coworkers and weight talk, my boss rescinded my day off, and more

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

1. Coworkers and weight talk

I left a relationship that for all intents and purposes was emotionally abusive about a year ago. Word got out around the office that I had left my ex but only a trusted co-worker knew how had bad it had been and from what I can tell, she mostly kept it to herself.

Unexpectedly, I dropped at least 20 pounds after leaving. The effects of the abuse had shown up as binge eating and weight gain over the years. Now, in a matter of months, I was back down to my college weight. This was great, except that people at work began to comment on my weight. They asked if I was on a special diet, if I was skipping meals, if I had a special exercise regiment and even if I was sick. I never bring up the weight loss because I don’t want to talk about it. My feelings are complicated on a daily basis.

I’ve made up some lackluster excuses, mostly because I’m rarely prepared for the question and also because it’s been a surprise for myself. But every time someone asks, it brings up the past and I have to deal with it again during the work day. I don’t want to say, “I left an abusive relationship” but I’m also unsure of what will happen next with my weight or how much I should lie. I also don’t want to continue having to cover up parts of my life, something every person in an emotionally abusive relationship does regularly.

How should I respond to comments about my weight? Especially because it’s not caused by a special diet or workout regiment that I could talk about.

Aghh, people and intrusive questions about bodies. It’s so weird that this is considered socially acceptable.

I think you can be vague while still be honest. For example: “I’ve been in a healthier place lately and I guess I’m eating healthier too.” Or “I’ve just been feeling great and I’ve been naturally eating healthier.” Or even vaguer: “It’s complicated, but I’m happy to feel healthier.” Or “yeah, I’ve lost some weight, but it’s nothing to worry about.”

The main thing to know is that you don’t owe anyone information. If you want, it’s fine to say, “I made a few dietary changes but weight is so boring. Let’s talk about anything other than diet.”

2. My boss rescinded my day off

A few weeks ago, I put in a request for a day off and had it approved. Unfortunately, some personal issues led me to calling out for a week and a half. This included one no-call no-show (I was so busy I forgot to call in). When I returned, I was spoken to about the no-call, no-show and about notifying my boss too late that I wouldn’t be there. (I called him an hour before I was scheduled to be in.) There were also some performance issues, where I had been so distracted I had made some very minor mistakes.

Today, my boss told me that he would have to rescind my day off request, as my absences created a backlog of tasks and he needed me to work on them. I later heard that he gave my day off to a coworker of mine. When I confronted my boss about it, he said that my coworker came in early and stayed late during the time I was out to help out with my workload, and that she had also requested the day off.

I’m very angry, because now I’ll have to miss my boyfriend’s birthday party. Is there anything I can do?

No-calling, no-showing is a big deal. Some people get fired for doing that, so this isn’t a time where I’d push back or be angry that there are (relatively minor) consequences. This is a time where you want to be humble and accommodating.

It’s not unreasonable that your boss would tell you that because you being out unexpectedly for a week and a half resulted in a backlog, he now needs you to work the day you had planned to take off, or that he’d want to prioritize the coworker who worked extra hours to cover for you during that time.

Think of it this way: You missed seven of eight days work that you had planned to work. Now your boss is telling you that you’ll have to miss one day off that you’d planned not to work. It’s not an unfair trade.

3. What are traditional office working hours?

I’m on the west coast and have worked in two different states. The traditional hours for office jobs in these areas seems to be 8-5 with a one-hour break for lunch, so people are spending nine hours at work (including lunch) and getting paid for eight hours, or 40 hours per week. Obviously there are differences for people who have arranged to work a slightly earlier or later shift, but it still amounts to them spending nine hours at the office and getting paid for eight hours.

However, when I hear people on the east coast talk about their shifts, not just on your site but on other blogs and such, they refer to their office work hours as 9-5, which must mean they are getting paid for their lunch hour. Is that really the case? Are there regional differences in how many hours people actually work, while still getting paid for the same 40 hours per week? I’m genuinely curious about this, because that would add up to quite a large difference over the course of a year.

I don’t have any friends or relatives on the east coast that I can ask about this.

Nah, I don’t think this is an east coast/west coast thing. It just varies by field and by job. Lots of jobs on both coasts are 8-5, 9-6, or some other variation … but there are still 9-5 jobs too.

Also, lots of people don’t take a full hour for lunch (half an hour is really common for people with legally-mandated lunch breaks, and it’s all over the map for exempt people). But it’s not uncommon for a “40-hour week” to really mean “37.5 hours of work plus five half-hour lunches.”

Plus, keep in mind that for salaried exempt people, it’s not really “getting paid for a lunch break” or “not getting paid for lunch” — they’re getting paid for the job, regardless of breaks. Some days it might be eight hours but because they’re exempt other days it might be longer or shorter than that.

But the biggest thing here to realize might be that “a 9-5 job” has become shorthand for “a professional office job with typical Monday through Friday daytime hours.” It doesn’t always refer to the actual hours people are working.

4. Following up on an interview, post-hurricane

I know you are desperately tired of “WHEN I SHOULD FOLLOW UP AFTER MAH INTERVIEW” questions, but I didn’t find my current variation: how long should you wait to follow up after an interview when there’s a hurricane?I had an in-person interview on Wednesday, Aug. 30 and I was told I’d hear back by Friday, Sept. 8 (however, I tacked on 1-2 weeks because #TheProcess). However, I live in Orlando and Irma swept through the local news starting Monday, Sept. 4. Many businesses closed Thursday-Monday (Sept. 7-11), and people are now only able to begin returning to work (Sept. 12-13).

I don’t expect to hear anything re: an update this week (note from Alison: This was written last week) because I know the company is scrambling to assess damages, potentially start repairs, catch up on work, etc I also am wary of checking in too soon post-Irma for fear of coming across as insensitive (I didn’t lose power during the storm, but so many people are still without). How long should I wait to follow up after an interview when the post-interview period involves a natural disaster?

I’d say next week at the earliest.

If they’re ready to turn back to hiring and they’re interested in you, they’re not going to forget about you. But if they’re nowhere near thinking about hiring again, you risk coming across as out-of-touch if you check in too early.

But next week you could send an email that says that you’re hoping they weathered the storm okay and that you assume the storm has changed their initial hiring timeline but that you’d be glad to talk with them at whatever point they’re moving forward.

5. Reaching out after declining an offer

Last year, I received an amazing offer for a new job — great company culture, significant salary increase, in a cool new city with new responsibilities, exposure to a new industry, etc. The same day, I received word that my aunt had passed away unexpectedly at age 54 — just two years older than my mom. I dropped everything to spend the next few weeks at home, helping my mom adjust to a life without her sister. The company was very gracious, and gave me all the time I needed to make my decisions. In the end, I declined their offer, not ready to take on all that change in my career after such a big transition in my personal life.

It’s now about nine months later and I think about that missed opportunity all the time. I’ve been job searching locally, but nothing has impressed me nearly as much as the company from last year. The job posting is still open online (it’s a very large company, so there were multiple spots to fill in the department). Would it be worth reaching out to re-connect? How would I do that in a way that sounds sincere? I did explain the situation to my contacts when I declined, but I worry that I may have been too vague in an attempt to not be overly emotional, and will sound naive when I circle back around now. What do you think?

Contact them! If the job posting is still up, it’s very possible that they’d be delighted to be able to hire you now. You didn’t ghost them; you told them it wasn’t the right time, and it makes sense that now it could be.

Say something like this: “You offered me a job I was really excited about last year, but I ultimately needed to decline because there had just been a death in my family and I didn’t think it was the time to make a career transition. I’m now beginning to think about making a move again and I see that the position is still posted. I’d love to talk with you about it again if you still think I might be the right match for it.”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 485 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I’ve worked (non-exempt and exempt) on both coasts, and it’s very common to work nine hours but to only be paid for eight of those hours. Alison has the right of it—“9 to 5” usually refers to the common business hours when employees are expected to be available, but it’s not necessarily a description of the actual shift you’re working. For example, I worked at an office with 10-4 business hours, and folks often worked shifts that overlapped with that time period (but included additional daily hours).

    1. Gaia*

      I am exempt and west of the Mississippi with corporate headquarters east of the Mississippi. While we don’t have set hours for my position, I’m generally expected to show up about 8 am (usually much earlier) and I generally leave about 4pm. For those counting … that is only 8 hours. My peers across the continent tend to work until 4:30ish or 5 (depending on if they come in at 8 or 8:30). We all take 30 minute lunches. The difference is I work quite a bit late in the evening, often logging another few hours of work each day. So, for my sanity and to avoid what little traffic my city has I leave a little early. In the end, it doesn’t make a big difference because, as Alison says, being exempt means I am paid for the job whether that job takes 30, 40, or 60 hours.

    2. The IT Manager*

      It may have been the 80s movie and the Dolly Parton song that made it shorthand, but since screenwriting/songwriting aren’t 9-5 jobs who knows why they picked a strict 8 hours and those 8 hours instead of for example 8-4.

      However the shorthand originated, it originated at least 30 years ago. I’m pretty sure in those days 9-5 was banker’s hours when the bank and other similar businesses would be open for business.

      I work 8-4:30, but I get a half hour lunch.

      1. M-C*

        IT, banker’s hours was just slang for really short hours, as 30 years ago bankers had really short hours, usually 10-3. Those were hours for the public though, many people working for a bank worked longer than that in fact. And yes, getting to the bank was a real pain :-).

        1. MK*

          I think there is a difference between “banking hours”, a.k.a. the hours the bank is open to the public, and “banker’s hours”, the hours the employees of the bank are actually working.

        2. Antilles*

          Correct. Banker’s hours was just a slang used for short hours. Usually, it’s used in a negative or pejorative sense that you don’t work hard or are awkward to reach. Something like: “Andy’s voice mail again? Man, that guy must work banker’s hours or something, because I can never get a hold of him.”

    3. Ruth (UK)*

      My job’s office hours are 8-6 but we work either 8-4 or 10-6 on a rota. We have half an hour unpaid break and are paid for 37.5 hours a week.

      I work an admin job and am job searching at the moment so have noticed this seems quite standard at least for the UK – a lot of offices are open 8-6. One variation I’ve seen is a half hour longer day eg. 8-4:30 or 9:30-6 with the half hour unpaid lunch, but therefore paid for 40 hours a week. I think an hour lunch break is not very common, at least not in jobs I’ve looked at but when jobs have them, they do tend have a longer day to fit them in.

      1. FiveWheels*

        Another data point – I’ve worked in office jobs in three different industries, and all had an unpaid hour long lunch break.

        My office is a couple of minutes from the sandwich shop and at 1.16 I’m still waiting for my sandwich to be made. Unless it was packed lunch every day, I don’t think I could comfortably have lunch in 30 minutes.

      2. Erin*

        Hour lunch breaks are overrated. my employers use it as a way to keep hours down, and not sacrifice coverage during business hours. Honestly I’d rather skip breaks completely and go home earlier.
        Especially since 1 hour isn’t enough for me to run errands across town.

        1. JaredTheGeek*

          That is not your employer but a legal requirement to provide at least a 30 minute meal break. Its not negotiable.

      3. Alienor*

        I had that second variation when I worked in retail – a full shift was 10-6:30 or 2-10:30 or some similar configuration, and you clocked out for lunch. When I switched to exempt office work, the standard became 8-5 with an hour of paid lunch, and that extra 30 minutes somehow made the day feel *hours* longer!

      4. pandop*

        I work at a UK university, and full time is classed as 35 hours. I have to take at least 30 mins lunch every day (unpaid) by law, but can take up to 2 hours, should I need/want to. If I work less than 35 hours, I have to make them up, eventually, and if I work more than 35 I get time in credit. I can carry a debit or credit of hours over from month to month, with the only restrictions being no more than 8 hours debit or 15 credit to be carried over, and if I leave, I have to be at a 0 balance – nothing owed or owing. Core hours are 10-12 and 2-4 (ie you are mostly expected to be in the office then, unless you make arragements with your line manager – which is often as simple as a conversation ‘I have a doctor’s appointment, I need to leave at 3’ ‘fine’). No one really minds if you do 8-4, 10-6 or anything inbetween as we aren’t a customer facing department, so we have no opening hours to cover.
        It’s nice.

    4. Al Lo*

      I temped for a year or so, and had every variation except 9-5.

      7:30-4, 7:30-4:30, 8-4, 8-4:30, 8-5, 35 hours paid, 37.5 hours paid, 40 hours paid, 30 minute lunch, 60 minute lunch, paid lunch (rarely), unpaid lunch. One placement was a 6-2 shift that synced with east coast time.

      Most (theatre) arts orgs that I’ve worked with/for have been more like 10-6 office hours. I think that more artists/arts administrators go out to events and are out later in the evening as part of the industry.

      My current (arts) office’s reception hours are actually 9-5, although I don’t work those hours. But in my experience, it’s uncommon in this city.

    5. Runner*

      I have found it to be very much more a distinction between service-type jobs and office work. All services-type jobs I have had (big box store, call center) required me to take an unpaid one-hour lunch, so I was on site 9 hours. (The exception was some restaurant work, where we either already were working truncated shifts or took a very short on-the-fly break, wrapped into the hours). Salaried jobs — jobs in professional fields — have been the opposite, though that is just my personal experience, with a full hour technically being included within the 8-hours generally expected on site. I really believe there is such a growing gulf in work realities (paid sick leave, paid vacation, whether your work literally monitors every second you are on the clock through tech means and uses those metrics — like how many seconds you are late in returning from an allotted bathroom break in evaluating your performance, having even one late arrival be one step toward firing, etc) that there isn’t blanket advice. We have caste systems in the United States now, almost, when it comes to types of jobs.)

      1. Ellen Ripley*

        Great point, about the de facto caste system. It makes a big difference in how people can run their lives, deal with medical appointments and emergencies, kids and their needs, etc., and it all sort of cascades from there. I’ve had both kinds of jobs and been a freelancer/self-employed, and it’s like three different kinds of worlds to live in.

        IME, hourly service-type jobs usually schedule you for specific hours and if those hours are 6+ you take an unpaid lunch, usually a half hour. (California has a law where you can take lunch after working 5 hours or opt out until 6, and you get two paid 15 minute breaks per 8 hour shift (not sure how those get apportioned if you don’t work a full 8).)

        1. starsaphire*

          I hadn’t thought of it in terms of caste, but yes, that’s an excellent point!

          I had a conversation once with a friend who went straight from college to lower-level management, and is now a VP. She was shocked — horrified in fact — to learn that I had to wait 90 days for my benefits to begin after starting a new position.

          It was a big “WTF” moment for both of us when we started comparing notes, because I had no idea that C-suite life didn’t include all of the stuff I accepted as normal, and she had no idea that lower-tier workers had to do things like pay for their benefits.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s not a de facto caste system. It’s based on the different categorization of the jobs. If you’re being paid hourly and are not working for an hour, then of course the employer doesn’t want to pay for it. If you’re salaried, you’re always on the clock, and in most salaried positions, you’re working well in excess of 40 hours—it’s just that not all of those hours are physically in your office. In my experience, most salaried employees enjoy a lot more flexibility, but this isn’t absolute, and they’re almost always working more than 40 hours.

          California’s rest break laws are apportioned in 4-hour increments. You “earn” a 10-minute rest period for every 4-hours worked, and those rest periods are supposed to be allocated to the middle of your shift (and paid for). Once you work 5+ hours, you also earn a 30-minute meal period (can be unpaid), unless you work 6 hours, in which case you can waive your right to a meal. You get a second 30-minute meal period if you work 10 or more hours. If you work seven hours, you get a 30-minute meal period, a 10-minute rest period, and a 7.5 minute rest period. [link to the CA rest period rules is linked to my name.]

          1. Jesmlet*

            Agreed, there are probably a good number of hourly workers that make more/hour than I do as a salaried employee and the treatment of employees in both areas varies wildly so calling it a de facto caste system is not quite accurate. Some jobs require constant repetitive production over the course of the day so when you’re not producing anything, why should they pay you? Other jobs have a great deal of variation that often requires putting time in on weekends or staying late. That’s why there’s a difference between the two. Not saying it’s right from a moral standpoint, just saying the logic behind it is at least understandable.

            My current salaried position is 9-6 with an hour unpaid lunch but often enough, I only take a short break for lunch, stay late when needed, been on my computer/phone doing last minute problem solving on weekends. The expectation is you’re paid to do a certain job, regardless of how many hours it takes you.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          I work 7:30-4:30 minus an hour lunch, usually, but it’s flexible. My place of employment is open 8-5, 8:30-4:30 to the public. I have another coworker who prefers to come in later and stay later even though we generally work the same hours (she is salaried and I am hourly, at different levels, but 95% of the time we’re both 40 hours a week). I can take a shorter lunch if, say, traffic is bad and I arrive late, or need to leave a little early. I can also take a little longer if we’re not busy and I need to run an errand. It’s not cast in stone. But even my salaried superiors have to be here those hours, especially if I or another assistant is not here to cover things, because even though we’re not really a service industry, we do have office hours, and what we do can’t be taken home. I don’t get paid for lunch, but I also am not expected to cover phones or anything (I’m actually not allowed to. HR has made it clear I’m “not there” even if I am) and I can read or knit or go for a walk or whatever.

    6. gg*

      My first job out of college was a salaried job with very strict hours 8-4:30 (10 min paid breaks at 10 and 3, 30 min unpaid lunch from 12-12:30).

      Every job I’ve had in the 13 years since leaving there has been “come in when you want, get your work done, break whenever and however long you want, leave when you want.” I average 45-50 hours a week due to the nature of my work. But I come and go as I please and put in at least 20 of those hours from my home, on my own time.

    7. Turquoise Cow*

      I’ve only worked on the east coast, but my working hours (in full time office jobs) have always been a total of 37.5 per week. Sometimes that was 8:30-4:45 with a 45 minute lunch (some people were salaried and some people hourly. The hourly people had to take :45 and punch in and out, the salaried people tended to lean more towards an hour, but they also tended to stay later and/or come in earlier) or 9-6 with an hour lunch, and my current job is 8:30-5:00 with an hour lunch, although I usually drift more toward 9-5:30, and plenty of people do something more like 8-4:30. They’re quite flexible here.

      When I first started working, it sounded odd to me, because you always hear about a 40 hour work week, and people working 9-5, but I think that’s all just kind of shorthand for “full time” rather than an actual description of hours or anything like that.

    8. Zip Zap*

      I think it’s a freeway vs highway sort of thing. East coasters say 9-5. West coasters say 8-5. They mean basically the same thing – a standard work day, not the specific hours.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Highway has a different meaning than freeway! West coasters don’t refer to highways as freeways (or vice versa).

        1. Lucie in the Sky*

          Yeah, but I think a lot of times at least here in the rust belt people refer to freeways as highways

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          But east coasters – at least, northeastern coasters, IME – don’t refer to freeways at all. :-) They’re all highways.

    9. Basia, also a Fed*

      I work on the east coast, and over the past 25 years have worked for private industry, the state, and the federal government. All of these required that you have an unpaid lunch, with a schedule of 8:00-5:00 (or the equivalent). I don’t know anyone in any industry who gets a paid lunch. I’m not saying they don’t exist, but it would very much not be the norm in my mid-sized east coast city. My husband works for the state, and they get paid for 7.5 hours a day, so work 8:00-4:30 with an unpaid hour lunch.

      1. Doreen*

        I’ve always worked on the East Coast , and I’ve worked just about any variation you can think of – except working a standard 40 hours a week. I’ve had jobs where 35 hours was expected, ones where 37.5 were expected , a couple where we were paid for 40 but normally worked 35 ( and got no extra pay for working up to 40) and my long ago fast food jobs typically scheduled shifts of 7.5 hours work and a 30 minute unpaid break. I’m not sure anything can be considered typical.

      2. DivineMissL*

        Similarly, I work in local government; people here work either 35 hours/week (non-exempt), which is 8:30 – 4:30 with an hour for lunch; or 40 hours/week (exempt), which is still technically 8:30 – 4:30 but they are expected to work until the job is done, sometimes working earlier or later, sometimes skipping lunch or not, sometimes for evening meetings or even occasionally things on the weekends. Both are considered full-time workers.

    10. Lil Fidget*

      I was really disappointed upon learning this when I started my first fulltime job! I didn’t particularly want to take a lunch, as I usually just eat a bowl of soup at my desk and continue working. My coworkers were like, “well you’re just working more for free, because you still can’t leave earlier than 6 here.” They would rather sit on the step out front staring at the ground than work 8-6 every day and after a few years, I felt the same way.

    11. Optimistic Prime*

      Yes, at my current office our core hours are 10-4. I usually arrive between 7:30 and 8:30 am and leave between 4 and 5 pm, but depending on what I need to do that day I could be there for 7 hours or 10. I also occasionally go home and work from my couch for an additional hour or two, depending on what I need to do. It all works out in the wash.

