updates: the flaky interviewer, the coworkers who stopped going to lunch, and more

Here are updates from five people whose letters were answered here in the past.

1. Is porn ever okay on a work computer? (#3 at the link)

Thank you for answering my question, Alison. Thank you also to the awesome commentariat. I honestly considered “losing” my phone in the ocean after reading some comments but probably not for the reason you think.

When I was handed the phone I was told, “Use this as much as you want for personal use – just don’t go over your data plan.” That was my only IT guidance. Since I had never owned a smartphone, I excitedly tried a ton of apps. Personal apps. Very personal apps like calorie tracking, budgeting, and *winces* fertility tracking! I never considered that work could be backing up copies of my personal pregnancy journey! I took Alison’s advice and did not watch porn on the device off work, but alas I had already marked several intercourse dates on that app! I was also attached to my Facebook, Glassdoor, and various other accounts I don’t want work snooping around in.

Ultimately I decided to delete all the apps, disconnect my personal account, and attach a work-only account. It was a pain but I feel more comfortable having this extra layer of separation from the work device. Who knows, if I ever decide to move on I may “lose” the phone anyway … the jury is still out on that one.

Thanks again and I hope my question helps others understand the perils of “perks” like work supplied smartphones and tablets.

2. Is it okay to cry when firing someone?

I did end up terminating her, and I did NOT cry. I think I was too nervous to cry! My emotions showed in my shaking hands, but not as tears. She was surprised but handled it well. We gave her a little bit of severance pay. Unfortunately, she hasn’t found another job yet.

3. My coworkers all stopped going to lunch with me

I’m still at the same company. It’s been almost a year now.

My situation regarding colleguaes didn’t improve, if anything it maybe even got worse. I had one colleague who I was going to lunch with, but all of a sudden she stopped calling and even when we meet, she is really reserved and cold. She doesn’t talk to anyone suddenly, so I guess it’s not about me but it still feels weird.

In this time, I managed to get acquainted with most of the company and the pattern is the same — people are generally pretty reserved and not interested in saying more than “hello” in a hallway. They all stick to themselves and go everywhere alone.

By now, I kind of got used to it so I use my breaks to also run some errands, go shopping, or something like that, but deep down I feel this company isn’t the right fit for me, not just because of the people, but because of the job itself. We don’t get much to do and my boss told me openly not to ask for more work because there isn’t any so I’m pretty much bored and lonely.

I was thinking about starting looking for a new job but I decided to enroll in postgraduate studies to get one more degree and started networking already, even though my possible new job will have to wait a little as currently I’m expecting a baby!

4. My coworker booked all the best vacation days for the year and no one else can have them

I approached my manager about changing how we handled the before-and-after-holidays days. We decided to not accept requests for these days until two months before the day…so, for example, no Thanksgiving week requests would be accepted before mid-September. If there are conflicts when we do accept those requests, we look first to see who had those days off the previous year, and if there’s still a conflict, seniority rules.

So far it’s working well, and we’ve had no more problems. Here’s an interesting thing, though. The coworker, Jane, whose calendar strategy triggered my letter, ended up in a bad car wreck two months ago, and was out of work for several weeks. She is much better and back at work now, but the number one thing on her mind as we kept in touch with her during her recovery? Yep, you guessed it. “How is this going to affect my vacation time?”

Thanks to you and the commetariat for some really helpful suggestions, and for all you do with AAM!

5. Flaky interviewer is causing child care problems

My husband used the language you suggested about having to shuffle things around to make the meeting work and asking to confirm the certainty of the meeting and did eventually meet with the company. It turned out they had pretty legit emergency excuses for both of the prior flakes, so we cut them a little slack, but then they ended up making a soft commitment to follow up with my husband and never did. Which, as you and many commenters pointed out, was not shocking at all. We are considering it a bullet dodged. He’s now working in a similar capacity with another company in the industry that actually pays twice as much and is run by some guys who left the corporate world and have a better perspective on norms around scheduling.

And I’ll unmask the notoriously flaky industry: microbrewing.

{ 213 comments… read them below }

  1. H.C.*

    Funny enough, I was just talking with a colleague who is constantly embarrassed by the amount of porn she has on her work computer (she’s an investigator for DA’s office’s sex crimes division) – but yeah, outside of a legit work-related reason like that, just no to porn on a work device.

    1. AMT*

      This jogs a memory of working at a public defense agency and praying that no one popped into my office while I was going through some of my client’s illegal upskirt videos.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Yeah, part of my job sometimes take me to dark corners of the web and I’m so happy my department and a related department have a laptop that’s specifically used for that purpose; our computers are connected to the network and have internet blocking/filtering, while the laptop does not. If I was able to get to the websites I need to go to on my work computer, the IT people would be quite entertained: initial coin offerings (Bitcoin, etc.), medical marijuana, adult ads, the dark web, weapons manufacturers, etc.

      1. Canto Bight*

        I work for a government agency that is generally pretty bureaucratic, but occasionally requires research into more illicit areas of policy. While working on a project recently related to the opiate addiction crisis, a few coworkers and I ended up trying to find the going street price of specific narcotics using our work computers. It became a running joke that we hoped the IT provider – a different government agency – wasn’t tracking us too closely.

        On another occasion, a friend linked me to an interesting piece of political journalism she thought I’d like. I clicked the link on my work phone without looking at where the URL was leading, which was how I learned both that Playboy is apparently doing political journalism now, and that my work network blocks access to Playboy.

        1. Libervermis*

          In undergrad I took a forensic science class that included a project analyzing a fake crime scene. I really hope campus IT was entertained rather than alarmed by my search for the components of methamphetimine. Nobody came to have a talk with me, anyways.

          1. Anony*

            I did creative writing at uni. I have no idea what campus IT made of my searches for things including demonology, murder, and the history of sewage.

            I also do volunteer work at a local queer youth charity, and a local college lets us use some of their spare offices. So many times we’ve had to look up sites relating to sex ed and such and have to contact IT to get them unblocked. We’ve also pointed out that blocking reliable sex ed sites at a college is just asking for trouble. (It’s not a religious college, the pornblocker is just over-zealous.)

        2. Ego Chamber*

          “Playboy is apparently doing political journalism now”

          Playboy has always done political journalism, and other journalism, and fiction (a lot of classic sci-fi was first published there). That stupid old joke about “reading it for the articles” has some basis.

          1. Miss Betty*

            I’d always thought that was a joke until I was working at the library in college and found out the library had a subscription to Playboy in Braille.

            1. Lady at Liberty*

              I realize, of course, that this is missing the point entirely, but now I’m curious how they’d handle the pictorials in the Braille ediiton.

              1. Kit*

                I have not seen braille Playboy specifically, but generally images are “translated” into braille with a thorough one sentence description.

                1. Candi*

                  You can also, in general, emboss pictures on heavy paper. Learned that when reading about Helen Keller.

          2. Wintermute*

            even back in the 70s they had some groundbreaking stuff (as an aside so does Rolling Stone, for that matter, it’s not a vapid music releases rehash). Didn’t they have a fairly important interview with Jimmy Carter?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            My exjob did the same for urbandictionary.com! We tried to convince our bosses they needed to unblock it for criminal cases.

          2. Candi*

            Tsk. Don’t they know that often it’s more reliable then sites going for clickbait and sensation?

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I once had a case where we were trying to figure out if the right Playboy had been served (there’s multiple companies, and the one that owns the magazine is distinct from the one that throws parties and develops TV shows). That email/call with IT to let them know why I was running searches for Playboy was pretty awkward.

    3. seejay*

      I had similar scenarios when I was working in computer forensics. My work computers had a lot of really sketchy stuff on it, but it was all related to cases. There was also a risk of really super sketchy/illegal stuff because I imaged computers we seized or had turned over to us from people that were being sued or charged. At least that data was stored on external hard drives that were labeled as such… my personal computer only had generic sketchy stuff.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, back when I did chargeback investigations, I definitely had some times I had things I was cringing about on my browsing history. I promise I was looking up synthetic marijuana for work reasons!!

    5. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      I was sure I was going to have NSA drones peeking at me through my work window when I had to google an Iranian power company.

      I made sure to jokingly tell my boss about it (with the legit business reason for doing so).

