did my employee quit or is she in a ditch somewhere?

A reader writes:

My mom just called to ask for advice. She hired a new office manager, “Jane,” a few months ago. Yesterday Jane left for lunch and never came back. She had some performance issues, so my mom thinks she may have quit, but she’s also worried Jane might be in a ditch somewhere. Jane hasn’t answered the phone or text messages. I gave her advice about filing a missing person report, mailing the last paycheck, etc. (I’m a lawyer), but beyond that I didn’t know what to say. Would it be weird to go to Jane’s house and check on her? Is there anything else she should do?

Some people do quit jobs by just leaving at lunch and never coming back, so it’s possible that that’s what happened.

But it’s also possible that something terrible happened and Jane is in a hospital or worse.

While that may be less likely, it’s enough of a risk that you don’t want to just say “oh well, I guess she quit” and be done with it, in case it does turn out that something awful happened.

However, I wouldn’t advise that an employer go to an employee’s house to check on them. If she did quit, it’s going to feel awfully intrusive to have her employer show up there. Plus, there’s not much you can do if the person doesn’t answer the door — at that point you still won’t know any more than you do now.

What I’d do is this:

First, call her and leave a voicemail saying, “We’re concerned that you didn’t return from lunch today. We’re worried about your welfare. Would you please contact us so that we know you’re okay?” (In a case like this one where it seems plausible that the person just walked off the job, you could add this: “If you don’t want to return, we’ll make arrangements to get you your paycheck and wrap up other loose ends. But primarily we’re concerned about your safety.”) If you don’t hear from the person in a reasonable time period, call again and this time say, “We’re really worried about whether you’re okay and we’re going to send the police to your home to do a welfare check, so please let us know if that’s not necessary.”

Then, call the police, explain that someone didn’t return to work when expected and that you’re concerned for her safety. Ask if it’s possible for them to do a welfare check, where they go by her house and make sure she’s okay. There have been stories on this site about people who were found dead in their homes as a result of work-initiated police welfare checks, so if you genuinely worry about her safety, this is worth doing.

Of course, you might not do this if you work in a field where no-shows are really common. But they’re not in most professional fields.

Asking for a welfare check might end up being annoying to a person who just wanted to quit their job without hassle, but that’s a consequence of disappearing with no explanation. And it’s worth risking annoying someone in case something else did happen.

{ 615 comments… read them below }

  1. Helpful*

    This is good advice, as it puts the burden of “intrusion” on the police, which is more appropriate. Additionally, if there is an issue of death, etc., they would be called in anyway.

    1. nnn*

      That’s exactly what I came here to post. I don’t think any sort of police welfare check should be initiated without first contacting the emergency contact – and it should probably be the emergency contact person who makes the call about whether to bring in the police.

      1. K.*

        My mother had a situation like this where she worked and called the guy’s contact, and it turned out he had indeed quit.

      2. Optimistic Prime*

        Mm, I think it depends. I’ve had periods where I lived in a city where I didn’t really know anyone local, and for a while my only emergency contact was someone who didn’t live in the area. I don’t think there’s anything untoward about a workplace making the call to send the police out just to check.

      1. JanetM*

        Huh. When I, as the admin assistant helping get new people settled, asked for emergency contacts, my thought was, “In case you are hurt or get sick on the job.” But this reason makes sense too.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is exactly what I was going to suggest.

      My mom would be pissed if she got a call from my employer wanting to know if I was okay because I simply walked off the job.

      1. Allison*

        Yes, if you contact the EC, not only are you reassured they’re okay, but there’s a good chance that person will (literally or figuratively) smack your now-former employee upside the head for what they did.

      2. JessaB*

        I hope you meant she’d be pissed at YOU not at your office. I mean if someone really wants to walk away from a job without saying a single word they could at least leave a post it note on their computer quoting Johnny Paycheck. At least then when someone checks their office they’ll know they A: left willingly and didn’t get grabbed in the parking lot, or B: didn’t go to lunch and have a heart attack and end up in hospital, or C: didn’t go home and fall and hit their head. etc.

    3. OP*

      My mother didn’t have an emergency contact for Jane because it hadn’t occurred to her to get that information when hiring. She’s a solo physician with 2 support staff, and her last office manager was with her for 10 years so onboarding employees is new for her.

        1. Justme*

          I’m not sure why you went to employee theft first thing. Nothing in the letter hints that might be an issue.

          1. Underemployed Erin*

            Employee theft happens quite a bit to solo physicians, typically by long-time trusted employees who have been overseeing the finances with no regular auditing.

            Jane had not been there long so she is probably fine.

            1. Beancounter Eric*

              It really doesn’t matter if Jane had worked there 8 hours or 8 years – if she had access to bank accounts, check stock, corporate credit cards, a review of activity needs to occur immediately.

              Hopefully, all that happened is Jane saw the writing on the wall and bailed before being asked to leave – but if Jane has been embezzling, the sooner it’s found, the better.

              1. Many Emails*

                I’d be more worried about prescription pads, if those are still available. OP, your mother needs to check on that so she doesn’t lose her DEA license.

            2. MsChanandlerBong*

              When I was in college, I worked for the department of anesthesiology at a university. We had a department assistant, but each doctor also had his or her own assistant. After going through several temps, we found a wonderful person to fill the role permanently. The day before my boss offered her the job, we discovered that she had stolen the doctor’s personal credit card number and used it to stay overnight in a local hotel and order hundreds of dollars worth of pizza.

              1. Jadelyn*

                …what does one do with *hundreds of dollars worth* of pizza? Was she feeding the entire hotel or something? What even.

    4. Miso*

      Do you always have an emergency contact in the USA? Because she might not have one. Or they’re just not from the USA.
      I certainly never gave one to any employer.

      1. esra (also a Canadian)*

        Interesting. At least in my part of Canada, that’s a standard part of any hiring practice I’ve ever been through, from retail and service, to factory, nonprofit, office…

        1. TootsNYC*

          Big companies often have it as a part of the form you fill out when you get hired (along w/ IRS forms, insurance paperwork, etc.)

          1. Soon to be former fed*

            Yep, fed gov too. I get asked about an emergency contact when filling out paperwork at the dentist.

            OP, your employee quit. Most no-shows due to death/illness are at the beginning of the day or shift. I would send a certified letter with final pay, and change locks she had access to, in addition to making sure her logon credentials are disabled for any of your systems. Sorry this happened to you.

      2. Turquoise Cow*

        I don’t know if it’s standard, or required, but it’s been part of the job at almost every place I’ve worked. I assumed it was in case something happened to me on the job (accident, illness, etc) and hadn’t even thought about the opposite.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          I’ve always been asked for one no matter where I’ve worked. Always. I don’t think it’s required or anything, but it’s definitely customary.

          I think here I actually give two – my main one and a substitute in case the main one can’t be reached.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s common but not universal, and not required.

        As Turquoise Cow says, it’s usually so that if something happens to you on the job, they can inform someone.

      4. Janonymous*

        I think it depends on the field. In my field, it’s pretty common because we’re at out-of-office sites all the time, and they want to know who to contact if there’s an accident or something happens en route or at the offsite.

      5. Former Hoosier*

        I do this as standard. I wouldn’t force an employee who didn’t want to provide one but I think this is a situation that warrants it.

        My cousin died of a drug overdose and was found when her employer asked the police to do a welfare check.

        1. Artemesia*

          My BIL was found that way and a colleague was found when members of the department went to his home to check on him. The colleague had known health problems and his wife was out of town and so when he didn’t show or respond, there was a strong fear that he was ill and so the department head and another colleague drove out there to check on him and alas, he was dead.

          You can’t run the risk that someone is lying ill and will die if not found so if no response, and no emergency contact, then a welfare check is called for.

          1. M-C*

            At an old job of mine, a colleague didn’t show up after a vacation. Another colleague who lived nearby noticed his car in the driveway. That triggered a police check, which revealed he’d died of a heart attack several days earlier. But people can lie unconscious for a long while, or just with a broken hip in their bathroom.. Check! And next time always get an emergency contact..

        2. Chinook*

          I wish it was standard and that people would follow up like this and I am the first to say call the emergency contact and, if they are unavailable, call the police for a welfare check.

          My cousin’s best friend was missing a week before anyone noticed, and then it was because he missed a weekly phone call with his parents. His profs didn’t care that he had missed classes at university, his judo club just thought he flaked on his class and his new roommate just thought it was normal. The only sign they have that he probably isn’t alive is they found his backpack next to a river with the uncashed birthday cheque from his grandmother. They suspect he was hit by a car while bicycling and knocked into the river that empties into the ocean. Because it was a week before it was noticed, they may never find out if this is what happened.

          1. Adjunct Extraordinaire*

            I’m sorry about what happened to your cousin’s friend.

            Re: your comment that his professors just didn’t care, I think in that particular situation, skipping class without notice is so common, even with diligent students, it would be crazy to check in every time someone missed a couple of classes. And in big lectures, some professors don’t even take attendance (or else just pass around a sign in sheet, which I admit that I have sometimes let pile up for a few weeks before entering into my course records). It’s a totally different context than an employee in a small office not showing up for work that they’re getting paid for.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, in our grad school I wouldn’t follow up on a single absence, especially early in the semester when students frequently drop courses.

              1. blackcat*

                Yeah, I generally only follow up once it has been more than a week *with* missing at least one assignment and is still appearing in my roster (students go “poof” all the time, but if they vanish from my roster, I figure nothing bad has happened).

                I might follow up with a particularly contentious student earlier (such as if they are an office hour regular and didn’t show then + not showing in class). But with classes meeting only 2x per week, it’s pretty easy for a student to miss “a week of class” without a professor noticing/it being a thing. And I don’t follow up *at all* in the first three weeks of the semester, because of the add/drop period.

                I’m someone who cares DEEPLY about my students. I will move heaven and earth for them. And it’s totally possible that I wouldn’t notice a student who did actually disappear for more than a week, particularly in semesters when I have 150+ of them to teach.

                1. Lissa*

                  Yes, I think there’s very much a desire to find someone that *should* have done something different in situations with a horrible outcome, even though looking at each situation individually – it might be a situation that happens often enough that nobody really did anything wrong by not noticing. It’s a matter of individual vs. mass – it feels like “Somebody” should have noticed, but each individual person did not act irresponsibly.

              2. Julia*

                I’m in grad school now and I always text people I’m close enough with to have their numbers when they miss a class. We’re all foreigners here and I hope someone would look out for me the same way.

                Plus, I’ve seen a case where someone was found dead in his apartment after two months (!), so I may be a little paranoid.

          2. Optimistic Prime*

            The roommate part is the part I don’t get. If I had someone living with me go missing for a week without warning, I think I might get worried!

            1. Cardamom*

              I had a roommate one semester in college that rarely stayed in the room. She was always with her non-student boyfriend. One day her mom called and asked when the last time her daughter was actually there, and I didn’t realize until then I hadn’t seen her in a month. To be honest she was an inconsiderate roommate, especially when he was around (they smoked in the room with the windows closed back when you could still smoke in dorms; they came in late one night, woke me up in the process, then attempted to have fun with me in the room — I broke that up quick; she never cleaned the bathroom, etc.), so the peace of her not being there was more noticeable. No police ever questioned me about her, and at move out all her stuff was still there. Never heard from her mother again, either, so I guess the roommate was off with the boyfriend.

              1. Anon for Now*

                My sophomore year in college, my roommate spent only one night in the room. The deal was that as long as I called her boyfriend’s house and passed on her mother’s messages, I never saw her. The one night she did spend in the room though, she drove me crazy. I would’ve killed her if we’d actually lived together.

          3. Callie*

            I’m a college professor. I had a freshman student who didn’t show up to my class the first day, or the second. My colleagues hadn’t seen him either. We sent emails, the dean of students called his emergency contact… he finally called us to tell us he was dropping out and he was mad that we had called his emergency contact, but I didn’t care. I’d rather him be mad than dead.

        3. nonymous*

          My colleague (single guy, no kids or roommates) died after trying to rescue his dog from a frozen lake (the dog survived and is fine). A good samaritan found his cell and called the last number which was a co-worker, who passed it up the chain. Since the guy chose not to provide emergency contact info, several coworkers banded together to make sure his animals were fed and proceeded to google-stalk based on shared recollections. It was only with that effort the local police were able to track down the guy’s Mom. It’s been a real mess and the whole process of disposing of his estate will likely take years just because there’s no one really wants to deal with his stuff. It’s very sad.

      6. Teapot project manager*

        I work for a large 15k employer and they have my emergency contact on file.

        But my husband owns a small business with 15 employees and I bet they don’t have an emergency contact on file for everyone. Something to ask him if it’s something they should start doing if they don’t have

          1. blackcat*

            I get a once a year email from my university bugging me to double check my emergency contact info in the HR system. I approve.

            1. I Hate Burpees*

              Yes! Update it. I called an EC once and it was an ex-husband. From a contentious divorce so she had no contact with him for years. I think it ended up okay, but it could have caused her problems when we were just trying to make sure she was okay.

          2. M-C*

            I had a temp job a couple years ago that included updating people’s emergency contact info. The company had been sold, and the previous smaller company had collected that info but only when hiring. More than half, much more, of those contacts were obsolete (parents had moved etc). Please people, consider making this an annual process! Make it a part of the annual performance review if you do them. Make it a part of an anniversary process. Whatever..

        1. Reaching out*

          Hmm… I’ve been with my employer a long time (since before cell phones were common). I’ve shared my cell number with a couple of co-workers, but my defunct-for-several-years landline is my emergency contact number. Guess we need to do some updating around the office.

        2. Kat*

          It’s something you really hope you never have to use, but so good to have when you need it. We had an employee not show up for a shift one day, and thought maybe she had quit since she’d had a rough couple of weeks. A short time later, we get a call from the hospital because she’s been in a severe car crash and they hadn’t recovered her info, so all they had found was a copy of her schedule and were hoping we had contact information for her family. The owner at that time had not gotten emergency contact info from anyone, but luckily we knew what her second job was and they did have the info. She was in a coma for quite a while and ended up losing a full years worth of memories and almost died.

          Since then I’ve made sure I always have emergency contacts for everyone on their first day, and anytime someone does a no show/no call and have a little bit of panic.

      7. Emi.*

        My employer has emergency contact information, although that might be partly because (at least for some jobs at my org) one of the things you think of for a NCNS is “Did this person get kidnapped for and/or abscond with classified data?”

      8. Manders*

        I’ve worked for some pretty small companies, and it’s pretty common to collect emergency contacts but then only give access to one person. If that person’s also out for the day or if they leave the company without handing off that information to their successor, all the contact information gets deleted or buried somewhere.

        Especially in small family-owned businesses, you can end up in situations where all the family members have access to important information and then they all take a vacation at the same time, leaving only non-family in the office with no way to get the emergency contact list. I left a comment downthread about a time that happened to me, and the missing coworker turned out to be dead.

      9. seejay*

        I think we have them on file at my company. One of my coworkers quit out of the blue and when he did, he told two people and just walked out that evening, but it was really sketchy the way he did it. He was also renting an apartment from someone else in the company, so it created a bit of a stir at the time because he also disappeared. Our management wound up having to contact his emergency contacts, his landlord (our employee) broke into his apartment after a few days to see if he was there (he wasn’t), no one could get ahold of him. A family member of his finally got in touch with someone in management to let them know that he was safe and in the hospital (people were worried he was going to hurt himself).

        He wound up coming back and asking for his job back, which our management gave to him, under strict conditions. He quit again after a month because they wouldn’t give him more responsibility that he was demanding. He was… difficult. He was actually calling and messaging a bunch of us a few weeks ago, asking us to be references for him for a new job, which was baffling. I’m glad he didn’t hurt himself and I’ve heard he’s better, but I’m also glad he’s not here anymore, it was just too much drama.

      10. LavaLamp*

        In my state (Colorado) you can have an emergency contact added to your drivers license. In the event you’re in an accident or something they can take your ID and it’ll bring up the right people to call. I’ve had one on mine since before I was old enough to drive and thusly just had a state ID.

        When my work was bought out and we changed to a new system we were instructed on how to add our emergency contact people our employee info, and I think my manager probably has copies in our files from before the merge.

        1. nonymous*

          such a good idea! we had an emergency in the neighborhood a few years ago (major house fire with dead pets) and no one knew how to contact the people who lived there. It was a rental and the fire department made no attempt to contact the property owner, and no one could tell first responders whether anyone was home or give the residents a heads up what to expect.

        2. M-C*

          It’s also a good idea to add a number (labeled ‘ICE’) to your phone screen (the one that you don’t need to login for). Useful for the hospital if you arrive unconscious, or whoever finds you unable to talk.

      11. SM*

        My current job didn’t request emergency contact info, until one of our collegues had a seizure in the hallway. We called 911 first, but then realized no one had his wife’s phone number. The very next day they collected everyone’s emergency contact info.

    5. AcademicHR*

      If I thought the emergency contact was in a position to help I’d call them. The last time I had an employee go non contactable their emergency contact was in the UK, a whole ocean and a continent away, so rather than worrying them when they weren’t able to go to her home I called the RCMP. She was sort of fine, as in not dead, but unwisely isolating herself as a result of anxiety/depression.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Even if the emergency contact isn’t able to directly help in the sense of rushing over to the employee’s house, they may be able to tell you that they’ve heard from the employee more recently, or put you in contact with someone who’s geographically closer and could get to the house, or something like that.

        1. Solidus Pilcrow*

          Or the employee may answer the calls/messages from the emergency contact even if they’re ducking the employer’s attempts at communication.

    6. Kimberly*

      There have been two occasions when I didn’t show up for work. One time I had had a severe but not life threating allergic reaction and taken some medication. The combination meant I slept through my alarm. When I woke up and couldn’t get through to work I texted my sister. Turned out she was on the phone with my boss who had called her as my emergency contact. She told them I was OK and heading into work. They covered my class until I got there. If they hadn’t been able to get hold of my sister the next step would have been to ask for a welfare check.

      The 2nd time technically I called in – but the call was very garbled. I was in the ER for a potentially life threating allergic reaction. I was coherent enough to know to call in but not coherent enough to make sense. They got enough information from the call to notify my Sister – who was trying to call them after getting a bizarre call from me.

      I consider calling my Sister, BIL, Cousins (all listed as ICE contacts) perfectly appropriate. I have a contact allergy to peanuts and am very up front about it. I don’t just have ICE contacts on file – I have an Emergency Action Plan on file at work, the gym (because of an incident), the library where I volunteer, with another group I volunteer with. The last 7 ER trips were because coming into skin contact with a surface with traces of peanuts or being touched by someone eating something with peanuts/peanut oil.

    7. SoCalHR*

      I had to do this once – one of the most awkward/scary conversations of my HR career. Guy no called-no showed for a couple days, we couldn’t get a hold of him, so I called his EC (mom) and had to basically say “have you heard from your son recently…bcause he’s either a slacker or in a ditch somewhere?”… I couldn’t imagine getting that call as a mom, it would be minutes of horror until I got in contact with my son. Turns out he was just a slacker and also tried to file a post-term Work Comp claim to cover up the no call-no show (it didn’t work).

    1. Temperance*

      I was just about to leave this as a comment. I think that’s been standard procedure everywhere I’ve worked, because this tends to happen somewhat often in the CS world.

      1. Triangle Pose*

        She should start doing this for all hires. Get them for the 2 existing staff if she doesn’t have it.

    2. Shadow*

      For me it depends. I would only do a welfare check if there were other concerning signs like health problems, the disappearing is out of character, or the person lives alone in a high crime area.

      Otherwise I’d assume the much more likely scenario.

