my employee won’t take time off, my boss keeps invading my personal space, and more

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

1. My employee won’t take time off

I own a small company, just me and two employees who are salaried. Both of my employees have worked for me for over five years and I give them three weeks PTO each year plus three sick days. We also have paid holidays throughout the year. I am always open to them taking time off for an appointment, errand, or a personal day, and not taking it off their PTO if they make up the time that week (or the next). I don’t require this at all; they are always free to just take the time off, but they often make up the hours and save their PTO for real vacations. I am very flexible and understanding of giving time off, for whatever reason, even last-minute requests. I don’t keep track of their daily work hours since they are salaried, as long as they get their assigned work done on schedule.

I have one employee, let’s call her Emily, who can’t seem to relax and take her time off without working long hours to make it up. Even when she plans week-long vacations, she works long hours to make sure that she does not lose the entire week of PTO. Yesterday she took a sick day, when I asked her how she was feeling the next day, she said she was better, and thought she had gotten sick due to working long hours the last few days because she had requested a day off next week and wanted to make it up. I told her to just take the day off and not worry about making up the hours. She replied that she knew we were busy and she also has a week-long vacation coming up, so she was fine with working extra hours.

I think part of it is that a couple years ago she had a family emergency right after taking her vacation and ended up using all of her PTO early in the year with no time left over for the remainder of the year. I did give her extra days of PTO when that happened because it was an emergency and not planned PTO, but I could tell it stressed her out to not have any PTO left.

How do I get her to relax and take time off without stressing over making it up. Or, do I just let it be and rely on her to manage her own PTO and work hours as she sees fit? I don’t want to micromanage her time but I don’t want to see her get burned out on the job. If it makes a difference, she works remotely (both of my employees do) and I am not always aware when they work long hours unless they mention it to me.

I think you should let her manage it as she sees fit, but I also think you could talk to her, tell her that you’ve noticed that since that situation a couple of years ago, she’s seemed really hesitant to use much PTO, and say that you’re concerned that it’s leading her to overwork herself (she thinks it made her sick recently!) and not get the benefits that vacation time is designed to give her.

But there’s a second thing here, which is that three days of sick time a year is really, really low. On average, U.S. employers give seven sick days a year. So I’d seriously look at increasing the number of sick days you’re giving your employees. It’s easy to understand why she’s hoarding them when there are so few of them.

2. My boss keeps invading my personal space

My boss has no concept of personal space. I work in a very small office (two attorneys and two assistants, working as teams). Prior to me being in the position, a family friend of my boss was in the position. She resigned due to health reasons, and my boss’s wife filled in until I was hired.

When my boss gives me edits on a brief or petition, instead of putting the marked up copies in my box or verbally giving me direction, he stands behind me (at my L-shaped desk, so we are literally locked in) and points at the screen. Earlier this week, he hit me in the forehead with a notepad because he was *that* close to me. I can feel his breath on the back of my head. He has frequently put a hand on the desk and really leaned in towards the screen; it is impossible to escape. I scoot my chair as far to the side as I can, but it’s difficult to type and awkward to sit this way. When I get home at the end of the day, I don’t even want my husband or dog to touch me.

His wife had mentioned that she trained him to do this; in her mind, passing edits back and forth was too inefficient. That’s fine, and her preference, but she is not working with him every day and also specifically chose this man to invade her personal space for the rest of her life. I did not. For what it’s worth, he is 65+ and not hitting on me, but does harbor chauvinist ideas that he occasionally shares. I don’t think this is a sexual harassment issue.

I think it’s just a lack of appropriateness and awareness, but am I off-base? Should I say something? How do I say something without making our tiny environment uncomfortable?

Yep, you should say something. It doesn’t have to be horribly awkward; just keep be direct and matter-of-fact. For example: “Instead of walking me through the edits on my screen, could you give me a marked up copy?” Or if he feels like that’s less efficient for him (or if you suspect he’ll think that): “I’m finding I feel claustrophobic when we do it this way. Could we instead have you take a seat and walk me through it from there?” There’s also “Oh, I’m sorry — I feel crowded easily. Would you mind giving me a bit more space here?”

If you say it matter-of-fact and even a bit cheerfully, it should be fine. If it makes it easier, you can pretend it about your own personal weirdness — as in, “I have a weird thing about people standing over me that makes it hard to focus — could we do this across the desk?”

Read updates to this letter here and here.

3. My benefits were deducted from my salary

I recently interviewed with a small company in New York city. During the interview, they asked what salary I was seeking and I said $80,000. They said their budget was $70,000, but they were very interested in me and wondered if I would accept $75,000. It was a great opportunity so I said yes.

A week later, they offered me the position via email and I tentatively accepted, pending a written offer plus information on benefits. They kept me waiting two weeks for the package, until my start date was only a few days away. When the offer finally came, the salary stated in the offer was only $58,883.

When I asked, they stated that my benefits (a generous health plan and 20 PTO days per year) were taken off the top. This is a company that started in Europe, and I am their first U.S. hire.

I confirmed with them that the monthly gross would be $4,907, and not the $6,250 I was expecting. I turned down the offer and suggested they clarify this policy to any other prospective U.S. employees they interviewed. Never heard from them again. Any thoughts on this? Is this standard practice in Europe? Really caught me off guard and can’t find anything on the internet about this.

I have no idea if it’s normal in Europe, but it sure as hell isn’t normal in the U.S. and is in no way considered okay to do here.

4. Do I need to stop my time-keeping habit?

I am 19 and currently working a part time position at a restaurant. I have a habit, in all of my college classes as well as at work, of writing down the time in 15 minute increments from the beginning to the end of my shift, and crossing the time off as it passes. This isn’t because I hate my job or anything, it’s just a way to keep track of the time. One of my managers thinks it’s hilarious, and many of my coworkers love it and have started keeping tabs on my “countdown.”

However, one of my managers thinks it’s “unhealthy.” While she hasn’t ordered me to stop or anything, and is happy with my performance otherwise, she has made it clear that she disapproves.

Should I stop my timekeeping sheets, or can I keep using them?

Yeah, I’d try to stop. It’s giving the impression that you’re focused on counting down the time until you can leave work and that you’re not focused on actually working. And if you carry the habit into a professional job, it’s going to really reflect badly on you.

5. Including hyperlinks on a resume

When including URLs in a resume (e.g. for online-only projects I want to highlight), should I hyperlink them, or not? Blue hyperlinked text looks a bit messy to me, but it’s definitely convenient to be able to click through rather then having to copy and paste.

Assuming it’s only a few, go ahead and hyperlink them. It’s more convenient for the reader, and this is a case where function matters more than form.

You wouldn’t want a zillion on there, but that would be true even if they weren’t hyperlinked.

{ 493 comments… read them below }

  1. nnn*

    #2: If, for whatever reason, you’re not 100% comfortable with being direct, one thing you could try is inviting him to have a seat as soon as he comes into your office, and then to roll the chair he’s sitting in up to the screen when discussing edits.

    It may or may not take, but it’s a low-risk experiment if you’re in a context where being more direct is a struggle.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I was just about the suggest the same. When you see him coming, stand up and offer him your seat. That way he’s close to the screen and can point all he wants, and you have the freedom of movement to stand behind him (at a reasonable distance) or sit next to him (at a reasonable distance).

      1. KarenK*

        The problem with this, if I’m reading correctly, is that the OP can’t make the necessary corrections. The boss is pointing out edits, and the OP is making them in real time.

        1. Deeks*

          OP here. You’re correct- I make the eduts in real time and he prefers jabbing at my screen instead of handing me a marked copy.

      2. Deeks*

        OP here. Unfortunately, I do not have an office. But I’m going to modify this to my situation: maybe I can reorient my desk so that the computer is in a better position. Then he can still point and be there giving edits in person but not be leaning on my desk chair to view the monitor. Thanks all!!

    2. Grey*

      I would just stand up every time he goes behind my desk and not even offer him the chair. His body language suggests this is a job we should do while standing up, so I’d stand up even if it means I have to type while I’m standing.

      If he tells me to have a seat, I’d say “sorry, I’m a little crowded here”. Or maybe, “sure, let me get you a chair too” and then sit only if he does.

      1. Friday*

        I used to work with someone who liked to wander around to behind me to point at my screen when talking with me about things. Drove me nuts. So when I got a standing desk, whenever I’d see him come over to chat about whatever, needing my screen as a visual, I’d stand the desk up and then invite him to come point at my screen. Gave me back so much more space and made conversing with him and referencing my screen a million times easier (and evil bonus… I’m a few inches taller so instead of leveling the playing field, it tipped it slightly in my favor).

  2. Gaia*

    I can’t say if it is normal to deduct benefits from the salary in Europe but it definitely isn’t in the US and they need to know that. But one thing I do find odd: our company quotes pay to our UK employees as net income (after tax). So if we offer them £45,000 that is literally what they will take home.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I am so curious to hear from the other European commenters, too, because what OP#3 shared sounds so deceptive to me.

      But I am also kind of cynical about people quoting your total compensation when you ask about the salary (which clearly does not mean the same thing as total compensation package).

      1. little mermaid*

        Yeah, I work in Denmark and this has never happened to me. We always talk about monthly salary and sure, during negotiation you can discuss how benefits influence that number (eg, my company puts 2.7% of my salary into an extra account and I can get it whenever – it’s additional money; then there’s the question about how much they contribute to my pension; etc.) – but I never discussed a number and then was told afterwards that, btw, that includes all sorts of things so what you get is less.

        The behvaviour experienced by the OP is either very local (because all the countries in Europe have different laws and practices) or just an asshole company.

        1. another Rainy before*

          I concur with little mermaid on both counts. Benefits are definitely additional money, unless it is an [insert excellent phrasing from little mermaid] company. What OP#3 described happened to me a couple years ago. It was the first occurence in 15+ contracts (short-term and long-term) and 20 years working experience. If it matters, it was also the first time the employer was UK-based and not continental Europe. During negociation, they had clearly stated their (excellent) benefits and we clearly dicussed gross salary. However 3 days later, the proposed contract mentioned a salary corresponding to the negociated salary minus the benefits. I picked up my phone to correct the discrepancy. They demurred and made me re-negociate the whole contract on the phone, but I received an updated contract within minutes of the phone call. I took it as a red flag for monetary pettiness, and double-checked all expenses and pay slips. They actually commented that I “acted surprisingly non-trusting” when I mentioned the (not so) occasional gap. How surprising indeed.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        UK here – no, it’s not normal. There is the difference that we don’t routinely have things like health insurance as a benefit (because it’s unnecessary) – although lots of places will offer things like reduced rates for private health if you want it (I never have, but some do.) I don’t know if that makes a difference?

        But no, salary quoted is the amount you actually get paid before tax.

        1. Snowglobe*

          If it was just the health insurance, I’d think maybe it is just a lack of understanding about how US health insurance works. If this is the company’s first US employee, they may not have even thought to budget for health insurance, and the long delay in getting the offer letter to the OP may have been due to the company trying to find insurance for a single employee (not easy). So maybe they thought (hoped) this was how US companies handle it.

          But that doesn’t explain the deduction for PTO. Can’t think of a logical explanation for that.

          1. blackcat*

            I suspect this is likely. Their budget was $75,000, and then they learned it would costs $10-15+k to provide insurance (likely if this is the first US employee–it’s basically an unsubsidized individual plan). So they knocked that much off the top of the salary. US health insurance is weird and super expensive, and I can see an international employer just not planning for that.

            1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

              Yes it would be an uncommon benefit in Europe and quite possibly the European employer had no idea how much it would cost. In the Finnish system the employer has to pay for any doctor visits related to a work injury, but giving more than that is common. This would be a possibility to, for example, go to a certain private clinic to see a GP for free (paid by employer) but not things like specialist services or hospital stays. The employer normally pays for each visit, not a fixed sum for each employee each year. If this kind of system is the norm for the employer I understand why the US system would be a surprise.

              1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

                European HR here.
                No benefits are deducted from the salary. Health care, retirement, sick leave and whatnot are paid by the government, and the only thing you get deducted is your tax.

                It must have been an asshole company, or an absolutely clueless company. Many Europeans assume that USA has a single-pay public system such as in Europe, paid holidays and a ton of things we simply give for granted. Personally I use a HR provider for our USA employees.

      3. mictter*

        Not normal at all in Europe. The way salary is offered changes between countries, for example in Spain the custom is to state the brutto annual salary, but in Sweden they usually say the monthly take home pay. In none of them the social security dues are included (which are up to 30% of the cost to the employer).
        Benefits (private health insurance, restaurant tickets, company car) are stated separately.

        1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

          In Finland the salary/wages is usually brutto per month/hour. Take home pay is impossible to know for each employee because there are so many factors that affect it. (Like, what municipality you live in, how much you’ve earned previously in the same year, if you have a side income, if you are a church member etc.) Benefits are a completely different thing. Some benefits cam be such where the employee pays a part of it, like lunch vouchers can be fully a benefit or a part of their value can be taken from your salary, but you don’t get them automatically if they cost something. You would usually order from the HR or admin person that you want X amount of lunch vouchers and only then it’s deducted from the salary.

          1. JamieS*

            In Finland the amount an employer pays an employee changes if the employee has a second job? That’s astonishing to me.

            1. Kindling*

              I’m astonished by the church member thing!! Does that mean church dues get subtracted from your paycheque?

              1. Tau*

                Don’t know about Finland, but this is how it works in Germany. Church tax: it’s a thing.

              2. little mermaid*

                Yeah, if you’re a member of the church, the tax gets directly deducted from your paycheck. If you’re not a member, that doesn’t happen.

            2. Koko ¯\_(ツ)_/¯*

              I believe NoMore is talking specifically about the amount of take-home an employee pays changing, because those other factors influence how much the government takes out for taxes &c. Not that the company would pay you more or less based on those factors.

              1. Koko ¯\_(ツ)_/¯*

                Oof…the amount of take-home pay an employee gets, or the amount of tax the employee pays…not the amount of take-home the employee pays!

            3. SusanIvanova*

              It’s take home pay, so it sounds like the same thing as when your deductions change in the US.

      4. Julia*

        At my previous job in Switzerland (no non-EU), I actually got MORE than I first thought because they paid me the employer-contribution for social insurances so that I’d pay both their and my share to the government (they were weirdly exempt from taking it out of my paying and paying the government themselves.)

        Of course, none of that money was mine to keep, and taxes weren’t taken out of that sum yet either.

      5. Rhodoferax*

        It’s absolutely not normal in Ireland. In fact, advertising a salary of €n and then saying “You’ll get paid €(>n) plus 20 days which makes it worth €n” is illegal, since at least 20 days’ holidays is a legal requirement.

      6. LittleRedRidingHu?*

        Not normal in Germany. You negotiate your salary and if it’s a sales role they will tell you the fix salary/comission split i.e. 60/40 or 70/30
        The only things deducted monthly from your pay are health insurance, income tax, church tax (only if you’re still member of a church) and social security payments (unenployment insurance and the likes)
        You get your 21 to 30 days vacation and get the chance to pay into a private retirement fond. That’s it.
        Never in my 20+ years in the work force has an employer said amount A is your pay! and then backpaddled by saying: oh, by the way – pay for your own vacaton time, neener neener neener! *insert a 3 year old making this noise* – and it’s illegal as well. Germans have laws for and against anything, but employment law is set in stone as we’re a nation of workers.

          1. LittleRedRidingHu?*

            It’s not like tithing as church tax in Germant is not voluntary. The only way nit to pay it, is to officially quit being religious (I know, sounds odd), pay a fee at the city hall and going forward no more church taxes get taken from your salary. It’s a strange concept.

              1. LittleRedRidingHu?*

                well, the only other thing is that you are no longer “eligible” to marry in church.

              2. little mermaid*

                Then you don’t pay the taxes, you might not be able to marry in church (depends on the priest and your partner and on whether we’re talking Catholic or Protestant) and getting a funeral will be more expensive.

                1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

                  In Finnish Lutheran church you also need to be a church member to be someone’s godparent. (Of course there can be all kinds of unofficial agreements about being a godparent-like figure in someone’s life, but official godparenthood requires church membership.) Another thing is participating in communion, but a) the membership isn’t checked in any way and b) this isn’t really an interesting point for those who don’t believe in church teachings.

      7. MTinEurope*

        Not normal – even though most European countries have their own processes, you don’t really see them taking off benefits.

        I have done hiring for different European countries and never have seen this. Now stating before or after taxes is common but also a bit odd given that most countries have complex tax systems. Countries like Belgium, UK, France (many more) have generous benefit packages as the norm – holidays, pension, hospitalization, public transport etc. They are not taken out of the salary package. Of course from an employer point of view, it is different. For example, in Belgium a salary proposal of 100,000 would cost 130,000 to provide, given the extra taxes but this is not part of the negotiation with the candidate.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I don’t see how it is actually possible to do that, because not everyone will have the same deductions. It depends on things like whether you have a pre- or post-2012 student loan and whether anything else affects your tax code, like self-employment in the previous tax year or HMRC’s inability to issue correct tax codes.

      It would be more helpful to quote gross salaries and link to a UK tax calculator.

      1. Geoffrey B*

        Yeah, this. I have a second job that doesn’t apply withholding, so I’ve asked employer #1 to withhold at a higher rate than other staff at my level would pay, and so my take-home from #1 is lower than theirs would be.

      2. Gaia*

        Well I’m not in their office so I can’t speak to it but I imagine they quote some sort of standard and caveat it with YMMV?

        All I know is it seems insane to me.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          My understanding is that European tax systems are much more simplified than the US, possibly even flat, and such a caveat wouldn’t even be necessary. I know I got some grief about our complicated tax system when I studied abroad.

          1. Blossom*

            Definitely not flat. But maybe it seems simpler because income tax is deducted by your employer, and so most people don’t have to sit around “doing their taxes” like Americans seem to do? The only people I know who have to think about their taxes are the self-employed.

            1. Blossom*

              (talking about the UK specifically, though not aware of any nearby country with a flat tax system)

            2. Princess Carolyn*

              Taxes in the U.S. are deducted by your employer as well, aren’t they? “Doing your taxes” just means handling all the deductions and credits that are based on specific incomes or situations so you can get a refund or reduce the amount that you owe.

              1. Anna*

                Interestingly enough there was just a story about this on NPR. The person being interviewed said there were no companies like H&R Block in Europe because they aren’t needed and that a friend of his was complaining because one year it took him half an hour to do his taxes rather than the 15 minutes it usually took. Basically, the US tax system is borked and does need a major overhaul.

                1. Monodon monoceros*

                  I’m a US citizen living in Europe and I was explaining this to a friend recently. This is how I explained it – basically the US system says “so how much did you give us, and how much, if any, should we give you back? And why. Explain your answers in great and horrid detail. Provide documentation for your answers. There will be penalties if in 3-7 years we figure out that you screwed up.”

                  While the tax authorities in most of the rest of the world says “this is how much you paid us, and we calculate that you owe us this much more, or that we owe you. Look OK? Sign here.”

