I don’t want to take 2 weeks off, coworker has a “food emergency” every other day, and more

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

1. I’m required to take two weeks off and I don’t want to

I graduated college last year and started a full-time job in November (thanks for all your help and advice on resumes, cover letters and interviewing). In this industry and anything related, it’s mandatory each employee, whether entry-level, receptionist, management, admin or board of directors, take two weeks off work in a row once every calendar year. These two weeks don’t count against our PTO. I have two weeks of PTO separate from this and those can be taken as individual days if I want. Sick time is also separate from PTO. The two weeks in a row is mandatory to prevent fraud and burning out.

My two weeks off in a row starts next Monday. It seems like such a waste to me. I don’t have anything planned. The kind of work we do is confidential and regulated so working from home / telecommuting at any level isn’t a thing in this industry. I’m not allowed to go to the building I work at or call or email during the two weeks.

Is there any way I can decline or push back? I am not close to burning out since work and home life are kept so divided. I am too new to be involved in any fraud and I offered to let my boss double check or look over everything I have touched. I don’t know why I have to take two weeks off for no reason when I don’t have a trip or anything planned. My boss offered to change it to a few months where there is an opening in the two week schedule but I don’t have the money for a vacation and I would still just be bored sitting at home. How can I talk to my boss about this? I am not looking forward to being off and don’t feel I need it.

Don’t push back on it. If it’s mandatory, it’s mandatory (and it’s a super common policy in fields that need to guard against fraud). Pushing back will look odd — not necessarily “Jane might be committing fraud” odd (although maybe that too), but more like “Jane doesn’t have a healthy relationship to work and/or doesn’t understand what ‘mandatory’ means” odd.

The fact that the two weeks don’t come out of your PTO is amazing, and somewhat unusual. This is two weeks of free vacation! You’re being paid for not working. Spend it reading, watching movies, seeing friends, cleaning and organizing your house — whatever sounds like enjoyable leisure time to you. If there’s nothing you can think of that would be appealing, then think about using that time to volunteer somewhere that could use a daytime volunteer (which can sometimes be hard for organizations to find).

2. Colleague has a “food emergency” every other day

One of our senior faculty has a habit of coming to our (lower level staff) office every day or two, frantically asking for “a handful of almonds” or “any kind of food you have lying around.” A little while ago, she tried to break into a (clearly marked and sealed) reserved platter for someone’s private event. She makes more than twice as much as any of us, so I’m pretty sure it isn’t a matter of need, but just poor planning. I’m not sure whether I should have a private word with her. It seems she only does this to staff with lower standing who feel less comfortable saying “no.”

She’s teaching faculty, and my supervisor and I are administrative support staff. She is tenured and very high up in the department hierarchy, while we are fairly replaceable and on the much lower end of the pay scale. She is friendly to us, but she’s also not just looking for an excuse to come down and visit, as she doesn’t stay for more than a minute when one of these situations arises.

Someone should tell her to cut this out, but given the hierarchy in play, I’m not sure it should be you or your boss.

The easiest way to deal with this might be for all of you to just start saying “No, sorry,” every single time she comes looking for food. If she’s never rewarded for doing this, she’s likely to eventually stop.

If that doesn’t work, then your boss could talk to whoever the most senior person in charge of the admin staff is, and get that person to discreetly tell her to knock it off, pointing out that the power dynamic is putting people in an awkward position. But a few weeks of consistent “nope, we don’t have food” might be enough to get through to her.

By the way, “a handful of almonds” is an oddly specific request, and I’m so curious about what’s going on with her and why she’s not planning ahead.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. My peer scheduled a weird recurring meeting and is assigning our team work

We have a team of three in a larger department of 15. Every Monday, our small team meets with our supervisor and one other person who’s peripherally tied to our work to go over action items. Recently, our newest hire — who’s our only part-timer, although not technically “junior” to me — suggested a meeting on another day of the week for just the three of us. I get why there might be value in collaborating on smaller projects and details without our supervisor and this more peripheral coworker, but these meetings are long and strange. This coworker, let’s call her Jane, leads the meeting, decides the action items and agenda, and then assigns everyone work. Thus far, I’ve mostly been baffled. I’ve offered to help out on the things I can and passed on projects that I can’t take on. She hasn’t pushed back when I say no, but it’s odd vibes. I get the sense she’s re-assigning the work she’s been given to the entire team. I’ve mentioned that a few of the conversations we’ve had really need higher-level approval and she’s pushed back pretty sharply to say we don’t. Also, our office is very hierarchical and this is just the kind of thing that’s Not Done here.

She’s very close to the other person on our team, and I’m polite and professional (although not close) with both of them. It hasn’t seemed worth it to push back on the need for this meeting to happen at all, but I’m usually busier than they are and I’ve skipped it a few times when I just couldn’t swing it. I’m not even sure of my question other than to say — is this odd or does it just feel odd? Would I be justified in putting a stop to it or is it better to keep attending and committing to only the things I can do? If I do need to push back, how do I politely tell Jane I think she’s overstepping and wasting our time?

Well, you could just mention this to your boss, explain that it doesn’t feel like a good use of time and that’s it’s odd to have your coworker assigning work to people, and — assuming she seems surprised to learn this is happening — ask her to intervene. (And you might mention a few of the specific assignments where you suspect your coworker was re-assigning her own work, because that’s likely to really alarm your manager if so.)

But if you want to handle it yourself and you’re sure your boss hasn’t asked your coworker to do this or secretly given her some sort of authority that you don’t know about, you could say something like, “Now that we’ve tried these meetings for a few weeks, I’m going to suggest that we stop holding them regularly unless some specific need arises where we need to collaborate. I don’t think we need them, since Jane typically coordinates this kind of thing herself, and my schedule makes it hard to have another standing meeting on the calendar.” Or even just, “Sorry, I’m swamped and can’t attend.”

And if she finds other ways to try to assign you work, you could just say, “We typically only get assigned work from (manager), and I think she’d want to be in the loop before we go any further with this kind of thing.”

4. Are auditors spies?

I work for a medium-sized religious institution of about 35 employees. Our corporate culture is quite friendly and probably errs on the side of us all being too much up in each other’s business. In the time I’ve been here, though, that’s mostly led to positive outcomes — real warmth and collegiality among colleagues — without much of the drama and lack of appropriate boundaries that can result from close friendships at work. A close colleague and I share an office which can be especially boisterous. This is the result of the nature of our work (design), our personalities, and the fact that other staff members will often drop by our office for a break or a work consultation with a bit of conversation.

Every year we host a team who come in for our annual audit. This year the staff-wide email that went out asked us all to be “mindful of the conversations we had while the auditors were present.” It was followed up by a visit from my boss’s boss (the CFO equivalent) to my office. She reiterated the request in the email, and told us that auditors are trained to listen in on conversations and use what they hear against organizations. She said that “idle chatter” (her phrase) could lead to us getting in trouble.

I care about the institution where I work very deeply. I’m certainly aware that a lot about my office wouldn’t be acceptable in other workplaces, and I have no intention of pushing back on this request. But it does make me feel sort of weird and gross, as though I’m being asked to cover up for something. As far as I know, there’s nothing shady or unethical about our business practices or finances. And if there were, I would much rather that we as a religious institution take responsibility for them and take steps to change. Can you help me understand what’s going on here from my CFO’s perspective? Are auditors actually spies? Is this typical practice?

Auditors aren’t spies, but if they overhear you saying something that sounds potentially alarming, they’d have to spend time checking into it, even if it turns out to be nothing.

I actually ran this question by my mom, a CPA who was an auditor for many years, and she said this: “It’s hard to say without actually hearing the conversations. Maybe they’re just loud and disturbing to the auditors’ work. Auditors sometimes charge by the hour so distraction by even cutesy conversations isn’t a good thing. Also, sometimes in jest, someone may say something that causes an auditor to follow up and waste time even though it was just a joke. Auditors DO listen in on such conversations (I used to go out with the smokers just to hear what they were talking about) but using it ‘against’ the clients isn’t the way I’d phrase it. I don’t see this admonition as any different than one asking staff to keep confidential information out of sight when there are visitors.”

5. Can I ask a why a resume is so bad?

I work at a large university and we have an internal temp program. I recently got a resume from the temp coordinator, who said the candidate is extremely highly recommended, experienced, upbeat, and perfect for my role. The coordinator also said, “Don’t mind the rough resume.” I took a look and the resume is really terrible. There’s Random capitalization Like This throughOut. She misspells the name of the city we live in. She says she has eight years experience, but only has one job listed which is four years worth of work. She says she has experience in several medical fields (gastroenterology, dermatology, etc.) despite not being an MD, RN, or LVN. She lists one of her skills as “I love to be dedicated.” I could go on.

Despite this, I’m inclined to still offer a phone interview because I generally trust our temp services people, but I am wondering if there is any possible way to ask the candidate why her resume is so awful?? Or would it be better to just mention that it looks like it needs an upgrade? Any advice? I admit I am coming from a place of sheer curiosity about how anyone could think a resume like that is acceptable (and why our temp program is letting the candidate get away with it!).

I’d actually start by asking the temp coordinator who sent the resume! She should presumably be able to give you more context about what’s up with the resume and why she recommends the person so highly anyway. Ask her something like, “I know you recommended Jane Smith highly. I’m concerned by the level of sloppiness on the resume and am curious about what else you know about her.” If she just again repeats that the candidate is experienced and upbeat, etc., then say, “Is there something in particular about her qualifications that you’d think would outweigh the problems with the resume?” If she can’t answer that, her recommendation is pretty suspect and I wouldn’t even bother with the phone interview at that point.

Of course, it’s possible that you’re hiring for a role that doesn’t require writing skills or attention to detail. If that’s the case, it may well be worth putting more weight on other skills she brings. (For example, if it’s a reception role that only requires warmly greeting visitors and will never require doing anything in writing, and if she’s wonderful at making visitors feel welcome, maybe she is your person. So it’s worth thinking critically about what does and doesn’t matter for this particular job.)

But either way, I don’t think I’d ask the candidate herself why her resume is so awful. She either needs stronger writing and communication skills for the job (in which case you can’t hire her) or she doesn’t (in which case it would be a little unkind to indulge your curiosity at the expense of making her feel awkward).

{ 894 comments… read them below }

  1. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: It’s common for recent college graduates to feel that vacation time has to involve a VACATION. It can definitely feel weird to burn your time off when you have absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to do. In my job, I have to use all of my vacation time within the year it’s allotted. I use that time to sleep in without setting an alarm (a surprisingly rare luxury the older I get), go to lunch at local restaurants that are too crowded at dinner time, and catch up on hobbies/crafts/reading/playing music/anything else that takes a backseat when 11 hours of my day is consumed by the business of traveling to and being at work. If anything else, schedule a haircut and an oil change for that chunk of time.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Get a tourist guide for your local area. Go see the odd museums etc. that you’d never see otherwise.

      1. KHB*

        Even if you don’t live in a “cool” city and think there’s nothing to see, there probably is. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and my parents recently learned that there’s a significant American Indian site three miles away from where they’d lived for 40 years – that they’d never heard of before.

        1. Luna*

          Yes! Especially this time of year, no matter what part of the country you are in there must be hiking/biking/boating/beaches, or historic sites and museums. Do a day trip to the next town or closest city. Find out if any state or national parks are nearby. Enjoy having time to explore your own area!

        2. Cercis*

          I’d never heard of the Heavener Runestones until college, despite living within an hour of there. Then in college a boyfriend and I decided to explore Ft. Smith and found all kinds of neat little museums and things. It was great day trip for us and we had a lot of fun (too bad we had to date and ruin a great friendship).

        3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          This is a great point KHB. If your city has a CVB (Convention & Visitors Bureau) and a lot of cities (or areas) do even if you don’t think they would, check out what they say there is to do. In my previous job I worked for the CVB in my area and was amazed at all the cool stuff there was that I had no idea about even though I’m from this area originally and grew up here.

        4. FrontRangeOy*

          There’s a place near where I live called the paint mines. It’s one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever visited. I’ve occasionally met people who’ve grown up here who had no idea the place existed. Pretending to be a visitor in your community of residence can lead to all sorts of interesting discoveries, even if it’s just an off the wall restaurant with an amazing menu

      2. London Calling*

        Second that. I love visiting museums and galleries and historic homes mid-week when there is hardly anyone there.

        1. poolgirl*

          It’s a good idea, however almost every time I try it the place is packed with poorly supervised School field trips, and I can’t get close to the exhibits much less enjoy them for all the screaming.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        I did some of this on my maternity leave! I was going stir crazy so I took Baby the Fed to museums and parks that I hadn’t previously been to!

      4. TychaBrahe*

        The American College of Surgeons is located in Chicago, and they have a museum at their headquarters at the south end of Lincoln Park. I’ve been meaning to go since I moved back to Chicago 10 years ago, but never have.

        1. Artemesia*

          Chicago has free days for museums; for some it is once a week and it is one of the best museum cities in the world.
          I am retired and after 45 years in the workforce, it is such a pleasure to have nothing I must do. I have trouble imagining anyone not being able to enjoy two weeks of paid vacation if only to clean the house and hit the gym.

      5. Samiratou*

        Great idea!

        State & regional parks

        Check the local papers for free events going on in your area.

        Is Urban Spoon still a thing? Use it to find a random new restaurant to try.

        And so on. Two free weeks is a gift most of us would love to have.

      6. aes_sidhe*

        Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and before the internet, my mom would go to the resources part of the main library downtown to find stuff to do in our state. She made copies of maps and whatnot, and we spent several summers going from one end of our state to the other. It worked out for me, too, since I was the navigator and got to sit in the front seat.

    2. LouiseM*

      +1. This is an opportunity for a staycation, whatever that means to you. I have to agree with Alison that pushing back would make the OP seem like she does not have a healthy relationship to work. It’s true that many people thrive on routine and feel thrown when they aren’t doing the same thing every day, but I really can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be able to do something with two paid weeks off.