  2. Zip Zap*

    I would contact the police for a welfare check instead of the emergency contact. Since emergency contacts are required, and aren’t always updated, you don’t know how well the two people actually know each other, what their relationship is like, etc.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think it’s reasonable to also try that person. It’s possible that they are not close but it’s the name Jane gave, and she’s only been in the job for a few months so in this case, the risk of the contact being out of date is fairly low.

      I think I would add in contacting the emergency contact (if there is one) as a second step – after phoning Jane and leaving the first message and before phoning her and leaving the ‘ we’re contacting the police’ one.

      1. Allison*

        +1, glad I’m not the only one who caught that.

        I mean, sure, maybe this person threw some random person on the form, but it’s unlikely they’d pick someone who’d have literally no idea what they’ve been up to.

    2. finderskeepers*

      Are you saying that the emergency contact could be fake? Why would anyone make up an emergency contact or list someone they wouldn’t want you to use?

      1. Kelly L.*

        I’m thinking Zip Zap meant more like it’s their ex-partner, who was their current partner when they wrote them down.

        1. Zip Zap*

          Yes, that or someone who they’re close to but not on great terms with. I did catch that Jane was new to the job. I was thinking more of troubled family and personal relationships. In theory, the emergency contact could be the reason the person is missing or just someone who would create more problems. Calling the police seems like a more neutral option.

          1. nonymous*

            my experience has been that people leave the field blank if their support system is so weak. I commented elsewhere how that causes more work in a real emergency, but the number of times I’ve seen other new people hem and haw and make excuses at this item leads me to suspect it’s a fairly common occurrence.

      2. Lurker*

        No, I think Zip Zap is saying that the info may outdated. For example, when the employee started, they listed their significant other as emergency contact. Now it’s four years later and that relationship is long over; but the employee may have forgotten to update the emergency contact to someone else.

      3. Kimberly*

        We get fake emergency contacts all the time at school. This is very crazy because this is for kids 4 – 11 yo. I had a student who had been in school for 2 weeks, had an asthma attack – not one of the emergency numbers on her card worked. The nurse determined that the attack was severe enough and called 911. The Mom flipped out when the cops contacted her to tell her child was in the ER and demanded the school pay for all the medical bills.

        The reason we get from parents is 1 – They couldn’t pay their phone bill and lost the number. 2 – they can’t be called at work because they will lose their job.

        1. finderskeepers*

          Those aren’t fake in the sense that you **shouldn’t** call them. They’re just **unreachable** , because, well, people can’t always be reached by phone.

          1. Woah*

            If it is like what I’ve experienced, the actual numbers are fake, especially for the problem of not being able to be called at work. Rather than risk it or get a call that they try to take and get fired, they’ll put in 1234561234 or something similar, which often doesn’t get caught until you try to use the number. Sometimes if they work at Company X, they’ll have the kids say they work at Company Y or that they don’t know, so there’s no attempt to reach them through switchboard.

            It bothered me at first (how could you do that to your kids? and other self righteous concern) , but it really showed me the stress and fear some parents were under- that a call about a serious issue from an official could potentially mean a loss of income, retalitory behavior, etc, for a parent that would jepordize their whole family’s situation, to the point where it was SAFER to not be able to be contacted. Like, WOW.

    3. Natalie*

      Eh, that all may be but it’s not a compelling reason to not try. If the emergency contact doesn’t know anything, you’re out 5 minutes of your time and then you can move on to calling the police.

      1. la bella vita*

        Agreed – I have zero contact with my ex-husband, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I were still listed as an emergency contact for him. If he didn’t show up for work for a few days and I got a call I clearly wouldn’t be able to let them know anything specific, but I could look up his parents’ phone number and pass it along.

    4. esra (also a Canadian)*

      I find that a bit odd. I mean, given the option between contacting the police or a contact provided by the employee, I would immediately go for the contact and not even think of the police.

      That said, since OP’s mom doesn’t have emergency contact information for her employees, it’s moot.

      1. FiveWheels*

        I’d be inclined to contact the police. If the emergency contact says “oh yeah, she’s fine” I’d have no way to know if that was the case.

        1. myswtghst*

          While I can see how there would be situations where that would be a concern, in most cases I think the emergency contact the employee provided is a reasonable place to start. Obviously if you have reason to believe the contact is outdated or can’t be trusted, you can certainly call for a welfare check too / instead, but I feel like in most circumstances that wouldn’t be the case.

      2. Zip Zap*

        But this is potentially a missing person sort of situation, in which case anyone close to the person could have something to do with them being missing. Unlikely, yes. But I think it’s a proceed with caution until you have more info sort of thing.

        1. esra*

          I guess. That just seems like such a stretch. Not in the case that it doesn’t happen, just that it wouldn’t be the first thing I’d jump to. Particularly since people pick their own emergency contact. Maybe I’m just reluctant to call the police.

      3. M-C*

        I would be hugely pissed off if someone who had an emergency contact for me called the police instead. If nothing else, keep in mind that only white middle-class people can see the police at their door without having some good reasons to be worried. How would you feel if your employee was in bed with a raging flu, and the police broke down her door and then shot her for good measure because they thought she was hiding under the blankets? The police are not universally benevolent and well-intentioned, even when doing something which should be harmless.

        1. Geometric Percolator*

          I’m with you, M-C! I can’t believe I got down this far without someone mentioning that police murder those who they’re supposed to be doing welfare checks on often enough for it to be a pattern, and the risk is much worse if you’re black and/or mentally ill.

          There’s NO good reason not to try the emergency contact first when one of the alternative possibilities is the person being killed as a direct result of being too quick to call the police.

      4. FunnyMonkey*

        I had an intern not show up one morning. I work in a fairly large city, and knew that she biked to work. It was out of character for her to be *that* late, and she wasn’t answering her cell phone. I talked to HR, and we called the police to find out if there had been any bike accidents that morning. When there were no accidents, we called and left messages on her cell phone again. After a while, my other intern, who was friends with her, mentioned that the missing intern had a date the night before with someone she met online.

        Now, I met my husband online, so I am not immediately suspicious just based on that. But the combined out of character behavior and knowing she had gone out with an unknown friend the night before, triggered enough alarms in me that I had HR call her emergency contact. Which was her mom. Who FLIPPED out. We felt terrible, but I also felt like if one of my kids was in that situation, I would rather people respond with an over abundance of caution than no response at all.

        Mom drove a LONG way, banged on the door of her apartment, which woke up intern’s roommate (at noon), who then woke her up. Turns out, my intern was a super-heavy sleeper and just over slept her alarm. She was very embarrassed and I felt bad for creating drama where there was none, but also… if something had happened to her, I would not have been able to forgive myself if I could have done something to prevent or save her from it.

    5. Reix*

      The OP has already answered that her mother didn’t have an emergency contact.

      But still I am surprised by your comment, which reads to me as if emergency contact info is basically useless. In my office we always keep it updated, as we know we might need it, as we work in industrial facilities.

      1. Zip Zap*

        No, not at all. I meant that in this situation, I think calling the police for a welfare check is a better option.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        We get an annual notice to log in and update our emergency contact information, and it continues to email us periodically until we actually log in and confirm that we’ve reviewed the information, regardless of whether we make changes or not.

      2. Justme*

        I think I’m prompted every 90 days. Which is annoying (and it hasn’t changed in 3 years) but I understand why.

    6. Zip Zap*

      Ok, I was thinking of times when I’ve listed slightly sketchy people as emergency contacts because they seemed like the best option at the time. Family members who I don’t talk to much, recent exes, etc. I would have preferred to list no one, but it’s a requirement. If I disappeared, I wouldn’t want one of them to be contacted. But I guess that is an unusual situation.

  3. NotAnotherManager!*

    Alison’s advice is pretty much what we follow. We tell employees in orientation that we will request a welfare check if they no-show/no-call and we can’t get a hold of them via their phone/email/text (whatever communication preferences they’ve provided. HR will call your emergency contact if they can’t find you, and they will call the local police to request a check. As mentioned above, two welfare checks have found that the employee in question passed away, and in one case, would not have been found had we not called one in.

    1. always in email jail*

      I really like this process of 1. having a policy/procedure in place and 2. telling employees about it during the onboarding process. That way, they have less standing to get upset when the police show up for a welfare check, and are likely to respond to your “hey are you alive” messages since they know what will happen if they don’t.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        This is a good policy. So good that I’m going to inquire if we can put something similar in place at my company!

        1. Chinook*

          “This is a good policy. So good that I’m going to inquire if we can put something similar in place at my company!”

          And if they doubt the usefulness of such a policy, just send them a link to today’s comments.

          Honestly, if one person gets saved by a well-timed welfare check that was inspired by AAM’s column today, I think Alison can say that she has done right by the internet.

          1. Harper*

            Yes, I have a family member who has many times moved to new cities where for a while, the only people who would see her regularly would be coworkers and it would be nice to know that they would have a procedure to follow if she just stopped showing up.

            1. hugseverycat*

              Same. I’m a homebody and even though I am close with my family, I often go many days without seeing or talking to them. Work people are definitely going to be the first person to notice if something happened to me at home.

              … I think I’m going to make sure my emergency contacts are up to date right now.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I have a lot of fresh-out-of-college employees, so I like the clarify that I’m not calling their emergency contact (often mom or dad) to tattle on them, I do actually care if they are okay. Shit happens. People get sick, people get into accidents, people wake up some days to find their pet has ingested a roommate’s houseplant that is toxic to that particular animal and require immediate veterinary attention – just let me know.

      3. myswtghst*

        Agreed. I like when things like this are explained to employees up front and set as an expectation. And if they’re not, I like Alison’s voicemail script including the “and if we don’t hear back, this is what we’re going to do next…” bit.

        1. Chinook*

          And the explaining it up front is important because, as the comments show, not everybody realizes that not showing up for work is a reason for concern; they may just think it is the busy trying to catch them in a lie, etc.

          I know I had to explain that to a 18+ high school student who didn’t call in sick to the office one day. His reason was that he lived on his own and was an adult, so he wasn’t going to have a parent call him in absent. I told him the story of my cousin’s missing friend and explained that that was the reason he ahs to call in. He is over 18, so he can tell the secretary he just isn’t showing up and we can’t do anything (except for give him a zero on any test he missed), but at least then we knew he wasn’t lying in a ditch somewhere.

          After that, the secretary would get the odd phone call from him with the explanation “I am skipping school, tell Ms. Chinook not to worry.”

  4. not so super-visor*

    Since we use a lot of temps, this happens A LOT… most of the time they’ve just quit. I usually leave it up to the temp agency to sort out. Unfortunately, once something really serious DID happen, and it was awful…
    I’ve also had to call a local police department to do a welfare check on a full time employee who no-called, no-showed for the first time after 7 years of employment here. We only got concerned after a co-worker from another department stated that her mother (a mutual friend of employee) stopped by and the employee’s car was in the driveway but all the lights were off/curtains drawn and no one answered the door. (for the record — we did not ask the employee’s mother to do this). When we sent the PD there, the employee actually got mad at us. She doesn’t work here any more.

    1. Steve*

      I had a friend who’s girlfriend (they hadn’t been dating long) didn’t answering her phone for a couple days. He called the police who called her and she answered them. She said she just didn’t want to talk right then. But because he went to the step of involving the police, she decided she didn’t want to talk to him any more at all. The police called back and delivered the news.

        1. Scattol*

          Hey! Being a girlfriend and not answering the phone for a few days definitely will backfire.

          Remember the guy who “ghosted” his girlfriend who now is his boss?

      1. Somniloquist*

        I had a boyfriend of about 4 years do this to me. Wouldn’t answer calls or texts over a few days and finally I texted him that I would contact his employer to make sure he was alive and he sent me a quick angry text.

        We broke up two days later to the surprise of no one.

          1. Somniloquist*

            Yeah, he was a jerk. Totally dodged a bullet. He wasn’t ghosting me, he was punishing me. I was at a career fair interviewing away from home so he was getting me back for a minor slight.

            I think this kind of thing always backfires though. He’s lucky I didn’t call his employer before asking him. Or the police.

      2. Halibut*

        Honestly I’d say the woman is in the wrong there. If you don’t want to talk to somebody, fine–but have the maturity to tell them rather than the silent treatment. If someone I talked to regularly (significant other or not) suddenly went silent I would absolutely do the same and ask for a welfare check by the police.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Not answering your phone for a day or two isn’t the silent treatment. And calling the police for a welfare check on a person you haven’t been dating long seems off to me.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Well, it depends totally on the relationship. I’ve had boyfriends who wouldn’t think it was off if I didn’t speak to them for a week. I’ve also had boyfriends who would worry if I didn’t send them a Good Morning text.

        2. Mike C.*

          Yeah, seriously. And going back to the topic at hand, it’s one thing to just quit your job (which has it’s place), but you should say something on your way out at the very least.

      3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        It can be like that. My BF and I both live alone and our arrangement is if there is no contact for a solid week then the other person can do a welfare check. BUT, he is adamant that if I involve the police he will never speak to me again. So I’ve made a 2 hour round trip several times to check up. Usually it means just making sure his car and bike are still around and if the curtains are drawn, then I go into his house and look for him. I scared the heck out of him once, he was taking a bath and heard his door opening before I had a chance to shout out it was just me.

        1. NaoNao*

          Yeah that seems a little…off. I don’t know his history and perhaps he has very good reasons to want “no police” but “if you involve the police for a welfare check” (after a WEEK of no contact?!?) he’ll “never speak to you again”? I mean, everyone’s allowed to have boundaries, even really strict ones, but this seems out of proportion for the offense.
          Cheating, abuse, addiction, severe out of control lying—okay, those are good reasons to never talk to someone again. Calling the police *for a welfare check* after a week of no contact? Not…really that level of serious.
          But if it’s working for you…

          1. Bea*

            No police is probably a condition because he seems to fall off the grid frequently enough he’s worried the police will think something is up being called every son often.

            Sounds like a hermit more than anything to me. “Leave me alone, I’ll come out of my shell on my terms. Fine you can check in after 7 days, I’m likely not dead so do not send strangers/police!!!”

        2. Bea*

          My bf can go silent when his phone has smashed or been shut off a couple times. Wherein he goes above and beyond to message me on Facebook or other social media ASAP. Agreeing to have a week of radio silence while in a long distance relationship is intense but clearly works for you but wowzah it wouldn’t for me that’s for sure.

      4. Magenta Sky*

        That’s a really clever way of breaking up with someone while avoiding a scene, I guess. Have the cops do it for you. (Not that I think that was the plan. This not being a TV show.)

  5. Gen*

    I know of three people who were found dead by managers or coworkers after they didn’t show up to work and I myself found a colleague who was incapacitated from a fall. It never occurred to me that a manager going to their address in this situation would be strange, perhaps it’s a country thing (I’m in the UK). When I worked for a government department (with a strong union) there was a policy of welfare checks being done with a union rep and manager to protect the employees rights. It also meant two witnesses after someone with drinking issues was seen ‘passed out’ through a window by a rep who didn’t try to wake them and they were found dead in the same place the next morning. If there was no answer then police were called.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I suspect it is more down to an office culture thing. I’m in the UK and live in a rural area, (I’m not sure whether that is what you mean by a ‘country thing’ ) and it’s not something which I would do, as it could potentially be seen as inappropriate or even as harassment.

      That said, lots of places I have worked have had peoplewho are fairly close friends both inside and outside work, and I think in that scenario it would not be seen as odd – if you have the kind of relationship where you’ve ben to yuour co-worker’s home in the past in a personal capacity then yes, by all means go and check.
      If not, it’s a bit odd but would depend on the person and the relationship you have with them.

      1. Gen*

        I meant US vs UK, but I live in a city with a lot of rural call centres. I’m not sure I’d go to a remote house or a farm, certainly not alone, in that case I’d probably follow something like Alison’s script, but somewhere with multiple houses where a neighbour might look in if they were concerned I wouldn’t think really twice about it

    2. fposte*

      I think in my office we wouldn’t do it for a new employee we didn’t know, but there’s a real small-town vibe here and the traditional academic long employment duration, so if an established employee didn’t show I could totally see somebody doing a drop-by.

    3. Agent Diane*

      I think most UK employers take this seriously due to the Suzy Lamplugh case and the subsequent work done to raise awareness around employers’ role in raising the alarm.

      Alison’s script is roughly what we use with one additional note: we insist on speaking to the person. A text could be sent by an abductor.

      1. Specialk9*

        I just looked that case up. That’s terrible. My neighbor does the same way – realtor who was murdered by someone she showed a house to. It was awful.

        1. Liane*

          We had a very similar murder here about a year and a half ago. A realtor (Beverly Carter) was kidnapped and killed by a (then) married couple who had set up a bogus appointment to see a house for sale.
          I now worry about a church friend in that business because she’s a slightly built woman about 10 or 15 years older than me.

          1. Agent Diane*

            You can ask her what system her work has for checking in. If they don’t have one, she can suggest it.

            When I was on the road a lot, I would text my manager to say I had left an appointment. That way they knew when I ought to be back. That gave them the info to give the police should I not show up at the office.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              I used to have a job that involved some lone working / home visits and if you didn’t contact an on-duty manager by a certain time to check in they’d call the police.

    4. stk*

      For what it’s worth, I’m in the UK and I would think it weird for a manager/colleague to go round to check on someone, unless there’s some specific reason (like they’re friends outside of work, or doing that has previously been okay’d for whatever reason). Otherwise, I’d be following Alison’s script. If there’s something terrible to deal with, then that seems like a police issue to me.

    5. FLAnon*

      In an old job, we had a huge diversity of ages and backgrounds of employees. If somebody who was generally reliable didn’t show up after a few hours and didn’t answer their phone, I’d check the online jail booking report and call the hospital. If they weren’t there (usually the booking report was where we’d find them), we’d go to their house. Twice in 13 years, the employee had died. Other times, they’d partied a bit too hard the night before, fell asleep and got separated from their phone that also served as an alarm clock. Emergency contact info was self-reported, and getting people to keep it up to date was next to impossible, so it wasn’t usually of much use.

      1. Agent Diane*

        We don’t differentiate between reliable and unreliable. Just because you’re rubbish at remembering to call in sick doesn’t mean you’re not in a ditch this time. Generally, flaky people get a lot less flaky after two “we’re going to call the police” occassions.

        1. FLAnon*

          Yep… I should have been more clear. We’d always follow up if someone didn’t didn’t come in and didn’t communicate, but if somebody who was always at work and always on time suddenly didn’t come in, naturally the level of concern is going to be higher, faster.

        1. Chinook*

          “Does the hospital tell you whether someone’s there?”

          I don’t think so if you aren’t family. That is why a police welfare check is the best way to go (at least in Canada). They can verify if the person is alive or in distress and get back to you with either a “no need to worry” or “we are looking into it further” without giving details.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            HIPPA complicates things a lot. Imperfect understanding of HIPAA on the part of hospitals complicates it even more.

            1. nonymous*

              In my previous city, the pastor would routinely stop by admissions and ask to see if anyone from the parish had been admitted since his last visit (they would just show him the admission list for the last week or so). But the hospital changed its rules so that he now has to ask for the room of parishioners by name, so I could see if there is a specific individual one is looking for simply calling the hospital and asking to be put through to their room.

        2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          The last time I was in the hospital I was asked if I wanted that info given out and had to sign to consent to it. I have no idea if that’s a common practice or not. This was 12 years ago in the Southern US. Since I was there to have my kid, everyone that I wanted to know already knew though.

        3. Red Reader*

          In general, in the US, unless the patient has requested that their name be off the patient directory, you can call up and ask for Jane Smith’s room and be transferred. If Jane Smith has requested that her name be unlisted, then the operator’s answer will (should) be “I have no information about a patient by that name.” Some hospitals may allow a password — “Can I get to Jane Smith’s room please, her password is applesauce” will get you transferred, while not including the password will get you “no info” — but that varies by organization. But the complete obfuscation of their presence has to be requested, at least at every hospital I’ve ever interacted with.