                2. AMPG*

                  The IRS could do the same thing, and “autofile” for most taxpayers, but the tax preparation lobby is strong enough that they’ve never been legally authorized to do it. There was a good Vox article about it a few years back.

              2. nonegiven*

                They deduct your social security and medicare taxes, they also deduct your withholding for federal, state, etc income taxes, which is only a guess based on you’re filling out a W-4. Doing your taxes, is finding out how close or far you guessed and in some cases if you guessed more than $1000 too low, you get a penalty, too.

            3. little mermaid*

              Depends on the country. In Denmark everything is online and gets into the system automatically, so all you have to do is annually checking if the numbers add up (like, life changes like buying a house or suddenly having a longer commute might have an influence). But that’s it. And if the state owes you money, they’ll let you know in March every year and transfer it back into your account automatically.

        2. SarahKay*

          Strikes me as very odd too. I’m in the UK and I’ve never come across that – any job I’ve applied for has quoted total before tax.
          And OP3, if someone told me that the pay quoted was actually gong to be lower with the difference being holiday pay and other benefits I’d be straight on Google to figure out where / how best to report them, because that would be totally unacceptable, and almost certainly illegal.

      3. Demon Llama*

        or HMRC’s inability to issue correct tax codes.
        Hello fellow sufferer, IT’S NOT JUST MEEEEEE!
        Seriously, the last time I moved role from WITHIN Corporation X, to another division of Corporation X, I got double charged tax because they didn’t process the fact that I didn’t have two roles for aaaages.
        But protip for UK readers – if you want to get through to HMRC super fast, they stay open til 8pm on most weekdays. Call at 7:45 and you usually get through to someone almost immediately and they are, IME, super kind on the phone.
        I’d prefer they got the damn codes right first time, but small victories…

        1. Demon Llama*

          Damn. Bloody HTML code fail.

          or HMRC’s inability to issue correct tax codes.
          Hello fellow sufferer, IT’S NOT JUST MEEEEEE!
          Seriously, the last time I moved role from WITHIN Corporation X, to another division of Corporation X, I got double charged tax because they didn’t process the fact that I didn’t have two roles for aaaages.
          But protip for UK readers – if you want to get through to HMRC super fast, they stay open til 8pm on most weekdays. Call at 7:45 and you usually get through to someone almost immediately and they are, IME, super kind on the phone.
          I’d prefer they got the damn codes right first time, but small victories…

      4. Good Company*

        I get paid in net. The country I live in assigns you a specific code that reflects the accurate amount of tax to be withheld. I can fetch my updated code 24 hours a day by using the country’s official e-signature feature and then I just give that code to my employer. The system figures out the rest.

    3. The RO-Cat*

      At least in my country (and in my, admittedly local, experience) the discussion is almost always about net income (after tax, take-home pay). Benefits (like vacation time and any other law-mandated things, which are always written in an employment contract registered with the local DOL equivalent) and perks (like company car / laptop / etc or gym membership / whathaveyou) are quoted separately.

      My suspicion is that the hiring manager either (a) was unfamiliar with the US way (the more generous interpretation) or (b) was your ole’ plain jerk playing your ole’ bait-and-switch game.

    4. Worker Bee (Germany)*

      In Germany you are also discussing gross pay. Which makes much more sense because your take home depends on your own tax category and also if you are payin into public or private health insurance among other things. Vacation days are listed separately in the contract. Also sometimes a set number of worked OT is covered under your regular salary. (Usually true for management position where you are expected to work OT but also get a nice pay)

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, the underlying structure of what OP describes didn’t seem weird to me because I’m used to discussing gross pay and actually getting to take home less than what’s quoted as the official salary. However, the specifics of this letter make me think that this was probably a situation like what The Ro-Cat assumes above, with the employer either being unfamiliar with the local regulations or just a plain bait-and-switch-er.

        (NB that I never really understand what “benefits” means in a (US) employment setting because our systems or so different.)

        1. Another German*

          The impression I get from reading this and other american blogs is that “benefits” in the US is what we would call “employment rights”, but you better lick your company’s boots in gratitude for giving even half of them to you… (Three sick days? Like I choose what germs I pick up in the subway each morning???)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Maybe? “Benefits” almost always refers to health insurance, and it often refers to paid leave + retirement plan contributions (but not always). But I’ll wait for the American HR professionals to correct me on this!

            But it doesn’t usually refer to what we think of as employee rights in the States, which include things like antidiscrimination laws; the amount of “process” you receive before being fired; rules for severance in the event of a lay-off; the right to form unions and collectively bargain; the amount of notice a company must give you before setting your work schedule; and laws governing when you are paid, how often, for what functions (e.g., being on standby, paying for your own tools) and how overtime is calculated. That’s a non-exhaustive list, but it’s pretty distinct from “benefits.”

            1. Same German*

              You’re kind of proving my point :)
              In Germany, health insurance and paid leave and retirement plans are also regulated by employment law in the same way as all those other things you listed. I don’t really see how they are different. I guess employers are free to give you extra paid vacation time on top of the minimum required, that’s the only thing I can think of that would justify the “negotiable” feeling that the word “benefits” includes…

              1. Kitten*

                Maybe flexible working hours as a benefit? The opportunity for home working? I agree with you, there are fewer ‘benefits’ here in Europe because of the regulations, but I’m learning that some negotiable things do make working a little easier.

                1. Same German*

                  Oh, absolutely, there is still room for negotiation on things other than salary! But my impression is that what Europeans think of as “benefits” (flexible work arrangements is an excellent example, also private use of the company car or lunch paid by the employer or reimbursements for your commute) is more in the realm of “perks” for americans, and what first comes to mind under “benefits” in the US is already covered under “rights” in Europe.

              2. Coalea*

                “Minimum required” vacation. If only there were such a thing!

                In my experience, “benefits” includes items such as 401(k) or other retirement plan, health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, short- and long-term disability coverage, flexible spending accounts (for healthcare and/or childcare expenses), and health savings accounts. I have had employers provide a breakout of my total compensation package (ie, my salary + the costs they incur by providing my benefits), but I have never had an employer do what was done to the OP!

          2. PB*

            Honestly, as a lifelong US resident, I think this is pretty accurate (although my employer has a much better sick leave policy!).

          3. Bend & Snap*

            I don’t think we can really defend US “benefits” here. I work for one of the country’s “best places to work” and still pay an insane amount per month for my health plan and only get 3 weeks of vacation.

            It doesn’t compare to what my European colleagues get. At all.

            1. Amy*

              That list is kind of BS though, companies apply to be on it. One of my friends worked at a place on it and they were encouraged to be generous on the survey. It’s more of an employee satisfaction survey than a grade of benefits offered. Benefits do play a part in employee satisfaction but the place I worked with the best benefits (20+ vacation days, 10 sick days, 13% to our 403b well-priced insurance etc) was terrible, I stayed there way too long for the benefits but am much happier where I am now with fewer benefits but a much more rational company culture.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s pretty normal, in the U.S., to list the gross salary and not the net salary when listing a job or making an offer. But that gross salary is only a portion of what the company pays to employ that person—for full-time employees, employers also have to cover things like employer contributions to the employee’s health insurance plan. So when OP is talking about what they thought was their take-home pay, I think they mean their gross salary v. their gross compensation. They were provided a number that they thought was gross salary, but in fact, it was the total value of their salary + employer contribution to benefits.

          “Benefits” almost always refers to your employer’s contributions to your health insurance plan (because private health care), your paid leave, and/or employer contributions to a retirement plan/fund, health savings account, etc. In this case, it sounds like OP is using “benefits” to refer to health insurance plan and paid leave.

          It can be confusing because sometimes folks use “benefits” loosely to include all non-income-based forms of compensation (not a totally accurate use of the term, but that doesn’t stop people from using it liberally!), but I don’t think that’s the case, here.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yeah, the fact that health insurance is a bit of a luxury here makes a difference – also you’re legally entitled to 28 days’ holiday a year so it doesn’t get counted as a benefit so much.

            Still sounds very, very dodgy though.

            I wonder if it’s either a complete misunderstanding of how US system is meant to work… or a deliberate “misunderstanding”…

          2. NCKat*

            The offer should have been the gross salary. If they counted employer benefit contributions, that should have been separate. I have never received a salary offer that included the benefits, though. Strictly speaking, it’s not illegal, but it’s misleading. I’m in the US.

            1. sam*

              This. my company gives us a website we can go to in order to see our “total compensation package”, which *does* include the whole kit and caboodle – basically helping to explain every line item on our paychecks and what we’re getting in addition to salary (the value of our insurance, bonus, any equity awards, our 401(k), including breaking out the vested and unvested portions of the employer contribution, our pension (which is small, cash-balance plan, but still!), but “salary” is a specific, defined item in that package. And when I got my job offer, that salary was precisely that.

              1. Liane*

                Every company I have worked for permanently has also provided annually a copy of the monetary cost of all the benefits you have opted in for–health/dental/vision insurance, short/long term disability, 401k (retirement), pretax stock purchases, etc. They are listed regardless of who pays, since part of some benefits may be paid by the employee: Besides health insurance, some companies pay the premium for $X life &/or accident insurance for you, but you can opt to pay via deductions for greater amounts on those or coverage for spouse/kids.

          3. Myrin*

            Thanks for explaining so thoroughly!

            I feel like I’m finally getting why I never really understood what “benefits” mean in the US (despite reading this site for such a long time now) – it’s exactly how Same German above says: an employer’s contributions to your health insurance and all the other stuff you list aren’t “benefits” to me, they’re just… normal. I mean, they’re beneficial to you, of course, but when I hear “benefits” I always picture things like a company car you can use or a work from home arrangement or something like that, things that are an addition somehow, not stuff that is a given in every job and actually mandated by law.

            I’m so glad I finally got that – will make understanding general talk about it much easier!

            1. AVP*

              Yes – since none of that is mandated by law here in the US, companies can have very different packages that really affect your day-to-day life. Which is why we always want to find out what those look like before accepting a job!

            2. Aunt Vixen*

              In the United States, what you’re describing as “benefits” are usually called “perks.”

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It’s my pleasure! It’s really confusing because most advanced economies are not as unregulated as the United States, and as you and Same German have noted, other countries have laws that set out minimum expectations for things like sick days, paid vacation, parental leave, etc. And public health care is often provided, so deductions are not made unless someone is opting into a private health care plan. We don’t have very many laws governing any of those things (except when you have to provide health care, how comprehensive a health care plan must be, whether a person has a right to take unpaid medical/family leave, and workers’ compensation insurance).

              Generally, I think of U.S. benefits as “things an employer pays for directly that is a non-wages benefit to the employee.” So those are budget items that are related exclusively to employing a person, like an employer’s health care contributions, retirement/pension contributions, special savings fund contributions (i.e., not a fund the employee can easily pull money out of), or paid leave. But those are funds that an employee cannot use to supplement their cash-in-hand salary/wages unless certain other conditions are met.

              I think of perks as things related to the company doing business that can be used in limited circumstances for an individual’s personal benefit—like use of a company car/car service, use of a company-owned apartment when traveling or relocating, flex time, meals provided on site and not deducted from your paycheck, snacks, etc.—are all “perks” because they’re not directly related to the cost of employing a person. They’re ancillary costs that benefit employees but are not required by law.

              I don’t know if that division is accurate, and hopefully people will correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s how I distinguish between wages, benefits, and perks in my head.

          4. fposte*

            Right, there’s the gross salary for my employees and then there’s my budget expenditure for an employee. The latter is approximately 50% higher than the former. But we don’t go around quoting my budget line as if they were people’s actual salaries. That would be like adding what you pay for insurance and property taxes onto the value of your house.

        3. chomps*

          @Myrin: I’m in the US and while we have a similar situation (we talk about gross pay, but take home less), the vast majority of companies will tell you your gross pay and that’s what most people refer to when they mean salary. I get the sense that in this case, the applicant was negotiating gross pay, which is what you get before deductions for taxes or the employee part of health insurance or a retirement plan, but the employer was discussion total compensation, which is completely different and includes both gross pay AND anything the employer pays for above and beyond that. In the US the bulk of that is usually the employer part of health insurance and may include employer payroll taxes (although I’m not sure).

          In the US, people rarely, if ever, negotiate total compensation. So, if I were in the OPs situation, if the employer told me I’d receive $75,000, I’d assume they meant that’s what my gross pay would be. My take-home would obviously be lower, but my total compensation would be higher.

    5. PM Jesper Berg*

      #3: this would not be typical in the UK.

      #4: this sounds like what Senator Bob Graham of Florida used to do!

      1. Software Consultant*

        #3: In the UK, it’s not unheard of to quote “OTE” (on-target earnings) or “Package equivalent to”. The first of these includes salary and bonus/commission, and is typical for sales jobs; the second includes things like private medical insurance, car allowance/company car, etc.
        In both cases, it’s quoted pre-tax. In both cases, it’s very much advertised what the number refers to.

    6. Sensual shirtsleeve*

      Quoting post-tax salary in the UK is incredibly weird and no other UK employer I know of does that. At all.

      Nor is it normal in the uk to do what LW3 discussed.

      Besides the individual tax circumstances vary hugely which would make it extremely difficult to guarantee a particular take home salary!, i.e. Second income from another job, salary garnishment due to child support/other issues, adjustment for under or over paying tax in previous periods, receiving dividends from shares you just inherited…

      1. Gaia*

        Yea it seems crazy to me, too. I imagine it is some sort of general assumption with a caveat that each situation may be different but I’ve never cared enough to ask questions since it has no impact on me.

        But I do know that deducting benefits from the quoted pay would be seriously messed up. It isn’t really a benefit if your salary is lowered by it, afterall.

      2. Ypsiguy*

        It would be even weirder in the US, because income tax is assessed not just by the federal government, but by the state government (depending on where you live, and also sometimes where you work) and often by a city government as well.

        With the complexity of the tax code in the US, you could have 2 people in the same office making the same amount net, but having vastly different gross incomes–depending on where they lived, whether they were married (and how much their spouse makes), how many kids they have, whether they have a mortgage, and so on and so on. An employer would literally not be able to determine what an employee’s after-tax income might be, unless they asked some very inappropriate questions during the interview process.

    7. Tyche*

      It depends: every country in Europe has its own laws and regulations.
      Here in Italy, we talk about pre-tax (what your employer pays) and after tax salary, that is what you really take home monthly.
      Health insurance and medical leaves, pregnancy leave etc are included in the pre-tax salary. It’s quite different from the US.
      But usually you talk about all these issues when you define your contract with the employer.

    8. Lionheart26*

      I just started a job in Germany and was quoted pre-tax salary. But there are a LOT of taxes and “social funds” that I have to cover, and that weren’t disclosed when the offer was made.
      I’m wondering if it has something to do with the health plan. My company set up a health plan for me (public, as my salary is not high enough to be eligible for private) but it seems to be a co-pay system. Its a legal requirement that I pay, and it comes straight off my salary. I suppose it’s possible that they are thinking OP’s health plan should work the same way? As in, “well we pay X for health, but half of that should come from employee contributions so we will deduct Y from her salary”?

      1. Tau*

        That’s actually a fair point re: health insurance. The question is whether they quoted employer contribution in the gross as well… and given that they added PTO to it (which is IMO indefensible) I’m suspecting they did.

        I will say:

        But there are a LOT of taxes and “social funds” that I have to cover, and that weren’t disclosed when the offer was made.

        I’m not sure why you’d be expecting the employer to disclose those? I mean, is it typical for an employer in the US to go “oh, by the way, you’ll also be paying X amount of income tax and Y amount of this other tax etc.”? I’ve always figured that working out taxes and other default contributions (such as National Insurance in the UK) is my responsibility, although I appreciate that it can be hard for a foreigner moving to a country as bureaucratic (said with love!) as Germany.

        1. Lionheart26*

          I’m not German, and I didn’t expect them to disclose. Of course I did my research to find out my approximate net salary.
          My point is that they didn’t tell me, and so I could have been surprised and feeling just like the OP if I didn’t realise that health insurance etc is also deducted.

      2. Some sort of Management Consultant*

        Are you German?

        At least in Sweden, it’s sorta expected that you know approximately how much will be taken out – basic knowledge of being in society sort of thing.

        But if you’re not from the country, those are hard things to know, especially since no one will think of mentioning them.

      3. Miso*

        Well, they weren’t disclosed because everyone (at least every German – I assume you’re not?) knows you have to pay those. It also varies wildly how much taxes for example you have to pay – depending on whether you’re single or married, member of the church or not etc pp.
        I guess it’s too late now, but there are a lot of websites where you can calculate what your post tax salary will roughly be.

        Also, your company didn’t really set up a health plan for you. Everyone in Germany is required to have health insurance, but you can choose whatever (public) insurer you want. Usually you have to give your employer proof that you’re insured, but I guess they helped with that if you’re a foreigner? It’s also a law that employer and employee both pay half of the rates (although they capped the employer’s portion by now, so the employee pays a little bit more…)

        1. Lionheart26*

          I’m not German, but I did know about the taxes and calculated before accepting the offer. My point is that if I didn’t realise, then I would be in the same situation as OP.
          Actually they did organise my health insurance, bank account etc etc for me when I arrived, as part of my relocation benefits. I’m not sure whether I have the best plan or best bank, but I figure I’ll investigate that once I’ve been here a bit longer.

    9. Djuna*

      It’s not normal in Ireland, anyway. Any salaried job I’ve had, I’ve been given the pre-tax figure (the gross rather than the net), hourly rate jobs were also a gross hourly rate.

      We do get an annual comp statement that includes our benefits, but the salary is in there as the gross figure too.
      It could be a continental European thing, but it’s not one I’ve come across. It sounds weird, and deceptive, to me too.

      Even if it is the norm somewhere, they shouldn’t be trying to inflict those on employees on a whole other continent, especially when it could clash with how the IRS wants things handled. Besides that, NYC is a very expensive city to live in, so there’s a whiff of knowingly underpaying with some bait and switch in there too.
      Methinks OP3 had a lucky escape.

      1. Tau*

        so there’s a whiff of knowingly underpaying with some bait and switch in there too

        Agreed. I for one am seriously side-eyeing the fact that OP only got the letter with the details a few days before their start date.

    10. Rookie Manager*

      In all my UK jobs I have always been quoted gross salary. If it is part time or an entry/low level job there may be no tax at all where as now I have student loans, tax, national insurance, pensions… Each person’s net will be different so not something your employer can quote until they have all your details.

      I think the LWs offer was just plain deceptive and not normal practice at all.

    11. Thlayli*

      I’ve worked in 3 EU countries and have always been told salary (or hourly rate) as gross (Pre-tax) amount, and benefits are in addition to this.

      The exception is pension contribution which are usually partly paid by the employee and partly by employer e.g. In my current role I pay 5% of my gross salary into my pension and my employer pays an additional 5% of my gross salary, but this would be made clear beforehand.

      Once I worked a job (in U.K.) where various optional benefits could be purchased by employee out of gross salary before tax but this was completely optional and again made clear beforehand.