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I have, more than once, emailed my manager to say “if anyone tells you I was looking at X, it’s because of Y project.”

    6. Willow*

      Yeah, I interned at a Jewish weekly newspaper once and was assigned to research a local candidates alleged ties to neo-Nazis–that required visiting some unsavory sites.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I once made a coworker run all the neo-Nazi searches (we were investigating the relationship between neo-Nazi groups and advocacy for anti-immigrant state laws) because I couldn’t stomach the idea of having the Daily Stormer’s history on my account.

    7. Quaggaquagga*

      I’ve had some close calls while searching stock photo sites. You also end up using some very awkward search terms when trying to incorporate diversity into your image portfolio.

      1. kitryan*

        I run background checks on clients (using publicly available databases and google) and as I’m looking for repetitional issues, it would be useless to safe search – so, whenever it is relevant to the conversation with the IT department or my supervisor, I try to mention that this is part of my job, so that if my searches ever get flagged, they will remember that I’m supposed to be looking for ‘bad’ things.
        So far, no one’s ever had an issue – the IT concerns that have been brought up to the staff have been more ‘stop downloading entire seasons of CW shows on work bandwidth’ and ‘don’t click on that malware link’.

      2. Lady at Liberty*

        Even the most innocuous-seeming terms… we were trying to find extra large format pictures for a project. Turns out that entering “extra large” gave lots of clipart advertising extra large… well, gentlemanly bits that people like to advertise the extra-largeness of.

      3. Chapeau*

        A friend of mine wrote a thesis on a big monument that was “erected” afther WWII… guess what google adds she had to see the weeks during and a few weeks after she finished it ;-)

        (BTW: it is very creepy to know that google reads a lot on your computer)

    8. Ophelia*

      Once, for a group skit, I had to bulk-order 30 pairs of red and green tights, which is how I found out that adding “adult” to any search is a Bad Idea. I did make my boss come look at my computer in case IT raised their eyebrows.

      1. kitryan*

        When I was in theater, we would get on some interesting mailing lists for some of our purchases-usually it was the men’s stockings and heels that were the prime culprits. A friend who does wigs told me that searching for yak hair (commonly used for facial hair) led her unwillingly/accidentally into some surprising places (porn).

      2. league*

        I once was wondering why an employee of one of our vendors had left the company, and googled her to find out. She has a common American first name, and her last name is Love. I will never, ever google her again.

    9. Lore*

      I once had to research ménage erotica for an article I was copyediting for a work website. That was fun.

    10. Ego Chamber*

      “outside of a legit work-related reason like that, just no to porn on a work device.”

      To be fair, if a company’s IT department is telling employees to use their work phones like they’re personal phones, it’s IT’s own fault if they’re squicked out by what they find later. Wtf.

  2. ContentWrangler*

    Glad to see an update from #5. I remember that original post and I was so frustrated for you and your husband. Happy it worked out for the better.

    Also, hilarious that the industry is micro brewing. My boyfriend’s brother has an interest in that field and is also one of the flakiest people I know…so maybe he’s found his people.

  3. Grace*

    I am jealous of #3 because it is my DREAM to be left alone. I just started a new job and it seems that everyone lunches together (to the point of standing up around a kitchen island to eat because there aren’t enough seats at the table). I just want to eat at my desk but with the open floor plan it probably won’t look that good. There are also social events planned that I just want to get out of (they’re outside of work hours). I am starting to regret my decision 3 days in :(.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      It’s one of the things I like about my current job. I mostly sit at my desk and do my work, although I do interact with coworkers for various things at times. And I have a few people I’m closer to, and go to lunch with on occasion – but not every day.

      For me, it’s perfect. For someone not as introverted as I am, who likes to work as more of a team, it would probably be lonely. I hope the OP finds a place where the environment works better!

      1. Grace*

        I’m super introverted but the thing is during interviews I come across as out-going (probably due to my nerves and adrenaline). It’s probably a shocker to people after I’m hired because I go back into my shell. I’ll to to go to some gatherings and lunches at first but definitely start to curtail them a few months down the road … if I last that long, that is :-/.

        1. Specialk9*

          That’s not really introversion vs extroversion though – those terms aren’t about sociability or shyness, but whether private time vs groups give energy or drain you.

          1. Grace*

            I’m both anti-social and introverted. I can’t stand most people and spending time in large groups drains me. I never want to get to know ppl, especially coworkers, and I am very turned off by conversation in large groups. I hate attention and public speaking is my #1 nightmare. So whatever you want to call it, that is me in a nutshell.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              The weird thing is, public speaking doesn’t really bother me. I guess speech team in high school did some good. I mean, I’m nervous beforehand, and definitely tired afterwards, but it’s not a big fear for me.

              And I can handle some large events, and may well even have a good time, but I need my time to recharge afterwards. So I can be fairly social, but the amount that I can do that is limited, and I’d rather spend that energy on my friends and loved ones than on coworkers.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        Oh, and my boss encourages me to send my phone directly to voicemail when I’m busy. And that, for me, is GOLD. Not having to deal with random interruptions until I’m ready to (because they can still email me or leave a voicemail) does wonders for my productivity and for my mood.

    2. Anna*

      My office is a perfect blend of leaving you alone and stopping in to chat. The people I work with really get when you are available and when you aren’t. It helps that my office is at the end of the hallway so nobody can just drop in as they stroll by.

      It’s by far not a utopia but it is really refreshing to work somewhere that just has the normal levels of dysfunction and isn’t toxic.

      1. [insert witty name here]*

        Generally, our office has a pretty good balance too…. but I’ve been wondering lately if I’m a grouch for being annoyed when people interrupt you literally just to say “hi/good morning, how are you?” and then continuing on. Sure, if you catch my eye as you’re walking by, dispense with the inane pleasantries, but if my head is down and I’m clearly working on something, WHY would you knock on my cube to break my concentration to JUST say hi?!?!? (FTR, I do not show my annoyance, I just say hi back and then go back to my business… but I am super annoyed internally when it breaks my train of thought!)

      2. Bea*

        My new office is great at balance as well. My former job was working in a cube and there was rarely social interactions. Sometimes something would trigger conversation but it was mostly head down grinding away.

        Now with an office again, we’re all open door folks. Quietly working but taking enough time to check on each other and such. I can eat in the break room or at my desk, nobody cares either way. It’s a great balance.

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      I have been in both extremes and don’t like either.

      It’s hard to build positive rapport when no one is willing to be friendly. It has work consequences as well since an email from Jane you eat lunch with occasionally and know she wasn’t be rude is different then Jane I know nothing of her so automatically assume the worst!

      I spent so much time crafting emails for the no chit chat office.

    4. CubicleShroom#1004*

      Seriously. Having 30 minutes just to blank out and meditate, and not have someone information overloaded me on their personal TMI? BLISS!

      People confuse friendly and friends at the workplace. I’m friendly with everyone at work. I’ll do anything to help you out AT work ABOUT work.

      There is nothing worse than getting trapped hearing a TMI horror story about dysfunctional family issues or a non emergency medical problem, that I really don’t need to know. I almost want to hand over a therapist business card or the health care system’s 800 number.

      So LW, really becareful what you wish for. Sometimes you can make wonderful life long friends at work. Most of the time, we just politely deal with humanity because we need that check.

      This is coming from an extrovert.

      1. RB*

        Yes, it’s hard to find the right balance, but #3’s workplace sounds almost downright antisocial. Usually you find at least one or two people who are willing to do lunch or happy hour once or twice a month. I think the key is to find people that you not only like well enough to socialize with but that they are at the same place as you on the social/anti-social spectrum.
        I prefer to do errands on my lunch hour so they don’t have to be dealt with on the weekend, or take a walk, but I can still squeeze in a once-or-twice a month social lunch.

  4. a1*

    Lunching or not lunch is very office dependent. I do like to lunch with others, not every day, or even every week, but like to have the options. In my first professional job the team mostly lunched together – we’d meet in the break room (some people brought lunch, others bought it and came back) and play Euchre. Then my next 2 professional jobs I could get up and walk through the cubicle farm and ask if anyone wanted to get lunch and I’d get anywhere from 2-6 other people, easily. Then my next 2 (including where I’m currently at) it is not the same at all. Now if I were to do the same thing I might get one person that’ll say “I’ll walk down with you” but they mean that literally. Get off the elevator, walk out the door (or go up the escalator, I’m in a downtown zone with skywalks) and that’s it. Off to different places. It was an adjustment. But where I work, the rest of the job and perks and culture are worth it. It sounds like it’s not for you, so more power to you to find the change you’re looking for.