      1. NorthernSoutherner*

        I was drooling over the PTO opportunities at LW’s company — not least of which being told ‘no communication with the office’ vs the grudging guilt trip some companies give those using their rightful vacation time.
        But LW, here’s another point: You will not earn friends at work by refusing to take a vacation or pushing back. Do you really even want to plant the slightest seed in management’s mind that they’re offering too much time off? It could happen.
        Take your vacation, LW and cut the complaining. Don’t wait until you have a mortgage, family and other responsibilities, and you desperately need two weeks off, and some intern complains that he/she doesn’t want vacation time, to realize what a tool you’re being.

    3. Alienor*

      I’ve noticed that too! Most of the recent grads in my office use all their time off specifically for traveling (they go on some super cool trips, too), and when I’m taking a few days off, they’ll always ask me where I’m going. But I’m almost never going anywhere–partly because I have a college-age kid and can’t afford it, but also because after 20 years in the workforce, any day I’m not at work is a vacation!

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        There’s a restaurant in my area that does its Sunday brunch on Mondays too. It’s so wonderful to enjoy a nice brunch without being surrounded by the typical weekend crowd.

        Lots of my friends don’t work a 9-5 schedule so I don’t get to see them on weekends or after my workday ends. That’s what staycation is for.

        1. Parenthetically*

          We have lots of breakfasty cafes and a leisurely brunch on a weekday sounds like real luxury to me.

        2. myswtghst*

          Going to my favorite breakfast spot is one of my absolute favorite things to do on a weekday off, because it is often a long wait and a long nightmare to be there on a Saturday, but really enjoyable on a weekday.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think OP being very recently out of school plays a big role here–she hasn’t yet accumulated the list of things you’re meaning to do when you have some spare time. I recall two people describing their best vacation ever, which was two weeks off, the first of which they stayed home and caught up on all those household projects and must-be-done-in-business-hours tasks that had built up. Then they went on vacation for a week, with the least amount of stress they could recall.

        OP, pushing back is going to make you sound very weird. I think Alison covered the possible interpretations but: mandatory things are mandatory. Were #4’s auditors to hear how you are Obviously Too New to be involved in any shenanigans, they would immediately start checking your computer for shenanigans.

        1. PB*

          Were #4’s auditors to hear how you are Obviously Too New to be involved in any shenanigans, they would immediately start checking your computer for shenanigans.

          This is an excellent comparison! OP1, in some cases, these mandatory vacations are to allow your employer time to audit your work, for exactly this reason. There have been cases where someone pretty new has been involved in some unsavory business. Even though you know you haven’t, your employer needs to enforce the rules. Maybe use this time to learn a skill you’ve been wanting to study, but haven’t had the time?

          1. San*

            A friend of mine worked at a place with a similar policy for certain staff for internal control purposes. They were extremely seriously about it – they locked you out of your work email and phone, and your email was handled by a random colleague (valid by day) Anyone needing to contact you urgently had to go through internal audit. So pushing back is not a good idea.

          2. Samiratou*

            Not just for auditing, though, right? I thought it was also to break up any regular communications you might have or have others temporarily take over certain functions or your email box where they can see any shenanigans themselves.

            My company pretty much requires anyone in finance to move to new roles every couple of years. I don’t know if fraud is the main driver there (for much of finance, anyway) so much as the risk of errors born of familiarity where you might not be paying as much attention to a process or report as it becomes routine and stuff like that.

        2. Media Monkey*

          totally this! at an old workplace, a member of the finance team was able to successfully embezzle hundreds of thousands of pounds by recruiting a new member of the team to help him hide what he was doing, even after he left. so “too new” wouldn’t fly. and this was not in the finance industry.

          1. Luna*

            Exactly, I’m not sure why OP thinks she is too new when she’s been there for several months already. At OldJob a new finance person misplaced tens of thousands of dollars during his time there- and he only worked there for a total of ~5 months before getting fired.

    4. JamieS*

      Agreed 100%. IMO staycations are one of the most underrated things in existence. Sleep in, catch up one some reading (or let’s be honest Netflix), treat yourself to a spa day, catch up on some home maintenance. Basically do the things you’d like to do (or know you need to do) but never seem to have time for.

      1. Miso*

        All this.
        I absolutely cannot wrap my head around how some people don’t know what to do for two weeks. Don’t they have any hobbies at all…?

        I’m actually going on a proper vacation this summer for the first time in years (only two weeks out of three weeks off though!), but you bet I always took my time off in the years before. Going on a city trip or visiting a friend for a couple of days was the most I planned, the rest was spent reading, playing video games and binging shows. And it was glorious.

        It might be a cliché, but I’m working to live, not living to work.

        1. That Awful Paperclip*

          Personally I have a really hard time planning free time if I can’t spend it with other people. If I could go on a trip to visit and stay with family, or if my partner could also get that time off for us to find fun stuff to do around where we live, I’d be fine. But if I can’t travel and I have no one to spend it with because my friends and family are all working firm daytime schedules… yeah, I’d be super stressed out trying to figure out what to do with myself for two whole work weeks. I’m about the same age as OP1 for reference, and I don’t have any kids (which would probably make it more fun).

          1. Miso*

            I don’t know how old exactly OP is of course, but I’m 30, so probably not that much older (also no kids here). And it’s been this way for some years.

            Actually, I always found our 6 weeks of summer holidays in school too short, while others were complaining they wanted to go back to school.
            I guess I’m just good at doing stuff on my own or honestly, nothing at all. Not that I’m never bored, but well, you gotta learn to be bored sometimes!

            1. Boo Bradley*

              Yes, I identify very much with Peter from “Office Space”. If I had a million dollars, I would do nothing. Sure, I might go to the gym now and then, or take in movies or a museum, but I am perfectly content to sleep 15 hours a day and then watch dumb TV.

              1. with a twist*

                Are you me? Doing nothing is my favorite thing, and I’ve found very few people that seem to relate – everyone I know has to jam-pack their weekend with activities, which sounds exhausting to me. Give me a couch, some snacks, and a good book or movie and I’m set for the whole weekend. I’ll watch tv a little, doze for a while, read for a little, repeat. Heaven!

                1. AMPG*

                  I’ve recently started an annual tradition for what I’ve dubbed “The Intovert’s Getaway.” I book myself a massage and then head to a secluded hotel with an onsite restaurant and camp out there for 24 hours. It’s the best.

                2. teclatrans*

                  APMG, I did that for my 30th birthday (solo relaxing getaway), and it weirded out So Many People (not my friends, thankfully). Yes, I really am content starting at this-here river for my milestone event, thanks! (Though I did enjoy the cake the concerned innkeepers whipped up for me.)

                3. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

                  I have an introvert’s getaway coming up with a friend. She’s an introvert too, so we’ve rented a cabin in the mountains, it has two bedroom and two bathrooms and we plan on talking to each other a little as possible. We’ll likely have dinner together but that’s it. It’s a whole week of me reading, watching movies, doing yoga, and sleeping. I’m so, so excited (and yes, I do have a kid, so this week is super-duper extra exciting for me!!!).

                4. Rachel*

                  Are you a live to work type? Like, do you find your work life deeply satisfying? If so, it’s possible that you don’t feel the need to do much on the weekends because you get your self-fulfillment needs met at work. Whereas your peeps could be more work to live types; their work doesn’t satisfy them, so they need to do the things they enjoy on the weekends.

              2. General Ginger*

                “I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I thought it could be” — my dream vacation.

              3. Miso*

                Haha, yeah, scratch the gym, but otherwise…
                I can actually see how I would come to my work for like 2 afternoons a week – just to see some people and only do the fun stuff at work, basically. Oh, and if I don’t have any appointments at all, I very quickly live during the night and sleep during the day…

                But I am seriously the opposite of a workaholic. Lazaholic?

                1. Psychdoc*

                  Here here! Even on weekends I tend to slip into a nocturnal schedule. I take a nap Friday after work, then watch a movie and go to sleep ~4am. It’s wonderful!

              4. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

                I hear you. I mean, I don’t know that watching a lot of tv would be my nothing of choice (although it might!), but I am NOT one to wonder what the heck I will entertain myself with when I finally get to retire.

          2. Margo the Destroyer*

            I am the opposite. I prefer doing things alone. I go the movies alone all the time, museums, etc.

            1. EddieSherbert*

              I was weirdly nervous/awkward about it the first time I went to a movie alone… but no one cares? Or judges you? Or says anything weird? The only thing that happens is that you see the movie you wanted to see at a time that was convenient to you without waiting for other people to be free :) It’s glorious.

              1. The Original K.*

                I go to the movies alone all the time. I just did last Friday. Someone once asked me if I felt weird doing it – “you have no one to talk to!” And I pointed out that you don’t talk during movies (and if you do, you shouldn’t) – the point of seeing movies is to see movies. You go in, sit down, see the movie, and leave. No one is paying attention to you, and if they are, so what? I’m there to see the movie.

                1. Luna*

                  Going to movies is my #1 favorite thing to do by myself. I would so much rather go to a movie by myself than with someone!

                2. whingedrinking*

                  Movies are pretty much my ideal “I’m going crazy sitting around the house but I don’t want to talk to anyone” evening.
                  Also, am I the only person who finds going to a museum with another person actively stressful? I don’t want to have to worry that I’m either rushing someone else or making them wait if our exhibit-viewing speeds don’t match up.

                3. Crystal*

                  Going to movies alone is the best and now with the internet you can even have discussions of the movies afterward!

              2. jo*

                I’ve always been okay with going to the movies alone, but it’s especially wonderful post-marriage. I can see the stuff my wife wouldn’t go near (see: “A Quiet Place”), I get totally sucked in with no one next to me to share the experience, and I don’t have to listen to anyone else’s opinion about the film afterwards. Not that I dislike my wife as a movie-going buddy, she’s awesome, but it’s not the same experience as going by yourself.

            2. TrainerGirl*

              Margo, I had to get used to doing things with someone when I started dating my bf. He gets annoyed sometimes when I plan to do something alone. I’ve done just about everything there is to do solo, and I miss that freedom at times.

              1. jo*

                You didn’t ask for advice, but I can’t resist: I have the same problem sometimes in my marriage, and it’s a bummer. Something to nip in the bud early, if you can! Set the boundary/expectation now that you will do things by yourself on a regular basis. Explain it’s for your mental health.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Yeah. I’ve noticed that I have tended to volunteer to sacrifice Me time for We time… But the men I’ve dated/married didn’t so much. If that’s important to you, hold firm on it and don’t get whinged or guilted out of your soul food.

            3. teclatrans*

              I was absolutely flabbergastedehen I learned people pitied me for eating alone, and that others would *never be that brave.* I…say what, now? I like to read, I like to take transit, I like to decide on a whim to see x movie/eat x food, etc. Me sitting here, eating and reading? That’s my happy place!

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Seriously, if I waited until s0mebody was free to do stuff with me, I’d hardly ever do anything. Plus, when you’re alone, you don’t have to argue about where to eat.

              2. SugarMalone*

                I’m an only child so I’ve been totally comfortable doing things alone my whole life. It does seem genuinely odd to me when people tell me they’re scared to do stuff alone.

                A few years ago I went to New York on my own – previously I’d only travelled there with friends – and it was the best thing ever! I just wandered around and took whatever corner I wanted, stopped and looked at stuff when I wanted, ate only when I felt like eating. It was totally freeing.

                1. Nessun*

                  Traveling alone is incredible! I spent a month in Japan on my own, and it was absolutely glorious. I made up my plans each day when I woke, and was bound to no one’s itinerary. Some days I just wandered around, and if I saw something cool, I went off track wherever, or sat around the park watching people for ages! I loved it…and many people I know thought I was a lunatic for going alone.

                  I’m not an only child, but I’m used to functioning independently. I’ve also always wondered, if you’re not comfortable in your own presence (doing things alone, being alone in a space), how can you be yourself when you’re with others – how would you know who that person is?

              3. myswtghst*

                I kind of loved traveling alone for work for that reason, and I still miss it sometimes. I could eat wherever I wanted to eat, as quickly or slowly as I wanted, with however many courses I wanted to eat (and no one at my table to judge what I ate!), while reading on my Kindle or watching the bar TVs. Whether I wanted to eat cheap BBQ in my hotel room or have appetizer+salad+entree+dessert+wine at a moderately nice restaurant, I could do that with no discussion or debate.

          3. Not a Morning Person*

            It can be uncomfortable to go by yourself at first, but for a time when I was unemployed, I went to the movies during the day several times a week. It was glorious to be in an almost empty theater with no or fewer people distractions and typically the pricing was significantly reduced. It was one of the best times I can remember.

          4. Luna*

            I would also recommend that OP schedules dinners/drinks or something with her friends on the nights & weekends of her 2 week break. This way she’ll have people to hang out with at least part of the time.

          5. Elder Dog*

            Paperclip: Take a class. Classes have people in them. Make new friends. You probably won’t find one class that lasts two weeks, but a few for three days, a dozen for one day and so on. Combine.

            Check a bead store, art shop, local museum, sewing and quilting store, local municipal college, zoo, garden store, nature reserve, etc and look for classes. Seminars. Photography. Your local cooperative extension. A store that sells hula hoops. Oh, cooking classes. Just looking a bit for stuff around here in the next two weeks.

            1. Rectilinear Propagation*

              Your local cooperative extension.

              OMG, I used to do some work with a local cooperative extension! I’ve never heard anyone else mention it outside of a tweet from some accounts I still follow.

              It’s such a cool idea, it’s a shame it’s not more well known.

          6. jo*

            If pets are an option, get some! And if you have one … get more.

            I jest, but seriously, they can keep you busy.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Ehhhh. I’ve been working since I was 15 years old and spent most of my 20s as a workaholic. Even though I have better work/life balance I had a really, really hard time adjusting to the unstructured nature of my maternity leave. The first few weeks I was crawling the walls. Some people just like the structure that a work day provides.

          Right now I would kill for a 2 week staycation though!

        3. Meredith*

          YES!!!! I find it weird OP finds it weird.