      As others have said talking about post-tax salary doesn’t make sense in many countries as your taxes are often based on personal circumstances (e.g. If married couples can be jointly taxed in some countries, number of children can affect tax in others, health costs can be claimed etc).

      I think the company in #3 are just trying to trick people (though admittedly There are a lot more than 3 countries in Europe so I guess there could be a country where this is done).

    12. Akcipitrokulo*

      How does that work with different tax codes? You pay different people different gross amounts depending on their personal circumstances? (Not sure that’s legal actually.)

      1. misspiggy*

        Most waged employees don’t do their own taxes – the tax office predicts their situation and takes tax off every month. In-work welfare payments, state child support garnishments and student loan payments are administered through the same system. Sometimes needs correction, but mostly works well.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          I meant, if you are paying the same net, to people with different circumstances, you have to pay different gross. And if they differ because of a protected characteristic, that’s illegal.

          1. Jwal*

            How it would work (in the UK) is that the salary for a position is X amount. So someone would get an offer letter saying, for example “salary of £30k p.a.”. This would (theoretically) be the same for every individual hired for that job.

            The amount of tax the individual would then have to pay depends on various things and corresponds to different tax codes. The tax is deducted at pay time, so it shows on the payslip but the employee doesn’t get involved in the actual tax paying. The employer doesn’t get to determine how much tax they want to take, as that’s determined by the government.

            So, for example, A and B have the same job. They both have the same salary (determined by the employer) but A pays more tax because she had different student loans and she also works a second job.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              I’m also in the UK :) I was replying to the first comment in this thread

              “our company quotes pay to our UK employees as net income (after tax). So if we offer them £45,000 that is literally what they will take home.”

              That seems… illegal to me. Because you’d be basing the gross pay on people’s individual circumstances – someone single with no kids would be paid more than a married person with 2 kids.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          Agreed about the taxes – I’m not self-employed so have never filled in a tax return. I don’t think I’d know where to start!

      2. Sandy*

        There is a fascinating article somewhere (NYT maybe?) about tax codes in different countries and how the US ones are the most complicated. In many developed countries, they use a predictive model.

        Ah! I found it! “Filing Taxes in a Breeze in Japan. Why not here?”, New York Times, April 14, 2017.

        1. Nanani*

          Having worked a salaried job in Japan, sure it’s *simple*, but it also means your employer knows exactly which medical services you accessed (because health insurance tells them), what other members of your family exist and what they do, and a whole lot of other things. They usually err on the side of over-estimating what you need to pay and then giving you a return, which can suck if you are in an entry position.

          Plus, your employer WILL discriminate based on all that infor they get for tax reasons.
          Even though it’s technically illegal to fire someone for, say, getting pregnant, it still happens. They just call it “asking for resignation”.

          Predictive model would be great without that whole paternalist lack of privacy the company is your dad and knows everything about you thing Japan has going on.

          1. Will "scifantasy" Frank*

            Predictive model would be great without that whole paternalist lack of privacy the company is your dad and knows everything about you thing Japan has going on.

            Agreed. I was only working in Japan for a year which did simplify matters, but…well, to quote William Gibson: Company housing, company hymn, company funeral.

            And company health plan (though merged with a universal setup), company health services (when I got a refill of a prescription I went to the on-site health office; granted I was working for Panasonic Corp.’s head office, and not every employer would have that), and so on.

            Oh, and bureaucracy. Epic bureaucracy. (I got a lot of my tax contributions refunded to me due to the nature of my employment and temporary residency; the hoops to jump through were absurd.)

        2. nonegiven*

          Besides the 1040 last year, there were schedules D and E, two forms 8889 and one form 8880. Most of those were 2 sided.

    13. xyz*

      I have worked in four different European countries. In France, I can’t remember well but think I have seen both gross and net quoted, applying to your monthly pay packet which gets to you with social security already taken out but not tax, which is taken yearly (so would never be accounted for from the employer perspective).

      UK has been covered by others.

      In Luxembourg, tax is taken at the source, so I was quoted my take-home pay straight away. I know there is a different tax rate if you’re married or have kids, but I didn’t, so I don’t know how they normally do that.

      In Belgium, I worked for international organisation so I didn’t have to pay tax at all. I was told my take-home pay with private health insurance and pension already taken out. My partner has a regular job – pretty sure he was told gross pay with benefits like a company car listed separately.

      I have certainly never heard of paid time off being accounted for separately when quoting an annual salary. It’s quite common to have different benefits like company cars, petrol vouchers or food vouchers or extra paid holidays, but they would be quoted out separately, not least because they are usually ways to increase compensation without increasing your tax burden, so I suppose you wouldn’t want to assign them all a monetary value (I don’t know, IANAL/accountant).

      1. Immy*

        In the UK at least a company car is likely to be a taxable benefit unless you don’t drive it for personal use such as a pool car that is kept at work. Basically everything in your list is taxable in one way or another depending on a person’s salary and classification.

        1. xyz*

          I’ve never had any of these benefits, so I don’t really know, but it’s definitely something bandied about in conversation over here (maybe it’s something like there is a tax, but it’s lower and it doesn’t count towards social security or something). People often don’t know what they’re talking about though, me included :)

    14. Immy*

      In the UK all my jobs have quoted the pre-tax salary so I’m not sure that is particularly common. Its hard to make generalisations about Europe as obviously its a lot of different countries but from both my experience in the UK and my friends elsewhere in Europe its not common. We do sometimes have lower salaries than the US because of our benefits but they wouldn’t quote you £75,000 and pay you £50,000 + benefits as a matter of course.

      The company sounds like it couldn’t afford the salary and had a max budget for the position and did this to make it fit which is weird.

    15. Some sort of Management Consultant*

      Swede here (and have worked in Germany and Austria) – definitely NOT the norm.

      Especially since sick days, vacation etc often are mandated by law, it’d be ridiculous to deduct them from salary.

      Even with my private supplemental health insurance and extra parental leave pay, they wouldn’t dream of deducting that from salary. They’re perks, not pay.

      1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

        Pay is always stated before taxes, if that makes any difference . Some stuff (extra retirement savings, company car, LASIK or IVF from example) are occasionally taken out of pre-tax income but that’s pretty clearly regulated.

    16. SandrineSmiles (France)*

      No, not normal in Europe. In France, they might make a different between net salary and not-net (is “gross” the word or not ? Can’t remember) but they tell you. When you get the “pre-net” number you automatically know you have to deduct approx 23% because of varying taxes and contributions.

    17. Kate*

      Yes! We hired someone who had worked in France and they were very taken aback that the offer quoted their gross salary and not their take home income (we’re in the US). Which makes OP3’s case particularly weird.

    18. ByteTheBullet*

      In Germany you discuss the gross salary, which means you’ll only get to take home about two thirds of the initial figure.

      I can see how that would seem like a very deceptive practice if you’re not used to it.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Byte, gross salary is what US offers consist of as well. So, OP negotiated verbally a 75k gross salary, and then received the written offer of 58k gross salary. The company decided to include the PTO in its calculation of her salary, and deduct that from her actual salary – which is insane. (Deducted insurance too, but I can’t tell if that’s a deduction of the employer contribution, which is Not A Thing here, or the employee portion.)

      2. Toph*

        Discussing gross salary is normal in the US too, so you do take home less than what’s quoted. The part that’s odd about the letter is it sounds like what he thought was the salary number was actually the “total compensation” number. Total compensation is salary, plus anything the employer pays toward health,vision, dental insurance, plus employment taxes paid by the employer, plus disability insurance as required, etc etc. Basically, it’s everything the employer pays at all in order to employ the employee. It’s normal that from your salary, your own contribution towards health, vision, dental insurance is deducted, as are estimated income taxes, and other things it is normal for the employee to owe. It is not normal for the employer to include in a number quoted to the employee things the employer pays for directly on behalf of the employee.

    19. Thlayli*

      Everyone is mentioning tax (and I also did) and it seems like there are genuinely variations in gross versus net being the normal information given. However OP3s query was not about tax at all – the company took her health Insurance contribution and holiday pay off the top. That is definitely not the norm anywhere in Europe according to the comments above.

    20. Discontinuity*

      Not normal where I live in Europe!! (Germany). Besides, these benefits are legally mandated here. That’s super shady.

    21. Ros*

      #3 is absolutely and definitely not a thing. They aren’t ‘benefits’ if you’re paying for them, they’re just services which you are free to purchase yourself anywaye. I don’t understand how they could even frame this to be a positive thing.

    22. Anon in the UK*

      UK here: we definitely don’t “deduct” benefits. Depending where you are in Europe 20 PTO days may be the statutory minimum, so I don’t know what/how they would even deduct that!

      Definitely have to pay taxes though, and the equivalent of social security, etc.

      When hiring new staff, we always quote the gross income. You can use a simple online calculator to figure out what your take-home pay will be.

    23. Kate*

      I have similar experience in the UK. It is always clear whether it’s gross or net income, plus if you have additional benefits.
      But I live in Hungary, so I’ve worked here more. When you get to the salary discussion in the interview, you discuss the income per month. It can be net or gross, but you specify that before agreeing on an amount. The benefits are not deducted from it, but there have been cases for me, when they asked me to accept a lower net income, because they had really great benefits. But it’s never been the case OP3 written. It is not a good way to do business IMO.

  3. nutella fitzgerald*

    Regarding #4:

    If you’re crossing off one increment at a time, wouldn’t that imply that you’re never working more than 15 minutes without stopping, even for a cross-off break?

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Yeah, I think there are two issues – there’s how it looks to other people and there’s the fact you’re stopping what you’re doing every 15 minutes.

    2. Mouse*

      I do the same thing sometimes (usually when I’m working on a big mindless spreadsheet and need to keep myself focused), but I don’t always cross the boxes off at the 15-minute mark. Sometimes if I’m in a good rhythm I wait and do two or three at a time.

      My advice to the LW- while you’re breaking the habit, keep it small and discreet. I usually use those tiny rectangle post-its, divide them into the appropriate number of boxes, and then scribble in the boxes as I go. When I’m done it looks like a weird doodle, and I fold it up and throw it away or stick it in my pocket. Nobody else knows about it.

      Sometimes in my internship I spend hours going through our database clicking “tab B” “delete” “next”. All day. I need something to keep me focused, and tracking time does the trick.

      1. Mouse*

        Now that I’m thinking about it, I think I usually do half hours instead. That might be a good way to ease yourself out of it- half hours, then hours, etc.

        And I definitely don’t do it every day. Just those really mindless ones.

      2. Hostess with the Mostess*

        Hey guys! OP4 here. I work as a host at a restaurant, and just use the back of a receipt at the host stand. Since a lot of my time is spent standing up front, there’s not a whole lot of stuff I have to be focused on for more than 15 minutes, unless we’re right in the middle of a rush, which is rare for the shifts I typically work. I also don’t do it every time – only on particularly slow days. Once fall classes start up again, I suspect I’ll continue it for lectures, but I see what Alison is saying. My only worry is the coworkers who enjoy it – will I lose rapport with them? Will it seem weird to them if I stop?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s very unlikely that your rapport with them is based on this. It won’t be weird to stop. If anyone asks about it, just shrug and say, “eh, just stopped doing it.”

          1. Hostess with the Mostess*

            Makes total sense! Thanks again, Alison – I often look to this column when I have professional questions and I’m not sure where to turn. I count myself lucky that you chose my question to engage with!

        2. strawberries and raspberries*

          I hate to say this, but as someone who’s been the weird kid in like 85% of the social and work situations I’ve ever been in, I don’t think they actually “enjoy” it- I think it’s probably more like, “Oh wow, here’s this weird thing my coworker does, and it’d be mean to openly tease her about it.” The habit is a pervasive enough threat to the perception of you as a worker that you should stop, and somehow I doubt that anyone will protest too hard if you do. Provided you’re being friendly and personable otherwise, your rapport should stay the same. (And if it doesn’t, you’ve learned something about your coworkers.)

          1. Hostess with the Mostess*

            Hmm, I’m not sure I agree, strawberries and raspberries. Many of them have taken to crossing off the times themselves, or have started their own (they’re able to keep theirs in their pockets though). I see what you’re saying – I’ve been the weird kid all my life – but I’m not sure that that’s what happening in this particular situation. (But who knows – I could be wrong!)

            1. strawberries and raspberries*

              Rereading it I can see it came across a little edgy- my main point was that I don’t think this one thing will make or break your relationship with them!

              1. Hostess with the Mostess*

                Not edgy at all! A perfectly reasonable conclusion based on the information I provided. You’re probably right – and it also probably says something about my confidence as a person that I believed this was my most redeeming quality in the eyes of my coworkers!

                1. Czhorat*

                  It’s fine to be quirky; I’m the poster-child for quirky habits. What makes this one concerning is what Allison says — even if it isn’t meant that way, it comes across as clock-watching. That’s never a good look, even in a job with long quiet stretches.

                  To be clear, I don’t think you necessarily ARE clock-watching and waiting to go home; I’m concerned that it will look that way. In any kind of a more professional job this would definitely look bad.

              1. Czhorat*

                Yeah, it’s really not a good thing culturally for everyone to be counting down to the end of their shift.
                That it’s spreading might be part of the reason that one of the managers is taking issue with it; it’s one thing for this to be your little quirk. It’s another to be creating an atmosphere in which multiple people are doing this.

              2. Bea*

                That’s probably why her boss thinks it’s an unhealthy habit. It’s a quirk for the OP but the other’s are now wasting time doing it themselves, I would be annoyed to put it lightly.

        3. Rookie Manager*

          I used to do this on slow days in an old call centre jobs. It did become a communal fun thing at times* but not the basis of our relationships! I expect you’ll find that once you are in a more engaging job the habit will naturally disappear.

          *When we got to 10 minutes left (if no one was on the phone) we would quite often have a chorus of Europe’s “it’s the final countdown”! There were some really s-l-o-w days.

        4. Bryce*

          I’m kinda torn, because while I can definitely understand how it could give the wrong impression of a countdown to exit, it also seems like something useful I may start doing. I’ve found that in the summer/winter with very long/short daylight periods, or if I’m somewhere with just constant lighting and no windows, my internal clock goes a bit wonky and I can find it difficult to keep track. 15-minute chore breaks that go an hour (not at work), spending the last half of the day feeling like the end of it is going to sneak up on me any second, a habit like this seems like just what I need to keep the time divided properly.

        5. RIF*

          Is it possible to just keep track in your head? That’s what I used to do when I worked retail. Look at the clock and work out how many 15-minute increments were left in the day. “Oh, look, just 17 more increments and then I can go hooooome!”

          1. ErinW*

            My parents live several hours away from me, and the last stretch of the trip is exactly 60 miles on a particular highway. It’s a long drive and can be really tiring, especially if I’m alone. As soon as I get on this last highway, I begin obsessively noting mile markers and mentally doing the division to see how close I am to getting there. “Exit 6–one tenth!” “Exit 15–one fourth!” “Exit 35–seven twelfths!”
            I used to cross off increments while taking notes in class, too, but only when it was really dragging. (I also once had a pack of Starburst with me in a terrifically boring 170-minute course, and I started doling out one Starburst to myself each 15 minutes.)
            I would not want my boss to see me doing any of this, though. It’s like that letter from a bit ago where the writer’s employee was constantly like, “Just hanging on till Friday!” None of us WANT to be at work, but it’s not really good manners to act like you’re withstanding torture, especially if you have a really good boss.

            1. OhNo*

              The math trick is my personal method of marking time when it’s a slow day and I have nothing else to do. It gives me a little mental break, too, because I have to take a second to calculate how much time I have left.

              An alternative method (for those who like this idea but don’t want to seem like they’re counting down the minutes) is time tracking, which is what I do at my current job. I have a spreadsheet with my different tasks/programs in it, and every so often I go in and add the amount of time I’ve been working on different projects. At the end of the day, I have a list that looks like… email (30 min), presentation prep (75 min), website changes (135 min), etc. It does the same thing as marking off time, but also gives me some useful data at the end of it. I’ve even been able to use the info in my performance reviews to note how much work certain projects were.

            2. Bryce*

              I do something similar when visiting my folks. “An hour to Government Camp, an hour to Madras, and hour to Bend.” It’s not exact, and there are always delays that make me tack extra time onto when I tell them I’ll be there, but it gives me external signposts of how things are going so I don’t need to focus my brain on it.

        6. Lynn Marie*

          Um, sorry to be a clueless old person, but is there any reason wearing a watch wouldn’t help you keep track of time much better and easier? I’m not asking to be snarky, just curious. Seems so much less complicated to me!

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I’m not an old person and I don’t get that, either – maybe we’re missing some specifics? In which case, let’s be clueless together!

          2. Liz T*

            It’s not about *telling* time. (You would need a watch or timepiece in order to accurately cross off the times anyway.) It’s about having a physical representation of how much time you’ve spent and how much time you have left–and probably a feeling of satisfaction for crossing things off, like with a to-do list.

          3. Natalie*

            I don’t think they’re using this as an actual timepiece (because how on earth would it work). It’s more of a ritual to get through slow shifts. A watch wouldn’t really provide that.

            1. Hostess with the Mostess*

              Agree with Liz T and Natalie! I actually do wear a watch, but it doesn’t make much of a difference – there’s clocks and other timepieces all around me at work.

              1. Lynn Marie*

                Ok, so it’s just a little different way of processing time than glancing at your watch and automatically doing the calculation in your head and being able to remember it (9:45 am = 2 hrs 15 minutes to end of shift)? Which is what I do and of course assume everyone in the world does. Something like how I resort to counting on fingers sometimes, or sometimes need to print something out vs reading on screen to really be able to concentrate and comprehend?

        7. Sam*

          Hi OP! Can I ask if you’re just tracking the time here, or if it’s a time management strategy where you’re divvying up your time for the day? Because I can definitely see how the former would be interpreted as you being desperate to escape.

          I do think there is some utility to this from a time management standpoint, especially if you have a lot of unstructured time. One of my grad school friends did something like this – every morning, he would break his day down to 15 minute increments and decide what he would be doing in each time block. He found it helped him plow through the large workload in a fairly efficient way. To be honest, the rest of us found it excessively rigid and endearingly odd – not the idea of dividing and assigning time, but sticking religiously to 15 minute increments when there were very few tasks that he could’ve completed in 15 minutes seemed to be more trouble than it was worth. Nevertheless, it worked for him, and you might also find it useful for schoolwork, in particular.

          1. Hostess with the Mostess*

            It’s sort of a combination – when I use it in classes or while studying, it’s definitely more about time management (most of the time). I would say that at work it’s more about keeping track of time, just because I don’t have any projects that require me to divvy my time. As soon as something lands on the host stand, I’m expected to deal with it quickly and efficiently before the next customer comes in, so time management isn’t a huge concern.

            1. nonegiven*

              Maybe you can mark down how many tables you’ve seated in each section so servers have an equal chance at tips.

        8. MicroManagered*

          I think this quirk might be ok in a restaurant environment, but it’s good to recognize that if you move into other kinds of work (like an office environment) it won’t be appropriate.