        4. Dweali*

          It depends. At my current hospital (and the last one I worked at) if the patient is responsive when they arrive then we can admit them by name and anyone can call and ask if Percival Winterbottom is here. If the patient is not responsive when they arrive we have a generic Jane Doe type name we put them under and once they leave the ER to go to a unit (or discharge home) we update to their legal name.

          There is a No Report list but it’s opt in unless the patient comes in for suicidal ideation/from jail or prison/high profile case. If they are on that list then even if you knew your patient was there I wouldn’t be able to connect you unless you had an additional piece of info (at both current and last job place it is a code number that we give to the patients but some places have different set ups)

        5. Daffodil*

          All medical clinics in the US have to give you a copy of their privacy practices per HIPAA law, and 99% of those say that they keep a publicly available directory with names of admitted patients and a very brief status (stable, critical, etc). You can opt out of being on that list if you wish. (Also required by HIPAA.) So yes, the hospital *can* tell you whether someone’s there, unless they have a specific policy not to (which is unusual) or the person’s requested that they don’t. Whether or not they actually *will* tell you, or under what circumstances, I don’t know.

      2. Gen*

        Yes the person I found who was incapacitated was usually early into the office and always posted to Facebook (I’d known him as an acquaintance since I was 9yo but didn’t know his address until that job) so when a manager called to see if I knew where he was, he hadn’t posted that morning and I was passing his house anyway, I looked in the letterbox and he was in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. If he’d had a habit of being late, or we didn’t know he had a regular schedule then maybe we’d have waited a few hours before someone deciding to check on him.

      3. Chinook*

        “If somebody who was generally reliable didn’t show up after a few hours and didn’t answer their phone, I’d check the online jail booking report and call the hospital.”

        That happened here with one colleague but we luckily didn’t go that far. Turned out he had verbally told my boss he wasn’t coming in the next day and hadn’t heard him. We called all his phones (home, cell, wife’s cell) and sent emails all morning. We were debating the police welfare check when he called in, asking what the fuss was about. After that, it was insisted that all reminders/requests for time off were done via email.

        Another time, a different colleague with diabetes didn’t show up and wasn’t answering her phone and we started wondering if she was having complications like a diabetic coma. We called her emergency contact who was in a different province (I think her mom). The contact then called a friend to go and knock one her door. Turns out she had the flu and slept through both her alarm and her phone ringing.

        Luckily, in both cases, the employees took these actions for what they were – as their workplace showing that they cared that the person was alive.

        1. WellRed*

          I have type 1 diabetes and was about an hour late one day, out of character
          But my co-workers got worried but never checked with my direct report, the one person who knew where I was. If it had gotten to welfare ck stage, I would have been embarassed bit grateful rhey cared.

        2. EvilQueenRegina*

          We had one once who was wrongly assumed to have no showed – in fact, he had agreed this day off with Boss, but due to some snafu the day hadn’t been recorded anywhere and Boss happened to be out himself, so Grandboss thought he no showed and rang his house. His nephew answered and said “He booked the day off with Boss for relative X’s funeral today and you have just interrupted the wake!”

    6. Halibut*

      There was a situation a few years ago in my community. A former employee who was still friends with a number of people suddenly dropped out of contact. Worried friends and former co-workers did ask the police for a welfare check–he wasn’t at home. They found out he had been seen heading towards the mountains so search and rescue was called. It came out eventually that he had gone out into the mountains and committed suicide.

  6. Spooky*

    Just curious, but what is considered a “reasonable time frame” here? If she’s been kidnapped (obviously unlikely, but technically possible) or some other sort of dramatic situation, every second counts, and 24 hours is the usually-quoted time frame for missing persons reports. Are we talking a day? Two hours? A week?

    1. Mike C.*

      I think the 24 hours rule is just a tv thing. Amber alerts have been called for much less than that, and you’ll see reports of elderly folks getting lost after only a few hours.

      1. FDCA In Canada*

        It’s an oft-reported falsehood. Most jurisdictions will take missing persons reports within hours or immediately, and in the case of a child or vulnerable elderly person at risk, they are particularly careful and will issue silver or Amber alerts very quickly.

      2. NK*

        It’s different for children – they’ll issue an AMBER alert very quickly. I’ve heard that for adults the police won’t file a missing persons report for 24 hours, unless it’s pretty clear that something bad happened.

        1. Manders*

          Missing persons reports and welfare checks aren’t quite the same thing. With a missing persons report, someone can’t be found at home or in any obvious place, and the police have to open an investigation. With a welfare check, police go to the home, try to get in contact with the person, and enter the home if they suspect that person is incapacitated or dead inside.

          Basically, welfare checks are for when you have a reasonably good idea of where the person is but you don’t know if they’re ok, while missing persons investigations are for when you have no idea where the person is and you need to find them. Since OP knows there’s a pretty good chance this person is at home and they just want to verify they’re alive, what they’d want is a welfare check.

          1. Reya*

            The neighbours of a cousin of mine once called the police for a welfare check because they could hear his dogs barking in the house, and he wasn’t answering his mobile.

            His daughter had actually taken him off on a spa day, but by the time they got back police had already broken the front door down.

            The best part was this was all on his birthday, and a surprise party had been arranged, so there was a van full of people hiding at someone else’s house frantically trying to call locksmiths out on a Sunday. Quite the party.

      3. Antilles*

        Correct, the 24-hours thing is TV fiction. What actually happens is that when you call the police and mention a missing persons, they *talk to you* and figure out an appropriate response from there, because it’s really situation specific.
        For something like this though (disappearing at lunch), they would probably do a welfare check of her house without much hesitation, since (a) stopping by her house doesn’t take much time/expense and (b) vanishing at lunch is a pretty oddball thing.

      4. OhNo*

        In the case of Amber Alerts and the elderly, though, those are usually expedited because the person is especially vulnerable. Barring unusual circumstances (like evidence/fear of crime, or it being really out of character), I think a “reasonable time frame” would be whatever gives the person a chance to respond before moving to the next step.

        Twenty-four hours between steps (so ~48 hours until welfare check) seems reasonable to me, because that’s the longest I’d expect it to take me, personally, to locate a phone if there was some kind of emergency where I was still conscious and functional. But I think that calculation is really dependent on the supervisor’s and company’s assessment of the situation.

    2. FDCA In Canada*

      Honestly, as far as time frame goes, at any place I’ve ever worked if someone was a half hour late returning from a scheduled break (lunch, etc.), we would call them to see what happened. If they hadn’t returned by the end of the day or returned any calls to say their car broke down or whatever, we’d contact their emergency contact, and if there was no response we’d probably request a welfare check the following day.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      I have a vague memory of a comment here about an employee who was kidnapped on their lunch break (by an ex-boyfriend I think? does anyone remember what I’m talking about?). I can’t recall details, so maybe it was something else, but it was a definitely case where the job calling the person’s emergency contact right away made a huge difference.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think the 24 hour thing is if there is reasonable suspicion that someone just took off on their own.

    5. Antilles*

      It varies by company of course, but as a general rule, I would give it an hour or so beyond expected return before even calling them. Maybe she was running a couple errands, maybe there’s unexpected traffic, maybe the restaurant is just super-slow. And that’s usually part of the deal with flexible hours that sometimes employees might take more than 60.00 minutes for lunch.
      But once you’re more than an hour overdue, a call is perfectly fine. If there’s no response to that, I wouldn’t immediately worry, but if we got to the end of the day with no response, I’d probably call again. The next morning if they aren’t there, I would immediately go to the emergency contact, followed by a police welfare check.

    6. Not myself today*

      I’ve got an employee with severe depression who didn’t show up one day last week. I texted and called, no answer. I was pretty freaked after about 3 hours. She texted after 4 hours to say she’d been asleep.

      I’d planned to go to her place after about 6 hours, and would’ve called the cops if I didn’t find her ok.

      1. Julia*

        I once banged on a colleague’s apartment door after she’d been a no-show for some days and our boss wouldn’t tell me if he had heard from her. Others said she often skipped work due to depression, and I thought it was irresponsible to leave someone that depressed home alone. I’ve been depressed before and I’ve had to clean up someone’s suicide.

  7. Amadeo*

    I agree with Alison that the employee should at least be checked up on. The others I think also have a good idea of calling the emergency contact if you got one for them prior to phoning the police, just in case.

    At one of my previous employers our IT gentleman didn’t report to work for a day or so and it wasn’t quite like him. A couple of people from the office who were buddies (he’d been there long enough to have those, not sure with your employee) with him went to his house to check on him as he lived alone. I don’t remember precisely how they got into his house when he didn’t answer the door, but they found him collapsed on the floor, unconscious. His kidneys had failed because of chronic high blood pressure and if they hadn’t gone in after him, he’d have been dead much earlier than he did actually pass away from his heart condition.

    It’s a legitimate worry and not a bad thing to check up on people when they don’t show someplace they’re supposed to be, but agreed that I’d call that emergency contact first.

    1. Brandy in TN*

      Our young IT head didn’t come back to work. It was weird, he didn’t answer calls etc… Then his SIl who also worked there in my dept, was our lead didn’t come back in to work. They both just disappeared. We never found out what happened.

    2. Floundering Mander*

      I’ve reported it to a manager and had them call when a colleague was very late to work, simply because I knew she rode a bike through central London to work every day and there is always a risk of being hit by another vehicle. It ended up being nothing but as long as you are direct (just making sure you’re ok, if you don’t want to come back to work let us know and we’ll make arrangements to pay you) I can’t see why that would be a problem.

  8. Mike C.*

    In addition I would also check known social media accounts – not for particular content but that if posts are being made it’s easier to conclude that the worst hasn’t happened.

      1. LJL*

        I just did this to check on a relative. Postings were on facebook and sounded like her so I quit worrying. :-)

    1. AnonAndOn*

      I read a story about a woman in Olney, MD who went missing and who didn’t show up to her teaching job. They ended up finding her dead and the boyfriend was charged with her murder. In one story it said that the boyfriend was sending texts pretending to be her. So while social media posts could be a sign of a person’s activity it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person whose account it is is the one making the posts.

      1. Jane*

        Yeah, a similar case happened in Omaha — a woman murdered another woman and posed as her online for several years after the fact. Very unpleasant.

      2. saf*

        And the comments from the police and the family noted that the texts that came after, from him, sounded NOTHING like her, and were quite worrisome.

      3. Nerdling*

        A woman I knew in college was murdered, and her boyfriend/murderer was doing exactly that – he sent texts to her family all weekend.

      4. This Daydreamer*

        Still, that would be a far rarer situation than just flaking on a job. And the sort of monster who would think to update social media or send texts would probably also deal with the workplace.

      5. Lissa*

        True but checking social media is still going to be helpful most of the time – nearly every story where the employee had died it’s from a medical condition, not a murderer who was posing as them! I think there’s really only so much detective work an employer can be asked to reasonably do….

      6. only acting normal*

        I wouldn’t necessarily take the presence of posts as a conclusive sign someone was ok (because they could be timed posts, or an impostor). But an unusual absence of posts is an additional sign that something might be wrong.

  9. also named Allison*

    This advice is spot on.
    Unfortunately, we had a very similar situation happen at my office. Someone did not show up for work who was always punctual (very out of character for them). After multiple attempts to contact – we asked the police to do a welfare check. The employee had a heart attack at home and was found dead. Very sad situation to say the least! So, if you are truly worried follow Allison’s advice. You never know what crazy thing could have happened or better yet nothing happened and the woman is completely ok!

    1. Sam*

      These stories always freak me out a bit since I live alone and am far from family. I’m probably too young to worry a ton, but still!

      1. Chinook*

        “These stories always freak me out a bit since I live alone and am far from family. I’m probably too young to worry a ton, but still!”

        You are never too young to have an emergency plan in place. I remember going out on dates when I lived alone and leaving a note on the fridge about who I was meeting and where in case I never came home (so at least a clue). And I always made sure to talk to my parents weekly (since that was how the family friend was discovered to be missing) and let me colleagues (in this case, my classroom TAs) permission to check my house if I didn’t make it to work.

        1. ErinW*

          Chinook, I did exactly the same thing when I was online dating. While I was on my first date with my now-husband, his name, town of residence, and phone number were on a notepad on my kitchen table. (Are you, by any chance, also a Law and Order addict?)

          Also true that people of any age are at risk, especially from accidents. A boss of mine at a previous job was unaccountably absent from work one day, and after much phone tag with her adult daughter and then with emergency services, it was discovered that she and her husband had passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning in their home. The same day we found out, amidst crying and making work plans, my co-workers and I all traded cell phone numbers as a future precaution.

        2. Margaret*

          When I had my first date with my now-husband after meeting online, I made sure to give my parents and another friend his name, phone number, and where we were meeting, as well as his screenname (I figured worst case scenario, if something happened to get police involved they could get more info about him from the website based on that).

          I’d also map out my planned running routes on a website when I lived alone, and leave that screen up on my laptop, so similarly if police broke in to check on me they’d at least have that clue.

  10. Managed Chaos*

    I would start by calling the employee, then the emergency contact, and then progress to the police if needed.

  11. Rae*

    My uncle lived alone. He was 52 and a dentist who owned his own practice. He did not show up for work one day. His emergency contact was my dad. Uncle lived in Maine and dad lives in Kansas, so that wasn’t helpful. His office called the police, and they did a welfare check. He had passed away the night before. If they had not done a check who knows how long it would have been.

    Not to be morbid or alarmist or bring people down. It sucked.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      That’s how they found my dad. He disn’t show up to work on a Monday morning. He’d had a stroke & died over the weekend.

      1. fposte*

        To be honest, I’d be fine going quietly at home like that–it’s the people who have to do the discovery that suffer.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Yes. I have a friend who works with the dead* and she wouldn’t be bothered by this at all. Their families, though, she feels really bad for.

            *I mean, not like, as colleagues. She does a lot of death stuff. Death midwifery, preparing bodies, planning funerals.

                1. Blue Anne*

                  I’ll ask her. She posts some incredible, moving stories, but I think she’s cutting back a little bit because she has a book deal. Let me find out if she’d be interested. (Normally I think she would love to talk to you but her publisher might not be into it.)

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Ah, her publisher will not be into it, I’m nearly sure. But if she wants to do an interview around the time her book is coming out, they probably will be. Let her know that if she gets in touch now, I can coordinate with her to do it then (when they’ll want publicity for her book).

                  (Ask me how I know!)

                3. Blue Anne*

                  I figured that was probably the case. But an interview around the time her book is coming out sounds good, and she is definitely passionate about getting the word out about the kind of work she does.

                  Can you post links to a couple of the past interviews you’ve done with people-with-interesting-jobs so I can show them to her? Unsurprisingly, searching for “interview” on here doesn’t really help. :)

                4. Blue Anne*

                  Awesome! I’ll talk to her and send you an email.

                  She is a truly incredible person. I think she may be a demigoddess.

        1. Chinook*

          That was my grandmother’s worst fear – her family finding her dead body – and the number one reason she moved into assisted living.

          DH has dealt with lots of dead bodies as a cop and finding someone dead in bed only a day or two is much preferred to being called in to investigate the weird smell.

            1. Horrified*

              My brother has a company where he provides clean-up services for, um, messy deaths or long-undiscovered deaths. The stories! Honestly, I don’t know how he does it, but he is one of the most compassionate guys in the world and treats grieving families with such tenderness and respect.

  12. Antilles*

    Some people do quit jobs by just leaving at lunch and never coming back, so it’s possible that that’s what happened.
    Can someone explain this behavior? I just don’t get why someone would do this, barring some obvious major trigger in the morning (which OP/mom presumably would have mentioned). Why spend your entire morning a desk you’re planning on vanishing from?
    I mean, if you had a lot of stuff in your office, maybe you could argue for showing up in the morning to gather your stuff…but that still doesn’t make sense because presumably someone would have noted the suddenly clean desk.

    1. FDCA In Canada*

      I can see it being just getting completely fed up and tired and quitting, but being too intimidated or frightened or uncomfortable to have the actual “I’m quitting” conversation. It can be really awful to have that conversation, and I can see people seeing it as an easy way out–just up and leave, no one will think it’s unusual as you’re just leaving for lunch, then boom. Freedom.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I had a job once where on my third day, I got screamed at for a minor mistake. It wasn’t really a good fit for me anyway, so I decided I didn’t want to work there anymore. I went to the other boss and quit, but it turned into this huge thing where he didn’t understand why I wanted to quit, begged me to stay, etc. etc. I kind of wish I’d just called in the next morning and said I wasn’t coming back. Ugh.

        1. Blue Anne*

          I had that happen at Nightmare LastJob! The bosses were husband and wife and they were both… criminals, frankly. She was about to have a baby so I told them I would work a long notice period, like a month. Then the husband pulled me into his office for a 3 hour guilt trip, “I know you better than you know yourself” conversation.

          I went in super early the next day, picked up my stuff, and left a note with my key on the wife’s desk. Apparently they told all my colleagues I’d had a mental breakdown.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I had a temp do this but it was her first day so I guess it makes more sense. She realized it wasn’t the job for her and never came back from lunch.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yeah, I had an admin walk off on her first day. Went to lunch and didn’t come back. It was a super dysfunctional workplace, but it took me months to figure that out. I always wondered what was said or what happened that the admin realized the awfulness in just 4 hours.

        1. Polaris*

          I left a temp job in the middle of the day once. My supervisor had made some incredibly offensive comments to me in the morning, so on my lunch break I walked down to the temp office, told them what had happened, and told them I was leaving. They were appropriately horrified, and had me out the same day, although I did return to the office long enough to give a brief exit interview to the HR department, who were also horrified. As far as I know the supervisor got off with a slap on the wrist, andI heard through the grapevine later that they went through a lot of temps on that project.

      2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        We start most of out Operations teammates out as temps and it’s staggering to me how many of them walk off the floor at the end of the day and never come back. I the last figure I heard was 12% of the temps we bring in quit via no call/no show within the first week.

      3. AKJ*

        I had just been hired to work at a call center (yes, I know) and midway through the first day, one of the people I’d been in training with called my desk and said she was leaving at lunch and she wasn’t going to come back, she didn’t like the job. I suggested she tell our supervisor that she was quitting, but she said she didn’t want to. A few hours after lunch I got a call from the supervisor asking me if I knew why she didn’t come back, and I told him what she’d said. He said something like “I hate this, it happens all the time, I wish people would just tell me!”
        His comment about it happening all the time really should have been a red flag for me, in retrospect. I stayed for almost a year, but by then I’d outlasted everyone I went to training with.

        1. Drew*

          I had a pizza delivery job one summer in college.

          I knew I had to bail when the owner walked in one day to introduce a new employee and said, “Over on the register is Drew. He’s one of our old-timers!” I had been there three months.

      4. JeanB in NC*

        I’ve actually done this. I went to lunch on my 1st day at a temp job and never went back. I did call the temp agency however. I just was so bored and irritated during the morning I couldn’t face going back.

      5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Back when I worked in retail, we had one seasonal cashier walk off the job during their lunch break…. on Black Friday.

        Our manager was so pissed.

      6. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        My very first temp job, I gave that some serious thought. I hated it and the people were not very friendly. I came back after lunch and was going to call the temp agency and tell them the job wasn’t for me, but apparently the feeling was mutual because I wasn’t asked to come back the next day.