    12. Garrett*

      I didn’t start working until the 90s and hours were the 8-5 variety, but I wonder if years ago, people got paid lunches and 9-5 was the norm. In the movie, that’s the hours they work, so either they get paid for 35 hours or got paid lunch.

      1. JR*

        There are still some of us on that schedule! Though our company is very big on work-life balance and not quite as big on industry-standard salaries, so I guess you could say it evens out. (Personally I’m happy with that tradeoff.)

    13. Manders*

      I think there’s a possibility in varies slightly by state too; some states mandate an unpaid lunch break, some don’t mandate the break but do mandate letting the employees eat at some point in a shift, and some don’t mandate the break but smart employers will give employees a break anyway.

      I too was disappointed when I hit the working world and find that 9 to 5 was usually more like 8 to 5, plus a lengthy commute both ways for most people in my area. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how common flex time is, though.

    14. Risha*

      I generally work 9:30 – 6:30 and take roughly an hour lunch, though technically I’m supposed to be here by 9. I’m salaried exempt and never cheat on my timecard and show up on time for the rare early meeting, so they’ve never said one word to me about it. I don’t ever include lunch on my timecard unless I’ve worked through it. There’s a company policy that if I need to take a couple of hours for an appointment or errands and it doesn’t interfere with my work, I can just take it, and it doesn’t count as PTO and there’s no need to “smooth” my time (make that day equal 8 hours).

      It’s an office job (software development), on the east coast, and part of the trade off is that I semi-frequently work longer hours and weekends.

    15. Xarcady*

      East Coast here. I’ve had only one job with a paid lunch. That was back in the early 90s, working for the state government. That whole job was odd–I was exempt, but got paid for overtime, but the state was in a budget crisis so we were not allowed to take overtime. But it was an 8 hour workday with an hour paid lunch.
      I think it was a combination of an old work style that had become mired in “tradition,” a fairly large union that wanted nothing taken away ever, and a requirement that any change had to be passed by the state legislature.

    16. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve always been non-exempt, and most of the places I worked were 8-5. One was 9-6. All office jobs had an hour unpaid lunch. When I did factory and food service jobs, we had a half-hour unpaid lunch, for which we had to clock out. All front desk jobs required me to be in my seat at 8, when the business opened. I hate butt-in-seat jobs; please universe spare me from them in the future.

      Due to the non-public nature of my work there, Exjob wasn’t much bothered by what time I came in; I usually worked 8:30 to 4:30 and ate at my desk so I could avoid the traffic and AwesomeBoss was fine with that. NewBoss never mentioned my time. If I had to come in late or make up time missed, the company was okay with it.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        When I first started at the university, most departments worked from 8:00 – 4:30 with a half-hour lunch. Now it’s more common for most of them to work 8:00 – 5:00 with a one-hour lunch. There are still a few departments who do the 8:00 – 4:30 schedule, but the past two that I’ve worked in have been 8:00 – 5:00.

    17. Beezus*

      I’m expected to bill 8 hours a day and to take a legally mandated 30 min upaid lunch which seems the norm for every job I’ve had so you actually are “at” work 42.5 hours a week, 40 of which are paid.

    18. OP #3*

      Thanks everyone — this has been super helpful. I think my takeaway is that the 9-5 thing is really just a verbal shorthand for “I work day shift in an office and get paid for roughly 40 hours per week.”

    19. Mechanical Engineer*

      I work at a 24/7/365 operation in an exempt engineering role. I work 6:30 to 3:30 and am free to take flexible lunch hours within reason. I typically eat at my desk and get right back to work. I really like my hours because I can get home early enough to spend quality time with my family before the kids go to bed. Like others have said, I also would prefer to take a short lunch so I can get my work done and go home rather than spend more time in the office because I took a long lunch break.

      Others where I work varying schedules: 5-2, 6-3, 7-4. Oddly, almost no one works 8-5 or later for those that work M-F. I found it interesting to read the hours commented on this post by others, as they are so much different than what I’m used to!

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I understand why you’re frustrate, but I also feel like what your boss did was so normal in light of the significant drop in productivity during the week and a half that you were out. It sounds like your absence significantly affected your coworker, your peers, and your own personal backlog. It’s not unreasonable that your boss might want you to catch up on that backlog so that others aren’t forced to continue to pull extra long shifts to cover your load. And it makes sense that he might want to retain an employee who went above and beyond to pick up the slack, and may be feeling burned out right now.

    1. Kathlynn*

      Agreed, the only thing I can think of for letting this LW have the day off is if it were for court or important health appointments (like, in my city the Gynecologist has a 6 month waiting list. And it can be just as long for other specialists)

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          If it’s anything like my Gyno’s office, in an *emergency* you can be seen shortly, by anyone in the office (there are like 8 docs there).

          But your regular yearly poke and prod? You better call well in advance, clear your calendar and do anything in your power to make that appointment.

          I don’t know WHY it’s so difficult, and those of us with less-than-predictable cycles basically play Roulette picking a date that far in advance…

        2. Bea*

          I couldn’t see a gynecologist when if I wanted my annual exam to be done sooner than 2 months out, after moving to a new city and needing to switch doctors after years of going to the same practice. Gynos are notoriously long booked because they’re dealing with patients that are going through pregnancy that has very specific check dates. So it’s hard to get in for anything like a annual without getting in line well in advance.

          I had to book a family medicine doctor for mine and it was still two weeks out.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      That’s a very good explanation. I would like to add that you would come across as sounding very entitled if you continue to push back on this. Try to imagine if you were the boss and had an employee do what you did, then ask to take even more PTO.

      Your boss is very patient.

    3. Snark*

      I don’t even really get the frustration, to be honest. An unplanned week and a half out, with a no-show/no-call to boot? Mmmm….sorry, OP, you take your lumps quietly after that. You inconvenienced your boss and coworkers hugely, and treated them pretty inconsiderately. I get that your plans are going to have to be rearranged, but given that you’re fairly fortunate to still be employed and that your boss didn’t chew you out like a puppy with a new squeaky toy, maybe reframe how you’re thinking about this.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think it depends on why OP had to take the 1.5 weeks. “Personal issues” could be very broad, but I can imagine that if someone had a very big crisis going on, they may feel resentful that their PTO day was rescinded. I don’t think that justifies continuing to be upset or making this a hill to die on, but I can understand where the frustration might be coming from.

        1. AMPG*

          It sounds like a lot of this is how it was handled. If you’re out for 1.5 weeks, it probably shouldn’t be a situation where you’re calling fresh in every day, unless it’s just to fulfill workplace policy. Your manager should’ve known much earlier that something serious enough was happening that they needed to plan for multiple days of coverage.

          Honestly, most places I’ve worked wouldn’t rescind a planned day off due to unexpected absences leading up to the planned day, as long as they were handled professionally. But they might rescind a day as a punitive measure, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what’s happening here.

        2. Sarah*

          Yeah, it’s hard to know…if this was “my father died” level of personal issues, I can definitely understand being frustrated here, although I think you still need to make up the day and deal with it. If it’s something less than that, definitely time to reframe your thinking in a major way.

        3. Liz*

          It depends on the “personal issues”. I went through a 3-month period when I had quite a few calls out on short notice and ended up missing about 3-1/2 weeks of work (my parents died 6 weeks apart, and I had to have unrelated minor surgery). I decided early on that if I ended up losing ny job (I’d seen it happen to others), I would have to figure something out. Fortunately, my employer was very understanding.

          I also think missing a birthday party is a small price to pay, especially for a no-call no-show.

      2. Jesmlet*

        Well I get the frustration in light of what OP will be forced to miss, but the logic from the boss’ point of view makes total sense. You can’t just rearrange a birthday party so that’s probably a main reason why they’re upset.

    4. paul*

      Plus, the NC/NS. I’ve *never* worked anywhere where a no call no show isn’t at least a write up.

      After that sort of thing, suck it up and move on.

  3. Christine*

    Re #2…. I had emergency surgery a few years ago that led to me missing work. I went back to work earlier than my doctor suggested because I had two vacation days coming up for which I had prebooked airfare to visit family. The first contact I had with my boss after being discharged was an inquiry as to whether I was still planning to use those vacation days “in light of my current situation”. It was extremely tone deaf and led to a huge breakdown in our working relationship. While I agree that a no show no call is a big deal, if the boss knew what was going on, the response seems, at the very least, insensitive.

    1. Gaia*

      I mean, it really depends. In your case your boss was clearly not great (although I could see me asking out of concern and wanting to know my staff’s plans, not out of pressure for them to change them) but a no call/no show is a really big deal and we don’t really know what the reasons were for missing a week and a half. Personal reasons could be anything from moving her sister into her new dorm and wanting to spend time there to hospitalization. It is a rather large spectrum.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Speaking of the no call/no show, am I reading correctly that OP called in 1 hour before her scheduled shift and the boss is saying that’s a no call/no show, or was the 1 hour call-in a different day/standard practice for OP during this situation?

        The letter says When I returned, I was spoken to about the no-call, no-show and about notifying my boss too late that I wouldn’t be there. (I called him an hour before I was scheduled to be in.) and it reads like it could go either way. Short notice—assuming you have the ability to give more notice—is still super-unprofessional but it’s really disingenuous if the boss is taking OP to task for short notice by saying it’s a no call/no show: these are different things and it always bothers me when employers start redefining terms for their own purposes. Example: the company I worked at where you had to call the Absence Hotline, and your manager, and the “Attendance Manager” (I wish I was making that up…) at least 2 hours before you were scheduled to work, and if you missed any of those calls or didn’t realize you were violently ill an hour before you woke up to get ready for work… whelp, that was a no call/no show, according to the company.

        1. MK*

          I read it as being two separate occasions; or, worse, that there was one no call/no show and the rest of the time she notified them too late.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, I read it as one no-call-no-show, and one or more calls with one hour before they expected her to be there.

        2. Gaia*

          I read it as two different instances. An hour before a shift (for most jobs) should be sufficient. The exception being jobs that require coverage if replacement coverage is not quickly obtained.

          1. Erin*

            The calling in 1 hour before your shift begins is circumstantial. If you’re sick please call asap or as soon as you know you can’t make it to work. But sometimes shit happens. Cars break down, accidents happen. I’m lucky enough to live 15 minutes away and still have 3 minutes to spare when I get to work. I’m not leaving home an hour before my shift starts just in case something happens on the way to work.

            1. Gaia*

              Of course things happen en route. I am saying that for a manager, an hour is usually sufficient (except in cases were coverage is necessary and not quickly obtained) but in any case most managers will recognize that some events preclude any warning.

    2. MK*

      Obviously yoy know your boss and how the inquiry was intented, but it’s not unreasonable to ask if an employee who has just had surgery still intents to take a trip that involves airtravel in the near future. I mean, it wouldn’t have been surprising for you to cancel the trip after just recovering from surgery and the manager would have wanted to know whether it was still on.

      1. Seal*

        This. I’ve had similar situations with employees who cancelled vacations because they had been out sick for longer than expected or wound up having something else come up where they had to take time off unexpectedly. Hell, I’ve done it myself. In such cases, it’s not unreasonable for your boss to ask if your plans have changed. Stuff happens to everyone.

    3. Anion*

      That sucks, sorry that happened to you. And I’d agree with you that it’s insensitive (in OP2’s case) if the boss knew what was going on, but I’m not sure she did.

      It sounds like OP2 was just calling in every day, not saying something like, “I’ve got a situation here and will probably miss at least the next few days of work.” That would mean OP2 left her boss in a situation where Boss expected her to come in every day and then had to scramble to find coverage. Every day. For a situation that was leaving OP2 too busy to even call in on one of those days–personally if a situation is that complicated it seems like the fair thing to do to give one’s boss a heads-up that you’ll likely be out longer than the one day. The fact that OP2’s boss considered it a nc/ns and didn’t just assume it was related to the previous day, and that OP2 was told she didn’t give enough notice when she called an hour before her shift on a different occasion(? I think?), makes me wonder if OP2 actually properly explained the situation, or was there some “I should be there tomorrow” type stuff going on?

      Or maybe OP2’s boss is simply a moron or jerk; it’s possible. But it sounds to me like this situation was really not handled well from OP2’s side at all, and like the boss has a right to be pretty annoyed by it.

      1. Antilles*

        Your second paragraph is a good point – people always appreciate the heads up. Even if the situation is uncertain and you can’t give a true and complete time estimate, even knowing “…and this might even extend into Thursday or Friday; I hope not, but it might” is a lot better from the boss’ side than scrambling every single day. That way, I can at least call around and get a general plan together – if you end up being available, great; if not, it’s much easier to deal with since I already know who’s available.

      2. AMPG*

        This is what I thought, too, and if true it’s a really unprofessional way to act. I understand if the OP’s workplace policy required her to call in every day regardless, but her manager should’ve been told pretty early on to put coverage in place for several days.

    4. Oryx*

      I had emergency surgery last year and was out for a week and a half and while perhaps asking about your return to work so soon after your surgery might be a little questionable (versus my manager, who basically said take as long as I need), I don’t find the line of inquiry as a whole that tone deaf.

      You were already gone for a week, unexpectedly I presume if it was emergency surgery, so I’m sure they had to scramble to cover your tasks for that duration. Asking if you still planned on being out for another few days right after that seems perfectly reasonable and necessary information for the boss to have.

      1. Christine*

        Just to clear up my timeline, I came back after three days instead of the week to ten days my doctor wanted me to take off *because* i knew I had the two vacation days coming up and I didn’t want to leave everyone in the lurch. Perhaps I felt it was tone deaf because he’d received a hysterical phone call from me as I was being rushed to the hospital to give a heads up, but there was never any follow up with me besides asking about scheduling. Do I think that was an important conversation? Absolutely. But let’s see if I’m out of the hospital and/or cleared to go back to work first.

        1. Jesmlet*

          Obviously if he never asked first if you were okay, then he’s a bit of a jerk and I think that’d change everyone’s interpretation of what happened.

    5. Stellaaaaa*

      It reads to me like she called in late on one day (maybe the first?) and just didn’t show up for the next few days after that.

    6. observer*

      What you describe and what the OP describes come off VERY differently. Your boss was a bit tone deaf, but did allow you to take your time. On the other hand, you were keeping your boss updated, and you obviously were trying to mitigate the impact of your behavior.

      The OP, on the other hand, forgot to call one day and called late another day. It also looks like she didn’t explain at any point that she was likely to be out for several days. AND even while she was in, she was distracted and making errors.

      1. observer*

        You’r followup makes it even MORE different. You clearly put in a lot of effort to keep the impact on others down.

  4. neverjaunty*

    OP #2, please set aside your annoyance at missing your boyfriend’s birthday and re-read what you said, this time taking into account how your actions affected your boss and your co-worker.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I agree with neverjaunty. While not intentional, your absence forced your co-worker to take on an inordinate amount of work while you were out. Fussing because you are missing your boyfriend’s birthday due to your boss rescinding your scheduled day off to accommodate a day off for your co-worker will come across as petty. Don’t do it; you still won’t get the day off but you will get a reputation you probably don’t want.

      1. Chinook*

        “Fussing because you are missing your boyfriend’s birthday due to your boss rescinding your scheduled day off to accommodate a day off for your co-worker will come across as petty.”

        Especially since you don’t know what your coworker had to miss because of your unscheduled time off. It is very possible that she is using that day off to make up for what she had to miss due to her overtime.

        1. Sarah*

          This is very true, your coworker could easily have missed a birthday party or other important events due to having to make up your work.

    2. M-C*

      Also, we’re talking about your boyfriend’s birthday here, not something truly important like your parent’s funeral. If your relationship with your boyfriend is that tenous that missing his birthday is going to cause major trouble, you probably wouldn’t need the same day off next year anyway.

      And really, listen to what other commenters are saying – you’re lucky you didn’t get fired outright.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        To add: while we normally talk on this site about “it shouldn’t matter what the time off is for, it’s YOUR time,” in this situation, it’s deciding how much capital (and risk) you want to take for a birthday party and not, say, a family member having surgery that you need to help. A birthday part probably isn’t the hill to die (or get fired) on.

        1. Koko*

          Yes – loads of people work on their partner’s birthday or even their own birthday. Unless Boyfriend hired Beyonce to play his birthday party then it’s not a one-time event that can only happen at the scheduled time. You can celebrate on a day that isn’t the exact birthday, so it’s not really worth fighting to do it on that day in particular just because.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Spouse and I always work on each other’s birthdays. We celebrate in the evening or on the weekends.

          2. Mike C.*

            That’s easy to say until someone dies suddenly. There are many ways to make this point without being so cruel.

            1. Snark*

              I realize you’re grieving a parent, but…..don’t weaponize that to make a point. It’s not a cudgel to beat people over the head with, and you’re not the only person here who’s wishing they had some more time with someone important.

              1. Mike C.*

                I’m not weaponizing anything. I’m making a point that you can stay to the business end of this situation without having a bunch of strangers telling you that one’s own family events “aren’t important”. Why isn’t anyone addressing this?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Because most people don’t think adult birthday parties are hugely important unless they’re for major milestones (and often not even then). You can of course disagree, but please don’t lecture people about not feeling the same way.

                2. Mike C.*

                  I’m only “lecturing” (why am I the one being called to task when so many others are passing judgement?) people about judging the life events of others as being “unimportant”. It’s gross and the business/workplace points can be made without doing so. You were able to do it yourself by focusing only on those important aspects without passing judgement on the OP for her frivolity.

                  We’re supposed to hold a line between the professional and the personal. That’s clear from the question about people’s weight, that’s clear form how we treat time off (we don’t presume certain activities as more worthy of time off than others, for instance) but here it’s ok to simply say, “you’re boyfriend’s birthday is just unimportant?”

                  The point isn’t that the birthday is important or not. The point is that we can’t judge that and we don’t need to judge that so we shouldn’t judge that.

                3. serenity*

                  Mike, it feels like you are falling into a rabbit hole and really getting sidetracked from the facts of the letter here. There’s no indication that the OP here was grieving or had substantive personal or medical issues (the reasons she did not show up for work in her letter are extraordinarily vague). Plus, she apparently has had performance issues and decided to “confront” her boss after an additional day off request was denied.

                  How is this scenario a place to leap from into “people’s personal lives are important and how dare anyone say otherwise”? No one is arguing that personal matters are irrelevant. What they’re saying is, this OP seems to not understand that she appears to have come off as cavalier in missing work with little to no notice and no explanation, and is now bristling at a perfectly reasonable instruction from her boss that cannot take an additional day due to operational reasons at this point in time. Can you not jump down people’s throats for expressing that?

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  (why am I the one being called to task when so many others are passing judgement?)

                  Because your tone is coming across as badgering. Like I’ve asked in the past, please don’t do that here. If you find yourself feeling heated about a discussion, please step away from it instead.

                5. Elizabeth H.*

                  I agree with Mike C., I don’t think it’s necessary or fair to comment on why someone’s reasons for taking a day off might be important or unimportant. Who knows what the LW has planned for the day off, he or she obviously had the vacation time and had requested in advance to use it.

                  I’m assuming that the calling off was using sick/personal time. I see the business’s point of view and I guess I don’t think their decision is totally unfair, but I also find it unfair to criticize letter writer about it. I feel like the birthday thing came up recently in an open thread or different letter, and it has seemed to me like a lot of people are judgmental about how adults should consider birthdays unimportant.

                6. Jesmlet*

                  Mike C.: I agree that we really shouldn’t be ranking the importance of life events. I for one have a horrible relationship with my parents and would probably rank things differently than the standard person. Calling something not “truly important” is a bit judgmental… BUT… there are other ways to argue this point without infusing it with the tone that a lot of commenters are inferring from your comments.

                  To OP, sure it sucks to miss something that you feel is important, but you should absolutely weigh this against how much you inconvenienced your coworkers and see if you can plan something special for a different day.

            2. paul*

              it isn’t a cruel statement.

              Most people don’t view adult birthdays as a huge deal. And for god’s sakes you can schedule the celebration for another day.

              They’re not saying the boss should judge the reason for the requested absence; they’re saying the OP themselves should think long and hard if this is the particular fight they want to fight.

            3. Koko*

              Someone can die suddenly any day. I didn’t suggest they not see the partner or celebrate the birthday at all. I suggested they could celebrate the birthday on another day – the day before the birthday, even, if there’s concern about someone not having much time left. Celebrating it on the exact day is the part that I’m saying probably isn’t worth expending workplace capital on when it could just as easily be celebrated on a nearby day or time when you’re not scheduled to work.

          3. ThatGirl*

            I agree, I’ve taken my own birthday off as a “just because” but I’d never expect my husband to take it off; nor would he expect me to take mine off. Our celebrations are generally pretty low-key and easy to fit on an evening or nearest weekend. While I sort of understand the OP’s frustration, I don’t really think “boyfriend’s birthday party” is the best reason to push for a day off.