          However, if your manager is asking you to stop, that should really be the end of it. I’m not sure it’s “unhealthy” but I can see where it would be a problem if customers can see you doing it, or if it’s distracting to your other coworkers. You might have the downtime to do this at the host stand, but a server may not. So if they’re copying your behavior, that might be “unhealthy” for the efficacy of the staff overall.

          1. Czhorat*

            One of the common questions we ask here on boss requests is “Is this the hill on which you want to die?”

            While it’s fine to push back against a request from a boss if what they’re asking for doesn’t directly impact your job performance, one should try to save ones personal capital to spend on things for which it really matters. If even one member of management has a less positive view of you because you’re doing this, then it’s probably NOT the hill you want to defend with your life.

            1. Hostess with the Mostess*

              Czhorat – I totally agree that this isn’t something worth pushing back with my boss about! My question was more that she hasn’t told me to stop, but is it in my best interest to do so anyway? (Which it sounds like it is!)

              1. Czhorat*

                Yeah, there’s good quirky, neutral quirky, and bad quirky. This isn’t really what I’d go so far as to call a BAD habit, but it’s one that’s too easily read the wrong way.

                Hats off to you for being open-minded about changing it.

        9. Falling Diphthong*

          This is exactly what my son’s kindergarten teacher came up with to help him cope–a personal velcro board in his cubby where he could rip through the day’s increments until I came to retrieve him 2.5 hours later. (A week before school started he had abruptly decided that he was never again leaving my side, despite enjoying preschool and an all-day camp early in the summer.) This was sweet because he was barely five years old, and after a month or so he didn’t need it anymore; in someone older it still looks like bitterly counting down the torture remaining.

          I’d go with Mouse’s idea of switching to something that is a lot more abstract.

        10. Janelle*

          It comes across as a bit obsessive to me, assuming it wasn’t coming across as counting the minutes until the day is over. Either way it would be weird

          You say you do it to keep track of time but why do you need to keep such close track of time as a hostess? Just look at a watch? No?

          The only time I did anything like this was when I was desperate for the day to end.

        11. Case of the Mondays*

          With the info that you are a hostess – you might be able to spin this into a function of your job. You need to tell people how long the wait is. This makes sure you are just as aware of every 15 minutes that passes as the hungry people!

        12. Science!*

          I understand the impulse. I have a habit in meetings to keep track of how many slides a person has in their presentation. Not fore any particular reason, and I do pay attention and take notes. But it’s a kind of nervous habit for me, instead of playing with my necklace or my hair elastic, I make a mark each time the slide changes. But I’m always nervous that someone will notice so I make it into a random doodle, usually a flower in the corner of the page I’m taking notes on, each slide is a petal and then I add stems and leaves. It doesn’t take up much of my mental energy, less than a second to draw, but removes some of that nervous energy I tend to have during long meetings.

          1. Janelle*

            I one time in a meeting took track of how many times my co worker cleared her throat. It was a nervous habit that drove me mad after years of sitting next to her. It ended up being every 20 seconds for the whole 2 hour meeting. Kind of mean but i really thought I may lose my mind after three years of that every 20 seconds. She never did it outside of work oddly.

            1. The Strand*

              Allergies. I go into certain rooms with more dander, dust or tracked in allergens, I’m going to cough like crazy and then have to keep clearing my throat.

          2. Hostess with the Mostess*

            One of my coworkers doodles all day and my boss doesn’t seem to have any concerns about it – maybe I can figure out a combination of the two?

        13. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I taught with a guy whose major claim to staffroom fame was always knowing exactly how many work days were left before summer vacation. It was a fun running joke and, after a rough class, a valuable public service, but it did make him look less than committed (and fed into some annoying stereotypes about why folks become teachers).
          As to your social worries, Hostess with he Mostess, the guy I’m thinking was lovely and goofy and fun to talk to, so I’m sure he wouldn’t have been ostracized if he stopped the countdown.

        14. Snark*

          “Once fall classes start up again, I suspect I’ll continue it for lectures”

          Speaking as a former lecturer, it’s no better an idea to disrespect them than it is your boss and coworkers, and no less weird. Just maybe stop.

          “My only worry is the coworkers who enjoy it – will I lose rapport with them? Will it seem weird to them if I stop?”

          They enjoy it because it’s weird that you started.

        15. Anonymoose*

          Question – do you bullet journal? If so, you know why I’m asking. If not, you should look it up and bring your journal to work. It’ll help on slow days. :)

          1. Hostess with the Mostess*

            I LOVE my bullet journal!!!! I’m not sure I’ll be able to have it at the stand, but there are days where I’m downstairs just handling phones and not talking to customers in-person. Great idea, thank you so much!!

        1. Hostess with the Mostess*

          This would be great if my job involved consistent work at a computer! I’ll try it for my college classes though – most of those are all but paperless these days!

        2. Mouse*

          It’s not Excel, it’s an internal database thing, and they aren’t actually tabs. :) Say, it’s a set of specs for all of the teapots that the company distributes, and I’m going through and deleting all of the British prices because they aren’t relevant to us, but the teapots came from a British company.

          I’m glad to know there’s an Excel subreddit though! I will check that out!

    3. LeRainDrop*

      Am I the only one who doesn’t find this all that weird? In my law practice, we are required to keep track of every 6-minute increment that we work.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        I’m in the same boat, we charge our time to projects in 6-minute increments, but instead of crossing off time, I write “7:30-10:00: Project X, 10:00-10:30: Project Y” and so on throughout the day, then charge it all before I leave the office. Which is very different from writing “7:30; 7:45; 8:00” and crossing it off as the day goes.

      2. atexit8*

        Law. CPA. Any job where you have to keep track of time worked for *billing* a client.

        I do that in my website design/development side job.

        I once worked for a major defense contractor.
        I was required to track all my time.

        BUT, that is not the OP, and it is odd that she is doing this.
        It struck me as clock-watching or the I-can’t-wait-to-get-out-of-here mode.

        1. atexit8*

          The major defense contractor billed the USA government for my time working on the project.

      3. hermit crab*

        Yep. My first thought was actually, “a missed opportunity! she’s crossing off the time without writing down what she was doing during that 15 minutes!” :)

        1. None of that nonsense, please.*

          Me too! I have to note what I’m doing in 15min increments to help keep track of how long different tasks take. All that’s neede to change the OP’s habit from ‘an odd habit’ to ‘a time-management tool’ is a quick note of what he’s been doing for that 15 min.

      4. Anon for This*

        We’ve been recently asked to keep track of our time, and to log our time, in 15-minute increments. Not just billable work that the company is going to charge the customer for, but everything. We are exempt. It’s distracting as all get out. Instead of concentrating on my work, I have to keep this thought in the back of my head of what I’ve been doing every 15 minutes of my day, occasionally having to also stop and write it down. I do not like doing this at all. I’m just counting days (in my head, not on paper!) until this new requirement goes away, like every management fad before it at every job I’ve worked in.

        I’ve received bills from an attorney before (“reading a client’s email: 15 minutes; answering the email: 30 minutes”), so I do know that a lot of professions have to track their time in tiny increments. I just find it very difficult to do myself. And, yes, agree with those that said that this is not what the OP is doing.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          I bet there is a technology solution for this, or at least to make it a tad less invasive. Perhaps an excel sheet and you can fill the cell with a color or a letter that’s coded to certain types of activities. Or maybe some kind soul has developed an app that will ping/vibrate and then you just check the box of what you were doing with convenient export. The first would be better if you tend to work uninterrupted in large blocks of time.

          Getting things down to a second or two rather than the manual handwritten time keeping logs I’ve seen seems like the way to go.

          Now that I think about it a letter in excel would be good, that would allow you to use COUNTIF and get some good summaries and ability to easily have data analysis.

          1. Teach*

            I was thinking there must be an Apple Watch app that would work! I have one set up with vibrate-only notifications for deep breathing, for example.

        2. Turquoise Cow*

          A job I had a while back asked me to keep track of time like this while I was training. There were a number of tasks I had to learn, and they asked me to write down how much time I spent on learning each task. I’d forget about it for several hours and then have to try to remember how long I sat with Fergus learning the TPS reports.

          I’ve also had jobs where managers asked me how long it took me to do a task in one way vs. another way, or how much longer or shorter it took to do one thing vs. another. Usually when they were trying to improve efficiencies. Thankfully they were usually happy with a ballpark estimate, though I can’t say my estimates were at all accurate.

        3. EmKay*

          Careful. When they asked us to do this at OldJob, they were starting to look for positions they could cut or “merge”.

      5. Hekko*

        But isn’t it enough for tracking purposes if you write doen time just before you start working, and then the time when you stop (even for a break), count the minutes and divide by 6?

      6. Janelle*

        She doesn’t bill in 6 min intervals, she seats people at a restaurant. So it is in fact weird.

      7. V*

        I’m a lawyer and I wish I was as diligent as OP4 with tracking time! OP4, if you expect to pursue a career where you provide services to an outside client (law, CPA, consulting, etc.), then I’m going to encourage you to keep this habit, but alter it slightly. Instead of crossing out a 15 minute increment after it passes, jot a note next to it of what you did/learned in that time – for example, at work you might say “sat x number of parties, took x number of reservation, or at school you might say “debate as to whether Jane Eyre is a feminist icon”. This lets you keep your habit, while turning it into something that will help you track accomplishments, summarize what you just learned (which helps keep your brain focused and helps you remember class discussions) and will be a fantastic habit to have if you pursue a career where you have to do this anywsy. Also, I think your employer’s perception of what you are doing will change dramatically from she is clock watching to she is tracking productivity. That information may even be useful to your employer if it could help identify patterns in the peaks and valleys of walk-in customers, phone calls, etc.

        1. Hostess with the Mostess*

          Hey V! Thanks for the advice! I’ll definitely incorporate that into my work flow!

          As for my future career, I’m pursuing a degree in theatre right now, so I’m hoping to be an actor/director/designer for as long as it will pay the bills! I can see how tracking productivity might be helpful as a stage manager – being able to report to the director how much time was spent on each scene/song/dance would certainly be useful – but as an actor or director I understand this wouldn’t be viable.

      8. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Yeah, I really do not understand all the people here saying this would be “inappropriate” at an office job. There are plenty of jobs that require you to track your time, and honestly, even if it’s just a lil thing that OP does completely randomly and nonsensically, it still has absolutely zero impact on her job, her work, other peoples’ work, etc. If a boss told me to stop doing it, I would think they were being incredibly petty!

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t think that’s what the OP is doing, though – they aren’t billing by any particular time unit and they’re not writing down what they do during each interval for some kind of data collecting purpose. They’re just counting down to the end of their shift, but they’re doing it in writing. I think that would seem weird in plenty of office jobs, even ones with billable hours.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Right. If I was marking down “8:30, emails. 8:45, still emails. 9:00, still emails. 9:15, started new documentation project. 9:30, first page of doc project done,” etc., my boss would have no problem with it. But if I was just making a big list of fifteen-minute intervals and crossing them off, yeah, I suspect it would make me look like I was desperate to go home.

      9. NotAnotherManager!*

        I have worked in legal nearly my entire professional career, and the day grid/slashing method is one of the ways I’ve seen my folks track their time – HOWEVER, there is a legitimate business function for this (accurately tracking your billable time), and it’s not simply a way of counting down until the end of business.

        As a side note, I also find it to be a terribly inefficient way to track one’s time – our timekeeping program has timers, and even an Excel sheet would be an improvement over pretty much any paper-based system I’ve seen. The attorney and billing professional staff who still use the red diary books kill me because they’re writing everything down and then someone else is transcribing it, which just kills me on the double-duty required to get that into the billing system.

    4. Foreign Octopus*

      I once started a running tally of days at my old recruitment job. I wasn’t counting down from anything, or towards anything, I just started marking a list of the days on a post-it note from day one. Still not sure why I did that.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      C’mon. A “cross-off break?” Writing a line through a number takes a split second and virtually no attention; she can do it while she’s walking across the room, writing down an order, or wiping down a table.

      1. Hostess with the Mostess*

        This was my reaction too – especially during a slow time, as long as I’m not abandoning the stand, the customers, or the phones, I’m having trouble seeing how the time it takes to cross of the number is objectionable. I do see how it makes it look like I’m watching the clock and waiting to leave though!

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, is it possible that your employee is thinking of PTO as comp time? I agree with Alison about expanding the number of sick days, but I also wonder if, by framing leave as something your employees can earn back, she’s not really thinking of her benefits as leave at all.

    1. MillersSpring*

      I wonder why OP#1 is offering three weeks of PTO *and three days of sick time. Generally PTO is offered as a single bucket for both sick and vacation time. Contrast this with organizations that offer both, but they specifically break them out as vacation time and sick time.

      OP, is there ever a time when employees have 3 whole weeks banked, or do you have them accrue it over time and they typically take days as they’re accrued? That’s common. Personally I’d rather bank them, then take days when I need or want them.

      1. OP#1*

        The PTO time is given all at once at the beginning of each year, so yes, they have three full weeks banked at one time.

        Interestingly, we worked as a team to come up with the PTO benefits, including what holidays they wanted to include as paid days (originally it was 2 weeks PTO, but when they reached 5 years I bumped it to 3). However, my background before starting my own business was fast food and retail, with almost no paid time off benefits, and my team has a similar background, so none of us realized that the sick days were actually lower than normal! I have no issues with offering more sick time and will do so.

        1. atexit8*

          3 weeks PTO at 5 years is fairly standard.

          The 7 days sick days AAM mentioned, I have never seen before!
          Way generous!
          And I have worked for many major employers.

          My last employer offered 5 sick days accrued, and they were a multi-billion dollar conglomerate.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Me neither, I’ve never seen more than 5. I’ve seen zero for the first year (thankfully, only once). But never 7.

          2. ThatGirl*

            Yeah, my last job had 18 days PTO to start, which was one bucket that included sick time.

            My current job is 15 days PTO and 5 sick days (which can be used in smaller increments for doctor’s appointments and that sort of thing). 15 days PTO plus 7 sick days seems pretty generous!

          3. Michelle*

            I have been with my current employer (large non-profit) for 15 years and it’s always been 3 days of sick leave. You also get 2 personal day per year and start at 2 weeks paid vacation, bump to 3 weeks at 5 years and max out at 4 weeks of paid vacation at 10 years. Sick can accrue indefinitely, personal and vacation is use it or lose it.

          4. Jubilance*

            I used to work for a Fortune 4 company and they offered 10 days of sick time. And you could use it if your kid or other family member was sick, which was also a nice benefit. It was separate from our 3 weeks PTO (minimum) as well.

            My current Fortune 50 company doesn’t have sick time at all for salaried roles – you simply stay home until you’re well. It’s nice to not have to worry about saving days, and we have a culture where people stay home if they are sick, so it works.

          5. Princess Carolyn*

            Yikes, really? Most of my jobs offered two weeks of vacation and two weeks of sick time. My new job just offers 12 total days of combined PTO and I am struuuugggling.

          6. a nony mouse*

            I work as a city employee in a union, and we get 3 weeks of vacation (2 weeks vacation; 1 week floating holiday) and 13 days of sick leave. That ups to 4 weeks of vacation after 5 years.

            The sick leave is so generous *and* it rolls over every year that right now I have over 8 weeks of sick leave banked. It will come in handy should I suffer a bad health scare. I know one co worker who took like two-three months off because she suffered a really bad broken leg.

          7. AMPG*

            The job I spent most of my career to date at offered Annual Leave in a lump sum and you couldn’t roll it over, but you accumulated sick days at the rate of one per month and could roll them over indefinitely. I was there for 14 years and took two 16-week maternity leaves fully paid due to the amount of sick days I had stored up.

          8. DB Queen*

            We’re on the high extreme of sick time. We get 5 sick days every quarter in addition to 4 weeks vacation.

          9. nonegiven*

            My husband accrues 8 hours of sick pay per month. He gets his 120 hours vacation added in January, he’s been there 18.5 years. I don’t remember how long it was before he got his third week. He can only carry over 40 hours from the year before. I think he gets 8 or 9 paid holidays where they close down, July 4th, Christmas, etc, I’ve lost track.

        2. ENFP in Texas*

          you can also consider just creating one PTO bank for people to use as either vacation or sick days as they need. 18 days (3 weeks + 3 sick that you have now) in a PTO bank is pretty generous.

          One other thing to consider is reducing or limiting the number of PTO days that can be carried over between calendar years. My (Fortune 100) company has a 40 hour limit of what can be carried over year to year, and anything over and above that is simply lost. This use-it-or-lose-it approach encourages people to use their PTO days each year instead of just letting them accrue.

          1. Tuckerman*

            Having one bank also encourages people to horde their time until the end of the year (just in case they or their kids get sick) and then scramble to use all the time in December.

          2. OP#1*

            I use to have it all in one bucket, but then they never used it for a sick day. They would work when sick. So I kept the same PTO time and added 3 days sick leave to encourage them to take a day off if sick.

            I also forgot to mention that I also have a bonus in place that kicks in when we reach our sales goal. Part of the bonus is an extra PTO day.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I think it might also be useful to reinforce that you don’t want people working while sick, and that it’s not time you expect them to make up. Just as a general policy.

            2. Michelle*

              I think you should use Allison’s approach and speak to her about what happened a couple of years ago and let her know that you don’t want her to burn out from overworking. Other than that, if she chooses to continue this, you could possible put some sort of rule in place. I’m not a fan of that, but it maybe the only thing to get this employee to relax a bit and use her benefit time.

            3. Natalie*

              IMO if you’re providing pay, it’s your prerogative to send people home if they’re sick.

            4. AMPG*

              Honestly, I think you should bump up the number of sick days and then not allow employees to make up entire days of time off (making up a couple of hours here or there is different). This is a behavior that you can easily nudge with a carrot-and-stick combination.

            5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yeah—studies indicate that when PTO is in one bank, people tend to horde it and not use it for sick leave. OP, I think you’re right to break out sick days (and to ideally increase the number of sick days).

              I wonder if the leave-hoarding is happening because of your and your employees’ prior experiences in food service. Ideally they’d know, by now, that there’s no need to make up hours to take paid leave, but if your employee is working so much that it’s making her sick, it makes me think that it might be helpful to do a “training” meeting with both employees about the rationale behind your PTO policy and why you want them to take vacation.

              I grew up in a family with strong cultural norms about leave (i.e., you don’t take it), but the rationale was based in their prior experiences as working-class immigrants who lived through long periods of unemployment and desperation. I think it’s smart to probe why your employee isn’t taking her leave—it could be because of that first year’s experience, or it could be something from earlier in her work history. But it will be easier to address her concerns if you know where they’re coming from.

              You sound super thoughtful OP—I have faith this will sort out!

              1. DDJ*

                I think it can really depend on the person as well. At my company, we have (theoretically) unlimited sick days. I would be horrified to take any more than, say, 3 days of sick leave in a year. Unless I were really, really sick or had some kind of medical emergency. I’ll often use vacation time when I’m not feeling well. If my boss knew I was doing that, she would encourage me not to. We’ve actually had ‘arguments’ where I’ve entered time as vacation time and she’s changed it to sick time.