        When I worked at a call center we had it happen a lot during training. I’m not really sure what drove it, but one reason probably was that they didn’t just accept “I quit” right away. Call centers are generally very high turnover so when you quit they would have you speak to a couple of different people trying to get you to stay. I’m sure most just wanted to avoid the conversation. This was more with new hires and the conversations were geared towards “giving it a chance and seeing if you start to like it better”. With people that had worked there for a while, they’d still talk to them and see if there was anything that would get them to stay but it wasn’t the hard sale of staying like they’d do to newer people.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I did it as a teenager! I had a job at a Mrs. Fields Cookie store in high school. I loved it, the work was easy, the manager liked me — there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. But for some reason I decided to quit and I had no idea of how to do that professionally, and it felt intimidating … so I just stopped showing up. I didn’t call them or tell them I was quitting. I just didn’t show up for my next shift.

      I felt really guilty about it, and for years after that, I had to avoid that entire section of the mall from shame.

      1. Snark*

        Simba: “What about that dark place?”

        Little Alison: “That is Mrs. Fields. You must never go there, Simba.”

      2. HRTripp*

        I did it too! Shortly after college, I took a job and ended up hating it!! I was at lunch during my 2nd week and I dreaded the thought of going back to the office. I called my boss but he didn’t answer so I left him a message. He must not have received it in time or didn’t pass it along because I got a couple calls from the folks in the office asking where I was. They had also messaged my friends (not emergency contacts) to ask where I was and I got text messages from them as well. I was so embarrassed but so relieved I didn’t have to go back.

      3. oranges & lemons*

        It’s funny because I had the complete opposite experience in a few of my early jobs–the jobs were legitimately awful but I really agonized over having to quit them even though I left all of them for completely reasonable, non-emotionally fraught reasons, and I gave tons of notice. In retrospect, I think one of my managers was trying to make me quit by making my work life as unpleasant as he could, and he probably wondered why it took so long. I still felt really guilty about it.

      4. JKP*

        I did the same thing at my first ever job as a teenager at a pizza place in the mall. The manager left me there alone on my 2nd day, with no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I tucked the cash from the register in the manager’s drawer when I left, and I pulled down the metal gate so the store would look like it was locked even though I didn’t have keys to lock it. I couldn’t even figure out how to turn off the pizza ovens. I no-showed/no-called mostly because I was terrified that I had messed things up and would be in trouble. I had visions of the entire mall burning down or thieves walking in and emptying the place out, and it would be all my fault.

    4. Brandy in TN*

      Yeah that is a good clue, if they left anything personal like pics, etc. I might walk off and leave a calendar, etc, but pics and the like, no.

    5. Lil Fidget*

      There are lots of people who just don’t understand workplace norms. I think it can also be a white collar / blue collar thing as I’ve heard it’s not as uncommon in the restaurant industry and possibly in construction – or a lot of places where you are paid hourly for whatever work performed, and if it’s zero, you’re assumed to have quit.

      1. No Green No Haze*

        Not terribly uncommon in my industry — we’re hourly and sometimes staffing large events requires new hires in a hurry for one day at a time. The entry-level skills are basic and you pick up Somebody’s Buddy. Sometimes it’s a way to find valuable people, usually it’s a warm body who can follow directions, and then occasionally someone really stinks up the joint.

        We had a guy vanish on us while we were setting up a pretty large concert — rhymes with Shmady Shmaga, go see her if you get a chance — 100+ of us spread out all over the place. He had apparently shown up, but then maybe half an hour, an hour later, told a friend of his he “had to dip out,” and just walked off the job.

        Bridge immediately burnt for him (The Union Remembers), but at least he gave us something hilarious to remember him by. Now when we’re dismissed, we just tell the boss we’re “dipping out.”

    6. Amber Rose*

      I’ve only seen it happen once, and it was the employee’s first day. They had spent the morning being trained by a teenager and then just never came back. But that was retail, and the employee was older and probably realized all of a sudden that they just did not need this crap.

      I think in most cases it isn’t a planned response, but is an impulse brought about by some random trigger. The straw that breaks the camel’s back. I have come close to it twice. Once as a teen at Walmart, and once after a particularly vicious screaming match with my boss.

    7. Manders*

      During my brief stint in a call center, this happened a lot. The temp agency they used wasn’t too honest about what the work actually was, so it was pretty common for people to decide “Screw this, I’m out” and just wander away. I gave 2 weeks notice and they seemed kind of surprised.

      I also spent some time in a law office with an owner who was prone to exploding at random but wasn’t good at being clear about what he was asking you to do. Several admins left this way and I think there may have been some genuine confusion on their parts, they may actually have thought they were being fired when he just wanted to vent.

      (I don’t think this is what’s happening at OP’s mom’s office, but I most definitely have seen this behavior in the workplace.)

      1. Gen*

        That reminds me of quitting my call centre job due to ill health and the manager who’d been there nearly 8 years sitting there stunned “you came in to say you quit?! No one ever does that! … I have no idea what to do now…” apparently most people just texted him or posted it on Facebook :/

    8. volunteer coordinator in NoVA*

      At one of my first job, we had an employee who was only there for a few weeks, left for lunch and emailed her resignation. I guess she didn’t have that much stuff to pack up but I don’t think anything major happened before lunch so I’m not sure why she even bothered to come in that morning. Her business cards had just arrived so we spent the afternoon seeing who could fling them in the trash can from the farthest distance so at least that was entertaining.

    9. Garrett*

      Maybe she had some personal files on her computer, so she wanted to get them and then just left. I just don’t see why you can’t send a quick email just saying “I’m done” just to give closure. Either way, it will likely burn that bridge, but contacting is the nice thing to do.

    10. Chicken fishing*

      I go to a hair salon where one of the employees left at lunch and didn’t show back up for a year. He worked at the front desk and also washed people’s hair before their appointments. When he came back he just picked up like nothing had happened and everyone still teases him about his year-long lunch break. It’s a quirky place.

      1. Mookie*

        How did he arrange his first shift back? Did he just wander in at some point, punch his time card, and start shampooing people?

    11. Bend & Snap*

      I once had a coworker not come back from lunch on her first day. She went out and got arrested on her lunch hour.
      She came back a couple of days later and they kept her on and gave her a funny/mean nickname. She was still there when I left.

      1. GoldenMaple*

        I also had a coworker not come back from lunch because she was taken for questioning. Ultimately, they didn’t have enough to hold her on and she came back the next day, ranting and raving about how unfair it was. Two years later, she and her boyfriend were busted for running a shoplifting ring.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Haha that just made me remember my first retail job! One of our managers got arrested for shoplifting on her lunch break. :/ She did not come back.

        1. Weaselologist*

          I started my first job in the local ibrary at 16 on the same day as another kid. He left mid-morning out the staffroom window and never returned. Took the microwave with him.

    12. Rusty Shackelford*

      I just don’t get why someone would do this, barring some obvious major trigger in the morning (which OP/mom presumably would have mentioned).

      It’s possible for a manager to not even realize they’ve triggered someone to quit. I’m not saying the OP’s mom did that, just pointing out that we’ve seen some examples of managers/coworkers who did truly awful things without realizing they were truly awful.

    13. BananaPants*

      This happened recently with a new employee in training at my husband’s workplace. Dude had been there for like a week and a half and just walked out for lunch and never came back and wouldn’t answer phone calls. HR did eventually find out that he was OK. He decided that the work just wasn’t for him and felt like he didn’t need to give notice because he’d only been there for a week and a half.

    14. Miles*

      A coworker of mine had a field assistant who did something like that. He just never showed up in the morning to head out. The funny thing is that they were staying in a remote camp that was fly-in/fly-out so there was no where for him to go. She got the message when she saw him in the hall that morning and before she could say anything he turned and ran the other way.

      1. Chinook*

        “they were staying in a remote camp that was fly-in/fly-out so there was no where for him to go. ”

        See, I would have thought “eaten by a bear” and requested a search team to go and check to at least see if it was still dangerous to leave the building.

    15. AnAlmost*

      I very nearly did once. I had been at an “internship” for a couple weeks and realized that they were using me for free labor and I wasn’t going to be getting anything from the experience. I was then yelled (at length) over something ridiculous (knocking on an open office door and asking a question instead of calling from my desk which was two feet away) and I was just fed up. I ended up sending an email as soon as I got home and quitting but I was super tempted to just leave at lunch.

    16. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

      I came close once. I had just been written up, and my dog sitter called to say he was locked out of the house. Without telling anyone, I just got in my car and left to go rescue him and my dog. I seriously considered not going back, but I didn’t want to screw over the rest of my team. I left a few weeks later.

    17. ErinW*

      I sort of did it. While I was grad school, I took a part-time retail job for life money. I worked there about two weeks, but the management was dysfunctional, there were a lot of issues with the job itself, and I was overloaded with school work. So I didn’t show up for a shift, and when they called, it went like this: “Should we expect you today?” “…No.” “Should we expect you ever again?” “… … … No.” I do still feel bad I wasn’t more up front with them.

    18. Jubilance*

      I did it once, in college. I got scammed by one of the “work in social justice!” jobs that turned out to be being dropped off in random neighborhoods to solicit for donations door to door. That is definitely NOT the type of work I wanted to do, so after my first day, I just never went back. I don’t remember anyone ever calling me, so I’m assume they knew I quit.

    19. Annabelle*

      People did this all the time at one of my old jobs. It was a photography studio in the mall and we were constantly slammed. I was supposed to only get 12 hours a week, but I ended up working 15 hours day and it was pretty much the same for everyone else. In that sort of situation, I kind of get it.

    20. Story Nurse*

      A teacher at my child’s daycare did this, about a week after she started working there—went out to lunch and never came back. Everyone was absolutely appalled. I don’t understand how a person who cares enough about little kids to go into that line of work could also just abandon them without at least telling someone that another staffer would need to fill in (because there are legal requirements for the adult:child ratio in the classroom).

    21. abandonment issues*

      In the situation I saw, I’m pretty sure it was just a long build-up of stress. I don’t think we’ll ever know which straw broke the employee’s patience, but I suspect they didn’t want to deal with it for a second more. And really I guess at that point, quitting face-to-face with no notice wouldn’t have gained that much more good will, or given the company much more notice to scramble to cover their responsibilities.

    22. only acting normal*

      It doesn’t have to be a major trigger, just the final straw.
      I remember a woman, long-term temp, who didn’t come back after lunch one day. The ghastly man (also temp) who sat next to her concluded the only possible reason she wasn’t at her desk was because she’d fainted in the ladies room… I wish I could have seen my face when he came out with that gem. Personally I think the real reason was she couldn’t stand another minute working alongside him; if I’d been temp rather than perm I might have done the same. I think she told the office/agency she had quit though, she just didn’t say anything in his presence!

    23. GoldenHierophant*

      In my case, I found out that my new NightmareJob was going to be awful and completely off the map on my first day. My second, I got a call over lunch with a job offer from a previous interview. My third day, the manager no-showed when I was planning to tell him I was quitting, so I took my stuff, let them and my agency know that I was leaving, and left.

  13. Stephanie*

    Even when I worked in a shipping warehouse (where no-call, no-shows were common), we at least did one call. More often than not, the employee had quit, but some sort of emergency happened often enough (admittedly it was rare) that it was worth making the calls.

  14. Lily in NYC*

    Ugh, not quite the same but my coworker asked me to go with her to check on her mom when her mom’s office called her to mention she didn’t show up to work. It was awful, just awful. I was so young and didn’t realize that it might be better to have the police do the wellness check.

  15. Wonderboy*

    I personally wouldn’t care at all to be intrusive in this case. I mean, you were hired, if you are leaving you need to let me know, you don’t disappear.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, there are situations where Snark’s crowbar entry would be very poorly received; it just sounds like Snark had enough information to realize this was likely not one of them.

          1. Snark*

            Yeah, the Snark Crowbar Entry is the kind of move you don’t just bust out when Steve from accounts receivable plays hooky.

  16. livingtheneweconomy*

    I think it is incredibly awful for:

    a. someone to walk off the job and at least not let people know they are ok
    b. our fear of what someone might think to keep us from checking on someone who might need our help.

    I am personally quite OK with somebody being pissed off at me for checking on them in this type of situation. If they want to make a stink with my employer (or file a legal complaint) then go for it. I am happy to explain my reasoning and let more rational people decide if I acted responsibly or violated their rights or whatever. If they are so oblivious as to why somebody would be concerned that they just disappeared from a work site like that. then they probably don’t have appropriate responses about anything.

    so, yes I would call (and text–since people don’t even listen to messages anymore) now–making it clear that your call is to check on their welfare only and if you haven’t heard from them in some way–text, email, phone call, friend calling, whatever, –by x date at x time, you are going to take steps to assure that they are safe–whether it’s calling their emergency contact, calling the police, going to their home, whatever. All they need to do is say I AM OK and you will leave them alone thereafter.

    1. EddieSherbert*


      (but I would def just go right to a welfare check – the emergency contact isn’t technically there for “keeping tabs on them”. And whether they’re fine or not, probably less weird to have the police check in on them than me).

    2. a Gen X manager*

      Agree. We had an employee do this once. When she didn’t return from lunch we realized a photo of she and her fiance was gone and assumed she had quit. I was surprised that because she walked out without telling us she was denied unemployment (but if she’d sent the quick email she would have received it). I have no idea what the logic was for that! She stated that she had sent a text message to manager X and we proved she didn’t and she was denied.

    3. Floundering Mander*

      If it were me I’d go straight to the police in this kind of situation. They are much better equipped to assess it and to handle any potential emergency situation, and if it’s just an employee who doesn’t want to be contacted again they can relay that info back to the employer so that appropriately hands-off arrangements to mail a final check etc. can be made.

    4. FunnyMonkey*


      You can see in these comments how many people know of or have experienced something like this where the missing person ended up being dead. A receptionist at my company didn’t show up one morning and someone who was friends with her outside of work drove over to her apartment. She didn’t answer the door, so the friend walked around the building. The receptionist was on her balcony. She had died sometime over the weekend. It was terribly traumatic for everyone involved.

      If someone wants to be upset because I was worried about their well-being, I’m ok with that.

  17. Just Another Techie*

    I had one of these! It was my second job out of college, at a start up with no HR and no one with any real professional background at all — we were all only 2-3 years out of school. I managed one employee, and he just didn’t show up for a month. I called for a welfare check, and the police couldn’t find him. He came back a month later, and was super confused about why we had reassigned his work and sent a final paycheck, removed him from the health insurance plan, etc. He had gone to Burning Man, and then spent two weeks couch surfing in San Francisco, all the time thinking he was just on vacation and that of course he’d jump right back in when he got back. We had to explain in very tiny words that if you want to go on vacation you have to tell your manager and colleagues!

    1. RVA Cat*

      Bill & Ted’s kids are now in the workforce. Spicoli’s spawn could even be in management by now.

    2. la bella vita*

      Wow. So he thought that you just took your vacation whenever and didn’t have to tell anyone? How does anyone get the idea that that’s the way any business operates??

      1. Just Another Techie*

        Yeah. He figured “everyone knows” that that week was Burning Man and of course “everyone” would be going. I kind of vaguely knew BM was happening sometime in late summer, and that a bunch of people vaguely connected to my social circle was going, but I definitely didn’t connect it to this guy’s absence from work.

        1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

          I bet a million dollars he knew what he was doing wasn’t right, and that if he asked for a month off upfront he wouldn’t get it. He valued going to BM more than his job, so he just played dumb and hoped for the best — act now and ask for permission later, right?

        2. Liz2*

          I am friends with people who are workers at BM, and they are ALSO highly functional managers at big corps. They will love/hate this story!

          1. Just Another Techie*

            This was fifteen years ago. I actually know more burners now than I did then, and yeah. All the burners I know love to hate this story :)

    3. Observer*

      That’s pretty hysterical, actually. Of course, it’s easy for me to laugh – I’m reading about it after the fact and knowing the end result. It must have been a bit difficult for the people on site at the time.

      I hope he didn’t get his job back.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        We all thought he was either dead or stoned out of his gourd. It turns out we weren’t too far off the mark!

  18. MoinMoin*

    I’ve told this story before, but I once worked at a job with a lot of turnover, where no call no shows were pretty common. We once had a new employee who had a seizure in his car after work and died. In a huge parking lot, with the sun visor up, he wasn’t found for days during the Phoenix summer. He was new to the area and lived alone, so it was total happenstance that he was even found when he was; certainly his supervisor hadn’t given him not showing up a second thought.
    All around it was awful, and it really clarified my perspective of that place with regards to its relationship with its employees.

  19. Horrified*

    I had an employee once who wouldn’t call in sick when she had migraines – she just didn’t show up for work.

    the first couple of times this happened, we called and she picked up so we knew she was alive. The third time it happened, she didn’t pick up. Our office manager left a voice mail for her saying that we were worried and if she didn’t check in with us within the hour, we would be calling the police to do a welfare check.
    Worked like a charm! We got a call back from her within 10 minutes. Yes she was a flake, yes she had an attitude problem, yes she left our employment with our encouragement shortly thereafter.

    I think you need to be really clear when leaving a message – Alison’s wording is good, but if this person has a hate-on for the company, she’s unlikely to call or message in to tell you she’s alright. I think you need to let her know you WILL be calling the police.

    1. Sam*

      Yes, making that clear is very effective if the person is fine and just avoiding you. I had to do that a few times when I worked with college-aged students, and every single time they responded within an hour to let me know they were ok.

    2. Jam Today*

      That’s kind of interesting, what if someone isn’t even well enough to call in sick? I had pneumonia several years ago, and only vaguely remember the days I was bedridden (I don’t think I’ve been that sick in my life, except I guess for when I had croup when I was two). Apparently I had the presence of mind and muscle strength to text my boss that I was sick, and then went dark for five days.

      1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

        Hopefully you had someone there to take care of you! Or were otherwise carted to the hospital.

        1. Jam Today*

          LOL nope, just me. I didn’t know at the time that a 104 temp is actually emergent, otherwise I would have called an ambulance. At one point I managed to get out of bed and walked to the Target at the end of my block because I had no food in the house, so I bought Gatorade and some of those little plastic cups of diced peaches and lived on that for about a week.

  20. LQ*

    My aunt who just passed away was absent from work for 2 days, they second day they sent police to do a welfare check. It would have likely been a few more days before she was found if they hadn’t. We are all very glad that they did. But the police (at least here) don’t let the employer know. So they were still trying to get ahold of her.

    So you may not find an answer right away even if the police do a welfare check. (I’m not sure if this is true in all jurisdictions.) But please do it.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The police didn’t contact the person who requested the welfare check? That seems odd to me.

      1. LQ*

        It kind of makes sense to me.
        If the person who did the welfare check was an abusive ex who was trying to find their victim?

        They contacted her next of kin (her son) about her death.

        1. la bella vita*

          Maybe, but you would think that if the person were okay the police would be able to confirm something like that (and if the person said “this is my stalker ex, please do not give them any information about me” they would be happy to comply with the request – and hopefully have a couple officers show up at said stalker’s home to explain the concept of misuse of police resources). However, if the person were dead, I can’t imagine why the police wouldn’t inform the person/company who requested the welfare check after notifying next of kin.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I think it’s not uncommon for the police to confirm that somebody is okay but doesn’t want contact. I’m surprised they’re not willing to notify about a death.

          2. Julia*

            It’s like this, right?

            A) Person is alive and says welfare check instigator shouldn’t be notified
            B) Person is dead, so even the risk of notifying a potential stalker is null because there is no one left to stalk

  21. RVA Cat*

    I would call the emergency contact, with one caveat – if it is their spouse/significant other, listen to see if anything seems “off”. If it does, even if he says she is fine, unless you are able to actually speak with her you may want to call in a welfare check anyway. Has she ever appeared with bruises etc. that may indicate domestic violence? Also, she may have fled that situation, in which case you may have an angry abuser showing up at your office.
    Others who have experience in this area please weigh in on what the OP’s best plan of action should be.