          4. Bea*

            I don’t really “get” adult birthday parties, so I have to admit I rolled my eyes at “my boyfriends birthday party!”.

            I had to change my birthday plans because my boyfriend now works different hours. Oh no…I want to spend my birthday with him…so I changed my plans. If we had a “party” of some sort scheduled and work was like “sorry bro, we need you.” I’d be pissed off at him if he didn’t work or if he fussed about having to miss my adult gathering.

      2. Murphy*

        Your first paragraph seems a bit condescending. I wouldn’t automatically dismiss a birthday party as not important, or assume that OP is afraid their boyfriend will break up with them for missing it.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          No one is saying a birthday is not important—just that it doesn’t rise to the level of “I must have this day off!”

          1. Murphy*

            I think the comment I was responding to implied it wasn’t “truly important.”

            But I agree with you, and I think what OP’s boss did sounds fair under the circumstances laid out here.

      3. Mike C.*

        I really find this sort of tone offensive. This is her family, not some trivial event.

        Are you really saying that someone has to die before the event is considered important?

        1. Snark*

          A birthday IS a pretty trivial event. Like, it’s nice if you get a party or dinner and some presents, but they’re not that important, and it’s not that critical to celebrate them the day of.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          No, she is saying that when you have very limited workplace capital to spend, do you really want to spend it on a non-milestone birthday party? She was giving an EXAMPLE of something more important – not giving a definitive list of the only things that mattered.

          So, sure, you can spend your very limited capital on a birthday party. But then don’t expect to have any left for anything else. And for most of us, there are plenty of things more important than a birthday party.
          (Remember, this is the OP – given her specific situation, she has limited capital, so please do not say I’m claiming all employees everywhere have limited capital.)

          1. Lars the Real Girl*

            This. Thank you Jessie. The whole point was that the employee, not the employer, gets to decide what is important. And if the OP decides that this IS more important that possibly her job, then that’s her decision to make. But in most circumstances, “I got myself fired for my boyfriend’s birthday” is going to come across as….off. I was trying to give the OP some perspective, not dictate what is or is not IMPORTANT.

            Mike, not to discount your grief in any way, but by your logic, we should take every day off of work because we don’t know how long we have with our loved ones. That’s just not feasible.

    3. MashaKasha*

      +1000. When you drop the ball, someone else has to pick it up. The boss’s decision sounds fair and reasonable to me. And a boyfriend’s birthday party is really, REALLY not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. When I initially read about planned time off being rescinded, I was thinking along the lines of planned surgery or something.

      1. Mike C.*

        Will you folks stop telling other people what events are and aren’t actually important? It’s really gross. I thought I’d be able to celebrate a whole bunch more of my mother’s birthdays and my parent’s anniversaries until I found myself in an ICU watching her die. Bad things can happen suddenly and this attitude that “it’s not really that important” and “there will always be more” isn’t always true and no one can know that it’s true.

        Make your point without being so dismissive of familial connections and life events.

        1. Shadow*

          People Celebrate birthdays all the time on non birthday days. Unless you have some non flexible issue like concert tickets or private entertainment it’s not that hard to celebrate on another day

          1. Mike C.*

            First off, for all we know, the day off she wants isn’t the actual day but the day where events are planned because the day was already shifted.

            Secondly, either option doesn’t excuse you or anyone else from minimizing important life events. I mean seriously, how can you type that sort of response, as if some minor technicality changes the fact that we’re all mortal and that life doesn’t always work out as planned? The cherry on top of this sundae is the fact that you don’t even need to make this argument to support your point, as Alison proves in her original post.

            So again, make your point without minimizing the important things in life.

            1. Shadow*

              her credibility is already in question and if it were that important she would offer to work extra hours, come in early, work through lunch or do whatever to put a bigger dent in the backlog, and/or come in for part of the day. She could care less

            2. Naruto*

              Different events do have different levels of importance. Shit happens and you can’t always plan and it sucks. But it’s a common sentiment (as many of the comments here are making clear) that a birthday celebration is less of a big deal than some other things, and when you’re already in hot water at work, there’s a real good chance that it doesn’t go over well to try to fight back hard on getting a birthday off under these circumstances, regardless of whose it is.

              Your boss is likely to be more understanding of different issues, regardless of whether surgery or a funeral *should* be considered more important than a birthday under these circumstances.

            3. serenity*

              You know, Mike, you make good points but YOUR tone in some comments can seem hectoring or badgering. Can you calm down a bit?

              As others have said, the OP is skating on thin ice already and the point being made was that the boyfriend’s birthday didn’t seem to rise to the level of medical or family emergency that would be worth expending *even more* capital on (since the boss vetoed it, it also seems moot to argue this anyway). Not an unreasonable point, IMHO.

            4. Jaguar*

              How is it evident people are minimizing something? Maybe you’re maximizing it?

              I’m really sorry for your loss, but I’ve missed birthdays of both my parents before. They weren’t a window of missed opportunity, though. I could still see them any time we were both able to get together. Implicit in your argument seems to be the premise that we have limited time with people – which is well stated – but that has nothing to do with the importance of a single event. It assumes an awful lot that OP not being able to go to their boyfriend’s birthday party will dramatically impact their time spent together. So if we set that concern aside, we’re left with how important an adult’s birthday party is, and for most people, they aren’t that important at all, and acting as such is not “minimizing.” Now, maybe they are vitally important for the OP, but were that the case, the OP probably shouldn’t have acted so cavalier about their job during the weeks leading up to an important event they needed off. OP is not forced into a situation here: quitting or no-showing work on that day is still on the table if it’s that important.

            5. Sarah*

              Ok, but what important life events did the coworker have to miss in order to make up all of the LW’s work when she simply didn’t show up? It’s not like this was a costless thing — the coworker may very well have missed time with their parent/spouse/kid in order to fill in, and the coworker ALSO wanted this particular day off….it seems only fair that if only one person can have this day off, it should be the one who has spent their time filling in for the other over the past couple of weeks. That person also has a personal life outside of work, after all.

        2. MK*

          Mike, I am sorry for your loss, but theoretically anyone may die at any time. You can’t claim that you must have time off for all your loved one’s birthdays, becuase you never know. No one is saying a birthday party is inherently unimportant, but in these particular circumstances the OP descibes, it’s not unreasonable to say that attending your partner’s birthday party should not take precedence over catching up on work that has been left undone during your absence and allowing an overworked (because of said absence) coworker to take time off.

          1. Mike C.*

            I’m not making the claim that “one must have have all birthdays off”, I’m making the claims of “you can’t know that” (thus my own story) and “stop saying that this isn’t an important event anyways because there are a million other reasons that can be used to address this situation”, which is clear from Alison’s own post – one which seems perfectly reasonable.

        3. M from NY*

          I don’t think anyone is being dismissive. A partners birthday may be important but after calling out for a week and a half the OP doesn’t get to have reason for request of day off maintain the same importance as one of a parent over the coworker who covered the unplanned absences.

        4. Snark*

          Gross? C’mon, Mike, I know you tend to side with the employee a lot, but it’s not gross at all to regard most birthdays as pretty minor events in the grand scheme. We all have a finite number of birthdays. And frankly, unless it’s a multiple of 10, they’re just not a big deal and most adults over age 21 or so don’t make a big deal out of them.

          And frankly, when I’m mourning my loved ones, I’ll be wishing I got more hikes and camping trips and fishing and days rambling around strange cities, not more yearly birthday parties on the precise day of.

          1. Lars the Real Girl*

            +1000 Birthday party = I’m entertaining other people, not my partner. I would be missing nights snuggling on the couch, or going on more vacations to exotic lands. But that’s just me.

        5. animaniactoo*

          Unless you’re regularly missing these life events and other connections and rituals that bind you to your family, then in the big scheme of life and work and balance, missing *one* birthday party is a pretty trivial thing. When weighed against everything else.

          No one is saying it’s trivial to be part of and it doesn’t matter that you’ve missed it. Just that there are so many other things that can and SHOULD take precedence when it comes to categories of personal responsibility/importance and that’s a perspective that OP seems to be hugely missing right now. Things are trade-offs. You can’t claim all this unexpected time off AND that planned time off too and think that it’s not an imposition on others that you also have commitments to. Not just the business but the co-workers who had to put in extra and possibly miss their own events while you dealt with whatever it was that happened in your life. And from that perspective – having received so much INCLUDING a nc/ns situation that didn’t get you fired, a birthday celebration is fairly trivial in comparison. In THIS context. THIS one. Not always, – but unless there is something particularly significant about this party/b’day this year then this time. OP appears to need that perspective check and it’s not cruel to make it clear.

          1. Mike C.*

            You can’t claim all this unexpected time off AND that planned time off too

            But I haven’t made this claim!! Not once, not ever, not a single time.

            All I’m saying is that posters here need to stop judging the OP for how she wants to spend her time. That’s it. I’m not disagreeing with Alison’s advice, and I’m not even disagreeing with what the manager here did. I simply find the way that folks are judging how time off is spent is a bad idea and it leads to bad places.

            1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

              I agree with Mike that why OP2 wants to take the day off is not the relevant issue here. We are sidetracking the discussion from these key facts:
              1. The day off was originally granted prior to OP2 missing significant time from work,
              2. During this absence, OP2’s co-workers needed to make up for that gap, causing them to work above what is expected,
              3. At least one day of that absence was a no call/no show, and
              4. OP2 has a significant backlog of work (in her own words: “today, my boss told me that he would have to rescind my day off request, as my absences created a backlog of tasks and he needed me to work on them”).

              Taking away the PTO day seems reasonable for OP2. It’s not punishment–it’s what’s best for the business. In deciding between (a) PTO for an employee who has performance issues, has a backlog of work that needs to be completed, and failed to inform the manager of an absence, and (b) granting PTO to worker(s) who have worked beyond expectations to fill that backlog, I would go with the second group almost every time.

              1. Naruto*

                I still think the reason is relevant, though. Like, if the OP had surgery scheduled for that day and otherwise wouldn’t be able to get in for six months, that’s a really big deal with significant potential health consequences. An employer should treat that differently than a desired day off for personal reasons like a birthday. Because some things are more significant factors than others when weighed against those business needs that you described.

        6. Elizabeth West*

          Mike, we are really sorry for what you’re going through. You’re obviously looking at it through a much different lens than we are. But a birthday party, even a milestone one, can be rescheduled; we have no reason to believe the boyfriend is about to die or there is any other reason why it can’t be. The OP didn’t say, so all we can surmise is that it’s a regular birthday and she just wanted to spend it with him.

          Either way, her absence caused problems for her employer and I’m afraid she’s going to have to work that particular day and arrange the personal stuff around it.

          1. Jesmlet*

            I think the difference though is between saying it can be rescheduled and saying it isn’t important (which is what it seems Mike is taking issue with). I know some may consider it just semantics, but I do understand why he’s arguing this point. It’s unnecessary to call it unimportant because there are plenty of other points that back up what Alison is saying without trivializing the event itself.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I understand it too, but realistically, without more information, we can’t assume it’s anything other than an ordinary hey-you’re-another-year-older birthday. Regardless, the boss had every right to rescind the day off no matter what OP wanted it for, and OP is just going to have to deal with it.

        7. MashaKasha*

          Yeah, okay, why don’t we tell this to OP’s coworker, who has already had to cover for OP ten days in a row, and now needs to cover again, because boyfriend’s birthday party.

        8. Anion*

          Mike C., I am so sorry for your loss. I imagine this sort of discussion is very painful for you, and…I just wanted to say that I’m sorry, I guess, and I’m sending you a virtual hug.

          1. Mike C.*

            The don’t mean to sound cold, but I’m actually ok discussing this. I only mention it to show that one doesn’t always know what others are dealing with or what is going on in their private lives. Because of that, we shouldn’t judge the private events of others.

            That of course is a separate matter from whether the OP gets time off or not.

        9. Bea*

          I’m incredibly sorry for your loss, my father was in critical condition not too long ago. We spent his 65th birthday in the hospital not knowing if he’d see his next one. I had to work that day and I spent the time I wasn’t working curled up next to his bed watching tv with him because it was all he really had the strength to do for a long time.

          I think this is hitting so close to home with you right now, you don’t see that people do not mean things the way they’re rubbing you right now.

      2. Trillian*

        Birthdays may not be that important to most adults, but there are people for whom each birthday represents a giant FU to something that tried to destroy them — cancer or other life threatening illness, mental illness, political atrocity, or a childhood of abuse or neglect.

  5. Aphrodite*

    OP #3, I think the phrase “9 to 5” might also be related to the movie of the same name. As Alison noted, it may or may not be anyone’s office hours. I know there is one private university and at least one law firm in my town that really do work those hours with a one-hour lunch so they work a seven-hour day and 35-hour week as full time.

    At the community college where I work we go from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm with a half-hour lunch. Some people vary their hours, particularly if not working with students. I am one. However, with my supervisor’s generous encouragement both my co-worker and myself skip our breaks and add them on to our lunchtime, giving us each one hour and the ability to go home and play with our pets.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      When I worked with students I could only take a half hour lunch and it drove me crackers. It just wasn’t enough.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        Agreed. When I taught, I really needed 45. But now I barely need any. I don’t take lunch now that I have a more lax job regarding hours. Funny how much students take it out of you. Now I don’t “count down” my free time like I did then.

      2. Essie*

        I’m surprised you even got that much! Of the teachers I know, most of them struggle to carve out 15-20 minutes to eat. Flex scheduling with lunch blocks, tons of coverages/phone calls/passes being shoved in their faces, running across a giant building to a tiny teacher’s lounge to heat up a meal in one crummy microwave that has a dozen people in line for it…

        1. Chameleon*

          I teach from 8-2 straight every day, which means most days I am going until 3 pm on nothing but three cups of coffee and a Luna bar. You get used to it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    2. Anononon*

      The phrase came before the movie – it inspired the movie. According to my two second google, it popped up around 1955-1960.

      1. Anononon*

        (Just realized that might sound snarky. I stated two seconds as in I could be completely wrong about the dates.)

        1. Gyrfalcon*

          I’m not old enough to remember when “working 9 to 5” came into the lexicon, but I am old enough to remember that it was around before the movie.

  6. Decimus*

    #3: It really does depend on the company more than the location. I worked two salaried positions in the same industry. One for a company in NYC where it was expected I would put in a minimum seven billable hours a day (s0 most of the time working out to 9-5 with an hour lunch) and a company in Atlanta that expected eight billable hours a day (so usually 8-4:30 with a half-hour lunch, with people cutting lunch down to 15 minutes or less where possible). It is one of those things I wish it was more acceptable to ask about during interviews, but I’m afraid it can often come across as “I clock-watch” so it ends up almost being luck at times.

    1. Florida*

      I have asked it in interviews. I phrase it as, “What are the normal hours here? I know certain times, like before a big deadline, might require more work, but generally speaking is it 9-5? 8-5?” Sometimes I’ll even add, “I can do either one – I was just wondering.” Just make it sound like it’s not a big deal.

      1. CM*

        Yes, I’ve asked: What hours do most people work here? When do most people arrive and leave? Do people usually check in or log in from home on evenings or weekends?

        I’m in an industry where in some places, “9-5” is code for “lazy” and you’re expected to be always available, so I would not ask whether the expectation is 9-5 or 8-5. In fact, when I asked the questions above (“generally, what hours do people work”), I got some stern looks and “This is NOT a 9-5 job.” But I don’t want to work in those places anyway, so it was a useful question for me to ask.

      2. Cap Hiller*

        In interviews I often ask “what is the rhythm of the office – when do people get in, when do they tend to leave barring something specific early/late they have to be in for?” I then follow up with “is there a culture of staying late at your desk?” I’m open with the fact that I can always be flexible and stay late if the boss has an event or if there are votes I need to staff the boss at, but otherwise I need a culture that allows me to leave at official closing time (usually around 6) and let’s me put my kids to bed. I’m usually on email and doing work after they go to bed.

        If a place has a culture of everyone staying late at their desks (and I’ve worked at places like that), it’s in both their and my best interest to know this upfront as it’s a deal breaker for me. But I make it clear I have the flexibility to stay if I have to and that I won’t be asking for other accommodations that working parents sometimes do (teleworking, regularly leaving early, etc).

    2. Steve*

      It also depends on the person. Just on my team, some people work through lunch and some take a break. Upper management is (a bit singlemindedly) focused on “at least 40 hours” per week, but down here in the trenches, our team lead only cares that we’re getting our work done.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      I ask “what are the expected hours for someone in this role?” It kills two birds with one stone — I get business hours and an idea of the work culture.

  7. Gaia*

    OP 2, I get your frustration but try to see things from the other side. You missed a lot of work suddenly. That will happen sometimes. But you also did a no call/no show. You come off a little cavalier about that, but that is actually a really big deal. As a people manager, I work hard to be flexible and accommodating but I will be honest, a no call/no show along with unplanned time out for a week and a half would have me pretty irritated with a member of my team. When you add in performance issues caused by distractions….there would be some serious conversations about my concerns for their future if things don’t turn around quickly. And yes, I would probably tell them they would need to cancel their scheduled time off to help catch up with the work. Especially if it was to give that day off to the coworker who worked long hours while this person was out.

    I’d also caution you to be careful about your attitude about this at work. You come off a little cavalier in your letter and you don’t want to add poor attitude on top of these issues and have it snowball. You can come back from this but it is going to take conscious effort on your part.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah—the framing around performance issues that were “minor mistakes” in addition to minimizing the no-call/no-show made me wonder if OP might be missing signs about how severely their manager perceives their conduct… which might contribute to OP’s anger about having a day off rescinded. These issues might feel like little things to OP, but it sounds like they were big problems for OP’s manager (and coworkers).

      I suspect neverjaunty’s advice that OP review the situation from the perspective of their manager/boss/coworker would help OP better understand the discontinuity in perspectives.

      1. NW Mossy*

        This, very much. Revoking a previously agreed day off is a significant thing to do, and most reasonable managers won’t unless there’s a serious problem with that employee. Reading the OP’s letter from the manager’s point of view, I’m guessing the boss is at the end of his tether with this.

        1. Gaia*

          Right. Revoking a previously approved day off is a huge thing. It is something I’ve never actually done and I hope it never comes to that. But, I could see myself doing it in this situation. I wouldn’t feel great about it, but I also wouldn’t feel great about how this employee was seemingly ignoring the impact of their actions.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Agree completely. The combination of OP’s conduct and attitude would have me seriously questioning how long he/she should continue working for me.

    3. RVA Cat*

      This. I hate to pile on, but remember these stories that come up about poor performers who are gobsmacked when they get fired? Yeah, OP may want to read those – and plan to move on.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I agree completely. I’ve read through OP’s letter a couple times and I’m having trouble finding anything the boss did wrong here; it’s not outrageous at all and I would do the same thing. I *might* be a little more lenient with the planned vacation day, but it would really depend on the backlog, what other things are going on in the office, and yes, the employee’s attitude.

      A no call, no show is a really big deal. As for calling out an hour before her shift, I can’t really say if that’s bad or not. It really depends on the industry, the volume of work, etc. In my department, that wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar for me. In my husband’s industry and company, though, that would be a big deal and would be frowned upon big time.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Plus what we don’t know is what the co-worker had to miss while covering for the OP. Unscheduled, unplanned time off can cause other people to give up something that was important to them.

        1. Sarah*

          And it sounds like the coworker had also requested to take this particular day off — presumably the LW had asked first and so initially got the approval, but now circumstances look REALLY different.

    5. Snark*

      “You come off a little cavalier about that, but that is actually a really big deal.”

      The “because I was so busy” excuse really rankled. No, you were not that busy. I don’t care what you were doing, you had 30 seconds to make that call.

      1. Gaia*

        Yea. When my team is going to be out, I ask them to text or email me. I don’t like calls because my phone is always silences do I won’t hear it anyway and 2. I assume if you’re missing work last minute you are either ill (and possibly don’t feel up to talking) or having some sort of personal or family issue (and may not feel comfortable or confident explaining anything) plus this also means they can send it any time they need to, even if it is at 3am without fear of waking me. The first thing I do when I notice someone isn’t in when they should be, is check my phone.

        If someone told me they hadn’t had time to text me I’d have been really irritated. You had no time, at all, to send a 5 second text that says “I wont’ be in today”? Very few situations would actually validate that.

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        Eh the tone kind of reads to me like it was a family crisis. I can understand forgetting to call into work. Yes you could definitely take the time but you could easily forget. I do think that the situation where you are out for 7 or 8 days and calling in that you’ll be out on EACH of those days is not a good situation and that when it was clear what the emergency was, the LW should have made a better arrangement or plan with the work. That probably would have ameliorated the issue a lot.

    6. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      OP, Gaia’s comment is really helpful. And OP, I think you’re also missing the timing of things as it relates to the request from time off.