          The things I would do for a paid 2 week vacay IN ADDITION to my paid 2 weeks vacay I get a year….alrady daydreaming and it’s not even 9am on Monday.

        4. Jotpe*

          I’m working to live too, but I have a week every year where I am off work but my fiance is not, and over the last few years I’ve realized this is when I experience heavy anxiety or depressive moods. I can plan to “just relax” being at home alone every day but it does seem to let the demons in. It’s a problem to address with a professional but I’m sympathetic to someone not being enthusiastic about this.

          One thing to do to make human contact during the day when you don’t have work but everyone else does is to meet people for their lunch break. You might have friends who work too far from your building to usually meet with, or who usually eat lunch at their desk but are entitled to an hour break. You being off work can make it plausible to go out for lunch one day even if they don’t normally take that break. I also used to bring donuts to a receptionist friend from a very exclusive hipster donut place that only sold in the early morning. Reach out to friends in grad school, teaching in universities, who are job searching or working part time, or who are home with kids. See if you can schedule Skype calls with friends/family in other time zones.

          Also: going to the movie theater in the middle of the day is kind of great.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            This is a really good idea. So many of the people who comment here are introverts (myself included), and the idea of two weeks to ourselves feels like finding free money. But I totally get that other people are not like that. One of my good friends is a school teacher, so when she’s on spring break she always makes plans to meet people for breakfast or lunch and catch up with friends.

            OP, do you have any relatives nearby that you don’t see often? When I have a staycation planned, I usually try to schedule a day with my grandparents. Sometimes it’s just to hang out and catch up, other times I’m the designated doctor’s appointment chauffeur, but either way it gets us some quality time that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.

        5. Temperance*

          I would just go to the gym, sleep late, read, and go through my closet. I’ve been meaning to get through my clothes for … a year?

          I’m also really an introvert, so special time for myself like that sounds heavenly.

        6. sleepwakehopeandthen*

          I personally would be frustrated with 2 weeks off in my city, especially since my husband and all my friends would still be working. I’m getting to the point where more than a long weekend alone means I’m ready to get back to work. But. I also don’t like living where I am living (I am just not a city person) and I can’t handle doing chores for that long (also I live in a tiny apartment–I think I could thoroughly clean everything in 2 days tops). If I lived closer to family/where I grew up, I could think of so many things I would do to fill the time of 2 weeks off. Of course, the solution to my problem is to move (which is the plan eventually).

          1. Specialk9*

            You genuinely can’t find ANYTHING to do in your city? Like, nothing? You can’t find an arboretum, park, coffee shop, or anywhere just to read or listen to audiobooks? Find an exquisite bakery or craft brewery? There are no movies you’d watch in theatre? You have no hobbies at all? You don’t even want to rent a float tank, kayak, or go on a duck boat? I’m really questioning that the problem is with the city.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Yes. I have more PTO than ability/money to travel, so I definitely use mine to just sleep in, catch up on TV, take a few days to clean more thoroughly, next week I’m doing a spa day with a gift card, etc., etc.

      3. Kelsi*

        Seriously! And every possible objection to long vacations I can think of is handled.
        Saving your PTO for something else? This doesn’t come out of it.
        Can’t afford to be off work? You’re being paid.
        Don’t want to get behind? This is company mandated so I’m sure they have systems in place.
        Don’t want to inconvenience your coworkers? This is mandatory for everyone, so a) everyone gets a turn and b) again, they almost certainly have systems in place to balance the workload.

        I would kill for this kind of perk!

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I used to be like OP#1, not because I thought I had to go on a **vacation**, but because I was genuinely bored with the idea of having two weeks without much to do. It would take me 3-4 days just to mentally detach from work, and then I would feel like I wasted my time off (notice a theme?).

      But I think it’s worth it for OP#1 to learn how to be ok with being alone and “unbusy.” It’s such a huge skill that’s worth developing as early in your career as possible—you don’t want to be the 39-year-old who dies of a heart attack from overwork, or the person whose mind is running so quickly it never slows down. Rest is important for everyone, and learning how to unplug and rest is an important part of adulting.

      And at the risk of overstepping, consider getting into mindfulness; it was (and remains) really helpful to me and my overactive mind.

      1. jd*

        Yes! Preventing burn-out isn’t about waiting until you’re already burned out and without skills to cope or recover. It’s about learning the skills early on for how to relax and detach from work (which can be hard to do even during an evening or over a weekend) and building that capacity up. Even if OP truly doesn’t *need* two extra weeks right now, take them for the gift they are and do something interesting with them!

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Burn out is definitely a thing in which an ounce of prevention is worth a tonne of cure. It takes a lot of experience (and some luck) to feel yourself burning out. Usually, you realize you are already there and that is so so so so so much worse.

      2. Parenthetically*

        ‘I think it’s worth it for OP#1 to learn how to be ok with being alone and “unbusy.”’

        This is extremely sage counsel, PCBH. My dad is on the verge of retiring (FINALLY) and I honestly don’t know what he’s going to do with himself after 40+ years of working mostly 50-60 hour weeks with far too few vacations. He’s never in his life learned to be unbusy and I genuinely worry about how he’ll handle the transition.

        1. The Original K.*

          My friend’s father is a retired BigLaw firm partner and hates retirement. He doesn’t know what to do with himself. He does pro bono work now and spends time with his grandkids (one and the one on the way live in his city, two others live in another city a couple hours away), but he has no chill.

        2. Moonlight Elantra*

          My dad is a carpenter and planning to retire at the end of the year. He hates to be bored, so I’m planning on giving him six months to work himself into a real funk and then letting him loose on my unfinished basement. He also loves going to the gym when he has the time so I imagine he will be terrifyingly ripped a year or two from now.

          1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

            If Habitat for Humanity is available in your area, you might mention that, too. It saved my father-in-law’s sanity when he retired. He volunteered 2-3 days a week, up until his health failed.

            1. Janice in Accounting*

              My own dad has started working with Habitat in his retirement; they’ve taught him cabinet-building and now he works in their shop.

            2. rldk*

              +1 ! HfH always welcomes carpenters, especially if they are willing to teach unskilled volunteers :)

          2. Jotpe*

            Lol, terrifyingly ripped. My dad became a marathon runner and has now completed the World Marathon Majors since retiring so this is definitely a possibility.

            1. CoveredInBees*

              Friend’s father became an ultra-marathoner in retirement. I had always wondered who on earth would choose to run 100 miles and would have time to train for it in an amateur setting. Just thinking about it makes me want to take a nap.

          3. Sarah*

            My dad just retired after 30 years of working an insane schedule in finance. He used to be a marathon runner but can’t run any more due to injuries. He’s moved to Florida and now does yoga twice a day, bikes, kayaks, etc. He’s absolutely happier than I’ve ever seen him and I’m sure he’s in the best shape of his life.

            The downside is that he wears sweatpants and ratty gym clothes constantly. My mom is so over it.

          4. Gumby*

            Mu mother was a high school math teacher and lasted 3 months as a retired person (during which she volunteer tutored at the local elementary school a couple of times per week) before starting as an adjunct at a community college. The first 3 months she taught basically for free since paid work during the first 6 months of retirement decreased some retirement benefit she was getting.

        3. else*

          My dad was super bored when he retired – he spent all of his time playing video games and vacuuming. My mom found this annoying, so she bought a roomba and fussed at him about the video games, and now he is UN-retired in partnership with a similar friend in a small business. Seems happy with this, but I hope when I retire it’s to actually retire.

          1. Artemesia*

            This happens to people who have no life outside of work when they are working. If work defines your whole life — and that happens to men somewhat more than women — then retirement can be a shock. My husband had no problem with it; he was already writing a political column for a national blog, sang in the opera chorus and has always done his share of the household tasks and likes to cook. And we have done serious travel with our limited vacation time. He has loved every day of retirement. A man who doesn’t do much around the house and has no other steady occupation besides his work can feel left pretty high and dry.

        4. Teapot Tester*

          My dad has been retired for over 10 years now. In his case, being retired means:

          – director of a small local museum
          – substitute school crossing guard
          – fire police (directing traffic and such during a fire or other emergency)
          – getting up at the ass crack of dawn to go to the gym every day
          – serving on the board of the Rotary Club

          My mom, on the other hand, is also retired, and I honestly don’t know what she does all day. She’s not the volunteer type (clearly she leaves that all up to my dad). I imagine she cleans the house and reads all day, and she’s perfectly happy with that.

        5. Becky*

          My Dad could occupy his time quite nicely without work, he has hobbies (mostly reading and learning about naval ships and various aircraft) ; my Mother however does not know how to relax or stop being busy. She has a part time job with the local school district helping students (usually seniors applying to colleges) understand and apply for federal financial aid, and she is self-employed cleaning people’s houses. When she goes on vacation she doesn’t stop cleaning (for example, when visiting my sister in TX for Thanksgiving, with three grandchildren in the house, still did a ton of cleaning). All my siblings have noticed this, I have no idea what she’ll do when she retires and she’s 69 years old currently!

        6. As Close As Breakfast*

          Yeah, my dad ‘retired’ from the same type of 60+ hours a week job in labor relations at a Fortune 50 company about 15 years ago. He made it all of 2 years before he went and got a part time job at Costco just to stay sane.

          1. Specialk9*

            Entrepreneurs desperately need advice from experienced business people. Your parent might check with Small Business Adminstration. I know an entrepreneur who is forever grateful for the person at SBA who helped out.

        7. Nessun*

          I worried about how my dad would take to retirement after being a workaholic his whole life – turns out, the same skill applied at the most basic level: he found he had time, so he found things to pack into it. For him, this included going back to school – he had a PhD already, but he was keenly interested in theology, so he got a Masters degree in that! Now my mum is retired too, they travel a lot, and she keeps him busy, but at first, he had to keep himself busy and he looked on that as his new challenge.

        8. Crystal*

          He needs to have a plan in place to go into his retirement career. Look up Senior Corps for resources, or Encore.

      3. The Meepster*

        And sometimes you don’t know how tired you are until you take a break. I live in the upper Midwest area that got hit with a blizzard a week ago, and was trapped inside. After taking my dog outside and giving her breakfast, I went back to sleep and slept for another 5 hours. And that was after sleeping for nine hours. I felt so refreshed and relaxed that I didn’t mind doing some cleaning.

        It’s good to slow down, even if you may think you don’t it’s necessary.

      4. Jen S. 2.0*

        Agree with PCBH. While I see OP1’s point, the fact is that “But I might be bored!” is just … not an emergency. Certainly it is not anyone else’s problem to solve for you.

        It’s not ideal, certainly, but if you are a grown adult with a job and you can’t figure out how to entertain yourself cheaply for a few days, that’s a skill you probably need to develop.

        (Note: I’m neutral leaning toward extrovert (I was a 9 toward extroversion on the M-B scale last time I took it), so I would prefer to be with others, but don’t find being alone exhausting. OP1 is probably an extrovert who finds being alone exhausting, and is really dreading having time off when others don’t, or a lot of alone time. Doesn’t change my answer, and still a solvable problem. Find ways to be around people or find things to do that aren’t work for a few days.)

    6. Tim Tam Girl*

      Agreed. LW1, it sounds to me like one of two things is happening: either the company believes very, very strongly in the importance of prolonged and protected rest time for staff (and research does show that this leads to a happier, more productive work force); or they decided that if they have to make some/most staff members cycle off for two weeks for fraud prevention, they may as well build it into their systems and frame it as a staff benefit. Whatever the cause, though, the upshot for you is the same: as Alison said, pushing back will look really weird.

      I’m not going to try to convince you that this is an awesome thing, because you don’t feel that it is and that’s your right. I did like Stellaaaaa’s suggestion above that if you can’t think of fun things to do with your time, you could at least use it to make appointments and deal with tasks that are easier done during standard work hours.

      I would also urge you to reconsider about the timing of the two weeks: if delaying would mean that the weather in your area would be better, that may give you more options for easy and inexpensive outdoor activities. I’m not even outdoorsy or sporty by nature, but I do love destination-free wandering around my city, reading in parks, etc., and good weather makes those heaps more pleasant.

      1. Marcel*

        OP #1 mentioned that’s it is an industry wide mandate that all employees are off for two weeks each year. So it isn’t a case of the company being generous or only offering to some people and not others.

        1. Tim Tam Girl*

          There are some highly-regulated industries that require anyone who has contact with funds/sensitive material to take two weeks off per year as fraud prevention. It seems that the LW is in one of these industries. I was suggesting that her employer had chosen to extend the two weeks’ mandatory leave to *all* staff so that it could be viewed as a benefit, not just a fraud prevention strategy.

          1. Tim Tam Girl*

            Sorry, I meant that her *industry* had chosen this, not that her employer had. Memo to self: read before hitting submit!

          2. Marcel*

            The industry regulators have decided to apply it to everyone. The company has nothing to do with it. They aren’t extending it to everyone. The regulations are.

            1. Huxley*

              I think they are referencing the fact that the 2 weeks are not taken out of the employees PTO, thus effectively giving them 2 weeks free vacation. Unless you’re saying that the regulations mandate that too?

      2. The Other Katie*

        The required time off is very common in financial industries and for some employees in financially sensitive positions. It really is to make it easier to spot internal fraud, especially complex control frauds which require constant attention, and she won’t have any luck pushing back against it. If she’s going to work in the industry she should learn to love the staycation!

        1. Veronica*

          Not just that, but it’ll come across a little naive at best or suspicious at worst if the OP pushes back against it.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            This is what I’m thinking. Pushing back won’t make it look like you’re super-dedicated, and nobody’s going to say “how awesome that OP isn’t burned out yet!” Since this is an industry standard, it’s going to look really off – naive and/or ignorant about your own industry at best, and suspicious at worst – to fight it.

            1. Wintermute*

              That was my first thought, trying to argue you should be exempted from fraud prevention is grounds to go over every bit of work you’ve ever done with a microscope.

    7. Starling*

      If I were OP #1, I’d think about life balance during these two weeks–are there hobbies or guilty pleasures I’ve not been able to spend time on? Are there friends I’d like to see? Is unhappiness at taking time off a sign of dissatisfaction with something in the personal sphere (relationship, location, whatever)?