  22. Hmmmmm*

    This is the reason that I am not a huge fan of “ghosting.” If you intend to burn the bridge anyway, the least you can do is let them know you’re not dead.

  23. Lia*

    Call the emergency contact. Used to work with a guy who worked late on Thursday night. He then did not show up Friday morning — that was not out of the ordinary, if he worked late, he often came in late the next day, and a few times, he just took the whole day off if he’d been here very late.
    Monday, still not here. Tuesday, we called him and no answer, so called the emergency contact. Turned out he had passed away probably Thursday night.

    Another former co-worker had a stroke and was saved by our admin assistant, who lived nearby and decided it was super unusual of B. to no call/no show, and went by at lunch just to check, and found her on the floor. Now, B. was older and had some health problems, but still..

      1. Snark*

        At my last contract’s posting, one of the people in the office went missing and basically had no family or friends in the area. Several of us literally crowbarred the door and found her suffering from some kind of low blood potassium situation that would have killed her in another 20 minutes – and this is after the police showed up for a welfare check, knocked on the door, shrugged, and went away.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Okay, say more about this crowbarring decision! Obviously it turned out to be a really good thing that you did, but that seems like it could have gone badly if the circumstances were different.

          1. Snark*

            She had some speech and memory issues that some folks knew had been from “a stroke or something” several years before she started working for that office, so there was good reason to believe she was in some kind of distress – and she was also the kind of person who was never absent, never late, and fanatically devoted, so just not showing up was not a thing one would expect of her. So the boss of the section tried to call and text her, no answer, and the police just knocked and went away.

            Sooooo then he kind of burst into my office, said “Snark, you used to work on a search and rescue team, right?” and it was mission time. We went around back, and her dog was outside and very thirsty. All doors bolted and shut, all blinds drawn. Her neighbor came and offered her husband’s crowbar, everyone looked at me, and….yeah. That’s how I found myself cracking someone’s door open at 10:30 in the morning on a weekday. Found her laying on the floor, twitching and barely breathing, and finally got an ambulance on the way. Unfortunately she was deeply hypoxic by that point and never recovered consciousness, and she passed away a few weeks later.

            1. Snark*

              So, to address what I think you’re getting at: it was only in context that we had reason to think she was in medical distress, and a no-show was incredibly out of character for her. I specifically do not advocate this as a reasonable strategy for any given Fergus or Percival who doesn’t show for work one day!

              1. Purplesaurus*

                What a terrible situation. But “any given Fergus” might be the best phrase I’ve heard all week.

                1. Snark*

                  Any Given Fergus is the name of my new AAM-themed band. Keep an eye out for our new hit single, “Joaquin Got Them Wakeen Blues.”

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I don’t lock the front door of my apartment, though the front door of my building is locked.

            Largely because I live alone and want to make sure help can get to me if I need it. I’m more afraid of that than I am of someone breaking in.

            1. DecorativeCacti*

              You can get a lockbox with a code for outside and give the number to the local PD and/or fire department. That way they can get in if something happens.

              1. KR*

                I discovered the need for this when I locked my dog in my office on accident on a Friday afternoon with my phone (and my co-workers contact info) inside. I called the police and they informed me that if the box on the side of the building had our keys they could let me in, but otherwise they would have to break the door down to get my poor puppo out. I ended up hiring a locksmith to drill out the lock but now I’m very aware of making sure the fire Dept can get in our building.

          2. ThatGirl*

            I get weirdly anxious about not locking the door sometimes when I’m just going around the block with the dog. Which, yeah, probably too much TV — considering we have a flip lock and if someone really wanted to get in they could break the window. But I always lock the door behind me as a matter of habit.

          3. Anon today...and tomorrow*

            I’m with you! Growing up we lived on the third floor of a three family house. The main door was locked and we normally kept our apartment door locked too. I will never forget the day my youngest sister had run out to the car to grab something and left the two doors unlocked while she was doing this quick errand. My mother and I were sitting in the kitchen when the front door to the apartment opened and a strange woman walked in. She was actually several steps in the apartment when she noticed us looking at her with wide-eyed shock and she sort of sputtered out “You’re not Joan and Alice!” before turning around and walking out. Joan and Alice lived two doors down. She literally walked into the wrong house. LOL!

            1. HR Bee*

              My first apartment was terrible and the door sometimes would not latch, even if it was locked (there was no deadbolt.) One night me and my roommate were awoken by a strange, drunk man using our bathroom in the dark! We got him out of there and locked the door but the next day our neighbor from down the hall came over to apologize. Turns out the guy was a friend crashing on his couch, and he’d wandered out the door in the middle of the night and forgotten which apartment was the right one.

              Since then, I’ve been a little more careful about making sure my door is locked!

              1. Elizabeth West*

                This happened to me when I lived in a shitty motel in Santa Cruz for a while. The lock needed replacing–sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. There was no chain. I told the manager about it but they didn’t fix it. One day I came home from work and found a homeless person sitting on my bed eating my food. I kicked him out and told them, but they did nothing.

                Then one night someone walked in and stole my rent money while I was asleep. I’m lucky it’s ALL that happened!

                The manager got mad at ME because I had to have my parents overnight me money to pay and I was late. I think my mum called up and yelled at him re the door–it got fixed shortly after that. But by then I’d had enough and an apartment opened up, so I was able to move.

              2. Bryce*

                I live in an apartment complex with a bunch of similar buildings (when my cat was indoor/outdoor I once found him yowling outside the wrong place) and it’s right by a college. I’ve had something like five drunk people try to get in over the years, started bolting the door after the first.

            2. Another person*

              I definitely walked into the wrong apartment multiple times in my old apartment building (sometimes even when coming back with the dog from a walk). Once I made it all the way to the bedroom before I realized what was wrong. Luckily for me, no one was ever home when I did this.

              1. Trig*

                My father-in-law recently walked right in to the neighbour’s house after a morning walk. He’d only visited us once before and the front layout (garden and stairs) are similar enough… But these are freeholds, and they are fairly different looking! Apparently no one in the house noticed though, luckily.

                I live in a major city in Canada. I think it’s pretty normal here not to lock up when you’re home, so I imagine this kind of thing happens often enough.

                (I now have a dog who will rush the door and bark happily if someone comes in. She is 60lbs, black, and her happy bark can be pretty intimidating. I never worried before, but I especially do not worry now.)

                1. Trig*

                  Although, funnily enough, I DO lock and bar the side door with a hockey stick at all times… We had a near break-in at that door, and another time a renovation guy mistook our side door for the OTHER neighbour’s door and was confused about why he couldn’t get in. So… I guess I’m inconsistent in my door locking.

                2. Mr. Rogers*

                  Dogs are the best deterrent! I once had someone nearly break in during the night, but our Doberman quickly persuaded them to try a different apartment. The second I can get a dog where I live, I’m getting another one with a nice booming bark.

                3. Chinook*

                  DH and I still laugh about the drunk he wandered into the next door neighbor’s house and passed out on the couch. The break-in wasn’t was funny, we just could imagine the look on the guy’s face if he had chosen the next door over, ours, only to be faced with a wolf and a police officer. The guy doesn’t know how lucky he was.

              2. LizB*

                I usually lock my apartment door when I’m at home. One time I was in my living room and heard someone approach the door, heard a key in the lock, heard some fumbling around and annoyed noises… got up and unlocked the door and opened it to the great surprise of my upstairs neighbor who had absentmindedly come to my floor instead of hers and thought she was opening her own door. I did not blame her, because I’ve definitely come thiiis close to doing the same on the floor below me.

            3. Mr. Rogers*

              Oh my god, it’s not just me then! I walked into the wrong apartment once when I was really spacing out (it was up a tiny staircase while mine was down the tiny staircase). I froze a few steps in when I realized there was an elderly lady with her back to me in the apartment, and then I just backed out very slowly hoping she didn’t notice!

              In college I forgot to lock my room at night exactly once and had someone steal 200$ from my dresser in the night. And I woke up a couple times to someone trying the door, though I had no way to know whether it was an innocent drunk mistake or another theft attempt.

              Now I always keep my door locked, even when I’m home. We’ve even had an additional lock installed in the interior hallway we share with our landlady, because while I trust her I don’t know about all the workers she has in and out during the summer!

              1. Phlox*

                I had just gotten off Skype w my then boyfriend in college when I heard rustling in my housemates room who was away for the weekend. I blearily walk over w my contacts partially out and there is this guy I don’t know standing trapped on my back porch. We lived on the third floor apartment of a house with stairs that didn’t go down to first floor. I ended up escorting him thru the apartment so he could leave via the only front door. Still not sure who he was, small college so not a classmate, likely a visiting very drunk Acapella member. Also not sure how he got on my back porch since you can’t get below the second floor via the back.

              2. Reya*

                Most UK houses (including every house I’ve ever lived in) have automatic Yale locks – the moment the door is closed it’s locked, and you’ll need a key to get in from the outside (from the inside you just need to turn the catch). So I never worry about locking the door, but I ALWAYS worry about double-checking I’ve got my keys before I leave the house.

                In my current house, the landlord replaced the front door and the new Yale lock kept sticking, which meant I had to actually use the deadlock as well to make sure the door was secured. I managed to lock my housemate inside :-/

          4. Liz in a Library*

            Heck, I lock my door between guests showing up for a party. My folks taught me to always lock the door, so it’s second nature.

            1. Annabelle*

              Same. Granted, my mom also had a stalker when I was little and he broke in a couple times. We weren’t home or anything, but I remember it and it still freaks me out.

          5. Another person*

            I always lock my apartment in Chicago, but growing up my parents in Southern California suburbs seldom locked their front door (and even less frequently the back door) except at night. My mom actually has left the house with the front door not closed before because that is how little my family worries about losing doors.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              My parents live in Utah, and no one really locks their doors in their neighborhood. They only started when my grandmother moved in with them; she had dementia, and there was a risk she would wander–so not only did they start locking the doors, they added a special extra latch on the top of the door that she didn’t know about so she couldn’t unlock the door and wander out in the middle of the night.

          6. Michaela T*

            My dad was and is fanatical about keeping the doors locked at all times, if he came home and saw that it was unlocked he’d call out (half-jokingly) “The door’s unlocked, someone’s going to come and and kill us all!” He was a prosecutor his whole working life and generally sees crime as given.

          7. anon anony*

            I have a family member who has a fancy home alarm system and it actually makes me nervous because if you open a window or something when the alarm is on it will trigger the SUPER LOUD alarm and also apparently it’s a big fine from the alarm company every time it goes off

            stresses me out!

          8. Mookie*

            Growing up my family were like the Bordens from Fall River. We’d lock all existing doors inside the house, occupied or not, unless we were planning to move about a bit. But no mutton for breakfast, thank the lord.

        1. Brandy*

          we have people that wander the neighborhood popping car door handles checking for unlocked. They do this with house doors too. Our neighborhood watch said maybe they should do the same and leave a note if they found your doors unlocked. I thought “well someones gonna get shot by a owner thinking theyre a theif.”

          1. Floundering Mander*

            The police have done this before in my city, especially during the summer when you might be out in the back yard and have no idea that someone is in the house.

          2. Marillenbaum*

            They used to do this with unattended stuff in the campus library–like “I’m not a thief, but the next time it could be–secure your belongings!”

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I have a keyed deadbolt on both my front and garage doors. At night, I lock the deadbolt. During the day, I open the deadbolt, but I keep the button latch on the doorknob locked. Reason–people going around trying doors (and yes some people will do this even if your car is in the driveway) may walk right in if they find an open one. If it’s locked, they’ll likely avoid kicking it and keep going until they find an open one. They do this with cars also.

          But the button latch is super easy for me to undo in an emergency, and a good swift kick could probably open the door if I were unable to reach it.

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          I don’t lock the doors when we’re home, and I recently discovered that our garage doors have been unlatched and easily opened from the outside for perhaps months. But there would be no need for the neighbor to use a crowbar if the doors were latched and locked – the neighbor has a house key.

          At my last house, there was one neighbor that had keys to a lot of the houses. We all gave them a key, and if we forgot or lost ours, they were home and had one for us. It’s really handy to have good and trustworthy neighbors. On the other hand, their door was never locked, and all those keys were together and we all knew it. Also, the windows in houses in that neighborhood were put in with screws on the outside, so a simple screwdriver could be used to remove a window.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Apparently a lot of people don’t. I do, but I feel like every crime show I’ve ever seen has everybody not locking doors.

        1. Brandy*

          All the podcasts I listen to during my day and the shows ive see and things ive read, even if im in the room with the front door, front door is locked.

        2. blackcat*

          I only started after we had some kids (later found) who “broke into” all of the unlocked cars in the neighborhood one day. I lost $15 in quarters :(

      3. Rae*

        At least for my uncle he lived in Maine. People in a significant portion of the state don’t lock their doors. Or their cars. In fact one time when we were visiting my father locked the door out of habit and I had to crawl through the 2nd story window because my uncle didn’t have the key on him. I hardly ever locked mine when I lived in Vermont. Or a few other places. It’s just a thing. However, I do realize this isn’t the case for the majority of people.

        1. Emi.*

          I used to live in a town where you left your door unlocked so that if you were out when the grocery boy came, he could put your eggs and butter in the fridge for you.

        2. a Gen X manager*

          So true! unlocked doors and keys in the car in the driveway – it must be a northern New England thing!

          1. the gold digger*

            I borrowed a car from my aunt and uncle once. My aunt was really annoyed with me when she had to ask where the keys were. I had left them on her kitchen counter rather than in the car.

          2. Trig*

            I worked at a garden centre/farm for a while as a teen shortly after moving from a city to a rural small town in Wisconsin. First day, within five minutes of meeting me, the boss sends me into town in his truck to drop off some mail and pick something up at the hardware store. Already surprised at this level of trust, I ask for the keys and he chuckles. Of course they’re in the ignition.

        3. starsaphire*

          When we lived in a rural area, we learned that if you leave your front door unlocked, or your car unlocked, someone will inevitably foist upon you bags and bags of free zucchini…

        4. MashaKasha*

          An ex-bf lived in SmallTown, OH, where no one ever locks their doors (himself included). He’d lock the door when he went to visit me for the weekend, but not when leaving for work, on errands and such.

          I live in a suburb of BigCity, OH, and we had a concerned elderly father of our next-door neighbors come to our door once asking if he could make a phone call. The neighbors were out of town, father came by to check on their dog, accidentally locked himself out, and didn’t have a way of getting back in, because the front door hadn’t ever been locked in something like 15 years.

          I couldn’t do this myself (grew up in a place where this was just not done, and quite a few people also had metal bars on their windows), but I think it’s adorable.

      4. Lore*

        When something like this happened in my office (very reliable freelancer did not return an assignment on time and was unreachable), my coworker went to his apartment building and got the super to come up with her and let her in. The freelancer had passed away at his desk.

        On the other hand, the time it happened to me (not-quite-as-reliable freelancer was late on a super-important project and just stopped responding to emails or phone calls), coincidentally, I had a friend who worked for the same company (she had a regular part-time day job as well as the freelance gig). He was able to confirm that she was alive and well and just avoiding me because she was late. Which was the end of her employment as a freelancer, obviously.

      5. Anonynonon*

        I am always curious, too. Did they maybe see through a window and call 911? A key hidden under the mat or in a fake rock?

      6. Database Administrator*

        My spare key is in my desk, and I’ve told my coworkers. (I’m not sure if they would remember this.)

      7. Suzanne*

        Maybe the person was able to be seen on the floor via an exterior window and then the police were called to get in?

      8. Mainiac*

        The rural area where i live, it’s pretty common to not lock doors to the house or the car. I have a friend who leaves his car keys in the car unlocked when he gets home. The first house I rented didn’t even have a dead bolt, just the push-button door knob lock.

        It worked out well for one of my co-workers when she got a new puppy and someone needed to go to the house and walk the dog at lunch everyday. Instead of her doing it everyday, often people would volunteer and since she didn’t lock the door, they could just go in, walk the dog and leave.

        1. oranges & lemons*

          I didn’t typically lock the door when I lived in a rural area in a house that was only accessible by a really long twisty driveway and multiple sets of stairs. I figured the chances of locking myself out were greater than the chance that someone would get all the way to my door and then give up on burgling it because the door was locked.

          1. Mainiac*

            That’s the case where I am. The dirt road is long and windy, the driveway is hard to see and there just isn’t any reason anyone would randomly happen upon my house. If someone did break in, it would be a deliberate thing, and in that case a lock won’t stop them and there aren’t close enough neighbors to hear an alarm (and cops would take awhile to get to my house).

      9. Lia*

        In the second case, B. was on the floor and visible from a window by the door. The admin assistant called 911 after banging on the door and not getting a response from B., and the ambulance folks broke the door down.

      10. blackcat*

        Maybe people talk to neighbors when they show up? 4 of my immediate neighbors have keys to my house. I have keys to theirs, and I also know where an additional 3 families keep a hidden key outside.

      11. Lady Bug*

        As a NYer who has watched and read way too much horror and true crime, my door is always locked when I’m out or home alone after dark. Totally irrational as I could easily get murdered during the day. I lock my car all the time when I’m not home, but occasionally forget when its in my driveway.

    1. Manders*

      I had the same thing happen once at a job. I knew the coworker had some chronic health problems, but I didn’t realize her health was that bad. She didn’t show up the day after Thanksgiving, and I assumed she had the day off and no one had thought to tell me (a common issue in that office, the staff just told the business owner when they would be out and it wasn’t marked on a calendar or announced in an email). Then she didn’t show up the next workday, and we finally realized something wasn’t right.

      We called the emergency contact, who was the one who ended up finding her body. It was very sad, and I did spend some time wondering if things might have been different if there had been clearer communication about time off. I was the only person in the office the day after Thanksgiving and I would have raised the alarm earlier if I’d known she was supposed to be in. I don’t know when exactly she died.

  24. Curiosity Killed The Cat*

    This happened at my job! Myself and another woman started the same job in the same department on the same day. We went through orientation together and then were set up on computers next to each other to read through additional training. I went to lunch first and she left when I came back. Only she never returned from her lunch break.

    Our boss kept stopping by to ask me where she was but I had no idea. They called her cell phone several times but got no answer all day. We were actually worried but there was no talk of filing a police report (I think if this mystery had continued for longer, we would have called the police). The next day, she finally called back to say that she was feeling sick and decided to head home at lunch. Also could she have this second day off? They politely told her not to come back.

    The kicker was that she was older than me! This was my very first professional job out of college so I was 24, young and inexperienced. This woman was at least my mother’s age, at least in her 50’s. To think that it’s okay to just leave without telling anyone or asking first? My boss is a very understanding person (I got into a fender bender in my second week and was late to work, panicked because I didn’t have any PTO yet, and my boss calmed me down to say it was no problem, just stay late to make up the hours) so if she had been violently sick, my boss would have been fine with letting her go home. But to just leave with no warning? It’s weird but it happens!

    1. Purplesaurus*

      Wow, that just seems so bizarre. Although these comments are proving that it’s way more common than I would have thought.

  25. FDCA In Canada*

    At a previous job I had a coworker who would text me just about every evening when my husband was away for months at a time in the winter. We were friends, so I didn’t think anything of it until she mentioned she was worried about me–it was just me and my husband at home and he was deployed for three months, and my commute was along a fairly awful stretch of roadway along the lake in the winter, and she knew if something terrible happened and I’d been in an accident or gone off the road, no one might notice my absence until the following morning at work. It was very sweet of her, and after that I checked in with her each evening.

