. DivineMissL*

        I love this solution – it will pop up on their screen 5 minutes beforehand, without the OP having to make the call. Perfect!

      2. JessaB*

        Honestly I think the boss is being outrageous. Having cover for reception without the receptionist having to feel put upon is part of managing an office with reception. There should be a set rota (whether there’s a person a day, or each week one person for early break, one for lunch and one for late break,) but the receptionist should NOT have to fish around for their coverage for scheduled breaks. That should A: be set, and B: be explained to those persons who cover that it’s part of their job to be there on time so Reception can take their break unhindered and ON TIME, barring an emergency. Which should be rare.

        For the boss to abrogate that part of their job, to say the receptionist is unreasonable to want to have a smooth day where they do not have to fish around every single day for someone to cover a task that is known (this is not a one off where it’s needed to cover some other task, every single day 3 times of coverage is needed for reception, without fail.)

        On the other hand big boss is silly, breaks should be properly covered, but a five minute bathroom run should be put on auto. Still, it’s on management NOT reception to cover the phones.

    8. Roker Moose*

      In the North East of England (where I’m from) ‘pet’ is a very common term of endearment. It’s in the vein of honey or darling.

      If the LW does not want to be addressed this way, that’s 100% her call and her wishes should be respected. But she should not be shaming her boss for using is natural speech– especially as it sounds as though he’s an ex-pat too.

      1. Sam Yao*

        I would strongly object to being called honey or darling at work, as well. There are situations and relationships where that’s appropriate and ones where it’s not, and work falls under “not.”

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, exactly. It’s not that the word is itself offensive, it’s that it’s not appropriate in this context. And add the fact that the OP said he doesn’t say it to any of the men and it becomes extra problematic.

    9. Nick*

      I suspect that the boss is from the North East of England were “Pet” is commonly used. I am sure that he is not being sexist in his own mind. It took me quite a while to stop calling male colleagues “mate.” So after advising him that she doesn’t like the term she needs to be patient while he tries to break what is probably an ingrained behavior/ habit

    10. Tanith*

      Despite Pet being a BDSM term, it is also a comment term in parts of North England. OP did say this guy was English. I’d be more likely to go down the route of him using a term that is normal colloquial language in his home country, that it being a Fetish term. BTW, pet play is a very minor sector of the BDSM community in UK, so even less likely to be this.

    11. Fake old Converse shoes*

      Since OP is located in a Latin American country, maybe joking sarcasm would be a good reaction (such as “do you want me to bark too?” or “wait, am I a dog?”).

    12. Ross*

      In my part of the world “pet” is practically punctuation. It’s just a very very very common word that is used for everyone, male and female. It’s not intimate or inappropriate at all, and it’s a word you would expect to hear used by total strangers. Obviously this is very culturally specific and the boss needs to be mindful of the fact he is not in his own culture. But posters not of the boss’s culture insisting it’s disrespectful or pointing out there’s a very obscure sex fetish group online that have co-opted the term for their own use is … bizarre. Just calmly point out the word is not widely used in the US and is too intimate.

      1. Ross*

        Sorry Latin America.

        Incidentally I work in an industry where everyone calls each other “dear” or “darling” (again, gender neutral, totally acceptable term to use with a complete stranger, just 100% common and accepted). I don’t know why people have a problem accepting cultural norms differ.

        1. Floundering Mander*

          In my experience as an American transplant to the North East, it is very slightly gendered, in that it seems somewhat more common to call women “pet”. But it is not exclusively so.

    13. Chinook*

      “You can inform him that ‘pet’ means something very specific in the fetish community and it makes you uncomfortable for him to think of you in that way”

      Careful about making broad generalizations, especially across cultures. My dad has always called me “pet” and I believe the OP is right about it being a UK cultural thing (since Dad is Anglo-Irish)

      That being said, I like AAM’s wording because, for me, it would make me wonder if my boss sees me as his child. I also believe that the only nicknames that should be used in the office are referring to people by their last name or with an extra initial (and then only if they approve).

  4. Kc89*

    4-the restaurant where I worked had a rule that outside food couldn’t mix with on site food so we couldn’t even store lunches in the fridge. We had lockers where you could store food (lunch box with ice pack etc.)

    I wonder if it’s something similar to that.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I think it’s one thing to bring your own food to heat in a microwave, but bringing in your own ingredients and seasoning seems a bit much – I’ve only worked in one kitchen but I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that. Nobody did. The food we served wasn’t so bad, though…

      1. Infinity Anon*

        I was wondering if all outside food is banned or just cooking outside food. I can definitely see how allowing people to cook their own food in a restaurant kitchen could be a liability.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That was my experience, too, and it was all health code related. Bringing in prepared food stored separately in the (small) employee fridge was fine, but there’s no way storing ingredients and cooking personal food on-site would have flown at any of the restaurants/cafes where I worked.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Since the OP is bringing in raw meat and cooking it, I would put money on this being health code related.

        1. Jesca*

          I don’t think you can actually bring in any outside food and prepare it using the restaurant’s equipment meant to serve customers. I remember reading something of this sort somewhere, but for the life of me cannot remember the context. It is basically that any food prepared in a kitchen that serves customers as a business needs to follow the same rules that govern food storage, prep, and prepare that health codes require. Having an employee bring outside food violates the health codes as the business does not control how this was stored prior to preparing in and on the equipment used to serve customers.

      2. always in email jail*

        As someone rather familiar with the health codes due to my profession, this is correct in most places, you cannot have outside food in the food preparation area or they will be cited for it. Even if someone working in the kitchen has a bottle of soda back there

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Yep, your soda/water/etc had to be back in the break room, you couldn’t store it anywhere near where food was being prepped.

      3. JN*

        I work in a library that has a coffee shop, and we have commuter students who bring their lunches from home to eat here. When we did a building renovation last year, the microwave that had been out in the 24/7 space for those students to use had to be removed–but the service was so important to our students that we had to keep the microwave and find a new spot for it. We’d thought that a corner of the coffee shop might work, but they said that couldn’t happen for health department code reasons. No non-coffee shop food could be cooked (or even just reheated) in that space.

    3. PatPat*

      I’ve worked in many restaurants and outside food is a big no no. The health department inspector has to look at whatever food and condiments are in the restaurant so if OP’s spices are out of date, improperly sealed, or in a dirty bottle, that’s a violation. It’s reasonable for the boss to not want to have to monitor OP’s cooking supplies. I’m really surprised OP is allowed to cook outside food because I can’t imagine an inspector would be pleased to see that.

      1. Runner*

        I have never seen anyone cook their own meals at any restaurant I’ve worked at, from fast food to national chains to fine dining.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          I have, but it was awhile ago, and I think at that particular store we got away with a lot of stuff that probably wouldn’t fly today (stacking boxes to create targets to throw knives at in the breakroom comes to mind)

          1. Kyrielle*

            Thrown knives would probably still fly, otherwise you haven’t thrown them correctly.

            Sorry, I’ll wander off now. (But yeah, that does sound like they were a bit loose with rules.)

    4. Lars the Real Girl*

      This was my thought….in any other job you wouldn’t be “cooking” your food, you would *at most* be heating it in a microwave. Why not go for salads, sandwiches, other mundane office food?

      1. KR*

        This – bring your own food, OP, stored in it’s own container and clearly marked. Already cooked.

    5. Thlayli*

      Op says the boss said she can’t “have” food at work. Without knowing the details of the conversation it’s hard to say but this could mean:
      1 you can’t store ingredients in the restaurant (fair enough)
      2 you can’t cook using restaurant equipment (also fair enough esp when you consider legal issues and e.g. What could happen if op used an allergenic ingredient and then it wasn’t cleaned up properly – no employer wants to take on that sort of responsibility of policing what their employees cook for themselves
      3 you can’t even heat up food in the microwave in a closed container (that’s going a little far but still legal for employer to say this)
      4 you can’t bring in any of your own food to eat on site even sandwiches (ridiculous but I think still legal)
      5 you can bring in sandwiches or other food and leave in staff room and eat it outside the restaurant (mean forcing your staff to leave for lunch but possibly legal in some places)
      5 you can’t leave the site to eat and you are required to stay in our restaurant during your lunch break and pay for our food out of your own money (illegal where I live and probably everywhere)

      Basically if your boss is just telling you that you can’t cook your own food in the restaurant then that’s totally normal and I’m surprised you got away with it for so long, but if your boss is telling you you aren’t allowed to eat any food at all other than food you pay him for then that’s totally out of order and probably illegal.

      1. Dweali*

        for your #5….highly dependent on state/region. In OK I would work 12+ hour days with no official break (fitting in running to the bathroom when I had an extra 5 minutes) and that was at a corporate restaurant. The only people that have to be given a break are those under 16.

        Your 1-4 are rules because of health code violations (a big portion of restaurants don’t have a break room or any separate place for employee stuff…if you’re lucky the managers let you lock your purse in their office)

        1. Thlayli*

          I actually meant that forcing you to buy food from your employer is illegal. I meant that when you do give the employee a meal break you can’t force them into a situation where they are forced to pay the employer for food (by refusing to allow outside food even sandwiches in and also refusing to allow people to leave to get food, leaving them no option but to purchase food from the employer ).

          But honestly nothing would surprise me about America anymore, maybe it is legal to force your employees to purchase food from you.

      2. SC*

        My husband was a server in a few NYC restaurants for several years. There was a staff meal at 4, around the time he arrived, but it was for the cooks who arrived at work early in the morning. He stayed until 12 or 1 most days, and they were not given breaks or allowed to eat during that time. Even if they’d been allowed to eat, the restaurant was too busy for them to take breaks. He’d be starving when he got off work and eat terribly unhealthy street food, but he still lost 60 lbs in the first 3 months or so.

        I’m not sure whether all that was “legal,” but it was completely normal.

    6. LadyL*

      It’s definitely health code, but at a crappy restaurant it’s also used to force employees to put their paychecks back into the restaurant. So, no outside food, you’re not required to give me a break for me to go buy food, and you don’t have a employee discount for your food here? Yeah, go to hell. That said, I’ve only ever seen a few restaurants that didn’t at least let employees eat half price on items. But OP, I feel your pain. The spring I worked in fast food is the spring I had food poisoning three times and the most health problems. Was so sickly, and I absolutely think my immune system was compromised because I ate that food four times a week.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Back in my fast food days, the first place I worked at gave us free unlimited soda from the fountain, but no other discounts on food. Mind, I worked part-time (was in HS), and IIRC I could still bring in a sandwich or whatever when I did have a meal break. I worked at a couple subsequent restaurants of that same name (not the same owners), and the other places did give 50% employee discount on their meals. But yeah, even then it’s not usually stuff you’d want to eat daily.

      2. Observer*

        The thing is that what the OP is describing doesn’t quite fit this description. The OP was COOKING FOOD in the CUSTOMER EQUIPMENT. That’s a BIG deal. She also had raw foods and seasonings IN THE KITCHEN. That’s another big deal, even if she was using a “little used shelf” for the condiments and seasonings.

        I would not eat in a restaurant that allowed this, to be honest. Too many potential issues.

        Now, if the OP’s boss is telling her that she needs to buy her food from them and not eat their own food AT ALL (ie prepared food in a break room or outside of the restaurant), that’s a different issue, and really unfair. But it doesn’t sound like the OP asked about that.

        1. Jimbob*

          This, exactly. Who knows where OP got those ingredients? For all the boss, the customers, and the health inspectors know, that’s roadkill meat and the potatoes were grown in a vat of radioactive waste. If I were eating at a restaurant I would never want to hear “oh, it will just be a minute – one of our servers is cooking up their personal food, and as soon as they’re finished, we’ll toss your meal in the pan!”

          I’ve never worked ANYWHERE where cooking raw meat would be considered a normal thing to do for a lunch/dinner break. Most office/school/whatever employees bring a microwave meal, salad, etc. Every restaurant where I’ve worked has failed to provide even a microwave for employees. The expectation was you bought restaurant food or you brought in something like a sandwich or granola bar. Frankly I’m amazed OP even has time for actual cooking. We would take a bite in between taking orders and then another after you finish running food and another after clearing a table. The closest thing we got to a “real break” was going to the bathroom.

          1. Dankar*

            I work at a university, and we all know academia is a different planet in terms of office norms, but one of the supervisors at my old job (retired by the time I started) used to cook her own food in her office.

            And I mean actually cook–she had a blender and portable cook top in her desk. Pretty sure it wasn’t fire code safe, but she got away with it for almost 15 years before she left.

      3. Oryx*

        I will fully admit that the best part about working at a Barnes & Noble was the 50% off Starbucks drinks from the cafe.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          Roomate, SO, and I were all so sad when we finally graduated on to different jobs, because we missed that delicious hot chocolate at 50% off. It doesn’t taste the same when you have to pay full price for it. :(

      4. Kitkat*

        We don’t have an employee area…. And I don’t get breaks because I only have to cook for 2-5customers a day

    7. Dweali*

      In both OK and AR it’s against health code regulations to bring outside food. That being said the restaurants I worked at were ok with us ordering off menu items (most of the time we also got to use our employee discount since we would be ordering enough side/a la carte items to equal the price of a menu–but that could also be manager dependent)….off menu meals were kinda seen as one of the perks of restaurant work in general but even more so at the places I worked

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 Is your boss actually British? I have to say, even my Geordie friends only say ‘pet’ once in a while if at all, so that’s a bit of an odd habit.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      I think it depends on the person. In other parts of the UK, it would be “Love”, or “Duck” to give a couple of examples and I have heard it used more often by some people than others.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I think the worst one I’ve heard is this from Devon: my lover.

        People really do say that there!

        I went to university there and the first person who said it to me was a shopkeeper. I think I was shocked into silence!

        1. Marzipan*

          Where was that to, then?

          (I had a lengthy discussion with someone at work about how people outside Devon don’t ask where things are to, they just ask where they are. He didn’t really believe me, though.)

            1. Ron McDon*

              I am from Somerset and call my work friends ‘my love’ – as in ‘alright my love?’ It seems to have spread so that now all my colleagues say it to each other too!

              I would never ask ‘where is that to?’ but I speak to soooo many people who do!

              Regional variations of English are fascinating.

              1. MashaKasha*

                I’m in the US, in a state where everyone says “where is that at?”, so I’m not the one to judge!

                1. Lurker*

                  I used to say that, too. But then I had a college roommate who was an English major and she would punch me (not hard enough to hurt) in the arm every time I asked “Where’s that at?” Cured me of it completely; it sounds so awkward to me when I hear it now.

                2. Chinook*

                  That is way to formal. The Newfs I know around here who, when they slip into their heavier accents, often ask “Where you at?”, especially when talking to each other.

        2. Brontosaurusinspace*

          I went to university there too, and my landlord to call all of his tenants ‘lover’. It was a bit disconcerting the first time, but we got used to it.

      2. Marzipan*

        I worked somewhere for a while where I was called ‘duck’ by literally everyone who came to my counter. I was sorely tempted to start quacking.

          1. Me Duck*

            It’s definitely used a LOT in Leicester and Derby – it might be an East Midlands thing. It wasn’t until I moved away from Leicester that I realised no one else used “duck” as a term of endearment or a social nicety.

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        West Scotland (Glasgow & down to Ayrshire) it’s “hen”. While I don’t mind (depending on context) outside work, it’s a big no-no inside work.

        “I suspect this sort of thing wouldn´t be a big deal locally, but I find it inappropriate.” – no, it’s not OK locally – it is inappropriate. And certainly could contribute to a claim under the Equalities Act!

        (http://m.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/d/8/Equality-and-discrimination-understand-the-basics.pdf mentions nicknames. http://www.personneltoday.com/hr/workplace-nicknames-lead-discrimination/ has a few cases – none about sexism, all age and race, but same principles apply).

    2. JamieS*

      Are Geordies (no idea if that’s the correct term) more apt to call someone pet than others? I’ve always pictured it as being more of a working class London thing (Cockney??) No idea why I think that though.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Never yet met anyone in London who says pet (and not sure I’ve actually known a Geordie to say it outside of the TV now I think of it). In London you’re more likely to get Love or Darling.

        1. Ceiswyn*

          When I visited my Geordie relatives I got used to just gritting my teeth and bearing it; they said ‘pet’ all the time!

          1. Chinook*

            “When I visited my Geordie relatives I got used to just gritting my teeth and bearing it; they said ‘pet’ all the time!”

            Can I ask why? (not snark – honest curiosity). Maybe it is from growing up around different accents around the kitchen table and in my schools (because redneck Alberta is nowhere near as homogeneous as people think it is), but I learned to listen to the tone of the nickname vs. the actual word they were using. But, then again, I don’t get upset when someone mispronounces my name or uses slang when talking to me, so I acknowledge having a high threshold.

            Is there something wrong with visiting relatives in culturally different place (even if it I a few miles down the road) and having them talk to you like you are a local?

        2. Purple snowdrop*

          Yes Geordie is right, and I do hear it in my day to day life.

          One of my friends calls me pet sometimes actually, and I hardly notice (although I don’t particularly like it from him).

        3. Rookie Manager*

          When dementia hit my (northern) Grandma all her children and Grandchildren, children in law, nieces and nephews became “pet”. It was affectionate even if she wasn’t entirely sure who she was speaking to.

      2. Bagpuss*

        ‘Pet’ is Northern, and specifically Geordie. In my experience, it does get used more to women, but not exclusively, so I wouldn’t automatically assume that there is anything sexist going on (unless of course you get that vibe from any other behaviours)

        OP, your boss may well be using it out of habit and not in any sexist way, but I think you would be fine to raise it and ask that he not address you that way. You explain that while you understand that it’s not intended that way, it ‘feels’ uncomfortably informal to you.

        1. HannahS*

          Well, she does say that her male colleagues aren’t getting called that. So that’s treating a female employee differently based on her gender.

          1. Chinook*

            “Well, she does say that her male colleagues aren’t getting called that. So that’s treating a female employee differently based on her gender.”

            Is it because she is female or because he feels the most comfortable with her because of their working relationship? I could see the boss using the same nickname with her if she was a man if they interacted at the same level.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              You’re inserting into the scenario something that has no basis in the letter. The OP says the boss doesn’t call any of the men that, and she doesn’t say that she’s the closest to the boss or that there are no men who interact with the boss at the same level. I’m sure we could make up all kinds of scenarios where the disparate treatment is justifiable and not gendered/sexist (though either way it’s probably not professional to call his direct reports pet or hon or sweetie or anything like that), but all we have to go on here is the OP’s word that she’s the only one called that. If she thinks it’s gendered, let’s trust her on that.

      3. Trying not to give the game away.*

        Geordies, and those from Sunderland (never quite sure if Mackem [the nickname used for Sunderland inhabitants] is offensive or not!) tend to use a lot of different terms like pet in every day speech, although it depends on the individual. I’ve been called pet, lass, lassie, hinny, flower, lovey, girlie (that one was a bit creepy), chick.. can’t think of any more! The only one that has ever bothered me was girlie but that was more the individual that was saying it rather than the word.
        I can understand being uncomfortable with it if you’re not used to it, but the boss in the letter may not even know he’s doing it.

        1. Thlayli*

          I don’t believe Mackem is an offensive term – I knew a mackem who referred to himself as such.

          1. Floundering Mander*

            Offensive, or just weird coming from someone who isn’t actually a parent or spouse? I’ve always thought “hinny” was basically the same as “honey”, and in my part of America “honey” isn’t used for non-intimates unless you’re being sarcastic.

      4. Chameleon*

        I’d never heard the term “Geordies” before this thread and had to Wiki it…now I’m fascinated!

        Apparently, the dialect highly conserves the Anglo-Saxon vocabulary and grammar, rather than reflecting the Norman invasion. It’s also been called the most attractive accent in England!

        1. Thlayli*

          There’s a game you can play on the trams there – Geordie or Polish. Basically you try to guess if people are speaking in Geordie or Polish. It’s surprisingly difficult.

          You can also google Geordie Shore if you want to hear some Geordie accents.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I had a colleague from Sunderland who said ‘pet’ at the end of every sentence, more or less. It wasn’t gendered, though, she’d say it to me and women.

      1. Heth*

        My manager says it (not to me or anyone at work) usually just to his children on the phone, he is from the north but living in London. In Scotland as a women you can get called hen.

        1. whingedrinking*

          I confess to being utterly charmed by Scots who call me “lass”, less so by non-Scots (there’s always that one guy, no?). I also had an Irish roommate who found my habit of calling everyone regardless of age or gender “dude” to be delightfully exotic.

      2. Ron McDon*

        I have a friend from ‘up north’ who also says ‘pet’ constantly.

        With regard to it being gendered, I think more commonly men tend to say it to women but not other men; women tend to say it to both men and women?

    4. Mary*

      My manager’s manager is from Newcastle and she’d definitely call me pet! It doesn’t sound unusual to me, though a bit more self-awarness from the boss wouldn’t go amiss if he’s that far from home and not working with other northern English people.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        That’s what I call my son, but only my son.

        DuckWarden makes cute little duck noises.

  6. Confused*

    4. Food at work
    The question seems a bit unclear. Is your boss saying you can’t BRING your own food (like Tupperware with leftovers etc) or you can’t COOK your own food there? It sounds like you’re bringing in raw food and cooking from scratch. I can see why that might be a problem BC of potential health code violations or allergy issues for customers…? Might also be a liability if you burn/hurt yourself or cause a fire while you’re cooking for yourself on a break.
    Can you bring in your own already cooked food and just heat it up or eat cold (sandwich etc)?

    1. Artemesia*

      This. It is unreasonable to expect you to pay for their food. It is also unreasonable for them to let you cook food there. But you should be able to bring in a cold lunch or perhaps leftovers you microwave. If they insist you eat their food, then it should be comped. But it seems fairly unreasonable to have someone bringing in seasonings and cooking private food in a commercial kitchen. I always apply ‘what if everyone did this’ rule to test whether something I want to do is appropriate and this surely isn’t.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        When you think about it, it’s not weird to ask staffers to pay for some of the food. When you work in a store, you get an employee discount but you never get anything for flat-out free unless it’s damaged or a sample or otherwise can’t be sold. My restaurant friends have talked about usually being able to eat salads, soups, and bread for free but having to pay for meat. Sometimes they’ll get a free “shift meal” from a list of four or five choices. I think these systems are perfectly fine, and it makes sense to put limits on it instead of allowing employees to graze on the good stuff all day long. I’d like some more clarity from the OP about the exact rules at her workplace; is literally EVERYTHING they sell fried? Not a single salad or soup?

        1. Jeanne*

          It’s not weird to ask them to pay to get restaurant food. It is weird to say the only way you may eat during the work day is to buy the restaurant food. I suspect the question is just unclear and the boss is saying don’t cook here.

          1. Artemesia*

            This. They don’t have to give you free food, but they can’t or shouldn’t be able to ban you from bringing your own sack lunch.

          2. Readwitch*

            I’ve worked in a number of restaurants. Generally bringing in food was fine but some say no. The issue is that restaurants don’t typically have staff spaces so no employee lounge or fridge. One didn’t even have a place for coats. So if you store food anywhere even when it’s a shelf that’s not used, your mixing raw food storage with stuff brought in which is a health code violation. I’m not sure if the actual terminology but I’ve had almost this exact situation happen to me.

        2. Kitkat*

          We only make soup some times. And yes while I enjoy salad I can’t eat it everyday it gives me an upset stomach. Yes everything is fried. I asked the GM and he said it was fine for me to cook my food because I bring it still sealed in the grocery store package. I also don’t store “groceries” all I had was olive oil, a small small container of flour, a Cajun spice bottle, and some Italian seasoning that I used to make a meal. I literally only cook for like 2-5customers a day. I don’t use any kitchen supply except pots and pans and even then I go out side to the gas grill clean it and cook on there. I have worked in many restaurants and never once I have I been told it’s not okay to have small things as long as they were not used for customers.