    1. a1*

      And when I say not every week, that just means I didn’t need it every week but it often happened at least weekly. And it wasn’t just me initiating the lunches. Other people would to. Just when someone felt hungry or ready for a lunch break we’d get up and start the walk through to see if other people wanted to join.

    2. Pollygrammer*

      I had a really bad experience with a work-clique that got ugly. (And probably made me look bad just by association.) I don’t mind a lunch now and then, but I doubt I’ll ever be comfortable crossing the line from “friendly acquaintance” to “friend” at work again.

  5. Delphine*

    If your employee was in a bad car wreck and needed weeks to recover, and was still concerned about her vacation time…is your policy too restrictive?

    1. fposte*

      Having to use vacation time for a longer leave if sick days are exhausted is pretty standard, though.

    2. Temperance*

      In LW’s first letter, she indicated that one long-time employee snapped up all the most desirable vacation days, including the Friday or Monday before a holiday, and she also had the most PTO since she was there the longest. That’s the employee who was in the car wreck. I don’t think it’s that the policy is too restrictive, it’s just that Jenny took advantage of a system that was set up poorly to disadvantage her colleagues.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah—I think this is more about the employee being focused on her vacation than on the policy itself.

      2. DArcy*

        Not the Monday or Friday before a holiday, she took the days before and after EVERY holiday, thereby locking everyone else in her department out from being able to take ANY long holidays at all.

    3. Mediamaven*

      Employers actually need people who can be in the office. If someone uses allotted time off for whatever the reason, it’s only fair that the time comes from somewhere. A car accident is a terrible situation but it doesn’t negate time off policy. It doesn’t mean unlimited paid days by the company.

      1. tigerStripes*

        A smart company will want to keep good employees, so they might be more lenient in some cases.

    4. Lumen*

      This was my thought… but also that everyone else is now put in an awkward position because of the new policy. It might mean people are putting off buying plane tickets or other important and time-sensitive planning because they won’t know if they can get the time off until 2 months before the proposed date. And then if it’s a popular day to take off…2 months in advance you have a rush of people fighting to get their request in first. It just doesn’t seem like a way to fix anything.

      1. Lollygagger*

        As someone who lives plane rides away from family (as I think many people in large cities do), that was my first thought. I think the checking for who took the days off last year is a good practice, but I’d suggest for holiday times to ask people to put in requests and then get back to them at least three month in advance.

        Plane tickets in late September for Thanksgiving can be prohibitively expensive. That isn’t the employer’s problem, but it’s an easily avoidable one with enough advanced planning.

      2. Cbh*

        I was thinking that the new policy just applies to single days off. Meaning if someone was booking a week vacation it could be booked but they r using a lot more vacation time that can’t be used as single days at other desirable times. That was just my interpretation

      3. Candi*

        On another letter, a commentator mentioned that they have this sort of policy.


        They can unofficially put in for days off with their manager earlier then the official request. Those days are reserved for them until they can put in the official request, unless an emergency of the blood-and-fire type comes up.

        One of the keys to a successful leave policy is flexibility on a case-by-case basis. Which depends on managers managing.

    5. Antilles*

      Nope. It’s right in line with the standard way of dealing with major injuries in the US, which is basically a series of steps:
      1.) Use up your sick days first, if you have them rather than generic “PTO”
      2.) Once sick days are gone, use vacation time
      3.) After you have used up all your sick days and vacation days, then go on Long-Term Disability, usually for some reduced pay like 60% of your normal paycheck.
      I mean, there’s a theoretical argument that the policy *is* too restrictive and unfair, but since it’s common practice in the US, that argument is really a much bigger picture discussion about American society and how we do/should/could value employee health versus productivity and how we do/should/could rank business needs versus corporate needs.

  6. Eve*

    Not allowing people to plan time off more than two months in advance means buying plane tickets could be a lot more expensive. Couldn’t there be another way? I’d be really annoyed as an employee.

    1. Anna*

      The employee was abusing the system in place by grabbing up all the most desirable days off to everyone else’s detriment. This policy was put into place to make sure everyone had a chance to get long weekends and such.

      1. LBK*

        I’m still not totally sure how the 2-month restriction fixes that; she could still grab them all the day the window opens up if she’s that determined to do it. A rotating system still feels more fair to me and I’m not clear why that wasn’t the more obvious solution.

        And I agree with the parent comment that only being able to guarantee time off 2 months in advance is a huge problem. I plan my travel very far in advance and this would drive me insane/cause me a ton of anxiety worrying if I’d actually be able to get the days off when the time came.

        1. a1*

          I’m still not totally sure how the 2-month restriction fixes that; she could still grab them all the day the window opens up if she’s that determined to do it

          That was my thought, too. However, it does sound like they are also checking on who had that day off last so some sort of rotation is happening.

          I also agree about the 2 month thing being restrictive to planning travel (whether for vacation or family stuff or anything else).

            1. Anna*

              In the end the number of months in advance is arbitrary. If she had said 4 months, people would say six months or a year. It comes down to what will work for them and it’s possible, probable even, they’ll make adjustments as time goes on. This is just the first change made to make sure everyone gets a shot at getting high-request days off.

              1. stefanielaine*

                > In the end the number of months in advance is arbitrary.

                Not when you’re trying to book travel. In most cases flights are MUCH more expensive 2 months out than they would have been 6 months in advance. The point is that this vacation policy needlessly makes people’s lives harder when it would be easy to do it another way.

                1. Anna*

                  Well, ticket costs do fluctuate a lot and it’s not written in stone they will definitely be more expensive. Aside from that, it is an arbitrary number and I’d guess if the OP had come on and said they had made it six months there’d be plenty of people arguing that six months is too long, how can they possibly know what their plans will be and what if things change. Either way, it’s likely they’ll fine tune the policy as they move forward.

                  And really, it sounds like the people who actually work at the company understand the policy and aren’t up in arms about it, so maybe let’s stop projecting.

              2. LBK*

                That’s why I don’t understand having any kind of specified window. Just let people book when they book. If someone wants to do something truly ludicrous like book vacation time 2 years in advance, you just corral that one request. Otherwise it’s just an arbitrary, unnecessary restriction that doesn’t fix anything.

        2. purple orchid pot*

          But this system does sort of rotate–the OP says that when receiving the requests, duplicates are considered in light of who had those days of the prior year and THEN seniority comes into play. So different people should have a chance each year.

          1. Parfait*

            I had a colleague who always managed to get a week off at Christmas by taking the week before off one year and the week after the next. So she had never had the exact days she was requesting off the previous year. It was kind of devious.

          2. LBK*

            That part all makes sense to me, but I don’t see what the 2-month requirement does to help anything.

      2. Specialk9*

        For this system, they could look at top requested dates and make tiers (red tier most desirable, orange tier 2nd, yellow tier 3rd) leave dates that are evenly divided between everyone. Each person identifies, in order, top leave requests. Then leave gets parsed out in order of preference based on seniority, but nobody gets it all. So (depending on leave amounts) everyone gets 3 red tier dates and 5 orange tier dates and 10 yellow tier dates, and unlimited time otherwise. If someone only has 3 days of leave stored, they can use them all on red dates.

        That way the one co-worker can’t snatch up all the red dates singlehandedly.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Or they could let people select a certain number of days at a time. The person with the most seniority could pick up to 5 days, then the next person, and on down the line, and then it goes back to the top and that person can pick 5 more days. A lot of employers who require coverage work this way.

          1. Mirror*

            This is what my husband’s work does. At the end of November, they go down the line by seniority and each person chooses up to 2 weeks of guaranteed vacation for the next year. Then it goes around again and again until people are done choosing what they want (these extra days/weeks are not guaranteed but very rarely cancelled/need to be changed).

        2. Pollygrammer*

          Even the simplest policy should be able to make sure nobody is able to snap up Christmas AND Thanksgiving.