    1. justsomeone*

      I do something similar with my husband, actually. He has impaired vision and drives into work pretty early in the day (he’s legal to drive unless there’s a bleed). He’s off frequently so I don’t think his team would remark if he didn’t show up that day. So when he does go into work, I make him text me that he made it there safely.

    2. Bryce*

      I do something like that with my parents. Mom and I chat on IM regularly just about minor things partially to keep in touch and partially as a check-in.

      1. Typhon Worker Bee*

        My Mum and I use our ongoing Words With Friends games for this, too. 48 hours without a move = email/FB message. Our time zones are 8 hours apart so it’s difficult to call during the week, and it’s a really fun way to stay in touch!

        1. Bryce*

          That’s why we like Instant Messenger. Same time zone but they’re retired so they’ll often be out gardening or having adventures and I have my own schedule too. Less urgent-feeling than an email or text and freely asynchronous. Just send something out there and they’ll reply when they see it.

  26. Viola Dace*

    I worked for a company where someone went to lunch and never came back. Turns out she was embezzling. Something had happened that morning that she believed might lead to the discovery of it. The OP doesn’t mention whether this employee had any access to financial stuff, but I would certainly take a closer look.

    1. OP*

      My mom is a physician and has a lot of medication samples stored in the office. None were missing. After a few days she was pretty sure the employee quit, so she decided not to call the police. I will give her the great advice about getting emergency contact info then letting employees know she’ll call for a welfare check if she doesn’t hear from them. Mom never did hear from the employee so she had the office rekeyed. I’ll call her tonight to ask if the final paycheck ever cleared.

      1. Samiratou*

        You could also try googling her name. If the worst-case scenario happened, there would likely be an obit or news story or something. It’s not entirely conclusive, but may provide a bit of peace of mind.

  27. Amber Rose*

    At the height of my depression in university, I walked away from a job and never went back, didn’t call, nothing. They didn’t notice for a very, very long time. I was still on their schedule two months later. It was surreal, like maybe I’d imagined working there, or maybe imagined not working there. I felt very non-existent, which wasn’t great.

    I would never be upset at an employer for calling to check on me. If I was in that same place of depression and anxiety I would probably be avoiding phones though, so in addition to following up by phone, a quick email or something to allow that person to communicate with you without having to hear your voice might be helpful.

  28. usetobeatemp*

    I had a neighbor who committed suicide, but no one knew until his co-workers all showed up one day to look for him, because they were worried. They had good reason to be, sadly, but because of them, the police found him within a reasonable time period. I thought it was so thoughtful of the co-workers to seek him out.

  29. Kim Possible*

    I’ve actually encountered situations at my current job where it’s gone BOTH ways. I would err on the side of caution and contact the police if you haven’t already.

    In March of 2016, we had a warehouse employee never show up for work. We called his wife, who said he’d left for work that morning. The wife checked out local hospitals, and filed a missing person report the following day when she still hadn’t heard from him. Around lunchtime that day, we finally got word that he’d been in a car accident. (Oddly, it was never on any accident reports that we could find). Anyway, the employee almost died, and lost a lot of brain functionality. His wife quit her job and now takes care of him full time. Very tragic.

    On the flip side, we had a customer service employee about 6 months ago (who I was training) that left for lunch her second day on the job and didn’t return. We were super concerned after what happened to the employee I mentioned above. We didn’t have her contact info since she was through a temp agency. The agency tried to contact her to no avail. Two days later, the temp agency called to say that she’d gotten “extremely ill” after leaving for lunch that day (doubtful, haha), and had also “gotten a job offer during her time sick at home.” So, we never saw or heard from her again.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I do think leaving on the first/second day (first week or so?) it is more likely to be a walk-off. People just realize they don’t want this job now that they’ve learned a little more about what it would entail, and don’t know how to get out of it without causing a big scene. Immature, as you could at least send an email so they know you’re not dead!

      Still, I’d say follow up even if it’s in their first week, because you just never know.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Something similar happened to a past manager of mine. Her husband called the office to ask if she was working late, and she wasn’t… she’d gotten into a fatal accident on the way home :(

      1. JanetM*

        And something similar happened here a few years ago – someone didn’t show up for work, they called her husband, he traced her typical route, and found her in the parking garage – I don’t remember all the details, just something to do with the parking brake not being set and the car rolling.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        My husband had a welfare check done on me but it was with the police department he was working for at the time. I’m not sure if that makes it more embarrassing or less. I was working a job with rotating shifts so I was first shift a few days, third shift a couple of others, and just perpetually tired. I got out of work at 2 and was supposed to meet him and some friends at a restaurant in another town at 6. I didn’t show up or answer my phone. I had gone home and taken a nap but fell into a super deep sleep. My phone was on silent and I wasn’t waking up. This is before everyone had cell phones too so being disconnected for a bit wasn’t that odd. At 8 he called my job and they confirmed I had left at 2. Somewhere around 10 pm I woke up to the police banging on my door. I felt so bad that I put him through that. If I was that tired though, it’s probably good that I didn’t try to drive out of town.

        1. Bryce*

          I think everyone’s had some of those times when the body just says “sleep”. It can cause some havoc in the moment (schedule-wise, ideally not due to driving or anything) but it usually winds up for the best and is a good warning sign of a schedule that’s not working.

  30. paul*

    We actually found out a receptionist had passed on once this way (I think like in 2015? 14?). She was elderly–I don’t know exactly how old–and long divorced with no kids. She didn’t show for two days so her supervisor called in a welfare check and they found her deceased at home. Prior to that I wouldn’t have given it a second thought and just figured someone walked out, but afterwards yeah, I feel like contacting an emergency contact or calling the police for a welfare check isn’t a bad thing.

  31. Chris*

    I had an employee not show up for several days, without calling once. We’d worked with this person for a while, it was extremely unusual behaviour and very concerning. I went to their house, where I found they were severely ill, and under the impression their wife had called in on their behalf. I told them to not worry about their pay cheque (managers here have some discretion on extending paid sick days for true emergencies; we just don’t advertise the fact), and they ended up going to the hospital, and eventually recovering.

    Would they have had the same outcome if I hadn’t shown up? Maybe.. maybe not. But I don’t think displaying caring and compassion, and letting it drop if it’s made clear it’s not welcome, is ever a wrong starting point.

  32. Eloise*

    I was once the missing person in this scenario!
    This took place in the dark ages, before everybody had mobile phones. I was a reporter at a small-town newspaper, covering a local court case. As I left one evening, I told one of the other reporters, “I’m going straight to the courthouse in the morning.” He didn’t hear me, or misunderstood or something, because he didn’t relay the message. The next day, my boss thought I was a no-show.
    There was a perfect storm of bizarro complications — boss didn’t get my message; my cat had knocked my phone off the hook, so they got a busy signal when they called my apartment; someone went by the courthouse to look for me, but I had just stepped outside to interview someone and we missed each other. Eventually, the managing editor and the publisher went to my apartment. The publisher was friends with my landlord, so he got him to let them in (this was a VERY small town). They felt. my. bath. towels. to see if I had been there that morning.
    All this while, I was sitting in the courtroom, oblivious, doing my job.
    When I strolled back into the newsroom that afternoon, I was flabbergasted when everybody was all WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN WE THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      My mom almost called the police for a welfare check on me once. I accidentally left my phone on silent when I got home from work and I was sleeping. We had tentative plans and she tried calling me multiple times, but obviously I didn’t hear the phone. She drove over to my place and knocked on my door and tapped on my window, but I didn’t hear anything because my bedroom is in the back of my apartment and I had the AC running.

      She was about to call the cops when I woke up and saw the missed calls. I called her back and she was near hysterical so I thought someone died and she was trying to call me to tell me. No, she was freaking out because she thought *I* was.

      1. RJGM*

        After reading almost this entire thread, somehow I’d forgotten about this story until reading your comment…

        When I was in college (in NY, not NYC), my roommate called her mother (in NC) every night when she got home. She had classes downtown, had to take the bus, etc., so it made total sense. One night, I wake up to a knock at the door. Check my phone; it’s 2:00 AM. Surely I dreamt the knock? I lie back down — nope, there’s the knock again. I open the door and it’s a police officer!
        Him: “Is [Roommate] there?”
        Me: [opens door so he can see her – it’s a tiny dorm room]
        Roommate: “???”
        Him: “Your mom wants you to call her.”
        Us: “…”
        Him: “…ok good night.”

        The best part: this happened TWICE.

    2. NW Mossy*

      I once went through this with my husband. At the time, our evening routine was for him to pick me up at the train station and drive us both home from there. I’d left my phone ringer on low and didn’t hear the first couple of times when he called, but finally picked up the third time to him shouting at me “OMG WHERE ARE YOU?!” I couldn’t understand why he was so upset with me until I turned the corner and saw that a taxi had jumped the curb and smashed into the side of the building right where I’d normally be standing waiting for him. For a pretty heart-stopping 10 minutes or so, he was convinced I was dead.

      Recently, he accidentally did it to me. I got a phone call from daycare saying “Hey, we called Mr. Mossy to come get your daughter and he didn’t show.” I’m frantically trying to call him to no answer, and then bailed and left to get her. After being near tears on the bus for 15 minutes, he finally calls back and says “Oh, I was at lunch and there’s no cell service in that restaurant. What’s up?” Turned out daycare had called another dad of the same first name and never actually spoke to my husband at all. All’s well that ends well, but, panic!

      1. SC*

        When my husband and I were dating/living together in our early 20s, he worked retail and would close up the store alone and relatively late in a not-great (but not terrible) neighborhood in a city with a real violent-crime problem. One night, he called me to tell me he was closing up and leaving. It was a 10-minute drive from the store to our apartment. An hour later, he wasn’t home. I called him a million times. I drove to the store and back to our apartment along different routes, and checked that nothing had happened at the store as well as I could. I called his dad. Two hours after he said he was leaving, I was about to call the police when he called me back. It turned out that he had dropped by a former coworker’s house to pick up his set of the store keys and gotten swept up talking and partying, and his phone had been on silent. (He had not mentioned or even planned to drop by–he just remembered on his way home.) I almost broke up with him that night, but instead we’ve been married for 7 years, and he hasn’t pulled anything like that since.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        That reminds me of the time when my cousin was in her teens and had a holiday job at a supermarket. One day, my aunt got a call from the supermarket asking why my cousin hadn’t turned up to work that day. She had set off as usual so my aunt couldn’t understand what had happened, tried calling her without success (my cousin worked on the checkouts and couldn’t take calls on shift), called my uncle who was working on his farm and he hadn’t heard from my cousin either. He came rushing home, my aunt rang the supermarket back to ask if she had turned up yet…and it turned out my cousin had been there the whole time and it was someone else with the same first name who hadn’t showed up to work.

        I never found out what had happened to the namesake. At the time I never thought to ask. It was only after reading something about no shows on here that I remembered the story again and thought, if something really happened to the namesake, how much time could have been lost in pursuing the wrong person and what if that actually made a difference?

  33. Kimmy*

    This happened to me, and the man had gone into a diabetic coma and died in his kitchen. :(
    He wasn’t checked on for days though, and his two dogs had had no food or water and were very distressed, obviously.
    It was awful. Always err on the side of ensuring someone’s welfare.

  34. BlueWolf*

    There was just a story in the news about a pregnant teacher who didn’t show up for the first day of school. I believe her family actually called the school because they had apparently received some concerning text messages from the woman.The school said she hadn’t shown up and also hadn’t arranged a substitute. It was just released today that her body was found and it is suspected that her boyfriend killed her. They believe he may have sent the most recent text messages from her phone. The employer following up wouldn’t have changed the outcome in that situation, but it may make a difference in another situation. That just shows that it is a good idea to make sure you are able to speak to the person on the phone (not just by text message) and if not it doesn’t hurt to contact family or the police. Better safe than sorry I would say.

    1. AnonAndOn*

      Yes. This happened in Olney, MD. I mentioned it in a response above stating that just because someone appears to be active on text or social media doesn’t necessarily mean it’s that person.

  35. Eve*

    I had to do a welfare check on someone who just stopped showing up. The police couldn’t find him and the neighbor hadn’t seen him either. A week later he came back and had been in jail on a failure to appear warrant. Happened a month later with another employee. I had to institute a rule and email it out that if you went to jail you had to find a way to let us know. I left shortly after that.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I might be ignorant but – how on earth are they supposed to let you know? Is there a way? I only ever see “one phone call,” which I assume is to your lawyer.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        The “one phone call” is another TV myth. You have the right to an attorney, but how you contact them (or how one is assigned to you) is more flexible.

        All that said, your attorney shouldn’t blink at being asked to inform your employer, or tell a family member to do so.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ve always wanted to know more about this. If you’re getting a public defender and thus don’t have an attorney to call, do you get to make a different phone call? If you can hire a lawyer but don’t have one in mind, how do you know who to contact? I’m very confused by this whole aspect of being jailed. (And I say that as someone who’s been arrested before — civil disobedience — and don’t remember there being any phone calls at all, but that may be because it was for work and my employer was coordinating bail, etc.)

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            I worked for a jail but I don’t know if they all operate this way. We would let someone make a phone call so they knew they were alive. I also worked in a facility that accepted juveniles so it was extra crucial that parents were made aware. Usually the person that they called (spouse, best friend, parent) would coordinate calling an attorney and calling work. They weren’t necessarily limited to one phone call but we also didn’t have time to sit there while they made a bunch of calls. If the person they called wasn’t picking up, they could try again later or try another number.

            I’m so bad at memorizing phone numbers now in the electronic age. I still have my parents number memorized and would probably call that in an emergency and have them call my husband since I remember his number 70% of the time.

            Also, in a true emergency, people are likely to call from a number that isn’t theirs. In car accidents, phones are often destroyed. You might want to rethink ignoring all calls from unknown numbers. I had to call my parents from someone else’s phone in an emergency and they didn’t answer. I left a voicemail with no way for them to call back and then I called them again in an hour. They were so upset they had ignored the first call.

            1. KR*

              This always bugs me because my dad hardly ever answers the phone, doesn’t answer calls past roughly 7pm (and gets angry when he gets calls that late even though it’s not very late) and doesn’t pick up for numbers he doesn’t know. He only picks up calls from me half the time and I’m his only daughter! It always irks me because what if there was an emergency and I didn’t have my phone – what if his mother had an emergency – what if one of my step siblings had an emergency and couldn’t reach their mom?? To his credit, he did pick up when I called from the police station at 3am after I got arrested. But still.

              1. Floundering Mander*

                Argh, this reminds me of a minor but annoying episode that I still tease my Dad about.

                I was living in another city, about an hour away from my parents, and taking evening classes at the local university. My car broke down just as I was going to class. I was able to push it into a parking space on campus so I could leave it for a few hours. I called Dad and he said he’d come up and tow the car to my apartment so I arranged to call him on his brand-new cell phone after I got out of class so that he could find me and the car.

                Well, at the time this was a long-distance call, and it cost the call recipient extra to receive them. Dad in his frugal wisdom had set up a block on his phone so that it couldn’t get long-distance calls, so I ended up having to walk home over an hour (too late for bus service) to find him waiting at my apartment.

          2. Magenta Sky*

            The right is to an attorney. The right to a phone call is a complete myth, at least at the federal constitutional level. (Some states have laws that allow it. but even then, there are always exceptions.) It isn’t uncommon for the police to act as a go between, if they believe you might use the call to tell someone outside to destroy evidence or intimidate witnesses.

            Even when there’s a specific right to a phone call, the number is variable (and often not precisely defined – a “reasonable” number of calls), and can vary based on what the jail staff thinks of you.

            (Comedian Ron White, when arrested for marijuana possession in Florida, allegedly used his phone call to order pizza for the jail staff. Which isn’t exactly what happened, but makes a good story.)

            This article has a pretty good summary:


            1. Isobel*

              In the UK, however, there is the right to speak to a solicitor and the right to have someone informed of your arrest. If the first nominated person is unavailable, up to two more may be tried. Also you can ask for a copy of the PACE Code of practice – I suppose it would be something to read…

          3. SLR*

            Off topic, but weirdly, a civil disobedience arrest is on my bucket list, I am very jealous of you right now Alison!

        2. Jesse's Sister*

          My sibling, let’s call him Jesse Pinkman, has been incarcerated many, many, many (sigh, ad nauseum) times and, as far as I know, has never been allowed a free phone call upon intake. I mean, most of the jails he has been in have a phone available and you can make a collect call, but sometimes he’s been able to call the day of arrest and sometimes he has had to wait until the next day. Even then, it can take days to reach someone because a lot of people don’t answer unknown numbers.

          This last time, he sat in jail for weeks before he ever even met his public defender. He went to arraignment the morning after arrest and was assigned to a public defender who wasn’t present. Jesse finally reached our mother via collect call 3 days after his arrest, and she notified his boss (who already knew because he had read the newspaper’s arrest report).

      2. Can't Sit Still*

        You used to be able to make collect calls from jail. I think that may have changed, but it’s been a while since I worked somewhere that needed a policy for being in jail.

        The policy was that you needed to call in Monday morning, calling collect was fine, and the company would always accept the charges (cost of doing business). If there were extenuating circumstances, like not being sober by Monday morning, you were supposed to call in as soon as possible. As long as you called in, they would hold your job until your release date (it was almost always a DUI or drug arrest, so only a few days or a couple of months at most.) Our employees usually qualified for a public defender, so contacting their lawyer wasn’t an issue.

    2. Allison*

      Wait, he was in jail but the police couldn’t find him? Wouldn’t his name be in some police log, or list of people currently incarcerated? Do police not check these things when people call about missing persons? Shouldn’t they?

      1. Magenta Sky*

        In theory, they should. Eventually. But in a lot of places, jails are run by the country sheriff, which is a separate organization from city police (unless you live in an unincorporated county area), so sometimes, the right hand doesn’t have any idea what the left hand is up to.

  36. Killjoy*

    I walked off a job once, but I left a resignation letter in HR’s mailbox so they found out I wasn’t coming back. I was young and too intimidated to face up to my boss about why she screwed me over, so I figured just leaving was my best bet.

    1. BlueWolf*

      One of my coworkers was talking the other day about how he left a job at lunch. He didn’t just ghost though. He set an email to go out at the time he would normally return from lunch saying he wasn’t coming back. So he avoided having to talk to someone, but they wouldn’t have to worry he was in a ditch somewhere. He also hadn’t worked there that long.

    2. seejay*

      Actually I do recall not showing up for a job when I was 19, but I’d only worked there a month and was being regularly verbally abused by the manager. After a month of that, I was starting school again and they were already pretty clear that they were going to be asshats about scheduling me around my class times, so I just stopped showing up. No one bothered calling me or checking up or anything, but at the time, I didn’t really care.

  37. Mina*

    My father, who was retired, was found deceased in his home back in July. It was a police welfare check, because there was no recent contact. So yeah, it does happen.

  38. anonintheuk*

    I had a colleague once who phoned in on the Monday morning to say he had been in a minor car accident the previous night and was going to the doctor to be checked over. Then he phoned later that day to say the doctor said nothing broken, no concussion, but lots of bruising so a day or two rest was recommended.
    And we never saw him again, though apparently formal contact was made to establish the fact that he was not dead somewhere.

    Six months later we did receive a reference request from a new employer. I believe the lawyers dealt with that one.

  39. Wendy Anne*

    My old boss had a neighbour call in a welfare check for her because the neighbour hadn’t seen her for a few days. The boss was fine, but she was a manager of a retail store the week before Christmas! She’s wasn’t going to be walking up the driveway at 6pm as usual, Doris!

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Hahaha, oh my gosh, I almost did this to a neighbor of mine a few years ago! To be fair, it was a small apartment building with VERY thin walls and lot parking (so I could hear his TV, alarm clock, etc. AND I knew his car).