      If all that is fine, I’d think of these two weeks as a sabbatical–time free from daily duties to step back and think strategically about one’s career.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        I’d think of the two weeks as a long weekend — just a reaaallly long one.

        I assume no one thinks they’re “wasting their time” at the weekend if they have a Monday–Friday work week…

        1. That Awful Paperclip*

          If OP is anything like me, then they may well spend a lot of their time feeling like they waste all their weekends away… At least my Sundays anyways. At my last job it had to do with where I lived. It was beyond affordable to live there, but there was nothing to do that didn’t take at least two hours round trip to get to, and I get cabin fever super easily so I couldn’t really stand to stay at home for more than about a full 24 hours at a stretch.

          1. That Awful Paperclip*

            Argh, I ended that comment too soon. My point was that OP might not be living in an area with much to do, and if they don’t have a lot of friends nearby, that can get old pretty fast.

          2. Just Employed Here*

            I appreciate that people have different preferences and habits, and different possibilities.

            But learning to enjoy your own company, by reading books, exercising outdoors, watching movies, doing something creative like handicrafts, and so on is really important for continued good mental health throughout one’s life. We aren’t always among friends or in a place with a lot if entertainment, but we are always with ourselves. So cultivating some hobbies that are independent of other people or specific places is a good idea for anyone.

            This is not to say you or the OP should do this or that, this is just a general statement.

    8. Tau*

      I know I get the most relaxation-bang for my PTO-buck by taking an afternoon off. I’m a morning person and being able to leave work after lunch, head into town, do some writing in a cafe, get some things sorted I usually can’t easily because the place in question is open 9-5, etc. is amazing. I used to have “use it or lose it” vacation which, combined with my tendency to hoard a few days in case of emergency, occasionally resulted in me doing this one day a week for six weeks in a row come November or December.

      That said, I feel for OP in that two weeks is a long time. My view is coloured by the fact that I have an executive-function disability that means two weeks off with no schedule and nothing planned would be pretty much disastrous for me, but I’m sure even without that a two week staycation may be too long for many people. OP, this does not mean you can push back about this – Alison is 100% right about that – but can you plan something at short notice for at least some of that time? Visiting friends, going sightseeing, anything interesting in your region to check out?

    9. Circus peanuts*

      Why not get all your doctor and dental appointments done during this time? Get your tires rotated, change your oil. All those annoying appointments can be knocked out easily during this time.

      1. Mary*

        I was going to say this, Doctor, Dentist, Hygienist, Eyes, hair, nails, makeup, take the pet to the vet for annual checkup. Sign up in the library. Lots of things you alway plan to do but never schedule due to time pressures.

      2. The Original K.*

        That’s what I would do (in addition to biking, if the weather permitted, and spending time reading and checking out new restaurants, going to museums, going to the gym at random times during the day, maybe meeting working friends for a quick lunch during the week … for real, I would love this). Get all your appointments out of the way. Need to have the cable guy come? Schedule it for this time. Dentist, GP, eye doctor? Schedule them for this time. Does your hair need a trim or a color touch-up? Schedule it for this time. Need to have your car inspected? Schedule it for this time. If I had the same two weeks off every year, I’d make it a point to have my doctor’s appointments then – I tend to make all my doctor’s appointments around the same time, so I’d make this that time. That way you don’t have to try to cram them into a work day or use PTO.

      3. Allison*

        Right, especially if you have enough advance notice to make those appointments for that 2-week window! That stuff can absolutely pile up over time, especially if you don’t have a lot of work from home flexibility, or don’t have a partner who’s at home all day.

      4. Teapot Tester*

        Yes yes yes. I’d sit down and make a list of everything I never have time to get done because of working hours. It may be too late to schedule checkups but definitely car service, haircut, join that gym you’ve been thinking of checking out, get the bike tuned up, etc. I’d also make a list of things that need to be done around the house – clean out the closet or junk drawers, fix the leaky toilet, spring cleaning, etc.

        Then schedule it all in the calendar, leaving time for leisure activities. If I didn’t have lists or calendars I’d spend all day scrolling through Facebook.

      5. Oxford Comma*

        That’s my recommendation too. Schedule your checkups. Do all the pesky errands that you’d either have to take PTO for or do at night or on the weekends.

        Also, do stuff around the house. It sounds like you don’t have to take the two weeks off immediately. Plan a project.

    10. Scarlet*

      I’m always surprised when people feel they need to have “activities planned” all the time. Sounds exhausting. I don’t want to go “kids these days”, but it might be an offshoot of kids being “hyper-scheduled” by their parents and who have no idea what to do with themselves if they don’t have some kind of hard planning.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think it’s more like the note upthread about being an extrovert–if you want to spend your time off with your partner, who has to work, or friends and family, who have to work, it’s less exciting to be offered time off. My husband gets a lot of time off in the fall, when our kids have just started school, so it’s not nearly as useful–they’re in their regular schedule, I’m in my regular schedule, and catching up on household projects and taking a bike ride is usually where he lands.

        1. Sparky*

          Maybe OP can get appointments made, get the household stuff done, and then get a temp job for part of the vacation and get some extra income. Something like front desk, low stress and a change from her regular job. And a little extra money.

        2. Parenthetically*

          I would love to see an introvert/extrovert poll and compare it with the answers on this topic!

          1. SKA*

            Extrovert checking in to say that I love days off to myself! To the extent that every year I take my birthday off and spend the entire “work” day just doing things I like to do around town, but don’t often get to do. Visit a local animal shelter just to pet the cats. Buy some clothes I don’t technically NEED. Get my hair dyed. Go on a hike. Eat lunch at a place that’s too far justify driving to during a normal work day. Etc.

            (Though I’m probably close to the extrovert/introvert borderline; or as I often put it “an extrovert with a lot of introvert hobbies”)

            1. Teapot Tester*

              I consider myself an ambivert — both extro- and intro- tendencies. I like going to parties as long as I know at least some people there, I’m ok with small talk, and don’t leave activities feeling drained, but I also enjoy eating lunch by myself with a book and other solo activities.

              1. SKA*

                I’m definitely similar, but determined that I lean extrovert on the basis of: if I spend all day Saturday alone, then I NEED to spend time with people Sunday. If I spend all day Saturday with people, I could happily also spend all day Sunday with people (though if I had to spend it alone, I’d also be okay with that).

                And then I also married an introvert, so my differences in comparison to him also make it clear.

          2. grace*

            I’m an extrovert who lives alone, and 2 weeks off with none of my friends also having time off would be WAY too long. One week? Sure. But I totally sympathize with not wanting 2 weeks off – I’d go stir crazy even with getting out of the house, especially if I was mostly alone.

          3. Annie Moose*

            I’m an introvert who lives alone and needs to plan stuff ahead of time to do, and I don’t mind spending a day or two at home, but more than that and I get serious cabin fever! I’m kind of disorganized, and if I don’t have some structure in my day, I just don’t do anything.

            I do like time off… I just have to have plans for what to do with it. In general I think I would prefer to take one or two days off at a time rather than in a big clump (unless I have a specific vacation planned).

            1. Annie Moose*

              Should probably also throw out there, because it’s come up in this thread: my parents were extremely hands-off when it came to scheduling my time as a kid. I had piano lessons once a week for a few years, I did swimming lessons in a few summers, but that was it for scheduled time. So I’ve always just sort of occupied myself. But I would get incredibly bored in summer. Read a LOT of books and spent a lot of time roaming around the woods!

              So I was pretty much the opposite of helicopter-parented.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        I do best with a schedule; for me it’s probably partly an ADHD thing. I don’t necessarily need to be *busy* all the time — I’m happy scheduling “spend today knitting and watching Netflix” — but if I don’t have anything specifically planned I tend to wander around being vaguely restless and not remember that I’d been meaning to do X thing this weekend.

        1. Allison*

          Yeah, same here. I tend to manage my time better when it’s limited, and I don’t have time to “dilly dally” as my mom calls it. The last time I was unemployed, I managed to get some stuff done, and obviously made time to job search, but I also spent a lot of time binging The Mindy Project . . .

        2. BottleBlonde*

          I’m the same way! I “schedule” most of my free time, but a lot of the time it’s just things like crafting, watching a certain TV show, trying out a new cake pop recipe, etc. Otherwise, I have been known to spend entire days aimlessly browsing the internet and then feeling really crappy at bedtime.

          1. Iris*

            I feel you so much on “aimlessly browsing the internet and feeling really crappy at bedtime”

      3. Annie Moose*

        I will admit that I have difficulty with unstructured time, but with me, it’s because my brain just Does Not do spontaneity. I need a minimum one-week warning before you want me to come over for dinner, with a reminder at least 24 hours before! So for me, if I have time off, I usually spend it just sitting around playing videogames and such–which gets old eventually, but because it’s hard for me to just be like, “OK I’m going to go do X now”, I end up in this dumb loop of “I want to do something–but I can’t just drop everything and go do something–but I want to do something…”

        Anyway, that’s why it helps me to think ahead and come up with ideas ahead of time. If I don’t, I’m going to just end up sitting around my house doing nothing of interest or value, and that’s just boring. (being sick is the most annoying thing, because even if I come up with an idea, I legitimately can’t go out and do anything interesting!)

      4. Pommette!*

        I think that it’s definitely a personality thing. Some people don’t enjoy unstructured time, while others thrive on it. There are probably different personality traits involved (like extraversion vs introversion).

        I was helicopter-parented and have not had the luxury of much free time in my adult life. I never had to learn how to fill the free time that I do have – that comes naturally! Boredom and restlessness are just not feelings that I experience.

        My partner is like me, but comes from a family of very energetic extraverted people, many of whom have ADHD. His grandparents – who grew up well before helicopter parenting was a thing – both worked into their 80s, and are involved in multiple structured activities in their community. They get bored and restless if they have to spend a single day without scheduled activities (social or otherwise). They even have rigid schedules for activities, like gardening or cooking, that don’t, to me, seem to call for a schedule. Unstructured time is genuinely distressing to them, and they have learned to avoid it.

        I think that this is probably one of those things that people can’t change about themselves (and don’t need to change). You just need to figure out where you stand on the spectrum, and then find out what way of structuring your life (or not!) works best for you.

      5. Nanani*

        This has zip all to do with generations and everything to do with personalities and degree of extroversion.

      6. One of the Sarahs*

        I used to be like this, when I was a student. Even though they were divorced, my parents had always wanted me to be “doing something”, and for example, sitting around reading didn’t count (which was always my favourite thing to do) and they’d both be snippy about my siblings and me watching TV. I had this weird approach to “wasting time”, and combined with being an extrovert, it meant that my calendar was always packed. If I had 2 evenings with nothing planned in a week, I would feel very guilty.

        But I also burned out a lot – it was really important to me, at least, to get the balance in my life and also to place value on things like reading, writing, and nowadays, being online.

    11. Bagpuss*

      I agree with Alison and other posters that you can’t really push back on this without looking very out of touch, and as the leave is mandatory, it won’t do you any good.

      However, I would, in your position, accept your boss’s offer to push the dates back, which will give you a bit of time to make plans, whether those are simply to plan out things like running errands, catching up on odd jobs, etc, or whether it allows you to do a bit of research about local things to do, or even look into whether you can squeeze in a short break in the 2 weeks block. For instance, if you have friends or family you would like to visit, even though they won’t have time off, you might be able to travel on a Friday night and return on a Monday, giving you a full weekend with your friends/family.

      Look into what there is in your current local area. Even things like taking walks, visiting small, local museums or attractions, markets or beauty spots can be fun.

      Teach yourself a new skill (pick something with youtube tutorials if you can’t afford to pay for a short course).

      Use the couple of months to make some plans, and possibly to try to save a little so that you can treat yourself to entry into museums etc, or a couple of nice meals out.

      And using the time for things such as catching up with books or films or tv shows you’ve been meaning to watch, or experimenting with different hair and make up looks, or cooking more elaborate meals than usual, are also all things you can do.

      I had a ‘staycation’ a few years ago as I couldn’t afford to go away. I visited a bunch of smaller places locally, did one of the big tourist attractions which as a local I had passed every week but not visited for decades.

      It can be surprisingly restful to have little / nothing planned, and just let the day unfold.

    12. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      What I wouldn’t give for some free PTO to go get my oil changed during the week….currently banking all my PTO for my maternity leave!

    13. Oxford Coma*

      Very few people I know can afford an actual go-somewhere-and-stay-in-a-hotel vacation. They use PTO for day trips, stay-cations, or a blitz of yearly “get it done” stuff like appointments with doctors/lawyers/accountants.

      1. Oxford Coma*

        Timely: I was just lamenting the lack of weather cooperation with my desperately-needed yard work, and my boss suggested I take this afternoon off to do it.

    14. Dragoning*

      Well, to be fair, most of us aren’t used to the idea of PTO….I don’t get any paid vacation days, so I only ever take off when I absolutely have to for a trip. I would love a day off to get my oil changed (because it’s due now, but when do you find the time when the mechanic is open the same hours you work?)

    15. Seriously?*

      And if you really need to feel productive you can take on a large home improvement project or learn a new skill.

    16. FunTillSomeoneLoosesAnEye*

      I take days off to go to Lowes or Home Depot so I only have contractors and landscapers to deal with when looking for things, so much easier to get mulch or lumber when there is about 25% of the crowd at the store.

    17. Sam*

      Oh my, OP #1 – most people would be THRILLED to have two paid weeks off in a row! I have a laundry list of 100 projects I want to work on. I’ll gladly take your two weeks if you want to send them my way! ;-)

    18. blushingflower*

      If it’s two weeks of unstructured time that sounds unappealing (which is reasonable, there are plenty of people for whom that might mean two weeks of boredom, social isolation and backsliding into bad habits), then make them structured.
      Make appointments, set goals. (If you are the kind of person who can talk themselves out of plans, it helps if there are appointments rather than just “Monday I will go to the park”.)
      Do you have friends who work in your city but at different companies? Can you schedule a lunch with them? Is there a movie you’ve been dying to see? Go to a midweek matinee. Go to the library and work on a passion project or take an online course. If you belong to a gym, see if you can book time with a personal trainer to talk about ways to change up your routine. Go to a museum or a park. Get your eyes checked. Go to the dentist. Set up an appointment with a financial advisor and make sure your money is doing what you want. Make an appointment with a lawyer to make sure your affairs are in order (will, advance directive, etc). Schedule a hair cut or a massage (or both!). See if there are any volunteer groups that could use your time and energy.