          1. Artemesia*

            It still seems perfectly reasonable to me that they don’t want you cooking meals privately on the company equipment. There are a lot of things you can bring for lunch that don’t require such an elaborate set up and that are not salads. If they don’t have a microwave access for you and you want hot meals bring it in a thermos which is what many of us did for most of our work lives before microwaves were ubiquitous.

    2. Jeanne*

      I suspect the raw food/cooking is the problem. Bring a lunch like you work in an office building not a kitchen.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Actually I’ve worked in a lot of offices where you can cook a bit. Just with a toaster and microwave, but you can store ingredients and make them into things. So I’d say it’s different in that respect. What changes is when you have a kitchen that’s not just for employees to use but is in fact a commercial one and will be subject to certain standards and regulations.

    3. Gee Gee*

      Agreed. Telling someone they are allowed to eat nothing except the restaurant food that they have to pay for is not only forcing someone to spend money at The Company Store, it completely ignores the possibility of special dietary needs. Not letting an employee use the cookware, though, makes sense.

      Just bring in a sandwich, yogurt, etc., that doesn’t need to be cooked.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I know a few places where you couldn’t bring in “outside food” as in, something from another restaurant. If you work at Subway, you don’t want customers seeing you eat a Jimmy Johns in the back booth while on break. But it was OK to bring in something you made at home, or even other restaurant food if you put it in another container so it wasn’t recognizable.

  7. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    #5 – Ick! I find it pretty presumptuous when people project their wants on someone who has expressed an opposite desire. Besides, there are many reasons people don’t celebrate their birthdays: Jehovah’s witnesses come to mind.

    When I took over at work as part of my company’s celebrations and recognitions committee, I reached out to a coworker I happened to know was a witness and asked her if she wanted to participate in the normal recognitions or if she preferred her birthday to remain unobserved. Giving someone a choice and respecting it is SO important.

  8. RTA*

    Alison, here’s a question I always have when the advice is to just leave a job off of a resume. By the time you are interviewed, you almost always have to fill out an online application which asks you to submit your entire employment history for the past X years and then you sign off that you’ve told the truth and you haven’t left anything off. So I understand leaving it off a resume, but I don’t see how that avoids the fundamental problem of them learning about this job and asking about why you left.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      The online application you mentioned isn’t an “almost always” thing. It depends on your field and the companies you’ve worked for. I’ve never, ever had to do that. Unless the company runs a background check, they’re not going to know your full employment history.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          Is that even true? Again, I’ve never had to do this and I have applied and worked for many, many companies. I don’t even really understand the process you’re describing.

          1. RTA*

            I work for Fortune 100 companies. Every one of them (and actually all of the smaller ones I’ve applied at) use a Taleo or Taleo-esque hosted application process. You upload your resume and optional cover letter. You provide basic info. You edit your employment and education history that it pulls from your resume. You answer the questions about being eligible to work, being disabled, a veteran or a minority, and you electronically sign that you agree they can do a background check and that your application is accurate in every way upon penalty of dismissal. Often you have to input your salary expectations and cannot submit without entering a number. I’ve never *not* done this and even with one company that didn’t ask at first, they made me do it after they issued a conditional offer. It was conditional on drug test, background check and references.

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              I mean, it still hasn’t happened to me and many other people, and lots of us have applied and worked at companies of all sizes. Not all companies do things the way your employers have. Fortune 100 doesn’t override the reality of my experiences as a working adult.

              1. Ron McDon*

                I think you’re being a bit nit-picky here; RTA was saying that in their experience this is what has happened to them and they’re asking what should they do in this circumstance.

                I understand that your experience has differed but your replies haven’t helped RTA answer their question…

                1. Stellaaaaa*

                  My implied answer is that it might not actually be all that common to have to fill out the forms that RTA described, so it’s acceptable for Alison to recommend omitting short-term jobs from your work history. The answer is that it many cases, no one will find out about a two-month job.

                2. Colette*

                  And a resume is not an application. It doesn’t have to include everything you’ve ever done.

                  Personally, I don’t read “accurate as any way” to mean “shows absolutely everything you’ve ever done” – just that what you’ve listed is accurate.

              2. RTA*

                I was asking a question, not overriding your reality. My reality is different, and I had a question about how to handle it.

                1. AnonToday*

                  I work for a Fortune 100 company as well, and RTA, this has been my experience as well. They asked for a 10 year work history and wanted contacts from each one, and details about how long I worked there, etc. When I started here I was pretty fresh out of college, so I had to list the high school jobs I had as well. There would be no place to hide a short job I got fired from.

                1. Stellaaaaa*

                  Respectfully, you’re not Alison. I decide when I let things go. You’re not a mod. I hate when commenters do this. I have never, ever interjected just to tell someone else to stop speaking.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I have seen applications where you are asked to do that, and it put me off applying – luckily it was a few exceptions and not the rule.

        My great-grandboss was really shocked the other day when I told her some applications ask for every exam result you ever had including failures. (I failed an exam at 17, I’m in my 30s, nobody should care. And then I get screened out because I can’t explain that I failed because I was homeless and it’s actually quite impressive that I only failed one.)

        1. Bartimaeus*

          What type of exam results are we talking about here? I don’t remember OR have documentation of every midterm I took in university.

          1. Nic*

            The Praxis comes to mind as one I had to take in Louisiana for my teaching license. Taking it was a Big Deal on par with the ACT or SAT years before. I still have my records almost 20 years later, and I am not even working in the same or a related field, nor do I expect to return.

            I can see similar tests being common in other fields, probably with similar prep, stress, and documentation-hoarding.

          2. Me Duck*

            In England, I imagine this would be national exam results in school (GCSEs / AS Levels / A Levels). I remember my results for those exams, but I don’t know where my certificates are. I had to provide my Maths and English GCSE certificates for my first ever job after uni, because it’s a requirement in a lot of places that you at least have those. My English degree should have suggested I had an English GCSE, but apparently not.

            1. Clewgarnet*

              I can’t even remember what GCSEs I’ve got! I can remember my overall grades (in terms of ‘this many A*, this many A, etc’) but not what subjects they’re in.

            2. Thlayli*

              I once applied for a government job for Which a PhD was a minimum requirement and the application form asked for the results of state exams I took at age 15 (basically the gcse equivalent exams).
              I actually keep a copy of my results from everything just for this – coz how are you going to remember what you got in an exam you did age 15!

      2. MommyMD*

        I have to list everything. Or did. I love the hospital I’m at now. Every single thing and there are ways of finding out. Sometimes it’s even on your credit report.

      3. Purplesaurus*

        I’ve had the same experience as RTA – applications asking for all previous work history from the past X years (and I want to say I recall 10 years but it’s been a while). Many of the jobs I applied to at the time were government related.

      4. always in email jail*

        Every single job I have applied to/worked at uses a background check service that will notice if you left something off.

      5. Cookie*

        I’ve applied to approximately 300 different positions in the last three years (still trying to find the right fit) and I’d say about a third of the ones I’ve applied to use that process. You’d certainly take yourself out of the running for a lot of interesting positions if you avoided that sort of application system.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      I’ve always wondered this in relation to background checks. What if you leave the job off your resume and then it comes up in a background check? Will that work against you?

      1. always in email jail*

        In my job, they’ll ask you about it before making a decision. If you say “oh I didn’t think serving drinks at a bar 10 years ago in college was relevant, but I am eligible for rehire there if you call” they may let it slide, but “I got fired for misconduct after 2 months so I left it off”…. they would probably not hire you.

      2. AndersonDarling*

        I asked that in an open forum a while back and a kind individual said they run background checks and they aren’t checking pay history. Background checks mainly look at criminal records.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          It depends – on the type of background check (which is probably dependent on the industry).

          I had to provide complete employment history for the last 10 years before being cleared to start at my current job (finance – asset management, so we have a lot of regulatory concerns). I have a friend who casts background actors for commercials/music videos. While I had a regular Mon-Fri job, my friend got me work on a few weekend projects just to make some extra money. These two or three little one-off jobs showed up on my background check and I was questioned about why they were not included. I explained the situation and all was ok, but I’m just saying that it is possible for this sort of stuff to show up.

          Again, though, this is probably pretty industry specific so you would most likely be aware if your industry will have this sort of thing.

        2. JAM*

          It can really depend. My husband’s job has an outside firm perform background checks and they wanted things like pay stubs from past jobs or W2s and you had to do it for every job they could find from a database search to pull tax records. One of his employers changed names which was a major headache in documenting that salary and so then the company was calling to verify which didn’t end up connecting them with someone “trustworthy” enough. So it was put in the documentation that my husband was a Yellow Level hire potential because they couldn’t verify all of his employment. If you didn’t list something on your resume that showed on that list, you might be Red or Orange Level. That doesn’t mean the company won’t hire you but it will be presented to them. His company isn’t the only local to use them either. It took 4 months to be hired on from the time they decided on him and I wonder how that benefits anyone.

    3. H.C.*

      Eh, I think it depends on industries and FWIW, I’ve done freelancing on and off for the past decade, it would’ve been crazy to list every single one of my clients (& corresponding job titles) on an online application. I’m sure those things would show up on a background check (since my clients & I have to file tax documents on that payment/income), but I’ve never been asked about it nor have I been called out for deception for not bringing it up on application/resume/interview.

    4. I Get It*

      I think this is a good question. Maybe it’s up to the applicant to decide if it’s worth being completely honest, taking a chance and leaving off the employment, or skip applying to that particular company altogether. I would like to think that if employment was left off a resume or employment history and nothing untoward came back on the background check, the company would let it go.

    5. misspiggy*

      A lot of jobs I apply for are like this, but I don’t put everything down just because of relevance. I treat the application like a slightly more detailed CV/resume.

      Background checks are another issue, but they come up more rarely in many lines of work.

    6. (Different) Rebecca*

      OP2, could you make up a calendar page type schedule, way ahead of time, and post it in a few prominent places? Maybe give each person a day of the week (or a few days a month, depending on how big your department is)? As it’s officially part of their duties, they should be responsible for checking that schedule and working your cover into their days.

    7. Jaybeetee*

      I have left a couple jobs off my resume for various reasons. I imagine anywhere I’ve applied that has done a full background check has seen those jobs, and I really have no idea whether or not it’s “hurt” me (I’m gainfully employed in a good job right now). Especially with the trend of shorter resumes, I don’t think most employers reasonably expect you to list everything, especially if you’ve had a lot of short-term contracts, etc. For me, even if I try to cover the last 5 years or so of jobs, I’d end up running over 2 pages just because I did a lot of temp work at different places (I’ve rolled a few of these jobs together where I could, but a lot of these weren’t even the same type of work as one another – think data entry for a couple months, then receptionist elsewhere for a couple months, then a random editing gig elsewhere, then some customer service work…)

      Anyway, long story short, I treat my resume more like a highlight reel than a biography, and tailor it to whatever type of job I’m looking at. So far, I seem to be doing alright.

    8. Jubilance*

      The only time I’ve ever listed EVERY job I’ve ever had was when I applied to a defense contractor and needed a security clearance. Otherwise, I only list jobs since I’ve graduated from grad school, when I began my professional career. I doubt a company would blink at the fact that I left off my 2yrs working at McDonald’s when I was 16.

    9. Gandalf the Nude*

      HR person who handles this sort of thing here.

      We do an employment verification/check as part of our pre-hire process. We have a lot of government contracts, and they like that kind of thing. Consequently, we do require a complete work history going back ten years. This is made clear on the form, and yet I still get candidates trying to leave off jobs. Most of the time they just don’t pay attention to the directions. Sometimes they are avoiding letting us know they were fired. We have rescinded an offer when it turned out the candidate had left off a job they were fired from. I don’t even remember why they were fired, but it was taken as an integrity issue and they were not brought on board.

      If they want a complete work history, give them a complete work history. My advice to OP and folks in similar spots is to explain the situation at the point they require the information. Be remorseful. Make it clear you know why it was wrong and that you have learned from it and won’t do it again. Especially for a first job out of college, they’ll be more likely to give you a chance if you’re upfront about it than if they think you were hiding it. You already have one integrity issue on record; best not to exacerbate it.

      1. Alton*

        What if a person doesn’t even really remember the job? I worked at a big box store for maybe a month when I was 17 or so (which was more than 10 years ago), before being let go for vague “it’s not working out” reasons. I never know what to do with something like that. I don’t remember the dates that I worked there. I didn’t earn enough to have to file taxes. I don’t even know if it counts as being fired or not. I’m not super invested in “hiding” it, but I have no idea how I’d bring it up, either.

        1. Floundering Mander*

          I’d imagine that a reasonable place would ask you about it, and you could honestly say that you barely remember it because it was one of your first-ever jobs and you were only there a short time. Probably no point including it in a normal resume.

          I’m sure that I have forgotten jobs in my work history, or tried to recall the dates years later and guessed them wrong. For example, I don’t have any paperwork from that time my Mom tried to get me a job as an evening janitor’s assistant at a local school and I lasted two or three days. It might show up on a background check but I only know that I must have been at least 13 because I don’t think it was legal to work younger than that in my state. Or my babysitting jobs.

          1. Gandalf the Nude*

            Pretty much. I can’t speak to places with stricter regulations than us, but I think most decent people will be reasonable about human limitations. I’d give less leeway to someone who was missing that kind of information later in their work history because I believe keeping track of that is part of being a working adult. But the takeaway was really that you should be as transparent as you can and not try to obfuscate your job history.

        2. PsychDoc*

          Confession: I had to make up the last names for a couple of managers I had at early fast-food jobs. I only ever called them by their names and didn’t have any paperwork with their full names. Oops. Thankfully, those are now over 10 years ago, so I can forget them.

    10. PsychDoc*

      When I applied to my job at a big insurance company, I initially left off my 2 month job at ChainPhamacy thinking that it was irrelevant. The background check or something like that caught it and I had to add it. However, I think I’m my case they mostly just ignore it since I was applying as a psychologist. Though I think that OP may have a bit tougher time getting it overlooked.

  9. Stellaaaaa*

    OP4: Are you not allowed to bring in any food at all or are you just not allowed to cook your own food in the restaurant with their equipment? The former is unreasonable and the latter is extremely reasonable – it’s logical that the owner wouldn’t want you bringing in your own potentially allergen-laden ingredients and cooking them for yourself on premises. You’re using space in a kitchen that may need to be used to prepare food for a paying customer. The answer to this question changes if you’re actually allowed to bring in sandwiches and tupperwares of leftovers.

    1. MicroManagered*

      It’s a health code issue with storing food in the restaurant’s facilities, cooked or uncooked. If the food didn’t come from the preapproved suppliers, it shouldn’t be in the cooler or freezer.

      Say they get salad greens from Supplier A, and you bring in a prepared salad from the grocery store (with ingredients from Supplier X, Y, or Z/unknown). Say Supplier X, Y, or Z/unknown has a contamination issue, you risk cross-contaminating with the restaurant’s Supplier A salad mix. Any restaurant I worked at in my 20s had no issue with bringing in outside food, but you couldn’t store it in their cooler/freezer. (Weren’t supposed to anyway. People did it all the time.)

      1. Kitkat*

        I don’t store food. Only thing I have ever leftis some butter that is properly sealed and marked as not for restaurant use. I had Cajun spice, olive oil and a small container of flour

        1. Observer*

          You don’t consider it “storing food”. A health inspector might – probably WOULD- disagree. These are food items that could be used in cooking, even though they shouldn’t be.

        2. Rebecca McKee*

          Olive oil, flour, spices, butter, and potatoes are all food. And your previous comments and original letters say you stored all that (and more) on the site. If you’re not eating it immediately, you’re storing it until you do eat it.

          You keep saying you don’t store food there, then following up with a list of foods you store and where you stored them on site.

          I get you’re really upset to be unable to continue storing and preparing food in an environment meant only for customer foods. I’d be upset too, to be honest. But arguing that your food isn’t food or isn’t stored won’t help.

    2. Kitkat*

      We don’t have anything that accommodates food allergies. Which the reason I kept iton a dry shelf. That never gets used I might add but stuff was “magically” moved there and I was told it couldn’t be there I haven’t found any laws or things saying the dry items can’t be there. They just can’t be used for customers.

      1. Observer*

        I suggest that you check all the health codes – and understand that your definition of “food” is not the same as the health codes.

        Also, you say that shelf is never used. Well, now it is. Whether it was done to inconvenience you or not is not the issue. The shelf belongs to the kitchen and now your manager wants to use it. He’s well within his rights.

  10. Mustache Cat*

    #1 All of what Alison said, but for what it’s worth, I really do sympathize. A five month probationary period in which you’re only grudgingly even allowed to take sick leave is harsh. If I was your manager I’d have to fire you for the lie, but I’d have a certain amount of private sympathy for you.

    Alison has the actually mature advice covered, so: be more careful with your social media privacy settings in the future, and I hope you had a great eclipse!

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Even if you’re careful with your own settings, other people can still post things on their own pages. You also need to be careful around people with cameras. And keyboards. And internet connections. In other words: no matter how careful you are, things can still get out.

      1. M-C*

        Yeah, but you can still prevent people from tagging you randomly. And not be friends with your coworkers.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          They can still post pictures of you without tagging you. They can still tag you even if it doesn’t post to your page as you have timeline review switched on. You can remove tags retrospectively. You can’t actually stop them!

      2. MK*

        With discretion you can diminish the odds of being found out. I mean, I don’t want to give advice on how to deceive your boss, but if the OP hadn’t posted pictures of himself at the clipse and asked his friends not to do it either, it’s unlikely the boss would have found out. Sure, he might have ended up on the background of someone else’s photo, but it would be highly unlikely for the boss to see it.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Why was the boss even looking in the first place? That combined with the strict probation would put this one in the ‘bullet dodged’ category for me.

          1. MK*

            Oh, come on, “bulley dodged”? And who says the boss went looking for this? It seems they are somehow connected to social media, but the boss wouldn’t have to go looking in any case. For the past weeks I have been seeing lots of pictures of people staring at the eclipse and I don’t even live in the continent.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              If I thought I needed to check up on my employees in such a way, there would already be a very serious problem.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I think it’s not at all unusual when someone calls in with a suspicious sick day (e.g one they had been told they couldn’t take as vacation because the company needed coverage) to check what their social media feed says they were doing.

            1. AndersonDarling*

              And it’s so easy now. It’s not like the old days where the boss would have to call around and do some major sluthing/snooping to discover the ruse. Anyone at work could have opened facebook, typed a few letters and found out.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Yeah, I think there’s a huge difference between “I drove to your apartment and went through everything in the dumpster outside, looking for evidence” and “I spent 10 seconds looking online.”

                Fun fact: Veronica Mars had a PI consultant, and a problem they had to work around was that in real life, even a decade ago, so much that you might want to find out about someone was available online. But there’s only so much “Veronica sits at the computer” viewers wanted to see.

                1. Really Rosie*

                  That’s one of the reasons I like Sue Grafton novels. The PI is in the 80s and the timeline is slow. No cell phones, no internet, etc. It’s kinda fun that way.

                2. Falling Diphthong*

                  Oh yeah. I hate mystery novels set in current times in which the protagonist, despite a VERY high likelihood of being kidnapped (based on past experience), nonetheless just “doesn’t like cell phones” and so doesn’t carry one. If I get kidnapped twice, especially in circumstances where gosh darn this would all have been over in an instant with a cell phone, then from that day on I’m carrying a MINIMUM of two cell phones.

            2. Akcipitrokulo*

              A few years back, I asked for a holiday on my other half’s birthday and was refused. I’d been at job 3 months, and it was the first day I quplifted for paid sick days (SSP excluded ). So when I called in saying I’d tripped up running for bus and needed to go to a&e to get checked out, my manager was more than suspicious.

              Next day when I went in with my enrite face swolden and purple, and I couldn’t wear my glasses, they sent me home again…. :)

              But yeah, I completely git the “yeah, right!” reaction.

          3. AndersonDarling*

            The boss probably thought it was suspicious that the employee was sick on eclipse day. As a fellow employee, I’d roll my eyes if someone called in and said they were sick for that day only, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone looked it up on Facebook to check.

          4. kittymommy*

            He may not have been deliberately looking though. If their friends or even have mutual friends in common the post may have just popped up.

            1. Observer*

              And, remember, the OP’s Dad is someone people in the industry know, and they share a name, so it could have come up in that context, too.

    2. Melanie*

      I disagree. OP#1 wasn’t fired for taking a legitimate sick day off, s/he ‘chucked a sickie’ (as we Aussies say) and was caught. S/he knew it was wrong, but still did it. During probation. No sympathy.

          1. Mike C.*

            “It’s what he agreed to” is a terrible justification given the state of labor relations in the United States.

            1. Kalamet*

              Yeah, our society has normalized some terrible ideas about employee rights. We can be realistic about our expectations *and* acknowledge that those expectations suck.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          What OP described is really normal in some fields, though. My probation periods have been from 3 to 6 months long (but sick days were allowed—just not PTO/vacation).

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            For six months?!

            But then, I’m always confused when people say it’s not okay to request vacation days in the first few months so what would I know.

            1. AMPG*

              I also find this unreasonable, even though I recognize many employers do it. For whatever reason, I seem to switch jobs in the summer, and I have an annual trip with family that can be planned up to a year in advance. I’ve always negotiated to have that time off, even if I had to take it unpaid, regardless of any probationary period. At this point in my career I’d probably turn down a job offer over it.

            2. JAM*

              I’m with you that it’s obnoxious.

              My last job I got a sinus infection literally from the files I was working since some hadn’t been touched in a decade. I could take time off but only had .4 hours so I had to wait at work till exactly the right time before hitting the clinic on my way out. The next week we got 18 inches of snow while I was worked. My office shut down while I was there but made us use PTO to leave early, which I was ineligible to use and couldn’t even cover with the emergency sick time we had. I ended up off the road and while I was uninjured, it really upset me how little consideration there was. That job only had a 3 month probationary period so I’ve learned not to take jobs before winter.

              At my current job I got hit with a 6-month window and was hired in June. I was to relocate within 6 months as part of my plan but I couldn’t use any PTO within that 6 months. Thankfully I had a horrible house hunting experience and ended up closing 6 months and 2 days after being hired. I did the inspection on Black Friday (which we have off) and took my entire year’s vacation (which doesn’t roll over, even if you can’t take it for 6 months) during the week of the move in December, then 10 days later it was Christmas. It doesn’t even make sense how they expected that to work out.

              1. Audiophile*

                Do you only get a week of a vacation? That makes no sense that there would be a 6 month probation period and you have to use all vacation by the end of year.

                My current job is 3 months and we can roll over a week. I definitely won’t be able to use all my time, so I’m glad I can roll some over.

            3. Bea*

              Mine was 180 days before you’re able to take paid time off, sick time is not under that because it’s state mandated, that is after 90 days when you can start cashing those in.

              Thankfully my company didn’t mind if we take unpaid days off within that probation period though.

              That aside, I think it’s ridiculous that people can’t even take unpaid time off during the probationary period. Granted I always work for micro-sized companies who don’t have the luxury to be that strict.

          2. kittymommy*

            Yeah, our probationary period is 1 year. You can use stuck leave and annual leave during that period (the latter isn’t really encouraged in the first few months though).

          3. AndersonDarling*

            I had a job where I had to wait 11 months before I was eligible for time off. The probation period was 30 days, and then I had to wait for the fiscal end of year before I could be enrolled in to the PTO system. I left a few months after receiving my time off.

            1. writelhd*

              I have heard of policies this strict, in fact my spouse turned down a job offer he otherwise would have taken because of such a policy, having a different offer that had better starting PTO. That options had tit’s own issues but that’s different story…but I do still think such policies are really not competitive and are a way to lose good candidates.

              I mean, rare stuff happens on weekdays sometimes. Eclipses come to your area, once in your life. Your grandma has her 90th birthday and it would really mean a lot to her for you to be there. Keeping people away from rare legitimate life things when they start is not the best way to attract good people. If I had to choose between eclipse viewing and a job I was too new to be attached too…it would be a tough decision and some people wouldn’t be in a position to make that choice, but there’s have been a possibility I’d chose the eclipse, too. But, I would have tried to ask for an unpaid day off considering the special circumstances first.