    2. Mike C.*

      It’s still strange to me that coverage is so restricted during the holidays when they work in construction. You aren’t building much during the winter!

      1. Anna*

        Well, depending on where you are, I suppose. In the southern parts of the US the building window is probably much larger than in the northern states.

        1. Specialk9*

          There are also factories for modular construction – build sections indoors and bolt together.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I just came off a construction project that got commissioned over Christmas in Missouri, so I wouldn’t say that’s true at all.

          1. Jiya*

            I’ve had construction going on by me in northern Vermont, so I think the anecdata all points in one direction here. :P

      3. Mananana*

        It’s 75 and sunny here in the Phoenix, AZ area — and construction is booming. (And the workers are happy, as 75 is much preferred over the 110 we’ll have during the summer.)

      4. Elizabeth H.*

        I’m not 100% sure how it works but in, say, South Texas it’s probably better to build in winter. I used to live in Austin and you have to take careful precautions not to get sick working outside in summer (incidentally, which happened to me, even in a relatively less-physical job of camp counselor. I ended up leaving the job after getting sick the first day because I realized I was particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion and I was worried about getting sick again or sicker).

      5. Anony*

        I live in Pennsylvania and construction happens year round. There is less construction in the winter, but not none.

        1. blackcat*

          And I suspect there’s more *planning* that goes on in winter. So the office peeps of construction companies could be quite busy.

      6. Juli G.*

        It’s been snowing for two weeks straight including four whiteout condition days and all have been below 15 degrees and my husband has been working every one except Christmas and New Years Day. The little companies drop off but we’ve got multiple hotels going up that need completion before Memorial Day.

      7. Becca*

        What everyone else said. My dad was a framer and I grew up in the Colorado Rockies. There was less work in the winter and in bad economic times it can be a problem, but growing up he worked year-round. He’s quite happy to work on indoor construction (hotel remodeling actually) now so that the elements aren’t at him all day.

      8. Candi*

        Interior construction can go on whenever. It’s putting up the walls, putting on the roof, etc., that are weather-reliant. (And all that looks really complicated just from the outside looking in.)

        Construction requires a variety of permits, building plans submitted, often environmental assessments which have to be evaluated and adjusted for, plus there’s all the paperwork that comes with having employees. The exterior workers may be not be able to work at times, but the office workers are likely going at least 80% year round.

    3. Caro in the UK*

      This was my thought to. It solves one problem, but could raise a host of others. It’s exactly why people like the employee in that letter really bug me. Because they obey the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of it, in such a way as to maximise their benefit at the expense of their coworkers. Meaning that the employer is forced to effectively legislate around them, which invariably means that some employees lose out, because there’s no perfect system for organising something like this.

      1. paul*

        Yeah. It is almost impossible to make a policy that’s totally not at all abuse-able and ALSO not really restrictive. I guess you could do stuff like requiring people to alternate specific major holidays (i.e. you take time off at Christmas you have work Thanksgiving or w/e) but even that can be kinda annoying

      2. Lil Fidget*

        That was exactly my thought. “Wow, who’s going to pay me the difference in the airline tickets that I could have booked much cheaper months ago?” This is not an effective solution if you ask me. At least not if there is a legitimate risk of vacation not being approved (in my office, this is so rare that I wouldn’t hesitate to book flights based on the assumption I could get the time as long as I reviewed my own schedule thoughtfully first).

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Whenever I’ve worked somewhere that had a short (2 months or less) window for requesting vacation, managers were willing to accommodate requests that needed more notice than that (weddings, family vacations, etc) and there was a separate policy for popular vacation dates (Thanksgiving, Xmas and New Years were decided in the summer).

          Tl;dr: OP’s company effed up, but I’ve seen this work as long as there are work-arounds in place.

      3. Canto Bight*

        There’s a difference between “legislating around” a problem employee and addressing a problem directly – the company here did the former. The company had the relevant information about Jane’s vacation-hogging but instead of addressing it head on with a solution that would really fix that problem, they tried to create a new blanket rule that wouldn’t single her out, and messes up everyone in the process.

        There’s no perfect system, but there are much fairer systems. In fact, the solutions Alison suggested in the original post – like having everyone submit requests for the year and parceling them out with some balance – would be fairer, would prevent Jane from manipulating the letter of the law, and would allow people to plan ahead. But when you create a system like that, someone has to be the bad guy who denies Jane some of her desired days, and I’m guessing they created this new rule to avoid that responsibility. The problem isn’t that the company was forced to create a new rule, the problem was that they replaced one bad, rigid rule with another.

        1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

          Actually they didn’t get rid of the rigid rule that was causing all of this mayhem in the first place.
          Personally it would seem easier to work out creative coverage for the vacations and not limit it to one person per department.

          It’s a no win situation.
          Under the old system; if they tell Jane you can’t have all the holidays. Then how many can she have? What are the major holidays? Can she have it if no one else wants it? How long does she have to wait to see if no one wants it.

          Now everyone has to wait until the 2 months prior, so why couldn’t they have done the pooling thing for January and then the ‘who had it last year evaluation’. One thing is you’d still get people complaining that they didn’t know that they needed/wanted it in January or people requesting ‘Just in Case’ vacation days to cover the need if they eventually wanting it, and people that need it not getting it.

          In either case the root cause is the coverage rule not how the vacations are approved.

          1. Canto Bight*

            Hmm… I don’t necessarily agree. The coverage rule does sound restrictive, but I feel like we can’t assume the company didn’t have a valid reason to implement it. Working out holiday coverage happens in all kinds of jobs; there’s probably no emergency room or fire department where someone like a Jane would get away with having all holidays off every single year. That means even though this is a construction job and not emergency response, there’s still a fairer way to implement a restrictive-seeming coverage rule here, too.

            The questions you ask about doling out time under the old system are all valid. The problem is that the old and new systems are set up to prevent any person from having to take the responsibility of making those decisions and being the bearer of bad news. When you shirk that responsibility and make it all first come-first served or set up complicated seniority ranking flowcharts (that will still, in this case, preference the person abusing the system), you end up with a bad system.

            1. eplawyer*

              Excellent point about the seniority. If seniority is a factor, Jane still wins. She’s been there forever, of course the bosses don’t want to upset her. She might leave. Which … might not be a bad thing.

              1. Pollygrammer*

                If in her mind her seniority fully entitles her to first choice of vacation days and nobody has informed her otherwise and especially if there aren’t really any other benefits to her seniority, I don’t think it would be unreasonable for her to be miffed. (Not that I don’t think she’s being inconsiderate, but it’s not monstrous).

          2. Former Temp*

            True–my office has a policy about this which allows a “skeleton crew” for desirable days like the extension of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and to a lesser extent around other long weekend holidays like Memorial Day & Labor Day. So, say there are 30 people in the office normally, skeleton crew means 10 people need to be working each day in the “desirable” period. Anyone who wants the days off puts in a request. Anyone who worked in the “desirable period” the prior year goes to the top of the stack, anyone who had it off the prior year is at the bottom (but in order of request–so within category “worked last year” and “had the time off last year”, it’s in order as the requests were received). Then when all requests are in, from the top down the first 20 are approved, and if there’s 21 or more, the 21st and beyond are denied (but will have to be in the top next year). While there may be some who always get the time off, there is no one who *never* gets it off, unless that person just never requests extra time around holidays.

    4. GiantPanda*

      The calendar opens early. People can not “book” the day off, only request at that time. If there are no conflicting requests until say, 8 weeks before the day in question, then it is automatically granted.
      If you would like a day to be fixed early, let the manager and all coworkers know. The coworkers will be given sufficient time (one week?) to also request that day.
      Manager decides the double-booked day by whatever criteria she likes (previous years and seniority sound good).

      The process is a bit bureaucratic but feels fair and workable to me. It gives people a chance to put requests in early or be flexible as needed. Holiday-adjacent days can be decided very soon after opening, because there probably is at least one person who wants them to be fixed.

    5. Doris Speer*

      This might not work for everyone and it’s a drawn-out process, but I take an annual calendar and post every seminar, holiday, election, and event we will have in the new year.
      Then I rotate this calendar through the department (by seniority) and ask each employee to list their absolutely first choice for vacation days/week in the new year.