    19. Adlib*

      Right now, I’d love just a week (or two!) to do “nothing”. For me, that would involve sleeping in (sometimes), hitting some classes at the gym I can’t usually make because I work, and just general laziness. My house would be cleaner too! I agree with Stellaaaaa above. It may feel weird right now, but I think most of us can guarantee that you’ll appreciate those weeks in your future years with the company.

    20. Not Tom, just Petty*

      My nephew started medical residency in August. His yearly two week vacation was assigned for the last two weeks…of August. He was annoyed. He wanted to hit the ground running. But that was the rule.
      The other day I was trying to get my nephew to take a nap and I found myself trying to explain to him that you will regret it when your older, all those naps you passed up.
      I don’t think you are a toddler who doesn’t want to take a nap, I think you are a grown person whose life is not so over scheduled that you’d actually like to be busy at work instead of not busy not doing things. The two weeks is great. The timing sucks. I feel for you.

    21. Aaaaaaanon.*

      FWIW, when I was OP1’s age most of my colleagues around the same age acted as though it was really weird that I was using my PTO for Life Stuff rather than extensive international travel. I, as well as my colleagues, had the sort of jobs where people could typically afford to do some travel, but I was using my money for Other Things.

      It got to the point where I really didn’t want to take PTO because I was tired of having conversations about why I’m not going anywhere. I just had more Life Stuff to take care of than most people of my demographic, and I used my vacation time to deal with it so that said stuff didn’t interfere with my work. It’s not because I’m a rube who doesn’t care about the world around me. If OP1 gets similar pushback regarding their life choices I can understand being reluctant to take PTO.

  2. Kay*

    In regards to the first letter, I was surprised to learn that the 2 weeks off includes receptionists and admin staff. No disrespect as I’ve been a receptionist and admin in the past, but it just seemed weird to me that they would be included. I can’t see how a receptionist could commit fraud for example. I understand for people who have their hands on the work and access to systems and processes that make things tick, but it was strange to me that every employee was included. I couldn’t imagine the CEO or board of directors where I work being sent away and not being allowed to call or come in for 2 weeks. I definitely learned something from the first letter.

      1. Going anon*

        Yep. A few years ago, my then-employer ended up on the front page of every major newspaper for long-term fraud committed. One of the major players was the administrative assistant.

      2. Anonymoose*

        Exactly. Example:

        Person A regularly sends in undated but signed blank checks to Person C. Person B receives the mail, logs the check number/account in her tracker like she does every day, and then proceeds to forward it to Person C. What we didn’t know before Person B went on her required vacation, was that Person C told Person B that she must always process Person A’s blank checks as-is because ‘it’s just a mess otherwise’ – fraud. Person D covers for Person B during her vacation and goes to their manager and says ‘look at this here blank check that just came in, boss lady’. Boss lady then asks Person D to audit all the past mailed in checks logged previously….and voila, they have found extensive fraud on the part of Person C (and maybe Person A but they would need to be investigated first to know accurately), which they wouldn’t discover unless Person D took over the role of Person B.

        SO GLAD I am not longer in financial retail Phew!

      1. Dan*

        Yeah, I work at a company full of engineers and scientists, and we have an *awesome* benefits package. 4 weeks PTO to start, 10% 401k match, flex time, work from home, and good medical. And you know what? Our admin/support staff gets the same stuff.

        On the one hand, our company doesn’t need to offer that to support support staff to be competitive, but OTOH, it’s a nice thing to do for morale and productivity. Our support staff is a critical part of our team, and there’s nothing worse than being treated as a second class citizen. (Side note: I hated being an onsite contractor. You’re “part of the team” when work has to get done, but “not an employee” when the thank yous are coming around.)

        Sometimes, it’s just easier to have “the company benefits package” than it is to try and separate out different benefits for different work groups.

        1. Kay*

          That’s awesome that your company extended those things to everyone. But that’s not what’s happening here. The company isn’t doing it for fairness, they are doing it because it’s an industry regulation. In this particular case fairness has nothing to do with it.

          1. Dan*

            At least in banking, it’s not an explicit regulation that receptionists be required to take the 2-week vacation. If you read the FDIC guidance that was linked in a reply to you below, the FDIC allows for exceptions to the two week rule. Perhaps OP’s company makes *everybody* take two weeks off, because it’s easier and more fair to apply the same policy to everyone than it is to try and define and enforce different policies for different work groups.

            1. Robin's hood*

              We don’t know what industry the OP works in. She didn’t say. But she did clearly state what the rules of the industry are so I would be inclined to believe her and that she knows the rules of her own industry.

            2. OP1*

              Thanks to everyone who believed and defended me. I’m disappointed Alison and some others didn’t. Probably shouldn’t have written in. It is mandatory for EVERY employee like I said in my original letter. I don’t get why that was questioned.

              1. Artemesia*

                When you write to a public forum people use it as a take off point to discuss similar situations. You don’t need ‘defending’ because people discuss the rules for mandatory time off in different industries. It is your letter but it isn’t all about you.

              2. OP1*

                Being told that i misunderstand the rules of my own industry is different than people discussing other industries. I do not appreciate the comments about me not knowing the regs of my own industry.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I didn’t read anyone saying you were wrong. I saw people talking about how it can work in a range of situations, and a couple suggesting that one possibility here was that the rule had been miscommunicated to you (which is no slight against you; that kind of thing can happen). As far as I’ve seen, no one said you don’t understand the rules of your own industry.

                2. Myrin*

                  @Alison, Dan suggested that (most explicitly a few comments below) but people immediately disagreed with him and defended, as it were, the OP. His comments are the only ones of that tune that I saw, though.

                3. Rusty Shackelford*

                  OP, I mean this in the kindest possible way, but the fact that you even asked the question and pushed against this requirement suggested that you might not be all that familiar with the regulations of your industry, and why they are in place. To me, anyway.

                4. Penny Lane*

                  The reason some people thought you might have misunderstood the rules of your own industry was precisely because you were asking how you could “push back” on this in some fashion. If you had fully understood the rules, you would have realized that this was simply a non-negotiable part of doing business in a highly regulated industry, pushback simply wasn’t possible (and ESPECIALLY for a newbie), and your question might have been something like “how do I best occupy myself during the weeks of downtime I am forced to have.”

                5. Oxford Comma*

                  I guess I’m confused. Because you said that it was mandatory and then you asked if you could push back on it. Based on what you wrote and what people are saying about your industry, it sounds like you can’t push back on it without negative consequences.

                  In light of that, the next best thing is to figure out how you can take best leverage the two weeks off so that it’s most effective for you and there are some great suggestions in the thread.

              3. Tardigrade*

                I’m sorry you feel that way. I didn’t read the comments here as a matter of disbelieving you, but someone not realizing that employers extended the mandatory time off for admin staff. I hope you can take the good advice from other comments though.

              4. Confused*

                Ok I don’t think the issue is anyone misunderstanding the rules. It’s a rule, so pushing back will look really bad and weird like Alison said. If you can’t figure out what to do with two paid weeks off, you might need to examine some things in your life.

                If it’s not paid, then I feel your pain, but I’d still not push back.

                1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

                  Yeah, maybe I missed it, but would these two weeks be paid or unpaid? That would really make a difference as to how I felt about it and what I would want to do.
                  (For the last 3 years I worked at an ad agency, we got five extra days off during the fourth quarter – but the catch was that they were unpaid furlough days. This was always sprung on us during September or October.)

              5. L*

                OP1, I mean this kindly.

                Between your letter (wanting to push back against mandatory regulations) and your responses here, you seem to have a tone that suggests you are right and anyone who provides feedback, questions you, doesn’t agree with your perspective on something is impolite or rude.

                Having been someone who’s been talked to about tone before, I suggest you learn to give others the benefit of the doubt. It will no doubt serve you well over the course of your career.

              6. Confused*

                If you know it’s mandatory, then why are you even asking the question? What’s the point of this? Take your two weeks off and find a hobby while you’re at it.

    1. Tara2*

      Its also possibly a policy just in place to… be a good workplace?

      In Canada, *everyone* gets a certain amount of paid vacation time (2 weeks for those that work full time, I believe, and correspondingly less for those who work fewer hours). And not just receptionists and admins. Fast food workers, retail employees, etc. get this as well.

      It works a bit differently, as the time itself isn’t necessarily mandated, but you must be paid those two extra weeks of hours (fast food places just generally do this, either as a ‘bonus’ lump sum near christmas, or just the amount you accrued that pay period tacked onto your pay stub).

      1. Marcel*

        Per the OP of the first letter is an industry wide mandate (in a regulated industry) so the company doesn’t have any say in whether or not everyone gets the time off. So the company being good or not makes no difference.

      2. Kay*

        How would a mandatory industry wide regulation have any bearing on the policy of where OP 1 works? It’s not a company policy at all.

        1. ENFP in Texas*

          If the OP works in the banking industry (which I suspect is the case) the FDIC has published guidelines regarding the policy. If the company wants to pass an FDIC audit, then they need to follow the guidelines about their policy.

          I can’t seem to post a link, but the relevant document is FIL-52-95 if you want to Google it.

          1. Kay*

            Right. OP says:

            In this industry and anything related, it’s mandatory each employee, whether entry-level, receptionist, management, admin or board of directors, take two weeks off work in a row once every calendar year.

            So the company can’t choose whether or not to have the 2 weeks for everyone. She’s in a regulated industry where the regulations supersede any company policy.

            1. Dan*

              OP may be misunderstanding some things. I’ve only heard of the mandatory two week vacation thing in banking/finance, and the FDIC guidance linked to above explicitly says that the two-week vacation is good practice but not required. Companies are allowed to develop their own controls in lieu of the two week thing.

              1. GM*

                Almost sounds like OP#1 and I are in the same workplace! Or at least the same industry.
                I took a while to get used to the 2 weeks off too, but with a toddler at home I’ve more often than not used it for a staycation, and as someone else mentioned upthread, to finish off all my bank/dental/other appointments.

              2. Kay*

                Alison has asked letter writers to be taken at their word. I believe the OP knows her own industry. She was clear in what the industry mandates.

                1. ENFP in Texas*

                  If the regs of your industry mandate a 2-week hiatus be observed by all employees, then there shouldn’t be any question of “I don’t want to take two weeks off” – it’s simply not an option.

                  If you honestly do not want to deal with that industry regulation going forward, then there is the choice of using the two weeks to pursue career options in other industries.that do not have that regulation.

                2. AsItIs*

                  What ENFP in Texas said. There is nothing to push back against; it’s mandatory. What do you think makes you ‘special’ that you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to?

        2. Penny Lane*

          What? You are asking why a mandatory industry-wide regulation wouldn’t involve a specific company in that industry? Because mandatory industry-wide regulations apply to all companies in that industry, of course.

      3. Aaaaaaanon.*

        Even in Canada, though, you’re not necessarily forced to take those two weeks consecutively unless it’s an industry requirement.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      It might be weird, but since the admin staff typically get almost NO perks at most of the companies I’ve worked for, I have to say I would fricking love this. Two weeks, and it doesn’t even count against my PTO? Bring it on.

      1. Dan*

        I wrote above that support staff at my company get the same benefits package as the technical staff. When I figured that out, my first thought was “OMG, this is a great place to be an admin.” I guess it’s no surprise that some of our support staff have dates of hire that predate the birth dates of some of the younger management.

    3. hbc*

      The receptionist could be routing certain customers to one of a couple of people who handle them off-the-books or other bad ways and they all share a cut. The receptionist could be pretending to be a banker or someone else on the phone for certain clients for her benefit. The receptionist could be asking for certain information she shouldn’t have as a way of “screening” the calls.

      That’s off the top of my head, I’m sure there are other ways.

      1. AnonForThis*

        When I worked in banking I talked to the fraud dept a lot and they loved the share war stories. There was an admin assistant who photocopied a lot of stuff for higher ups and got caught with copies down his trouser leg. Someone else at admin level was faxing footballer’s bank statements to someone with newspaper contacts for small amounts of cash. A receptionist was rerouting documents so financial evidence didn’t get scanned because one of the brokers sweet talked her into it. Another was telling callers that one broker wasn’t available and directing them to another who had a much laxer idea of affordability. Someone else passed on details of where new cars were being delivered so they could be stolen a few weeks later. You’d be amazed what people can get up at every level.

        1. FrontRangeOy*

          My spouse (civilian police officer on a military post) was sent to conduct basic interviews in the civilian personnel office’s finance department at the start of a suspicions of fraud investigation. Spouse started with the building janitor and then moved on to the admin and executive assistants. Spouse let the military investigators know there were a a handful of assistants who answered questions oddly and should be investigated further. Military investigators proceeded to spend 2 weeks interviewing everyone except the handful of people spouse had identified because each of those individuals worked for someone with a GS 10 or higher pay scale and “we don’t want to inconvenience the senior people in the department.” (insert many eyeballs and rants about implicit bias here)

          A month later, the executive assistant to the Finance Director was arrested on fraud charges. She’d been dropping $10,000/mo into an out of state bank account. Not at all incidentally, she was at the top of spouse’s “you need to pull these people’s financials and interview them again” list.

          Assistants and janitors, man. They see and hear everything and are routinely under appreciated enough to feel like they deserve more.