              1. Manders*

                Agreed. I actually did take time off a new job to drive down to see the eclipse. I was really lucky that I didn’t have any kind of probationary period at this job (no waiting 3 months for health insurance or PTO, yay!). I don’t regret my decision.

                I was also up front with my boss in the interview that I have a sick relative, and it’s possible that I may have to fly out to see her on short notice. I wouldn’t have been able to take the job if no time off was allowed for any period of time.

          4. KHB*

            Yeah, my employer has a similar policy: No paid vacation for six months, maybe one or two personal days made available after three months, sick days only for when you’re really sick. They do allow for already-planned vacations you tell them about at the time of hire.

            Most people who work here stay for 10+ years, though – they’re otherwise really good in terms of both benefits and treating adults like adults – so a six-month annoyance in the beginning isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things.

          5. Mike C.*

            It’s a needlessly strict policy. First off, if an employer needs a “probationary” period, then they need to fix their hiring process. Secondly, if a company can trust someone enough to hire them, they can trust them enough to spot them a bit of vacation time at the start and allow it to accrue normally later. For instance, spot them six months of accrued vacation time, then allow them to start accruing vacation time normally after six months is up.

            There are so many ways to deal with these issues without treating a new employee like they don’t have a life.

            1. Myrin*

              I really can’t agree with the idea that “if an employer needs a “probationary” period, then they need to fix their hiring process”. Part of this might be that I’m from a culture where probationary periods are the norm (although not mandated by law as I just learned when I looked it up to be sure, but it’s so common that I actually thought it was!) but also, we’ve had so many letters on this site by now where someone presented themselves during the hiring process in a manner that was completely different from how they turned out to be as a regular worker (the most astounding one certainly being the Dr. Jekyll-Mr.-Hide coworker from early last year).

              1. Mike C.*

                But a probationary period doesn’t do anything except delay benefits to a new employee. If they’re a bad employee you fire them, the probationary period does nothing to change that.

                1. Myrin*

                  Ah, I see now that I’ve definitely spoken while looking through my cultural lense here! In my country, we have work contracts which usually determine a notice period (on either side) of three months; it’s also generally harder to fire someone here than in the US. The probationary period exists because during that time, the notice period is shortened to two weeks (? I think) so it’s much, much easier to get out of a contract during that timeframe (again, for both employer and employee). I also believe the probationary period doesn’t have any effect on benefits but our system is very different from the US’s anyway.

                2. Doreen*

                  There’s no legal requirement to have a probationary period in the US, but that doesn’t preclude employers from having an internal policy requiring progressive discipline before firing someone and having an exception to that policy for someone who is in a probationary period. There are even jobs where one of the possible outcomes of disciplinary action is to be placed back on probation.

                3. The Rat-Catcher*

                  We have a “probationary” period, but it doesn’t delay PTO, health insurance, or any other benefits to a new hire. We’re in government though, and it’s extremely difficult to let someone go that isn’t on probation unless they’ve done something heinous. And it’s child welfare work so it can be difficult to tell from an interview if people will be able to do the job well. Luckily we’re allowed to ask behavioral questions, but it’s still one of those fields where there’s no substitute for doing the work itself.

            2. Sometime Trailing Spouse*

              I concur with Myrin. I have been working for the Government of Canada for almost a decade now. We have a one-year probation period. This is absolutely necessary, since it takes forever to fire someone who has cleared probation, if the cause is poor performance (of course, if you can prove a criminal violation of the Privacy Act or the Official Secrets Act, firing will be much quicker). If someone performs poorly, they need to be given a poor annual review, then a performance improvement plan, followed by a second poor annual review (all deserved, of course). So in sum, it can take about 2.5 years to fire someone for performance issues. If something comes up in the probationary year, two weeks severance is all that is required.

              Also, while you accumulate vacation time (what I believe the Americans call PTO) at 1.25 days/month, your supervisor can let you spend more than you have accumulated, at his/her discretion. So the OP would have been able to ask the supervisor for time off for the eclipse. Many supervisors would grant that request.

              1. Mike C.*

                I’m from the US, where employees can be fired for literally (literally) no reason. In a context where certain labor protections exist it may make more sense but in with the US model it doesn’t make a difference.

                Also, while you accumulate vacation time (what I believe the Americans call PTO) at 1.25 days/month, your supervisor can let you spend more than you have accumulated, at his/her discretion. So the OP would have been able to ask the supervisor for time off for the eclipse. Many supervisors would grant that request.

                This isn’t how it works in the US.

                1. Forrest*

                  “where employees can be fired for literally (literally) no reason.”

                  That’s not true. They can’t be fired because of their race, sex and religion. They can’t be fired for turning their employer for doing something illegal or complaining about work conditions. And that’s just federal laws.

                2. Optimistic Prime*

                  @Forrest, Mike C. didn’t say that people can be fired for literally any reason; he said they could be fired for literally no reason.

          6. Chinook*

            Yup. I am up here in labour friendly Canada and had one job that wouldn’t allow anytime off (beyond sick days) for a year! They accrued our vacation pay and paid out whatever was unused (so it wasn’t saving them anything and actually creating liability on the books), but they said it was standard in their industry (trucking supplies to convenience stores and tobacco) and never warned new hires of this fact (which lead to a lot of people who were new to the industry and had prospects elsewhere leaving for better pastures during that first year).

            But, I still wouldn’t have “pulled a sickie” because lying is wrong and it is hard to repair a reputation as a liar.

        2. Anony nonny no*

          It isn’t really! And he could take (genuine) sick days and didn’t have to work at the weekends.

        3. Runner*

          Eh, probationary periods tend to be 3 to 6 months, with vacation leave accruing. Sick leave where I am seemed different — maybe something with old insurance rules? — for it seems the first 3 months (with you needing to take unpaid time if in that window for some reason? Maybe it was specific to my employer, I don’t recall).

          The real kicker here, though, is that OP was in the probationary period when it’s generally so much easier to get fired. (Yes I know most employees anymore can be fired for any reason at any time. But it’s in the very name: Probation.

        4. AnotherAlison*

          Not really for a new grad. My first post-college job was 6 mos. till you could use vacation time. It wasn’t even called a probationary period. That was just the vacation rule.

          To me, this brings to mind the fact that the local schools where I’m at do not have a single month that they do not have some day off — a holiday or a teacher in-service day. Kids these days don’t know how to work a month straight! I have a ton of PTO that I cannot use due to workload, so I get kind of crabby about people who can’t seem to follow the rules.

          1. Mike C.*

            Kids these days don’t know how to work a month straight

            You don’t work a month straight either. Just because you have a busy workplace doesn’t mean you need to take it out on someone that wanted to observe a rather rare eclipse.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I don’t work a month straight? Okay, I’ll just let that go, because I’m obviously not saying 30 days, but 20 business days, and I certainly do work those.

              The thing with the eclipse is a moot point, because it was lying that got the OP fired, but if they were able to run back and forth to the cottage, perhaps they could have observed it from the office. IDK, I was only 30 miles from totality and watched it from my office parking lot on my lunch break. Ultimately, the OP wanted to party with their crew & watch the eclipse, not watch a rare eclipse.

              1. Mike C.*

                There OP had no other choice than to lie because of their employer’s needlessly strict policy.

                Also, your “kids these days” comment was way out of line.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  No choice but to lie? The choice was to not lie and go to work like millions of other people that day. Pretending she had no choice is really disingenuous (and unhelpful to the OP if she’s reading these comments).

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  No dude. There are several eclipses that will reach totality coming over the United States in the near future. OP had many options other than lying, including asking to deviate from policy, planning to travel for the next eclipse, or saying no to the trip, or all of the above. The employer’s policy may be less permissive than OP would have preferred, but that doesn’t excuse or justify lying to get around a policy you don’t like.

                3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

                  Here are all of the choices OP had:

                  1. Ask the manager for PTO in advance of earning it and hope for the best.
                  2. Offer to work a weekend, holiday, or other day if possible.
                  3. Watch the eclipse on the phone or computer.
                  4. Wait for the 2024 eclipse.
                  5. Use PTO in 2019 to go the eclipse in South America and have an amazing trip.
                  6. Accept that they are an adult now and work sometimes gets in the way of fun.

                  All good choice for an adult. Not for a selfish employee. None of these choices involves lying. They do require maturity.

                4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

                  I forgot #7: quit. If the job is that bad (and it sounds like that could be the case), don’t work there.

                  But don’t lie to your boss about something this selfish and basically hand them the evidence of your own selfishness.

                5. Mike C.*

                  By “choices” I mean “choices ensuring that the OP could see the eclipse”. I can’t believe I need to point out that when I mean “eclipse” I mean “total solar eclipse within reasonable reach of the OP”, but there you go. Yes, there’s one in 2024 that’s easy to get to if you’re in a east or south, there’s one (barely) in 2044 and 2045. For many people, this one will be the only one they ever see in their lifetimes. And no, traveling abroad is not a reasonable thing to expect people in my generation to do causally. That’s great if you can., but come on, be serious.

                  What really, really gets me though are the folks talking about “just suck it up and be an adult”. Why is that only a one way road?

                6. KHB*

                  @Mike C.: The thing is, “seeing a total solar eclipse at least once in your life” is not actually a fundamental human right. Neither is “continued employment at a place where you’ve been caught in a major lie.”

                7. Mananana*

                  Escapee, I would add #8: Watch it from the parking lot of your office.

                  MikeC, blaming the office on the LW’s choice to lie is not helpful. She had MULTIPLE options, including ones where she could be at work AND see the eclipse. It’s troubling that you see lying as the one and only viable option.

                8. Not Yet Looking*

                  Mananana: I’ve seen partial eclipses before. I saw the totality this year. I watched it from the start, to totality, to about 1/4 past totality. Please believe me when I say it is a HUGELY different experience. There are three parts to the eclipse experience: The first starts from 5% coverage and goes to about 90-95% coverage. This is the “oh, kind of neat, look through the glasses, see the partial coverage, use the pinhole camera” stage, no different from seeing pictures on TV. Starting from about 90-95% coverage, up to Totality, the shadows change. The light changes. The temperature changes. The world becomes …different. You can look through you glasses and see the sun as a sliver, or you can look at shadows around you and see crescents shining through leaves and such everywhere. You see pressure ripples on the ground (called Shadow Bands). Then… Totality. All the insects and animals become quiet. The world becomes dark, the horizon is sunset all around. You look up and can’t see anything through the glasses, and so you take them off, and realize that pictures, even good pictures, don’t do this experience justice AT ALL. Some stars peek out, the corona flares around the moon, the sun is just GONE. If you were close to the totality area, and decided to just watch the partial eclipse from your parking lot? Man, you missed out on MAGIC.

          2. Chameleon*

            The antidote to you not having a useable benefit at your job is not to take it away from everyone else.

          3. AMPG*

            If you can’t use all your PTO because of your workload, your workplace has issues, and it’s your choice to accept them rather than find a place that values work/life balance. Don’t take it out on other people who make different choices.

          4. bluephone*

            I actually called out on sick on eclipse day b/c a migraine the night before wrecked my sleep and there was no way I could drag myself into work that morning. When partial totality (or whatever) passed over my neck of the woods, I was sleeping off a migraine hangover on my couch. Totally missed all of it. Yes, I was a bit annoyed because if I’d gone into the office, I could have seen the eclipse with my coworkers, thanks to someone bringing in special equipment. Oh well. It wasn’t worth risking my health (my migraines are super sensitive to strong lights) and it’s definitely not worth risking a job over.

        5. tigerlily*

          But that’s not actually what he got, seeing as when he called in sick he was allowed to take a sick day. The issue is that it wasn’t a sick day he wanted. I’ve worked at lots of places where you can’t use vacation days within the first six months or so, and that seems pretty standard and reasonable.

        6. Melanie*

          My understanding was that sick days were granted for legitimate reason, like the stomach virus s/he faked. That’s not harsh. And no vacation days until probation ends is to be expected.

      1. AB*

        I think an employer that asks people to work 5 months without any PTO is creating the environment where people are going to pretend to be sick. I’m sure other people do but are more sneaky about it.

        1. High Score!*

          Agreed. I wouldn’t want to work for a company that wouldn’t treat me like a human, I took a day off to see the eclipse and it was awesome. A job is important and Family, friends and events are important too. 5 months with no days off is not a good work life balance. Shame on the employer.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Some jobs & careers do not have work life balance as a priority, and that is okay. If you’re in one, and it’s not a fit for you, get out. Do something that is a fit for you. My company sees it as a duty to work on your vacation in Hawaii with your family, for example. Does the idea of that suck to most people? Absolutely, but there are a lot of other factors in play that contribute to people here being willing to do it. This one post is not enough information about the OP’s industry to understand if it is shameful or not.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Come on, this is not a helpful comment. If you disagree, explain why. (You also don’t need to respond to every single comment in a conversation that you disagree with. But if you’re going to, please be substantive in your responses. I’m picking on this one because you’ve done it in a handful of places on this post, and it’s becoming really aggressive/adversarial.)

              2. myswtghst*

                This isn’t something you can make a blanket statement about. Yes, the work culture in the US which prizes overworking yourself is problematic, but people can make their own decisions about what work-life balance looks like for them, and choose to stay in a job or look for another job (or field of work) based on those decisions.

                My current employer and my previous employer both rely on having coverage to support our customers. Current employer couldn’t possibly just let everyone who asked have the day off for the eclipse (and in general, PTO is approved/declined based on coverage), but we made an effort to accommodate requests, and to make it a fun day for everyone who was stuck at work (cheapie eclipse glasses, an extra break to go outside and sadly stare at the clouds which prevented us from seeing the eclipse…)

          2. Hellanon*

            No, he’s got weekends off, and presumably lots of people with actual seniority wanted eclipse day off too – I hardly think it’s a case of “not treating someone like a human” to expect new employees to work a 5-day week. Work-life balance calculations are for situations a bit more extreme than having to forego vacation until you’ve accrued a few days of it…

            1. Mike C.*

              Taking one day off for a rare astronomical event and working a five day week are not exclusionary concepts.

              1. tigerlily*

                There’s nothing to indicate OP asked for the day off for that “rare astronomical event.” Perhaps if he had, his boss would have understood this being a super rare thing and allowed OP to go. Instead, OP called out sick when he really wanted vacation, lied to his boss, and got caught.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          For not giving someone vacation time/PTO in the first two months of employment? I just can’t get on board with this. They give people sick leave. I suspect they’d give people bereavement or family care leave, also, if something major came up. They may have even waived policy and let OP take the day in light of the fact that it wasn’t a full-on 5+ day vacation. But we won’t really know, because that’s not what OP did.

          Maybe 6 months is too long without a vacation/personal day, but I don’t think it’s a presumptively invalid policy. I’ve worked in so many places where there are limits on when you can take PTO during the beginning of employment, and I have never seen new employees abuse the policy by lying and pretending to be sick. Most people, especially when they’re in the beginning of their job, want to remain employed.

        3. Melanie*

          I’m not sure what the standard is in the US, but in Australia 6 months probation with no PTO is standard in Australia. The leave will accrue during that time (by law, we have 4 weeks annual leave per year) but you aren’t eligible to take it until after the probation period ends. That said, many employers are flexible and if you negotiate with them, may allow you to take unpaid leave during probation. So I really do not understand the ‘no PTO during probation is harsh’ stance. OP#1 made the bad choice to fake illness. A better choice would have been to go to work, or negotiate unpaid leave with their employer. Ergo, s/he only has herself to blame.

          1. Jessica*

            As with time off in general, the US has no set standard. It’s up to the discretion of the employer. They can make you work 7 days a week 365 days a year with no PTO, as long as they’re not violating labor laws.

          2. Beth*

            Just checking in to say that this comment is a complete misrepresentation of Australian employment law and if Melanie has worked for an employer with this policy the employer was breaking the law.

            3-6 month probation periods are common but not mandatory, and leave is accrued on a pro-rata basis and can be taken at any time by agreement between employee and employer. The employer cannot unreasonably deny leave.

            From fairwork.gov.au

            ” If hired on a full-time or part-time basis, an employee on probation is entitled to accrue and access their paid leave entitlements such as annual leave and sick leave.”

            The key word there is “access”, which means “take”.

      2. Liane*

        I read Mustasche Cat’s comment as, “I would have fired someone for this stunt, but I understand why an inexperienced worker might have tried it.” Not, “I think it was okay to lie to my boss.”

        Personally, I agree with Ramona that is a long time to not be able to take a day. Even at (In)Famous Retailer you could call in during your 3 months probation. It would be unpaid (parttimers didn’t get vacation for a year) and was of course subject to the rule of “more than 3 in a rolling 6 months gets you in trouble.”

        1. Government Worker*

          5 months is a really long time, even if it is common. I’d understand a rule about only being able to take unpaid time, but it sounds like the manager here is even stingy about sick days and wouldn’t approve time off for routine (non-emergency) medical appointments.

          In my first few months in new jobs, I’ve had to take time off to go to the DMV because I’d just moved states and needed to re-register my car and get a new license, be home to get furniture delivered (due to the recent move), deal with a flooding issue in my apartment, go to the optometrist for new glasses, go to the dentist, etc. And if a major personal event happens to fall in that time (grandmother’s 90th birthday, best friend’s wedding, etc.) then it’s unnecessarily mean to prevent someone from attending.

          There’s a difference between “you can’t schedule a week off to go to the beach while you’re new” and “regular life can’t happen for several months”.

          1. Antilles*

            I think you’re completely overstating it. Not being able to take vacation/PTO is not the same as “regular life can’t happen”.
            I worked at a company with a similar ‘no PTO’ policy for the first 6 months and never had any issues with it. I took a couple hours off in a morning to re-register my car, I took a few hours off in the afternoon to meet with Comcast, I went to the dentist. Oh, and I took two full days off (one of them unpaid) to attend my graduation. But I let them know that well in advance (even before I accepted the job actually), which is the big thing missing here.
            If you’re reasonable in your requests, work with reasonable people and keep them informed, this sort of policy isn’t nearly as bad as you (or others in these threads) are saying.

            1. JAM*

              This has never been my experience. I wish it was but like I said earlier in the thread, I would have had to delay a move that was required for my job, I ended up having to work while sick even though the sickness was caused by the job, and I ended up having to be stuck at work in a snow emergency just to have my car go off the road due to multiple jobs’ lack of leniency. And these were a mix of public agencies and “best places” employers. I maybe had some flexibility if I knew dates before I was hired but I couldn’t know when my job would make me sick, when it would snow, or when I could find a house to buy before having the job I needed to relocate for. Please don’t pretend it isn’t always as bad as some of us are saying because we all obviously have had a very different experience than you and there are multiple comments sharing these experiences. While you were lucky, it’s dismissive to not acknowledge that without workplace protections many of us haven’t been so lucky.

          2. Observer*

            Ok, but what the OP did WAS “take a day at the beach”. Yeah, it was a singular event, but still. It was NOT something that he HAD to do.

      3. stej*

        This. I had a similar probation of six months when I started my current job, and I simply was open about upcoming events for which I’d appreciate flexibility or an unpaid day but understood if it couldn’t be done. I ended up being allowed to work from home on the day of my little brother’s graduation, with the full blessing of my manager.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes, you can ask for various types of flexibility–but with the understanding that ignoring the answer and taking the day off anyhow after you were told ‘no’ won’t fly.

          There’s a saying, and attitude, about it being easier to ask forgiveness than permission, and I’ve come to see it as a glaring red flag in both work and personal relationships.

      4. hugseverycat*

        Live to work, am I right?

        I mean c’mon. A total solar eclipse is something most people never get to see in their lives. I saw it, and it would have been worth any number of fake sick days. I get why LW was disciplined, but I still think it was kind of a jerk move. Some things are more important.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I saw the eclipse, and traveled across the country to do so, and it was totally worth it. But my husband and daughter had to arrange time off in advance; my son and I (I freelance and arrange my own hours; he’s too young to have a job) had to make sure we had no conflicts that week. It’s not like we all showed up, then lied to the people who expected us to be somewhere else and hoped we didn’t get caught lying. If we had, it would be quite reasonable of the lied-to to decide not to work with us (or otherwise deal with us) again. Because of the lying, not because total eclipses are cool.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            But your husband and daughter were *allowed* to arrange time off. You didn’t lie because you didn’t need to and were still able to see it. That’s the point. OP was not allowed to arrange time off.

            1. KHB*

              Sometimes there are things that you want that you are not allowed to have. That doesn’t justify taking them anyway and then lying about it.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Exactly. “I lied…. but it was because I wanted to do something, and I didn’t think you’d give me permission, and I figured you probably wouldn’t find out” is not an excuse that actually works. At your job, with your family, with your friends.

                1. KHB*

                  Back in the dark ages when I was a TA in grad school, we caught a group of students cheating on an exam. One of them earnestly explained to us that he only did it because he was worried that if he didn’t, he would get a lower grade. Still puzzling out why he ever thought that would make it better.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              They were *able* to arrange time off; neither of them was guaranteed any time off they wanted whenever they wanted it. My daughter had a commitment doing training at her university that she initially thought would run into the needed travel time and she intended to stick to that–it ended a day earlier than anticipated, so she was able to arrange to leave a little early and miss a couple of days’ class on the other end. Had her job or school said “There will be X consequence if you take those days off” she would have decided whether X consequence was worth it–and in her initial reasoning, she wouldn’t have been allowed to do any of the training and it wasn’t worth the tradeoff. If my husband’s job had said “No, we absolutely need you in Korea that week” he would have been in Korea, because the eclipse was great but wasn’t worth losing his job over.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, I agree. The OP should not have lied and was rightly fired, but the policy is a bit ridiculous, especially since the eclipse is a once- (maybe twice-) in-a-lifetime event. Not excusing the OP—just pointing out that five months is a long time not to have any vacation days. I’m not on a probationary period, but my boss has even told me if I need a mental health day to take that and not even give details.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Neither we nor the OP know what would have happened if he had asked to take the day off unpaid, or to work the previous Saturday to make it up. As noted upthread, the no PTO rule is flexible in some places so long as you ask in advance and are willing to take no for an answer. It’s when you try to skirt the chance of hearing ‘no’ by lying and are caught that people react very badly.

              1. Oryx*

                You keep repeating this as fact but there’s nothing to indicate it wasn’t an option. All the OP talks about is *paid* time off, but we don’t know what would have happened if the OP had asked to take unpaid time off or flex their schedule.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                You don’t know that the option wasn’t there, and OP doesn’t know (or didn’t tell us).

          2. Kalamet*

            It’s interesting to me that folks are emphasizing the lying factor. I agree that integrity and honesty are important in a job, but fibbing for a sick day now and then is hardly uncommon. Heck, I’ve done it.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              A lot of people do it, but that doesn’t necessarily make it right. And there’s a difference when you call in sick to do something fun after you’ve been explicitly told you cannot take the day off.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              “The crime doesn’t get you, the cover-up does.”

              An example of’t seen on here is the egregious lie on which they then double and triple and quadruple down when caught, like the admin who asked to take Monday off (okay) and then tried to claim that something computery had happened and her request for Friday had vanished from all surviving copies of the email. (And the other two out of three admins were already out of Friday, so people noticed.)

              If people can’t trust you to be where you say you’ll be and do what you say you’ll do… then they don’t. And aren’t interested in figuring out the exact Ultra Special Circumstances under which you think lying is okay and no one should be mad, but all the other times they have to believe you. (And, honestly, there is something to how easily the lie comes out, like publicly available photos or hoping no one in a large office will need any admin stuff all day on Friday–like asking “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”)

      1. Marzipan*

        Yeah, but that’s a reason to approach your boss and say ‘hey, is there any possibility we can work something out so I can take a day to see this once in a lifetime event?’ (like an unpaid day, or working a Saturday to make it up, or whatever works for this particular workplace). That does mean that if the answer’s no, you really can’t go because it’ll be totally obvious where you really are when you’re ‘sick’ that day – but with an event of this nature that would be pretty obvious anyway. I don’t disagree that the policy is silly, but it’s possible that in practice they would have applied it more reasonably.