                Maybe it’s because I spent so long working without the benefit of paid sick days, so using them just seems bizarre to me. But I have coworkers who probably use 1-2 sick days every month.

          3. Purplesaurus*

            I agree with having a combined PTO pool. It’s possible to wipe out a full week of PTO from one bad virus, and then use a couple days here and there for lesser illnesses.

          4. AndersonDarling*

            At my company, we are required to use one week of vacation and then we can roll over the unused PTO to the next year. It’s spelled out in our handbook that the company wants us to be refreshed and unstressed, and that is why we need to take a week of vacation.

        3. The Other Dawn*

          I agree that three sick days is pretty low. Better than nothing, but I can see why your employee might be hoarding them.

          Three weeks vacation is standard, though.

          At my previous jobs, we had five sick days, two personal days and then the standard vacation time. My current job is 10 PTO days, which are sick, personal, whatever you need them for; and standard vacation time. It’s awesome, because I never feel like I need to hoard my days.

        4. nonymous*

          I worked at a company that had PTO and EIB (extended illness bank). If you were out for illness, you had to use 2 days of PTO initially and on the third day EIB would kick in if you provide documentation. PTO was paid out at separation, but not EIB. iirc the accrual rate was 6 – 10 hrs PTO pp (depending on senority) and 2 hrs EIB/pp (regardless of senority). This worked out to 15 – 26 days PTO and 5 EIB days on a 10hr shift.

          Holidays were rolled into the PTO bucket, so if your scheduled shift fell on a holiday you could choose to talk an alternate day off *and* the holiday worked would be premium pay.

        5. Lisa B*

          I don’t want this to go unspoken, but even if your sick time offering is low, you sound like you are amazingly generous and flexible with PTO when employees have special circumstances come up. Letting them make up time in lieu of using PTO (just in general), offering extra PTO when your employee had a family emergency- those are incredibly generous practices and I applaud you for them!!

        6. Biff*

          Man, you sound like a good boss. You ask a question, we give you an answer that impacts your bottom line, and boom, you say “I’m gunna do it.”

          Thank you. People like you make the world a decent place to be.

      2. Quacktastic*

        Is it? My jobs have always separated time off into vacation, personal, and sick buckets. 2 weeks vacation until 5 years, 32 hrs personal time, and 32 hours sick time, but my 1st job did offer 0 PTO time the 1st year. (They did comp me 1 sick day when I had an on the job injury that year.) It doesn’t accrue, it flat out renews Jan 1.

        I am in what most people would see as a weird job (exempt but very butt -in-seat/ strict schedule, OT is paid) so maybe not the norm in other industries, but to me one big bucket would be weird and would also discourage sick time to save for vacation.

        Is 7 days really normal in other industries? I would love that, since 32 hours is usually more like 3 days/year if you get sick on a 12 hour shift, and it definitely encourages coming in when only mildly sick.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      This part stood out to me, “Even when she plans week-long vacations, she works long hours to make sure that she does not lose the entire week of PTO.”

      I’ve never had an employer who would be okay with this. Maybe a few hours, even half a day. But not making up an entire week to avoid taking PTO.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I should also add: my previous employers have spelled this out with a policy like, “Employees must record all non-work-related absences of four hours or more taken during regular business hours as PTO.”

      2. nonymous*

        In my current position, I can bank up to 10 hrs of comp time a week, with a cap of a balance of 24 hrs. It was definitely handy the first year I was FTE and hadn’t built up my leave balances yet.

      3. Jaydee*

        You mentioned that the employees are salaried and remote and that you don’t track their hours (so I’m assuming they are also exempt), so how exactly is this employee tracking the extra hours worked versus the time she takes off? Do you generally expect the employees to work during certain hours and to ask/tell you if they aren’t going to be able to work during those hours?

        You could try limiting the amount of time you can make up outside of regular work hours. The flexibility to be able to make up a few hours for a doctor’s appointment or to leave early one day without using PTO is great. But trying to make up for multiple days totally defeats the purpose of both offering and taking PTO. Maybe set a limit that absences of a half-day or less can be made up within the same week or pay period, but absences of a full day or more must be taken out of PTO or sick leave as appropriate.

        Also, as someone who has definitely worked long hours in advance of a vacation despite being salaried and having plenty of PTO, this is a red flag behavior for me. Is she struggling with time management or is the workload too high such that she is scrambling to try to get work done before she goes on vacation? It may be less about not using up the PTO and more about either actually completing work or wanting to feel like she has her workload managed to where she can “give herself permission” to relax and be away from work. I would talk to her about that aspect as well.

    3. Chickadee*

      My employer (large university) gives 15 to 20 days PTO (+5 gained after 5 years), and 12 sick days (which accrue one per month).

  5. IrishGirl*

    #4 As a European working in the US, I’ve never heard of this. It sounds bizarre – I’ve only ever seen salary quoted as a gross figure. I’m aware of companies who provide significant expenses as advertising a “total compensation package” of $x, where salary could be a fraction of that, but it’s always clear that $X is not a salary figure.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yeah – that is when you’re getting to the top end of salary and they are starting to give you shares, etc, as far as I’ve seen.

  6. Fiennes*

    If #5 becomes a lawyer, they’re going to ROCK at logging billable hours.

    More seriously — I think that timekeeping habit actually could be useful in many situations, for people who like to strictly order their days/tasks. So I don’t know that I’d tell OP to stop. I *would* say that the timekeeping needs to be discreet — even internal, if necessary — and not something coworkers and managers are likely to observe.

      1. RIF*

        When I worked retail and kept track of intervals in my head, an hour would have been too long. I needed to think of time passing quickly in order to get through my day. Going from 16 intervals left to 12 intervals left in an hour made me less crazy than going from just 4 to 3.

    1. PM Jesper Berg*

      This is a great example of why “billable hours” are disastrous for clients. The timekeepers are more focused on timekeeping than their deliverables. They’re probably billing the client for time spent on the timekeeping.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I mean, the focus on timekeeping is the least of the problems with billable hours.

      2. MK*

        That system always seemed problematic to me. It’s almost like an incentive to work slowly or do unnecessary tasks.

      3. Jessie the First (or second)*

        “The timekeepers are more focused on timekeeping than their deliverables. They’re probably billing the client for time spent on the timekeeping.”

        Nope. And fyi, at every place I have worked, you could absolutely NOT bill for the time you spend keeping time (unless you wanted to get pulled off cases and fired).

        I *hate* the 6 minute increment thing, and it is the bane of my existence – and it is not a windfall for lawyers (not anymore – I suppose 10 years ago was a bit different). Clients hire legal auditors that are unforgiving and brutal in their estimations of how long a thing should take, clients will push back if they get a bill that is not what they expected, and I have seen lawyers at one place I worked fired for padding their time. It’s no fun for anyone, really. But as law is not black and white, it’s not really so easy to just, say, give a flat fee for negotiating a corporate spin-off.

        But yeah, the 6 minute thing sucks – but it sucks for everyone, I think. I’d *love* to stop.

    2. Cookie*

      Timekeeping would also be (and appear) more valuable if you logged what you did during that period. Like 11-11:15, wiped down menus, 11:15-11:30 floral arrangement. You could probably track your productivity this way. But as others said, be discreet (or avoid doing it in this job) since a supervisor already told you to stop.

  7. Alastair*


    I was kind of shocked to see Alison suggest the PTO package doesn’t have enough sick days. From my experience in the US this is a very generous PTO package. 3 sick days and all paid holidays (that’s anywhere from 5 -10 more days depending which holidays) and 3 weeks vacation on top of that!

    I get 3 weeks only. 6 of those days get deducted for holidays. Which leaves me only 9 days for all sick time and vacation. That’s a pretty typical package for around here too.

    1. Bigglesworth*

      Wow. That sounds awful. The company I used to work at was notorious in the area for bad benefits, but I definitely got more time off than that. Two weeks for vacation, something like 1.5 weeks of sick time, some federal holidays, and some religious holidays were fairly normal. I was also bottom of the totem pole, so that was the time off that I get as a new hire.

      1. SleeplessInLA*

        I totally agree that your employer is being selfish with vacation time. I’m mid career level now, but even at entry level I always had an average of 3 weeks off a year (not including federal holidays). For EX: my former employer gave 21 PTO days to use at your discretion for any reason. My current employer gives 15 PTO days, 10 sick days and 2 “floating holidays.”

        If 9 days is typical I’d seriously consider trying to renegotiate when it comes time to ask for a raise and/or promotion.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow, that is well below the average (which, like I noted in the post, is an average of seven sick days annually, as of 2015). It’s also not typical to deduct holidays from your vacation days. Typically when an employer says they offer 3 weeks of vacation, that’s on top of federal holidays. You have a very stingy employer and/or a very stingy field.

      1. Thornus67*

        That’s stingy? Man, I’d love to hear the adjective used for my old bosses (for an admittedly exempt position; attorney too so exempt from any and all salary requirements under FLSA) who gave zero time off and also docked pay for office closures (such as holidays, mandatory hurricane evacuations, etc).

        1. CityMouse*

          I am a lawyer and I have never heard of any plan that stingy. Even the big firms don’t do that (of course billables can make taking time difficult).

        2. oranges & lemons*

          Is it legal in the US to dock pay for statutory holidays if you’re exempt? I’m pretty sure in Canada you can’t do that. Employers can require you to work but they have to pay extra for it.

        1. Diamond*

          In Australia you must (by statute) get a minimum of 20 days (4 weeks) PTO. I get 6 weeks :) plus the public holidays of which there are about 8. I think sick leave is usually around 10 days. There isn’t such a huge variation in benefits as there seems to be in the US so when you’re job searching it’s really just comparing the salary component.

          1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

            Yes, 28 days (including 8 public holidays) is the absolute legal minimum in the U.K. And that’s considered reasonably stingy – most employers offer more like 25 days plus 8 public holidays. The University is a big employer in my city and they offer 32 days plus 8 public holidays.

            Sick leave is on top of this. Most ‘good’ jobs would offer upwards of up to a month’s full salary paid sick if needed building up to several months after years of service. I think the average amount of sick days in the U.K. is about 8 per person per year taken, but most people have a good safety net if they’ve need it.

            1. Bagpuss*

              I agree on holidays, but don’t think that it is usual to offer anything like that level of paid sick time. I think the statistics are skewed by public sector jobs which typically have far more generous sickness benefits. (for instance, my sister, who is in the public sector, is entitled to 3 months full pay and a further 3 months half pay) but it’s pretty rare to have that in the private sector. It’s not uncommon for low paid jobs to have no paid sick time at all, other than statutory sick pay.

              Holidays – as NewHere says, for a full time worker the legal minimum is 28 days, including bank holidays, but most employers give more. (We have 25 days + bank holidays, so 33 in total. In addition, we usually close the office between Christmas and New Year and will typically give 2 of the 3 (non-bank holidays), so everyone actually gets 35 paid days off in the year, although 2 of those are not guaranteed.

              1. Bagpuss*

                Just did a bit of googling, and apparently 4.3 days per year is the average amount of sick time actually taken by UK workers

              2. Stillbigred*

                Bagpuss – I had no idea that many companies do not offer sick pay (including my current gig) until I had taken leave for a stomach bug. The last two jobs I had were at larger organisation where I expect they offer more in the way of ‘benefits’ Here, they deduct any days taken off sick from our pay – could have cried when I found out!

          2. aebhel*

            I’m in the U.S., and I get 20 days of vacation, 2 personal days, 1 floating holiday and 10 paid holidays. Plus I accumulate sick time at a rate of 1 day per month to a maximum of 120 days (after which I can get paid for any additional unused sick time).

            …granted, I am in civil service, which is notorious for great benefits and lousy salaries, but still.

            1. Kowalski! Options!*

              Also in the civil service (in Canada) and under the collective agreement of my union, we get 1.75 sick days for every month earned, accruable. My father was also a civil servant, and when he took early retirement at 55, he was able to cash out his sick leave…and he had accumulated nearly 300 sick days over his 37 years of employment! (That was in the late 80s, though. Not sure if it still applies.)

              1. Kowalski! Options!*

                Sorry, every month *worked* (duh). I also found out yesterday that I started accruing sick days and holidays when I hit the six-month point of my (paid) internship, before I was hired on here full-time. It was a nice surprise to see that I had a lot more leeway for PTO and sick leave than I thought I had.

          3. LizBee*

            Also in Australia, and under my award, I accrue 2 hours and 53 minutes of sick leave per fortnight. I think it’s meant to top out at ten days?

            (I just had a full week off with laryngitis, and am now 20 hours in arrears and very grateful that my employers don’t care.)

          4. little mermaid*

            I never understood sick days. I don’t think we have that in contracts. I mean, there’s something in my contract about 3 months in case of serious illness. But if we’re just talking normal stuff? There’s no max amount of days per year. My best friend had to stay in bed for 3 weeks, because of a really horrible concussion and didn’t even have to show a doctor’s note.

            How can you limit sick days? One year I might not need any and the next year I might need surgery – I really don’t get it. And how is that considered a benefit? I mean, everyone gets sick sometimes or can have an accident?

            1. Aisling*

              I can tell you’re not in the US, since you’re talking about contracts. This is a crappy thing about the US: there is no mandated vacation or sick leave. None. For professional jobs, those companies do offer sick leave and vacation time, but a lot of non-professional businesses do not. My fiance used to be a security guard and only got 5 days vacation time per year, which they preferred he didn’t take (they would pay it out if it wasn’t taken and most people took that). He got no sick leave, and no holidays off, since it was a 24/7 security job. He only had holidays off if they fell on his usual days off. If he got sick, he had to go to work anyway – not working meant no pay. It’s a truly terrible system.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it could be so helpful! Even when I worked retail in high school and college, my benefits were not as bad as what Alastair is describing (but maybe this was the California effect?).

        3. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          That would be interesting! Especially because the international norms are so different.

        4. Bend & Snap*

          Yes! My company was acquired and new company is stingy with holidays. The first one we have is Memorial Day. We have 6 paid holidays a year which is the lowest I’ve ever had.

          There are other flashy benefits like discounts on cars and travel, legal services, stuff like that but hands down i would rather make more money and have more PTO including holidays. We also only get 5 sick days.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Yeah, discounted travel sounds great and all, but if you don’t have enough PTO to take advantage of it, then… “Flashy” is a great word for something like that.

      2. hermit crab*

        I was also surprised that 7 sick days was average. We have pretty good benefits overall, but we only went up from 5 to 7 sick days when we added a location in a jurisdiction that requires 7 days.

      3. Bekx*

        This makes me so sad. I get 2 weeks vacation and only 2 sick days. Any time someone says something to the CFO about getting more he calculates how much money we’d lose in labor if every employee got an additional sick day. It sucks. Everyone complains about it but I don’t think they’ll ever change.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        My understanding was that most places with PTO have *no* “sick days” and PTO is a pool to be used for vacation and sick days. That’s how it is at my company. I get 17 PTO days a year, and honestly I generally struggle to make sure I use it up! So 15 days of PTO + 3 sick days sounds really reasonable to me?

    3. Gaia*

      Even in my crappiest of jobs (of those that actually offered time off) I had 10 days vacation and 7 days sick time + company paid holidays. I never get sick – like, ever – and I’d be angry at 3 sick days a year. What if I *do* get sick?

      1. hbc*

        But if OP gives 15 PTO and 3 sick, that’s actually more time off than you got at that job. It’s much better if you don’t get sick very often, and you can always take PTO when you’re sick.

        1. OP#1*

          OP #1 here.
          I think that extending my sick days off may help a bit here, and I plan on doing so. I am actually very laid back on my team taking days off as needed. However, I imagine that this employee still won’t use that sick time or feel the need to make them up if they did, and I am not sure why.The one sick day she took last week was the only one taken in over a year. I guess I thought 3 days was enough because no one ever used all 3 sick days before! However, if her mentality is “I only have 3 sick days, I better save them up!” then she might be more relaxed about taking some if she knew she had more in the pool.

          1. atexit8*

            I can understanding making up time for a doctor’s appointment, but making up several days is just plain weird. I have never seen that.

          2. Natalie*

            What if you went to “unlimited” sick time for short term illnesses? (Under 3 days or a week, say.) Your employees seem pretty responsible and perhaps this would help them chill out and stop coming to work sick.

            If it’s financially feasible, you could buy short term disability insurance to cover longer illnesses, although it usually pays a smaller % of salary. I don’t know how much a policy would be for such a small employer, but at my employer of 30 it’s usually only $15-20/month per employee.

          3. Twenty Points for the Copier*

            You mentioned she’s working remotely – if this means working from home, it’s possible she really doesn’t get sick enough to take a sick day all that often. I work from home and since I’m not worried about infecting coworkers, can sleep in and start later, and always have the option of giving up and going back to bed if I’m really too sick to work, it takes a lot for me to really call it a sick day. (Though I also don’t have kids which means no sick days because they’re sick and probably less exposure to germs.)

            I still think having 5 sick days instead of 3 would make your employees (who all seem to be very dedicated workers) less likely to try to hoard sick days “just in case” and that there does seem to be an issue with this particular employee working so hard that she doesn’t realize the benefits of taking vacation.

      2. Rockhopper*

        We only have one PTO bucket; I get 20 days per year. For me, this works well because I just don’t get sick (I understand that I may not always be so fortunate) and I’d rather have the time off for traveling to see my elderly parents. I have a dentist with early morning appts. and and eye dr. with Saturday appts. and we can make up up to 2 hrs per pay period for any dr. appt. I get it that other people (those with small children or health issues) need more time off on the “sick” side of the balance, but that is why I like PTO–I get to use it as best meets my needs. (I do always save a few days in case I do get sick.)

        1. Lily Rowan*

          How does that carry over, though? Since I’ve always worked places that paid out vacation days, but not sick days, I’ve generally been able to accrue unlimited sick days, even when the vacation days were strict use-it-or-lose-it. As a person who doesn’t get sick much, that’s a real comfort to me in case I get hit by a bus or whatever.

          1. Rockhopper*

            We don’t have any carryover. All leave gets reset on January 1. So, yes, if I get hit by the proverbial bus, that is a problem although we do have short term disability. And colleagues can donate PTO to those with special need. But although I’m aware of the worst case that could happen, it doesn’t really change my behavior. I usually have 5-6 days left in December to use up at a time when I’d be using them anyway. The good thing is that very few people in my company lose any PTO at year’s end so they are using it.

          2. Mme Marie*

            I work for a company that has a similar single-PTO bucket… there is no sick day carry over, accrual, etc. We also don’t get PTO cash out for unused days, but you can carry over 5 days into the next year (but have to use them by April 1). We separately get 8 (US) federal holidays.

            My mom worked for the state government, and she was allowed to bank some sick time. They have a neat program that she is able to convert that banked sick time to cover the cost of heath insurance premiums on the state retiree plan when she retired.