      So the car was there for several days (in winter, so obviously had not been moved), and his alarm went off (and off and off and off for like an hour) each morning with no sign of him. I was seriously in panic mode…. like… is he on vacation? or dead? What do I do?

      After a few days, I put a note on his note about the clock and resolved that if it was still there the next day… I’d call it in.

      IDK what the deal was, but he was back the next day and apologized about the clock.


      1. Wendy Anne*

        I think what got us was that the neighbour knew to direct the police to our store, but didn’t to ring us herself.

  40. boop the first*

    Dang. Ghosting at work is SO COMMON here that I wouldn’t have even thought about emergencies. But then, perhaps it’s because I’ve only worked at jobs that no one in their right mind would appreciate. Our managers didn’t even have the decency to fix the schedule and cover that loss. In fact, they continued to schedule a ghost for weeks and weeks, leaving us to just… voluntarily show up and be unable to clock in. No mystery there!

  41. HigherEd on Toast*

    I had a colleague who didn’t show up for work one day, and it turned out that he’d passed away in his apartment due to a heart attack. He was estranged from his family, so it was colleagues and one administration person who tried to contact him, tried to contact his emergency person (they never answered), and finally contacted the police. I was glad that they had at least gotten him found within a reasonable timeframe, but one different colleague, who hadn’t been part of the search effort, got extremely upset and said, “If I’m not showing up for work and not answering the phone or replying to e-mail, OBVIOUSLY it’s because I’m as sick as a dog and you shouldn’t bother me!” She couldn’t understand that there was no “obviously” about it.

      1. HigherEd on Toast*

        Yeah, I didn’t get that. She kept saying variations of it, including that she wouldn’t want her own emergency contacts to check up on her, and I finally did ask, “So you mean that you would rather be so sick that you’re unable to take care of yourself, rather than have someone come to your house?” And she said, yes, because that would violate her privacy.

        That was a weird environment. I’m kind of glad that I don’t work there anymore.

  42. Hiring Mgr*

    People do disappear in this manner. In fact, this reminds me of the time the person I was dating and living with for three years just vanished one day, no note, no call, nothing! I never heard from her again despite calls to her family, etc just to make sure she was ok… Now, onto the good part–irony of ironies…believe it or not I’m starting a new job next month as her boss!

    1. Kim Possible*

      Wasn’t there a letter writer recently who ghosted his girlfriend/left with no word at all, then the girlfriend accepted a job recently where SHE will be HIS boss?

  43. Falling Diphthong*

    “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” is a cliche, but I know two people who fell and were not by a phone, and were alive, and lay there for hours. In one case, it was the elder bus driver who got someone to go into the house and follow up, confident that his usual client wouldn’t just not show up.

    It’s unlikely, but someone can be under a fallen bookcase and unable to help themselves. Check.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This is my nightmare, since I live alone. I always move the bookcase from the side whether I take the books out first or not. And I’m super careful when turning/moving a mattress or box spring or any large piece of furniture by myself.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Exactly. It happened to my dad a couple years ago. He had fallen and couldn’t get up, and the phone was out of his reach. Turns out his hip was broken, which was why he couldn’t move. He wasn’t discovered for almost two hours because my sister, who was living with him, was at work. He would have been there much longer, but for whatever reason she decided to stop home for lunch rather than staying at work. Glad she did!

      1. blackcat*

        This is the only reason why I’d consider getting a voice-activated system in my home. I think they are creepy, but I’m pretty sure they can contact emergency services.

          1. blackcat*

            Yeah. I’m not exactly sure how they work, but I’m pretty confident they could be configured to at least email/text/message/etc someone who could then call 911 even if they couldn’t make a phone call directly.

      2. Floundering Mander*

        Similar thing happened to Grandma. She is partially paralyzed after a stroke and can’t walk without her cane, and would never be able to get herself up off the floor. Usually she has her phone on her at all times but left it in the front room when she went to the bathroom early in the morning. She slipped and fell and had no way to get up again, so she dragged herself into the front room where the phone was and was finally able to call for help 8 hours later.

        I’m angry because my useless cousin who lives next door could be popping in every morning to make sure she’s ok but he won’t do it because… well, that’s a personal rant.

        She now has her phone in a pouch around her neck so she doesn’t have to make sure she’s wearing a jacket with a pocket.

    3. Cheesecake 2.0*

      My grandpa in law fell in the tub and was stuck for 3 days before the police came to check on him after his work (he’s an adjunct professor) asked for a welfare check since he wasn’t showing up to teach classes. Luckily, since he was in the tub, he could drink water and stay hydrated through it all.

    4. shep*

      Oh my goodness, yes. I just heard the other day that my great-aunt fell, BROKE HER SHOULDER, and was prone on the floor for hours.

      The scariest part is that my great-uncle was actually home, but they are both deaf, and she didn’t have her phone on her to text him. (Scary in the sense that help was thisclose, but she couldn’t reach it.)

      I think she’s doing fine now, but yikes.

    5. GigglyPuff*

      Sooo a little funny, my mom is almost seventy but seriously much younger physically, but we still make the “help I’ve fallen and can’t get up” joke all the time (don’t worry she lives with my brother, so she’d be found pretty quick). She recently told me how one day she tripped in the front hall and landed pretty bad on her knee and was worried she’d really hurt it (she’s had surgery on it before), so she laid there for a minute waiting for it to hurt (it never did weirdly), but all the sudden she said to herself “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Apparently she started laughing so hard at her own joke, she literally couldn’t get up and had to use the door handle, all while continuing to say “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” to herself.

    6. Liane*

      That happened to my grandfather, when he had a stroke fairly early in the day. He wasn’t found until at least 12 hours later when my aunt got worried that he hasn’t answered the phone. He was alive but passed away after a week or so in the hospital. My dad never stopped feeling guilty because he hadn’t stopped by earlier in the day–when maybe Granddad would have had better chances–like he’d thought about doing.

    7. Trig*

      My Nana, who still lives alone, has one of those life alert services in case of this. We found out it works well the other day!

      She’d just had a new bath fitted, one of those ones with a door so she can get in and out easily. As she settled down for her first bath in weeks, evidently her life alert thing struck the side of the tub or something, and they tried calling. No answer. So they called the neighbour, my uncle, and had an ambulance queued up. The neighbour came over, rang the bell, let herself in with the key, called around, and made her way upstairs… It wasn’t until she poked her head around the bathroom door that Nana, who’d been happily relaxing in the tub, became aware of all the fuss.

      She took it with good humour, and we’re all glad to see how efficient the system is!

    8. Cercis*

      My husband’s grandparents were very concerned about being a burden and bothering their grown kids. So when Grandma fell in the basement one evening and Grandpa couldn’t help her back up, he just went and got pillows and a couple of afghans and curled up next to her and then called my mother-in-law in the morning. She was absolutely aghast because she literally lived just a few hundred yards away (on the same farm land) and it wasn’t even that late. At that point she started going over to check on them every couple of hours until she saw them safely in bed. We all believe that Grandpa willed himself to die because he really hated feeling like a burden, and if Grandma had died before him, we figured he would have gone off into the woods and sat under a tree until he died.

    9. Bryce*

      I slipped in the tub a few months back and while lying there doing a self-assessment (and marveling at all the hard/sharp things around that I had just barely missed hitting, I turned out fine) this did cross my mind. My main conclusion was “even if something’s broken we have thin walls and I’m able to pound on the floor” so my worry about the situation *as it was* wasn’t an issue but it’s gotten me thinking about other options since I keep to myself and have an irregular schedule..

    10. Michelle*

      A few years ago, my husband started thinking about an old friend who he hadn’t seen or spoken to in years, and he decided to call. It turned out that the friend had recently been diagnosed with late-stage cancer, and was very very ill. He lived alone, and didn’t really have any close family. More than that, right before my husband called he’d gone to the bathroom and fallen, and was currently laying on his bathroom floor, naked, unable to get up, and too embarrassed to call for help. Needless to say my husband immediately called another friend and they went over to help. They ended up arranging their whole group of friends to take turns taking care of the friend as he slowly died of cancer.

  44. Regina Philange*

    A good friend of mine has a fairly severe mental illness, and this job-ghosting thing is a habit of hers. As far as I know, none of her employers have ever sent the police or called anyone to make sure she was OK. They have called once or twice to find out where she was, and that’s it. Days later she often ends up in a hospital. After reading all your comments about HR protocol, I kind of can’t believe that her employers just assumed she was done working there.

    It seems likely that Jane quit, but even with that assumption, it’d still be worth a welfare check because quitting like that can be a warning sign.

    1. Manders*

      If this is a pattern your friend has gotten into, it’s possible that she’s ending up in a lot of jobs where high turnover is expected and bosses don’t bother making an effort to contact missing employees. That’s something that can be really tough for people with mental illnesses: because their job history is spotty, they end up in a series of lousy low-paying or dead-end jobs, and then there’s not a lot of incentive to keep the job so the cycle continues.

      I’m still very much in favor of welfare checks or calling an emergency contact if possible, but sadly, people who are already having a tough time often end up in jobs where bosses won’t follow up.

  45. JeanB in NC*

    It’s actually a little frightening how many people have stories about someone who just stopped showing up and the police or family found them dead. I’ve always been a little concerned about this for myself – I live alone with no family in the area, and don’t communicate on a regular basis with anyone. (Dang, that sounds sad!) I mean, people online might notice I hadn’t posted in a while, but they would have no way of checking on me.

    But my current work has my emergency contact and I feel confident that they would request a welfare check if I didn’t show up at work.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Same here. And I’m not working right now so nobody would check on me! Even my neighbors would blow it off, because they’re used to seeing my car in the driveway so they wouldn’t know.

      BuT I have online groups I’m in regularly. I think they would notice if I didn’t show up at all for a day or so.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Since I started living alone, I started staying in a lot more contact with my family — regular phone calls, texting, the Book of Face, etc. It wasn’t consciously about making sure that if I die, someone will notice… but I think subconsciously it kind of was.

      1. Reya*

        I sometimes have a few days at a time where I don’t check my WhatsApp messages for whatever reason – usually just because I want to unplug. I thought nothing of it until a friend rang me because she was worried I hadn’t replied to her, and told me her next step would have been to ask my sister. It’s comforting to know people are paying attention though.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I have a couple of friends that I talk to every day online and they know how to contact my mom if I seem to disappear. Though I do generally also talk to my mom several times each week.

    4. oranges & lemons*

      I worried about this when I was living alone in a basement apartment with no close neighbours and got really sick. I had recently moved to the city for a short-term internship and didn’t have any close friends or relatives who would notice the lack of contact for a while. Fortunately nothing so dire happened, and my coworkers were really good about making sure I was okay.

    5. seejay*

      Yeah, I thought of this too, since I moved away from my home country and family many years ago and then wound up separated and am pretty much on my own now, 2000 miles away from family and where I grew up. I have my circle now where I am but I’m still very much an introvert and with work and school, a lot of my social life has suffered. I have my partner that I stay in touch with regularly and work and that’s about it for the past few years. He’d notice if I stopped responding (we don’t live together but we communicate daily) and he’d check up on me but it’s a bit worrisome that he and work are the only people that would notice if I disappeared within a few days. Even my family, I stay in touch with them but phone calls are limited to once a week or so.

      I guess it’s one of the drawbacks of independent living. :/

    6. Eloise*

      When I lived alone, I kept my spare apartment/car keys in my desk drawer at work (and told a trustworthy coworker they were there) for this very reason. They once came in handy when I locked my keys in my car, too. : )

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        When I was at OldJob, I gave my carpool buddy a set of keys to my place. He knew that if I didn’t let him know I wasn’t going to work and I wasn’t outside waiting when he got there, something was wrong and he should use them.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          My elderly neighbor and I have each other’s keys. But he always calls first if he thinks something might be wrong. I usually let him know when I’m going out of town too, so he can keep an eye on the house (and he picks up my mail for me).

    7. AwkwardKaterpillar*

      I live alone as well and have always had this concern. I do have one friend I talk to/text often but it wouldn’t be unheard of to go a couple days without. I think my main concern is that it would be so long before anyone found me that my cats would be thirsty.

    8. Lindsay J*

      When I was in college and suffering from depression this was my biggest fear. I regularly skipped classes so me not showing up wouldn’t alarm my professors, I had a single room and rarely saw other people in the hall, I talked to my parents once a week if that. I figured if I died nobody would find my body until it began to smell.

    9. ArtsNerd*

      Yep, AAM’s doing a great job of feeding my phobia of getting injured and/or dying alone at home. (My cat eating my face is not part of the phobia because I’ll be dead and of course she’ll eat my face if she’s hungry enough.)

  46. Anoni*

    My cousin was actually found by a coworker when he died because they went to his house to check on him because it was very unusual that he wouldn’t come to work. As horrible and shocking as it was as a family for us to find out that he had passed in his sleep (he was very young and healthy) I can’t imagine how traumatized the coworker was by discovering him.

  47. Not Rebee*

    Old company had an employee who basically went radio silent (and worked remote) for like a week and a half while her boss was on vacation in another country. Eventually, a welfare check was done and the employee was totally fine… however it seems like she had not quit. During the week and a half she had logged in and submitted her timecard so we were really confused. After the police left she called and quit on the spot – apparently she was upset about the police showing up to her door.

  48. lbiz*

    When I was a kid my grandma’s neighbor suspected something was wrong and called my mom to come check on her. They got a ladder and finally made it into the house and she’d passed away a day or two earlier. I don’t know why they called my mom instead of the police, but it probably would’ve saved my mom some trauma if the professionals had done a welfare check instead of doing it herself. Let the people who are trained for it do it!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think it’s good to be able to ask a neighbor to go knock on the door, so you don’t end up getting the police involved if it’s something as simple as a turned-off phone or a misunderstanding. But if no one answers the door, yeah, call the professionals!

  49. VermiciousKnit*

    An acquaintance of mine was killed by a guy she rejected when we were in our early 20s. Her work sent a coworker to check on her, and it was a bad, bad scene and the poor coworker was incredibly traumatized. Definitely send the police. That’s probably not what happened to your mom’s office manager, but you can never know for sure.

  50. Adereterial*

    I’m actually required by my employer to go to an employees house if they don’t show, don’t call, and if I can’t contact a next-of-kin or emergency contact within 24 hours. I’m required to go and ring the bell/knock etc – that’s it. If I get no answer then I call the police. I’m not required to peer in windows etc.

    I’ve never had to do it, although I was on my way on one occasion when I finally got an answer. Turned out they’d gotten drunk and high over the weekend and was still both of those things when they should have been at work. Wasn’t the first time, either. I recommended dismissal, but it wasn’t my call to make, and I left shortly after and I never did find out what happened.

  51. Tin Cormorant*

    When my mom died, she had accidentally left her phone at work (as an in-home caregiver) the day before. When she missed her shift the next day, her clients didn’t know who to call because they had no emergency contact, but when I got worried when she didn’t show up at my house for dinner that evening and tried calling her, they answered her phone in hopes it would be someone who knew where she was.

    Thankfully I already had her landlord in my contacts from a previous health issue and was able to send them out to check on her (since she lived an hour drive from me and I couldn’t check myself easily).

    It’s always a good idea to have emergency contacts!

  52. hericane*

    I would assume she quit her job. I would not call her parents or the police. If she is truly missing, a loved one would be contacting her employer to determine her whereabouts. Do a search for her social media. If she’s active, then she quit. Send her a final paycheck and move on.

    1. AnonAndOn*

      Activity on social media doesn’t necessarily mean that the person whose account it is is the one posting to the account.

    2. Observer*

      You apparently have not been reading the comments. There are a LOT of cases where the first indication of a problem is that someone doesn’t show up to work.

      1. hericane*

        Anyway, I’m not one for intrusions in my employees’ personal lives. If their loved ones contacted me, I would happily assist them and law enforcement any way I can, but I am not calling their family members, going to their house or calling the police on them. If they live alone and gave me prior permission to initiate those contact because they were worried about something happening and no one finding them, then I would do that as well. Otherwise, it’s just not my place.

        1. The Expendable Redshirt*

          I’m glad that you’re not my boss. Work would be the first place to notice that I’m missing. If I was injured, friends/family probably wouldn’t notice for about a week. The longest that my employer would take before becoming alarmed at my absence is 48 hours. In the case of another coworker, a welfare check from the police saved his life. The guy didn’t come to work as expected, so Bosslady asked for a police welfare check the next day. Turns out that coworker had suffered a heart attack. If we’d waited for friends/family to notice his absence, Bob would have died. I’ve also called a welfare check for a coworker when they vanished with very sensitive client tax data. It was so strange of her to vanish that I was concerned for her health.

        2. Observer*

          I find it really odd that you consider basic concern for the welfare of the people you work with “intrusion” and “not your place.”

  53. Goya*

    Welfare check please!!! My uncle died by suicide, and if it hadn’t been for work calling my dad (works for the same company in a different city), he might not have been found for several days. I’m not saying Jane is in the same situation, but always better safe than sorry, and that type of thing just hits home for me!

  54. LNZ*

    We had this happen at the Tribal College i was working at in the arctic. A coworker, who is on a local whaling crew, went out onto the sea ice to head to the whaling camp after we got word they caught a whale. Which is fine, as a tribal college they give a lot of leeway for substance and traditional cultural activities.The problem was the next morning he didn’t come in, and his wife who also worked there said he hadn’t come home. People started radioing around to the various crews and camps trying to find him.
    It was my second week and as soon as i heard he was missing and last seen heading out by himself onto the ice (which is an incredibly dangerous place) I was instantly like oh no he’s dead. Like full stop i just assumed he had died.
    Then he comes back to work in time for his late morning meeting and surprised to find out everyone was freaking out. Apparently he always planned to stay at camp overnight and had arranged with his boss to come in late (but still in time for a big meeting). There had just been miscommunication between him and his wife.
    I actually popped my head in his office and went “Glad you’re not dead!” when i found out.

      1. LNZ*

        It actually gets better. Because whales are so well insulated against the cold there is basically a very short window between when a whale is killed and when it’s own trapped body head spoils the meat inside it. And it can take hours to tow the whale back to the ice shelf from the open ocean where it was killed.
        So it’s more like I have to leave right this second to go to whaling camp!

    1. Chinook*

      And here I thought the “we had to stop and skin a moose” was the best excuse for not showing up to work.

      I was working at a heritage park at the time (pre-cellphone era) with 3 Cree elders. There were all sisters who drove in to the park and spent the day at a teepee, making bannock, working with leather and talking to tourists. One day, they didn’t show up and the supervisor was worried that they had gotten into accident and were in a ditch somewhere. She called their homes and learned they had left for work and family members went and checked the route to see why they didn’t arrive.

      Turned out someone had hit a moose and the ladies didn’t want the meat and skin to go to waste. So they were prepping the animal to throw it in the back of their truck to take back home to skin and butcher when their families found them. They apologized the next day and offered to donate the skin to the park for use in our costumes.

      1. LNZ*

        I mean that is a pretty good one. This is also totally something that I could see happening at the college (with caribou or a polar bear instead of moose) or in the previous job i had in a small village in south east Alaska.

      2. Else*

        That was generous of them! I bet it’s not that common to get a moose like that out of season, and a lot of work to prep the hide.

  55. Jaybeetee*

    At an old job, there was a legendary story of a temporary/contract worker who basically vanished during a 5 minute window while the woman training her briefly met with the manager. Like, Trainer went into the office, came out a few minutes later, Trainee was nowhere to be found. (Trainee had only been working there about a week). The placement agency did eventually get in touch though, and indicated that Trainee had called them to quit. Apart from the oddness of the situation itself, that particular company is widely known as one of the best work environments in the area, with very low turnover and a lot of long-term, happy employees (I quite enjoyed my time there, and only really left because the side effect of very low turnover is basically zero mobility, and I was offered a job that offered much more in that area). It’s not really an “Oh my God, get me out of here” kind of job. As far as anyone could surmise, Trainee was used to doing freelance work from home, and this was her learning that she just was not interested in any kind of office job that she had to go in for every day.