      2. KHB*

        The thing about the eclipse, though, is that the once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime event is on the same day for everyone. If OP1’s workplace is one where they need a certain amount of coverage, and if they were within a few hours’ drive of the line of totality, they may already have had more people wanting to take that day off than they could afford to have out of the office, and they may have had to deny some people’s requests. For the new person to come in and try to do an end-run around that system is pretty bad, probation period or not.

        1. fposte*

          That’s a really good point. Even if the OP had usable vacation, that doesn’t mean she’d have been allowed to use it for this.

        2. Mike C.*

          Unless lives are at risk, a business can be slow for a few hours. It’s really ok, a business doesn’t have to be operating at 110% all day, every day. I don’t understand this idea that it’s suddenly the end of the world when there isn’t perfect coverage, especially when there are much more important things to worry about.

          1. KHB*

            If it was universally acknowledged that watching the sun go away for two minutes was a “much more important thing to worry about” than a day’s worth of whatever OP’s workplace does all day, they could have dealt with that by closing for the day and giving everyone the day off. That they didn’t do that (nor did most employers, as I understand it) suggests that your assessment of the relative importance of things differs somewhat from the average.

            Plenty of people didn’t bother to see the eclipse and don’t feel like their lives are incomplete for it. Plenty of people wanted to see the eclipse but couldn’t, for whatever reason. Nevertheless, life goes on.

            1. Mike C.*

              Then those people can go to work and we don’t have to be so damn hard on the OP for wanting to witness it. Furthermore for many employers, a day’s worth of business is more important than just about anything else that can happen in life. I’m not about to let folks like that decide for me what I’m going to be remembering on my deathbed.

              1. Forrest*

                No one is being “so damn hard on the OP for wanting to witness” an eclipse. They’re being hard on him for lying about it.

                Some business do value a day’s worth of work as more important than anything else. But I think it’s kind of ridiculous to rank seeing an eclipse up there with things like a wedding, birth of a child, or death of a loved one.

                Obviously seeing an eclipse would be important to you. But where is the line drawn on that? Once in a life time things (which an eclipse is not) happen everyday. Should we just not work ever so everyone can witness them even if they don’t care?

          2. purple wombat*

            It’s a company’s prerogative to want staff to be available to do things like handle customer requests…even during events like the eclipse. Up until recently, I worked on a customer service team where the policy was that we had to have non-stop coverage during business hours. We always had lunch breaks and other breaks, but they were staggered so that someone was always there to answer the phone.

            Was it annoying? Sure. Did I understand why they would want that? Absolutely. I’m sure that people were sitting at their desks taking calls during the eclipse, even though I don’t work there anymore.

            I don’t think they’d see it as the end of the world if they didn’t have perfect coverage…but come on, businesses should be able to make that call without being seen as draconian.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think you’re misrepresenting what KHB said. It’s really normal for employers to want to be able to maintain normal business functionality, including during an eclipse. We’re not talking about operating at 110%; KHB is talking about operating, period.

            Why does the excitement of an eclipse, and OP’s desire to see it, trump their coworkers’ potential travel and the employer’s interest in having a functional office?

          4. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

            Our business, where lives are not at risk, also can’t “be slow for a few hours”. We must be operating at 100% regardless of optional exterior events (not including times we need to go into Disaster Recovery). With coverage. For example: if some % our CSRs decided to go outside for 2 minutes to see the eclipse, we’d get blasted reputationally for extended hold time for calls. And we’d most definitely hear about it from our customers. Similarly, our 24/7 Network Operations Center can’t be less covered because people want to pop out to see the eclipse, should our digital site get attacked. So it’s not really ok for a business to operate at less than their SOP acceptable levels at any given time, unless the business is willing to make an exception. Also, the eclipse (and other non-DR events) is not necessarily more important than operating a business at 100% for everyone who runs businesses.

      3. The IT Manager*

        An eclipse is not a once in a lifetime event. The next eclipse with totality over much of the US is in 2024. And there’s an another amazing one happening within the LW’s where totality in the US will be up to 6 minutes.

        I don’t want to offer advice on how to not get caught lying, but picking that day to be “sick” is very, very suspicious.

        1. High Score!*

          You can’t always get to the eclipse. And, really, no days off for 5 months?! I get that some industries need people in office during events like that, but the way to handle that is to announce the need for coverage in advance and ask for volunteers before forbidding people have that day off.

          1. KHB*

            For all we know, the employer did just that. We don’t know what would have happened if the OP had said, “I know I don’t officially have any days off yet, but I’d really like to see the eclipse with my friends – would it be possible for me to take the day unpaid or make some other arrangement?” Because the OP didn’t do that, but rather skipped straight to lying.

          2. The IT Manager*

            If the LW objected so vehemently to no personal days off for 5 months, she could have not taken the job. She took the job knowing that and then made to decision to lie. That’s why your argument holds no water.

            It is a long time, but the LW does have weekends off and sick days so it’s not an unreasonably long time. It might mean that the LW has to take a quiet weekend for mental health/recovery instead of a road trip, party weekend, or just busy weekend, but it’s not outrageous especially since the LW knew this going into it.

            1. Mike C.*

              The need to be able to feed and clothe yourself shouldn’t be equated to open acceptance and encouragement of any condition the employer places upon the employee.

              1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

                You’re so right. If you feel you shouldn’t be subjugated to the the conditions of your employer, you’re free to find other employment. Bless your heart.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, but isn’t that exactly what OP did? Take off time to travel to go to the path of totality? I’m with IT Manager that this is not as rare as folks are making it out to be, and certainly not if a person is mobile (as OP was/is).

        2. Allison*

          But it’ll take a different path and the totality will be over different parts of the country. People in my area had to take pretty major trips to see it this time, if they wanted to make that a priority, but next time, most of us in New England will just need to take a day trip. But a lot could happen in eight years.

      4. writelhd*

        Agree that eclipses are awesome and rare and reasonable employers might recognize that if business lets them, but the lying was a big problem. It’s a mistake I can see someone new to the work world making, though that doesn’t mean it’s not still a mistake: not being experienced enough to realize that asking in advance for perhaps unpaid time off for something this rare, and offering to find ways to pick up workload before or after that time off if there were such ways, miiiight have worked and would have been the more professional route to take. It’s hard to know from this info if it would have in that particular workplace culture, of course But I can definitely see that option just not occurring to somebody straight out of college, where sometimes you just skipped classes last minute and nobody probably asked you why.

        1. Mike C.*

          If the OP were given some reasonable flexibility, there wouldn’t have been the need to lie in the first place.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Y’all, when you disagree with people, you do not need to respond to every comment you disagree with! It’s fine to state your position and move on. From the commenting rules: “You don’t have to convince everyone. Consider making your point and moving on. In particular, you don’t need to respond every separate time someone says something you disagree with. And if you are leaving tons of comments all over a particular thread to argue your opinion, I may ask you to pull back so that your voice doesn’t drown out others.”

            Mike, I’m going to ask you to back off from this post for a while. You’ve got 25 comments on the page now and it’s starting to drown out other voices. Thanks.

    4. Jeanne*

      I have to agree OP made a big mistake and probably earned the firing. I also wonder what kind of company tells you that part of your probation is never getting sick for 5 months. Does the flu know you’re on probation?

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        All true, but…OP 5 did not get fired for getting sick during the probationary period. If OP had indeed had the flu, s/he’d likely still be employed.

        OP got fired for lying, which has cost many, many, many people their jobs long after (and unrelated to) their probationary periods.

      2. Jaybeetee*

        I did work in one (awful) place where for the first three months, you basically couldn’t take any time off, as there was a tight training schedule, and sick days could only be permitted with doctor’s notes (a couple other people had to take time out due to personal emergencies, which they did try to accommodate, but it basically meant they had to make up training modules on their lunch breaks, etc, when they got back).

        What I learned is, the minute you tell me I can’t get sick for three months, I’ll get a terrible head cold and barely be able to think, let alone work/train. I only took one day out, but I got to spend a good two hours of that day sitting in a walk-in clinic waiting for a doctor to print me a note confirming that I did, indeed, have the cold that was visibly obvious to everyone who had seen me in the last several days (including my employers).

    5. MK*

      I agree the policy is too strict (and goes on too long), but the OP prioritising something relatively trivial over integrity is going too far. I would be more sympathetic if he did to attend an event of personal significance, like grandparents’ 50th anniversary or best friend’s wedding, or even if the eclipse was specifically important to him (e.g. if he was a passionate amature astronomer).

      1. Lehigh*

        Hmm. That’s an interesting point. I don’t feel the eclipse was a trivial event, but then again I would have tried to negotiate that day off (unpaid) before accepting a job that started so shortly before it.

        1. MK*

          “Trivial” may be the wrong word, but I don’t get the feeling from the letter that the OP was especially invested in it, judging from “I went for the weekend, but I wanted to stay and see the eclipse with my friends”.

      2. Kalamet*

        Serious question: if someone calls in sick to take a mental health day, is that also prioritizing something trivial over integrity? I can’t recall specifics, but I feel like Alison has said in the past that the occasional “not sick” sick day shouldn’t be a big deal (correct me if I’m wrong).

        It just feels weird that this instance is being treated as an integrity issue, when most of us have done something similar – is it because OP gave a specific illness instead of “I want to use a sick day”? It is because she went to an event instead of staying home? Is it the Facebook aspect?

        1. Myrin*

          I obviously can’t speak for MK, but I’d say that the difference lies in your penultimate sentence. A “mental health day” is certainly a litereal sick day when we’re talking about an actual mental illness but even if we use it to “just” mean “feeling so tense and fraught because of my stressful job/life that I simply need to take one day just for myself” or something similar, that’s still about not feeling well even if you might not be technically “sick”. So I definitely wouldn’t put that in the same category as someone thinking they’d rather do something fun instead and just call in sick.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Taking care of one’s mental health is not trivial.

          Going to party with your friends and watch the sun disappear for a couple of minutes is not something that anyone *needs* to do.

          Like other people said, if OP had faked a sick day to attend an important family event, that would be a different story.

        3. KHB*

          I dislike the term “mental health day” as it’s usually used, because it lumps true mental health challenges in with all sorts of minor things. But even in the broad definition of mental health, I think the defining feature of a mental health day is that it’s triggered by circumstances that are internal, not external. For example, “I’m tired and stressed and not sleeping well, so I need to spend a day on the couch watching Law & Order reruns,” as opposed to “My friends and I are flying to another city to go to a music festival.”

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            You know, I think a critical aspect of this type of mental health day is that you don’t post photos of yourself doing your mental healthy things. Whether that’s sitting on the couch watching Law and Order reruns, or taking a long walk. Then people can fill in their version of what you’re doing on your sick day (sitting on the couch watching Law and Order reruns while sniffling) and you aren’t disproving them.

          2. Artemesia*

            ‘mental health day’ in my experience of friends who do this is ‘I don’t feel like working, I feel like lazing around today.’ As a member of the generation who had few days off and sucked it up unless barfing or with a fever of 102, I find it odd.

            It would be helpful if US labor laws were more generous and companies provided more time off, but ‘mental health days’ are not about mental health — if someone actually is having a serious mental health crisis, they will be called sick days.

            1. BPT*

              Then you were probably also a member of the generation that wasn’t connected to work 24/7 and expected to answer emails during that time and could also disconnect when you did actually go on vacation or have a day off. Please don’t act like this generation doesn’t get “how hard it is” or is lazy or whatever other brush you’d like to paint an entire generation with. My parents never worked when they went on vacation. There wasn’t email and they didn’t take calls. They maybe did a few things on the weekend if they wanted to get ahead for the week, but they weren’t at the beck and call of their manager.

              Sometimes work gets stressful, you can’t unplug, and maybe you do need to take a sick day where you laze around and watch tv. As long as their work is getting done I don’t know why that should bother you.

        4. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

          I’ve never had a job where you could flat-out call in for a mental health day. Let me be clear, maybe it happens, but it’s certainly not been made public in my workplace. And I work in a hospital, where despite all of our empathy training and awareness training, if you don’t show up on schedule, there better be a documented personal emergency/medical reason, and you can be sure your bosses will check on it. If you’re ill (mentally or otherwise) and need time off, take the first day and call in as “I won’t be in today, I’m sick and feel awful, can’t sleep, can’t eat … can’t whatever.” Stupid, but that’s how it goes and may or may not fly. If you feel it puts your job in jeopardy, call in the second day too but go to the doctor or quick clinic and get a note – which will usually get you at least another day or two off as well. Warning: You can still be fired for excessive absences if you do it too often or it can be tracked as a pattern. Caveat: I’m sure there are some with preexisting FMLA intermittent leave approval who may be exempt from all scrutiny.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      One of the weirder aspects of modern life is how common it is to be outed on inconvenient-to-criminal things because you took photographs of yourself as evidence and then posted them publicly. (One of my favorite observational details from HIMYM was the time Marshall needed his mom to take down a Facebook photo, and the entire crowd at the airport gate got involved in how there was surely a menu somewhere with a relevant option, and yet no one could figure it out and the photo stayed.)

    7. always in email jail*

      I agree. I’d fire someone for this, but on a personal level I’d have sympathy for the kid

      1. High Score!*

        I think firing is extreme, a reprimand with a written warning would’ve gotten the point across.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

          The point of a probationary period is to allow the employer to experience the employee’s personality, work ethic, integrity, et cetera up close and personal and be able to fire them without having to pay accrued leave and unemployment pay if they decide the employee is not a good fit. Anyone working through a probationary period who doesn’t understand it’s their time to shine and be on their best behavior but instead decides to lie and hope to not be caught out says a lot about their ethics and their respect for the company and their coworkers. Think of the senior employees who might not have had their PTO requests approved because of coverage needs – some newbie gets caught in a lie to get the day off and gets to keep their job? Hell no.

    8. Cookie*

      You think this is bad? At my current job we’re not allowed a single vacation day for the first year. And yet they gave me 5 weeks of sick leave …

      1. High Score!*

        So you called in sick when you needed time off? Companies could save everyone much grief if they realized their employees are humans and acting accordingly. “Sure you can have time off when you need it because you work hard for us and put in overtime when we need you. “

        1. Cookie*

          I never did anything like the OP did and take a trip with friends, but there were times where I had a cold and thought, “why not call in because they’re giving me all this sick time, so I should just take care of myself.” And other times when I’d schedule a doctors appointment in the middle of the day and request the full day off with the explanation that it didn’t make sense to come in for a few hours before and after, breaking up the day and interrupting my flow. And no one ever questioned my use of sick time because this is clearly the kind of use they wanted due to the way they structure their PTO.

    9. Not Today Satan*

      I agree. My opinion both as an employee and as a manager is that when you treat people like children (giving them very little autonomy, discretion, etc.), they act like children. Five months without PTO is ridiculous, and of course people will lie. Depending on where he was/if he saw a total eclipse (a once in a lifetime event), I don’t blame him and I doubt he’ll regret this lie on his deathbed.

      1. Allison*

        “My opinion both as an employee and as a manager is that when you treat people like children (giving them very little autonomy, discretion, etc.), they act like children.”

        Yup, basically.

      2. hugseverycat*

        Yep, and only allowed sick days in “extreme circumstances”? I don’t think LW1 should have lied but I mean, what was their other option? Tell the boss they wanted the day off to see the eclipse, get told “no”, and then go anyway and still get fired? In my opinion, not seeing the total eclipse when you have the opportunity is a non-starter.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          OP could have been like EVERYONE ELSE who worked that day instead of going to see the eclipse. I know many people who would have liked to travel to another city for the eclipse. They didn’t. Why? They were responsible.

          Welcome to the working world. Sometimes, you miss fun things because you are stuck at work. If you don’t like that, be your own boss. Otherwise, deal with it.

      3. KHB*

        “I doubt he’ll regret this lie on his deathbed.”

        Then all’s right with the world, isn’t it? I doubt the employer will regret firing him, either.

        Look, I can’t speak for everyone who’s coming down on the employer’s side here, but I don’t think the OP’s actions constitute some kind of mortal sin that can’t be forgiven. But given the parameters of the situation, OP handled it badly, and I think the firing was appropriate. I hope the OP takes Alison’s advice, apologizes and makes amends as best as possible, and goes on to a productive career, somewhere else.

      4. Forrest*

        “I doubt he’ll regret this lie on his deathbed.”

        He may if he struggles to find a new job and honestly, it kind of already sounds like he does regret it.

    10. Allison*

      Agreed, the only probationary period I’ve had was three months, which was bad enough, but I was allowed to take an unpaid day off to travel home from a relative’s wedding, and I believe I had the option of borrowing against future accruals.

      I get not wanting to give people ALL the benefits right away, but stuff happens, companies with probationary periods should be a little flexible to accommodate trips that can’t be delayed until someone starts accruing PTO.

      Also, how did OP’s manager see the picture on social media? Were they connected, or was the manager monitoring the person’s profile? If he was checking up on OP to see what they were “really” doing, that’s a little crappy, even if OP is young and new to the company.

      1. M from NY*

        Boss didn’t need to go searching. They could just as easily had a mutual unknown friend. I recently caught someone in similar lie (begged with fake excuse not to attend meeting followed by pictures at another clearly preplanned event) and while I haven’t said anything yet I no longer trust said person and would have fired if I could.

    11. Sunshine Brite*

      Really? I think it’s industry specific. In social work I’ve had a private job where I got a week of PTO after a year and 3 months probation when you weren’t encouraged to take any time.

      Also, a county job where I started accruing right away but almost got in trouble for my wedding/honeymoon which took up my first year’s vacation front-loaded even though I’d asked about the 2 weeks at offer. Plus the probation was 6 months and you weren’t supposed to be gone during that time.

      My current position is a 6 month probation but allowed for a week off during probation for a pre-planned trip and 1.5 days for a family funeral that wasn’t covered by the bereavement policy (aunt/uncle level relation)

    12. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      These two items can be true simultaneously:

      1. It really sucks for an employer to not allow any PTO or sick time to accrue over the first five months. If OP had two weeks vacation that accrue at a normal pace, OP could easily have taken that day off for the eclipse. Shame on the employer. I would not want to work there.
      2. OP accepted these terms of employment, then lied to their manager, continued the lie when OP returned to the office (pretending to have lingering symptoms), stupidly had pictures on Facebook (even if OP’s friends posted the pictures, OP can set privacy standards to prevent being tagged), only admitted the mistake after being caught, and now may again mislead potential employers by leaving a position off the resume? Shame on OP for failing to act as an adult. I would have fired OP on the spot.

      OP, it doesn’t matter if the company had bad policies. This is on you. Your reputation–at least with your former company–is that you are irresponsible, selfish, and a liar. You say you have changed, but you need to demonstrate that, not just say it. I understand Alison’s recommendation, but if I hired you and then found out you had omitted a job (and why), I would terminate you immediately for cause. You need to be honest now or you will always be “that one” whom no one trusts.

      1. AMPG*

        I was with you until the “omitting a job” part. There’s no reason whatsoever to put a 2-month job on your resume. I got fired from a job after two months just because it was a bad fit (it was definitely a mutually-agreeable separation, but I was hoping to have more control over the timing) and you better believe that job will never show up on any resume of mine, ever, although I wouldn’t lie if asked directly to list everywhere I’ve ever worked (like for a security clearance or something).

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          I see both sides of the argument, but here is why I came down on “don’t omit”: OP lied to management. Omitting this job can be understood as another lie to management. One lie can be explained. Two lies? No.

          If OP is looking for a job in a different industry, the new employer may never find out and omission may work. In the same industry? Assume the new employer will learn about this event and omitting the job from the resume will have consequences. I have worked in industries with hundreds of thousands of employees, yet stories like these always get around. That is why I recommend against omission.

          1. Liz2*

            I thought it was standard to omit jobs without a long tenure or which might not be relevant. I have a two month job I don’t include because it was a horrible fit and my previous position found a spot for me in the local office. I have another three month temp job I don’t include because it was nothing but idiotic spreadsheet transcription. Both would just be empty positions taking up valuable resume space for actual work experience.

            It’s a huge leap to call omitting a super brief position a lie. I also don’t talk about the time I accidentally booked a rental car for the month ahead instead of the month traveling in interviews even though it haunts me to this day.

            1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

              It is definitely standard to omit brief jobs that are not relevant. My sad history as a fry cook and summer internships in college are far from my resume now. The concern I raise is related to how this looks to a manager. Here are reasons where a manager will not care if you omitted a briefly-held job:

              “It was from 20 years ago.”
              “It was temp work I took to pay the bills while I was job searching.”
              “It was non-paying.”
              “I held the job for a few months before being promoted to the more senior role I held for several years and it was cluttering up my resume.”

              Here is a reason why omitting a briefly-held job will look bad to a manager if they founds out: “I was fired for cause for violating company policy and lying to my manager about before, during, and after I violated that policy”

              I have managed people for over 20 years and I know many other long-term managers. Most of us tolerate quite a bit. Not this. Don’t surprise your manager with this.

              1. Liz2*

                Again I thought standard was “If you’ve made bad mistakes or been fired, don’t bring it up unless they do.”

                If they bring it up, of course you have to be as concise and honest as you can, but there’s no need to bring it up on your own.

    13. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      At my old job the probationary period was one year from accepting any new position to be able to take PTO. I was promoted twice in my first year, meaning that it ended up being more than 18 months that I was not allowed to use any accrued PTO. (I still did have sick time). My company was nice enough to allow me to take an unpaid vacation, because all that time with zero days off means you really burn out!!

      Side note: My partner is working a temp job at the moment and also took 2 fake sick days for the eclipse. She felt bad about it, but we’d booked flights and accommodation months and months ago, and when the (unpaid) time off was denied (when there was no pressing reason or tasks that needed to be completed) it made more sense to fake sick than to eat the $1000+ in costs. We were careful not to tag her in any social media.

    14. Indie*

      I kind of sympathise with op1 too, even though I don’t disagree with his being fired (lying basically dissolves workplace trust so firing was only way to go). The thing is that the extremely strict rules created a situation which discouraged negotiation and created temptation . Sure you could schedule a lot of weekend fun and a probation-over-celebration vacay, but a period as long as five months in a young adults social life is bound to throw up a doozy of a temptation at some point. Maybe that’s his employers test? Integrity? Fair enough, her ship; but I would want to see how my probationers put in requests and handled rejections.

      OP firing is a life lesson and you’re young enough to safely take stock. Youve clearly already began so kudos.

  11. Sami*

    OP#1: I suspect you’ve learned a big life lesson here and so I’m not going to pile on. But I’d say this is a PSA to not be friends with coworkers on Facebook and to have your FB privacy settings locked up tight.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I realise I’m repeating myself here, but it is a complete myth that simply controlling your own privacy settings is enough.

      1. SystemsLady*

        On Facebook there is a privacy setting that allows you to approve any instance where somebody tries to tag you. If you don’t approve it, you aren’t actually tagged.

        That being said, it doesn’t protect you from a co-worker who is also friends with one of the posters just seeing the picture (or even your coworker being mutual friends with one of your friend’s friends who “likes” the photo).

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Yes, you ARE tagged in that instance. It doesn’t appear on your timeline but the tag appears until you remove it and other people can see it.

          I am genuinely stunned by how many posters seem unaware of this.

          1. Cucumberzucchini*

            I don’t think that’s true. I have my Facebook locked down pretty tight. I have a lot of family members who don’t think twice about posting photos that are unflattering (as in not-attractive, weird faces, really bad lighting). I have to approve every tag before the tag will show up or the photo will show up related to my profile.

            The photos would only be an issue if someone who happened to be Facebook friends with someone the OP worked with posted an untagged photo that the OP was in and that’s how they got caught. What it seems like actually happened is that the OP didn’t have the right privacy settings, was tagged in photos and they showed up on their profile (or just didn’t seem to realize this was a possible way to get caught lying). I think the Boss was probably already suspicious about the sick day request and was maybe stalking the Facebook page of the OP.