    4. DecorativeCacti*

      I accrue sick leave at my current employer. Eight hours for every month worked. They never expire, so I have something like 300 hours saved up.

      1. CityMouse*

        I am the same. I have heard though that you can do something with it when you retire, but that is a long way off. You are only allowed to take six weeks of it for parental leave, though, which sucks.

      2. Justme*

        Same, ours accrues monthly. I think there is a cap to how much you can have. But people often donate it to the catastrophic leave bank.

    5. Ledgerman*

      That sounds terrible! My current employee gives 96-104 holiday hours (so, 12-13 days), 120 hours (3 weeks) PTO, which goes up as you progress in the company, and unlimited sick time. We use sick time for our medical apts, as well as those of our immediate family.

        1. blackcat*

          Depends on the state. In MA, employers have to pay time and a half to hourly workers on most holidays. The result is many businesses simply close rather than take the hit. And retail shops (which stay open) generally don’t have problems staffing holidays because people want the extra pay.

    6. Kate*

      We have unlimited PTO, and while there are definitely downsides, not worrying about running out of sick leave when I/my kid is sick is a huge plus. I would be super stressed if I only got 9 days total

      1. Shadow*

        Does anyone actually use it the way it theoretically can be used? I.e. taking as much time off as possible while still getting the job done. Or do people feel like there’s some line that they can’t cross and feel like no one will tell them where it’s at?

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Some people do feel like that, but that’s a management problem imo, not a problem with the system. Which, yeah, doesn’t change that it exists as an issue!

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I honestly think that OP should consider just making the policy be unlimited PTO. It sounds like their staff would not abuse it, and it removes the idea that time needs to be made up, freeing people up to just do what they need to do in order to stay caught up on their actual work.

    7. ByteTheBullet*

      I have no idea how you guys cope with that, kudos… I think the work ethos of Americans is hard to beat. I have 26 paid vacation days (which is on the low end of the spectrum) and theoretically unlimited sick time. So far I’ve taken about five vacation days this year and I’m exhausted. I feel like I’ve not had nearly enough time off. Still, I know that there are people who work multiple jobs and/or have far less vacation time and/or have far more demanding family lives, and… like… how do you do that.

    8. Ashloo*

      Seriously, is OP hiring? This is way more generous than either my husband or I have in our “white collar” jobs. I’m an independent contractor, so I have no expectations for benefits (the company actually gives us 10 days PTO, but I also work some holidays/weekends so… eh?).

      My husband works for a small landscape architecture firm, salaried, and the entirety of his “benefits” is 10 days PTO and under 10 holidays. No sick time, health insurance, no raise this year or alternate form of compensation even when asked! Can’t wait until he’s out of this stepping stone job. We are late 20s. It gets better, right?

    9. Alastair*

      I am a millennial, which I think is important here because everywhere I have ever worked has had grandfathered systems for employees hired prior to 2009.

      I have worked as an analyst in both a top ten us bank and small non profit hospital. Both places had one PTO bucket so sick, holiday, and vacation all subtracted from the same balance. I have never had a paid holiday ever and I frequently lack the PTO to take holidays. The bank had what I considered great benefits 6 total weeks but I attributed that to being Canadian owned.

      Is this really not normal on the us? Out of curiosity – are any of you grandfathered in? Like I said at both places I have worked new employees had a different benefits package than everyone else.

      1. Ledgerman*

        Not grandfathered in here, started at my current employer last year. Prior to that I worked at a large telecom company and a government agency, all in the US, and neither of them combined all the buckets like that. Seems weird!

        As my comment above stated, I currently have unlimited sick time (also to be used for medical apts), 3 weeks of PTO, and 12-13 holiday days – some assigned, some floating. Well technically all floating but it’d be difficult to justify working when nobody else is!

  8. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 The family emergency seems likely to be the cause of this, but I did also wonder what happens with her workload when she’s out? I’ve known people to feel unable to take time off because they have to cover the same amount of work and/or it piles up in their absence. It might be worth considering if this could be a factor.

    1. OP#1*

      OP #1 here. That is a good thought. Typically what happens is when they request time-off is I don’t schedule any teapot designs for them during that week and both my other team member and I pitch in to make sure their workload is clear before their vacation. However, for unplanned days off, that is not always possible. When that happens, I redo their schedule to shift the workload around and contact clients to let them know about any delays if it comes to that. This employee does tend to seem to get a bit stressed when we are busy and their schedule is booked out longer than normal though, so you may be on to something here. Even if their workload is planned out and scheduled around the break, it may be causing her anxiety anyway, especially if she needs an unplanned day off.

      1. Purplesaurus*

        Is it just this one employee? How do the others handle their workload when returning from unplanned absences? You could try working with her to help manage her tasks, or it might make sense to hire more staff if your other employees are also struggling and just not telling you or showing it.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Or do people who take time off always come back to a chorus of, OMG we were so busy while you were gone!, which, while not necessarily intended a such, is basically a guilt trip.

          I had minimal days off at my former job but never took any because my supervisors and coworkers whined so much when I got back. My current job just tells people that I’ll contact them when I return, so we can take time off without feeling badly about it.

      2. anonanon*

        Aaahhhh. Well, this is practically me. My office is notorious about not having coverage plans, in one way or another. It makes time off not enjoyable. Perhaps this can be addressed office-wide as how you will approach it when one of your employees is out. It sounds like maybe you’ve been handling it informally, so it would be reassuring to all employees to let them know you have a plan in place and they won’t get slammed.

  9. Tau*

    OP#3 – Definitely not normal anywhere I’ve been in Europe (UK and Germany). I also think it’s really unlikely this is a European thing because benefits are often far more strictly regulated over here – for instance, 20 days holiday is the government-mandated minimum in the UK, and healthwise everyone is on the NHS and so health benefits via work are neither as typical nor as important. So it doesn’t make sense for a company to subtract “hey, we’re giving you X days holiday” from the salary when everyone knows they’re legally obligated to give you those.

    In short, count me in as another +1 for “actively deceptive”. It’s a cruddy thing to do, and I’m sorry your new job didn’t work out.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      We also have much more generous sick pay (mine starts at eight weeks on full pay then eight weeks on half pay and goes up with years of service). If my benefits were deducted from my salary I think I’d end up with a minus amount of pay.

    2. Indisch Blau*

      To me it sounds like the German system of gross and net salary. Taxes, unemployment insurance, health insurance, long-term care insurance and a payment to a pension fund are all deducted from my gross salary. The taxes that are deducted depend on your tax category and that depends in whether or not you’re married and how much your spouse earns compared to you. All these things are relatively constant though. You can plug a few numbers into gross/net calculators on the net and find out pretty accurately how much you’ll take home.

      1. Tau*

        Yeah, but:

        – my understanding is these things aren’t auto-deducted in the US, so unless the company has managed something exceptionally weird in order to pay their employer’s contribution for them it shouldn’t change the monthly gross/take-home pay.
        – you wouldn’t treat those things as changing the gross, not the net. My German salary is a gross of X, from which all the things you mention get deducted. It’s not a salary of X – Y (value of health insurance, pension, etc.) and then I pay taxes on X – Y.
        – OP3 said that their PTO was deducted from the salary, and that’s definitely not done anywhere I know of.

        1. fposte*

          These things are actually auto-deducted in the U.S., but I’m with you on the rest. This is super-sketchy.

  10. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 This manager has actually done you a favour. It’s far better that you find out now that this is a problem, before you head into your post-college career.

    In the workplace, the behaviours people see can really shape their perception of you. I have a colleague who comes to meetings with scribbly notes on crumpled bits of paper that look like she’s salvaged them from the rubbish. And while this doesn’t technically mean her work is bad or that she’s disorganised, in reality people do assume this about her because that’s the impression she’s giving off. You can’t control what people think of you, but you have the opportunity to influence or not influence it based on how you conduct yourself around others.

    Managers generally want employees who care about doing their jobs. Crossing the time off like that suggests you don’t care. Managers and colleagues may wonder why you’re watching the clock instead of thinking about work. If you’re not concentrating enough to let more than 15 minutes pass, that’s going to be a problem for a lot of people. Both due to how it looks and what it says about your focus – and even if you don’t think it affects your focus, you may have a hard time convincing others that watching the clock isn’t breaking your focus.

    Is it a habit or a compulsion? If you feel anxious when not doing it, then it’s not a habit. But if that’s all it is, then I would urge you to stop. The next best solution is to use a code, like boxes you colour in ie something that doesn’t look like a countdown. But unless you end up in a job where you do a lot of waiting for time to pass, this is a habit to try to break.

    1. Artemesia*

      Precisely so. It feels like a prisoner marking off the days on the cell wall. Not a good look when you are trying to impress people with your professionalism and commitment.

    2. Hostess with the Mostess*

      Hi! OP #4 here. Thanks for your thoughtful response! I suspect I will continue to do this for my college lectures, but try not to as much for work. The nature of my job is to be extremely multitasking, and my manager has expressed to me that it doesn’t effect her perception of my performance, just that she worries I am “wishing my life away” in a way that someone my age should not be. Nevertheless, I see what you, Alison, and other commenters are saying – sounds like a good time to try and wean myself!

      Regarding your comment about it being a compulsion or anxiety-triggered action: I do have generalized anxiety (that I am in treatment and on medication for), and I’ve never thought it could be something that comes out of a compulsion! Definitely something to look into. Thanks!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        If your thoughtful and polite responses on this post are anything to go by, I think you’ll do great at figuring this out :)

      2. Yorick*

        I don’t think you should do this for lectures either. You’re focusing on how much time is left rather than giving your full attention to the material being covered. You’ll do much better in class and at work if you don’t do this.

        1. Natalie*

          I tend to agree. I’ve had a few professors that are no-electronics because they’re distracting, and frankly they’re right. Doodling or taking notes (even if you think you really know the material) would be better options that keep your hands moving without taking your concentration away from the material.

      3. RMF*

        For when you’re at work, is there a less-noticeable substitute you could employ? For example, having your phone briefly vibrate every 15 or 30 minutes?
        I have a similar habit related to anxiety, but I’ve found a way to keep it less visible (and eliminate the paper trail)!
        Good luck, OP!

      4. A professor*

        Please don’t do this in your lectures or other classes. As a professor, this would not endear you to me. We do pay attention and notice these things.

        1. o.b.*

          Please understand that if I’m not doodling or similar, I will zone out and completely forget your lecture material. I don’t particularly care whether this endears me; there is no world in which I can devote my full attention to a lecture. Trust me to manage my own study habits and know how my own brain works, and judge me based on overall performance rather than whether I am sitting rapt and apparently 100% attentive.

          1. o.b.*

            Like, yes, it’s a little rude and not ideal, but I’d rather be rude than failing, and lectures that don’t try to accommodate neurodiverse learning styles are also not ideal. I still pay attention and participate thoughtfully in discussions. I’ve had a handful of professors who frustratingly don’t understand this, but also a handful of gems who do.

          2. Ellen Ripley*

            Yup. Rapt and attentive is easy to fake and the person who’s knitting or doodling might be paying more attention than the person who’s looking straight at the lecturer or the person who’s ‘taking notes on their laptop’ who’s actually posting on facebook or working on another assignment.

            To the OP: I think the optics of this are worth considering, especially in a job like yours where you don’t have a separate workspace. But I don’t think the habit itself is necessarily a bad one. I’ve been known to do something similar, tracking tasks and/or time in repetitive jobs or during long meetings. It’s not about wishing I’m not there, necessarily; in fact, quite the opposite – it’s a way for me to remind myself of the progression of time, to manage my anxiety, and stay in the present moment. And doing it on paper has a solidity that isn’t there when you only do it in your head or even on the computer.

            1. Courageous Cat*

              Agreed, as someone who will appear to be listening VERY attentively and not even remotely realize that I have long stopped listening and started thinking about something else. I have wondered for a while now if it could be a symptom of ADHD or something similar.

        2. Hostess with the Mostess*

          Hi professor! I would never do this in a small classroom-type lecture or workshop — only in large lecture halls with little or no interaction with the professor. I completely understand that visibly timekeeping in view of a professor would be extremely disrespectful!

          1. Courageous Cat*

            Honestly, I can’t imagine a single type of small classroom off the top of my head in which it would be outwardly weird for you to cross off something on a sheet of paper every 15 minutes. It’s not like it takes a big exaggerated motion in order to do it. If it’s normal for you to have a paper and pen out for note-taking, then I genuinely can’t imagine that any professor would notice.

            1. Hostess with the Mostess*

              It’s even MORE normal for me and my classmates to have computers out for “notes” – which I feel would be even more distracting than the timekeeping!

        3. Dr. Doll*

          Chuckle. I’m remembering the time I asked someone to stop texting in class, and she switched to minutely examining her split ends throughout the lecture. I’m not sure that was a win.

      5. Jesca*

        Hah! I suffer from generalized anxiety. When I was a young adult, I was absolutely obsessed with time (probably more so than this). But when life got stressful for a period of time, I took to obsessing over time as a coping mechanism for control. It ended up consuming me for a long while. (think – I knew exactly on average how long it took me to get from one stop sign to another on the way to work every day even including alternative routes. I would lose it if something interfered with my timelines). Now, I am by no means saying that you would go to this extreme during times of deep stress, but if you do find it is anxiety driven, I would definitely find something more positive to have as your focus. I just know that time tracking gone to far can literally drive you nuts!

  11. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 If you think blue underlined text looks messy you could change the formatting as with any other text e.g. change the colour or remove the underline.

    I wouldn’t though, as some people miss links that aren’t in the universal shorthand that is blue underlined text.

    1. Brett*

      Many apps will just pick up the https:// and treat the text like a clickable link anyway. I pretty much assume all URLs are links and click them then right-click them if that doesn’t work. (Well, I actually mouse over them first and check the target. Even with resumes I don’t take chances.)
      Also, never use link shorteners. They are frequently blocked and at minimum require some hoops to access them. Anything on Dropbox, google drive, or other internet storage services are a bad idea too.

    2. Tau*

      Bold + a different colour is an alternative that’s also in pretty frequent use for hyperlinks. It’s what I used on my own CV.

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        Yep, this. Blue and underlined is rarely in use even on websites these days, it doesn’t need to be the only option for links in your resume.

    3. Cassandra*

      Yes, this is worth doing — at least lose the underlining, as it makes text harder to read. The standard hyperlink blue is also fairly eye-searing; you might not want to get rid of it altogether, but dialing it back a notch will look better.

      I use a monospace font for links. Courier New is okay, but rather large, so take it down a point or two from the size of the surrounding text.

    4. OP#5*

      Thanks, I might do this – at least get rid of the underlining, in case anyone prints it out. Maybe tone down the blue, too.

    5. M*

      This is what I’ve done for my resume, which has a lot of online project links. Change the color to the overall document text color, keep the underline, and change the text to a short phrase like ‘PROJECT LINK’. This really helped cut out a lot of the clutter-I get a lot of positive comments on my resume formatting even with around 15 links on one page so it’s been a successful strategy for me.

      1. OP#5*

        Oh, I only have six, spread over two pages. Maybe I don’t need to cut any out then!

        Thanks for the tips!

  12. strawberries and raspberries*

    #4, 15-minute increments may not seem like such a long time during a class or a part-time shift, but when you start working full-time, like a standard eight-hour day, that means that you would be stopping thirty-two times throughout the day to cross off a fifteen-minute increment. That is an enormous amount of time lost, and depending on the work you do, it can read to a manager as a poor sense of urgency, inability to prioritize, or a deliberate attempt to look busy by harping on minutiae at the expense of any actual work getting done. Reading this made me think of my weakest team member, who’s struggling with prioritizing and has demanded a disproportionate amount of my time to support them and walk them through what’s expected and how urgently it’s expected. If I came by and saw them doing what you do, pissed would be an understatement to describe how I would feel. Please break this habit now, as it will cost you a lot of good faith.

    1. Hostess with the Mostess*

      Hi! OP #4 here. Thanks for the insight! I’ll keep that in mind as my career moves forward.

    2. Yorick*

      I agree that this would look bad with employers. But it takes like a second to look at the time and mark a piece of paper, so 32 seconds isn’t a lot of time lost.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Agreed. This is a weird subcurrent on this topic. Hostess should stop doing this for the reasons Alison describes, but she doesn’t need to worry about her 30 seconds of lost productivity.

    3. Purplesaurus*

      If I were conscious of the time that frequently, my perception of an 8 hour day would probably double. Maybe that’s just me, though.

      1. Hostess with the Mostess*

        Some of my coworkers have brought that up – it would make them crazy to keep track as I do – but for me it actually fosters a sense of accomplishment! If I made it through this 15 minutes, I can make it through the next, and towards the end of my shift when there’s only a few increments left, I can look back at all the increments I’ve already crossed off and get another surge of motivation!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For what it’s worth, that’s exactly the problem — you’re conveying that you need to “make it through” each 15 minutes, which is not a great look at work.

    4. Evergreen*

      I’d feel the same, but not because of the marking off time taken but the interruption to focus. If a junior staff member is struggling and on top of that is deliberately introducing a regular interruption to their focus (marking time, checking Facebook, etc) I’d definitely question their commitment.

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        Exactly- this is more where I’m coming from than the “productivity” part of it. Because let’s be real, if you’re tracking your time to this extent, you’re not simply taking one second to cross off an increment- you’re taking time to write out all the increments, probably thinking ahead about something else, doing maybe one work thing, daydreaming a little, and then oh look, fifteen more minutes have passed and it’s time to cross off again. I’m a calendar and list fetishist too, so I totally get the compulsion to cross things off, but like, 1) I don’t do it at the expense of my actual work and 2) I’ve trained myself to get up and take an actual break if I feel like I’m losing focus.

        From OP #4’s comments, she sounds pretty conscientious and like she’s not struggling, but I’d worry that if she doesn’t break this habit now it could become a precedent for poor work habits, which will hurt her in a not so great job.

  13. Jenny*

    #1 – Agree that 3 sick days is extremely low, and I thought at least 5 was standard. But in my experience, it’s usually just vacation days that go up with tenure, not sick days too. Is that just me?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, that is not just you! I removed the snippet of the post that implied otherwise, which was left over from when I was also going to talk about vacation days.

    2. Chocolate lover*

      At my university, sick days do increase with tenure. My vacation time actually doesn’t increase. I think there’s some difference in those things between exempt and nonexempt staff, I’m exempt.

      But universities often have generous time off policies, including mine, so I’m thankful I haven’t had to worry.

    3. Shadow*

      It’s all over the place. Sick days are actually kind of dumb because it implies that you must be sick which of course people define differently. And supervisors questioning why you need to be absent is pretty juvenile-as if they are equipped to decide whether or not you have a good reason for being out. But people do it anyway.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        They’re officially called “medical leave” here, and you can use them for routine doctor’s appointments, etc. (and possibly for caring for sick kids? Not sure since I don’t have any). You don’t have to literally be sick.

  14. Dan*


    TBH I think your total paid time off package is reasonable. Generous? Perhaps not, but it’s not skimpy either.