      Once everyone has had an opportunity to post their first choice, I pass the calendar through again for everyone’s second choice, then third choice, etc., until everyone has had an opportunity to select most of their vacation choices for the upcoming year. I don’t require that anyone post every single day, just their major choices. We alternate who takes Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the last week of the year – for instance, if you took Thanksgiving last year, you don’t get Thanksgiving this year, but you might take Christmas week or the last week of the year, if you didn’t take those dates last year.

      I have employees who have 28 days to take, and some with only 10 days, so this is a way to give everyone an opportunity to select the dates most important to them in the coming year, especially if they need to make reservations/buy tickets way in advance. The employees with the most time get more opportunities to select time off as the calendar rotates through the department, but employees with the least amount of time still have an opportunity to select their most important date(s).

      Of course, there may be changes during the year, but my staff is pretty good about planning ahead. Having the calendar on the wall in my office with everyone’s seminars, vacations, PTOs, birthdays, etc. on it, enables everyone to see what’s coming up and we can make changes/corrections as needed due to illnesses, emergencies, etc.

      DS – City Sec

  7. yay*

    Not incredibly on topic, but I’m just so pleased that OP #1 identifies as female, breaking down that stereotype that women don’t watch pornography :) ….on our personal devices of course!

    1. purple orchid pot*

      Agreed generally! …though if we’re going to be as woke as to recognize and respect gender identity, this poster technically only identified as a person who can become pregnant. Yes nitpicking, sorry.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah there were some odd comments about how nobody should need to watch porn on a work trip (uh, which can last weeks?) and a few that seemed to indicate that women would be less likely to partake. I, uh … don’t think that’s as true as maybe it used to be (or maybe just nobody ever talked about it before? Or people don’t count romance novels?).

      … I’ll be in my bunk.

      1. Not what it seems*

        It is true that women are less likely to watch porn and even less likely to pay for it – a woman’s name on a credit card to pay for porn is automatically flagged for fraud because it’s so rare. So while there are women who watch it, most women don’t. Also, women are less likely to become addicted which is a huge problem for men (see your brain on porn for more information). It’s very common for men to develop erectile dysfunction because of watching too much porn (it has to do with with the never ending novelty internet porn provides) and for women those side effects are much less likely.

        Also, people can certainly survive for weeks without porn. If you can’t, then you likely have a problem.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          Just taking your latter point, “being able to survive” without porn is an absurd false equivalency. We’re talking about an extended business trip, right? Just because you could doesn’t mean it’s reasonable to say people shouldn’t. You could survive without having sex but would it be fair to instruct someone to refrain from sex while on a multi week business trip? You could survive without dessert or without listening to the radio too but why should you? The point is that it’s overstepping and unnecessarily controlling about what adults do in their personal lives off the clock. (this is referring to watching porn *in general* as opposed to on a work owned device). Someone who prefers not to refrain from watching porn is not a porn addict!

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          OP wasn’t saying anything about paying for it. There’s plenty of free stuff on the internet / erotic content either written or visual and yes women watch it / read it / listen to it. I am promising you.

          OP isn’t saying she literally can’t survive, but she’s saying she’d like to have access to it and that’s perfectly reasonable and not at all objectionable IMO. Let’s not get the sex police in here saying that anybody with an experience other than their own is wrong and sick.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh wait a second. The OP just said they were watching porn. There’s sex involved too?! Ick! Srsly, likely have a problem indeed. What grown person has sex, willingly? Especially as often as monthly?! Ewwwweeeeeeeeee.


        3. Specialk9*

          I’m not sure you know as much about women’s porn watching habits as you think. Also, porn and erotica and hantai are technically different things, but also kinda hairsplitting.

          1. Not what it seems*

            I’m not sure that you know about the studies that have been done. Men watch way more porn than women and this is a fact. Some women do watch it, for sure, some are even addicted, but the number is not even close to that of men watching it.

            This is a positive for us, women actually. We are much less likely to get addicted to porn, to suffer from sexual dysfunctions resulting from porn use, and to spend money on it. I used to watch it myself and it wasn’t that difficult to stop, especially compared to what men trying to stop it go through.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Your anecdata is only anecdata, and your confirmation bias doesn’t count for much, even if it’s supported by “way more” research (confirmation bias again?).

              You also might want to avoid talking about supposed studies that you won’t even link—even though you think we don’t know about these studies, so why no citation?—to if you expect anyone to take your almost offensively generalized statements about men and women seriously.

              1. Lil Fidget*

                I actually do believe that more paid subscribers to porn sites are male. But those sites are marketed to men. I think women consume other erotic media (as just one example, steamy romance novels don’t count as “porn” to most people but they are widely read and almost always by women). It also isn’t as commonly discussed in women since we’re not supposed to have “those kinds” of feelings.

              2. Not what it seems*

                I’m confused about what is offensive about it? Is it supposed to be a bad thing that men watch more porn than women?

                But if you want numbers, here they are:
                There’s not a single source saying that women watch more or even close to equal porn to men. More men watch porn than women, men watch it more often, they watch more extreme genres and are more likely to even spend money on it. None of these things are positive in any way. Men are also more likely to be serial killers, is this offensive, too?

            2. Specialk9*

              Sooooo…. 100 million copies of Shades of Grey sold, but you’re believing that women don’t wank? That porn (and alternatives like erotica, hentai, etc) are all so outside of the average woman’s toolset for masturbation? Sorry, no, that’s not reality.

              And really, when have any of us answered a stranger’s phone call or email or street-based survey solicitation, about the details of our sexual history? I’m guessing few of us. So who did they ask, the undergrads, and hope they weren’t not too embarrassed to lie?


              1. Not what it seems*

                I don’t know why I would believe that, being a woman with a high sex drive who used to have a problem with porn?
                Erotic novels are not porn. OP did not ask about reading novels, she asked about porn.
                Of course that women watch porn, just much less often than men. There’s no need to ask undergrads when porn sites release their statistics of their unique visitors. And when you have brain imaging studies that clearly show that men’s brains react much more strongly to erotic images than women’s. I don’t know if I can link to anything, I tried but it looks like it didn’t go through.

                As a feminist, I’m really confused why people are so offended by this. Is it also offensive that men are more likely to be serial killers than women? I hope not. The fact remains that men are more visual than women.

                1. Lil Fidget*

                  Urggh, I was so hoping that nobody would say “men are more visual” on this thread. I just find it so – reductive and gross. MEN LIKE THIS and WOMEN DON’T LIKE THIS are just gross ways to frame things, to me.

                2. Anna*

                  As a feminist, it pisses me off that you can be so reductive about how men and women’s brains work. It’s simply a more modern way of saying women’s brains aren’t cut out for math and it’s BS.

                3. Not what it seems*

                  This has nothing to do with math. Men are more sexually aroused when exposed to visual stimuli. Here is one study (already linked above) using MRI:

                  This has nothing to do with math, I repeat. It has to do with sex and arousal. And averages. It doesn’t mean women don’t like or want sex. It just means that men are far more aroused by visual stimuli and therefore, more interested in porn. I think I’ve seen studies that show that women have a much better sense of smell and are much more aroused by smell. Again, not every single woman. But on average, it’s true. And it’s not a small difference either. There’s nothing offensive about it.

                4. Not what it seems*

                  Sex worker, your job has nothing to do with murder. I was talking about statistics showing differences between genders. Men are much more likely to do certain things such as watch porn, pay for sex and yes, be physically violent (violence was just an example about another negative thing that men are more likely to engage in than women). Women do those things, too, but in much smaller numbers. Apparently any talk about real differences between men and women is offensive here even when the numbers make men look worse.

                5. Anon for this*

                  You just included my job in a list of “negative things” that men do and consume, along with physical violence. You don’t see how it’s offensive to do that? As a feminist and a woman I think you need to listen when sex workers tell you they don’t appreciate these comparisons. You aren’t helping.

                6. Not what it seems*

                  I’m sorry, I do think that paying for sex is a negative thing and most people agree. I don’t think being paid for sex is nearly as bad though which is something most people would disagree with me about. I’m sorry you’re offended and if you’re not in the industry by choice, I hope you can get out. If it was your choice, you knew what you were getting into and you knew the social price to pay for it – there’s a trade off for the money.