      2. essEss*

        Agreed. And I’ve worked in places where the receptionist does the ordering for supplies which has many opportunities for fraud and kickbacks. (I’m in no way saying that the OP is doing that, just that it is possible for someone to exploit that position). Or a receptionist could be getting perks for screening out some potential vendors and steering work to others by only allowing their rep’s calls through. Or a receptionist might accidentally have access to confidential computer files (a wrong setting when their permissions are set up by IT) and this will close a security hole even if the receptionist didn’t do anything wrong with the files. Or the receptionist downloaded peer-to-peer software to stream music/movies which can make the company liable for illegal downloads. Or he/she could be storing illegal images on the computer.

        Saying that you are too new to need to take the time off doesn’t make sense. It’s just as possible for someone new to the company to accidentally break rules as it is for long-term employees to deliberately break them. It’s good to catch potential issues before they become big enough to become legally liable.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      It depends what kind of information admins have access to. I’d say that in my industry, banking, they are typically included since they’re often handling financial information by way of putting together the Board package, distributing confidential reports on behalf of HR or the executives, etc. And the CEO is definitely included in taking mandatory time off–he directs the business.

    5. Nothing in the middle of the road but dead armadillos*

      There’s also the factor that being so new, you may be participating in a fraud without realizing. “When you sort the mail, all the checks go to AP, except the ones from these two companies that go to John for special handling.”

      Sounds reasonable, except it turns out “special handling” means John deposits them in his special bank account that is set up with a name that is similar to the name of the company.

    6. Chinook*

      Anyone who thinks a receptionist or admin assistant can’t commit fraud has no clue what we do. Trust me, if I wanted to make side money, I have tons of ways I could. After all – who do you think does the data entry, greets couriers, set ups new vendors and processes invoices? If anything, we could probably get away with it longer because some people just sign what is put in front of them by us.

  3. River*

    Perhaps the woman looking for food is dieting to lose weight, and underestimates how hungry she will get during the day, and ends up being desperate for food. That happened to someone I know. She persisted with the diet despite repeatedly becoming desperate and light-headed, because she thought she’d get used to it. She was trying to get by on too few calories and ultimately gave up.

    1. LCL*

      That’s my take on it. That was certainly what was going on with one of our office fridge raiders.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I also wonder if there’s something going on that means she’s more food insecurely than one would expect (e.g., entering a period of mental decline, subject to elder abuse/exploitation related to her finances, suffering from a health disorder, etc.).

      All that speculation aside, the advice thankfully remains the same. But OP#2 may feel slightly less frustrated about the frantic food requests if OP imagines that one of those bigger unknowns is at play.

      1. Woodswoman*

        I agree, the abuse possibility came up for me as well. Could it be that she’s in an abusive relationship at home where her food and/or money is controlled and withheld? I’m no expert in such things, but it’s the first thing I thought of.

        1. CustServGirl*

          Why was that your first assumption? I’m genuinely curious, as my first thought was perhaps she is poorly managing her blood sugar or some other health issue.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Unknowns which are being inflicted on people who are paid less and have far less status at the company than the people she’s hitting up for food. And who themselves might have food insecurity issues.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. The power differential between a tenured faculty member and staff is huge and this is terribly abusive. The highest ranking admin, usually the department AA should discuss this with the department chair who should speak to the faculty member. It is not fair to expect admins to deal with this directly. I don’t care what whiny little problem this Professor has; she can carry a bag of frigging almonds and not be pressuring staff to pay for her snacks and be her mommy.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            THIS. I work in academia and that would be my suggestion for handling the issue. The Dept chair is the one with the authority to handle this if politely saying “No” isn’t working.

          2. AKchic*

            This. 100%
            The hungry person’s issues are just that; hers. We aren’t here to speculate on her potential home-life situation. There may be something wrong, or there may be nothing wrong at all. It could be poor judgment due to medications (causing her to want to eat less and then blood sugar dips), hormones, dieting, a health issue that has cropped up and she is previously unaware of, or an existing one that is changing on her in some way; or it could be something else entirely. We don’t know, and neither does the staff that she is hounding for snacks on a near-daily basis. It is not the lower-ranking staff’s job to keep this woman supplied with snack foods and enable her dependence on them as ersatz (and free) vending machines.

      3. Penny Lane*

        Why can’t we take the OP at her word without jumping to bizarre and unfounded conclusions completely unsupported by the letter? It’s like people want to show off how clever of a story they can concoct.

        It’s someone who doesn’t plan ahead, gets hungry, and scrounges for food, this annoying coworkers. We needn’t make up that her partner holds a gun to her head preventing her from having any food. Such drama.

        1. Eye of Sauron*

          I have to admit I agree with you. I think the easiest answer is usually the correct one.

          Hungry Helen is busy and forgetful. So she plans on grabbing lunch but then gets caught up in something and misses it. Then is starving with no time and she forgot to bring snacks or a lunch.

          This happens to me at least once a week, no need to turn the situation into an after school special.

          1. Luna*

            Yeah, I can totally see some faculty doing this- many of them are the types that are super smart in their niche area but wildly disorganized/forgetful about basic life skills. I very much doubt this person has any sort of food insecurity or abuse problems.

            1. AKchic*

              I have this problem a lot. I get up in the morning and due to pain and genetics – I don’t like to eat in the morning. I take my medication and then I’m too nauseous to eat. Some days I need to take an anti-nausea pill to function.
              Depending on when the nausea kicks in and when the other meds kick in, I may not actually pack a lunch. Some days I won’t eat until I get back home at night. Other days, thanks to the medication, I’ll binge eat all day at my desk.
              I make sure to keep a lot of snacks in a drawer in my desk, though. Just in case.

        2. CMart*

          Personally, the last sentence of PCBH’s comment is always helpful for me. The “even if they really are just a jerkface, tell yourself maybe it’s something more sympathetic so you’ll be less annoyed” helps me keep my blood pressure down and have a more charitable outlook on the world.

          Is Boss Almond Hands just being intrusive and annoying? Probably. But for me it’s helpful to think “they wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t important–I will still say no but they’re not doing it out of malice or stupidity” to peacefully get on with my day. Internally seething about it takes up way too much time and energy.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Thanks—this was my point. Not that there’s an elaborate issue that makes the employee’s behavior ok (her behavior is not ok, especially as it’s leveraging power and wealth dynamics to exploit less powerful and less affluent staff), but that sometimes a person becomes less annoying if we come up with a sympathetic back story.

            As noted, it doesn’t change the advice, but sometimes an attitudinal shift can help someone navigate an otherwise irksome/BEC-inducing situation.

          2. PsychDoc*

            This is the perfect time for a very brief psychology lecture no one asked for. Bwahahaha. It is common for people to make assumptions about the behaviors of themselves and others based on distributional biases. The first is the “Fundamental Attribution Bias” wherein, when looking at explanations for the behaviors of others, we overestimate the role of dispositional factors (e.g. he’s a jerk, she’s thoughtless) and underestimate the role of situational factors (he’s just got dumped, she didn’t get any sleep last night because her dog was sick). We tend to do the opposite for ourselves and that’s called the “Actor-Observer Effect” (there’s a little more nitty-gritty to this one, but it’s not important). So, when I cut someone off in traffic, it’s because I wasn’t focus, but I really am a nice person. When someone cuts me off, it’s because they are a terrible person who has no regard for others on the road and who should never be allowed to drive again (I mean . . . totally normal, rational response to the existence of other drivers).

            The final piece is the self-serving bias. When somethings goes well, it’s because of dispositional factors (I got that job because I’m really smart) and when things go poorly we attribute it to situation factors (I didn’t do well on the test because I was so swamped with other work).

            TL;DR – Psychologically speaking, it is super common for people to assume that bad behavior reflects a personality flaw in others, but is due to a particular situation when it’s us. And likewise, someone else succeeding is because *they* were lucky or having a good day, but *my* success is because I’m super smart.

            Point being, it can be helpful to give others the benefit of the doubt, but like PCBH pointed out, that doesn’t mean the staff should give in to the requests, just maybe be a bit less peeved by them.

        3. paul*


          All that speculation doesn’t really change the answer anyway.

          We can sit an invent hypothetical situations until the cows come home but it doesn’t actually change much.

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        Considering that she only does this to lower-level staff and specifically to people who’ll have a hard time pushing back, I doubt it (especially the mental decline idea). And I’m seconding what neverjaunty said about the lower-paid staff maybe facing food insecurity.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. If she isn’t bullying her peers or superiors on this then the main feature is not the food but the power trip. Once is forgetful, twice is awkward, three times is about throwing her weight around.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I was perhaps not clear? My point isn’t that what she’s doing is ok; she may just be an extravagant mooch who is at best clueless and at worst exploitative. My point is that sometimes it helps to avoid thinking of someone as a villain when dealing with their problematic behavior.

          1. Penny Lane*

            But we don’t need to think of her as a villain; she’s just a poor planner, that’s all. Which is her business until she bugs other people and then it becomes their business.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Absolutely! She could just be a poor planner whose behavior is burdensome to the least powerful staff. And that’s definitely not ok.

              When I read the letter, I was seriously side-eyeing the senior employee. The idea that someone would routinely hit up the AAs sounded so wrong to me (because of how exploitative it is, and because it’s so hard for any of them to deal with it directly). I imagined myself in OP’s position and felt incredibly frustrated—having someone more powerful with a higher salary prowl like this would make me feel so miserable at my workplace.

              So I thought, what would make me feel less upset/frustrated in this situation? For me, sometimes coming up with compassionate (albeit insanely speculative) scenarios helps me moderate my frustration. It doesn’t change the fact that the offending behavior is wrong or that it needs to be addressed. But speaking personally, it can make me more patient, calm, clear-eyed, etc.

              So my suggestion wasn’t intended to say that any of the speculative scenarios were true or that they excuse the senior employee. It was more about sharing a strategy that helps me deal when a situation feels fundamentally unfair. OP may not need the strategy (most people are way more emotionally evolved than I am), but that was my purpose in the post. I’ll try to flip the ordering, next time, for greater clarity.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                I guess what I was confused by, in your post, was that to me, thinking about the faculty member as having really horrible problems that mean she NEEDS food would make me feel super-guilty that I wasn’t providing it. It would make me go out of my way to bring food in for her, especially being a lower-level staff member who couldn’t gently ask if everything is ok.

                1. nonegiven*

                  Am I the only one who thought of measuring out 1 oz portions of almonds and charging her $10 each?

          2. teclatrans*

            I think the reason these possibilities are worth bringing up is because they are in direct responsive to something the OP put forth, which is that the senior faculty couldn’t be broke because she makes a lot more than the admins. That is speculative, and since the OP herself seemed to be looking for a possible context into which to put the unacceptable behavior and was coming up blank, I think it’s totally appropriate to offer her more scenarios that could be in play. None of the make the food requests OP’s problem, all of them involve poor boundaries and abuse of power imbalance (whether intentional or inadvertent), and shutting down the begging by being consistently “unable” to provide food (and possibly by getting supervisor intervention). But of all the possible scenarios (one being selfishness, another being bullying), the vast majority of possibilities actually elicit some compassion and ability to continue to have collegial relations.

      5. Observer*

        I’m going to agree with everyone who is saying that not only is it a jump, it’s one that really doesn’t add up. Her behavior is too calculated here.

    3. Cornflower Blue*

      That’s what I immediately thought of as well. Not keeping any food in her office to deliberately avoid the temptation to snack + sudden hunger pangs or light-headedness could easily result in having to hit up coworkers for snacks.

      Also the ‘handful of almond seeds’ is so specific that it sounded like something from a diet book about allowed meals/snacks.

      1. Birch*

        Hunger pangs are one thing… if you’re eating so little that you get light-headed, that’s a huge problem! And not one that should be foisted upon her colleagues. Grown adults need to manage their own issues better than this.

        1. Baby Fishmouth*

          For some people, it doesn’t take too much at all to get lightheaded! I often get lightheaded before I even feel hunger pangs, or I’ll get a headache and it takes me a while to realize I need to eat because I don’t feel hungry at all.

          1. Murphy*

            Yeah, I get light-headed fairly often and I eat much more than three times a day. (My desk drawer is stocked with snacks for this reason though.)

      2. Penny Lane*

        To me it was obvious that “a handful of almonds” wasn’t a specific request that needs to lead us down discussion of nuts, but it was shorthand for “something quick that will help me stave off hunger pangs.”

        1. Breda*

          And/or “something that might come out of a larger package so I’m not taking your entire granola bar.”

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Or “I know you have almonds in your desk because that’s what I scrounged off you last time.”

        3. Elizabeth H.*

          Agree with Rusty and also that almonds in general seem to be an incredibly common snack for people to have in their desk at work.

          1. teclatrans*

            Yeah, it is my family of origin’s go-to protein snack. I admit I was confused that Alison found it oddly specific! To me, asking for a handful of something that would likely come in a larger bag means she is trying to say “not to be a bother, but could you spot me some food?” Except this isn’t the right setting for that, as she has power-over. (Though she may not recognize the nature of those power relations.)

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              It is oddly specific unless you happen to know that person always has almonds on hand. If you came to my office and asked for “a handful of almonds” I’d say “sorry, don’t have any.” I probably wouldn’t volunteer that I have cashews.

        4. Genny*

          Yeah, I have some blood sugar issues, and nuts are generally a fast way of getting protein. If I’m having a blood sugar crash, any kind of nut/nut product is a really good go-to. It’s also a pretty common snack for people to have in their desks because they’re healthier than chips or sweets.

        5. Elizabeth H.*

          Wanted to inform everyone that this discussion led me to buy almonds when I was at the grocery store yesterday evening, which I have now brought to work with me today. I have probably not bought almonds in several years, so thanks, letter writer for reminding me about almonds.

      3. essEss*

        Since it’s so specific, and the headline said “food emergency” I assumed it was to stabilize a health issue such as diabetes if she found her blood sugar readings were spiking or crashing. In the letter, it doesn’t say if the food scrounger is calling it an emergency, or if that is a label that the OP is giving it? Once the person started breaking into food that is labeled for another use, then it does need to be escalated to that person’s supervisor.

      4. nonegiven*

        I just figured the ‘handful of almonds’ was something someone had given her before. “I only have a handful of almonds left, but you can have them.”