    I haven’t had designated sick time in years, so “seven sick days” is meaningful to me only in comparison to the total amount of paid time off.

  15. Hostess with the Mostess*

    OP #4 here! Thank you for answering my question, Alison. I’ve talked to my one manager about this, and she said it doesn’t make her look down on my performance at all, she’s just worried that I’m too young to be “wishing my life away” like that. My job involves a lot of downtime – so much so that they keep a small “library” of books handy for those particularly slow shifts. I’m working towards a degree in theatre, so I’m hoping that I’ll be in alternative work environments as long as possible, and I can’t imagine that I would ever do this in a rehearsal or production meeting or something similar.

    Nevertheless, I can see how this could reflect poorly on me in the future, and I imagine it’s time to start weaning myself of this habit. Thank you all for your extremely insightful responses! I very much appreciate the advice as just a wee young’in ;)

    1. Artemesia*

      What people say when you ask them and what they think is often different. She may see you as young and thus that it isn’t important to behavior professionally (although that feels silly to type) But it is clock watcher behavior and people in general will see you as a clock watcher if you visibly mark off the time till you can leave.

    2. MHR*

      OP #4 –

      I used to do this all the time. In high school and in my first few (fast food/retail) jobs. Mine were actually in one minute and 5 minute increments. For me it was because I was trying to pass the time, and it felt good to cross of times and know I was that much closer to leaving. As I got older (In my 30’s now) and had jobs I enjoyed more the habit just stopped. So in my experience I would be thinking “Wow she can not wait to get out of here” even if you were emphatic that is not the case. You want to look out for what your impact actually is, not just what your intention is.

    3. Bea W*

      The one manager is making assumptions based on her own feelings about what it means, rather than understanding it from your point of view or taking your explanation at face value. To me a comment like that is more a reflection on the commenter than the time watcher. What does time keeping have to do with “wishing [your] life away”? There may be professional image reasons to not do it, as other people have discussed, but that manager’s statements are more psychological assessments. There’s a difference between offering career advice (like commenters here) and playing armchair psychologist. Your manager is doing the latter.

  16. Josh S*

    OP#5 – you could make the hyperlinks blue, but non-underlined. That way they stand out a bit as links, but don’t have the odd spacing/readability issues that underlined words have.

  17. DecorativeCacti*

    I think I need to do some digging in the archives, because I would think that negotiating a salary of X then having the benefits taken out of that would be normal. That’s how it works for me now, but is it different because I’m hourly? If the employee has to contribute something for their health insurance, where else is that money going to come from?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Health insurance contribution, yes, but not vacation days. “We’re offering you a salary of X and 20 vacation days” means “you’ll be getting $X for the year plus 20 days off,” not “we’re going to calculate your pay for those 20 days and deduct it from your salary.”

      1. DecorativeCacti*

        The PTO issue makes sense. It was the health insurance that was wrinkling my brain with everyone saying “not normal”.

        1. Natalie*

          Also, it sounds like this employer took the full cost of insurance out, not just the employee contribution.

    2. Willow*

      No, I think this is a case where they’re deducting the *employer* contributions from the salary. Having the employee contribution taken out of pay is normal.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is how I read it, as well. I don’t think they’re talking about the employee contribution (if there is one)—I read it as the employer including the value of the *employer* contribution in the gross salary, and then providing gross compensation v. gross salary when OP pushed them for information on the benefits package.

  18. Myrin*

    #2, I don’t have anything to add to Alison’s excellent advice but I wanted to point out that in my experience, “I have a weird thing about people standing over me that makes it hard to focus — could we do this across the desk?” isn’t “a weird thing” at all! I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’s not uncomfortable with someone looking over their shoulder (let alone lean in closely!) to look at a screen or book or what-have-you in front of them, so I’d guess it’s something you can safely say without making it about personal space in particular.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Totally! Phrasing it as a “weird thing” is just about minimizing awkwardness, so that you’re not saying “you are rudely invading my space and any decent person would object to it.”

      1. Myrin*

        Ah, yes, I didn’t mean to disagree with the wording! I just wanted to make it clear to the OP that she needn’t feel weird about feeling the way she does because this situation in particular is very common – apologies if that wasn’t clear!

        1. Deeks*

          OP here. Thank you guys so much for the input, I feel like I have the words to say and the right way to say them! Thanks again.

  19. babblemouth*

    #3: This is not normal in Europe… but: for health insurance, I could see how there would be a mix-up. It is fairly common in Europe to have extra health insurance for things like dental care, or eye-checks, that are not included in the state-run healthcare, taken off your salary before taxes. These are usually opt-in benefits.

    However, due to the massive differences in how health insurance is run between the US and Europe, they should not have assumed this would work the same in the US.

    Additionally, the PTO thing is unheard of in Europe entirely, so they have zero excuse there.

  20. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

    #2 since you have an L shaped desk, could you scoot your monitor over so it’s in between you and your boss whenever he stops by? That way he gets the advantage of seeing your screen as you work, but he’s not standing behind you the whole time. Sitting side by side might not be ideal, but it’s better than him breathing down your neck.

    1. Deeks*

      OP here, hi! I’m thinking about coming in early tomorrow and reorienting my desk just like that- then he can still focus and point but without crowding me. Thank you!!

  21. Susan*

    #1 – Would it be possible for you to implement a system that would allow your employees to save or “bank” PTO? That may help your employee not to worry so much about using up all of her PTO too early and not having any left for the rest of the year. I worry about stuff like that, too, and I always try to bank the maximum PTO allowed, but then I can feel free to use the rest, knowing that I have some saved for a rainy day if I need it.

    There are various ways you can limit how much each employee can bank. I’ve seen employers put a cap on how much you can bank each year (e.g., you can bank up to one week per year) or how much you can have in the bank total (e.g., you can bank up to 6 weeks total, and if you go above that, you lose the excess at the end of the year). I’ve also seen employers limit how long you have to use banked vacation (e.g., you can bank up to two weeks per year, but any vacation banked in the current year must be used by the end of the next year).

    1. MicroManagered*

      Ooooh. Good point. What happens to the PTO and sick days if they’re unused at the end of the year?

    2. OP#1*

      OP #1 here. Right now they are given the full three weeks at the beginning of each year and allowed to bank up to one week left over from previous.

      I will be increasing the sick days, I have never had anyone ever use all three sick days so never considered it was an issue, but that may be due to hoarding them, not because they did not get sick! I don’t want that. If someone is not feeling good, I want them to take the day off and not worry about it.

      I have told this employee a few times to take the time off, and not worry about trying to work extra to “make it up” but they keep insisting that they do. Often I will say that then see emails go out after hours that tells me they worked long hours again. They often complete their workload ahead of schedule too. I may just have a workaholic as an employee!

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        TOTALLY projecting here. But, I work with a friend like this. She has to take lots of time off due to a very serious health issue. Everybody here is super accommodating and understands. However. She has it in her head that she’ll lose her job. I actually went to our boss on her behalf because she wasn’t healing from a massive surgery due to working 14+ hour days. I 100% do now know if I’m even close, but this might be something she’s worried about – being punished, in some way, for taking time off.

  22. eemmzz*

    Europe is a collection of many countries all with different laws and cultures. It’s not a single entity and hiring practises are very different throughout. I say this because without knowing what country this is we cannot say whether it’s normal. However I can tell you the stunt that company pulled wouldn’t fly in the UK.

  23. Martell*

    #3 I “work” in Italy and that behavior is exactly what I expect. Disregarding the total lack of trasparency in job offers, italian employers usually give for granted you will take the job no matter which conditions, because the unemployment rate is considerably high; and candidates often fear to discuss salary, because if they appear too much focused on money employers won’t consider them at all.
    The salary here (requested and offered) is very high (in my perspective). I think the company simply did not want to accept your requests but since they were interested in you they tried anyway with a “take it or leave it” situation, which in Italy works, not in US. Be sure they will keep on playing this game until they find the one who will accept.

    1. the rent is too high*

      New York City has an absurdly high cost of living, so while 80K is a good salary, I wouldn’t call it high, just because it’s so expensive to live there.

      Every so often, I check the real estate listings for places with a lower cost of living and just weep for how much I’m paying in rent in my high COL city.

      1. Lulu*

        I live in a HCOL area. I am in the process of buying an investment property in a LCOL area several states away. The 4 BD/2BA house with a yard that I am buying is 43% of the cost of the 2 BD/2BA condo that I live in (though I bought my condo before the crash, however I could get $100K more for my condo if I sold it today than I am paying for that house).

    2. Tyche*

      Sincerely I’m Italian and I find your comment quite unkind. I think dishonest employers are everywhere, and this kind of behaviour can’t be ascribed to a country only.
      The rates of unemployment are high in many countries, and this is obviously more favourable to employers, especially for non-qualified jobs.

  24. lamuella*

    #5: if blue hyperlinks look messy to you, is there a colour you would prefer? You can change the colours for hyperlinks and followed hyperlinks by editing your document theme.

    1. OP#5*

      It was more the underlining that I was worried about, not the color. Especially if people print it out

      1. league*

        I believe you can also tell Word to not underline the hyperlinks; you have some flexibility in how they show up.

  25. Maya Elena*

    Is that seven average for companies that don’t give PTO in one bucket?

    Because 18 days total excluding holidays seems standard and comsidered pretty generous.

    My company would have only given 4 sick days on top if they were not required to do seven when they got a federal contract.

  26. Foreign Octopus*

    #2 – You have my sympathy. I hated it when people get too close to me at work. Alison’s advice is spot on and depending on your relationship with him (and your tolerance levels) you could just tell him it makes you uncomfortable to have him standing so close to you in a private one-to-one. “I have a thing about personal space and it just makes me a little uncomfortable when you stand so close to me. Can we try giving feedback like [preferred method]?”

    Also, I loved the line “she chose this man to invade her personal space”. That made me chuckle.

    1. Deeks*

      OP here! Thank you, haha! It’s how I view marriage: I’m fine with my husband being all up in my space, but it’s SO INAPPROPRIATE with anyone else.

  27. the gold digger*

    LW2, or you could do what I did when my boss was leaning over me and had grabbed my mouse – I flung my arm back and hit him in the stomach while I said, “STOP IT!” I hate it when my husband leans over and grabs my mouse and I hate it when my boss does it.

    (PS He has not done it since.)

    LW3, I got a job offer like that. HR told me the salary was $85K (this was an internal move) and the hiring manager told me the salary was $85K, but when I got my offer letter, it was for $75K. The hiring manager tried to tell me that the $85K had included benefits. I told him that nobody talked that way about salaries. That bait and switch, plus the fact that the day I started, he gave me a list of 6,000 prospects to cold call (to sell a complex, very specialized training product that costs tens of thousands of dollars) (plus the whole Drama With The Office Radio) had me looking for a new job within a week.

    (I accepted the job at $75K only because I had been making only $50K in the other division.)

      1. Czhorat*

        I don’t often agree with you, but in this case I think you have it exactly correct; the solution should never be to physically strike someone, even if you think you’re being clever and can pretend it’s an accident.

    1. EmKay*

      Hitting someone is always a bad idea. And though I am sorely tempted to swat someone’s hand away when they’re point-touching my computer screens, I just say (rather flatly) “Don’t touch my screen.”

      That’s the first time it happens. The second time is “DON’T touch my screen.”

      There’s never been a third time.

  28. AdAgencyChick*

    #3, it’s probably because you’re their first US hire and they therefore have no idea what they’re doing. They’re not used to having to pay benefits at all, is my guess. Or if they pay benefits to their U.S.-based employees who are from Europe, maybe the European employees weren’t aware that the salary they were being offered after the benefit deductions is under market?

    A friend of mine recently got hired by a Canadian company that’s establishing its first New York office, and he said they refused to pay benefits at all (there is PTO, just not health insurance and presumably other benefits that would be government-paid if the employee were in Canada). But they made up for it by paying a substantially larger salary than U.S.-based companies in the same industry.

    In any case, my guess is the company you’re talking about will have a lot of trouble making a U.S. hire for that position. Either they’ll make the same mistake a couple more times, or they’ll start offering the lower salary and get the talent pool (or lack thereof) that corresponds to that.

    1. hbc*

      That’s my guess too. When we did our research and finally presented a comprehensive health care plan to our overseas owners (we had something only the white-collar employees could afford for the first few years), they about lost their minds. They simply had no idea that it would cost so much and they were sure we were doing something crazy. It took a lot of data and talks with experts before they accepted the reality that they had to pay a ton more to make health insurance affordable to the lower-wage workers.

      They said a lot of dumb things while trying to adjust to the new reality. I can totally see them pulling some stunt like this if there hadn’t been (somewhat) trusted US managers making clear what US norms were and refusing the illegal and most wacky suggestions.

  29. Jen*

    #3- is it * possible* that the take-home figure was your salary after the employee portion of the health insurance is taken out? So they are saying “after we deduct X for the employee portion of the health plan, you’ll be taking home (amount)”? That’s not a typical way to present it, but if that’s true that’s no different from other employers, since the Health insurance comes off the gross pay.

    Again, I’m talking about the employee contribution, not employer. That would make it something like $1300/mo employee contribution which is high–but perhaps their “generous” plan isn’t so generous.

    Just a thought.

    What if you didn’t elect to use their health plan (e.g. You had a spouse with better insurance).

  30. sam*

    #4 – what you’re doing is odd.

    Unless you’re a lawyer. at which point, it would be an incredibly valuable skill. Most of us have to train/force ourselves to remember to keep time in those 15 minute (or even worse, 6 minute*) increments, and when we forget, having to “rebuild” our day based on phone records, document editing history, and email logs can be another hour or two of work (and time always get lost!).

    *everyone hates the clients who insist on getting billed by 10ths of an hour instead of quarter-hours. EVERYONE.

  31. Gazebo Slayer*

    #3 I too have been bait-and-switched after accepting a job offer. These people know what they’re doing.

    In my case I was able to negotiate the pay up a little bit by calling the recruiter on her deception – though not as high as she’d originally told me the pay would be. I actually used the phrase “bait and switch” and explained that I had accepted the first figure given, not the one she changed it to after the fact.

    Unfortunately, three weeks into the job they called me at 9 on a Saturday morning to tell me they’d decided they needed someone with additional skills I didn’t have and not to come in on Monday, so it all ended up pretty much moot.

  32. HeyAnonnyNonnyNo*

    On #3 it sounds as if they have confused the salary and the total cost to company (which would include benefits). I suspect that somebody screwed up and got budget approval for a total cost to co of $75K, not realising that this would have to cover everything and doesn’t translate to a $75K salary – as a budget controller I have seen this happen more than once…

  33. Horatious*

    OP #4 – There’s already a lot of comments so hopefully no one suggested this already but in a future professional environment one thing I do that is similar and professional (or at least I think so!) is I bought a day planner pad the its a pad the size of a regular legal notepad with each page divided between different areas for task organizing. The largest area of the pad is a “Today’s Schedule” which has 7am through 8pm listed by hour with a line at each to put a task into, I don’t cross out the hours as I finish them but you definitely could! Also I bought my pad off of Etsy so there maybe versions you can buy that break down day by a half hour or you’d could even just do the same thing on a regular legal pad if you’d prefer smaller time increments. I know it’s made my day go by much faster and focused since I’ve started using it and I don’t think anyone would bat an eye at a task list broken down by hour with hours/half hours crossed off.

    1. Marisol*

      Yes, I think the OP’s odd habit could actually be turned into something productive by using a planner to log actual tasks, rather than just the passage of time. OP, can you come up with things you want to accomplish in fifteen minute increments (or perhaps a larger time frame) and then cross those things off the list, along with the chunks of time? Even if you have no tasks to do at work, perhaps there are things you need to memorize or ideas you need to brainstorm in your personal life that you could jot notes on. That would turn your odd habit into a super-productive one.

      1. Hostess with the Mostess*

        Hi Marisol and Horations! Thank you for your thoughts. Due to the nature of my job, there’s not much that needs to get done that takes 15 minutes or more. When, for example, I straighten the tables or adjust the curtains, I usually do it as soon as I notice they’re askew and it takes me 30 seconds to a minute to rectify. This is essential, because if a customer comes in while I’m completing some other task, I need to be able to attend to them quickly.

        Marisol – concerning your latter idea, I think that will make sense when I’m studying (by the end of X increments, I will have completed Y amount of practice problems, etc), but I worry that in my particular job, it might have the opposite effect. Very good advice though, and I will keep that in mind for the future!

  34. Lady Phoenix*

    #5: I don’t know about other programs, but you can change the style of ypur hyperlinks in Adobe InDesign. I would still make it distinguishable enough that people will know that the text is a link… but you can always set your text to a different color or jst remove the underline

    1. Hey Nonnie*

      You can change it in Word, too. You style it the same way you’d style regular text.

  35. OP#1*

    OP#1 here. Had a thought, could this employee be seeing how I handle my own time-off and using it as an example of what is expected of them? I have not taken more than a few days off this year, and always work long hours to make up when I have an appointment, etc. Since we are so small, and I wear so many hats, there is no one to cover my work when I need time-off, so being the business owner, I hardly ever do.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Yes, absolutely. Employees really take their cues from their bosses on stuff like this.

    2. self employed*

      That could be a factor– it shows what you appear to value.

      As a side note, your comments indicate that you seem fair and thoughtful as a manager. Good job. I would suggest continuing to learn and grow in management (since your background is in other types of work) — perhaps by finding good mentors in your area. You seem to be heading on a good path and can continue to grow!

    3. anonanon*

      Yes. You are telling them one thing and modeling another.

      My former boss was notorious for working when he was practically on death’s door, so many of us felt pressured to come in if we “weren’t that sick”.

      1. Caro in the UK*

        Yes, this was me too. My old boss told us to take time sick whenever we needed it. But when he was sick he would ALWAYS drag himself in, even when we asked him not to because he was infecting us all. He actually said he thought that “taking sick time was stealing from the organisation” (in reference to him taking time off sick). And then wondered why we all felt we couldn’t take sick time.

        This is an extreme example, but your behaviour will certainly be impacting their perception of what you expect from them.

    4. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

      This is a good thought and may be part of her anxiety of taking time off. My manager doesn’t really take sick leave unless he’s really ill and with a chronic illness, I feel like I take more days off that I would like. I often feel really uncomfortable about taking a day off if I’m sick because I don’t want him to think negatively of me. My guess is he probably doesn’t care as much as I think he does and I’m overthinking it but it’s still in the background of my thoughts when I get sick. As she mentioned that she thought she got sick from working too much, it’s probably a good in to check in with her about it as you wouldn’t want her to burn out and leave.

      The other thing about being on a small team that I would think about is does she feel like she can take a day off? I’m usually the only person in my role at jobs and if I take off, there is no one who can fill in for me. At my last job, I worked crazy hours and my manager would always tell me I needed to work less but there was never anything taken off my plate or any back up system to do that. It seems like you have really diligent employees so maybe just talking through the process of what happens when someones out to take the alarm out of it would be helpful for her?