                7. Anon for this*

                  Wow. False concern for sex workers followed by immediate derision. Yeah, you’re clearly a fantastic feminist.

                  Or rather, exactly what I’d expect from a SWERF.

                8. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Hey, please don’t insult sex workers here. This site supports sex workers. Thank you. (And there’s a trade-off to the money for all jobs! That’s why it’s a job and not volunteer work.)

                9. Not what it seems*

                  OK, forget about the serial killer comparison. Do you find the fact that women live longer than men (which is a true fact) offensive? It is just a gender difference that is well documented and true. I’m hope no one one finds this offensive.

                10. Anon for this*

                  You’ll note that I never said I was offended by the idea that men consume more porn (this depends on one’s definition of porn) than women. I’m not going to “forget” the comparison unless you show you see why it was offensive and problematic. But you’ve made it clear exactly what you think of sex workers, so I’m not particularly interested in your answer.

                11. Elizabeth H.*

                  I agree with Not what it seems that men watch more porn than women do and that there are essentially biological explanations for the discrepancy. Just wanted to throw that out there; I think it’s hard to legitimately refute this idea with evidence.

                  J disagree about its implications in various arenas. I think more study needs to be given to findings that correlate porn consumption with relationship or sexual difficulties (personally I think that all of these would simply, be more symptomatic of changes in culture, how we interact with others, time spent on the internet, changes in methods of socialization and human interaction etc. rather than caused by just one factor e.g. Internet porn). All of this is incredibly difficult to study for reasons others have mentioned.

                12. Not what it seems*

                  Thank you Elizabeth. I was honestly baffled that so many people were offended by the suggestion that men might watch porn than women.

                  As to the the harmful effects of porn – it’s true that there are many other factors that could influence relationship and sex quality. However, there is very good convincing evidence that porn causes erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation in even young men and addiction is not even necessary for this to happen. You can Google your brain on porn or the TED talk called The Great Porn Experiment for details but basically it’s because internet porn provides endless novelty that no real life partner can ever compare to. The science behind it is very interesting, it has to do with the Coolidge effect and dopamine. It’s all about the brain, about the way porn hijacks certain pathways and the end result is a young man who can’t get it up for his girlfriend who he is very much attracted to.

                  I know all this because I was a woman who loved porn and I had to stop when I started watching more and more extreme stuff that I was disgusted with. This is also very common among porn users, usually men. Unfortunately, most people have no idea about the effects of porn on the brain.

              1. Not what it seems*

                Your own source starts with the fact that 30% of porn users are women. So this means that the rest 70% are men, so more than twice as many men watch porn than women do. And that doesn’t even account for frequency.

                1. Anna*

                  Not necessarily. If they’re self-reporting, chances are really good it’s being underreported.

                  Once upon a time I asked for women who played male characters in online roleplaying games to contact me if they’d like to be interviewed for my master’s thesis. Nobody did. I suppose from that I’m supposed to assume no women play male characters.

                  If you feel strongly about it, great. If you think that means you get to dictate how people feel about porn, not great. Feminism is about choices and stating that porn continues to objectify women without considering how women in porn have taken control of their sexuality does that one thing that anti-porn feminists seem to forget is a key tenet of feminism: it takes away their agency. They are only victims and not permitted to be women in charge of their own destinies. No, thank you.

                2. Not what it seems*

                  So is the data you linked to correct or not? Again, I challenge you to find me even one source whose numbers show women watch porn as much as men do. Are unique visitors reported by porn sites reliable?

                  I’m not dictating how anyone should feel about porn. I’m just stating facts – men watch it more than women do. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a separate topic. But it’s a fact.

                  I don’t want to go into objectification now because it’s a complex topic but I will just say that I was referring to the effects on the viewer. Porn viewers condition their brains to objectify the people on the screen and this happens involuntarily.

              1. Not what it seems*

                I’m not even going to comment on the daily mail – it’s a very unreliable source about anything.

                Is watching porn some kind of equality statement? So women being objectified is now OK because women like seeing it, too?

                Watching porn has nothing to do with real gender equity. And it can get in the way of having real sex with real people, especially for men. Do you know why there is an unprecedented prevalence of erectile dysfunction among men under 40? And somehow it coincides with internet porn being widely available? If you like sex, porn is not your friend – especially if your male partner views it regularly.

                1. Lil Fidget*

                  It’s okay if you don’t like porn and don’t want to watch it. OP does like to watch it, and I’d like her or any other woman reading this to feel like that’s a normal thing for them to like. Comparing it with serial murder (?) and jumping straight to addiction is not helpful.

                2. Laura*

                  I’m a woman who reads and watches a lot of porn and you are absolutely right about the fact that it’s very bad for men! The huge irony of course is that we can have way more orgasms, so men are messing themselves up for such a short result compared to ours….

                3. Not what it seems*

                  It’s not about liking porn – all this started because readers here just don’t want to accept the fact that in reality women don’t watch as much porn as men do. And no, I’m not comparing it to murder at all. It was just an example of another gender difference that is indisputable and not favorable to men.

                  And yes, OP can choose to continue to view porn as much as she likes. It’s her prerogative. I know I used to watch a lot of it. This of course doesn’t mean that magically women watch as much porn as men do. Nor does it make viewing porn a good thing for her or her real sex life but it’s not nearly as bad as what porn can do to her male sex partner. Again she can do whatever she wants. She can smoke, she can eat unhealthy, it’s all her choice. Of course, again, her having the freedom to choose doesn’t in any way change facts and statistics.

                4. Elizabeth H.*

                  @Not what it seems, it’s clear that you have strong feelings about internet porn and have come to the conclusion that it has a harmful effect on individuals and relationships. Not everyone agrees with that but it’s your prerogative to think that and make this conclusion from the scientific literature. I think that what is troubling is that you’re presenting your personal judgments of the letter writer in such a conclusive way. I think your example about choosing to make decisions like smoking and eating unhealthy food is pretty illuminating. If someone had written in about being treated unfairly in being denied breaks because her manager disapproved that she smoked during her breaks (I’m making up a scenario), it would be really unwelcome and inappropriate for commenters to respond with judgment of the letter writer because of the health risks of smoking. Virtually everyone (if not in general, in this blog readership I’m assuming) is aware of the health risks of smoking so it wouldn’t be helpful or appropriate to keep commenting on the letter about various implications of smoking and its risks. Even if you think most people AREN’T aware of what you regard as the serious consequences of internet porn and you want to make these ideas more widely known, this isn’t the right forum for that.

    3. Not this woman*

      I’m pleased too that women are viewing something which often exploits the people working/participating in it. More often than not, the porn industry exploits women (though men can also be exploited). But you are right, it is so empowering for women to be party to other women being exploited. Nothing wrong with that at all. It’s not a double standard that men are often derided for objectfying women and/or watching porn, while we should celebrate women doing the same thing.

      1. Not what it seems*

        Exactly! There is nothing positive about porn. And it’s a good thing women don’t actually watch it as much as men do (and they don’t). Even if we ignore the way porn industry affects the “actors” (which we shouldn’t), porn as a whole contributes to the culture of objectification of women and sex. It’s not empowering, it contributes to body dissatisfaction and shame, unrealistic expectations, not to mention the way constant sexual novelty affects the brain and real life sexual relationships. Yes, we as humans (especially men, thanks to the Coolidge effect) are wired to be drawn to it because it’s a super natural stimulus (Google it, it’s fascinating) but it doesn’t mean it’s good for us.

  8. chica*

    I really hate the update for #4 — 2 months just is too close to plan any holiday travel in advance. If I’m flying for thanksgiving across the country, that is negotiated WAY earlier than 2 months. And plane tickets are bought. So basically they are saying that you can’t make any holiday plans (for going out of town) more than 2 months in advance?!? super-crappy! The part about looking at who had them off last year is completely fair though. We do that in our office about spring break — who took it off last year? we can’t ALL take it off . . . so whose turn is it to stay in the office???

    1. Anna*

      I’d be willing to bet there will be adjustments made as they move forward. This is the kind of situation where trial and error have to be dealt with until there’s a more equitable way for everyone to get a shot at getting the days off they want. The way it was didn’t work for anyone other than Jane.