    4. CC*

      I assumed she was likely diabetic. I was just diagnosed with Type II diabetes, and I can kind of see it. You don’t want to be tempted by leaving carb loaded food around, but you don’t want your blood sugar to drop either. This is all speculation of course.

      That being said, there should be a vending machine nearby and/or a cafeteria.

      1. Lara*

        I figured it was more likely to be diabetes due to the ‘breaking into’ of another department’s labelled snacks.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        This was my thought as well, especially given that she’s asking for small things. Is there any chance she’s having trouble controlling her sugars? That would be particularly likely if this happens close to (but not during) her break/lunch or later on the day, after she may have eaten what she brought with her. And if there’s no handy vending machine or other source of quick food, it really is an emergency!

        1. Michaela Westen*

          If she’s diabetic, that’s all the more reason for her to *manage* her condition by having food with her. Foisting it on colleagues with less power than her is unacceptable.
          She could get a can of those snack almonds, or several, and keep them in a box or bottom drawer.
          I keep crackers in mine.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            If possible, someone at equal or above level should talk to her and find out what this is about and suggest she bring food and keep some in her office… though a grown-up should be able to figure that out…

            1. Penny Lane*

              I don’t know why it has to be someone at equal and above level. ANYONE who is repeatedly bugged by her for food can tell her “hey, this seems to happen a lot to you and I don’t always have food that I can spare — why don’t you keep some snacks [nuts, granola bars, raisins, etc.] in your desk drawer?” If they want to be extra-charitable, they can say “Hey, I’ve found the xxx brand to be particularly tasty” or “The store down the street typically has those on hand” or whatever.

              There sometimes seems to be this attitude on AAM that you can’t ever say anything to anyone unless you are above them in the hierarchy. I disagree. There is nothing rude or impolite about the above sentence.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                It sounds like she’s concious of the heirarchy and seeking out people “below” her… in that case she might get disproportionately offended and cause trouble for the OP and her manager.
                I agree a reasonable person wouldn’t do that, but she doesn’t seem reasonable!

                1. teclatrans*

                  Well, the people at her level in the hierarchy are likely in class or holed up in their offices, whereas the admin staff are in more of a “commons” area. And if the other faculty are largely male, I could see her turning to a group of women. I don’t think we can say for sure that she is punching downward here.

              2. AMPG*

                The problem here is that academic environments are often extremely hierarchical, to the point that it could cause real trouble for the OP or her peers if they pushed back more directly.

              3. Academic Admin*

                It’s definitely that way in academic environments. If I pushed back on faculty myself, they would tell their chair who would tell our dean who would tell my boss and I’d get in trouble, even if it was justified. The best way to handle a problem with faculty is to run it up the ladder to someone else because a lot of them are just irrational and not worth the drama. Trust me, if I have an issue with someone higher on me on the admin side of things, I can handle it myself (depending on who it is since we have some people who need to be handled with care). But on the academic side, I am at the very least going to have my boss and her boss involved, even for something minor.

      3. Seriously?*

        That was my thought too. In addition to pushing back on food requests, the OP could make not of the nearest place to buy food and include that in the refusal. “I’m sorry but I don’t have any food I can spare, but there are vending machines on the third floor” or something like that. I have hypoglycemia problems sometimes and I deal with the balance between temptation and being prepared by having my emergency snacks be something I don’t particularly like. I will eat it if I need to, but I am not tempted.

      4. President Porpoise*

        I have my diabetic brother visiting me this week. It turns out that if his blood sugar gets dangerously low, his body sends signals to him telling him that if he doesn’t eat he will die. So, like ‘I haven’t eaten in a month’ hunger, despite getting regular meals and such. Yesterday, this happened, and he ate four Costco muffins, half a dozen cheese-it packets, and whatever leftovers he could fine in the fridge in less than ten minutes. And then, when his body instantly absorbed all that sugar, he was wiped out and had to take a nap.

        So, my take is that, yeah, she could be diabetic and having trouble controlling her insulin levels (pump problems, denaturing insulin, whatever), but if so, OP would probably be noticing a voracity and exhaustion that comes with it. Regardless, this is something that she’d be responsible to plan for – full sugar sprite in her desk drawer, glucose tablets, candy bars. It should not fall to OP’s team to be her safety net.

        1. CC*

          Wow, that’s crazy! My blood sugar doesn’t usually get that low, and if it does get low it’s medication induced. Half a cookie is all I need. If it is diabetes this woman should probably see a doctor—she’s not managing it well.

      5. Eleanor de Wardon*

        Exactly! I’m also diabetic (type II). If I’m not careful to plan what I’m going to eat, I can get so hungry so quickly that I’m ready to gnaw off my hand! Then I get lightheaded. Then I faint. And it can happen fast.

    5. Not That Jane*

      Maybe I’m just projecting, but I immediately thought of pregnancy. Sudden, urgent needs for snacks, not being able to plan the way I used to (because pregnancy changed my appetite and eating schedule)… that all sounds pretty familiar.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I’m like that as a breastfeeding mom now. I go from fine to “I WILL LITERALLY KILL FOR FOOD” in like 12 second. I never felt like this pregnant.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Man, same here. One minute I’m not hungry (but I could eat something; I can always eat something), the next I’m tearing the paint off the walls and trying not to snap at my husband.

        2. Murphy*

          Yes! I did feel like that pregnant sometimes, but it was definitely worse when I was nursing all the time.

        3. Legal Beagle*

          Yes! I ate less than normal when I was pregnant (fatigue + heartburn), but nursing made me RAVENOUS.

      2. VelociraptorAttack*

        I’m pregnant and now that I’m 5 months in I’ve started to figure out my eating schedule. Today is my long day (work and then a grad class) so today I packed 2 snacks, lunch, and dinner to get me through the day while before I was pregnant Mondays meant I packed lunch and was fine.

        Good times.

      3. Amy*

        I was like that too but after the first couple times of having to eat less than desirable stuff from the vending machine I stocked my desk with snacks including a costco sized tub of almonds.

    6. Ladybugger*

      I’m hypoglycemic and this sounds like me sometimes. I confess I sometimes overestimate how long I can make it between meals, and sometimes I don’t feel hungry so I’m 10 seconds from fainting before I’m like OH SNAP I NEED FOOD STAT. I rarely carry snack food because 99% of the time my meals are enough, so I’ve definitely been “someone please cough up a granola bar before I hit the deck” girl.

      That said, it’s definitely not common for me to do this even once a month! I think I’ve done it maybe twice in the past couple of years. If it were this frequent I would be looking to change my habits around food. I would be very embarrassed to keep bugging coworkers.

      1. Observer*

        That’s really the problem here. If it were happening once in a blue moon, ok it happens. But on regular basis? Also, there does seem to be some thinking going on here. She’s not running to the nearest person, but coming down to the admin area. *AND* she consistently only asks the admin staff, not any of the other teaching staff.

        1. Gingerblue*

          I’ve never been on a campus where there wasn’t somewhere to buy food, either. I have weeks where I fall down on packing lunch, but I go get a sandwich or something, not bother the department staff to feed me.

          1. Circus peanuts*

            I agree. It is easy to understand the freshman fifteen on a campus because there are so many places that have cheap and sometimes free food. I even know some students who go to every art show and faculty event due to the free food that is offered.

          2. else*

            Yes – and there are often random foods around that people have brought in to share, leftovers from meetings/events, vending machines with healthy (mostly unhealthy) things, etc. Even the teeny tiny satellite campus school I worked for at one point paid a taco truck to stay nearby for its students.

            1. Gingerblue*

              In a bit of cosmic irony, I managed to forget my wallet at home today, and was planning to get a muffin on campus for breakfast. Hurrah for the cookies leftover in the department office from an event on Friday.

        2. JamieS*

          That’s what stuck out to me too. All the other posts suggesting she could be food insecure, pregnant, have a medical condition, etc. are possible but in my mind the most likely and plausible explanation is she’s just pushing around people lower on the totem pole to give her free food because she can and it works. I know we can’t know everything about someone else’s situation but OTOH I also know that a lot of times a jerk is just a jerk.

          1. PB*

            I agree. In addition, even if she is food insecure, pregnant, etc., it doesn’t negate the fact that she’s pushing around people with lower rank. Maybe there’s a reason for her behavior. Maybe there isn’t. Either way, it’s problematic.

          2. Marcel*

            The lower the position on a totem pole, the higher the honour is.

            In the context of your explanation, she would be lower on the totem pole. So it doesn’t make any sense.

            1. JamieS*

              I’m not sure if this is an attempt at humor or not but in case it’s not ‘low man on the totem pole’ and related sayings (such as lower on the totem pole) are established sayings referring to someone with lower rank/less power. It has nothing to do with actual customs surrounding literal totem poles.

              1. Marcel*

                I was raising awareness about my culture. The totem pole is scared and speaking of it incorrectly and so flippantly is harmful and offensive. Just because it is an established saying doesn’t mean it is accurate or acceptable. It takes a level of pribedlge to be able to use such sayings without realizing the hurt behind them.

                1. AKchic*

                  I agree with you here. People truly don’t understand the concept of totems at all and have it all backwards. Then to have someone dismiss the educational correction as “well, this is the saying, not the actual customs” and brush everything off makes me want to scream in frustration.
                  Thank you, Marcel, for highlighting the backwards usage of the phrase.

                2. Kay*

                  Thanks for informing and edicating Marcel. I’m sorry something offensive to you was posted and that you were dismissed. Your words should be taken seriously and JamieS should have recognized their privilege and not dismissed you. It was offensive to compare your serious and real concerns to an attempt at humor.

                3. JamieS*

                  I see there was a bit of heat on my post so I’m going to try to clear some things up. In your reply to me you said my post didn’t make any sense which read as though you didn’t understand what I was saying and were taking it literally. As I previously said, the idiom I used is pretty well-known in America but there are AAMers from all over the world and I don’t know how common the phrase is outside of America. As a result I didn’t know if you knew what it meant and were deliberately misunderstanding it or if you’d legitimately never heard the phrase before and were confused which was the reason for my reply.

                  As for me using the idiom for the record I didn’t know some people associate it with actual totem poles and I wouldn’t have used it if I had known. The way I learned the phrase, it’s not referring to literal totem poles or the customs behind them any more than the saying ‘dollars to doughnuts’ is referring to actual doughnuts or ‘raining cats and dogs’ is referring to literal cats and dogs. In my original post that started this I was trying to convey that it seemed like Jane was taking advantage of people who didn’t have as much ability to push back. I wasn’t attempting to be offensive towards Native Americans or be dismissive towards you nor did I mean to offend people to the point an argument broke out between several of them and Alison over commenting rules.

                  So in conclusion while my posts can sometimes be a bit controversial my intent is never to intentionally offend or belittle them or their culture so I’ll refrain from continuing to use idioms related to totem poles or other Native American culture.

              2. Wow*

                I’m shocked that Alison allows such fascist language in the comments. I would have thought it was against the commenting rule.

                1. Agent Veronica*

                  It’s possible for something to be wrong without being “fascist.” As you are demonstrating here, it is also possible to be right and behave badly.

                2. MarcelMarcel*

                  Apologies if I came on too strong Alison. I did try to post a link but I think it got stuck in moderation. None the less I apologize for overdoing it.

                3. Vladlocker*

                  Huh. I’ve seen you call out and/or delete posts where offending language was used against other groups. I’m curious as to why that policy doesn’t apply to Native persons? Marcel is very right about the phrase being incorrect and offensive.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There are loads of expressions that aren’t yet widely understood to be offensive, and I think it’s better to leave the explanation up than to remove the whole thing; that’s how people learn about this kind of thing. For example, I handled it the same when someone has explained why “gypped” is offensive, and I recall a bunch of people saying they hadn’t realized it until reading that. I typically only remove it if it’s something widely understood to be offensive. This one isn’t.

          3. CityMouse*

            In college I had trouble with my stomach and blood sugar due to an illness and medication I was taking. I carried supplies to take care of it myself and would quietly step out of lab. I also replaced the food my friend gave me in class. Coworker sounds like a jerk, to be honest. You don’t impose your stuff on other people, certainly not subordinates.

        3. attie*

          That might just be a result of circumstance though. At my uni, if you were to start wandering randomly in search of food, the admin office would be the first place you’d reach – they’re meant to be accessible to students so they’re centrally located. Profs, on the other hand, are notoriously difficult to get hold of.

          None of which makes it any better, but I can see how it could be just plain thoughtlessness.

          I already have a well-stocked snack drawer, so in my case the way of least resistance would probably just be to offer her access to it if in exchange she leaves money in there when she takes something. But only if I got the feeling that she’d remember and I wouldn’t have to spend time chasing after her for it.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Mmmm… I suspect that would soon go the way of the person who “enjoyed a cup of coffee,” but didn’t pay into the coffee fund because they only drank coffee when they were in the mood for coffee, clearly a blue moon occurrence that the people paying into the fund should plan around. If the professor can plan enough to carry ones to pay for the food, it would be like she’s planning to eat and defeat the no food purpose.

          2. Observer*

            And you’d also reach all of the vending machines, too. Because those are ALSO meant to be easily accessible.

            1. teclatrans*

              Hm, I don’t think that is universal. I was a TA on the campus of an R1 university, where there were zero vending machines, and it took me at least 10 minutes to walk to the nearest source of food from my office. And at my tiny liberal arts college the only vending machines were outside the cafe, so people with offices across campus also would have had to walk 7-10 minutes.

          3. teclatrans*

            Yes, this is why I think it is unlikely the Prof is intentionally using her power over those subordinate to her (I think she is more likely oblivious, not that this removes her responsibility to behave better). I just think that the only common office space is administrative, plus also that’s where she usually goes to resolve things she needs help handling — it’s just that this is something she needs to start handling on her own.