    5. Allison*

      This could very well be it, a lot of people are told to take their cues from their bosses when it comes to work hours and vacation, so I would explain why you’re not taking PTO.

    6. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Yes! Oh, your employee’s behavior makes so much more sense now that you have explained this. I think you should be explicit with her that you neither expect nor want your employees to handle their absences the way you handle yours – that it is only because of the specifics of your job duties as boss that you do it this way, and that her job duties can absolutely be reshuffled when needed to allow her to take time off.

    7. Amber Rose*

      Is it possible you need to hire more people? Or take on a temp or something?
      I don’t know all the details, obviously, but it sounds like you’re all a bit overworked.

      You sound like the best boss to your employees, seriously, so be a good boss to yourself too and make sure you find a way to get some down time.

    8. Bea*

      You’re the owner, I’ve always known owners to work practically around the clock. The only way I would see this making your staff think they have to follow your example is if you act like “wow you’re sick, are you sure you can’t just come in for awhile?! I neverrrrr take sick days!”

      You seem happy to extend PTO regardless of your own schedule. This shouldn’t be an issue in my experience.

  36. bohtie*

    okay so I’m super tired and apologize if I missed other people pointing this out for #1, but aside from the sick leave thing (which, coming from a company who recently FINALLY upped us from 4 days of sick leave per year to 8, thank god), could you require a certain amount of actual vacation time be used? Like, not every department I work with does this, but many of them require you to take at least a week of PTO every year – our work can be pretty high-pressure and the idea is to reduce burnout, etc. etc.

    You could also consider tweaking the PTO policy to encourage them to take time off – again, just using my company as an example, but for us, if the time they’re away is 2 hours or less, you can make it up, but if it’s longer, you use PTO (or fragments of PTO) and on VERY rare occasions you might be able to make up a whole day but that’s only if the circumstances permit it and your supervisors approve.

    1. Ellen Ripley*

      That occurred to me too – the fact that OP1 is allowing her employees to ‘make up’ time may be influencing them to think that they should never actually use their PTO.

  37. Machiamellie*

    #2 – “I have a weird thing about people standing over me that makes it hard to focus — could we do this across the desk?”

    Things like this have unfortunately come back to bite me in the butt at review time. As in, “you’ve said yourself that you have trouble focusing.” Depends on how good a manager this guy is, I guess, that he won’t take it wrong and assume she has trouble focusing all the time.

  38. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    While I think everyone should have more vacation and sick leave, I do disagree with Alison that OP1’s leave policy is unusually ungeneroua. 3 days of sick leave is too few, but combined with 15 days of PTO, flex time, and remote work sounds very normal to me.

    1. Red Reader*

      Yep. I work remotely with significant flex time and all my PTO (vacation, sick, and holiday) in one bucket, and I’ve called in sick a total of three days in the last three years. (All three in one clump, because the stupid McDonalds at the stupid Orlando airport gave me gastroenteritis and I couldn’t even sit up straight. :P )

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Right, that was my experience with remote work (in my last job) as well. I don’t actually remember how much time I had — maybe 4 weeks combined PTO? Because I was exempt, and worked 100% remote, sick time only came into play if I needed to be completely disconnected. Otherwise, I just did what I could on minor sick days and made sure I was on top of my work.

    2. Elsajeni*

      I agree — in isolation “3 days of sick leave” sounds stingy, but in context it sounds like it’s more like “18 total days of PTO, of which 3 can only be used for sick leave and 15 are a combined vacation/personal/sick pool,” which is more reasonable. (My employer, which I think of as on the generous side, gives 12 days vacation and 12 days sick leave per year — more total time than the OP, but a little less available for vacation if you don’t get sick much, and a little less flexible for long absences since it accrues monthly instead of being given at the start of the year.)

  39. It Geek*

    #2 One solution that may help is to ask for a second monitor for your computer. You can then mirror the first monitor on the second and you can both sit comfortably in front of a monitor and see what you are looking at. When you are not working with your boss on editing the second monitor can be set to just extend your screen space to make your work more efficient.

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    On #3, even if it wasn’t a bait-and-switch thing, it sounds as if the company hadn’t consulted with an attorney who knows US employment practices, which in itself could be a red flag…

  41. Hannah*

    OP#1–I could totally see myself doing this, just as a a frugality mentality. If I knew I could get vacation days for “free” by working extra hours, I would totally do that any way I could just because that is the way my brain works. One way my own workplace mitigates this kind of thinking is to have PTO accrual only up to a certain point. For me that is 8 weeks. Once I hit 8 weeks of time saved up, I can’t earn any more and I HAVE to take it. So, it lessens the pressure to save it up. I will note that I like this better than having it only valid for a certain time period, which is another way some companies handle this.

    The other thing is that while my vacation gets paid out to me if I were to leave, my sick time doesn’t. I can also accrue sick time up to an unlimited amount. So, while it is the case that when I take vacation, I am thinking in the back of my mind “OK, I’m paying for this day of with X amount of dollars that I won’t take home if I leave my job,” that isn’t the case for the sick time, so I feel freer about taking it when I need it. I know that if I don’t use it, it will just go unused if I ever leave my job.

    Maybe take a look at your policies and see what the incentives are?

    Some other ideas:
    Is Emily working extra hours because she doesn’t want to take time off, or because she feels she needs to complete her projects? Is there a way you can cover the work for employees on vacation so that they neither have to kill themselves getting things done before hand nor come back to a giant pile of ignored work upon their return?

    Would it make sense to put a limit on how many hours they can “make up”? Like, maybe 1-2 days per week? That would eliminate the 80-hour weeks that are making your employees sick.

    Have a conversation with your employees, since there are only two, about how they feel about the vacation policies and what would lead to them taking it when they need it and having less stress about it.

    1. self employed*

      Agreed– sometimes we put illogical or less-logical terms on things and we definitely respond to incentives! I would limit the amount of makeup time is available, because doing it this way really makes it feel like they are hourly workers, not salary.

  42. OP#5*

    Thanks for answering my question, Alison! Very good timing; I might be sending my resume out today.

    I maaaaybe have more hyperlinks than I strictly need, so I’ll see if I can get rid of a couple of them, and remove the underlining / tone down the colour for the remaining links, as some of your readers have suggested.

  43. Devils Advocate*

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I am going to disagree with Allison (rare for me) on two answers.

    #1–three days of sick leave may be low but three weeks of PTO seems really high. Nothing prevents her from using the PTO for a sick day (or at least nothing mentioned in the letter). Perhaps the solution is that PTO can be used with the same notice as sick leave.

    #2–I actually wished I had learned how to keep time in 15 minutes increments (actually 6 minutes), I’m an attorney and I struggle with billable time tracking. I don’t see it as an issue–perhaps do it more privately.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Three weeks of vacation is not really high! Two weeks is generally considered the bare minimum for professional jobs; three weeks is a solid amount but not really high. It’s sort of the next notch above the minimum.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I agree; I get three weeks (plus sick time) and while it’s fine, it’s not what I would consider great – my husband gets five weeks! (Of course, he also gets paid peanuts, but still.)

      2. Princess Carolyn*

        Thank you for saying this! I get that many, many people toil away for years and only get two weeks of vacation at work, but three weeks is not at all unusual. Plus, most people are resistant to using “vacation” days to stay home and be sick. It’s better than being sick and going unpaid, but I still think this setup — as well as the typical combined PTO setup — encourages people to come in sick.

      3. smokey*

        I had no idea how little PTO I get compared to others until today. 3 weeks PTO, no additional sick or anything, for everyone who has been there 5-10 years.

    2. Triangle Pose*

      Hmmm, what kind of jobs are you thinking of? IME, three weeks of PTO is not “really high” for professional roles. I’ve always had at least 20 days, which is 4 weeks. Does not include holidays or sick time, just pure vacation.

      1. proven*

        Ha, at my job, you get only six vacation days your first full year. If you start in July, for example, you would get three vacation days for July-December, and then the following year, you’d only get six. The next year you’d get 10. I think after you’ve worked three full years, you go up to 15.

    3. Kyrielle*

      I’m used to 2 weeks being the bare-minimum for entry level professional roles. After 2 years (or 3-5 if the company is really stingy) it goes up to 3 weeks. That’s not super-generous; that’s just expected. (4-5 weeks for people who have been there 10+ years is not uncommon, in my experience.) And I’ve always seen that accompanied by 6-10 sick days, not 3. (We thought the place with 6 was being a little stingy!)

      I think tracking time in small increments is useful if you’re tracking _what_ you are doing, but not if you’re just tracking that it’s passing. And in a lot of jobs, even tracking what you’re doing isn’t useful. (My last job, it was very useful, because we were billing against client projects. My current job? It’s totally irrelevant.)

  44. Marie*

    OP#1, I’ve done the same thing as your employee in the past when I am saving time for maternity leave. In the year before I had my son, I scrimped and saved all my PTO and sick since my (government!) employer offered no paid mat leave at the time and you were required to run out any accrued time during leaves. I remember being so annoyed when I had a cold during pregnancy and my boss said “oh you look so miserable! just take the day off!” but I felt any day I took off was one less day with my newborn. I felt she was being so insensitive to my larger needs (and I was just sad about how short a leave I had to take-not her fault I know but part of my experience ). I know colleagues who save for years (not an exaggeration) before having a child so they can take a decent leave (8 or 12 weeks) paid from their accrued time.

    This may not be your employees exact situation but if I were her and this was my issue, I would most definitely be sensitive about it and likely not want to tell my boss. (I’m not endorsing her behavior, btw- I do think its unhealthy for individuals and their employers to never really take leave.)

  45. Bea W*

    #4 – If that’s what works for you and it doesn’t interfere with your work or other areas of your life or causing you discomfort, I don’t see a problem with it. It’s a personal habit, and really not anyone’s business.

    1. Hostess with the Mostess*

      Thanks Bea! I can see what other commenters are saying about it visibly having a more negative connotation than what I intend, but I think I tend to agree with you that if it works for me, it works for me. Nevertheless, I plan to find ways to make it less visible, at least to my employer.

  46. driftlessmn*

    “20 PTO days per year) were taken off the top”

    Pretty sure this means that it’s just “TO” if it’s deducted from your salary. This is just bizarre.

  47. Wendy Anne*

    I used to do the countdown thing, but I worked in a call centre and I was actually counting down the minutes until I could leave that place.

    1. Hostess with the Mostess*

      I know what you mean! Honestly, I started this habit at a job that I hated, and now that I’m at a job that I love I could definitely do without it, or at least make it smaller and less visible!

  48. OP#5*

    OP#2, just wanted to say that “[She] specifically chose this man to invade her personal space for the rest of her life” is an amazing description of marriage!

  49. Amber Rose*

    #2, I just want to say that even with my husband, I ask him to back the heck off. He has this habit of putting his face as close as possible to mine without touching and trying to hold a conversation. I don’t know if he even realizes he’s doing it but it freaks me out. Like, I really need you to be at least a foot away and not breathing on my face while I talk.

    The president of my company also stands very, very close when he talks to me. VERY. Not even to look over my shoulder at something, but just standing by the printer and he’ll walk over and get right up in my face to chat.

    Anyways, my point is I think some people don’t realize how close they are because they aren’t the ones being crowded, and it’s totally fine to say hey, I’m feeling a bit closed in could you back up just a little?

  50. Havarti*

    I have an L-shaped desk with a low wall around it and it amazes me how some people disregard the barrier of the wall and walk all the way around it to stand behind me to look at my screen without even asking if it’s ok. Yuck!

  51. EuropeanConsultant*

    “3. My benefits were deducted from my salary”

    What a strange question. No, it’s not normal in Europe. It’s normal among very bad companies.

  52. S.G.*

    Regarding the employee who doesn’t want to take time off. Is she in charge on any financials? I took a quick workshop on employee embezzlement and one of the clues is when these folks won’t take time off. They don’t want anyone else checking out their books. Just a thought. I hope I’m wrong.

    1. Natalie*

      This is a good and important point. I just finished an audit class (last class before I can take the CPA, woot!) and one of the big frauds they discussed wasn’t discovered until the perpetrator took a several month leave of absence. It’s a fairly common rule in finance/accounting/banking jobs to have to take at least a week of uninterrupted vacation every year.

    2. Bea*

      Oh God…

      That’s how a friend found out about an employee stealing from him, I’m usually cynical about that and I didn’t even think about it until you said something. My eyes popped because it’s too true I’ve been away too long, my defenses are down.

    3. OP#1*

      No, she does not at all. I am the only one that handles any financials. That would be awful though!

    4. tigerStripes*

      S.G. I’m glad you brought that up – that was worrying me too. Glad the employee doesn’t handle financials. She’s not handling anything else that would get more oversight if she were gone for a few days, right? Maybe something related to product or computers?

  53. Bea*

    What stands out to me for #1 is that you have exempt employees who are required to always “make up” any time they miss. My boss only has hourly employees follow that procedure. For those of us who are exempt, we are just expected to do our duties within our 5 day week. If I need time off for a 2 hour appointment, I’m not docked pay for it. I only use sick time if I’m out an entire day and a vacation day if I’m off duty an entire day. If you start allowing for more flexibility like that, she may not be as likely to overwork herself.

    I come from a background of being non-exempt for a decade and this is my first position to be salaried along with a few others at the company. I was “making up” time like your employee until my boss explained that she did not expect that. The few weeks I only work 38-35hours are waaaay less than the ones I’m here 50+ hours. All the while having a set amount each month, it’s been the best upgrade in my professional life to date.

    1. Natalie*

      The OP explicitly says it’s voluntary and not required, just something they can do if they want to preserve their PTO:

      I don’t require this at all; they are always free to just take the time off, but they often make up the hours and save their PTO for real vacations.

      1. Bea*

        I understand but my issue is that they have to use PTO at all for missing time that’s not a full day. It sounds like a very ridged “you are here for 40hrs or longer, never less than 40 unless you take PTO!”
        Granted it’s such a time suck for payroll in those cases, I don’t submit a timecard though…it may be different if we’re working with billable job hours.

        1. OP#1*

          I don’t track their hours and I don’t require them to take PTO for partial days or make it up, but this employee feels the need to do so for some reason.

          Maybe she is planning on asking for a raise and will be using how hard she works and is always ahead of schedule as justification. Ha! I am already planning a raise for her at the next review, so if this ends up being why, I will have to chuckle a bit.

  54. Jeff*

    For #4, is there a way to redirect that activity so those times have more meaning than just the time passing? Are there responsibilities that you have as a host that would let you use those times to make sure you’ve completed tasks by then? That would turn your time keeping into more of a productivity tool. It’s kind of similar to what’s called the pomodoro technique, where you focus intently on a task for 25 minutes, take a break, then do another 25 minutes with another short break, etc. It’s probably not a good fit for working at a restaurant, but those times could serve as a reminder to check on other tasks. It’s probably a better way to track your time so it doesn’t look like your checking those times off just for the sake of checking them off. Just an idea if stopping the habit altogether seems daunting or hard to wean off of immediately.

    1. Hostess with the Mostess*

      I use the pomodoro technique while studying all the time! That’s a great idea, thanks Jeff!

  55. Anna*

    For the PTO thing, how about including sick days in the 3 weeks you give them? Or can people work from home maybe if they’re not feeling to bad but just can’t make it in? That may ease the stress.

    1. OP#1*

      Both of my employees work from home. which may be why they don’t take much sick time In an office situation where they might get others sick, they might take more, but often they feel “good enough” to knock out work from home.

  56. boop the first*

    Ha ha ha, I did this near the end of a retail stint. And it absolutely was because I was eager to leave. But that’s the thing with jobs that have no defined end (other than time). For jobs where you have a list of duties, it’s unnecessary, but for jobs where the work continues from start to end with no natural pauses or “chapters”, it feels like it is neverending. Crossing off the time increments can be the only way to convince yourself that time is indeed passing, and you haven’t been standing there for 8 million years.

    1. Hostess with the Mostess*

      Haha!! Thank you, I’ve been in retail before and did it there too, although my bosses never saw. Especially on slow days, there’s only so long I can stand up there without losing my mind!

  57. Babs*

    #2 – could you print the document? Either for him or for you to review from. I’ve done that before where I’ve printed the document, they sit in a chair on the other side of my desk and talk about revisions – “2nd paragraph, 3rd sentence needs…” or if he insists on seeing it on the screen then you can relent your chair and either sit or stand with the printed copy.

    I can’t tell you how hard it is to spell correctly when someone is standing over my shoulder. ugh!

    1. Deeks*

      OP2 here, hi! I have tried this, but his wife has trained him that it’s “inefficient” to do this, and that marking up my monitor with finger prints is the way to go. :(

      I’m going to re-orient my desk tomorrow, hopefully that will help! Thank you for you input!

  58. KateyJL*

    #1: Some employees don’t want to take time off because they are hiding something. They may not want anyone else covering for them for fear that their lack of actual work, or poor work, will be discovered.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      I have seen this! In the 1980s I worked in food/beverage audit at a large resort that employed a woman who was stealing a fortune from the 24-hour coffee shop where she was a swing shift cashier for about 25 years. She was a much beloved employee and always lauded for her decades of dedication and never being sick or taking time off, et cetera. She was caught out when she was unexpectedly out for a medical leave and suddenly revenue noticeably increased, then fell again when she returned. Security put a camera on her station for a few weeks and recorded her voiding and destroying checks and slipping the cash into a thin purse under the register counter many times each shift. A two-year audit was performed and based on missing and voided checks during her shift it was calculated she stole at least a couple million dollars during her 25 year career. Lotta money back then! Subsequent investigations revealed a very high profile lifestyle she was very skilled at hiding. No wonder she never took a day off, it would have cost her dearly just in the daily skim.

      Also around that time I read an article about a woman who worked for a toll authority who pinched toll money regularly – $40 or more a day. That adds up! This woman had developed an alter ego and would book weekends in the city and stay at fine hotels and wear expensive clothes, yet in real life she lived in a modest house with her ailing mother.

      Those are some flat-out stealing money stories. I’m sure there’s a lot more of just hiding poor work or work not even done. Twice I’ve started a new job and been assigned to a desk where it looks like the prior occupant just took every day’s correspondence and stuffed it in a drawer.

  59. Limi*

    In regards to #4, I wish my co-workers would do something similar. In most places, I can see how it would seem unprofessional and come off badly, but it would very much help my current duties. Everything we do has to be work-ordered, even if the work order bills to ourselves as regular duties. Keeping track to that degree for all the tasks we do throughout the day, even just with shorthand would be a gift from the stars.

    Since I do all the work orders and no one else has to pay attention to it, getting them to track time accurately is like pulling teeth some days.

  60. ST*

    #2 As soon as he’s leaning over you, scream “snake” or “spider” and leap straight up (and slightly backwards) out of your seat. It won’t take more than twice.

  61. DublinTechGrrl*

    I’m a Irish person working for a multinational German company. No this is not how we do it in Europe. In many places 20 PTO days are a legal required minimum (based on how many days your salary requires). We are taxed on benefits but they are not taken into account with our salary at offer time.

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