    2. chica*

      also, grandparents really freak about knowing such things in advance — if we are not traveling they might decide to visit us, so then they are not hosting, sister’s family has to do something different, so maybe they will go to inlaws house this year, or should they host . . . etc . . .

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Agree that my parents would flip the f*ck out if I coudn’t commit to plans further than two months out. Families are hard enough to wrangle even if everybody’s looking at the calendar! They would demand I quit this workplace and start sending me job postings every day, lol.

        1. Specialk9*

          And frankly, I could see people with options deciding that was a reason to look for a new job.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Seriously. This is one of those situations that sucks, but is very likely to change if enough people have an issue with it.

            1. Temperance*

              Yep. And I’m sure it’s way better than the current system, where Jenny the Jerk takes all the good vacation days for the year.

              I find it deeply concerning that an adult’s parents would throw a toddler tantrum if they couldn’t figure out her holiday plans TWO WHOLE MONTHS prior to a holiday, and would go so far as to demand she leave her job in order to accommodate their wishes.

              1. Lil Fidget*

                I was exaggerating, I admit. It’s true they would find this crappy though and would probably start sending me links to new jobs. If I would consider quitting over it, I don’t know – depends on how it’s enforced – people below are saying there’s conflicting rules in how these things are rolled out, and if you’re booking a flight you can just ask early (so … the system doesn’t really do what it says it does, basically) so in that case I might not care.

  9. Huntington*

    “…but the number one thing on her mind as we kept in touch with her during her recovery? Yep, you guessed it. “How is this going to affect my vacation time?”

    People are so funny. I noticed some time ago that free meals at seminars or conferences seems to be the No. 1 concern of one of my coworkers, for example. I mean, we’ve had team email exchanges laying out who is responsible for attending what — and she immediately sends out that she will be attending the lunch.

    1. Huntington*

      (I realize now someone who doesn’t know her might think she is going hungry — that is not the case. She is wealthy, and even if she weren’t, we all getting free lunches at these things.)

    2. kittymommy*

      Lol, don’t get between people and food! Or, if it’s the medical industry, people and free pens (at least in my experience).

      1. Pollygrammer*

        Oh man, I’ve seen doctors try to sweep all the pens off the table in one go into their conference bag. (Not promotional pens! Cheap black Bics we had there for filling out surveys!)

        1. Bea*

          Lol probably to deal with the 9000 pens that walk away in their offices from patients. I still have pens randomly appear that I don’t ever recall where they came from though

  10. Jam Today*

    #3 could work out to her benefit in the end. The job seems like it doesn’t occupy much of her brainspace, so she can dedicate that to her studies (taking classes is a great idea), if not openly doing homework than maybe doing additional reading within the field of study. Her need for social interaction can probably be fulfilled by the classes, and with a baby on the way some stability on the job front will be a big load off her mind.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Heck, if the boss is openly telling you there’s not more work then they might be okay with you openly doing homework! If she’s thinking about quitting she might as well ask if she can stay on and also take classes.

      1. Anna*

        I worked for a boss like this. He didn’t want me to be sitting staring into space or playing solitaire on the computer (this was a long time ago), but was completely okay with me working on papers or reading history at my desk when it was slow.

  11. Anita-ita*

    #3 – I don’t want to seem like I am criticizing but this helped me change some things about my personality to keep friends and make new ones. Is it possible you see yourself differently than others see you? Do you have any negative qualities that come out when people get to know you that make them not want to be around you? This was something I dove into about myself a couple years ago. I would make friends at work then they would stop inviting me to stuff. I felt like we were all really cool! I took a moment and looked at some things I did, such as, constant venting, sometimes I would bitch a lot about coworkers I didn’t like, things like that. No one wants to be around negative people or someone who bitches about other people a lot. So I stopped that along with some other things and my ability to make and keep friends changed significantly!

    I think a lot of people see themselves differently than others see them as an outsider. It’s always good to take a step back and look. Another thing that helped is I took the people in my life who I thought were really cool, social, and have magnetic personalities. What do they do that makes them like that? They are charming, can have conversations about anything, constantly asking how your life is, how you are, and are genuinely interested in how you’re doing. They are positive people with goals and a good outlook on life. They don’t bitch a lot. Those kinds of people are fun to be around and always good at making friends.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I did wonder if there was something going on with this OP. Especially if a newer friend also dropped contact. Slim chance there’s some nasty rumor going around or something, but more likely a wider problem. Does this happen in any other parts of their life, I wonder. It doesn’t make you a bad person but there may be something in your control that would improve your social life.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        It’s possible there could be an aspect of this with the OP. But then again, some workplaces really are like this.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          There are *lots* of offices where people don’t go out to lunch together often – I work at one! But it’s weird to me that people who were formerly friendly to OP are now acting cold.

      2. Specialk9*

        I wondered that too, especially when the one with friend got cold and distant and cut them off (but maybe to everyone else too?). A pattern can be person related, or environment related. Look at broader trends to figure out which it is.

  12. Kate the Teapots Project Manager*

    Hi #3! I have an idea for you – can you find some groups for your city online, like NextDoor or Facebook groups or whatever?

    You could then post “I work in X area and would like to have some lunch buddies, I’m going to sit at a big table at X restaurant from 12-1 PM on Monday, look for a book about birds on my table.”

    Folks like myself who work from home are often looking for buddies, and folks like stay-at-home moms also need company.

    Alternatively if you’re not an organizer of things I’d recommend looking for lunchtime church services or meditation or exercise or whatever other classes might be available nearby.

  13. Wendy Ann*

    The 2 month rule can work depending on the size of the office and the attitude of your co-workers. I work on a 3 person team and only 1 person can be off at any one time. Even if we can’t officially request time off until closer to the date, we’ll talk about who wants what days and figure out a compromise so that travel plans can be made in advance. Of course we don’t have a Jane who hogs the prime days so I don’t know if it would be that easy if someone was bogarting everything.

    1. Emily Spinach*

      My spouse works a job that requires one person to go in on long weekends, but their calendar has the same number of official long weekends as full time staff, so they worked out a rotation way in advance and then could plan accordingly. A larger office could easily struggle with that type of decision making, though!

    2. Safetykats*

      Yes. It’s usually obbious to everyone that they can’t all be gone at the same time, and that for fairness sometimes people are not going to get the holidays off. I usually work the days out office is open over the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays, just because all my people are here in town – so I don’t have to travel, and I don’t have people visiting. I also don’t have kids in school anymore, so I don’t take time at spring break. In return, if I want a week or more elsewhere, I often get priority. Onerous policies aren’t needed when everyone can play nice and recognize that everyone’s needs should be met at least some of the time. It’s sad that when one person can’t do that everyone is penalized, but the logical thing to do would be to work together to make sure there is adequate coverage, and then present that to the boss as a group. That should allow earlier approval.

    3. Viktoria*

      Yup, we do something similar. We have 2 employees in one office and 2 in the other. We need at least one person in each office. We simply talk amongst ourselves when we are ready to start making plans. Usually one person takes a couple days off before the holiday and one person after.

      The rest of the year, we just put it on the calendar and tell our boss. We did have an issue the first year I worked here where I kind of got shafted and stuck working all the days around XMas because my coworker had claimed all those days on the calendar. My family was all in town and I couldn’t spend much time with them. That is what prompted the policy change.

      It seems to have been working fine this way. I understand it would not work for large groups of people, but if each department is small enough this seems like a good way to handle things. Alternately these preferences/negotiations can be routed through the manager if that’s more in line with the culture, or if a “Jane” is mucking up the works by being selfish.

    4. Lady at Liberty*

      Yes, communication is the key. At my old job, we all hated that HR wanted *all* day off requests for the calendar year submitted by March 1st, but that gave us all time to talk it out. Seven of us in the group, six of us with two weeks’ vacation each and the manager with three (not because he’s the manager, but because he’s been there approximately forever), ordered by seniority (not tenure- and that became a thing because I transferred in from a different department and bumped two guys down the list) and a policy that no more than three people could be out at the same time (three only in the slowest times, like post-Christmas)… and we all worked it out, for the most part. Stray days here and there were a problem, but we could hash out the big blocks amongst ourselves.