      You originally asked for time off a couple of weeks before the event. I don’t know your industry, but in my industry, asking for time off 2-3 weeks in advance is considered last minute. We know you were making mistakes at work that warranted at least a verbal reprimand. If you were making mistakes before the time off request was approved, then for me, your boss was treating you like everyone else and giving you time off notwithstanding that you were struggling at work. Then shortly thereafter you had a no call/no show, what looks like another day when you called in too late for your boss to find a replacement, and then a week and a half off work for a reason we don’t know about. And during your absence, your coworkers covered for you, and worked late to make up for your absence.

      When you do return to work, quite possibly you continued to make mistakes in your work, or at a minimum started to make mistakes if you weren’t struggling before, and your boss had to give you a verbal reprimand about the quality of your work and took away your day off based on the needs of the office. You double down and confront your boss about losing the day off, and your boss mentions that your coworkers had to pick up the slack caused by your absence.

      OP, we don’t know the reasons you were off for “personal issues.” Whether you reveal those issues is a personal choice. But if they were for medical reasons, or if something happened to you, or if there was a family emergency, you should share more details with your boss, or at least HR, because you have probably permanently hurt your relationship with your boss. And if the “personal issues” were not serious (e.g. watching Netflix, mowing the lawn, etc.), you really need to apologize to your coworkers and your boss if you want to keep your job. Otherwise, my inference is that it’s only a matter of time before your boss loses patience with you and terminates your employment.

  8. Laura*

    #2, I accidentally did a no call no show earlier this year and I was (and still am) mortified. It’s not a light thing- but I’m sure you know this.

    It’s difficult to swallow reprimand, but that’s the way it works sometimes. I think recension of the day off was a reasonable thing to do. It’s kind of a slap to the face but it’s better than being fired… if anything, it’s a good reminder to follow policy and know a checklist of sorts for unexpected events like that in the future…

    Hang in there OP 2.

    1. Sarah G*

      I’m genuinely curious, how does one accidentally do a no call/no show? Other than a true medical emergency, it’s difficult for me to imagine forgetting to call in. What were the circumstances, if you don’t mind sharing?

      1. Sophdoph*

        Hi, I’m not sure what industry OP is in but I accidentally no called/no showed for the first time the other week. I work in retail and it’s not uncommon for my hours to change week to week. A photograph of the roster showing the whole team’s shifts is sent out in a mass text each week and the pictures automatically save into my phone. When recording my hours, I accidentally opened up the image for the previous week and recorded the wrong hours, leading to me missing a shift.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I worked in retail years ago and I did the same thing a few times. I would write down my schedule wrong and then I’d get a call from the manager wondering where I was. It didn’t happen often; I’d say it happened maybe three times in six years. But yeah, that can happen when you have a changing schedule.

        2. Chameleon*

          There was a place I worked in high school where the manager would occasionally *change* the roster and just post it without telling anyone it had changed. If you’d already checked it and written your schedule, it was really easy to miss a shift accidentally. That guy was not a good manager.

          1. Anion*

            That happened to me once when I was a teenager, and I actually got fired for it. (I suspect it was done deliberately, since it’s not actually uncommon for some employers to do that to probationary employees in order to keep from having to hire them permanently and thus provide benefits–it happened to my husband once in his teen years, too.)

      2. anony-mouse*

        That’s easy enough for disorganised people like me. I’ve managed to not do it so far but here is how it would go if it happened to me.

        Step 1: Decide to take the day off, fill out the form but don’t send it yet because your boss is out today and wants a heads up on that sort of thing before you send it to boss’s boss who has to approve it.
        Step 2: Mentally mark it as done because you did the paperwork and boss’s boss never denies these request.
        Step 3: Don’t go to work because hey you took the day off. Be very surprised and even more mortified when your boss calls to find out what happened to you.

        Or alternatively when you’re sick:
        Step 1: Wake up at 6am when SOs alarm rings. Decide that you’re not fit to work that day, but nobody is in at work yet, so you go back to sleep planning to call in when your second alarm rings at 8am.
        Step 2: Either dream about calling in sick, or just turn the alarm off while still half asleep.
        Step 3: Wake up to your boss or a coworker or maybe even the police calling to find out if you’re ok.

        You can bet I always check my phone/email twice to make sure I really did notify my boss, because I know that I’m the kind of person that would forget something like this.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I’ve done the opposite. Woke up late, called in… on a Saturday, for a Monday to Friday job. Going back to sleep never felt so good.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              I also NCNS once, due to what turned out to be undiagnosed narcolepsy. My only surprise is that it didn’t happen more considering.

        1. Allison*

          The second scenario hasn’t happened to me, but when I am out sick I set an alarm for 8ish so I can sleep a little more before emailing my boss, but in that 2ish hours of sleep I usually have a vivid dream that I overslept and forgot to let my boss know I was sick and I was in a lot of trouble.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            For anyone else who has this problem: Boomerang! It’s an add-on for Gmail that allows you to schedule when you send out an email, so you can write it when you feel terrible, but it won’t land in your boss’s inbox until X o’clock when they will see it first.

        2. Breda*

          I once did for a dining-hall cashier job in college because we were expected to find our own coverage via an online system. There were (almost) always people willing to sign on for shifts within 24-48 hours of them going up. So one Easter weekend I posted my Saturday night shift a few days ahead, then went home for the holiday, forgetting to double-check that it had been claimed. I only found out it hadn’t been when they called me, eek.

      3. Laura*

        I work retail so my schedule fluctuates week to week. I thought I started later than I actually did and was so convinced that I had the right time in my head that I didn’t check. I was late enough where it was treated as a NCNS.

        But it’s not happened since and I now check, double check and triple check start times.

        1. A.M.Y.*

          Can happen in retail with varying shift times! Years ago, I once accidentally wrote down start time of 14:00 as 4pm. My boss/no managers were working, but a colleague who was waiting to be relieved from her shift called me to check where I was – while I was just chilling at home thinking I had some time till I needed to go to work. Luckily I lived only 5 minutes away, so could be there pretty quickly, but yeah it was a bit of a fail on my part.

        2. Oryx*

          That reminds of me when I worked at a Barnes & Noble cafe. My co-worker Alex was supposed to open and be there for about an hour or so until I showed up at 10. She had written the time down wrong and management couldn’t get a hold of her so when I showed up, two of our store managers were running the cafe and omg they were so relieved to see me.

          1. anon24*

            When I was an assistant manager in a service/retail type job one of my better employees no-called no-showed one Friday morning. This wasn’t like her at all so I waited an hour before calling to see if she was just running late. Finally I called her and woke her up. I said “hey do you know you are supposed to be working the morning shift today?” She sleepily responded “no I don’t, I work morning shift on Friday… OMG I’m so sorry I thought it was Thursday!” It was actually pretty funny and I completely got that stuff happens sometimes and it was a really busy period at work so we were all exhausted. I was pretty sick that day myself and she made it up to me by staying for the afternoon shift so I could go home as soon as the other manager showed up at lunch time. I don’t know how you could accidentally NCNS for a regular 9-5 job but if your hours vary I can see it happening.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I used to work for a food company that ran cafeterias in the local factories, to feed the workers on all shifts. Once, they had hired a guy to work the 11-7 shift and he nc/ns several times. My boss was the single parent of three girls and could not get babysitters in the middle of the night–so she called me. Once I had just gone to bed and had only been asleep for an HOUR. I had to get on my bike (no car; tiny town) and ride to work in the dark — I got pulled over by a cop who wondered why someone in a hoodie was out biking after midnight.

            Sooooo much fun trying to get all the food made and the salad bar set up in about half the time I normally had–ALONE. It happened twice more before they finally fired that damn guy and hired someone reliable. Probably not the same as the OP’s situation, but from the coworker’s perspective, I’ve no doubt she felt as put upon as I did.

      4. Sebastian*

        I did it once accidentally. I was working retail, so my schedule was all over the place and I misread the posted schedule one day. Totally thought I had the day off and was on the next day, when it was vice versa. I didn’t yet have a cellphone and was out all day, so I didn’t get the messages the manager left for me until 7 pm that night. I got written up for it.

      5. S-Mart*

        I did it once by forgetting that I lost a couple of holidays when switching to a new job, and not showing up one day when the old company would have been closed but the new one wasn’t.

        My boss was very cool about it, but I was quite mortified by the mistake.

      6. Essie*

        Back in 2007 when they extended Daylight Savings Time, I got all screwed up and confused and was an hour late for a retail job because of it. More than ten minutes late counted as NC/NS.

        Nowadays everyone’s clocks and phones automatically adjust themselves, but I couldn’t afford that kind of tech back then.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This happened so much at OldExJob that I became the Goddess of the Reminder Flyer. I came up with some pretty clever ones too, if I do say so myself.

          This was my finest masterpiece: BossWife didn’t like it and made me take it down but everyone else thought it was brilliant. :)

      7. Elemeno P.*

        I did it once- I read my shift as starting at 1, but it started at 12. I was always, ALWAYS early, so I was actually in the break room waiting when my shift was supposed to start, but I didn’t report to duty until 12:50. Since I was early every other day, they wiped it off my record.

        1. Beatrice*

          Yep – I did it once, but my attendance was so flawless otherwise, and I made scheduling easy (wide open availability, never called in, could cover most departments, often accepted additional shifts on short notice), so they didn’t put it on my record. I think I verbally agreed to a schedule change but forgot to write it down.

      8. Kalamet*

        I have a typical office-hours job now, where I come in every weekday at the same time, so I can’t really “forget” to come in. But in college I worked an hourly job with shifts where your schedule could be all over the place. You could also bid on additional shifts. So I might have an 8AM Monday, 2PM Tuesday, 9AM Wednesday, etc. Mix that in with college classes (which also tend to be spread out) and lack of sleep, you have a recipe for forgetting to go to work. It didn’t happen to me, but there were a couple of close calls and plenty of anxiety.

      9. Purplesaurus*

        At a former office job (I was not fired!) I was amazingly sick during the night and thought I had emailed my employer. I woke up at 10 am to find missed calls from my boss. I looked at the email and realized I had sent it to a coworker who was on vacation. I typed the first few letters of the name, pressed enter to get the auto-fill, and B0-sent to Bobbi rather than Boss.

      10. Emilia Bedelia*

        Working retail, misread the schedule. (the schedule was written as Monday-Sunday, I misread it as Sunday-Monday). No one called me when I missed my shift so I didn’t realize until I came in the next day and everyone was surprised because they thought I quit.

      11. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        I was working two jobs with almost the same hours. But they were 40 minutes apart and because of that I always double checked to make sure I was at the right job at the right time. One day I was shopping and got a call from my boss at the 40 minute away job and she asked me when I was coming in. I had missed that day completely in my schedule. Lucky for me it wasn’t a problem, she was fine with working my shift. But after that I kept paper copies of my shifts with one in red and the other in green so I could see at a glance where I was supposed to be. One problem though was the manager at the closer job had a habit of changing schedules and not telling people. The onus was on us to check the schedule every day.

      12. Allison*

        I did it once, true accident and mostly due to a wonky, inconsistent scheduling system. I was used to my overnight shifts being listed on the date they started, but they switched to a new scheduling system and there was both an “old” display and a new display that showed the overnight shifts on the date they finished. I thought my shift was on Wednesday, but I got the “where are you?” call on Tuesday. I totally freaked out and apologized profusely. But yeah, it does happen.

      13. animaniactoo*

        I lost a day. I was taking it easy, reading, chilling, etc. Right up until I went to watch something that should have been on Sunday night, and discovered Monday night tv was on and no, it was not Sunday.

      14. the.kat*

        Unfortunately, I’m a super heavy sleeper and always operating on a deficit. if I sleep through my alarm clock, there’s a good chance I won’t wake up for a few more hours. I’ve been nc/ns late to work more than once because of that. Now I just dot my whole morning with multiple alarms.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      You really did come up with a completely novel spin on ‘When should I check in if they haven’t called?’

    2. Elemeno P.*

      I’m also in Orlando! People are still trying to catch up, and some are preparing for the potential of Maria. Provided it doesn’t come here, next week should be good.

  9. Alex*

    OP #3, before I moved to Chicago I’d only ever worked 8-5 with an hour for lunch. My current company is 9-5 but I usually have a sad desk lunch and work through/read Ask A Manager. Plenty of people do take an hour lunch though. For me, it ends up being around 7.5 working hours. Judging from the number of people on the train going downtown at the same time as me, 9-5 seems to be fairly common here.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I always take a full hour. I run errands or read or go for a walk or hang out with coworkers (which I know many here don’t like to do). I don’t have to take the full time but I like to.

      I work a 35-hour week so that’s 9-5 with a lunch hour, roughly – I can vary it as I have a flex schedule.

  10. KR*

    #3…. I have worked 7-3:30s, or 8-4:30s, or 8:30-5s… Ect. I have never worked somewhere with an hour lunch. I feel like my day would feel so long that way. I agree that it’s highly job specific.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      The only time I’ve worked somewhere with an hour lunch break was when my department at a call center got so small that they put us all on the same schedule (11am-8pm with an hour lunch). A lucky few who thought of it first asked for a half hour lunch and got to come in half an hour later or leave half an hour earlier, before the company realized they needed the phones covered during the full 9 hours, so most of us had to keep the hour lunch to get the coverage thing sorted.







    2. Clewgarnet*

      When I was a trainee reporter, twenty years ago, we officially had an hour for lunch. In practice, you didn’t get anything. Even if you weren’t actually working, you were expected to look as though you were working.

      Nowadays, in a completely different industry, I have half an hour, which is great. We have a pretty good canteen on site, so half an hour’s long enough to get a decent meal and decompress a bit. If the weather’s okay, you can sit out on the rooftop garden and get a bit of fresh air and vitamin D while you eat.

    3. Amber Rose*

      I get an hour for lunch and it’s so nice to have that time to run errands or go somewhere nice for food.

      But also one of the perks of my job is half of lunch is paid, so I’m at work for 8.5 hours instead of 9. It doesn’t seem like much but the last 30 minutes of the day is the longest.

    1. Wintermute*

      Let me turn that around on you, because you’re coming off as the exact inverse whether you mean to or not, the entitled, immature boss who thinks someone’s life is defined by their value to the company and personal needs be darned. Workers are human beings, and frankly if your work is the #1 priority in your life at all times (or even at all!) you’re not a healthy person. This is not the Victorian era anymore where workers are expected to conceal their human needs and emotions for the maximum convenience of their employer, and people that harbor that attitude need to go.

      There’s so many variables we don’t know here. Frankly if an employee of mine was out for a week and a half and forgot to call in ONE day in the middle of that, I wouldn’t treat it as a no-call/no-show, because frankly, I will have expected them not to be in unless I was told their issue was resolved. Now it does matter why they were out but every place I’ve ever worked being out that long would have been something very major. you can’t even take three consecutive days off at my current job using sick time without a doctor’s note, and other than sick time the only things you’d be let off that long for would be bereavement time or FMLA.

      If you were out a week and a half, it would have to be for a spectacular reason if you expect to have a job to come back to, and that’s fairly normal. Coming at someone the day they come back from a long absence for one instance of forgetting to call in a solid 7-8 day string of excused absences is silly, it looks like an organization that is clinging to processes and ignoring their human impact.

      Now was what they did acceptable? obviously, yes, it’s pretty normal practice to tap out PTO before they let you go unpaid and cancel approved time off that you don’t have anymore. Is it particularly kind? No, I don’t think so, but there’s other factors at play. I would personally be upset a coworker was treated this way but just as many people might be upset their coworker WASN’T punished for sticking them with heavier workload for a week and a half. If there are other performance concerns that adds into things, it’s hard to coach someone on performance when they’re *not there* after all, and for good or bad, the better you perform the more leeway you get.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “This is not the Victorian era anymore where workers are expected to conceal their human needs and emotions for the maximum convenience of their employer,”

        Sounds like you haven’t worked retail in a while. *rimshot* (Sorry I’ll see myself out…)

        PS—I love your screenname, friend artiste. ;D

        1. Wintermute*

          I am thankfully many years from fast food, but I’ve had a bellyfull of being obsequious. I suppose I should have said that norms are changing slowly and attracting GOOD talent increasingly means treating people as more than cogs.

          And thank you! I’ve been using this name for ages, and I get comments every now and again. I, by pure happenstance, ran into a commenter using Dixie Flatline over on Gizmodo which was amusing when we read each other’s handles and realized what our conversation about the FCC must have looked like.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Eh. I don’t agree with the way Janelle phrased her comment, but there is a definitely air of entitlement in the OP’s post that is really frustrating. I get the strong impression that she REALLY doesn’t get the seriousness and disruption that she caused.

        1. Wintermute*

          Oh I don’t disagree, it does sound a bit entitled but I think from reading between the lines either the OP is way out of line and not long for that job in which case there’s little to lose (after all, if you have performance issues a no-call/no-show and a late callin on record recently there’s probably no saving that reference) OR, and I think this is equally likely, the OP just had a very serious life event and the phrasing of the letter downplays that.

          I don’t know many reasons to be away from work for a week and a half that aren’t a major life event, a life-threatening illness, or a serious health event, and that’s one of those unknowns the letter didn’t give us an answer to. But the response from Janelle really rubbed me the wrong way because I’ve seen more bad bosses than bad employees when it comes to this issue.

          1. Mike B.*

            “Personal issues” is so unnecessarily vague for an anon letter that I’d be surprised if it were a particularly good reason. Most people would just explain what happened. This sounds like a pretty good boss for just rescinding the one day, actually.

            OP reminds me of myself at (what I assume to be) the same age. A little tone deaf and way too much attitude. Eventually a light bulb will switch on.

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              I agree with you – if it were surgery or a family emergency we would have gotten more details. On the other hand, a reasonable person who can admit to punking out and fxcking up probably wouldn’t have written the letter in the first place.

              1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

                I don’t know, maybe they just didn’t want to tell the internet about their emergency hysterectomy or their boyfriend’s suicide, even anonymously. We just can’t know, so I think it’s best to treat that aspect as a neutral.

                1. Essie*

                  If you are correct regarding the latter, the boyfriend’s birthday party will be a somber occasion, indeed.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  Well, we can be pretty sure it wasn’t a boyfriend’s suicide, given that she was angry about missing his birthday.

                  But it is neutral in the sense that nothing OP raised suggested extreme circumstances where the boss’s behavior was unreasonable. Speaking to someone about mistakes, canceling a planned day for them to catch up, and giving an employee who covered for OP the day off instead since it was requested seems pretty fair.

                3. MegaMoose, Esq.*

                  Good point re: the boyfriend. Although some people do have more than one… In any case, I don’t disagree with Alison’s advice at all, I just don’t see any reason to assume the OP’s week and a half off was for something frivolous. Benefit of the doubts and all that, plus it doesn’t really make a difference for the answer.

              2. Tuxedo Cat*

                Without knowing to some extent why there this was sudden need to take off time and why this birthday party is so important, it’s hard to say whether the OP is understandably upset and if the boss is unreasonabe

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              I didn’t see the comment before it was removed, but I agree that “personal issues” is a red flag. Especially when combined with performance issues that the OP considers minor and blames on “distraction.” And because people who have a really solid excuse tend to be more forthcoming about it around here.

            3. Christine*

              In the situation I posted about above, I ultimately had to reveal details of my medical situation in order to smooth things over within the office. I still harbor resentment that I had to disclose private information when hospitalization + surgery + doctor wanting me to stay home longer should have been enough to satisfy the need for why I took time off suddenly.

  11. Drew*

    OP5: I am sorry to hear about your aunt. I agree with Alison; definitely reach back out and say that you’re still interested now that your life has settled back down. The worst they can say is, “No, sorry,” and I suspect the chances are good (since the job is still posted) that they’ll be eager to talk to you again, at the very least.

    1. Garrett*

      Yeah, good luck for sure. I hope it works out because it sounded like you were excited about the job. Just make sure if you do reach out, you are 100% ready to make that change, because if you turn them down again, then that bridge will likely be burned.

  12. Loose Seal*

    #1 — I’ve found that when people ask how you’re losing weight, they really want to hear about a magic bullet. If you respond “Diet and exercise” every time someone asks, they will quickly drop the subject. You may get a follow up question about which diet — again, hoping for a magic bullet — but you can say that you just follow the food pyramid or that you are watching your portions or something else vague and they will move on.

    I hear you on not wanting to cover up a part of your life but almost everyone curates personal information to co-workers. It’s not lying. It’s offering only the truth that you are comfortable giving. Decide how much truth you want to tell, package it in as brief a sentence as you can manage, and repeat it to everyone that asks the question.

    1. Sylvan*

      +1 Same experience here, would give the same advice but not worded as well. :) Don’t contribute anything to the weight talk.