            1. M from NY*

              You may need to approve tag but that doesn’t stop picture from being seen. For OP if boss is friend with another person in picture that was tagged (and that friend has looser settings allowing friends of friends to see their tags) then the original photo can still be seen by a larger circle all without any tag approval from OP.

              1. Tuxedo Cat*

                You can also just upload a photo of someone and they’ll get recognized without tagging, similar to how you could appear in a newspaper photograph without your name attached.

                Privacy settings are a good start, but they’re not perfect by a long shot.

                1. all aboard the anon train*

                  That feature was part of the reason why I deleted FB. I remember looking at a picture a friend had posted and the site giving me “tag” recommendations for people I had never even met. It was creepy.

          2. Mike C.*

            I’m with you Ramona, this idea in general that you can control all of your online exposure is really, really outdated.

            1. all aboard the anon train*

              Yeah. I mean this was an issue back in the day with MySpace photos (you could deny a tag, but someone could still upload a picture of you without the tag), and nothing has really changed since then. Social media sites have just gotten better at making people think they have more control over their data and photos.

          3. Samata*

            I have the same setting as cucumberzucchini….I have to approve tags and the tag of me doesn’t show on my friends timeline unless/until I approve the tag. So while someone might recognize me it doesn’t highlight my name as is “Yogini is with Samata, James and Richard”….it just says “Yogini is with James and Richard”.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      I don’t have FB anymore, but coworkers have definitely seen pictures of me at events because other people have posted those pictures. So, it’s not just a situation of controlling your own privacy settings.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          Privacy settings don’t really do much overall, though. They’re fairly useless on social media these days.

      1. MK*

        This might be a cultural issue, but this doesn’t happen to me. I don’t want pictures of myself online, so I tell people so and everyone has respected it so far. In most cases, people specifically say “let’s get a photo for facebook” and I opt-out (or we get two photos and they post the one I am not in); or a photo is taken and I tell the person whose phone is used that I don’t want it online.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          I find it impossible to do that at certain events like weddings or other big events where you might not notice photos being taken. You’re bound to be part of a picture, whether it’s in the background or people going around taking photos of you when you’re not paying attention.

          It’s easier with friends, but even then I have friends who don’t understand why I’m uncomfortable when someone uploads every picture they take to social media. And I’ve met friends of friends who are addicted to social media and can’t comprehend not wanting your picture on it and actually get defensive when you tell them not to take your picture/post it online.

          1. Foreign Octopus*

            It’s taken me five years but I’ve finally got my mother to ask me before she posts a picture to Facebook that has me in it. I haven’t been on FB in years, deleted my account and I have no social media presence (partly because I’m super lazy, partly because I don’t see the point) but she would upload pictures and then someone would message me about it saying “oh, I see you went to such-and-such at the weekend” and I’d be freaked out because it felt like an invasion of privacy.

            The problem is when you’re at larger events like weddings, parties, fairs, etc. Then you can’t stop everyone taking a picture where you might be in the background.

          2. Samata*

            Oh I have a friend who I will ask not to post something and she totally agrees, says she gets it, etc…..and then 2 weeks later she’ll do some throwback whatever or another and BAM – there is photo I asked no to be posted. I now just have to refuse photos with her, which is sad.

    3. Thlayli*

      Privacy settings is one thing and not being friends with your coworkers is also a good idea, but the biggest thing you can do to improve your security is to use a fake name on Facebook (I know it’s against the ts and cs but it’s not that hard to do).

    4. Emma*

      Late to the party on this post but should OP#1 read this I’d also like to add that even with privacy settings it is extraordinarily easy to share photos that have been uploaded to facebook generally– someone can take a screenshot for instance. But it also used to be possible to share the direct filepath to the photo on Facebook’s servers and that was another way to send photos and get around privacy settings (this may have changed, but just goes to show how little one can really control).

  12. Arya Snark*

    I very much dislike being the center of attention and would prefer not to be signaled out for my birthday. At my old job, we celebrated all birthdays once a month. Those with birthdays that month had input on the cake but there was no singing or decorations – just a bunch of people taking a long break in a conference room to chat and eat some cake. If you didn’t want to show whether it was because you didn’t want to celebrate a birthday or you didn’t want to indulge in cake, you didn’t have to and it wouldn’t be weird at all. I loved this approach – it worked well for all.

    1. Never gets Cake*

      I hope you invited the switchboard lady to your cake eating longer break or at least brought her a piece of cake.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        Your username makes me feel sad.

        Please go get some cake for yourself. Eat all the cake. Feel happy with the cake.

  13. Gen*

    I’m in Yorkshire and ‘pet’, ‘duck’ or ‘love’ are totally interchangeable but not gendered as seems to be the case/perception above. Most often used by bus drivers, servers, etc and acquaintences. Seriously you see the most masculine guys shouting ‘allreet pet?’ ‘aye love!’ at each other in the street. I’ve regularly been called those and used all three with managers and staff members in informal conversations at pretty much everywhere I’ve worked.

    It might still be a gendered issue in this case or he might not know how to talk to subordinates (replace ‘pet’ with ‘dude’ for a similar effect). Definitely ask him to stop but if it is a verbal tick he’s been used to using from childhood it might take some effort and some reminders.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m from Baltimore, MD. I do not have a clearly identifiable Baltimore accent (but ask me to say “ocean” or “airport”). I do, however, fall into the habit of addressing people as “hon”, which strikes me as the American equivalent here. In my case, it’s not necessarily gendered (I think I may be more likely to call women “hon” than men, but I have no idea), and it’s almost always because I feel comfortable with a person. I’ve used it at work and caught myself, but so far I don’t think I’ve offended anyone. If I ever did, I would hope they’d said something to me, especially in a mild way like, “Did you just call me ‘hon’? That’s weird,” and I would be more conscious of my speech, and like you mentioned, I would hope whoever is offended would be willing to remind me if I slip.

      For what it’s worth (not much, I know!), I would be utterly charmed by an Englishman calling me “pet”, but sometimes things cross a line without any concrete reason, just a feeling, and it’s ok to be uncomfortable with those things.

      1. Sam Yao*

        It’s something that I would consider fine in most situations (from the coffee guy? sure! From the lady I held the door for? why not!), but not coming from my boss, because of the diminutive/over-familiar connotations of it.

  14. MommyMD*

    Keep your Facebook limited to non-work friends and family only. Never post on Facebook when you are supposed to be working. You learned a hard, costly lesson.

      1. Zip Zap*

        Yeah. It sounds like one of those posts where a bunch of people are tagged in it and one of them happened to be Facebook friends with OP’s boss.

    1. Mike C.*

      Why are people so quick to point out that a “lesson was learned” when there isn’t one at all?

      1. HRish Dude*

        He lied to his employer to take a day off drinking with his friends. How is that not a lesson?

    1. Edith*

      Yeah, it seems really strange to me that OP is cooking for herself at work. Heating and assembly, sure, but to the point where you’re keeping spices at work?

      1. MicroManagered*

        I’ve worked in restaurants where that wasn’t unheard of. You’re not supposed to do it for sanitation reasons, but a LOT of restaurants let it slide.

    1. Agent Diane*

      Maybe have a weekly cover rota? You may still need to remind them on Mondays but it should reduce your need to remind people by 4/5ths.

      1. Who Cares*

        Given that the OPs coworkers are having to be reminded again at the time when they were already reminded that morning, I don’t think a weekly rota will reduce the need to remind people in the slightest.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          I would send calendar invites. If I was in the coworkers shoes, I would appreciate them because, for me at work, if it isn’t on the calendar, it isn’t happening.

          1. Bored IT Guy*

            I was about to say this exact thing. If I were in a job where part of my tasks were to cover for the receptionist’s lunch break occasionally, I’d have no problem doing the task, but I would find the calendar invite helpful, both for the reminder aspect, and also so I don’t schedule anything else during this time.

            It doesn’t sound like there’s any deliberate malice in your co-workers actions – they’re not complaining about having to do it (at least from the letter), they’re just not remembering.

            1. AMPG*

              From the letter: “I’d say about 70% of the time, I have to call and remind them that it’s my break time, and then they seem put out that they have to cover me.”

              It sounds like the OP is sort of conflating the inconvenience of having to remind the designated coverage with the frustration of feeling like they’re asking a favor from someone who is supposed to be doing this task as part of their job. The first part is something they probably have to learn to live with, but the second part can be addressed.

          2. You're Not My Supervisor*

            This is a really good suggestion. Sometimes I wish AAM allowed upvoting so you could send good ideas to the top and they wouldn’t get buried…

  15. M-C*

    OP#2 I totally agree with AAM – what you’re complaining about is inherent in your job. You’re the only one treated this way because you’re the only one in the company with this job. It’s not unreasonable for other people to be sufficiently absorbed in their own work that they don’t remember to be on hand at precisely the time set for your break/lunch. Email them what the times you’ll need them are in the morning, call them when you need them (5mn warning would be judicious). If this is an issue for you, start hunting for a different kind of job. But don’t act persecuted, there’s really no call for it.
    One thing you might want to do though is to have a backup-call-person, so that if the person who’s supposed to cover the phones is unavailable for some reason, you still get your break at the appropriate time. That would be reasonable. Except that you don’t mention anyone actually refusing to cover you, ever.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’m not sure I agree with the OP having to chase people down and remind them to cover for them. The letter says they are already considered difficult to work with because they need cover for time to time.

      People should be able to keep track of the time and what they are doing and turn up on time, it’s no different to attending a meeting on time, I’ve never needed some to tell me a meeting is about to start.

      If I was the OP I would be tempted just to leave my desk at break time wether or no anyone was there to cover, not the best of solutions but I’d be sick of jumping through hoops to get people to do there job.

      1. Anonimouse*

        Is the part about being difficult related to needing cover, though, or about how OP is communicating about it?

        I’d assume anyone would understand that people need breaks, so that in itself doesn’t make the person who needs others to cover for them difficult.

        But if the frustration and annoyance that is evident in OP’s letter is how they communicate about needing cover and having to remind people about it at the office, then I can definitely see why someone might call them “difficult”.

        OP, just emailing in the morning should be enough, but when it isn’t, try to be patient and not be a nag. Try to make the best of the situation, it will help yourself cope with this as well.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          You’d assume that, but no. A lot of people really don’t care that others need breaks and can make a huge deal out of it. Saying ‘don’t be a nag’ is also something women are told to minimise their complaints. I don’t know the full situation in this office, but having to repeatedly remind people that they need to do a task is very frustrating and makes you feel disrespected.

          1. I Get It*

            This. The receptionist in our office has to rely on other admins to cover breaks and this is done by finding out at the beginning of the week who can conver which break times for the week. There are those who sign up and show up and then there are those who actively duck the responsibility and “forget” they were supposed to cover. If the receptionist didn’t send constant reminders or escalate to superiors who actually followed up with their employees, she’d never get a break.

            1. Doreen*

              But it also depends how you escalate. No one is assigned to the switchboard full time in my office, there is a different person assigned each day and coverage for breaks is also assigned on a daily basis. Being human, it has happened that when Fergus is assigned break coverage and called in sick , the support staff supervisor forgot that he had break coverage and therefore did not assign a replacement. It happens, everyone is human, and of the four people it affected , three of them just called their supervisor and said ” Who’s covering me for my break? ” . No problem, someone gets assigned and they get their break. Number four was a different story. Instead of calling her supervisor at 10:10 when no one relieved her at 10 am for her scheduled break, she would call the manager at 2:30 pm complaining that she hadn’t gotten her breaks or lunch. She was difficult to work with (for a lot of reasons ). Wanting breaks wasn’t one of them but seeming to be more interested in having something to complain about that getting the breaks was.

          2. Lady Jay*

            Yes! I felt a lot of sympathy for the OP and was surprised that this wasn’t mentioned in the answer. It doesn’t sound like people are listening to her requests, which must be so frustrating.

            1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

              Yes, that’s how I interpreted the question – how to make people listen? Which, unfortunately, comes down to whether people want to listen or not. If they don’t, you sadly can’t make them.

              I had a job where it was stressful and chaotic, but people really did their best to help each other and listen to requests. It made all the difference. Still not the best place to work long-term, but at least you weren’t pulling your hair out because people were ignoring simple requests.

        2. Never gets Cake*

          Why should she have to be patient? Covering her breaks is part of the job of the people assigned to do it. They should be held accountable if they do not do it on time. She shouldn’t have to beg for her breaks and lunch and to go to the bathroom.

        3. Observer*

          Telling her not to be a nag is not useful – if people are not showing up she has no choice but to follow up.

          On the other hand, if the attitude that shows up in this letter is showing up at work, then, yeah, the OP is not going to get a lot of help. IT really comes of badly.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            The advice not to nag is only relevant if you have a different solution that causes people to show up on time. This isn’t a circumstance where you can say “Get your forms in, or pay late fees” or “Be in your seat by 8 pm, or wait until intermission” rather than nagging–OP is the one who suffers and the no-shows the ones who gain if she’s constrained to not issue them reminders.

        4. NoHose*

          No. Sorry, no. Be patient and not nag? Try that if hungry or you have a full bladder and they are late…again.

          It’s bad enough that there’s a general perception on the administrative ladder that the receptionist is on the bottom and many who are administrative assistants hate to be back ups. Why? Not sure, to be honest. Part of it might be because the nature of reception work is that you are stuck there, much like a cashier. You can’t leave the cash unattended, and you can’t leave a phone and reception desk unattended (in many places).

          But it’s a team issue as well: you rely on the receptionist to tell you of arriving guests, sending out couriers, to let you know when your caterer arrives, to properly direct calls, take messages, etc., she may even do repetitive, order-entry tasks to help you out, but you get put out if you have to fill in for her for an hour once in a while on a rota?

          So, you are at reception and you have fixed breaks. You still need to go to the bathroom: would YOU like it if you had to wait longer than usual to do what others take for granted and go whenever they like?

          I am not a fan of doing reception. I happen to be good at it but I don’t enjoy it, really. You are effectively stuck at your desk and since you are quite often the first thing clients see or hear when they arrive, a good first impression is quite important…and yet, employers and “higher up” administrative assistants see this job as low, lowly and an inconvenience to replace her when needed. But if and when I’m called to help out, I do it willingly as it’s not about me, it’s not beneath me, it’s for the company.

          If she has to chase ppl 70% of the time, there’s an issue. If someone knows it’s their turn, they should try to remember.

      2. Mike C.*

        People should be able to keep track of the time and what they are doing and turn up on time

        When you start with the phrase “people should”, you have a bad process. Doing something like sending out meeting notices for these breaks would increase compliance and help out the OP significantly.

    2. S*

      Do you take your break the same time everyday? Send a calendar invite so you don’t have to call them

    3. WhirlwindMonk*

      >It’s not unreasonable for other people to be sufficiently absorbed in their own work that they don’t remember to be on hand at precisely the time set for your break/lunch.

      I completely disagree. If an employee were required as part of their job to attend a meeting once every week or two, and were constantly late and had to be hunted down by the meeting organizer to get them to actually show up, AND they acted annoyed that they had to be there, I would hope they would be disciplined. This is exactly the same situation. This is part of their job description, they should only have to be told “You will cover the following days” and they should be there, on time.

    4. DietCokeHead*

      Ooh, that’s really harsh. I feel sympathy for the OP here. At one point the backup receptionist at my job quit and I was tapped to cover the front desk for all the receptionist’s breaks. It sucked and you do feel like a second class citzen. The policy here is that if either the receptionist or the backup takes a day off, they have to find all their own coverage. It makes a person feel like you are begging and have to get approval from an entire office of people to have a day off. It’s made worse by knowing how much everyone hates being at the front desk.

    5. Jaybeetee*

      In a past job, we had rotating duties, some of which required break-time coverage. Sometimes, people were great and it all ran like a well-oiled machine – but it was easy for the whole system to go to hell as soon as you had a short-staffing situation, or the person supposed to cover had a task that ran too long, or you had one of those grumbley people who just didn’t like having to interrupt their other work to cover someone’s break, or a zillion other situations. Even at my job, where it was very drilled into us to Respect Break-time, we often ran into problems with it, and some poor soul wouldn’t be able to take lunch until 2:30 in the afternoon. The main saving grace was that these were indeed rotating duties anyway, so it wasn’t a case of “one person getting shafted all the time”, but it’s very important that staff is trained that break-time coverage should be treated the same as a meeting or any other important task you’ve been told to do, and not something that can be pushed back, rescheduled, skipped, etc, if it’s a hassle. For OP, her boss ought to take it seriously if she has to chase people down for her coverage, and remind people that if they’re assigned to it, it’s part of their job.

    6. chi type*

      Yeah, I sympathize with the OP. How do these paragons of deep thought not miss meetings or 1-on-1s with the boss? It really smacks of “you’re not important enough for me to remember”.
      Also Alison and others seem to imply that they get a pass for being wrapped up in their work but THIS IS ALSO THEIR WORK. You don’t just get to “forget” your non-favorite parts of your job.

    1. Grapey*

      Her coworkers sound miserable too, if they pull faces at being told they need to cover for their operator for 15 minutes (and known in advance.) If they can’t handle the requirement of covering someone’s 15 minute break, perhaps this job isn’t a good fit for them either.

      1. Goya*

        Agreed @Grapey.

        The nature of her job is that it is what it is, but I think it’s completely rude of her co-workers to behave in this manner. I think it really comes down to common decency – especially if she has scheduled breaks. It’s not like she’s asking for above and beyond.

        OP is a member of the team, just as they are. One could argue more so since her job can not be left unattended even for 5 minutes – while of them have the freedom to leave at will. I find it astonishingly rude to keep others waiting on yourself (on a regular basis, because life happens) when you know full well that you are supposed to meet them at a certain day/time. I’m assuming since she emails the “lucky person” that there is some sort of schedule set-up? There is no reason each of these people can not set their own calendar reminders to make sure that they are there within reasonable time to let her eat or relieve herself.

        I think one feature might be for the company/boss to look into phone forwarding system? If she does not need to be accessible to the public, then a phone line can easily be switched to the desk of another co-worker while she does as needed. That way they might not need to be “interrupted” from their all important work load. Our company does this and it seems to work just fine. It’s quite frustrating when I’m in the middle of a set of numbers and have to answer the general line (because our calls can’t be unanswered either), but I also assume that it would be quite frustrating to time my bathroom habits or lunch based on when someone “felt” like showing up.

  16. Edith*

    #2: I think Alison let OP’s coworkers off far too easy here. Covering for OP is part of their job description, they have a rotation schedule, and OP even sends them daily reminders! I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that they remember a regular job duty without multiple reminders each day it comes up.

    1. AngelicGamer*

      Yep. I had a job where it had to be covered and it was in everyone’s description that you had to do so. It was customer service and I was a register monkey. Even managers. Also, I don’t make the daily schedule, the general manager did. I rarely got a 15 unless I pressed for them while everyone else got the regular 2. Forget getting off to break on time or get off work on time. People dragged their feet up there and I stopped being nice about it. I wanted my lunch break and I wanted to be treated like every other employee. I did end up quitting, for a volunteer job, because it got really bad once I started to stand up for myself. I was a full time employee and my hours got cut to weekends and the unofficial on call. To be honest, if the volunteer job didn’t call me, I was going to go up the chain to human resources about how bad it gotten.

      My advice? Go over the head of your supervisor, explain that you are not getting support in ways that can be harmful (being forced to hold it leads to UTIs – I had two while working in retail because of my lovely coworkers), and work on getting it changed. Also, start job hunting and get the heck out of there for your own sake if nothing changes.

    2. Willis*

      Yeah…If I get a morning reminder that it’s my day to cover the phone for an hour around lunch, it seems reasonable that I wouldn’t need another reminder at lunch. For unplanned breaks (bathroom, personal phone calls, etc.) sure, a notification would be needed. But I can understand how the OP would be annoyed about having to chase someone down before she can leave for lunch, especially if the coworkers are then grumpy about it. It’s not like they’re doing her a favor – it’s part of their jobs and totally reasonable that she’d need a break!

      But, I’m not sure there’s much to do about it other than accept it as part of the job. Maybe send an outlook reminder in the morning to give them a heads up a few minutes before they should report to her desk? Still wouldn’t help with unplanned breaks though…

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      That’s a really good point – covering for her is part of their job as well!

      OP #2, I get how you feel. You’re a vital part of the office but you’re not treated like an equal. They say they need a person covering the phones at all times, but forget that you’re a person! Wanting a lunch break and to be able to use the facilities isn’t some outrageous demand. (Now, if you’re away from your desk for too long or you’re making too many personal calls, that’s another issue, but that doesn’t sound like what’s happening here.)

      I’ve never worked in an office where there wasn’t a back-up for the receptionist. That doesn’t mean people were gracious about having to cover, though! Only that there was a plan in place – what happens when the receptionist has an emergency or is sick?

      If pointing out that covering for you is also part of your co-workers’ job descriptions doesn’t help, this might be a situation where your boss sucks and isn’t going to change. But I do hope that your situation improves soon!

      1. DCompliance*

        I am also confused by no backup receptionist or phone operator. What happens if OP is sick or on vacation. I think the coworkers should be held accountable for making sure the backup the phone operator, but this seems like a odd setup. What does everyone else in your department do? Are they also doing phone work or have a different job completely? Is everyone else salaried? I am not saying this is the OP’s fault, but I can imagine scenarios of why this wouldn’t work.

      2. Observer*

        Not having a backup receptionist is actually really common. And for the day to day stuff, the rotation in place makes sense and should work.

        OP, I’m going to suggest getting your attitude in check. Then revisit the issue. Send out the calendar invites – at the beginning of the week or even the month. If that doesn’t work, ask your supervisor “what’s the best way to handle people who are not showing up for scheduled breaks?” No whining or complaining about “double standards” etc. Just a straightforward question about how to handle a part of your job. If you don’t get a good answer (“Just deal with it” isn’t a good answer), go up the food chain, to the owner if necessary. You can tell the owner “I understand that you want a live voice at all times, but that requires cooperation of other staff. How can we make that happen?”

        Needing coverage at all times is a difficult part of the job. But it’s reasonable. Having to beg for coverage that’s actually part of people’s job descriptions is not.

    4. Boo*

      Totally agree – and as a former receptionist I totally sympathise with being stuck at your desk in a way your coworkers aren’t. The fact I had to ring for cover before being allowed to go to the bathroom always felt rather humiliating as it was (I mean I had scheduled breaks, but try telling my IBS to fit in with that), and if my coworkers covering dragged their heels or were huffy about doing that part of their job it would have been a hundred times worse. It’s not nice to feel like an inconvenience when you’re just asking for something you should have by rights anyway.

      I think the problem here is your coworkers aren’t taking this part of their job seriously. Your supervisor needs to speak to them/their supervisor and get this attitude towards covering you sorted. It’s not right that you should be made to feel like a burden or stress because you have to keep chasing to get the breaks which by law you should have anyway.

      1. Aesha*

        I agree with you. I was an administrative assistant for several years before switching to a different office that had more career potential, so I think I’m more sensitive to this than my coworkers. When I was doing that job, it was like OP #2 said–when I needed the help, it was like pulling teeth to get someone to cover my lunch (I didn’t actually take breaks because I didn’t want to have to deal with it). People would always try to get me to ask someone else, or when I did ask they would drag their feet and head over 10 minutes later than requested, etc. In the office I’m in now I see the same thing–I am the one asking our front desk person if she has someone to cover her lunch, when she’s going to lunch, etc. and everyone else doesn’t notice (or care) if it’s 2 pm and she hasn’t been able to take a lunch break. It’s frustrating and annoying to have to deal with because coworkers in “more important” positions make you feel like you’re putting them out, and you have no authority over them and they know it, so…

        This is one of my biggest pet peeves and something I will take on as my own when I’m supervising people–that is, I’ll tell them who is to provide coverage on a given day if that’s necessary, so the front desk person doesn’t have to deal with the disdain and anxiety this produces.