  14. Steve*

    #1 You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) “lose” the phone when you quit. Just factory reset it before you turn it back in! That will wipe all of your personal data, or at least make it hard to access.

    In fact, if I were you that’s what I might have done in the first place. It’s more thorough than just deleting some of the apps and accounts. You could still do it now without too much disruption, depending on how much stuff you have on there (sounds like not a lot).

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I wouldn’t depend on this strategy though, as many offices have a variety of ways to monitor devices while you’re using them. Better to get your own devices for personal use than mix business with pleasure. We also had an incident with a lawsuit here where somebody’s personal communications (emails etc) got swept up in the evidence net and it was really embarrassing for them.

      1. Steve*

        Oh, I totally agree. Just saying that once you do mix business and pleasure, you have options to untangle it besides pretending to lose or break the device.

      2. mrs__peel*

        When I was fresh out of law school, I worked on a document review project for a few months (involving pharmaceutical litigation) where we had to read through thousands of company emails.

        It was ASTONISHING how many people used their work email for incredibly personal things. One gentleman used it to correspond with a woman he met on a Russian mail-order bride website, and we gathered ’round and read the entire history of their courtship aloud to each other with great amusement.

        So…….. yeah, don’t do that on your work computer.

        1. Anna*

          I temped at a place where a guy in the office got fired and when they went through his email history to see what he had been up to, they found emails between he and his wife that were just cursing at each other and calling each other names and just generally gross.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          As I always tell folks, when sending an email, imagine it being read aloud during deposition. It really helps people constrain their non-work activity on work (and other) devices/accounts.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            “Dear me,

            Please find attached a picture of our adorable cat for our monitor background.

            Kind regards,

            Hmm yes everyone will think I’m cat-lady Smeagol. I must re-think my kitty picture transfer method…

    2. OP #1*

      Thanks! Yeah it was just a joke. I plan to reset before sending back if I ever leave this role but did not want to factory reset since that will delete the work internet configuration.

      I was told to use this for personal use and much as I want so I did not think about it being a problem until I posted my question.

  15. Anon in AZ*

    I was also in a bad car accident at the end of last year. I ended up working seven days in excruciating pain before holidays and pre-scheduled vacation kicked in. I wanted very badly to take this time off, but I was not sure how to go about requesting it. I’m still not feeling quite right, and I’m also caring for a family member who was injured, so I may pursue taking some additional time off. However, we have a already-paid vacation in early summer. My morale is very low right now, so I’m really looking forward to this trip. I also don’t want to lose my deposits.
    It really sucks to have to choose between feeling better now and having something to look forward to. I’m not the vacation hog, but I am curious how FMLA works early in the year vs later?

    1. Safetykats*

      FMLA should work the same all the time. It’s not like vacation time – if you need it, contact your HR folks and get it authorized. They will probably paperwork from your doctor and/or your family member’s doctor, documenting the need – so best to understand what they need up front.

      The only issue with taking unpaid leave right before the holidays would be if your company has a policy requiring you to be on a paid employee status to be paid for the holiday – which many employers do. You might therefore have forfeited your holiday pay if you had gone on FMLA before the holiday. However, since you were injured, you should have been able to adjust your vacation time to use that before using FMLA. Depending on your doctor’s assessment, you may have also been entitled to short-term disability, if you have that benefit.

      1. Anony*

        You may not get the choice to take it unpaid if you have PTO left. The company can force you to use your PTO before taking days unpaid which could result in not having enough vacation days for the trip later in the year. A good employer would try to work something out so that the already paid for vacation would not be affected, but it isn’t a legal requirement (unless there is enough PTO to cover both the FMLA time and the vacation).

        1. Nacho*

          That’s what’s happening to my coworker right now. He’s really prefer to take the days off unpaid, but I get that the company can’t just let him have all these days off like that.

        2. Anon in AZ*

          This is my exact concern. Yet, if I had already taken all my vacation and needed the days off, I would be able to take unpaid FMLA.
          Besides losing out on the trip I am pretty sure I’ll burn out if I can’t take for almost another year, but to be honest, I think part of this is me feeling butthurt about the way my boss not only didn’t acknowledge the fact that I was working instead of taking time off, but saw fit to chew me out for some work I had left undone (that had to be reassigned because of me).

    2. Arjay*

      Many companies require you to use any accrued PTO concurrently with unpaid FMLA leave, until the PTO runs out.

      When my mom was dying, I used up all my PTO concurrently with intermittent FMLA leave as required. After my bereavement leave, I basically had to start accruing again from zero before I could take a vacation day. It can be tough.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The biggest risk is that a good number of employers can require you to exhaust your leave concurrently with your FMLA leave (i.e., they put your leave in the same bucket). So if you’re out, now, and draw down your leave balance, you may not have enough (paid) leave left over in summer.

      Otherwise, the timing of when you take FMLA doesn’t matter very much. The only limitation is that it only protects you within a 12-month period, so sometimes the FMLA leave calendar doesn’t match as precisely with your tenure at the company or the regular calendar.

  16. Hazelthyme*

    The #4 update sounds OK by me, but that may be because I assumed it would work more or less like it did at a former workplace of mine. We had to submit vacation requests for peak periods (typically the period from (US) Thanksgiving through New Years and then summer) 2-3 months in advance. Officially, you weren’t supposed to make any definite plans until the request deadline had passed and the managers had reviewed and approved your dates. Nonetheless, it mostly worked for a few reasons:
    1) The director and managers did occasionally sign off on PTO requests before the deadline if someone had a compelling need to make plans sooner. Family weddings/graduations/births and once-in-a-lifetime trips were the classic examples, but it would have been equally valid to ask ahead of time because you wanted to travel to OtherCoast for the holiday, as long as you weren’t asking for special dispensation/early approval every year.
    2) The managers reviewed the requests as a group. This meant everyone was working under the same expectations about minimum staffing needs, AND let us approve as many requests as possible (i.e., if only 1 person from the spout design team would be in, but almost all the lid group was planning to work on Jan 2, the lid folks could help cover any essential spout business for a day or 2).
    3) If there really wasn’t enough coverage on a given day, managers could and did take that back to their direct reports to try and work out, e.g., “I’ll work Dec 24 if you’ll work Jan 2” or “I’ll work Friday morning if you take the afternoon.” People were usually pretty good about compromising if it came to that, especially since anyone who gave in and agreed to work a day they’d initially wanted off was at the top of the list for the next round of vacation requests.

  17. Genny*

    I really don’t get all the heart burn over requesting PTO two months in advance. It just doesn’t seem that outrageous to me (plus, a preliminary Google search indicates that airline prices tend to hold steady in Sept and Oct, but increase after Halloween). Maybe my office is just super casual about it, but we put our requests in in early November and basically everyone gets approved. There are usually enough people staying in town for the holidays that don’t mind coming in, and things are super slow anyways. If things are little tight coverage wise, you might be expected to monitor your phone and be able to log in remotely though.

    1. Specialk9*

      My vacation is planned 2 years in advance, with this major holiday with this family this year, the other that. I don’t think that’s at all unusual.

    2. Academic Addie*

      Agree. My job has never been the limiting factor in when we can take vacations (I just follow the academic calendar), my spouse’s is. Our rule is the more travel intensive family visit gets the longer amount of time off. If for my spouse, that’s Christmas, we visit the further family then. If he can’t get any time off around the holidays, we celebrate Thanksgiving in February or whatever. If the family is unhappy with it, they can plan a visit to us at a time that is more amenable to them, or pay his salary forever so they can have access to him whenever.

      Because of the nature of my husband’s work, we have to be flexible to last-minute changes in plans. So I’m aware that part of my total shrug on this point could be informed by never having this perk to begin with.

  18. Bea*

    I already processed new vacation requests for next Christmas. But to be fair we have spots for numerous people to take off, very few requests are denied. Making everyone wait until 2 months out would suck for them and myself since I’m the one doing all the scheduling.

  19. Nacho*

    At my office, holiday PTO is handed out about two months in advance, but we also pay 1.5x holiday pay, so those dates aren’t nearly as in demand as they would be otherwise. A lot of us gladly work Christmas in for an extra $80.

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