    2. SignalLost*

      I think the curation comment here is really important. I don’t think of it as covering up information if I don’t out myself as poly to coworkers; it’s just that it would be unfair and unnecessary to lay that on people I’m not close to. It would be pretty different to curate my life for social friends and (in my case) family. But work relationships aren’t dishonest even if they don’t have the complete truth, imo, because I’d rather be “that really kickass editor” than “the one who lost all the weight when she broke up with her abuser” in my colleagues’ minds.

      1. Specialk9*

        I found than that for a full year to two after I left my abusive relationship, I had no filter. I either kept it all to myself, or it all came out. It’s partly because it is so much to process, and such a great betrayal, but also because one of the core trademarks of emotional abuse is deliberately manufactured mental chaos as a means of control. But what that means is that giving distilled situation-appropriate versions of my reality was utterly beyond my capability then. (But not now, years later; it gets better.)

        I also found myself churning through some of my relationship issues on unrelated situations. A co-worker reminded me hugely of my ex, and I had to distance myself because he was hugely triggering, and because I couldn’t trust my analysis of him and his actions. Looking back, I hope I didn’t hurt his feelings, but I *Just Couldn’t* then… And it was an important part of therapy to realize I didn’t *Have To* for everyone but myself. It’s felt selfish, but is so necessary for over-givers.

        But another key thing was the realization that *I don’t owe my truth to anyone*. And frankly, it’s a barbed gift to put casually into most people’s hands.

        Nowadays I’ll mention it very high level on occasion, but mostly to help dispel the idea that abuse is unusual, or only happens to weak people. (I am not even remotely weak.) But that was what I fished out of the garbage disposer of that relationship – the knowledge and hard won wisdom to help people in similar situations. It’s a reframe that helps me feel peace about the past.

        Lastly, OP, check out Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That. It reveals the structure hidden behind the artificial chaos. It’s devastatingly healing.

        (Note: he worked in the court mandated system, and courts have a strong gender bias, so the one problem is his experience is male only abuse. A male friend with an abusive female partner found the book applicable, but be aware it has gender bias. Still worth reading – no other book lays it out so systematically, with real world examples of thought processes people admitted to when distracted.)

    3. GermanGirl*

      Yup, or “I stopped eating so much junk food.” (no need to mention why you did that). People will get that there isn’t a magic bullet they don’t know yet and leave you alone pretty quickly, especially if you give the same boring answer each time.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, this will likely work.

        I have had people ask me about my “secret” for staying quite thin. I generally shrug and say “Vegetables and genetics.” It shuts down diet talk fast.

        1. FiveWheels*

          I say (truthfully) “I eat what I want, when I want.” Gradually the comments about diet fade away…

          1. Decima Dewey*

            I lost a lot of weight when my undiagnosed diabetes got bad and my pancreas couldn’t take it anymore. We’re talking 125 lbs here. I’m on meds now, and the diet that keeps my blood sugars in line keeps me thin. Now and then I run into people who don’t recognize me at first. I generally tell people that I was sick some time ago, but I’m fine now. Although once I did answer, tongue in cheek: “First, acquire a lifelong medical condition. Then ignore the symptoms until you get reaaalllly sick>”

    4. Ange*

      I know how you feel, LW. People at my work keep asking me if I’ve lost weight, despite all knowing I have cancer and am currently doing chemo! I know they mean well, but still….

      1. FiveWheels*

        Return awkward to sender.

        “Have you lost weight? You look great!”
        “I have cancer.”

        Anything that helps discourage unsolicited comments about other people’s bodies is good, IMO!

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I knew someone who literally did that. She did not have cancer or any other illness, but when people commented on her weight loss, she said “yeah, chemo does that.” She was just… kind of mean, honestly.

      2. Floundering Mander*

        Aaaaaaarrrgh, that makes me so crazy, Ange! People said the same thing to my uncle when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Like “you’ve been a fat man all your life, aren’t you happy you’re finally losing weight?”. Well no, not really, because I’m dying.

      3. PB*

        OMG! That’s awful! I had a similar experience when I lost weight due to a thyroid condition. Paired with my upcoming wedding, everyone asked if I lost weight “for the wedding.” Nope. Just unhealthy, thanks for asking.

        Cancer is so much worse. I’m so sorry.

      4. Gaia*

        Add this to the list of reasons someone should never never never make unsolicited comments about another person’s weight or appearance. Even if you think it is a compliment, it really might not be.

    5. K.*

      Yep. I had a coworker comment on my biceps. She asked what my secret was. I said “No secret. I lift weights!” She said ” … Oh” and never mentioned it again. I had another coworker at that job who had lost 40 pounds and people always asked him how he did it, and he’d matter-of-factly say that he ate healthier, less, and exercised more, and it took him months to lose the weight. He wasn’t trying to be flippant – that was what happened! But people always looked vaguely disappointed when he said so.

    6. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Agreed. I’ve been losing weight all year and am just now hitting the noticeable point. When people have asked, I have honestly told them that all I’m doing is eating less food and have been for months. Super boring.

    7. esra (also a Canadian)*

      This is extremely true. I lost a fair bit of weight due to a health issue, and even though that issue has been resolved, I am staying at a steady weight. People ask how and I’m like, crippling year of disease followed by a desire to stay healthy and not get sick again. And people will say “Oh man, I wish I could get sick like that.”

      Which is either an indictment of the lack of social grace in modern society or pressure on people (especially women) to stay thin even at risk to their health. Maybe both?

      1. MechanicalPencil*

        Yep, I had coworkers ask me frequently how I lost weight. Uh. Side effect of medication I’m on to “help” with a chronic condition. Except it’s not helping, so… All the eyerolls, people. All of them.

      2. Gaia*


        Wow. Just, no. I wish people could hear themselves when they say stupid things like that.

        Meth is a huge issue where I live and addiction to it often comes with drastic weight loss. The number of times I have heard people joke that maybe they should take it up to shed a few lbs makes me literally ill. I have a sister struggling with addiction and homelessness as a result of using it so people usually don’t care for my response when they say stupid stuff like that.

    8. Ginger*

      I’ve lost more than 50 pounds since the beginning of the year, and even though I’m not at my goal yet, it’s very noticeable and I can barely make it through the day at work without someone mentioning it or asking me what I’m doing. My standard response is “eating less and moving more”. Only a few people have kept asking questions after that, usually what specific diet I’m on or exercise I’m doing. I figure it will eventually get to the point where everyone knows and will stop asking at some point.

    9. drpuma*

      Especially if you worked with a therapist or other trusted professional to get out of your relationship, it may be helpfully-vague-yet-honest-enough to say something like, “Oh, it’s something I’ve been working on with my doctor. I’m sure your doctor would have some tips for you if you asked them. Hey, how is X project going?” Gotta love the friendly re-direct for indicating that the discussion is over!

      And, congratulations on getting out of that relationship! It’s a big deal!

    10. It Works!*

      I like to say something ridiculous, like “I wrapped my body in saran wrap every night before bed, because I can’t afford ‘it works wraps’.” Or “I put band-aids on my feet to draw out the toxins.” Usually, they laugh and go away. Sometimes they ask more questions and I make it clear that it was 100% changing my diet.

      They don’t need to know how or why the diet changed.

    11. Rocketship*

      Kinda surprised that no one has yet mentioned the response that sprang to my mind as I read OP #1: “I’d rather not talk about my weight, thanks. [Apply redirect as needed].”

      It’s a super rude thing to comment on, and I think deep down most folks already know that – but folks get away with rude stuff all the time because of Social Reasons and people not wanting to appear rude by shutting down the rudeness. And I think especially lady-type people are socialized to put up with more rudeness than is necessary.

      They key is to calmly say it with a smile, as if it were the most normal thing in the world and *of course* they wouldn’t have asked had they known you didn’t want to discuss it and isn’t it best if we all just move on and don’t press the issue?

      (Did this once with a coworker who asked me, upon learning I was sick and working from home, “What are your symptoms?” Calmly responded “That’s a pretty personal question. Now about [work-related thing]…” He was rightfully mortified.)

    12. Horrified*

      Totally agree that people want to hear the “magic bullet” answer.

      When people used to ask me, I would enthusiastically say “I only had to change two things!!” The asker would lean in with anticipation……..then I’d say “diet and exercise” . Kills the conversation instantly.

    13. Hey Nonnie*

      I think you can make it even simpler: “Oh, I haven’t been doing anything special, just eating better.” There’s no reason to get into why you are, or why you weren’t before.

  13. Matt*

    #3 regarding the term “9 to 5” – it seems to me that this has been undergoing a change of meaning recently … while formerly meaning a hard working person making their living in a full time job (see the Dolly Parton song), it’s now used for “slackers who refuse overtime”, “clock watchers” etc. (“he won’t get far with that 9 to 5 mentality”, “we don’t need 9 to 5 people for this project”, …)

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Is this a thing in industries that try too hard to sound cool (*cough*techstartups*cough*) and employers who are saying things like “We’re not your dad’s company!” or is common across the board for things like exempt positions or something else that’s typically accepted to involve a lot of extra hours?

    2. SusanIvanova*

      In my Silicon Valley experience it’s not so much “refusing overtime” as “not understanding flexibility”. There will be weeks towards the end of the cycle where 40 hours is just a nice dream; then there will be short weeks to make up for it. Companies that don’t balance like that don’t tend to last long; a project that’s always in crunch time is a project that is going to die.

      I had a software job in Texas with a boss who treated his exempt employees the way he’d treated his hourly warehouse workers. One day he noticed that people were getting in at 10 (we’d been doing this for years). He didn’t notice they’d stay until 7; he wanted us there at 8:30 or he thought we were slacking. So that’s what I did: in at 8:30, out for a precise hour of lunch, out at 5:30, and sending out resumes when I got home.

      1. Artemesia*

        I don’t know any software developers who are not nightowls and who don’t arrive at 10 or later and work late. This guy was so out of touch. Hope he lost all his top talent.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          It was an incredibly tiny place – one day the CEO of an office products company realized that while you could only sell a 4c pencil for 5c, you could sell a $10 floppy disk for $10K. I exaggerate, but he really didn’t grasp the costs involved. So he took the Winchester Mystery House of in-house invoice tracking code he’d been using and sold it. At most he ever had 5 software engineers working on it, and there was always high turnover.

    3. hermit crab*

      Yeah, people in my industry say things like that a lot (despite the fact that most of us work a standard schedule almost every day). But when someone says “this isn’t a 9-5 job,” it means something like “don’t assume you can just drop what you’re doing and go home at 5pm if there’s still stuff to be done.”

      1. FiveWheels*

        Yep. I work a 9-5 job in that I could just walk out at 5 – but it’s “not just a 9-5” in that if something needs to be done, it needs to be done. So it’s more like 9ish to 5ish, and sometimes 9ish to 9ish at extreme crunch times.

        1. Frustrated Optimist*

          No, it means “put in your 8 hours and walk out the door,” regardless of any other pressing demands and/or requests from your boss to stay a bit later.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ha, I never heard that one.

        A telling point about jobs where people leave early or on time–not long after I started at OldExJob, someone told me “Yeah, people used to work late here, but now they run out the door at five o’clock like the building is on fire.” Errrm. Okay. And yes, it was rather dysfunctional to a degree. By the time I was laid off six years later, I was already looking.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Too true. For me, starting at 9am would be very LATE! Yet that used to be the norm.
      Most of my jobs, East or West Coast, tended to be 8am – 5pm with lunch unpaid. If you only took 1/2 hour, then you could usually leave at 4:30 but not always. Very often, I work 7:30 – 5 with no lunch or eating at my desk.

      Americans are overworked!

  14. AlligatorTrainer*

    I, too, dislike weight questions though my circumstances are far less traumatic. I’m sorry about your relationship, Letter Writer, and cheers to feeling better! I usually deflect weight questions, or give a short, uninteresting answer like, “I’ve been running more.” Then change the topic!

    1. FiveWheels*

      I’m not a fan of weight or diet questions either. I’m very fit but it just seems bizarrely personal. I grew up in a home where commenting on people’s weight was just not a thing.

  15. AW*

    …even if I was sick.

    LW #1, it kills me that it occurred to someone that your weight loss could be a medical thing and they still brought it up, as if it’s not intrusive to ask about someone’s medical status in addition to their weight and size.

    …but I’m also unsure of what will happen next with my weight…

    It’s also infuriating that you’re having to think about this in terms of making up “excuses” and in terms of what your weight will do in the future. It’s awful that you have to worry about people harassing you about it if you say anything that implies you think your weight might go up/down (or even stay the same!) and something else happens instead.

    If you hadn’t said you didn’t want to lie I’d suggest just telling people, “I don’t know”, since it’s the most boring response possible. I suppose actually saying, “It was a surprise” or “I wasn’t planning on losing weight” might work but Alison’s answer is probably better. Whatever you use, feel free to add the “let’s talk about something other than weight loss/diets” to the end.

    LW #2 – Sometimes stuff happens. You didn’t intend to create a backlog at work or make you co-worker work longer hours but that doesn’t mean it’s unreasonable for your boss to mitigate both of those issues. Focus instead on repairing your reputation with your boss and do something nice with your boyfriend on a day/night you have off anyway.

    LW #4 – I don’t have anything to add to the answer but that was a good question.

    LW #5 – I don’t think you have anything to lose by asking. It’s been months, not days, so it’s not like you’re being flaky or something. Also, if they’re the kind of company that refuses to hire anyone that’s ever declined an offer it’s not like asking is changing anything, you’ll just know that’s how they roll.

    1. Teacher*

      I had a coworker who came back to work after the summer having lost a bunch of weight (and also looking just noticeably different and less healthy). A few of us noticed and were concerned but no one said anything until after she ended up in the hospital because of an undiagnosed illness. When people said afterwards that they had noticed she looked so much thinner, she was like, “why did no one say anything?!” and I think felt like she might have checked in with a doctor sooner if someone had pointed out the difference that was so noticeable to us because we hadn’t seen her for a few months. Thinking back on that and how I now wish I had said something in that case, I don’t think I would be too harsh on OP’s coworkers who are asking after her health (assuming they are asking in a genuinely concerned way not a gossipy way).

      1. observer*

        I agree – providing they ask in a genuinely concerned way, and back off when she says “I’m fine, thanks for asking” or the equivalent.

      2. Julia*

        But is that rare scenario worth potentially hurting all the people who don’t want to be asked about their weight? Especially since managing a co-worker’s health isn’t usually in the job description.

        1. Someone else*

          I think there’s (hopefully) a pretty significant difference in tone between asking about someone’s weight, in a way that implies “because I want to learn how you did to in theory do it myself/mean this as a compliment regardless of what can of worms I might be opening” and “because I’m concerned you might have a health issue you’re not aware of”. Of course, in theory there could be a way to express the latter concern without specifically making it about weight…but there might not be.

  16. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Where I live, banker’s hours were real, 10-3, no weekend openings. When my bank started closing at 4 and then 6 it was revolutionary at the time. We did get an extra 30 minutes on payday because everyone was at the bank at the same time. That being said, it’s also a government town and core hours were 730-330.

  17. Bryce*

    Anyone else show up an hour late to their first “real” job because of the 9-to-5 confusion when they just said “go here first thing in the morning” with a different assumption? Just me?

    1. Ego Chamber*

      I am way too insecure and always double-checked the time, which can also go wrong.

      When my last job said, “Be here for opening,” and I knew the building opened at 10, I was like “What time do you get here to open?” (because I was used to retail, etc, where there’s always things you have to do before unlocking the doors) and they looked at me like they were really regretting offering me the job and said “At… 10…?”

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        That was really unkind of them. In my experience you’re often asked to come later on day one as the person onboarding you wants to get in and get their day started – I’m used to coming in for 10 on the first day of a job with a 9am start, and to being given an exact time to come in. I think this is one of those things you don’t know you don’t know about working when you start.

        1. Teapot PR consultant*

          Yes, I always ask my new starters to turn up an hour after
          normal starting time so I can make sure everything is sorted.

          1. Overeducated*

            I remember being asked to show up at 9 at a previous job, getting there a few minutes early, and waiting outside the opaque door until 9 on the dot. I went inside and everyone there was already relaxed and settled in…official start time was 8:40, my exempt boss startwd around 7:30.

        2. hbc*

          Meh, it just sounds like one of those things that catches both sides off guard. If they hadn’t worked retail, they’d have no context for there being a difference between “open” and “opening,” so it would have seemed like they were just being asked to repeat themselves. A quick explanation or just a bit of time passing probably took care of it.

        3. SJ*

          Totally! Ex-Job’s hours were 9-5, and for my first day of New Job, my boss told me to come in at 9am. I didn’t even consider that it might have been a first-day-later-start thing, so I just assumed our office hours were 9-5 like before. I rolled in at 8:45 on my second day like, “Cool, I’m 15 minutes early!” and then found out in my 1-on-1 meeting with my boss later that day that hours are 8:30-5. Oops. Luckily no one seemed to notice or care.

        4. Gaia*

          Agreed. I always give my new starters an exact time. I once had a job where I was the only person in my department in the city I worked in. My boss was two time zones away. He told me to come in first thing in the morning. I asked what time people usually started and he told me “first thing.”

          I had so much anxiety around what time to arrive. I was there exactly at 8am. And then sat in my car for 30 minutes because, it turns out, I worked in an office where no one shows up before 8:30.

    2. teclatrans*

      Yes, and was startled and confused that others were already settled in. I also took a full hour for lunch. Took me a week or two for the penny to drop.

      1. Bryce*

        In my case it was a small town with one main business, so everyone was used to running on the same schedule and things only got mention if they ran early or late (like security guards, cleaners, the hardware store and other support shops, etc). Fortunately it wasn’t held against me, it just meant I had to catch up on the first hour of training and that was basic “if something has a safety lock and you didn’t put it there, don’t remove it and turn the thing on” stuff. The things everyone had to go through to work anywhere in the facility, I don’t think I ever SAW a safety lock.

    3. JulieBulie*

      I showed up at nine (I knew that much was correct), took an hour for lunch (because I had heard of a “lunch hour”), wasn’t sure when to go home. It was my first salaried job and I had no idea how that worked. It was a family-owned business, people were in and out all the time, and I was afraid to ask what was expected of me so I just waited until almost everyone else had gone home.

      Turned out it was typically 9 to 5:30 with a half hour for lunch. (Eight hours.) Nobody there really cared what kind of hours I was keeping as long as I got my work done, but some offices are more strict.

      There is so much variation from one place to another that employers should be more forthcoming about it, so that new hires don’t make the wrong assumptions.

  18. LS*

    OP2 – at this point you should be [1] feeling grateful to still have a job and [2] doing whatever you can to redeem yourself, and reinforce your manager’s decision to keep you on.

  19. MommyMD*

    Is the day off letter real? Missing ten days with a no call no show and making mistakes on the job and worried about missing a friend’s birthday party?

    If this letter is true you’d be better advised to worry about your job.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      The letter says

      “some personal issues led me to calling out for a week and a half. This included one no-call no-show (I was so busy I forgot to call in)”

      I took that to mean the OP called all the other days she was off, but missed calling in for one day.

      1. Gaia*

        I don’t know, if OP was calling in each day that makes it so much worse in my mind. You can’t even tell me how long you might be out (and then extend if needed)? And you just didn’t call one of those days. I would be worried sick if one of my staff just didn’t call and didn’t show up. Especially if it was around a lot of unplanned time off. And then to find out they just…forgot? Oh I would be so mad.

  20. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I’m finding it a little tricky to correctly tread the line between work and personal advice here, so apologies if this is an overstep, but you mentioned how these questions bring everything up again. That’s so hard to deal with and I’m sorry. When you’re having that kind of experience it can sometimes be worth exploring it with a therapist who can help you find ways of coping in the moment. Because as well as finding ways of shutting down the questions, it may be helpful to find ways of coping with how you feel and care for yourself when you’re asked.

  21. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 I’m not sure I agree with the people saying you should just be grateful you have a job. I don’t think it’s that simple.

    I do think you have described some less than ideal conduct e.g. no call no show. I don’t know that it’s ideal to rescind an agreed day off which feels a bit like punishing you for having personal issues and rewarding the coworker for not having them. It’s not ideal when people have to pick up others’ slack, but it happens and it’s part of working in a team. I’ve just covered a bunch of tasks for a coworker who was out sick and I most certainly don’t think I deserve to be given her booked days off – that’s kind of not what PTO is for, and I think your manager is wrong to take it off one person and give it to another, rather than simply rescinding it, as I don’t like the optics of that. But I know I’m in a minority in this respect here as plenty of posters have previously said it’s ungrateful to take vacation if you’ve had time off due to illness.

    All that said, it takes reasonableness on both sides. You mention being distracted, not calling in, and then confronting your boss rather than asking them nicely to reconsider. Sometimes you need to offer goodwill before you can get it back. Do you think you’ve perhaps not been doing that?