        1. Jaybeetee*

          I still remember a time at the above-mentioned job where I was the one at a station needing coverage, and the guy assigned to cover my lunch sauntered out something like 20 minutes late. The problem was, he was scheduled for another task immediately after, giving me less than 10 minutes to actually take my break (i.e. enough time to briskly walk to the breakroom, take out my food, and place it in the microwave before he was calling that room’s extension saying I needed to get back). Thankfully a manager happened to be around who saw what happened and took over the coverage until I got a chance to actually eat (and, I think, have a word with him about nearly screwing me out of my lunch that day because he wasn’t on top of his schedule). It’s irritating as hell when your legally-mandated break is treated as optional, and you’re treated as somehow difficult or inflexible for wanting to have it.

      2. Colette*

        Part of the problem may be that she’s also not asking in a way that is going to work with her colleagues. If a daily reminder doesn’t work, has she tried a calendar invite with a reminder 5 minutes before? If that doesn’t work, call.

        Depending on the job, it’s easy to get caught up in your own work and not realize what time it is, so anything that makes it more obvious that they need to cover for her now will help.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          I came to recommend this.

          OP#2 I’ve worked reception and it’s hard! No one wants to cover, everyone forgets about you (“Oh, there was cake, did you get some?”) BLERGH.

          I would recommend that when the rotation is determined for that week, you send out calendar reminders for breaks and lunches to people for their day, with 5 minute reminders.

          Then if they are not there 2 minutes past the scheduled time, call with absolutely no apologies. You are simply reminding them of a timely work coverage need.

          Does it suck? Yes. Should you have to remind people to do their own josb? No. But I’d do the best you can with what you’ve got.

        2. nonymous*

          OP said that one coworker was willing to be the sole relief person. What if OP sets up the scheduling/reminder system that has been mentioned repeatedly (e.g. take breaks at planned times, with calendar invites that have reminders attached), and then if the person is more than 10min late (or whatever interval makes sense) ask the willing coworker to step up?

          That way OP is guaranteed to have a break within a reasonable time, and it will be really obvious if someone is shirking. This approach stops it from being OP is “difficult” and turns it into “Back up person didn’t do their duties and that affected Relief coworker X times”

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I agree with this whole comment so much. I’ve also been that person who couldn’t leave the desk without coverage and it is SO embarrassing when you have a bathroom emergency and you have to wait for someone to come up.

        My suggestion would be to set up a regular schedule for coverage so that your coworkers can plan accordingly (Jane covers Monday, Sue covers Tuesday, etc) and send out calendar invites.

        If there is continued push back, approach your supervisor and ask how they suggest you handle it.

    5. kittymommy*

      I agree. The op job is to have constant coverage, their job is to fill in as that coverage. If the co-workers are balking at that (or being an overall p.i.t.a. about it) then they need to be spoken too by a supervisor. I can understand how this can be very demoralizing to the op, I see it in a department I work with, if the poor receptionist wants to go to the bathroom she has to ask about five people before she can find someone who will pick up a phone for 3 minutes.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      #2: I think Alison let OP’s coworkers off far too easy here.

      I agree. If these coworkers manage to meet deadlines and attend scheduled meetings, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be expected to do this part of their jobs on schedule as well.

    7. Allison*

      I wonder if OP is feeling like a second class citizen because it seems like people are blowing them off. I wonder if OP’s colleagues aren’t bothering to remember, or worse, are choosing to ignore the fact that they need to cover for OP because they don’t wanna do it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this is a large part of it.

        At the end of my freshman year, someone ‘bragged’ that he wasn’t turning in the sophomore course form until the admin people hunted him down for it. Upperclassmen laughed: No one is hunting you down! If you don’t turn the form in by the deadline then you just aren’t registered. Next fall you will stand in a lot of long lines, pay late fees, and take whatever classes are still open at that time. Suddenly he discovered within himself the power to turn the form in on time.

        “No nagging” only works with this kind of power differential–where there are natural consequences to the naggees for not doing something that can be left to play out. It doesn’t hold true when the natural consequences all fall on the nagger, and life is easier for the naggees if they just ‘forget’ whatever it is until the nagger is forced to do it themselves or let it go.

        1. Allison*

          Don’t I know it, not as an admin but as someone who lives with roommates. If I didn’t nag my roommate to do certain things, we’d both be dealing with the consequences. There were very few times I could just watch him deal with the fallout from his own laziness, which in turn made me feel like the mommy of a teenage boy. Thanks for the emotional burnout, you lazy jerkface!

          Also, who doesn’t want to register for classes as early as possible? Didn’t he want the chance to take the cool classes?

    8. Oryx*

      Agreed. We had this at ExJob, where everyone had Their Day that they covered the receptionist’s lunch. It was part of my job to cover one of those days and it was on me to make sure I was there when she was scheduled to go to lunch. If I couldn’t do it for some reason, I needed to switch with someone else.

    9. Beth*

      I’m going to chime in here with my agreement as well. I used to be a backup receptionist and I feel like it would have been incredibly rude/irresponsible of me to just not show up, or repeatedly show up late, for shift coverage. I had set up calendar reminders so that I wouldn’t forget (because like many other people, I’m someone who can forget things that aren’t scheduled!!) In our case, our employee managed a medical issue that had to be addressed at specific times, so it could have been harmful to her health if we didn’t show up. Maybe that’s why she had fewer problems with getting people to back her up (but she still did have problems sometimes).

      I agree that calendar reminders, a rotating schedule (Fergus is always backup for a break at 9:30 on Tuesday, etc. ) all might help. I know at my prior company there were people who did one break or another nearly every day, but some who only did one or two per week. If someone is WILLING to backup most of the time, maybe that person can do it more often than the others in the rotating schedule.

      My other thought is that if people aren’t notified until day of, and they had other plans for that time, they may be frustrated. If they knew they’d have the same times every day, every week, maybe that would be helpful.

      Finally, I don’t know what time your breaks are scheduled at, but is it possible there might be major conflicts with other things going on? The receptionist I provided backup for had an “off-peak” lunch time (a little earlier than most) so it was easier to provide lunch coverage. Also, if I had a meeting right before I was supposed to show up there, it sometimes made it harder for me to get up there.

      1. Edith*

        But they do have calendar reminders. And they do have a rotating schedule. And OP did find someone willing to be the main backup but was shot down by the manager. That’s the problem– they already have all your suggestions in place and OP still has to chase people down.

        1. Beth*

          The original letter doesn’t say anything about a calendar or rotating schedule, so I’m not sure if that’s actually in place.

    10. paul*

      yeah, I can get her frustrations. She may or may not be handling it well, but losing lunches and breaks because no one will cover for you is going to hack people off.

  17. RobM*

    #3 This calling people “pet” isn’t a Very British Thing. I’m Very British and I wouldn’t call anyone at work “pet”. I think the majority of British people would see it as sexist and demeaning, and while some people might well do it as a personal affectation (e.g. it tends to be a northern England thing, along with ‘petal’) I don’t know anyone who would use it to address a colleague. This manager should know better and needs to be told to stop.

    #5 It’s terribly rude to celebrate someone’s birthday when they don’t want to. They may have a personal reason why remembering a certain date is painful – what if their birthday was also the anniversary of a loved one’s death – or they may be part of a religion where birthdays simply aren’t celebrated (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses, some branches of Islam).

    1. Bagpuss*

      #3 It is very dependent on region, though. There are regions where it is very, very common, not seen as sexist and, as others have explained in previous comments, used to both men and women.

      BUT I think it’s something that most people do understand is not used all over the UK and so I would expect Fergus to understand where OP is coming from if she asks him not to use it, it’s likely to be something he has come across before. as Alison says, it may take him a little while to break the habit, but it is not an unreasonable request that he tries.
      It’s also fairly informal so asking someone not to use it in a work context is also reasonable.

    2. Isobel*

      I think it’s a bit harsh to say that calling someone “pet” is an affectation. It’s certainly regional, but not necessarily intended as demeaning. In Sheffield everyone gets called “love” – men can use it to each other.
      However, context is everything – I would be fine being called pet or love or duck by shopkeepers, bus drivers and other people where it’s a friendly interaction between strangers. I might well find it annoying in a work context (though again it might depend on the person – whether I got a patronising vibe off them in other ways).
      I think saying you’re not a fan and prefer to be called by your name is a very good way to go here.

      1. Foreign Octopus*


        It really depends on your job if you can use it. I find people in customer service (face-to-face as you mentioned above) is fine because it’s a different interaction. In an office though, weird.

        Also, not everyone is comfortable with being called pet, or love, regardless of the interaction. It’s a very personal thing. I’m from Cornwall and love is a typical name that just slips out when speaking. I’ve been using darling for the last ten years without really thinking about it but I would never call someone I work with that.

        Context, as with everything, is key.

            1. Floundering Mander*

              Aye, pet. And apparently he does in Spanish as well, which makes it extra weird. I was all for defending it as “harmless Geordie quirk” until I read that. Now I wonder if it’s a deliberate affectation. In either case I think it’s fine to call him out on it, though.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      As Isobel says, it isn’t a personal affectation, entire regions do it. I wouldn’t like it myself and the boss should train himself out of it when outside his home region, but implying that southerners have the monopoly on sounding British (although I assume you mean English) isn’t helpful.

      1. RobM*

        Using it at work, where it simply doesn’t belong in a professional setting, is a personal affectation imo and a bad one.

        Using it down the pub or in the street with a mate is something else, sure… even though I live in the south I wouldn’t be upset at being called ‘love’ by a barmaid in the local pub, or by someone saying “could you be a dear and reach that down for me please” in a shop, for example, but that’s not the same as working in a professional environment in a whole different country and calling the women you manage “pet” but not the men.

      2. RobM*

        I should add to my earlier reply – I wasn’t intending to imply that people from the south of the UK have the monopoly on “sounding English”, rather saying that this should not be allowed to be brushed off by this manager or other people at the OP’s job as some kind of “harmless English eccentric thing”.

        Keep in mind that the OP is employed somewhere in Latin America from what I’m reading – this isn’t like they’ve moved to Yorkshire and are shocked at some quirk of the local dialect.

  18. Crafty*

    I waited tables for a decade (only stopped less than a year ago) — it does seem extreme to non industry but there are very logical reasons not to let employees keep food in the fridge (all having to do with health code stuff). OP: What helped me was finding snacks that don’t require refrigeration (oat bars and peanut butter were my best friends). But cooking in a restaurant’s kitchen is so completely unheard of it would get you fired on the spot in a lot of places. It’s honestly sooooo outside the realm of normal in most situations.

  19. mimsie*

    I’ve lived in England for over 10 years now. ‘Pet’ is a lovely, twee term when it’s a someone handing you your order at the local chippie. Or your mother-in-law thanking you for getting her a tea. It’s really inappropriate in a work setting from a male colleague to a female colleague (it’s just as patronising as it sounds in that context) and he really ought to know better. Just ask him to stick to your name.

  20. SCtoDC*

    OP2–I used to work in a position that required phone coverage at all times and I backed up others who also had this requirement. We used to send Outlook calendar invites to each other so we always knew when we were supposed to cover for someone. Then, at the appointed time we sent a quick email to our backup saying “I’m walking away now.” This worked really well for lunches and meetings. For things like bathroom breaks we just made a quick call to the person to ask if they could cover. It was annoying, but not a hardship.

    1. nnn*

      +1 exactly what I came to suggest.

      If it’s a calendar item, they just get a pop-up reminding them to come cover for you, rather than the dynamic of you having to nag or beg them to come cover for you.

      1. Justme*

        But that calendar item is very easy to dismiss or snooze. It’s harder to delay ti when you’re actually on the phone with someone.

        1. SCtoDC*

          It is easy to ignore, but it also serves as a CYA for the person who needs phone coverage. If I sent you an invite and you dropped the ball, I can point back to that.

        2. Elsajeni*

          But it’s a good first step, and could help nail down whether this is an issue of people deliberately shirking or just losing track of when they’re expected to cover the phone. (I know the OP is sending a reminder email in the morning, but for me, on busier days, that would get buried in my inbox and I still might genuinely forget — the calendar pop-up just before I’m actually needed would be a much more effective reminder.)

      2. Arjay*

        As long as you remember to set the reminder function. I’ve had people invite me to meetings two weeks ahead of time without seeing the reminder. I usually review my calendar at the start of the day, but I’ve gotten caught up in other things and missed some of those meetings.

    2. Thlayli*

      Absolutely. Outlook appointments are the best way to remind people without feeling like you have to beg

  21. ..Kat..*

    My current manager likes to publish birthdays in an email to everyone for that month. She gives the month and day, not the year, in a birthday email she sends out for the current month. I don’t want my name and birthday sent out. Nobody’s business. And I just don’t want this. I think if I object, she will see this as my being weird or unfriendly. Why, why, why do managers do this crap?

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      People tend not to think things through when they’ve been the norm for so long. If it’s been done in your workplace since the dawn of time, people won’t think twice about continuing it but if it’s a new idea coming in, people are more likely to protest the change because it changes the status quo.

      It is exhausting though having to fight against it.

    2. Murphy*

      I think it’s a benign enough thing, and it’s something that most people don’t have a problem with, so they sometimes just assume that no one will have a problem with it.

      (I know that there are many people who don’t like it, and I certainly don’t think that anyone who doesn’t want it should be forced to participate in it.)

    3. Zip Zap*

      This is why work / personal boundaries exist. Because people feel differently about things like this, but it’s hard to say no to something at work. It becomes a possible requirement of your job. I think managers should back off from this kind of thing in general. Yes, celebrating birthdays and getting to know your co-workers is great, but make it an opt-in kind of thing or make it easy for people to say no.

  22. Lena*

    LW 3: colloquial or not, acceptable in one country or not, calling an employee ‘pet’ (even as a joke) is crossing a social and professional in a really disturbing way. I would find endearments like ‘love’ or ‘dear’ a little over the top but acceptable within certain parameters. ‘Pet’ is just demeaning and you’re right to feel uncomfortable.

  23. nnn*

    For #4, I wonder if it might be an allergen management issue. If, for example, the restaurant doesn’t use any olive oil whatsoever and a customer comes in who is allergic to olive oil, normally the server can confidently tell the customer “don’t worry, we have no olive oil whatsoever on the premises.” But if you bring in your own olive oil and use it in the restaurant’s kitchen, you may have cross-contaminated something in the kitchen without the restaurant even knowing the olive oil was there.

    1. Hellanon*

      My guess would be that it’s more a question of salmonella or e.coli contamination than allergens – the restaurant has no way of knowing if the employee’s home kitchen is maintained to commercial food safety standards and thus allowing the employee to cook their own food in its kitchen is unsurprisingly a potential health code violation.

  24. Drama Llama*

    OP1: I’ve dealt with a lot of stupid mistakes by employees/ex-employees. In my experience it’s a rarity for anyone to acknowledge their error. There’s a huge difference between doing something dumb then pretending it was nothing, versus acknowledging you made a terrible judgment and apologising for your actions. I definitely think it’s worth while to contact your ex boss to say how sorry you are.

  25. Nic*

    At OldJob I had a generally hardworking yet thoroughly snarky and get-off-my-lawn-ish colleague who made it plain that he was not interested in work celebrations and did not want his birthday acknowledged. He regularly volunteered to man the phones or complete other tasks while others were enjoying the time.

    One year his manager decided it would be hilarious to get him a singing telegram on his birthday and the whole team chipped in.

    He took it in a good-natured way, but really Manager? Really, team?

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      He probably reacted better than I would have. I feel like the singing is the most awkward part of birthday celebrations.

      1. Justme*

        I once literally hid under the table at a restaurant because my dad had the staff sing to me after I made it clear that I didn’t want them to.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I don’t know, if it was just once and they knew him well enough to know it would be awkward without actually pissing him off or offending him, then I could see the argument for hilarity. That is sort of the point of pranks.

  26. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No.4 I’ve worked in kitchens and stove space is usually at a premium. No one ever had time to prepare themselves a meat and potatoes meal and then consume it. That’s one long break. Also, who is cleaning up the mess afterwards?
    No.5 When I worked in an office a co-worker came in and saw all the signage celebrating her 40th birthday which she did NOT want acknowledged. She tore everything down and spent time in the washroom crying. It was not a good day for anyone.

  27. jv*

    It really bothers me that many of you are thinking the person using ‘pet’ is some kind of deviant. It’s actually very normal in my country to talk this way to people you’re close to and people you work with that you enjoy working with! It’s a term of endearment… and there are many more of those kinds of words used in my country and ‘pet’ is pretty neutral and can be applied to both sexes. I’ve been called ‘baby’ and ‘sweetie’ by old female bosses in the past and it was because they really appreciated something I did for them in the office… no malice behind it.

    OP simply doesn’t understand his culture. She can have a word with him about it but it’s most likely entirely innocent and she risks ruining their working relationship because she can’t accept the culture and dialect of many regions of the UK.

    1. Eva*

      Except in this case it’s not a term that applies to both sexes because he’s only using that term with her not any of the males in the office. Meaning he is treating her differently than her male colleagues and that is definitely not cool.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yup. If he called all the men in the office ‘pet’ this would be a different question. With a similar answer, but when the men get to be ‘Bob’ and ‘Luis’ and ‘Fred’ and the woman has to be ‘pet’ it’s weird.

    2. Myrin*

      Just because someone objects to the use of one single word doesn’t mean they don’t understand or don’t accept the culture and dialect it comes from.
      (I also don’t know where you’re reading the “many of you” – there are literally dozens of comments upthread explaining about their own relationship with words like “pet” and “duck” as a from of endearment, how it’s used, what it signifies, etc.)

      1. Yellow Bird Blue*

        Agreed. You can understand that ‘pet’ is relatively harmless in the context, but still don’t like its use.

    3. Natalie*

      The OP said absolutely nothing about malice or deviance. Things can be annoying without being mean or even especially purposeful, and one can ask for the annoying behavior to stop. Pretty simple, really.

    4. LQ*

      And the boss doesn’t understand the culture of the OP, but you’re only giving a pass to the boss and not the OP who would prefer to be called by her name and treated equally to her male colleagues. That does not seem to like a bridge to far for a decent human being.

    5. Thlayli*

      I see where you are coming from but I think if you reread the comments you will see it’s not actually that many people making remarks like that. There was one really creepy comment above where someone started talking about fetishes but everyone who replied to that comment shut that stupidity down and pointed out it’s just a colloquialism and no need to start dragging fetishes into it.

      a lot of people have pointed out that the boss is being sexist in using the term only towards the female staff member and not male staff members. Which is true, and is one good reason to avoid using terms of endearment in the workplace in general as they are often gender-specific and that inherently means saying different words to women than men which is not really good from managers in the workplace.

      I don’t think anyone has actually called the manager a deviant, though I will acknowledge the creepy fetish comment could give that impression.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      You’re right that people are wrong to assume malice, but you’re wrong that she should just accept it. If it makes her uncomfortable it’s completely appropriate for her to politely ask him to stop.

  28. (Different) Rebecca*

    (Now in correct position)

    OP2, could you make up a calendar page type schedule, way ahead of time, and post it in a few prominent places? Maybe give each person a day of the week (or a few days a month, depending on how big your department is)? As it’s officially part of their duties, they should be responsible for checking that schedule and working your cover into their days.

  29. Cassivella*

    Even worse than celebrating birthdays…

    Having a going away party for someone who has expressedly said she doesn’t want one.

    It’s a great way to waste money and not have the guest of honor show up.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I’m not the same poster, but I do have a story like that.

        Ariel, my work friend from Exjob, was told her position was being eliminated and her role to be carried out by another team from the end of November (which was mishandled but that is another story). She was meant to be popping in to return some equipment at the beginning of December (a loose arrangement rather than fixed appointment I think), and I came in one morning to Maleficent (another coworker) saying “We’re having a surprise goodbye breakfast for Ariel this morning when she comes in!” I knew Ariel wouldn’t have actually wanted that, but that morning happened to be my first day back after I had a few days off for my cousin’s wedding, so I hadn’t had any opportunity to try and intervene. (Not that I think it would have made a difference considering Maleficent had pressured me to attend a Christmas festivity at our desks at a time of personal problems the year before but that again is a whole other story).

        On the day, Ariel ended up not feeling up to coming in. Maleficent was not happy and badgered her with texts, and our other office mates Cruella and Ursula kept saying things like “That’s really out of order not showing up for the breakfast, we’re starving!” (Never mind Ariel’s feelings here?)

        The party didn’t go ahead because in the end Ariel showed up on another day when Maleficent hadn’t had time to organise anything and to this day I don’t know whether she ever found out about the plan for a surprise party – I never told her. But it could have been really awkward if the surprise had been sprung on her like that.

    1. Oryx*

      Related to this conversation:

      My last day of my old job was the birthday of a coworker who 10000% did NOT want her birthday celebrated. This was some kind of “monumental” birthday, her 60th or something and Admin decided too bad and decided to go all out for it by cooking breakfast for everyone on site (like, full on pancakes from scratch and sausage).

      She caught wind of it in advance and called off that day. So they tried to play it off as a going away party for me.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        That is hilarious.

        At least you benefited, I suppose. Free food always makes me happy but still…awkward and hilarious.

  30. Sal*

    #2, try sending a calendar appointment with a 5 or 10 minute alarm instead of an email. That way when it’s almost time for them to cover for you, they’ll get an automatic reminder and they won’t be caught off-guard. I can’t stand when people send out an email with all the information for a meeting, and I have to copy it all into a calendar appointment. Just put it all in there to begin with then I just have to click accept and we’re not doubling our work!

    1. Murphy*

      I imagine it’s not always regular though. Obviously her lunch/break time would be, but if it’s anytime she leaves her desk, that will be less predictable.

      1. Natalie*

        Sure, but that’s always going to be a separate kind of request and it sounds like the OP has problems with both scheduled and unscheduled breaks. If she could solve at least part of the issue it would help.

      2. Sal*

        Ahh good point :/ It’s a sucky situation especially when the coworkers aren’t stepping up to help.

    2. ScoutFinch*

      +10000 – Outlook (or any other calendar tool) will block the time off for the sub.

      Being on the calendar may remind the subs that this is, indeed, part of their work day. OP may have to schedule her short breaks like this as well.

      1. Karen*

        Not everyone follows their outlook calendar… just because time is blocked off, it doesn’t mean they aren’t working away on a file (ignoring her requests) or in the middle of a phone call. They may not even take it seriously, thinking that her lunch/break can wait 15 or 30 minutes until they feel like it.

        I think it is less of an issue of them ‘forgetting’ and more of an attitude that she can wait. She shouldn’t need to wait more than a few minutes to start her lunch or go to the washroom or leave for an appointment.

        Clearly management doesn’t value her time enough to take action.

        I used to work somewhere where if you had someone scheduled to cover you at 1pm, you left at 1pm (or waited a few minutes) – if Bob didn’t show up until 1:30pm then that was entirely on him, not on you. Bob was the one who neglected his job duties, not you. If a client came in and was greeted by an empty reception, Bob got his ass handed to him on a silver platter.

        1. nonymous*

          Yup this is really the way to hold people accountable. OP should have a clearly defined system (e.g. calendar invites for scheduled breaks, phone call for ad hoc), some kind of buffer for “life” (depending on the workplace, anything from 0 to 15 minutes). And then stick to it. Of course OP should run this by their boss first.

          Since it’s really easy for a relief person to say that they were covering calls (but in reality ignore it) and foist off customer service complaints back on OP, it may be worthwhile to identify a second backup as well. So OP could call her supervisor at that 15 minute mark and say “I’m leaving for break now, who’s covering?”.

          Also, while I realize that not all breaks can be scheduled, having set times for morning, lunch and afternoon breaks will really help OP’s quality of life. When I worked in an environment requiring constant coverage (we rotated breaks through the team on a schedule), my hunger and bathroom urges synced up to that schedule (even on off days!).

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          This is a really good point. If the penalties for not covering the phones fell on the backup operators and not on OP, they would suddenly find it a lot easier to remember.