    Anyway, fun story, but I agree with those above that suggest trying to emergency contact before trying the police.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Only legendary story I have is the one someone from my old job told me about THEIR old job. They had a new hire start at this person’s old place, and on the morning of the new hire’s first day, he said he was going to go get something from his car real quick. He never came back.

  56. De Minimis*

    I would at least try the emergency contact. At a former job we had a few of these…one woman decided to quit but didn’t want to actually talk to anyone about it, so she just quit showing up. Thankfully, coworkers saw her around town so they were able to let management know that she was okay.

    Sadly, there was another case where an employee didn’t show up for a while, and the supervisor finally went by their home to check on them [think the employee may not have had up to date contact info and lived alone] to find that the man had died.

    And there was one other case similar to that where the employee had committed suicide, but he’d left a sort-of note on his time card, and we saw the picture from his employee ID by the entrance the next day [that was always how they announced someone had died, they’d tape a printout by the door with the person’s ID photo and information that they had died. I don’t know who found the person, it was that evening so it was probably someone outside of work.

    This is one of those times when after I recount stuff I realize it probably wasn’t a normal workplace….

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      and we saw the picture from his employee ID by the entrance the next day [that was always how they announced someone had died, they’d tape a printout by the door with the person’s ID photo and information that they had died.

      Wait, what?

        1. De Minimis*

          More than you know…I worked at the Post Office! It was in one of their mail processing centers.

          They’d put the person’s ID picture, and usually say “In Memory” and give the dates of birth and death.

          They would do something similar when an employee’s family member died, except no picture. I guess it was the fastest way to inform everyone of that type of event [this was a factory-type setting, so no e-mail for most people there.]

    2. Observer*

      This is one of those times when after I recount stuff I realize it probably wasn’t a normal workplace….

      Yes indeed. This is one of the weirder practices I’ve heard of.

      1. De Minimis*

        I think there were four employee deaths while I was there, and I worked there for around two and a half years.
        The suicide, the guy who was found by his manager, and two others who died of cancer [one of them was the guy with the locker right across from me, I’d had no idea he was even ill. He was working while terminally ill for the last few months of his life so he [and his family I assume] would have health insurance. It was literally a case where he was there at work and then maybe a week later I saw the notice by the door.

        The employee population skewed older, so we might have had a few more deaths than average. It is odd, though…my last job probably had more employees in our location, but we only had one death in around that same time frame.

        1. De Minimis*

          And we had probably at least 100 employees, not sure of an exact count since there were two full shifts and then one shift with office workers/maintenance staff. I’d say well more than 100, but not 200.

    3. MoodyMoody*

      We had two sisters who worked in the same department die within a week of each other of unrelated (pardon the pun) causes. One died in a car accident, and the other died four days later of a stroke. They were 48 and 52. Heard it through the grapevine, the collections (for flowers), and finally, the newsletter. Bizarre situation.

  57. ladycrim*

    One of my co-workers failed to show up at the office one day. It was very unlike him to no-show, so my boss spent several days trying to contact him. Turned out he had been hit by a car on his way in. (He survived, but unfortunately never returned to work.) So a welfare check isn’t a bad idea! If nothing else, it might nudge the employee to quit her job properly next time.

  58. Red Reader*

    Coincidence? This afternoon my org sent out a reminder to everyone to update their emergency contact info. They specified that it was “given the recent extreme weather events,” but in my head, someone down in HR is reading AAM.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      That would not be a bad thing at all! It would (hopefully) mean you have a functional HR department :)

  59. Blue Bird*

    Emergency contacts seem so useful, I wonder why they’re not a thing in my country.

    I hope everything turns out well, OP. You seem like a caring person.

  60. bikes*

    This is such an interesting discussion and it makes me think of something that happened at my previous employer.

    A well-liked co-worker who lived alone had walking pneumonia. “Harold” intermittently called of work off and on for a while because of his worsening health and then fell out of contact for a few days. Senior admin had a really bad feeling so they called two friends on the emergency contact sheet and then the police did a welfare check. He was not at home and not reachable. Eventually, they discovered that he had passed away at a doctor’s office. He had had trouble breathing, called a cab to get to the doctor, and then expired in the waiting room.

    Every one was terribly sad. It was a close office and there were many tears. What unfolded next over the next few weeks, however, really surprised me. Harold was a very private person and an atheist. Our boss took it upon himself to get legal permission to search Harold’s apartment to look for information about next-of-kin as well as information about what type of service Harold would like. Finally, they found an old friend who guessed that Harold would likely want to be cremated. So Harold was cremated and all people who were comfortable doing so attended a morning ceremony (with some of Harold’s friends present as well, but definitely spearheaded by my place of employment) where everyone said something thoughtful and then scattered some of Harold’s ashes into a nearby body of water. In the coming weeks, several senior employees who were living a traditional, heteronormative life (married, religious-ish, kids) commented aloud how tragic it was that Harold died alone. I was seriously weirded out on multiple levels. One: Harold was private. Perhaps he had a same sex lover or multiple partners and didn’t want to share this information with coworkers. Perhaps he was asexual and perfectly fine not being part of a traditional family structure. Perhaps he didn’t want his boss rifling through his underwear looking for answers. Two: what a terrible message to send to other co-workers. If you die alone, not surrounded by family, your life will be judged and considered tragic. Plenty of us were single and living alone or were not a part of a traditional dating relationship. Plenty were not close with their family.

    There was something so immensely icky about the situation. On a gut level I believe that Harold would have been horrified to know that his boss had been so invasive. I really don’t believe they were that close.

    Anyway, it made me think that workplaces should grab additional information from employees about their comfort level with invasive steps like welfare checks, etc… I would be happy to scribble a line or two about preferring that my emergency contacts and/or the police handle things rather than my employer.

  61. KR*

    This is one of the reasons no call no show always bothered me at my old job. Not only because it’s a pain to be unexpectedly understaffed, but also because you don’t know if your employees is okay. My thing calling people who ncns’d was to say, a) I need to know if you plan on coming into work at all so I know if I should start calling around for coverage and b) if you aren’t we can address that later and there will be consequences, but at least tell me you’re alive and willfully not coming into work.

  62. Philly Kate*

    This letter reminds me of something going on in my hometown right now. A regular from the restaurant I used to work at didn’t show up to work for 2 weeks. Apparently, she rarely missed a day in her 20+ years at the company so it was out of character.
    They called in a welfare check. Mind you, she was married with a child. The husband knew she was missing and never reported it. HER WORK DID. She is still missing today and lord knows I came to my own conclusions.

  63. Connie-Lynne*

    When my husband went missing on a Saturday night, you can damn well bet that Monday morning I called his boss to find out if he’d shown up at work. I knew if he were alive he’d be embarrassed and chagrined as hell, but decided knowing whether he was alive or not was more worthwhile to me (I’m also a friend of 25+ years with his boss).

    Turned out he was dead, so it didn’t matter. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat. You don’t just disappear for days with no notice, after years together, and expect people not to worry.

  64. Manager-at-Large*

    Just a few stories.

    I actually have this conversation with new employees or a new team (all exempt and IT professionals). I tell them I will worry that they are dead in a ditch somewhere if they are expected and not showing up. Everyone gets it.

    Decades ago, I was on my way to my first day on a new job – it was for a week of training at a different location. I was rear-ended on the freeway during rush hour. No cell phones. Fortunately, I could still drive the car so I just headed in when we cleared the accident and explained when I arrived. But if I had been injured – I would have been that 1st day no-show, no-call – and I hope they would have called my ICE person to see where I was.

    Several years ago, I fell at home and broke my ankle in the evening – didn’t get home from the ER until after 2AM. I sent an email to my boss before I crashed as I knew I would not be awake at a normal job start time the next day to make or take a call.

    One night, about a year ago, I walked outside to find the police on my neighbors doorstep making a welfare check on the live-in girlfriend. I answered their questions (did I know her, had I seen her) and mentioned that I was surprised the large dog was not barking at their door pounding – and went on my way. I don’t know what the backstory was. The police don’t volunteer any info other than they’ve been asked to do a welfare check on so-and-so.

    I’ve had more than 1 relative who lived alone and had a serious fall at home, or passed away, that was fortunately found the same day (or the very next morning) by someone who was stopping by because of previous plans. I wonder in those cases who would have looked for him or her and when if that appointment was not in place as neither would have usually been expected at work or anywhere else on an everyday basis.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I sent an email to my boss before I crashed as I knew I would not be awake at a normal job start time the next day to make or take a call.

      I did the same the day I lost Pig and she bit me. I went to the ER at 9 pm and then had to sit in the all-night pharmacy clear across town (there is only ONE!) and then didn’t get home until well after midnight. I knew there was no damn way I was going to be able to get up on time for work. When I did wake up, I checked my work email and Boss had seen the message.

      The following night (Friday), I ended up back in the ER at 1 am and didn’t leave the hospital until Sunday afternoon. Saturday morning, I called her to tell her I probably wouldn’t be in on Monday.

  65. Not me*

    I once had a coworker not show up for an early morning shift. We sent another coworker to his house, who looked through his window and thought he saw someone holding the house up at gunpoint. He called the police, a SWAT team came in, the whole works.

    Turns out it was the back side of a lifesized cutout of Joe Montana that our missing coworker had gotten the day before as a gag gift, propped up in the living room. And the missing coworker? His alarm didn’t go off. He was fine.

    Not sure we can say the same about the guy who ended up calling the cops — he was so embarrassed…

  66. Startup Hell Lisa*

    Well timed letter, I’m unfortunately dealing with something similar right now except that we know there has been an emergency. I have someone who didn’t show up this week, and the only communication we’ve had is an email from her mother (from the daughter’s address) stating the daughter was hospitalized and inquiring about a leave of absence. She didn’t respond to our reply offering to get on the phone and explain our paid leave benefits & short-term disability options, and we haven’t heard anything from anyone for the last two days.

    This kind of thing is rough – and the way people perceive it is really dependent on personal experience. One of our team last worked in the finance world in a miserable company where a lot of people faked sick, so she’s convinced that the employee isn’t even really sick. On the other hand, at my last company a healthy 22-year-old died suddenly, so of course my mind is going somewhere a lot darker. Meanwhile we have to figure out what to do about her job in the meanwhile, with no idea if she’ll be out long enough that we need a temp…

    So far since we did at least get the one email from her mother we haven’t asked for a welfare check, but I’m considering it if we don’t hear anything by the end of the week. I used to be a Victim Advocate and now I’m concocting all these scenarios in my mind where maybe she’s in an abusive relationship and the abuser sent the email signed as her mother, to keep us from looking for her. (We have no actual proof the email was sent by her mother, and no documentation of the illness…)

    1. This Daydreamer*

      Try sending the information about the benefit options and request a return receipt. Do you have a phone number for the mother? And check social media accounts. I work at a DV shelter so I know exactly what you’re afraid of and why.

      1. Startup Hell Lisa*

        OMG I’m so glad someone’s here who understands that this is a real fear. Good idea to request a return receipt, at least that tells us someone with access to her email is alive… Her social media is all private or not updated in years, she’s not the most public person online. We do have a phone number for the mother, but she isn’t answering and the voicemail greeting is in French so I’m not totally sure it’s a current number for her – we’ve left a couple of voicemails.

        HR is starting the paperwork for short term disability leave now, so we’ll send and request a read receipt.

  67. Granny K*

    My dad was in sales and one of his co-workers didn’t show up to a sales call. The customer knew him and knew it was unlike him so they called the company who knew what hotel he was staying at. The hotel did a wellness check and they found him deceased in his room. Very sad.

  68. This Daydreamer*

    Another option is to send the last paycheck and request a return receipt so she has to sign for it. I really hope she just flaked but I don’t blame you for being worried.

  69. Obviously Anonymous*

    A bunch of years ago, before pot was legal, we were growing in our basement and went on vacation. A friend was plant-sitting and called us in a panic because he came to our home to find a note from the police and the neighbors reporting that they were looking for my husband. The friend also misread what the poorly written note said further complicating the issue.

    We were 1000s of miles away and could do nothing so I spent the last half of our trip with an exceptionally anxious husband. Oh, and the friend was so panicked that he never went back and all of our plants died.

    Turns out my MIL had called my husband a couple of times before our trip (that she didn’t know about) but we were so busy getting ready that he never called her back so she freaked out and had the PD do a welfare check. We laugh about it now but at the time it was not nearly so funny!

    He returns her calls much more quickly now ;-)

  70. Federal Teapot Analyst*

    So a sort of opposite thing happened in my office six or seven years ago. A spouse contacted people at work looking for his wife. She had told him she was going on a business trip and never came home. He was worried and was trying to track her down. It turns out she had met a new guy from another government agency at a manditory training. He took a posting overseas and she went with him. No one at work had a clue. She finally called work and she was quiting.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      We had something opposite when I worked at The Real Office – a coworker known to be an alcoholic hadn’t been showing up (this is a long story that would be a post all to itself) and one day her sister rang saying none of the family had heard from her in a week and had she been turning up at work? This finally prompted Boss to ring her and find out she was going through withdrawal and didn’t want her family to see her like that.

  71. Sookie*

    My father committed suicide while his wife was out of the country on a business trip. She would have found his body several days later if his employer had not called police for a welfare check when he didn’t show up for work. Please tell your mother to call. She probably just quit, but just in case, it can’t hurt to have the police check on her.

  72. Zip Zap*

    Semi-related question. Can anyone request a welfare check on anyone? Or do you have to prove you’re a relative/co-worker/neighbor/etc and have reason to be concerned?

  73. ECHM*

    I wish I could share a picture of the emergency contact form I had to fill out for one of my contract jobs. The “relationship to employee” drop-down menu in which I was supposed to indicate how my emergency contact and I were related included “deceased child,” “deceased insured” and “deceased spouse.”

  74. Lena*

    Quite recently my coworker didn’t come in to work or answer her phone which was very unusual. Her emergency contact was out of the country, so I ended up getting on Facebook and finding her boyfriend. I got in touch with him and he was very concerned, went home (they lived together) and found her very unwell in bed, almost delirious! She was glad we had managed to get in touch with him.

  75. abandonment issues*

    This happened to someone I knew, and then to me- an employee (who had been there for more than a year) just didn’t come back one day. I think it was six or eight months before we were able to confirm through hearsay that they were still alive; all we could do was send the necessary info to their last known address and hope they received it, and check the obituaries.

    I do understand why people might be tempted to do this, though I don’t understand how they bring themselves to go through with it, but I wish they’d at least responded to tell us they weren’t dead. I worried even though we weren’t close, and now I tend to panic when people are unexpectedly out with no contact.

  76. Ross*

    I think it depends on the context. My father was exec-level at a company he’d worked for decades, came home from work one day and dropped dead of an aneurism completely out of the blue. His body was found quickly but it took me a few days to get it together enough to think to call his work, and of course they’d been extremely worried.

    A 19 year old not showing up after a week of working at McD, less cause for concern.

  77. NaoNao*

    I used to work abroad in the Philippines in a call center. Many of our employees were young, like 18, and had joined to have fun, meet potential romantic partners, and learn better English. The culture there is very focused on going along and getting along and doing things as a group/not speaking up, etc. A lot of the trainees just weren’t suited to the work for whatever reason (night shift, yelling customers, having to say “no”, rapid-fire spoken English, and so on).

    So, we had people routinely no show no call rather than outright quit, because they were shy, embarrassed, and afraid to disappoint. The law (or guidance, not sure which but knowing the Phils, the law probably) was we had to send a letter to their last known address giving them three days to show back up (!!) with no consequences, and then term them. HR sent out hundreds of these a month.

    We would go through our weekly reports and note “So and so is on three day notice, so and so is termed…” etc. I don’t think anyone on a 3 day actually showed back up, but in a few cases (very sadly) the person had been in an accident or passed away. (“Safety last” is the unofficial Philippines motto, death was painfully common there.)

  78. Jennie A*

    My mother had a colleague who was hired under odd circumstances: the woman just showed up one day despite the job not being posted per SOP, was very quiet about her past and sometimes contradicted herself about personal facts, and seemed constantly uncomfortable. She left under similarly odd circumstances after about 8 months, and colleagues who asked HR to confirm her welfare were firmly told to let it go. The rumor mill decided that she had been in WITSEC. It was strange all around.

  79. Just About One Year Ago*

    I have skimmed some of the responses and want to add my experience. Sorry if it’s redundant, but honestly, hit a tad too close to home, that’s why I couldn’t read the posts last night.
    My sister lived alone in another state, about a 12 hour drive from me. We have no family in that area, but she had lived there for roughly ten years.
    I got a call at work one day last year, from a local -to- me Sheriff, which scared the crap out of me. “Hello, is this You? This is sheriff Me…” I mean, not much good is going to follow that opening…
    Very long story short, my sister had been found dead in her apartment,
    “And we are verifying that is is NOT a homicide.” WHAT?!?!?
    Her supervisor found here in her bedroom, on the floor. Still not 100% certain, but the believe is a heart attack. (NOT a homicide. The door was unlocked and there was a crazy-ish reason her supervisor suggested that to the police.)
    Her supervisor later told me that my sister NEVER neglected to call in sick (out sick? I’ve always used “in”, but I hear “out” being used more and more…), or text if even going to be 5 minutes late. After the second day of not showing up for work, she called the police and went over.
    Judging from my sister’s phone and email, she had been dead for two days prior to that. (Not scheduled to work those days.) I could also see missed calls and texts from the supervisor and other co-workers.
    So, again, sorry to have not read all the replies, but action in a case such as this certainly outweighs any awkwardness.

  80. Ruh Roh, Raggy!*

    I’m surprised that not a single comment expressed concern about police coming to do a welfare check. I know it’s objectively not common, but there are far too many incidents where there’s a misunderstanding, and the wrong person ends up dead. Not to mention cases where dogs are shot because they bark and don’t want strangers entering the home …

    With all of this in mind, I would have trouble directing the police to someone’s home for any reason. I personally would rather have someone who knows me check on me.

    Years ago, one of my team members didn’t show up. The first day, I asked our team lead if the co-worker had called in – no. And no further info for a while. A few weeks later, he called in to HR explaining he’d had to go away for a few weeks without warning. HR informed him that the termination papers were in the mail, and if you have a family emergency (or whatever), you still need to at least call in so we don’t worry. I don’t know exactly what the story was, but I hope it wasn’t, say, a bout of mental illness or something. But honestly, I don’t think so – when my lead logged on to the guy’s computer to pull what we could, we found he’d made basically no progress on his actual task, but was doing a lot of job searching on company time. Who uses their work email address to look for a job???

      1. winter*

        Info is really easy to find.


        1. KH*

          Why is it that this kind of thing seems to happen only in the US… Only in the US… Oh, I think I know why.

  81. Katy O*

    I agree but might skip the voicemail again and just call for a welfare check, if they don’t have any emergency contact on file. The reason I say this is because we had an employee leave for lunch one day and not return. Turns out she had a diabetic reaction and was passed out at home. Had we not questioned this and called someone to go check on her, she would have died. Another coworker had a similar situation where she went home, had a stroke and didn’t show up for work. Her coworkers called to get a welfare check and possibly saved her life.

  82. KH*

    Bugging someone with a welfare check is also a nice passive-aggressive way of letting people know it’s not cool to just stop coming to work. I’m all for it!

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