    1. Wintermute*

      I’m totally with you on this one IF it was an illness. I think the problem is the letter doesn’t specify the reason so people are assuming it’s not serious.

      I don’t know about where you all work, clearly norms will differ, but at current job if it would take something serious and major, the kind of thing that qualifies as a major life event, a life-threatening medical situation, or a serious illness that incapacitated you, having to leave the state to deal with an serious family issue, something life-changing, for you to miss that much work.

      If that IS the case here, then it’s cruel to hold it against the person, let alone come at them for not calling in every day.

      1. krysb*

        LW says s/he was busy and forgot to call in. I mean, I guess one could be busy vomiting, but, personally, when I’m sick, I don’t use “busy” as a replacement adjective.

        1. ReanaZ*

          I assumed it was a family emergency, where ‘busy’ would be appropriate to use. “I was running around calling doctors and yelling at hospital billing and insurance and picking up relatives coming to see nan in the hospital and I forgot to call in” etc

          1. Wintermute*

            That’s how I read it as well, or some variation that a LW might not want to get in to “we found out grandma’s nursing home is closing and we had to move her short notice” “A family member was a victim of crime”, “dad had a heart attack and I’m his power of attorney” something like that.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Yes. And that the total time out might have been a moving target, based on how surgery (or other moving crisis with lots of unknowns) went.

        2. Yorick*

          I assumed some other emergency too. But even if it was OP’s illness, “busy” could be an appropriate word. You could be busy scheduling or getting to doctor’s appointments, or something like that.

      2. Doreen*

        The problem with that from my point of view is that it’s difficult to imagine a situation that would both require missing ten days from work and at the same time be day-to-day, so that you couldn’t call in on Monday and say something like, “I expect to be back Thursday, I will call if it changes”. The manager could be some sort of nut job who wants a call everyday even if you said on Monday that you would be back Thursday , but I think the LW would have mentioned it if that were the case.

    2. Bette*

      I doubt that the manager literally took a day out of OP’s PTO and gave it to the other employee. She probably just decided OP needed to work to catch up, and suggested to the other worker, who had been going above and beyond, that she needed a break. It’s just OP’s framing of it (She gave away my day to someone else! Wah!).

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The OP said the other employee had also requested the day off. I assumed she’d been told she couldn’t have it because OP had already requested it, and after the OP missed a week and a half of work and the other employee covered her slack, the boss told her she could have that day off after all, rather than just being spiteful and saying “Hah! I’m taking your day and giving it to Jane!”

        1. Sarah*

          Yes, if coverage means only one person can have that day, it seems perfectly fair to allow the person who’s been putting in overtime covering for a coworker to have it. Who knows if the coworker has missed a birthday party or something else putting in the extra hours?

    3. August*

      I completely agree with everything you’re saying here, although my first reaction was also “this LW is lucky to still have her job!”– mostly because the talk of taking over shifts made me think of retail/food service, where they boot you out without a second thought. I can’t think of single retail/food service job I’ve had where a manager would let a no-call no-show + short-notice absence + confronting the manager slide.

      All in all, the situation isn’t 100% fair, and I understand the LW’s frustration, but she definitely needs to tread lightly in the future (even if this is a regular office job, where they tend to be a bit more lenient).

    4. Colette*

      I think a lot depends on information we don’t have. If the OP was dealing with a family member’s illness, or had to move on no notice, that’s a different situation from taking unplanned time off because she wanted to play a video game that just came out, or she started a project at home and wanted to finish.

      But if it was something that was obviously going to take many days, it would have been better to call in once and have that conversation. Calling in daily for something that will take over a week makes it harder for the manager to plan.

      Having said that, I don’t think she should have lost her day off just because she was out – but I also don’t think the boss was out of line to prioritize giving the day off to the coworker who stepped up to cover, since they both wanted the same day.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Is it possible the job requires you to call in every day?

        I ask because it turned out my kids’ school did that–when final report cards were mailed in June my daughter had two unexcused absences. She was seven, so I was sure she wasn’t ditching school–after a bit of math, it was the two days we were at funerals. Where I’d called the school and written to the teacher once at the start of each period, but didn’t keep calling over and over because obviously if I call Friday and say we’ll be out Monday and Tuesday for a funeral, that’s where I am.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I was assuming so and hadn’t thought this was a question. Over here all jobs require that unless a doctor signs you off for a specified number of days.

        2. Colette*

          Sure. It’s possible that the OP was clear at the beginning of the time off how long she’d be gone, but it’s also possible she wasn’t. We just don’t know.

      2. Liane*

        Calling in daily even when it is clear you are going to be out multiple days for an emergency or illness is a requirement at a lot of jobs. At Old Job, aside from actual medical leaves, you had to call the automated line each da. Unless it was bereavement, where the initial call asked if you wanted your next 2 shifts recorded as well.

      3. neverjaunty*

        She didn’t lose the day off just because she was out; she had that particular day out rescinded because she’s been making errors, fallen behind, and needs to catch up.

    5. FiveWheels*

      It depends on the industry, but to me ten days off for any reason is huge. Like, understandable if you have a life threatening illness, but nothing much short of that.

      If a colleague of mine was off that length of time I certainly wouldn’t be happy, because their sickness would mean I didn’t get to go home on time. Would I blame them? Not in that scenario, but I definitely wouldn’t be happy.

      And if I thought the reason was spurious, as happened once when a colleague took a fake* sick day, meaning other people including me had to deal with his urgent, time sensitive work? Pretty much a permanent breakdown in trust.

      * Not speculating – he confirmed he just wanted to take the day to relax, but didn’t have any vacation left.

      1. Allison*

        I remember once having an evening shift at a movie theater while in school, and I had either an usher or concession shift that was until one specific time (I think 9 or 10) but the ticket taker was a no-show and someone needed to cover that post, so they pulled me for it. I didn’t mind taking tickets, but that post needed coverage until a much later time. It turned out the scheduled ticket taker was in an accident, so I couldn’t be mad at them, but I was still annoyed it meant I had to work late.

        (no, I didn’t qualify for OT, because in my state you only get that when your weekly hours go over a certain time, and my part-time hours weren’t even close to that mark)

      2. Seal*

        If you’re talking ten business days (e.g. M-F) that’s two full weeks. A huge deal for every place I’ve worked regardless of the circumstances and especially if not arranged well in advance.

      3. paul*

        Yeah, the sheer length of time really makes me wonder.

        And while I know we’re big on not judging the reasons for “emergencies” by the time you’re hitting 10 days I think people in most situations are going to do so. 10 days because your dad died? Yeah, understandable. 10 days unexpectedly because you wound up going to jail? Tough, that’s on you.

    6. Yorick*

      I agree. I have 8 vacation days accrued right now. If I have 1 scheduled, and then use 7 unexpectedly (and I assume in the OP’s case it was for a serious reason), I should still be able to take my planned day. Of course, un-approving the day might make sense because of the backlog of tasks (but maybe not), but I don’t think it’s ideal to take away the day and give it to the coworker who was able to work that week.

      1. neverjaunty*

        The co-worker had also asked for that day off. Why is it bad to grant her request given she put in extra time to cover for the OP?

        1. Yorick*

          I don’t know, it just seems weird to give Coworker a reward that (presumably) is only available because it was taken away from OP.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        None of this situation is ideal. But when one person falls behind due to unplanned time off, and another person works extra to cover for them, and they both wanted the same day off, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to do what this boss did.

    7. Gaia*

      The thing is, it isn’t punishing. It is recognizing that there is a lot of work to get done now and the business cannot accommodate the time off any longer. They need to give the coworker who is probably burned out a break but they need the OP to be there so that the backlog can be caught up.

  22. FiveWheels*

    In the UK we typically work 9-5. I don’t think I could physically work from 8am. I’d be a zombie. I find it slightly terrifying that 8am starts seem to be the norm for lots of office jobs!

    1. Gem*

      I’m in the UK and I prefer an 8-4:30 workday just because I’ve got an hour of quiet in the AM before people show up and I can do stuff after work (I volunteer with a couple of things, or go to the gym while it’s quiet, or just catch up on housework), and I love it. There’s a few people I know in the tech industry that work 7-3:30 or 8:4:30 – works well for parents as well apparently.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I don’t know why but it always felt so much better finishing at 4.30 rather than 5. It was like I still had the afternoon left and I could do things but if I left at 5, the day was already over.

      2. FiveWheels*

        I don’t think it could work for me in any circumstances… My body clock is out of whack by a few hours.

    2. DanaScully*

      I’m also in the UK and I work in a local government authority. I am contracted to work 36 hours per week. Generally I work 9am to 5pm with a 30 minute lunch break. I’m supposed to work for 7.12 hours every day, at the minimum (not including my unpaid lunch break).

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      UK – I’ve done 9-5 (35 hour week) and at the moment most of building does 9-5.30 (37.5 hour week). I do 8-4.30 because I asked for it as fits better with rush hour for me – colleague does 8.30-4.30 but only takes 1/2 hour lunch.

    4. Clewgarnet*

      I’m in the UK and start at 8 and finish at 3.30. It means I avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic on days when I’m not working from home and I have plenty of time in the evenings to do other things.

      When I was starting work at 9, I thought 8 would be absolutely impossible, but it’s actually much easier. Turns out that getting up at any time dictated by the alarm clock is utterly horrible, but at least I get to finish much earlier!

      I have coworkers who start at 7, but they only live about fifteen minutes from the office. It’s an hour for me, and would be about double that if I started at 9.

      1. FiveWheels*

        I would take working until 8pm over start at 8pm any day of the week! It’s possible I’m a reincarnated American whose sleep hormones didn’t reset.

    5. JustaCPA*

      I get to the office anywhere between 7 and 8:30 but usually by 7:30. I start early its usually because I have to leave by 4 or 4:30. As an exempt person, I cant take or not take lunch but I usually grab something in our breakroom for around 30 minutes. Having that flexibility means I can make it to my daughter’s volleybal game or whatever. Days I start late its because I know Im going to be here LATE (usually 6 or 7). Ive done my time putting in 12 hour week days and I simply wont do it as a matter of course any more. Once a year for year end? maybe. Others wise, no.

    6. Jennifer*

      Me too. I’m a lawyer and court usually starts at 9:30, with conferences occasionally scheduled at 9. Some judges are pushing to start at 9 or even 8:30. Except…. I have things to do in my office before I go to court. If court started at 8:30 and I had a conference at 8 before that, I’d have to leave home around 6:30/6:45 and that seems *really* unnecessary. If I’m on trial, I often have to leave the house around 7/7:30 because I have to get my evidence out of the vault and then get escorted through the courthouse if I have guns or drugs, both take some time. If I had to start at 8:30, I might just sleep in my office……

  23. Katie the Fed*

    OP2 – you’re establishing a pretty poor pattern in your workplace. You missed a week and half of work with no notice so that other people had to pick up your slack (that’s a HUGE deal, especially if it wasn’t something like a medical crisis), made mistakes at work, had a no-call/no-show, and THEN “confronted” your boss about canceling a day off.

    At this point you may very well be on thin ice, and the best thing you can do is work your tail off and get over the cancelled day of leave. It sucks to miss your boyfriend’s party, but that’s probably not a compelling enough reason to expect the day.

    1. Beatrice*

      This. Also – if you can expect your work to be understanding about missing a week and a half of work for your personal issues, you can expect your boyfriend to be understanding about missing a birthday party because you have to work unexpectedly after missing all that time for your personal issues. Your livelihood is at risk here.

      1. Gaia*

        And to be fair, I think we should expect our works to be understanding about missing a week and a half of work for an unexpected emergency or illness. However, I think we also need to be aware of the impact this has and do what we can, when appropriate, to help alleviate that impact.

        What we should not expect our work to understand (in most cases) is a no call/no show or “confronting” managers about having previously approved leave cancelled due to a backlog that resulted from being out for so long if that is necessary.

  24. Zip Silver*

    #1 – not to toot my own horn, but I am a very fit guy. When people ask about my routine, I just say something stupid like Wii fit and Wheaties, unless the person asking is also in shape. Nobody actually wants to hear that you spend 45 minutes in the gym every morning and count calories for all your meals, they want to hear “this one easy trick that doctors hate”

    1. Gem*

      Yup, I’ve lost a fair amount of weight in the past year or so and people just get bored when you say ‘counting calories and going to the gym’. They want to hear ‘I just cut out pasta’ or ‘I drank a lot of green tea’ or something similar. So just say ‘I’ve been eating healthier’ or ‘eating less junk food’ or ‘I’ve gone back to the gym’ and people will get bored.

      1. esra (also a Canadian)*

        “Counting calories and a balanced diet.” is definitely not what anyone wants to hear. I had a coworker go off to me about how that never works, and it must be something else. I was like, maybe I use the elliptical in my sleep?

        1. observer*

          I always wonder how people don’t realize how stupid and rude they sound, at best. I mean, he essentially just accused you of lying about something just for the sake of it. Why?!

    2. Violet Fox*

      I lift some, I do a lot of body-weight based strength training 3x a week, plus I train with a personal trainer at least once a week, and I do not look skinny, do not look “fit” by today’s standards and do not by any means look like a gazelle. I would love to compare notes with someone else who trains a lot, but it’s hard not to mention disenheartning to get brushed off because I don’t look fit enough.

      Don’t judge so much please. You might just miss out, and it can actually be hurtful to the people you are judging.

      1. FiveWheels*

        I think though most of the time when causal acquaintances ask about weight loss, they don’t want to compare detailed notes. They’re just making casual conversation.

        In the OP’s case, it’s entirely truthful to say “nothing special, I just haven’t wanted fast food /snacks /whatever lately and the pounds have come off… I feel great, thanks!”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          They’re just making casual conversation.
          Yes, I think Zip Silver is, quite fairly, treating it like “how are you” which is meant to invoke different responses from close friends who have a lot of background info on you (give a detailed and truthful response) and passing acquaintances (“I acknowledge your existence, fellow human” “And I yours”).

          A response like “Okay, I do a really intense cross-fit regimen” is just going to get one labeled a zealot.

        2. Allison*

          I get the impulse to make casual conversation, but I think some topics are inappropriate in that context. Sports, TV, weather, fine, but don’t bring up a person’s weight.

          1. FiveWheels*

            Agreed, but there seems to be this “thing” where people (anecdotally, I mainly hear this from women who are unhappy at their weight and very rarely from shy other group) feel like it’s a normal topic for low level social bonding.

            1. Rana*

              Yup. I worked one place where diet talk was endemic. It was *the* go-to for small talk, and it was beyond tedious.

      2. Zip Silver*

        It’s not to be rude or anything, it’s more to be nonchalant about it, plus the conversation can be tedious. Lots of time folks ask for specifics like how to do this or how to eat that. While I’m happy to chat about my hobbies, I’m not a PT. If somebody seems genuinely interested in taking up lifting, then I’d rather point them in the right direction for where to find information online and some tools to help (like the myfitnesspal app) that have a detailed conversation about how anal retentive I am about it with coworkers or acquaintances.

        1. FiveWheels*

          Same with me and my sport. I’m happy for a “good game” sort of chat, but during work I don’t really want to expend energy on a detailed discussion of tactics etc.

    3. Jaguar*

      It’s also a way for people to start a conversation, and giving a quick, un-elaborated response is more often read as I don’t want to talk to you more than it’s read as I don’t want to talk about this topic. There’s a lot of nuance that goes into this, but when people complain “why are people so insensitive?” or “why do people care so much about weight?”, I think they’re getting hung up on their own baggage: many people don’t care that much about weight or see this as a sensitive topic. They’re bringing it up because it’s an obvious change or achievement in your life that they can start a conversation over. Like, some people have to wear specific shoes because they need the arch support, so is it insensitive to ever talk about someone’s shoes? Would you take a “argggh, why can’t people mind their own business?” attitude on that? Just assume people are trying to be nice: they usually are.

      1. FiveWheels*

        The gendered aspect is what bothers me. I think I find weight talk squicky mainly because it seems to be strongly coded as a female conversation topic. And that leads into an assumption that any given woman is likely to care more about losing weight than, say, what the local sports team is doing. Squick squick squick.

      2. Lissa*

        Yes I think that for a lot of people, “don’t make comments about body/looks/weight” is not something that occurs to them because it doesn’t bother them. It’s extremely well known on most sites like this that it’s a thing a lot of people don’t like, but if you’re not someone who browses this type of site, and haven’t had anyone tell you it upsets them, it can easily just be “well, this wouldn’t bother me or my friends, we talk about it all the time like the weather” and they don’t realize it’s such a sensitive thing for many people. People who comment on other people losing weight are very likely people who would really like it if somebody noticed their own weight loss.

  25. Zip Silver*

    #4 – I’m also in Florida, and actually was hiring for two positions before Irma. Last week was nuts with cleanup and Dealing with Servpro (my office building took water, damn wind-driven rain), and the week before was a little busy dealing with preparations (the writing was seemingly on the wall the Thursday before Labor Day).

    Anyway, I’m planning on reaching out to job candidates this week. I’ve selected one person for one of the positions, and still want to interview for the other. Most of my interviews were in August, but there was a solid week and a half of not doing normal work stuff.

    1. starsaphire*

      This is one of the things I love most about this column: people who are on the other side of the aisle in the exact same situation will weigh in. This is great input, and hopefully helps the OP.

      Best of luck dealing with your cleanup, and best wishes for weathering the rest of the season!

  26. rudster*

    Love the question about 9-5, since I’ve often wondered that myself. It also seemed to me mostly East-Coasters who use the term “9-5”, so I always figured those were standard NYC office hours. I’m from the Midwest and pretty every office here runs 8-5 with an hour for lunch. Interestingly, on my first day at my first “office job” after college (a temp position while I was job searching), the agency told me it was “a 9-5 job”, so I showed up a little before 9 only to be properly mortified when I found out the client had been expecting me at 8! Obviously the agency had just meant that as a general description of the type of the job, but I was a bit naive and took it literally. Fortunately they didn’t hold it against me, the company soon brought me on full time, promoted me several times and I stayed for 13 years. Turns about – though the agency had no idea about it – that they just happened at the time to be looking for someone who knew German, and they probably figured someone with that skill wasn’t going be passing through town again anytime soon, whether late on their first day or not. Yea serendipity!

    1. Lily Rowan*

      In my experience, New York office hours don’t usually start before 9, but almost never end before 6, if not 7, depending on industry. (Of course there are people who work off hours because they are dealing with Asian markets or whatever, but as a general rule.)

    2. J*

      I worked in Chicago for about 20 years. I don’t think I ever had a job that started at 8. Some started at 8:30, but most started at 9.

  27. HannaSpanna*

    I have to admit I’m seeing letter 2 in a different light than other commentors. If someone couldn’t come into work for a week and a half, I’m willing to believe that it was a serious event that the OP just doesn’t want to share on the internet.
    It sounds like she rang in all days bar one, so wasn’t just a random no show. Yes, the letter may sound a little ‘cavalier’ as an earlier comment put it, and I don’t think the boss is out of line by asking her to work that day to give coworkers a break. (And also that may feel upseting to the OP who was really looking forward to a break after a difficult period.)
    But feel a lot of the comments are a bit harsh, especially about her being lucky she still has a job. If her reason for being off for that time wasn’t good enough, I suspect she would have already been let go or the consequences would have been more than just rescinding a day off.
    OP 2 I hope everyone you love is safe and well, and that things get better soon.

    1. DArcy*

      I don’t think the comments are overly harsh. Calling out every day, as opposed to being honest that you’re going to be out for several days, is serious unprofessionalism on her part. A no call no show AND a last second callout AND ongoing performance issues on top of that? From what she’s told us, it’s perfectly fair to say she’s lucky to still be employed.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Lots of jobs require you to call in everyday regardless of the expected length of the absence. So the OP might well have said they would be missing a week and a half of work from the start. Also they might not have known how long they would need to off so not able to tell them in advance.

      2. Elfie*

        Wow, that’s seriously harsh. I’ve called out every single day for 6 straight days in the last month, and every time I was hoping I would be back in the following day, but sadly, depression doesn’t quite work like that. I’ve called out before when my meds were adjusted and I misjudged how long it would take for the side effects to go away. I called out once every day for a week with food poisoning – again, I thought I was going to be better much quicker than it actually turned out I was. I think labelling it as unprofessional is really really harsh. However, I am very lucky to have a manager and a team that understands that Life Happens, want to support me how they can, and don’t punish me for having a chronic health condition. I’ve been upfront with them about what’s going on, so they know the reasons – which may be the difference between OP’s case and mine. OP – it’s not required that you give the details, but it can help with generating goodwill if they understand what’s been going on with you.

          1. fposte*

            Though it might be too new a job for her to be eligible. Not that she says that, but I would see this situation as being more likely with somebody who’s been there under a year than with somebody who’s worked there longer.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            The OP didn’t call one day because she was too busy, not too sick. I suspect that the OP’s health wasn’t the reason for the week and a half of missed work.