  31. Jule*

    #3: I would suggest specifically avoiding saying “it’s a cultural difference” in your explanation of why you don’t want to be called pet. That’s already the exact argument people are using here for why they think there ISN’T an issue with it, so it seems like that’s going to invite discussion rather than close it. Just stick to the fact that it makes you personally uncomfortable.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I agree. I’d be more likely to say “I’ve noticed you call me ‘pet’ a lot, and you don’t use it for any of the guys. It feels weird and I’d prefer you didn’t do that.”

      1. Jule*

        In all honesty I don’t even know if I would go there. If I were going to HR, yeah, that’s how I would frame it. In a personal conversation with someone who might get defensive, I’m not going to give them an opening to allow them say “Are you saying I’m sexist? I’m not sexist! You’re making me look bad by calling me sexist!” If OP doesn’t want to open the door to a conversation (and why would she? she seems to want to focus on work), she can say it makes her uncomfortable and leave it at that. If he’s badgering her about THAT, HR/managers need to be involved, and then the gender issues come up.

        In an ideal world it would be nice to point out to people that they treat people differently based on gender and have them examine their own behavior. I haven’t seen it play out very neatly that way so far.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yeah, it might not be a good idea to start with that, but I’d definitely keep it in my back pocket for when he insists the nickname means nothing, is a habit he can’t break, etc.

          “No, I know you’re not sexist, which is I found it so odd that you’d have a nickname that you only use for women.” ;-)

          “I understand that. It just makes me uncomfortable that you don’t call any of the guys pet. It feels weird.”

  32. Murphy*

    #2, I’m glad your company has a policy of coverage! I am the only person who sits in our open office area near our receptionist/admin’s desk and any time she’s not at her desk–meeting, bathroom, lunch, vacation–people ask me all of their questions about where so-and-so is, and usually I have no idea. Some people are super rude about it too.

    I’m assuming that in your case because it’s phone rather than in-person, they’re not affected by the consequences of not having you at your desk. I don’t think you’re being unreasonable at all. If there’s a set time they’re supposed to cover for you, you shouldn’t have to baby them and remind them.

  33. Cucumberzucchini*

    OP1 – When you’re new in the work force you don’t always have the confidence to ask for things. But lying was not the way to go (besides getting caught). Even though you don’t get paid time off within the first 5 months, it is possible they would have been willing to give you an unpaid day off if you had asked. It’s possible they would have said no, and then you wouldn’t have been able to use your sick day ploy, but sometimes you just miss out on stuff because of work commitments. Five months without a single vacation day is tough. I hope you learned a lot from having this, good luck finding a new role!

  34. Roscoe*

    #2 As Alison said, you seem to be making this a personal thing when it really isn’t, its just the nature of the job. And it makes sense that if people are rotating, and its not part of their normal job, that they would get caught up in their duties. How often do you know who your replacement is on a given day? Maybe you can send them calendar invites whenever they are supposed to do it? I know I get caught up in a lot, but once my calendar reminder comes up, I’m on it. Also, how sporadic is this? Like maybe if you could have a general schedule, like Billy does it every other Tuesday, that will help as well. The more routine you can make it, the better

    1. Manders*

      Yes, I agree that this isn’t maliciousness, just people who only do a task every once in a while not keeping close track of their schedule. At my old job I had to cover for the front desk person, but the schedule was weird and hard to remember; it didn’t follow a predictable pattern of days of the week or even regular intervals, so it was very easy to forget when you were covering the desk.

      No one was upset about getting a call asking them to come to the front desk, but without the calls, we wouldn’t know when we were needed. I think it might help OP to mentally reframe those calls–they’re not nagging a person who’s late, they’re a reminder that they’re on duty for the day.

  35. Bagpuss*

    #2 -As you are switchboard rather than a physical receptionist , is it worth looking at whether it is possible to set up call forwarding so that the people covering you don’t have to come to your desk, you can simply switch the phones over to them?

    That way, as long as you tell them who is ‘cover’ for each day, it’s then their responsibility to make sure that *they* are at their desk and able to take calls or the relevant period. It might be less disruptive than them having to come to your desk.

    Our system allows this – in fact if it is switched over to a different phone not only do incoming calls get routed there but it also has an overflow system, so if person A is on another call or doesn’t pick up, the call moves to person B. I think the ring tome is different than for internal calls so the person answering the call knows it is an external caller.

    It might be worth looking into whether your system has that kind of facility and if not, whether it could be added, and then talk to your boss about it. They probably won’t change (if there are costs involved) for your convenience, but if you can sell it as being more efficient and ensuring that fewer calls are missed, they might be convinced.

    1. Observer*

      That’s a very good suggestion. Most phone systems that allow you to transfer calls also allow you to do this.

      OP ask your boss if you can do this. It would make life so much easier.

  36. Kirsty*

    Sorry had to comment on the ‘pet’ thing XD I’m British, born and raised, I’ve had several jobs with all different ages, backgrounds and areas of work. I, nor anyone I’ve worked with/for have ever called anyone I know ‘pet’. Nor has anyone outside of work, ever. I’m so sorry but this is insane! I’d def speak up and say that its not acceptable!

    1. Thlayli*

      Britain is about 60 million people though. There are plenty of British commuters above confirming this is very common in Tyne and Wear

      1. London Engineer*

        Yeah, I mean I’ve always lived in London and it’s not standard here but I wouldn’t be surprised by it.

  37. MicroManagered*

    Am I crazy for thinking OP1 should not have been fired? Warned, disciplined, stern sitdown with boss–sure. But, fired? Personally I’m not comfortable with taking sick days unless I’m truly sick, but I’ve definitely known people who do it. I mean, isn’t it possible that OP was out of town for the weekend, planning to be back for work on Monday, and got sick? Would that preclude OP from watching a once-in-40-years eclipse? (OK I guess the picture was beer-in-hand….) Is the issue that the OP was still in a probationary period? Or that he told such a specific, elaborate lie?

    Again, it’s not what I personally would do, but I’ve known enough people who’ve taken a shifty sick day that being fired sounds harsh…

    1. Jule*

      Yes, I think it’s the probationary period. If an employee can’t be on their best behavior when they know they’re being scrutinized and judged to a higher degree than permanent employees, what liberties are they going to take when they ARE a permanent employee?

    2. Runner*

      Well in addition to being a lie and still during probationary period, OP was only at the job 2 months — literally just weeks in, which might have also been part of the hardline approach.

      1. Murphy*

        Exactly. When you don’t have a lot of data about someone, but you know they lied to you, that’s a huge minus.

    3. Zip Zap*

      He was caught lying. I think that’s a good reason to fire someone.

      On the other hand, what he did was pretty understandable. Not justifiable. But a lot of people have called in sick to go on vacation at some point, or have been tempted to. I think if he’s honest about it, people will be forgiving.

    4. Here we go again*

      I don’t think it’s a good rule to begin with – 5 months without any time off is insane. Consequently, I am conflicted on whether or not firing the OP was an appropriate response.

    5. LQ*

      If they’d been there for 2 years and had built up a good reputation? Sure. Then I’d be really surprised. But that early in the job? If you’re willing to lie about that how do we know you aren’t going to lie about Other Thing when we don’t have much experience or repuation. Same on the other side if the boss/employer did a totally outlandish thing after a couple weeks the suggestion may well be to leave vs your boss of 3 years suddenly and totally out of character doing an outlandish thing when you have more standing to push back, more understanding that it was a one time thing.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This is an excellent point–what might be forgivable in the context of 10 years of building a good reputation (in either direction) doesn’t translate to a relationship of a few weeks.

    6. fposte*

      If being at work precluded seeing the eclipse, everybody at the OP’s work was unable to see the eclipse. Probably many of them would have liked to see it too. Possibly one of them got called in to work instead of seeing the eclipse because the OP was “sick.”

      I don’t think I’d choose to forgive the OP in a case like that where she basically helped herself to a privilege that lots of people would have liked to have.

    7. Sara*

      Being fired seems somewhat reasonable, but the way the boss seems to be salting the earth about this is a little ridiculous to me.

      1. LQ*

        I figured those parts were likely just standard part of being fired, not a salting the earth. Lots of companies just say they won’t do references at all for people who were fired and would say only that they weren’t eligible for rehire.

    8. Roscoe*

      I mean to me, that is a bit extreme. Many people have lied about sick days before. However, this being probation, I guess all it takes is one screw up. If I was managing someone, I wouldn’t have that reaction, but I don’t know if its “wrong” necessarily.

    9. ArtK*

      OP1 showed that they don’t understand what a work commitment is and they lied to get out of it. Since they were a new employee, I would certainly have fired them. I’m not going to invest time rebuilding trust in someone unless we have a really good history already. OP1 should look on this firing as a gift. It was early enough in their tenure to leave it off of the resume and early enough in their career that it won’t damage them.

    10. Creag an Tuire*

      I mean, isn’t it possible that OP was out of town for the weekend, planning to be back for work on Monday, and got sick? Would that preclude OP from watching a once-in-40-years eclipse? (OK I guess the picture was beer-in-hand….)

      OP says she told the boss she was so sick she was at home and bedridden.

      Honestly, I think part of the employer’s reaction was that the lie was so dog-ate-my-homework that it not only displayed a lack of integrity, but a lack of judgement.

      1. MicroManagered*

        Ok yeah. I get that too. It was a very detailed lie, which somehow does seem to make it worse. Perhaps there’s a lesson there too? People do this. People take a sick day without being too sick to move. People take a sick day for “mental health” reasons even. But a coexisting issue in this story is that OP1 told an elaborate lie.

        “I’m not feeling well so I’m going to use a sick day” when you’re not really sick somehow seems less egregious than “I’m so sick I can’t even get out of bed!” when you’re not. Heck, even “I went out of town for the weekend and fell ill. I planned to be back on Monday but didn’t feel well enough to make the drive” might have been explainable/less of a lie.

        So at the risk of sounding morally relative or like I think OP1 just needs to be a better liar, perhaps there are actually two separate issues here: the fake sick day and the lie. The fake sick day is something people do and is not necessarily considered a terminable offense. But getting caught in a big, fat, detailed lie is another thing.

  38. Yorick*

    OP 2: Can you create a regular schedule for back-ups? I would be more likely to remember if Tuesday was always my day to cover. Do you use Outlook or another calendar that will let you set up a reminder before your break?

    1. Op2*

      Yes, I create a calendar for the entire month and email it to everyone in the office a few days before the new month starts. Plus, I send a daily reminder each day.

      1. Roscoe*

        Do you like send them personal calendar reminders though? Like when you make the calendar at the beginning of the month, do you send individual calendar requests to each person. That may be more work for you, but it will likely end up working out a lot better.

  39. tied to the phones*

    I feel the same way as OP #2… I know it’s part of the job, but it does feel unfair when there’s absolutely no assistance from anyone in finding or enforcing coverage. I can usually get away with going to the bathroom, but I’ve stopped taking lunch entirely, I’m terrified of the mess that happens if I take a vacation, and unless I’m literally too sick to manage the commute I drag myself into the office.

    I do understand that it’s my responsibility to keep everything going, but I feel like I’d be doing a better job if I wasn’t running myself so ragged every day doing it. :(

    Good luck, letter writer! It’s a tough gig

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Yeah, I think it’s the lack of helpfulness that is bugging OP. I was a receptionist many moons ago and I was lucky in that people were great about covering me when I had to leave the desk. OP is right that he/she being taken for granted and treated poorly. We have 4 levels of rotating coverage here for our receptionists and the EAs in the president’s office (the rest of us can come and go as we please).
      OP, I would consider taking your skills elsewhere – you already have experience as a switchboard operator, so there are a few paths you could take: reception, admin assistant, call center, etc.
      If you REALLY hate having to have coverage at all, then I’d try to find an office assistant job. There are plenty that don’t require constant desk coverage (I’ve only had one job that did and I’m a career executive assistant).

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Someone upthread had the example of a company where if Arya is supposed to cover the front desk for Sansa and Arya doesn’t show up, Sansa can leave and any problems with coverage will fall on Arya’s head. What you and OP describe is a classic case of responsibility but no power–it’s easier for everyone else if they can ‘forget’ what they were supposed to do, because the consequences of doing that fall on someone else.

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Whoa, that sounds awful and can’t be healthy. I hope you find a better job soon.

  40. stitchinthyme*

    Our company gets a cake or cupcakes or some other treat once a month for all the birthdays in that month (in fact, that’s happening today). There’s usually a little sign by the cake listing whose birthdays were in that month, but there’s no singing or other decorations. As far as I know, there’s no one who objects to this; if they did, I imagine our office manager wouldn’t have a problem with leaving their name off the list. They also leave a card signed by the bosses (just the bosses) on your desk on your actual birthday. It seems to be a decent compromise for both the people who like having their birthdays celebrated and those who don’t — you get acknowledgement, but it’s pretty low-key, and most people like cake and the excuse to hang out in the kitchen for a little while.

  41. Allison*

    2) This sounds like more of a respect issue than anything else. Your coworkers know they have to back you up so you can go to the bathroom and eat lunch like a human being, they just don’t want to, either because you’re new, or they find the work degrading, or they just don’t respect you for some reason, so they’re dragging their feet, not bothering to remember or choosing to ignore that duty and claiming they “forgot,” until someone makes them do it. Definitely something to talk to management about.

    3) Totally understand, I’d feel weird if someone called me that at work. Or “dear,” don’t call me dear if we’re not related. Or honey, or sweetie. I’d say “please don’t call me that” and if he got defensive and insisted it’s just what he calls people, I might say “I know, but I don’t like it, so please stop.” You’re allowed to tell people how you want to be addressed, within reason.

    4) I sympathize, but I also understand why the management needs to be in control of what is kept in the kitchen, and what gets cooked there. Could be allergen management, could be a food safety issue, could even be a quality control issue. Is there any way you could bring prepared food from home and store it outside the kitchen? Is there a break room you can use?

    1. Roscoe*

      For #2 I think you are really over simplifying things to say its a lack of respect. Depending on the work the others do, it really just may not be a priority for them. Hell, I can schedule a meeting with someone at 9 am for 1pm that day, but if I don’t put it on my calendar, there is a pretty good chance I’ll forget if I’m pretty busy that day. It’s why in my job I always send calendar requests for calls and stuff, not just for me, but for the others aw well.

    2. Kitkat*

      Mine is #4. I found out that he lies and said the GM said I couldn’t do it. I asked about laws and such and the GM said he’s never heard of a law that says you can’t as long as I don’t use my stuff for customers. I also found out the same manager has lied about quite a few things the last couple of months. He’s tried to get me fired. He text me the other morning “I heard you were talking shit”-from manager I was completely confused as I don’t talk bad about people, if I have something to say I will say it to said person. But he’s been abusing his power as a manager.

      1. Observer*

        Your manager may be a total jerk. But you are on thin ice with this. Find a way to bring yourself food you can eat, or start looking for another job. But stop pushing back on this particular issue, because you can’t win on this one.

  42. O.P. (Pet)*

    Pet here.

    My issue is that he only does it with female staff. I’ve even heard him do it in Spanish (our workplace is in Latin America), still only to female staff. If it was with everyone I’d feel differently and perhaps it might be charming, but it’s very clearly a gendered thing. And that makes me very uncomfortable.

    The fetish aspect never occurred to me and is not a topic I would wish to broach at work. I will, however, ask him to just call me by my name. I’m sure it’ll take time for him to break the habit.

    Thanks, all!

    1. Me Duck*

      If he’s doing it in Spanish as well that really suggests that it’s pretty deliberate rather than a verbal colloquial tic, and definitely sounds really off-putting. I hope he’ll stop once you talk to him, OP!

    2. Amber Rose*

      Ooh yeah, that’s bad. Do ask him to use your name. Also expect to remind him a couple times before it sticks. Maybe practice your neutral tone of voice.

      Don’t bring up fetishes. I die a small embarrassment related death every time sex come up in an office context, and I’m already cringing from just imagining having that kind of conversation at work.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Sex awkwardness aside (and that should be reason enough not to do it) it invites an argument of “but I don’t mean it in that context, I mean it differently, so it’s okay.” Keep the focus on “I don’t want to be called pet” and don’t get diverted into “But whyyyyyyy nooooooot….?”

    3. Jimbob*

      He could be lapsing into the local machismo mindset. Just say “I prefer Jane, thanks” and if he asks why, “because that’s my name.”

    4. Red 5*

      Okay yeah, I was neutral on if this was just a weird habit or not until you said he does it in Spanish too. I watch too much British TV and have gotten very used to the word “pet” being used by certain characters in a pretty harmless way but this sounds just unnecessary on his part. Definitely push back on it if you feel comfortable doing that. He probably tells himself that because nobody has said anything then women must like it.

  43. Serin*

    #2 switchboard: been there. What worked for me was to start each morning with a call (not an email) to that day’s designated backup to schedule my breaks.

    “You’re on today as backup, so have you got your calendar open? How’s 10 for the morning break? OK, then we’ll make it 10:30 to work around your meeting. Lunch at 12:30 OK? And afternoon break at 3?”

    If you have a shared calendar system, you could follow up that phone call with invitations for each of those. Otherwise, you may need to send get-ready alerts a half-hour before you need them.

    I know it’s an annoyance to you, but from their perspective, it’s an additional thing that they have to remember some days but not others, and their regular work is engrossing so that time gets away from them.

  44. MissDisplaced*

    “My boss confronted me because he had seen two pictures of me on social media (Facebook) watching the eclipse in a town hours away from the city we live in, with a beer in my hand.”

    Ok, I know it was wrong to lie about being sick to take vacation day AND especially during a probationary period… but seriously what kind of boss searches through social media for incriminating evidence? Huge invasion of privacy! It really creeps me out that employers are doing this.

    I often have to use sick time to go on job interviews. I hate to lie and do that, but well, there is often no other way to do it during the work week, even if you schedule them early in the morning–you’re still missing some work. Just a lesson I guess, never post private things to social media.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Eh, it may not be that suspicious. Maybe LW had a friend in common with the boss on FB and it just popped up on his feed. Or like my office, where everyone basically sent me a connection request the day after I started, so I have coworkers on social media.

      Makes a good argument for friend-locking everything you put on social media though. Nobody can see anything on my Facebook by accident, at least. Also makes a good argument for staying the heck away from social media if you’re lying about something. The world won’t end if nobody sees your eclipse pictures online.

      1. LQ*

        Yeah, I don’t know that it has to be malicious. I once saw WAY too much about a coworker who I was 4 degrees out from me. (And I was on an account that wasn’t tied to my name so I was pretty shocked by it. What I did with it was different from this boss, but I could see it going very differently depending on the situation.)

      2. Creag an Tuire*

        Yeah, I’ve given up on figuring out how FB’s feed even works — I missed my best friend’s pregnancy announcement, but vacation photos from someone I haven’t talked to since high school (and didn’t actually like even then) or comments on a news article from my paternal aunt (a very dear woman who has the sort of political views best expressed in ALL CAPS WITH AS MUCH EXTRANEOUS PUNCTUATION AS POSSIBLE!!?)? My God, Creag must be informed of this post haste. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    2. ArtK*

      There is no expectation of privacy on the ‘net. This is a lesson that a *lot* of people need to learn. No matter what you do, it’s public and it’s forever.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This. It is so weird to me that people are shocked, shocked that other people can see the things they post in public forums. (And the belief that privacy settings largely consist of thinking “I wouldn’t want people in groups A, B, or C to know that I posted this” and then posting it.)

        If people can trip you by looking at your Facebook page, you are doing it wrong. No, it’s not on them for looking at publicly available photos.

      2. Alton*

        You have to be prepared for the possibility that people will see what you post, and the potential consequences of that. But I don’t think that means there’s no etiquette in looking people up, or that there isn’t a reasonable level of separation. I’m sure I could find all sorts of info about some of my coworkers, but it’d be weird if I went up to one of them and said, “I saw the pictures from your friend’s wedding! It looks like you had a great time!” And if I knew my boss was specifically looking me up on social media and trying to find stuff about me, then yeah, I’d find it weird.

    3. Red 5*

      There’s a lot of ways they could have come across this without it being searching for evidence, as others have said.

      You could make a case for having your Facebook locked up to private everything, make sure it’s turned so that people can’t tag you in photos without your approval, AND not friending a single co-worker on Facebook being some precautions you could take, which _might_ have prevented this depending on how it happened. But in general social media and work are things that are a tricky mix if you’re going to lie about anything.

      I had a boss that friended everybody that worked for her, and I never post anything I wouldn’t want public (I’m just like that) but I learned so much about her that I wish I hadn’t known, including how often she had alcohol with lunch and how often she vague-booked about her employees. I took screenshots and handed them in to HR in my exit interview. But not a single one of those was a thing I went looking for, she friended me, she posted them so I could see it, and she didn’t care. HR also didn’t care but that’s another story for another day.

      It is possible her boss didn’t believe her and went looking for evidence, but seems more likely they just came across it and that’s part of why they were so angry.

      1. Bellatrix*

        Not even that – your friends can still post pictures of you (and even tag you, it just doesn’t get linked to an account, but your name shows up).

      2. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

        I just don’t get Facebook. I tried it and it gave me terrible anxiety trying to think of things to say about every person’s usually weird or stupid post… I know… i’m doing it wrong. Anyways, I gave up a long time ago but sometimes feel left out when someone is talking to me about something I’ve not got a clue… and they say “It was posted on my Facebook!” I wish I had a dollar for every time that’s happened!

    4. Halls of Montezuma*

      OP’s Dad is also in the industry and has been for many years, so it’s highly likely some of OP’s coworker’s are facebook friends with the father and that’s how they discovered this.

  45. any mouse*

    LW – I was a receptionist where I had to have coverage at every break. There were certain people who covered for me and they knew what to do. I had regular 10 minute breaks built into my morning and afternoon. For example: at 10 am and 2 pm I would get 10 minute breaks along with my lunch break. This person also covered my lunch break. I had more than one back up person. There was the main back up and then 4 other people who knew how to handle the phones and route the calls and would step in. Those people I had to remind sometimes but only because it was an infrequent thing.

    I would approach your supervisor about this kind of scheduling. It should help cut down on the feeling of being forgotten and also that you are a burden.

  46. Risha*

    #1 – I’m reminded of back when I was a Tech Lead, and the youngest guy on the team (just out of college maybe a little over six months, but really talented) had a big report to code that we absolutely needed to give to the client on Friday. A major snowstorm blew through on Friday, and as expected from the weather reports, the office was closed for the day. Being In Charge and having stuff to get done, I was working from home while most people took off.

    Which was fine, except that I couldn’t locate Big Report to run for the client, and I couldn’t get hold of Young Guy (who was supposed to be at home) to ask where it was! I eventually got a call back, but he didn’t have distance access at that time, and couldn’t give me enough detail over the phone to actually locate it. I ended up re-coding it from scratch.

    The next week, word got back to me that Young Guy was telling people all about how he and his friends hopped a last minute flight to Las Vegas for a long weekend. I never said a word to him about it, or his manager, but I was pissed. Not that he had done it, because I’ve taken the illicit mental health day before, and he had never screwed me over work-wise before. I was (and am still a little) pissed that he didn’t have the common decency to cover it up properly so that I never found out!

    1. Roscoe*

      So I guess in your case I don’t understand why it should matter if you knew. If he was off (and not on call), why does it matter that he left town during a big snow storm? Like was everyone expected to be reachable during the storm?

      1. Risha*

        Technically he wasn’t Off-off, so he was supposed to be at home and reachable if I needed him to work and it was possible (he had a laptop, but I would have accepted “my internet is out” as a valid excuse, for instance). Going out of town was a violation of the the type of day off people were supposed to taking.

        Mostly I was pissed because 1. he didn’t make sure to get me everything I could possibly need for the report ahead of time, since we knew by midday Thursday that this was going to be the situation and I had asked him to make sure it happened, and 2. he didn’t keep his cell on and on him so that I didn’t waste half the day trying to track him down.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I get this: If you’re going to pull something, at least do me the common decency of covering it up thoroughly. Don’t tell coworkers Bob, Stu, Millicent, and Wakeen how you spent the weekend and then be appalled that somehow news made it around the office and now other people know, how could you possibly have predicted this?