            1. Loose Seal*

              But it could have been a family member’s health condition that had OP so busy. I mention this only because of the potential FMLA reason. For our purposes here, it doesn’t really matter what the reason was.

              Although, I’ll go on the record here as saying that I hate policies that require calling in every day when anyone could see certain things are going to take several days. I’m reminded of a particularly brutal period in my life where I had double pneumonia and missed 6 days of work (plus being ill over two weekends) and yet my office wanted me to call every morning no later than 8:15 to let them know I’d be out. You’d think that I could perhaps text the night before saying I was still in the hospital but nope. They wanted policy followed to the letter. Obviously I still have feelings over this even though I no longer work there.

              1. FiveWheels*

                Ha, that’s another reason why I couldn’t cope with an 8am start. Even when fit and healthy it is entirely possible that at 8.15 I’ll be lying in bed, willing myself to develop superpowers so I can hit snooze once more and then teleport to work.

      3. Essie*

        I’ve worked several jobs that required individual call-outs every day and would not accept a single call for multiple days at a stretch. While I agree that the tone of the letter may be interpreted as a bit cavalier, the actual act of calling in every day is not automatically a sign of unprofessional behavior. It may simply be SOP.

      4. Sylvan*

        This is very harsh. I really don’t like how hard commenters are coming down on that LW. We don’t know what their personal circumstances were. Frankly, shit happens. It doesn’t always give you a timeline.

        1. Sylvan*

          And by the way, no, I’m not saying that all the time off was or wasn’t okay. I’m only saying that we don’t know what was happening in the OP’s life at the time.

      5. Oryx*

        How is that unprofessional? Things happen, you can’t always know in advance that you’re going to require a few days. Plus, some jobs *require* calling every single day even when you *do* know you’ll be out multiple days.

      6. HannaSpanna*

        I may be in the minority in seeing it differently, but just wanted to show there is another POV.
        I don’t think calling in everyday is unprofessional (it’s mandatory where I work) and can think of number of explanations in a week and half crisis why someone may forget to call in (once) and call a hour out instead of the expected two (once). I read the performance issues to be linked with dealing with the crisis, not ongoing. I don’t think it was great time for a manager and co-workers and yes, losing her already booked PTO is a necessary if unfortunate result. I would encourage the OP to see things from her co-workers POV, and ensure that she really ensures that she is crossing i’s and dotting t’s going forward. ButI do have compassion for her in a difficult time.

    2. hbc*

      I think the “cavalier” part is more about her not (apparently) considering the impact on her manager and coworkers. She can’t really argue that scheduling is sacrosanct when it applies to what her manager says, but that she’s okay changing the schedule at little or no notice.

      I wouldn’t pull the approval of a day off just to punish her, but I don’t think she’s igoing to get anywhere trying to convince people that this outcome is actually unfair.

    3. Delta Delta*

      I read this letter the same way. My first thought was that LW had something serious and unexpected happen that required lots of focus and attention (funeral? family illness/crisis?). And I wouldn’t be surprised if LW told the boss on the first day, “I can’t come in because X happened…” which then boss and co-workers understood. Even though a no-show/no-call is not okay, since it was going on during whatever the situation was, probably the people at work understood that it was related to X even though there was no call. And, I can see LW being upset to have a planned day off rescinded, especially if it was something she was looking forward to AND if it was a good thing after some situation that might not have been a good situation. But I can also see the management side. So, unfortunate she has to miss the birthday (which I’m also willing to guess might be a big enough event that it required a day off).

    4. neverjaunty*

      It seems very odd to me to say on the one hand that we can’t make negative assumptions what the OP meant, and then on the other hand to make all kinds of positive assumptions about what the OP meant.

      Even if the OP had excellent reasons for an unplanned absence, she’s making mistakes at work, and her co-worker put it extra time to cover for her. Part of being a team means recognizing that when other people cover for you, you do the same for them. That may mean inconveniencing yourself a little by giving up a planned fun day to catch up on work and letting the people who worked extra for you take a break.

      (Speaking of assumptions, we don’t know why the co-worker asked for that day off. Perhaps she has something just as important to her as the OP’s boyfriend’s birthday is to her.)

      1. Elfie*

        I’m not assuming one way or the other what reasons OP has for taking time off. I’m responding to the statement that calling in every day is unprofessional. In which case, I’ve been unprofessional very recently. Only, there are always exceptions that prove the rule. Unfortunately in OP’s case, they’ve provided very little context for us to work with, so certainly from me, there’s an amount of projection into what I’m reading in OP’s letter. But I don’t think the OP is doing herself any favours with her attitude and her secrecy. It might be for a good reason, but chances are, most reasonable people would cut her more slack if she was upfront about what was going on. Although, to be honest, we don’t know whether she did that at work – we just know that we’ve got very little detail to go on here.

      2. Lissa*

        I agree with your first paragraph especially. There are just as many comments assuming that a) her reasons for being absent for so long and no call/no show were reasonable and b) her boyfriend’s birthday was actually a super important life event for her as there are people saying she was unprofessional.

        1. HannaSpanna*

          When I made the original comment above, it was in response to what seemed like a mass of ‘she should be lucky she has job’ and ‘how unprofessional.’ It’s interesting that a little later on it now seems to be more balanced.

          1. observer*

            Most of that is not about the fact that she called in but how she handled it. In one case, she called in late. In another case she was so busy she forgot to call in at all, and when she WAS in, she was making mistakes. All of that is a bad look. And she’s been put on notice about these issues – she got called in about it (not about being out altogether or calling out each day, but the late call and nc / ns.)

            Yet, despite knowing that this whole thing has been a problem, she does not ASK her supervisor about her co-worker’s day off, which would have been inappropriate, she CONFRONTS him. I know that we’re not supposed to not pick, but I think that this is a significant word choice, and it really really changes the tone.

            So, yes, there is an attitude problem, and if the OP doesn’t get that in check, they might be looking for a new job.

      3. HannaSpanna*

        It’s an interesting point. I think it’s because one of my mantras is to ‘assume best intentions’ so it wasn’t difficult for me to assume that, as the OP felt she needed to take a week and a half off, that that was necessary due to a serious significant event. I don’t need to know what it was, and don’t see the lack of details in the letter as evidence that it wasn’t a good reason.
        As I said previously though, I’m not objecting to the rescinding of the day (however vexing it may be for the OP.)

  28. Aloot*

    #1: I agree with the other commenters that your coworkers aren’t actually all that interested in your personal weight loss, but rather that from their POV, you’ve done nothing at all (I’m assuming that your eating habits at work haven’t really changed much), and yet still lost 20lbs. And they REALLY want in on that – a no-effort significant weight loss is always going to be pretty sought after and they think you can provide them that.

    And I think that precisely because it isn’t something you want to talk about, you should come up with something vague and/or generic to answer them with – since “I’d rather not talk about it” and other such replies is only going to dial their curiosity up to 11.

    So something like “I cut out all/a lot of soda and junk food” is going to be plenty enough, cause it rings true AND most people aren’t actually super interested in follow-up questions to that kind of diet. (They want something New & Cool ™, not the same ole “restrict the unhealthy foodstuffs.”)

    You can also go for “less soda and more vegetables” or “more vegetables and a few walks a week.” “I just eat overall healthier” can also work, but I imagine that’s going to lead to them asking for more details, in the hopes that “more healthier” means that you’ve found healthier variants of tasty unhealthy treats, meaning that you lost weight without having to give up anything at all.

    1. Paperfiend*

      You could also say (and it would be true), “You know, I was able to eliminate some stress from my life and that reduction in stress really makes a difference).” No mention of relationships or weight. And if someone asks what kind of stress, – “well, that’s kind of a personal question.”

    2. Liane*

      I suggest picking one of the boring reply suggestions and repeating it every time, followed by a subject change.
      “More veggies…how about that sports match/TPS report/water cooler crisis.”

  29. Akcipitrokulo*

    Op1 – first response could be to answer without answering – assume they only complimented you and weren’t also being nosy, and answer as if they had said “you look good!”.

    “Thank you.”
    “It’s kind of you to notice.”

    And if they persist just say “oh, nothing special.”

    And if they are so rude they still don’t get it – tell them you’re not insured to give out medical advice ;)

    1. a1*

      Yes. I’ve been told (and forget the original source), that when someone give you a compliment, or perceived (to them) compliment all they really want to hear in response is “Thank you”. Not “Thank you, but…” or equivocating, etc. So I like this idea of just a “Thank you”, then a generic response if there is more follow up.

  30. Akcipitrokulo*

    For OP2 – I disagree with most people I think!

    These two issues should not have been mixed up by manager.

    There is issue 1 – that the manager is unhappy with OP’s behaviour.

    And issue 2 – a day off has been booked.

    I can see why manager is getting the two confused – they both involve OP’s being out of the office – but they should be kept completely separate. A booked day off should not be revoked unless it’s a real emergency, and even then, should be “I’m sorry about this…” *EVEN* if you are angry because you think employee has been swinging the lead.

    Deal with the performance issues as performance issues, and include the late call if needed. If you think that they weren’t actually necessary days off, deal with that. But don’t bring a completely separate issue of a booked day off into the mix.

    Rescinding a day off is not an appropriate punishment for a disciplinary issue.

    1. Colette*

      It depends on the circumstances. Did the coworker who has been given the day off instead have to cancel a day off to cover for the OP? What is the impact of not giving the day off to that employee?

      I don’t think cancelling days off should be used often for discipline, but I also think the OP sounds unaware or unconcerned about the impact her absence had on her job. Missing a week and a half of work isn’t like deciding to cut class – you’re getting paid to be there because they need someone doing that job. In a lot of jobs, you’re expected to think about your workload and how it’s going to get done when planning time off (e.g. You wouldn’t plan a vacation for your crunch period).

      Now, emergencies happen when they happen and in that case someone else has to figure it out, but the OP’s explanation of her time off doesn’t sound like an emergency. So if it was a less than critical reason to miss work – or if it was a critical reason the OP didn’t share – I can see the manager prioritizing time off for the coworker who covered with no notice.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        But they are two different issues. Mixing them is not a good idea – if there is a reason why the day off has to be rescinded for operational reasons, then deal with that. If there is a disciplinary issue, deal with that. The two should never be linked, and I’d think pretty poorly of a manager who did that – it seems very unprofessional to me.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This. I don’t think it’s intended as punishment, but as expecting her on deck when things are so far behind due to her long unexpected absence followed by making a bunch of mistakes because she was distracted.

            I get why it feels like punishment, but if they were short-staffed due to someone else’s sudden crisis, asking her to give up a day off (that is for casual fun, not prepaid travel or scheduled surgery) wouldn’t be that surprising. Since the current backlog of time and errors is due to this employee, employee is expected to be taking steps to fix it. In some contexts that might mean you come in a couple of Saturdays, but that doesn’t fit every job.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right — and often days off are approved with the understanding that you’ll manage your workload to allow you to do it. If you suddenly have a backlog because you were out for a week and a half, which wasn’t the case when the day off was originally approved, it’s not unreasonable to say, “Hey, we really need you to work on this backlog that was created from your week and half away and this day off will no longer work.”

              (Obviously you don’t say that if it’s for, like, the person’s wedding or an important doctor’s appointment. But for routine stuff, this isn’t outrageous.)

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                And that’s especially true if the person has been messing up in other ways, as the OP indicates has been happening. If you have someone who’s barely hanging on in their job (as might be the case here), it’s actually a pretty kind move to say “you know, we need you to work that day” since showing up and putting in that time (and working diligently on their backlog) might actually help them keep the job. In a situation like this, it could be the last straw if the OP takes that day off, given all the context.

              2. fposte*

                And a lot of times people would cancel it themselves, especially if they were higher up or kept their own schedules. It’s pretty common at my workplace for somebody to decide not to take that day off after all.

        1. MK*

          It would be one thing if rescinding the day off was purely punitive, but in this case it doesn’t sound to me that it is. When the manager approved the OP to take the day off, they did so assuming that the OP would be reasonably on top of her workload. Now, because she has been absent so long, there is some backlog that needs to get done as soon as possible, so there are new circumstances that made her change the decision. It would be reasonable to rescind the day off, I think, even if the OP hadn’t dropped the ball during her emergency with not calling, calling late and making mistakes. And since the OP will have to be there on that day, it’s not a bad decision to give the same day off the her coworker who is probably overworked because of covering for the OP for weeks. On the other hand, it would be reasonable for the OP to push back on this, if she had booked the day off for something more important than a birthday party. Now she is coming across as “I don’t care that there is a pile of things on my desk that should have been done last week or that my coworker has been running like crazy picking up my slack, I want to go to the party!”, and that why the comments are against her attitude.

          to attend her boyfriend’s

          For one and a half week, the coworker has been saddle

        2. Gaia*

          It isn’t punishment for being out, it is because there is now a backlog that wasn’t there when the day off was approved. The backlog could be there for any number of reasons and still result in the day off being cancelled.

      2. madge*

        OP #2 notes that the coworker had also requested the same day off but only one of them could be out. Boss was entirely correct to rescind that day off and give it to coworker, who presumably gave up quite a bit to cover for OP during that week. I imagine if coworker had written to Alison, we would all support boss’ decision to award coworker that day off.

    2. fposte*

      I think the OP is viewing it as punitive so I can see why you’re feeling that, but, as other commenters note, it sounds operational to me rather than punitive. The co-worker has been doing the OP’s work and missing her own personal life stuff to do it; it’s not fair to ask her to keep doing that.

  31. LVA*

    RE: Weight Loss Questions – I think comments like “I’m in a healthier place now” or “It’s complicated” would simply invite more questions. If it were me, I’d say “I cut back on portion sizes” and leave it at that.

    1. Casanova Frankenstein*

      Since LW did mention that she was binge eating, “cutting back on portion sizes” or “eating in moderation” are 100% true statements that cover your bases while being casual and boring.

  32. Arya Snark*

    I’ve grew up on the east coast and now live in Colorado. In general, the day starts a little earlier here. There is more of a focus on work/life balance, with many professional jobs allowing for flexible hours and people choosing to start the day early so they are free to do other things after work. I had one job for many years and most people in my CO office came in at about the same time as those in our east coast HQ. I think it’s a chicken/egg thing but even the TV broadcasts reflect this, with the prime time hours for shows beginning at 7p followed by the late news at 10p vs. the east coast where shows start at 8 and the news at 11.

  33. Courtney*

    OP 2, I know some of the comments have been pretty hard on you, and I really hope you comment at some point and let us know what happened to cause the week and a half of call offs. If you had some sort of extreme medical emergency, I think the comments here would be more understanding. In either case, you’ll get better advice if you’re more specific. But whether or not the call offs were truly necessary, I agree with the advice that you pretty much just need to suck this one up. In most industries taking time off for your boyfriend’s birthday isn’t commonly done, and you won’t be doing yourself any favors pushing this issue. Wanting a whole day off for a birthday after your coworker’s picked up your slack for a week and a half comes across as tone deaf.

    1. emmylou*

      I think this is a very fair comment. The letter felt reactive to me in a self-centred sort of way — i.e., not feeling like they had to explain the actual reason for being away, and not tracking the impact of being out so much on coworkers/the work. I would like to hear more about what the reason for being out so long is — that would affect how I think about it.

  34. Kelly Bennett*

    I have a sign up in my cubicle that says ‘this is a diet talk free zone’, with some caveats like ‘you don’t need to earn what you eat’ ‘you never know what someone elses relationship with food is’ and ‘the size of one’s body doesn’t determine their worth’

    If someone is talking about diet or weight, I point at my sign.

    It’s gone pretty well.

  35. MashaKasha*

    I can relate to #1 in that, in the first few months after leaving my marriage 7 years ago, I unexpectedly dropped 15 pounds. (No worries, they all eventually came back and brought friends.) In my case it was mostly because as a married couple, we had to attend or host potluck parties with a lot of food and alcohol at least once a week, and once I left the ex, people stopped inviting me. No one said a word about my weight loss. Not one of my coworkers asked a thing. I felt so thankful and appreciative of them as I read OP1’s letter. To OP’s question, I agree with the previous commenters that “diet and exercise” is the best answer in that it should stop any further probing; except for the person who asked if OP1 was sick, in which case I’d say, “everything is well, I promise, but thanks for asking!”

    1. AJ*

      Losing 250lb of a**hole as a way to lose weight is NOT what people want to hear. But for many people it’s certainly effective!

      Agree with sticking with the boring. People do want a magic bullet for weight loss, and while there are scientists working on that, the truth is weight loss (sustained at that) is hard work. And no one really wants to hear that.

  36. boop the first*

    1. Ehhh, I think you’re overthinking this. The weight loss question is never going to be about you. People ask because of that small shred of hope that someday someone is going to reply with an easy trick that anyone can do in their sleep, because losing weight on purpose can be so hard. They can either quickly ask in case they hit the jackpot, or politely ignore it and risk missing out on the mythical unicorn answer. It’s like playing the lottery. Just keep a blank stare and say “I’ve quit binge eating for a while.”

    2. Not having control over your own schedule is, well for me, the most frustrating aspect of being an employee. On one hand, I agree that it really sucks when people change your schedule on you at the last minute…. Like YOU did to your coworker.
    On the other hand, I’m a jerk who doesn’t understand birthday parties for people who are older than 10 years old. I don’t mind covering for coworkers when they are sick or have exams (or secret interviews), but it stings when you find out afterward that it was just to have breakfast with so-and-so.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      In my case, when my birthday comes around, I like to celebrate it with my family–especially with my bro and sister in law (cause hers is 2 days ahead of mine, so we have a joint-birthday party). It might be to catch up with people you don’t see a lot and enjoy their company.

      1. Loose Seal*

        You can see loved ones any of the 365 days of the year. But I’m going to inwardly side-eye any adult who *has* to have a specific day off to celebrate the birthday of another adult — or worse, to celebrate their own birthday. I feel the same way when people want a specific day off to celebrate their anniversary.

        I understand that my opinions about this is not universal and, if it’s been possible within our work needs, I’ve always allowed my reports off on those days. But there’s still gonna be some side-eye.

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          Depending on workloads, schedules, locations — no, not everyone can see their friends/loved ones 365 days a year. And even if they do, how is it any different from requesting off because you want to go in vacation/to a tournament/some orher activity not emergency related?

          1. Loose Seal*

            I didn’t mean that you can see loved ones every day of the year. This is hard to express without it sounding like that’s what I did mean and I’m sorry about that. What I meant was that 365 days exist in a year and you can arrange to see loved ones on days that are not necessarily birthdays or other “must celebrate on the day of” sorts of days. So OP could see the boyfriend and celebrate his birthday on a day that’s not his birthday, like on the weekend or other day off.

            But you and your SIL have your birthday celebration on a day that’s not necessarily your birthday, do you not? So you’ve illustrated perfectly what I think adults should do: Find a time that’s convenient to everyone involved — including your workplace — and celebrate then. As opposed to telling your manager that September 23rd is your birthday and you’ve always taken that day off and you want it off this year because it’s your birthday, dangit!, and it doesn’t matter if we’re short-staffed because Millie is on FMLA leave and Luxinda is at mandatory recertification — it’s myyyyyyy birthdayyyyyy!

            (And, as much as I’d love to see a poll of commenters that insist on their birthday day off every year, I think I’ve caused us to stray from the topic so I’m going to stop here now that I’ve hopefully clarified what I intended to say.)

          1. J*

            Me. Too. (At one former place of business, it was written into the union contract that employees under the contract could have their birthday off.)

            I love my birthday. I take the day off if at all possible.

            By all means, if someone feels the need to judge how I spend my PTO, knock yourself out.

      2. MashaKasha*

        It is important. What complicates things here is the other coworker needing coverage.

        I was on call 24/7 for 6+ years at an OldJob, with an average of three people on the rotation. No matter how the people on rotation changed, there was always this one guy who never answered the phone during his on-call week, so Tier 1 had to call the next in line, which was the person who’s on call next week. It would always be the same person: everyone always knew who it was: and frankly nobody cared if he didn’t answer the phone because needed to rest or to see a loved one (which might very well had been the case each time he got a call after hours. Who knows?) Because when people are being yanked from their time with their families, or woken up in the middle of the night, on a day when they are not supposed to be working 24×7, because so-and-so did not answer the phone, and when it happens repeatedly – not just the one time so-and-so was in the ER or something of similar importance, but repeatedly for no apparent reason – they don’t tend to care what deep personal motivation so-and-so had to not answer the phone again on his on-call night. It is not my coworkers’ responsibility to give up their personal time so I can spend mine seeing my loved ones while they, my coworkers, are doing my job. That’s my 2 cents on this issue.

    2. Yorick*

      I don’t understand. People generally get X vacation days off per year, and it’s nobody’s business why they take them.