        2. Roscoe*

          Ok, that makes a lot more sense then. Like the couple time I’ve been off for snow days, I wasn’t expected to be working.

    2. Red 5*

      That always gets me about snowstorms. I don’t travel in bad weather, I’ve seen too many accidents and honestly most things aren’t worth it.

      So when snow is predicted, I either get stuff done early OR I make sure I can do it from home (assuming there’s an internet connection). If stuff requires me to be physically present, I make other plans (hey, if we’re not here tomorrow, we’ll meet on Monday, okay?). It’s so simple. If you had a thing due, he knew his part needed to get done, snowstorm or no. Deciding work is probably not going to be open and bailing is just such bad planning.

  47. jebly*

    #4 – I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants. What you’re doing strikes me as a little strange. I can understand bringing your own food in, but maybe something pre-made that you heat up on the stove or in the microwave, not something you cook from scratch. That strikes me as odd. I’ve never had a manager say anything about people bringing in their own food, but I’ve also never witnessed anyone bringing in groceries and keeping a stash of spices on a shelf for personal use. I think it’s fair to want to eat off menu — even when the restaurant offers better options things can get old, but again, cooking an entire meal from scratch is a little strange.

    1. Kitkat*

      I only bring in chicken or steak cook it on the grill completely scrub and clean the kitchen everyday. This manager for whatever reason does not like me. We have a very small restaurant so in a 7 hour shift we only get maybe 2 customers and litterly everything is fried food except for the salad

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        We have a very small restaurant so in a 7 hour shift we only get maybe 2 customers

        I think this particular problem is going to go away soon, then. How does this place stay open?

      2. Observer*

        I agree with Rusty. In any case, what you are asking is STILL not reasonable. Your raw food should not be in the kitchen and being cooked on the grill.

  48. Rachel Green*

    #4: Why don’t you cook at home and bring your cooked meals to work in a lunchbox? Maybe there’s a microwave available for employees to reheat meals?

      1. Manders*

        There are ways around that, though: meal prepping on your days off, teaching your husband some basic dishes, buying microwavable meals that are reasonably cheap and healthy, making something very simple like a sandwich with cold cuts, bringing leftovers, etc.

        People who work in places with no available kitchen do manage to brown-bag their own meals, even when they’re short on time and money. I’ve been doing it for years, and once you’ve got the routine down, it’s very easy.

  49. Yomi*

    I agree that there isn’t much that LW#2 can do about the situation, but I disagree about a few of the finer points, having been somebody in this kind of position.

    First, yes, it may seem on the surface that you’re spreading around the “burden” of covering the phone by not assigning one person, but in actuality by making it not a standard part of a person’s day it’s making it more inconvenient all around AND the boss is guaranteeing that that coverage is substandard when it could be much better. I sometimes get asked to cover for our receptionist because my desk is close to hers, if something urgent comes up. I have no problem doing this but because it only comes up every couple months or so, I have trouble with even the simplest tasks. I manage, but because I’m in earshot of her desk every day, I can tell a very big difference between when someone comes in that regularly covers her lunch break, and when she’s getting somebody new for 15 minutes. Her regular coverage just shows up and waves and everybody parts ways and it’s fine. There’s no extra time involved for anybody and the work gets done well in the interim. When somebody new comes in, or somebody who hasn’t done it in a while, she has to spend at least five minutes with a quick reminder of where things are and what they need to do, when she’ll be back, etc. Imagine having to do that even just once a week when you just need to take your 15 to do a follow-up call to your doctor. Could you print out instructions? Sure, but coworkers could also work their own calendars and reminders to show up when it’s their turn. And when you have the type of boss who won’t let calls go to voice mail for even five minutes, you have the type of boss who will get upset if somebody flubs up even if it’s nobody’s fault.

    Having one person (or even two) that rotate through being backups, especially if those people volunteer to help rather than being forced into it, will make the office more harmonious and productive across the board.

    I also don’t think we should give her co-workers a pass on remembering when it’s their turn if it’s part of their job description and also something they’re given advance notice on. It’s their job to know when they need to do their job, and it’s their job to cover the desk on Monday at 9:15. It’s like any other meeting or appointment, if you are a professional adult you should be able to manage that. But we all know at least a dozen people who can’t (including management) so mitigation strategies are needed. There isn’t any way around it that I know of besides maybe setting up automated reminders. If you have Outlook, there are a few ways to do that.

    But the last thing is that the LW specifically says the coworkers who are reminded to cover give her grief about it. That’s the part where good management would get involved and something should be done because that is a workplace culture problem. It’s in their job description that they have to cover, they know this is a thing they have to do, they’re given advanced warning and then a friendly phone call when they don’t show up. If they’re consistently giving her grief on top of that, then a good manager would step in and remind everyone that it’s literally their job to help out and that it’s important to the company to have this coverage and so they need to find a way to make it work. I can pretty much guarantee that this is where the feeling of being second class is coming from, and it’s a real feeling and I’ve felt it myself many, many times. Management is behaving as if they feel it’s perfectly fine that people in their company think that a particular job is beneath them, because that’s what this behavior telegraphs. That’s not the LW projecting onto the situation, that’s what they are demonstrating to her, intentionally or not.

    The problem here though, LW, is that in every situation where I’ve faced this, management actually has been part of the problem and has subconsciously enforced those distinctions and problems themselves. It came from the top, and there’s not a way to push back against that that I’ve found. Those are the jobs where I’ve just shouldered the problem until I found new work and then left. I don’t know if that’s in the cards for you, but I hope that you’re able to find something to make this easier. And if anybody knows a way to get management to suddenly understand that no job is “unimportant” then that would be really useful for a lot of people I imagine.

  50. Snark*

    OP2: “I’ve talked to my supervisor about it on more than one occasion, and was told I was being difficult and hard to get along with because of this. ”

    Well, uh….you kind of are. You’re a switchboard operator. Coverage is the nature of the job. If you need to pee, you need coverage. That’s not making you a second class citizen, it’s just the nature of the job you work. I’m contractually obligated to be on site during core hours. My wife works odd hours, often after business hours. My friend the ER doc works late nights and weekends. This is just you needing to be at your desk to do your job, or covered if you need to step away. Best deal with it. Or find a different job.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      The OP is attempting to deal with it, by encouraging others to provide the coverage as noted in their job descriptions. What other method do you suggest for “dealing with it,” other than never taking a break?

  51. Garland not Andrews*

    OP #4 If you have a locker or other space for personal items, you might be able to just bring in a sack lunch. I use a cold pack in mine to keep it cool at my desk. You would not need to cook at all and your food would be completely separate from the business’ food.

  52. boop the first*

    4. I don’t remember this coming up during even the strictest of inspections, but then, that’s what the 10-second-tidy is for! In foodsafe class, I remember that you cannot bring in your own raw meat to cook, and that’s about it. Of course, our staff did that quite regularly. We usually dumped any personal foods that were in the fridge as inspection began. So I guess your manager is correct. However, they don’t inspect employee’s personal property, so I don’t see why having some non-perishables in your bag would be an issue. In our case, after a while the owner relented and let us simply eat off a (restricted) menu for free.

    We worked with an owner of a different restaurant, who was baffled by businesses who nickel and dime their staff in that way. If you don’t feed your staff, they’ll just end up stealing. Or, apparently, stowing their contraband in your fridge. Food is a pretty basic need! It’s right up there with using the bathroom! It’s not considered okay to deny and/or charge employees money to use a toilet but for some reason starving them during a physically demanding job for 8+ hours is perfectly acceptable.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      My food service experience is not extensive, but I’ve never worked any place – national chain or mom & pop restaurant – that didn’t allow employees to eat a free meal if they were on the clock for a certain number of hours. However, even that wouldn’t necessarily solve the LW’s problem, since she doesn’t want to eat what they serve.

      1. Gee Gee*

        In my food service experience, this very much depended on the manager on duty. “Official policy” is often black & white, whereas a good manager accounts for the gray area. For example: restaurant policy is that the server gets 25% off one meal per day. I pull an unexpected double when two servers are no-shows. Good manager gives me free dinner, since I hadn’t expected to still be there and hadn’t planned to need a meal.

    2. Kitkat*

      Nothing delivers to my work, we don’t have a break room. I can’t find a single thing that actually says I can’t do it. I’m not going to eat the menu food, I’m not going to pay for something that’s going to have me in the bathroom puking my guts up. I don’t have time to cook at home I work all the time I have enough time to sleep and shower then go back to work. I don’t keep anything in their fridge at work

      1. Anonaconda*

        Where is the chicken and steak you’re grilling coming from, then? Is it the restaurant’s supply? Or if it’s yours, where do you store it before you cook it?

        I sympathize with the fact that you don’t feel you have any other option, but you have to know it’s way beyond the norm in the restaurant industry to cook your own personal food on restaurant equipment, and your expectations are way off there.

  53. Default*

    Where I work, the birthdays of some people are celebrated but not others. There’s no one person in charge of it and mo “master list” or whatever of birthdays. Normally I do like to celebrate other people’s birthdays, and I do outside of work, but that wears thin after three years of celebrating others’ b-days and my own being ignored. I don’t want to bring it up because it will seem petty and because I don’t want to be “volunteered” against my will to be in charge of the whole thing year round. That would be even worse!

    I make myself busy elsewhere or take an early/late lunch or whatever I have to do to avoid them. It’s turned what should be a happy occasion into an annoyance. No one has said anything so far…

    I think that those who are not interested should be allowed to opt out, but care should be taken that those who do want to be included are included.

    1. Murphy*

      Yeah, in my first couple of months on the job, I signed a birthday card for someone who actually has the same exact birthday as me, and I didn’t get a card at all.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      I sympathize. Our boss has pets and all of their birthdays are celebrated with cakes and catering or potlucks and cards and presents. The rest of us are ignored. Perhaps her conscience has been pricked … now and then it’s a cake for whomever has a birthday that month, but those only occur during the months of the pets’ birthdays! jeez, it is so blatant. And it does not go unnoticed. So the rest of us usually look after each other and at least order out for lunch or give each other presents – and not surreptitiously, so boss and pets I guess are just smugly oblivious? Christmas is awful too – the pets get called to her office and given a personal gift. The rest of us get a tiny card and a piece of candy maybe. I just tell myself “it takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

  54. LadyH*

    OP1 – This is a tough lesson to learn.

    A question for the group is – If you know a coworker is using sick days for vacation, do you have a responsibility to tell your boss? We get much more sick leave than vacation and I’ve mostly just kept the information to myself because it’s a friend, but could I also get in trouble for not speaking up?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I don’t think a reasonable boss would blame you for someone else’s abuse of their leave, but if they felt like you were covering up for a friend? I don’t know. Maybe. On the other hand, who’s to say you even know? Could you pretend you assumed the coworker was taking vacation time appropriately?

      1. LadyH*

        I think my bigger concern is with the comments from my boss (who I really quite like) saying “Oh I hope Jane feels better” and general comments of concern for the office as we all work in closer quarters and me just kind of agreeing. I guess feeling like it’s a lie of omission? But you’re right there’s really no way of my boss knowing that I knew unless Jane outright says so if she’s caught. (I don’t think she would). Just your general guilt ridden concern probably.

    2. Observer*

      This is actually two questions. In most cases I think you have no obligation to tell the boss. I also think that in a reasonable workplace, you won’t get in trouble because it’s not your job to supervise this.

      1. Red 5*

        I agree, in a reasonable workplace you can just say “it’s not my business.” Unless it’s impacting your actual work because they aren’t holding up their end, I think most people actually prefer a workplace where there’s not a lot of interpersonal gossip and sniping. And they’d know that the only person at any fault is the person who lied.

        Now if a co-worker was doing it routinely, and it was negatively affecting productivity in some way or it was being unfair to another coworker who had to cover for them all the time, that’d be different.

    3. KHB*

      I don’t think you’re obligated to proactively speak up (and while a reasonable manager shouldn’t hold your silence against you, not all managers are reasonable). But I do think you’re obligated not to actively contribute to their deception, if it ever comes to that. If they’re asking you to do things (like, I don’t know, help them forge a doctor’s note) where you can’t plausibly claim later that you had no idea they were doing anything improper and didn’t consider it your business, you’ve likely gone too far.

  55. Anon for this*

    I really wish the posts that are bound to get tons of comments would be separated into standalone posts instead of mixed in with other ones.

    1. LQ*

      I don’t think it’s always perfectly predictable. I’ve seen things in a quick questions that I would have been absolutely SURE would have caused a 1K comment firestorm and then nothing in the comments, and vice versa. Hindsight gives us perfect vision into what is bound to get tons of comments because unless we’re here right on top of every single question we’re already seeing what and how many comments.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, it’s not always predictable. But also, the vast majority of readers aren’t commenters so while I do like to cater to commenters when I can, it doesn’t always make sense to. With the short answer posts, I want to make sure there’s a good mix of topics in there — so I’ll often try to put in something that I think is more interesting to counter the more routine questions. (That said, if I know something is likely to overshadow everything else in the comments, I do try to separate it out more often than not.)

  56. Sue Wilson*

    They do now, but frankly, the commentary was fairly even today so that doesn’t make sense with this post.

    1. Anon for this*

      That’s because there were TWO posts that should have been separated out because they were bound to be popular discussions. However, I understand the business reasons for Alison’s doing it this way and it’s just a personal minor pet peeve.

  57. Veronica Mars*

    #5 is oddly timely, as today is my birthday. My work “celebrated” it by my boss coming to my desk with a card from the company (including a $50 check, very nice surprise) and my team saying happy birthday to me. That’s it, and I couldn’t be happier. Happy hour later with friends is all the celebration I need.

    1. Mrs. Fenris*

      Hey, it’s my birthday too! No workplace celebration for me since a. I’m off today and b. I started a new job a few months ago and they don’t have a posted birthday list. I don’t know when anybody’s birthday is, and nobody knows it’s my birthday. Well, except the OM since she handled my paperwork.

      1. Mananana*

        Happy Birthday, Veronica Mars & Mrs. Ferris. Hope your birthdays are celebrated in whatever fashion makes you happiest.

  58. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, when i was in high school, I had a summer job at a pharmacy…One day i decided to go to the beach with some friends last minute when I was scheduled to work. I think we were partying to some degree and I didn’t even call in.

    The next day I knew I would be in trouble, and I panicked and told the boss my aunt died. I’m sure he didn’t believe me (esp as I had gotten tan at the beach)….He asked me for her address, saying it was company policy to send flowers. I told him I would get it the next day. I’m sure he knew I was lying but it never came up again… Karma will get me at some point i suppose..

  59. Tottenham*

    I got in big trouble in my first desk job as a staff assistant for not celebrating a birthday. The staffer specifically asked me not to celebrate it, but my boss roasted me for it. It was an issue for months. This was in the political realm. Ugh.

  60. Jessica*

    When my job had a PTO policy where time was accrued monthly, the policy was that new employees didn’t start accruing PTO until after one year. But they got 10 use-or-lose floating holidays to use during that first year. Now, all PTO is use-or-lose, and I don’t think the year requirement applies anymore.

    I think it also bears remembering that holidays are a thing, and even if a probationary period lasts 6 months, that no doubt encompasses national holidays like Labor Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving, etc. where the company is closed. So even if you don’t have PTO to use during that time, you still get holidays. The umbrage over a 6-month probationary period is a bit much.

    Getting fired for lying about being sick and not showing up, during a probationary period, sounds like a rookie mistake. Like duh, if you want to prove yourself as a reliable contributor with a vested interest in the role, that’s about the opposite of how you do that. That’s something you do when you’re a greeter at Walmart and can go get a similar job at the next place down the road (in an economy where such a thing is feasible!), not when you’re in a professional position and trying to establish your career.

    I wasn’t anywhere near the path of the totality, and my coworkers and I went up to the roof of the parking ramp with eclipse glasses and oohed at the sun for 20 minutes, then came back inside. The people who wanted to take trips to the path of totality made prior arrangements to do so.

  61. JAM*

    OP#2 – I’ve both been the person who has to cover and the person who works reception. Here’s some things that really helped:

    1. Set an expectation. If it is 12:30 and I do not have my coverage in place, I will leave. I’ve told my supervisor that and I stick to it. I also log who didn’t cover and upon my return I email my supervisor. This only works because I have a supervisor who gets it. Which brings me to my next point…

    2. Have supervisor buy-in. At my last job the receptionist literally had to get cancer for anyone to care about her breaks. Before that, I was often her backup because I sat closest and other people refused to show for their shifts and I’m not a jerk, though sometimes that meant I was covering 3 windows and 2 phones which I don’t recommend. When she got sick, the supervisor suddenly remembered she was responsible for the accommodations requested by the admin. Supervisor made it the replacements’ jobs to show up and if they didn’t, it was them who was penalized. When you talk to your supervisor again, be clear that you understand it is your job to manage the front desk but be clear that you view covering the front desk as shared by those who cover you and you will be much more flexible if you know you have coverage at the required times.

    3. Use technology to your advantage. I know you send emails and you could send outlook invites. What you really need is a reception account/calendar that doesn’t bog down your calendar. The calendar should send invites with reminder pop ups for every time they are to cover. The calendar should also mark who is missing from the office that day so if the person covering needs to find someone, they can view the “out” list super easy. We have all managers log on ours when someone calls in (or they call reception and we do it). Not sure if you do physical reception or just switchboard but if it’s the latter find out how to easily set up phone forwarding.

    4. Help those helping you. Make nice and quick handbooks with tabs and guides for situations that may come up at the front desk. Have quick links or a printout of all appointments coming in so they can handle situations they aren’t comfortable with. Offer a regular “refresh course” to people over the year so if they are avoiding because they don’t feel educated, then they lose that excuse. Telling your supervisor you want to work on this with people and asking how to manage shows you are proactive, not being hostile, and shows you are trying to cooperate, certainly not difficult to work with!

    1. Volunteer Enforcer*

      Same. I regularly cover for the main recepti0nist and she does those points above so that cover is in place. It also helps that she asks for cover in plenty of advance notice and asks people whose job is at the same level as her job at the most. Most people who cover are volunteers but they are so good that they get zero hours pay for covering.

  62. Alienor*

    I would personally be amused by being called “pet,” since I’m a fan of Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope books and Vera says it to everyone she meets (as I’ve been reading the comments, I keep hearing it in the voice of Brenda Blethyn, who plays Vera in the ITV series), but I think I’m probably alone in that.

  63. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP 3, that is icky and you should ask it to stop. My boss calls me a bugger occasionally, because it is a term of endearment in Cornwall where he comes from. But he isn’t creepy about it at all.

  64. EmKay*

    Ugh, #3. I once had a boss who called me sweetheart because he could never remember my name. It was less annoying than him snapping his fingers at me.

  65. S*

    #2 – If other people can come and go and take breaks as they please, they may not realize that your breaks are more set in stone. You say that you ‘have to’ remind people most of the time to come cover for you, but those 70% of people may be thinking that they’re free to keep on their own work until you come find them. So you’re waiting for them to come to you, while they’re waiting for you to tell them you’re about to go on break.

    Do you use a calendar system? Why not set up your breaks as meetings in each person’s calendar, which will also give them a automatic reminder (my company’s calendar system is default reminder at 15 mins, then ‘snooze’ the reminder to 5 min, then snooze to 0 min).

    You say that people seem put out to have to cover for you, but are you being friendy and kind when you talk to them about this? Just because it’s part of their requirement doesn’t mean you have to be curt and can’t say thanks to the person. Sometimes people seem to think that thanks-you’s are out of place when someone is required to do something – not true! Thank-you’s are a way to be polite, not a way to remark upon something being necessary or not. If your manager is saying that you’re difficult to get along with because of this issue I’d guess you may fall into the not using enough thank-you’s. Try being overly friendly and adding in a few more thank-you’s (they are free to say afterall)

    Also, who’s deciding who covers for you each day and who communicates that to your team? If your manager is setting the schedule but only telling you, it may be useful to have him/her send out the coverage list weekly/biweekly/monthly (whenever it’s set). Then you can follow up with calendar meetings for your breaks individually with those people. If they show up to your desk on time be all friendly and make sure to throw in at least one “Thanks so much, Sansa!” If they don’t show up on time, then be friendly when you remind them to come cover and again throw in a thank you when you come back from your break (even if they were a curmudgeon when you started your break!).

  66. Anonymous because*

    LW #4 – i used to work in food service. Some places had private break rooms where employees could eat. In such restaurants we could bring our own, already made meals from home. We couldn’t cook it at work. Those without a private break room such that employees ate where customers could see had to eat what was on the menu. I’m sure food safety is part of why they frown on you cooking your own food, and having your own spices laying around. But another aspect was presentation/customer confidence – and we were also severely frowned upon for deviating from the menu (2 restaurants shared a kitchen. Mixing product from restA with product from restB to make something even better was a huge no – legal ramifications of mixing franchises. But late at night when it was slow and only coworkers around we’d do it)

  67. Wintermute*

    In a perfect world the boss that calls someone ‘pet’ should end up with the employee that wants everyone to call her significant other her ‘master’. Keep all the creepy inappropriate incursions of BDSM quarantined.

  68. Wintermute*

    oh and I’d be very worried about #5 crossing into illegal hostile workplace territory real fast if someone had a religious reason (Jehovah’s Witness, etc) for not celebrating their birthday.

    Legally and morally what they’re doing would be no different than force-feeding a Jewish person bacon.

  69. B*

    Hey, British guy here. I found a few descriptions on this, in case it helps:

    vocative noun
    Some people call the person they are talking to ‘pet’ to show affection or friendliness.
    [British , spoken , feelings]
    It’s all right, pet, let me do it.


    Pet – See how the Brits like to use animals as terms of affection. Calling someone pet doesn’t mean you think they’re your little lapdog, it’s a typical way to end a greeting to someone in the North East of England – “How you doing, pet?”

  70. Wonderfully Confused*

    Letter Writter #2,

    I, too, am a switchboard operator; on top of being the HR Assistant for my company. I understand the feeling of double-standards and such that come with this job. I am constantly having to make schedule changes for my cover people while they get huffy with me when I need extra time away from the phones due to a HR meeting or when I ask to go to the bathroom earlier than normal.
    This past week actually, I ended up having to leave work early, about 3 hours, due to a family emergency and when I got back I worked out a plan with my supervisor to make up that time by working late a couple of nights so I could keep a scheduled vacation day. When I informed my cover people of this, they sent one of them to be the “spokesperson” for the group to let me know that instead of going with the plan my supervisor and I worked out, I should instead give up my lunches for the next few days to make up the time. Their reasoning for this request was that it didn’t benefit them whatsoever if I made up my time by staying late a few nights. I, naturally, feel like this is absurd since I had already worked out with my supervisor and because it is right in their description that they must provide coverage for the switchboard. I have since passed this on to my supervisor and they plan to meet with my cover people later today to resolve this issue.

    Being a switchboard operator is a very stressful position to be in and sometimes you just have to roll with childishness of others.

  71. Canadian*


    I think the problem is your supervisor; s/he thinks that your lunches don’t matter apparently. If the coworkers who cover you are under a different supervisor, one who is more understanding, you might try approaching him or her. If you are in Canada, definitely check your province’s laws because I know that the two provinces I’ve lived in have mandated meal breaks. If there are laws regarding this, whether you are in Canada or in a different country, I would write an email (since it’s always better to have everything in writing) to your supervisor (and cc HR if there is an HR person or department) and advise him/her that the company is required by law to give you X amount of time for a meal break in a Y period of time. Hopefully, that will get him or her to take this issue seriously instead of just blaming you for being difficult, because if not you can definitely file a complaint with the government. If there are no laws regarding meal times, then I would have to agree with you that it feels like all your avenues are exhausted, unless you want to take it higher up in the company.

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