      1. serenity*

        No, but in many/most businesses a manager can have “black-out” dates on when vacation cannot be taken, or as in this case, a manager can have operational reasons for not approving time off.

        1. MashaKasha*

          And where I see the “why” coming in is that the manager could’ve (possibly) made an exception and still granted OP the day off, even though it imposed additional hardship on OP’s coworker and on the business, if the planned day off was for an absolutely drastic, end-of-the-world-if-it-doesn’t-happen type of event.

        2. paul*

          Yep. We’re in a black out period now due to pile up while we were in hurricane mode; it’ll be another month or so. We’re not allowing PTO except under “extreme circumstances.” Now, we’re not canceling already approved leave in this case, but it still is a case where we’re having to judge request for PTO.

          As an example, a coworker’s husband wound up in a car wreck last week and they took him to the hospital (yes, he’s mostly OK, no surgery or anything). We weren’t going to tell her no over that. Or if someone had a medical appt? Sure. But requesting a day off just because? Sorry, it’ll be a minute.

          Yes it sucks, but what else can you do?

  37. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No. 1 Several years ago I started a new medication that caused a fast and obvious weight loss as a side effect. When a co-worker asked me how I lost the weight, ( about 30 lbs in three months.) I told her, well, you have to spend an hour in the bathroom every morning… It stopped once my body adjusted but it’s not a good way to lose weight.

    1. Manders*

      Ugh, at my last job people were intrusive about weight loss and also interpreted weight gain or increased appetite as a sign that a young woman was secretly pregnant. I had a coworker who would not stop pushing me about pregnancy one day (I was gaining weight because my mom was dying and I was stress eating), and I blurted out some gory details about the very nasty genetic condition I carry. Not my proudest moment, but it did stop the weight comments for good.

      1. FiveWheels*

        Nothing to be ashamed of! If people don’t want medical answers they shouldn’t ask medical questions.

        Although I do tend to be quite blasé about medical issues, to the extent that people generally think my “that time I nearly died” story is an exaggeration. If anything, I tone it down – and people are usually slightly horrified.

    2. only acting normal*

      Extreme stress makes the weight drop off me. I lost maybe two dress sizes in a few weeks when my husband was very ill and in-and-out of hospital. Great diet, I do NOT recommend it!

  38. frostipaws*

    We work 7-3, but do not get a designated lunch break. Employees have abused this in the past and gone off-site for an hour or more and not had their pay cut, which is unfair to those of us who stayed here and kept working.

  39. La Revancha*

    #1 – it’s possible people are just curious how you lost the weight and want some tips! I agree diet talk should be avoided but it’s a struggle for everyone these days and people want all the tips and tricks they can get.

  40. Rusty Shackelford*

    #1, I’m surprised that your coworkers seem befuddled that you lost weight after a breakup. Lots of people do this, unintentionally (because they’re too upset to eat or because their relationship was a factor in their weight) or intentionally (because they’re “back on the market”), and it seems like a very typical reaction.

    Anyway. When you say I’m also unsure of what will happen next with my weight, are you saying you’re not convinced your weight loss is permanent? If that’s the case, you might not want to say anything about “eating healthier” because it’s going to come back at you if you gain any of the weight back. “Ooooh, you’re not eating healthy any more?” Because people are jerks.

    1. Madame X*

      I don’t know why you find that detail surprising.
      I gathered from the #1 letter that she did not inform every single one of her coworkers of the recent changes in her personal life. Thus, it is very likely they are not aware that she recently broke up with her partner.
      Also, it’s not like she lost the weight over night. The amount of time that it would take for her to lose the weight and for her coworkers to notice it would be several weeks, so they might not immediately make the connection between that and her new single status. Finally, not everybody loses weight after a break up. Some stay the same weight and others gain weight.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The OP said “word got around the office” that she’d broken up with her boyfriend, so it’s not a secret. And I never said everybody loses weight after a break-up. I said it’s common enough that I’m surprised it’s turned into a big deal at her office.

        1. Madame X*

          I guess I missed that first part about it getting around the office. But I still don’t find it surprising that people did not make the connection between her recent weight loss and break up because weight loss can happen for all kinds of reasons even if it follows a break up.

    2. Jaydee*

      I absolutely understand the desire not to get into the details regarding the relationship and break-up. But if most people know you broke up with your boyfriend, you could just say something like “Oh, I guess I’ve been eating a bit healthier/less junk food since I broke up with Percival.” You could even kind of push a little blame onto him by saying something like “He was always wanting to order take-out” or “It’s so nice to eat a vegetable other than French fries!”

      This is a completely understandable, boring, no-magic-bullet answer that has the added benefits of taking a little jab at your ex, giving an external influence on your weight (so if you gain weight back it could be that something stressful happened at work or you’re dating someone new or you’ve been to a bunch of holiday parties or whatever), and possibly shifting the conversation to them. Because I guarantee you at least one person will respond with “Oh, I know what you mean! My Fergus will make a frozen pizza and then eat the whole thing/stop for a burger and fries on his way home from work as a ‘snack’ and still eat a full dinner/stare at me like I have two heads if I ask him what vegetable we should have as a side dish.” And then you’ve just successfully shifted the convo from your weight to their spouse/partner’s atrocious eating habits.

      1. name*

        No need to pass judgement on other people’s food habits. A simple, vague statement (“yep, I guess I have”) + subject change would probably be more effective anyway.

  41. Lady Phoenix*

    You previously asked for ONE day off. You then made it into a week and a half by calling at the last minute to say you still need the time off. Unless this was a medical or a family emergency, that is tacky BEYOND belief. You messed up the schedule and forced many of your cowowrkers to deal with the work that was meant for you.

    So to have your boss rescind the day off for you to make up the work seems sorta fair — especially if someone needs a day off to recover for going overtime on YOUR work.

    The fact you wanted this day off just to celebrate a boyfriend’s birthday — after taking myltiple days off for some unexplained reason — sounds extremely petty.

    You need to decide if this truly is a hill to die on because if you make a stink about this, I am sure your boss will have no qualms with firing you. You have not given them any reason to keep you so consider complaining about this as the final nail in the coffin and the gasoline to burn bridges between you and this company.

    Will it truly be worth it? That is honestly up to you.

    1. Yorick*

      I think it’s really harsh to say this is tacky. OP says that it was for a personal issue and that she was busy. Yeah, she could have spelled it out for us, but I don’t see why people assume that it was slacking off just because we didn’t get details.

      Wanting the day off for your boyfriend’s birthday isn’t petty. I’m guessing you wouldn’t say she shouldn’t have taken the day off originally? If it was a legitimate day to ask off then, it still is. His birthday isn’t cancelled just because she had some emergency. And she may have been really looking forward to the day off and the party after dealing with a week and a half of emergency.

      Ultimately, the boss isn’t wrong to rescind the day off for business reasons, but it would still suck for OP. And it’s fine to give Coworker a day off that they wanted, now that it’s free. I just think it’s really sad that many commenters have such a punitive tone about taking away someone’s vacation day because they were unable to work and giving it to the person who covered their job (as though they deserve it more).

      1. serenity*

        Most of us don’t take our own birthday’s off of work, so I think there’s room to say to the OP that it’s not a standard request to have the day off work for her boyfriend.

        More importantly, you’ve conveniently left off the fact that OP has been having some performance issues and just made some serious lapses in judgment in how she called out of work for a week and a half. I think we’re getting into straw men arguments here – no one has judged the OP for why she took that time off but have (reasonably) noted that how she took that time off – short or no notice, a no-show no-call – was deeply problematic. Not to mention, you’re forgetting that OP’s coworker who picked up the slack for over a week was seriously inconvenienced by OP’s being out on such short notice for so long. Did you even stop to think of that inconvenience?

      2. serenity*

        One thing to add is, managers certainly can have discretion in how and when to approve time off. That discretion can be perfectly reasonable to have as they weigh business needs – deadlines or product/project deliverables, seasonal needs, staffing shortages. Most (good) managers will take these considerations into account while also trying to respect and support their staff.

        I’m really not understanding why some folks are having trouble understanding that it’s actually pretty reasonable for a manager to take an employee who has no-called no-showed, not been forthcoming in giving advance notice of a longer absence, and has had performance issues – taken all of that into account and said “You know, OP, I need you in the office tomorrow and I’m afraid you can’t take tomorrow off”. There’s no reason to assume that said manager wouldn’t be reasonable if OP said “I understand my absence caused inconvenience, but tomorrow I have xyz family event or emergency and I must take it off” but that’s not what happened here, and I think it’s naive to say “once a day off is approved, it can never be revoked” – that’s not how it works.

        1. Yorick*

          I didn’t say a manager can’t revoke a day off (I specifically said it was fine to do for business purposes). But I don’t think it’s appropriate to take it back to punish someone, which some commenters are conflating with the legitimate business needs. For example, it ‘s perfectly reasonable to take back the day because work piled up and now OP needs that day to catch up. But I don’t think it’s appropriate to take back the day because OP didn’t give enough notice during the unplanned time off. That issue is completely separate from having a day off in the future that was already scheduled (assuming OP has available vacation days).

          Vacation days are part of your compensation and shouldn’t be treated like they’re favors your manager does for you. If you have performance issues, your manager doesn’t take away your dental insurance. I know that this situation warrants taking back the day and it isn’t punitive, but many commenters do sound punitive, and I don’t think we should be talking like it’s reasonable to mess with someone’s benefits for punishment.

      3. LadyPhoenix*

        I stated that unless it was an EMERGENCY that extending her day off to essetnailly a 2 week vacation (if she works M-F) is very tacky. Read the comment closely next time.

  42. Lady Phoenix*

    #1: Two solutions are either to ask for a tooic change… or be boring.

    The boring answer would be, “I just worked out and exercised.” People will roll their eyes and move on.

    Now if you have some people who sound concerned about your weight loss, I think that is different cause they just might be worried for you. They can get a nice, “Thank you for your concerns. I am doing alright.”

  43. emmylou*

    I also think “9 to 5” job is shorthand for “I work in a white collar office job with predictable monday to friday hours.” I do consulting work in healthcare, and even for people with non-clinical, regular hours most of the time, we have tons of early morning meetings (e.g., 7 am so surgeons can be there), or post-clinical-hours meetings (5 – 8 pm), or weekend things so Board members can be there. “9 to 5” has never felt literal to me, just a proxy for “I probably never have to show up on a Saturday at 8 am”.

    1. a1*

      I was going to say this. “Monday to Friday/9 to 5” is shorthand for most the people I know, not exact hours worked. I often say I work a M-F/9-5 job, but in reality I can be in anywhere between 7:30am and 9:30am, leave anywhere between 4pm and 6pm, and take anywhere for 30-60 minutes for lunch or no lunch; and in every combination you can make of those. I am exempt employee and the hours average out to 40-50 hours a week usually, but some days are 10 hour days and some are 6.5 hour days. That’s way too much writing or talking so “9-5” it is.

  44. Allison*

    To me, 9-5 is shorthand for “job that starts in the morning and goes until the late afternoon or early evening.” A job might not have strict working hours, but if you’re generally getting in around 8-9ish and leaving around 4-5ish, that’s a 9-5, as opposed to a part-time gig, freelance, etc.

    1. blackcat*

      For me, it means “job that stays at the office is is approximately 40 hours a week, on a regular daytime schedule.”

      So, for example, teaching is NOT a 9-5. That’s less about the timing of the hours and more about the nature of those hours–basically all teachers bring some work home. Teachers are also often expected to do functions on evenings/weekends. Being a lawyer isn’t usually a 9-5 since the hours are longer. Clinical medical professional jobs are often not 9-5 since they may involve night or weekend shifts.

      My husband’s job, though, is something I would call a 9-5, even though they are on a 4-10s schedule and he generally works 7am-5:30pm (half hour lunch). Some coworkers do 10am-8pm. No one works Fridays, everyone has to be there 10am-3pm (core hours). Overtime is REALLY rare (rare in the office, unheard of for someone junior), and people are not expected to work evenings or weekends (in fact, getting after-hours access to email is hard).

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Or shift work, e.g. I have friends who are paramedics and 999 call handlers and work all sorts of hours.

  45. ExceptionToTheRule*

    OP #1 – I lost 22 pounds in 3 weeks due to a medical emergency. People at work knew I had a medical emergency because I was supposed to be gone for 3 days and was gone for almost 6 weeks. I still got “wow – you’ve lost a lot of weight” comments when I got back. Every one of them got the “look” and the “yeah, almost dying will do that to you”. OP #2 – as someone who accidentally screwed over her co-workers by damn near dying – be grateful they covered for you & don’t argue about the lost day.

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      As a side note, when I was losing weight so fast I had to drink meal replacements like Glucerna. In order to treat one medical condition, I created another one. It was proof why you shouldn’t ask people how they lost their weight. There isn’t always a good answer.

  46. Emily*

    At my job, most full time hourly workers are paid for 35 hours per week not 40. So, that’s 9-5 with an unpaid lunch. Many are allowed to take just a 30 minute lunch and work 9-4:30 or whatever.

  47. Tuxedo Cat*

    I’m in academia doing research, so my hours fluctuate. The day starts and ends according to a lot of factors, including international or even US multi-timezone collaborators. Work varies too- some days are short, others are well over 8 hours.

  48. Maya Elena*

    OP3: I worked for a company with hours that went, say, 8:30-5, with two paid 15 min breaks and a half-hour unpaid lunch included in that time. The positions were exempt but with a pretty strict face-time requirement.

  49. cheluzal*

    1: Find a pat excuse and use it every stinking time. It amazes me how people will talk about another’s body. I was always righteously skinny by nature and so many women (oddly some of the largest on staff) would always say things like, “You need to eat more.” Rude. I never told them they need to eat less! It was annoying, then I started saying this: “OK, when are you taking me out to dinner?”
    Amazingly, that put an end to it (and I did get one offer, lol).

  50. LQ*

    Thinking about the mistakes (performance issues). I had something recently (death in the family) that has made me distracted enough to make mistakes. I just have. I don’t know that I know what they all were (I just realized I deleted an email that I got the afternoon I was notified about the death, I didn’t mean to, but I did, and I only know I did because I remember being furious about the email). It would be lovely if we could all always be perfectly understanding and always know and give everyone else the benefit of the doubt. But here in the real world? Telling people “My aunt passed away unexpectedly so I’m a little out of sorts” made a huge difference. You don’t have to tell people the really private things (like and I’m freaking all the way out because the funeral was horrible and I’m terrified it is going to happen to me and the smell and all the other things that are private). Being honest, straightforward, and factual about the thing “a family member passed away unexpectedly” “I’m having surgery” “I need to spend time with my sibling who is having a medical crisis” can go a long way toward creating empathy with the people you need to demonstrate it toward you. (And yes, in a perfect world we would all have perfect empathy, but in this world…)

    It also helps if you build up credibility over the long term. (I’m confident no one is going to get on my case because I’ve got years of doing a good job to back me up, so if I make a few mistakes or fall a little behind they might joke and tease me (OH MY! It took 3 minutes instead of 2!) but they’ll be supportive when I need to suddenly get up and walk out of a meeting to go cry, when I need extra time off, or even if I need someone else to help out on a project.

    I’d say you can even try to invoke that after or to explain why (assuming it is why). “I know I’ve made mistakes lately, I’m sorry I’ve been distracted due to a death in the family/being sick/health emergency/having to move unexpectedly/etc. I realize that it’s been a problem and I’ll focus more on being cautious and hope to be back to myself (assuming yourself is an excellent employee) soon.

  51. Gail Davidson-Durst*

    #1 – People would frequently comment on how much weight I lost and how good I was looking . . . while I was having chemotherapy for cancer. Commenting on the size & shape of people’s bodies is just Not Cool, but somehow so many people have missed that memo, even in circumstances where they should absolutely have it at top of mind.

    Also, I’d like to put in a note that I don’t like the suggested responses linking skinnier=healthier. It’s not true (see above re: chemo) and just exacerbates the whole problem. I prefer the stuff along the lines of “I haven’t been doing anything special,” and “Talking about weight is so boring.”

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*


      Wow. I shouldn’t be surprised, but wow.

      Hope you are doing well now.

      I also like your ‘talking about weight is so boring’ reply, will keep that in mind for the future.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      So, so many people in my life have lost weight due to traumatic events or illness and had this experience. Unless I’ve had an actual conversation with the person where they tell me they are trying to lose weight on purpose, I never comment on it, for exactly this reason.

      I’m also that person who cheerfully says “Food has no inherent moral value!” when someone condescendingly congratulates me for eating a salad. So yes to your second paragraph.

      1. Hrovitnir*

        Oh, nice! I have perkily pronounced “have I ever mentioned I hate attaching morality to food?” to a drunk in-law trying the performative “oh no we shouldn’t eat this” thing, but I just cringe internally and start avoiding eating around people if I can’t eat a pile of greenery without comments at work.

  52. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    #1 So glad you are doing well and out of that situation. I hope people let up and leave you alone soon.

  53. VioletEMT*

    OP1: I agree with the fact that this is absolutely inappropriate workplace talk.

    If you want to shut down the conversation without making it A THING, how about replying with, “Oh, you know… lifestyle changes.” It’s true! You made a huge lifestyle change by getting out of an abusive relationship. And it’s boring and people will stop asking.

    Otherwise, if you want to shut it down and make it awkward, reply with “Why do you ask?” If they persist: “How is my weight any of your business?” And then let it be awkward. They are the ones making it awkward. It’s not on you.

    Congrats on getting out of a horrid situation, and good luck in your future.

  54. Rick Tq*

    OP#3: When I was in aerospace we worked 8:00 AM to 4:42 PM (with a 42 minute lunch). Because we were on government contracts we had to track our time to the .1 hour (6 minutes) and leaving early (aka time card fraud) was the only guaranteed way to be fired with no warning or excuses.

    9-5 has been the saying with 8-5 the reality for quite a long time. My father was an hour late on his first day of work back in 1948 because that is how his father always described an office job…

  55. Manager-at-Large*

    With OP#2, I am keying on the comment that the day that was given to the other worker had also been asked for by the other worker. This makes me think perhaps it may have been a coveted day – like Friday of Labor Day weekend. It would be unusual for another person to ask for the exact same day, in an office where coverage is an issue (as it sounds to be here) unless it was to add on to a long weekend. Or if this is a 2nd or 3rd shift issue, maybe asking for a Saturday night off would be a primetime request and therefore given to someone else.

  56. Chinook*

    OP #1 – I had something similar when I first split with DH for what I thought was for good. I lost 20 lbs in 3 months between depression and then kidney stones (because I also wasn’t drinking enough). In the emotional recovery, I did a lot of reading and discovered that there is something called a “divorce diet” that seems to happen to a lot of women. Because I, like the OP, got comments on the sudden weight loss, I jokingly would say that I wouldn’t recommend my regime of kidney stones and a cheating husband to the faint of heart, but then again, I deal with comments in poor taste and dark moments in life with black humour and a no B.S. attitude. On the plus side, my truthful responses did mean there were rarely follow up questions or comments. :)

  57. The Claims Examiner*

    What a blessing it would be to have an extra hour of sleep and roll into the office at the leisurely hour of 9am. Sigh.

  58. Yorick*

    I don’t think OP2 needs to be super grateful that the coworkers kept her tasks going while she was out. They didn’t cover for her so much as they covered for the company that needed stuff done.

    1. Yorick*

      If Bob’s the one who covers expense reports when Sally is out, he’s not doing a favor for Sally. Bob is performing part of his job duties. She should appreciate him when she comes back and sees that he’s done a good job, the same way that you appreciate your coworkers who do their part of the tasks well. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t his job to do this.

  59. Candy*

    #3 It’s definitely company-specific. For example, I work at two libraries. At the academic library, the workday is 7.5 hours with two half hour breaks (one paid and one unpaid) so I’m paid for 7 hours total. At the public library, the workday is 8 hours with an unpaid hour-long break and two paid 15 minute breaks so, again, I’m paid for 7 hours even though I’m at work for a half-hour more. Here, it really just depends on what the union has agreed to

  60. gsa*


    Just popping in to give congratulations and good wishes to your new found health; physical, mental, and spiritual!!!


  61. Indoor Cat*

    Re: #3–

    I’ll soon be starting work at a 24-hour crisis center (not 911, but things like homelessness placement, suicide hotline, etc), and the shifts are six hours long because it’s stressful. 30 hours a week in the office, then 6 hours (in theory) of other stuff to be turned in either by the next day or the end of the week. So, anyway, shifts are 5am-11am, 11am-5pm, 5pm-11pm, 11pm-5am. Yet, I’ve heard people refer to it as “my 9-to-5.”

    It’s like, “this is a job in an office, you have to wear professional clothes, people argue about the coffee, it has a salary and benefits, ergo it’s a 9-to-5.” So, not a super literal thing really.

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