        4. Mookie*

          Exactly. There’s a rule about people who cultivate the appearance that some compulsion or other of theirs can’t be “controlled,” but if you examine the behavior closely enough, it’s very controlled: they only exhibit it under the right circumstances or around people with less power or clout than them. That’s what’s going on here, it sounds like. She’s treating her personal blood sugar problem (or whatever it is) like it’s an administrative task some “menial” needs to address for her, and she’s being pushy about it and difficult (trying to steal a platter) about it so they’ll cooperate quickly and won’t ask too many questions, but be consistently prepared to help her at a moment’s notice.

          My immediate advice would be to do whatever you did that kept her from breaking into that platter. “No, that’s for someone else, and I don’t have any extra food for you.”

          1. CityMouse*

            This is so accurate. People often “can’t help themselves” only around those they don’t respect or care about. It really exposes the lie.

          2. Penny Lane*

            I disagree that she’s treating her personal blood sugar problem (or whatever) like an administrative task some “menial” needs to address. I think this is just someone who doesn’t plan ahead to stock a snack drawer or toss a granola bar in her handbag, and then scrounges off other people. And that happens to all of us once in a blue moon — but in this case it’s happening regularly and it’s annoying to the coworkers and she needs to be reminded that she should plan / stock a snack drawer or stash of some sort. There is no need to make her into the Devil Incarnate, or concoct stories that her Partner Holds Her At Gunpoint And Forbids Her to Buy Granola Bars.

            1. AKchic*

              If she truly couldn’t control things, she would be an equal opportunity pest. She would be bothering everyone, up to and including people of the same rank as her and her supervisors. She’s not. She is only bothering those below her in rank.
              She knows this is a consistent issue. It has been happening long enough that a letter has had to be written to ask about how to handle the situation from the food givers’ side. It is well past time for this woman to realize that she needs to be supplying her own emergency stash of food/drinks for her near-daily personal food crises and not bother the lower-ranking staff members.
              Note that it has never been mentioned that she is reimbursing the staff members for the snacks she is taking in her supposedly heightened need.

          3. Liane*

            It’s a little like part of FBI profiler John Douglas ‘ explanation for laypeople of legal insanity/M’Naghten test: If a serial killer can keep from committing [horrific act] in front of a uniformed police officer they wouldn’t meet the bar for an insanity verdict. So if Prof. Hungry is only asking low rank employees for food and not when anyone who (she feels) has authority over her is present, she can control herself.

          4. Rusty Shackelford*

            Right. Like people who “can’t” be on time for social engagements or anything that involves peers/friends/family, but somehow manage to make it to work on time every day.

          5. Kate 2*

            Yep! I have a boss who treats those “under” him like dirt, but is best buddies with his equals and schmoozes the higher ups like crazy. Funny how he claims he can’t control his temper around us support staff but never EVER yells at a client or insults them.

      2. soon 2 be former fed*

        I would keep sugar tablets or a candy bar on hand since you know you have this condition. Random people may not have a granola bar on hand or be able to rescue you.

        1. Shiara*

          Hey, can we trust Ladybugger that this is a rare occurrence and that she generally has it under control? Of course random people aren’t required to rescue her, if they even have something on hand that could help. But once a year or so, it’s pretty easy to get into a situation where your emergency granola bar is in your other purse and of course that’s the day that the meetings run over into lunch and stuff happens.

          (Also, I’m sure Ladybugger knows what’s useful to her better than random commentators on the internet. In my particular case, my hypoglycemia is reactive, and if I’m crashing sugar tablets/candy are the absolute last thing that would be helpful)

          1. Ladybugger*

            Thank you <3

            " your emergency granola bar is in your other purse and of course that’s the day that the meetings run over into lunch and stuff happens." Agggh yes. Also once I bought a Booster Juice for a snack that unknown to me was sugar-free. That was a bad day.

      3. Seriously?*

        That has happened to me too (although rarely). However I make sure to replace what I eat with two of whatever it was or treat the person who gave me food to something from the cafe.

    7. LS*

      I worked at a university and the professor who worked nearby (not actually in my department, but there were renovations going on, hence office shuffling) would often come and raid the food of admin and other support staff. I was surprised but the other staff said it was easier just to hide anything you especially wanted, and replace your lunch out of the petty change, since this was an unsolvable problem: when he’d been called out on it he had a giant tantrum and wanted people fired. So whether it was a power play or he was just a jerk with poor boundaries, universities can be weird places!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Powerful people who view their lower-paid subordinates as a free lunchtime buffet are one of the weirder recurring themes on AAM.

        1. smoke tree*

          Part of what I don’t get is why anyone who wasn’t truly desperate would want to eat someone else’s lunch–I don’t even like eating at potlucks (I realize I might be on the other end of the spectrum here). But I think it really is just a power play a lot of the time.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        One of my close family members is a tenured professor, but I am opposed to tenure and this kind of rampant power differential crap is why.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        Well that’s why subordinates exist right? To serve those who are more powerful? It’s not like they deserve any food or consideration… :p :p :p

      4. Will!*

        Yeah, as a long-term university person, this just seems like someone who is Brilliant. Getting tenure and being Brilliant makes people think they can get away with really unreasonable things (which they can because people are primed to give them an inch). Combine that with a habit of maximizing free food picked up from living on a grad student stipend, and you get the highest paid person in the office sneaking a tray of leftover meeting sandwiches home so she doesn’t have to pay for dinner for a few days.

      5. ThursdaysGeek*

        And related to the discussion above about totem poles, the word phrase ‘high muckety-muck’ comes from a Chinook Jargon phrase that means ‘plenty to eat’. So these professors are high muckety-mucks in the most literal meaning of the phrase too.

    8. GM*

      Yes thats exactly what I thought too. The ‘handful of almonds’ gave it away – it sounds verbatim from a diet book!

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes! Handful of almonds says “I’m desperate to stay on-plan but I didn’t pack snacks because I’m imagining myself as a perfect dieter who doesn’t need to snack.”

        1. CMart*

          “Not managing a diet well” was also my assumption, also because of the almonds.

          It’s such a weird, specific ask. The kind of people who snack on a “handful of almonds” are probably the kind of people who packed themselves exactly a handful of almonds because it’s a part of their meal plan. It’s unwise to just keep a jar of almonds around because of how calorically dense they are and how easy it is to snack mindlessly on them. If I have a “handful of almonds” at my desk, it’s because they are for me as a specifically chosen part of my day.

          I keep snacks at my desk. If Hungry Boss wanted something she could have Girl Scout cookies or a “handful of pizza flavored Goldfish crackers”. I highly doubt that’s what she’s aiming for.

          1. Fiennes*

            That might be the single least confrontational way to handle it—offer something mega fattening. “Yeah, we have these grocery store honeybuns. 500 calories each. Want one?” If it’s a diet, and she’s trying to maintain a low calorie count, that should turn her off. Just keep having nothing but honeybuns around. If asked, you just LOVE honeybuns. Can’t get enough. Nom.

            (They’re also very cheap, which makes this a low-cost trap to set.)

            And if she’s NOT on a diet and repeatedly takes the honeybuns/other fattening snack, well, then, you know that much.

            1. Penny Lane*

              But you haven’t solved the problem by offering her the honey-buns. She still may eat them (maybe not feeling good about it, but eating them) and you haven’t addressed the root issue, which is – she needs to manage her own food plan and not bug others. All these “offer her honey-buns, which can’t be on her diet!” or “offer her yucky candy corn, which she won’t like!” is just avoiding the key issue which is – hey, sweetie, bring your own food / snacks like the rest of us.

    9. Traffic_Spiral*

      Agreeing that it’s probably a diet thing. Even if it’s not, she needs to get her act together. I’d definitely talk to her boss and be like “she keeps taking our food and it’s awkward because she has seniority. Can you ask her to cut it out?”

      1. Penny Lane*

        I would buy her a box of the prepackaged almonds and some granola bars, and give it to her with a note saying here’s your starter kit for the snacks you’ll want to stash in your desk drawer – other suggestions for you might be boxes of raisins, protein bars, etc. (all shelf stable). This tells her that we are onto her, but she CAN solve the problem herself by the teensiest bit of preplanning.

        1. Sugarplum*

          It shouldn’t be that hard for her to stop at a drugstore or grocery store on the way to work and get some almonds.

        2. soon 2 be former fed*

          I wouldn’t spend one dime on someone higher up who makes more than me. I would imagine that she is intelligent enough to figure this out for herself. OP and her coworkers are being taken advantage of and it needs to stop.

          1. Penny Lane*

            If it shut her up, it’s well worth it. Btw I buy the prepackaged almonds at Aldi. A box is something like $2-3.

              1. Penny Lane*

                Then who is going to look stupid? Again, there is this weird dynamic here sometimes that you can’t say something to someone who might be offended by it because they might throw a tantrum. But if they throw a tantrum over something trivial, they are the ones who look stupid.

                “Ms Thang asked me for food every single day for the last month, and when I suggested she might get a bunch of those pre-packaged almonds and keep it at her desk, she threw a tantrum.” Oh gee. Who looks stupid? Who is possibly going to “ding” the person here for making a reasonable and polite suggestion?

                1. AMPG*

                  But when there’s a significant power differential, a “tantrum” can result in someone lower on the ladder losing their job. The OP references this pretty clearly, describing herself as “fairly replaceable,” and it’s a common dynamic in academic environments.

                2. Observer*

                  It’s not a matter of looking stupid. As AMPG points out, the OP is worried about the potential for retaliation. It shouldn’t be that way. But useful advice deals with reality as it is, even when it is most definitely not how it should be.

                3. Anon Academic*

                  I’m guessing you don’t work in academia. I’m a tenured academic who respects our amazing support staff. (Seriously: good admin staff are worth their weight in gold!) However, I have seen years worth of poor behaviour by academics and university administrators towards support/admin staff. Things that would be ridiculous in other workplaces become normalised in some pockets of academia. Some long-term, highly placed support staff might have the workplace clout to take on a tenured bully, but most won’t.

                  Tenured academics who throw tantrums have relatively few consequences. If they are percieved as grant getters or otherwise Brilliant (TM) they will not be treated as stupid or petty for their tantrums. The tantrums may even be interpreted as signs of A Great Mind, too Great to have to worry about the petty trivia of everyday adulting. Everyone may be expected to coddle the Brilliant One so they don’t leave and take their grant/reputation with them. Extra bonus points for the Great One who is actually mediocre but good at self promotion.

                  Yes, the support staff person will get dinged, and sometimes dinged right out the door, for not coddling Dr Brilliant Thang and their world shattering need for almonds. The OP clearly knows the dynamic in their workplace, which I can confirm is alive and well in academia. OP is very probably right to try gentle options (not have food to give etc) and then request assistance via hierarchical structures, rather than rely on non-academia social norms.

        3. TychaBrahe*

          Instead of buying her something, offer to keep something she buys for herself.

          I can’t keep snacks in my office. I’d eat everything mindlessly. But if I could give someone else my snacks for safekeeping, it would be available when I needed it, but safely away from me.

        4. Traffic_Spiral*

          I dunno. That seems passive-aggressive and involves buying food for the person. Just ask the boss to make it stop, and also stop giving her snacks. “Sorry, not today,” or “sorry, I didn’t bring extra today,” both work fine.

    10. Grouchy 2 cents*

      But that’s not a problem for the admin staff to solve. She’s an adult. She can go find a vending machine/deli/campus cafe or bring her own food from home.

      It would be one thing if she came in and said “I’m lightheaded, does someone have something that will tide me over till I’m well enough to go out and get lunch?” Instead she’s coming down (and the OP is not describing any particular distress in her manner) and demanding food from staff who can’t refuse her. It’s a power play and it’s not ok.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Well, it does say she’s “frantically” asking for food, so that says distress to me. But regardless, she is an adult and needs to pack her own gat-dang snacks.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Yeah, if she was like “whoa, guys, I’m diabetic and I seriously need something right away, so sorry to bother you, I promise I’ll replace it” and it only happened a handful of times, I’d be inclined to say OP should be compassionate and trust that it’s not going to be an ongoing problem.

        But that doesn’t seem to be the case here, and it does seem like an ongoing problem. So that’s a lot harder to overlook. A one-time, emergency situation is understandable, but assuming it’s a medical problem, in the long-term, people are responsible for their own medical issues. It’s not okay to expect other people to take care of you!

        And if it’s not a medical thing, and it’s just, she gets hungry sometimes? That’s even more ridiculous. Healthy adults will not suffer serious consequences to not having “a handful of almonds” between meals; if you feel that seriously about needing your between-meal snacks, bring your own. That’s what I do!

      3. LtBroccoli*

        I agree. I had a boss that once called me into her office and asked me to go get her an orange juice from the vending machines since her blood sugar was low and she couldn’t see properly (!). She thanked me profusely and reimbursed me after. That was a great way to handle it – not *repeatedly* grazing at subordinates’ desks without reimbursing them.

    11. Allison*

      That’s what I figured too, the almonds tipped me off since a “handful of almonds” seems like a snack suggested to people looking to stave off hunger on a diet.

    12. JSPA*

      Faculty can get in the mindset that the support staff is there to provide endless support–and if she’s teaching multiple classes, she may get caught short on time for food whenever a student stops her after class with extra questions. Your desk may be closer to where she teaches than her office is. Or she may have either a bona fide eating disorder or a problem with mindless snacking, thus not want large stashes of food at her desk.

      If you don’t mind doing the buying, and only mind the cost, I’d ask her if she’d like to pay in, monthly, to a nut fund, or ask the department to OK ordering a supply of nuts for “food emergencies,” because nuts are not cheap. Couched in financial terms, she should understand the imposition.

      [Site hiccupped & misposted this as a new thread. Putting back up here where it belongs.]

    13. Bye Academia*

      I suppose it’s possible there’s something deeper going on, but this is so so typical of the professors I know. They’re all busy and focused on their work and often don’t take care of themselves. Many were trained in a culture where basic human necessities (food, rest, sleep, etc.) were seen as weaknesses.

      One of my old bosses would never eat unless food was placed in front of her. She would not take any kind of lunch break during the day, but would eat a huge plate of food if there was a lunch meeting. I don’t know if she forgot, couldn’t be bothered to arrange food, or what. She didn’t beg people for food, though.

      The professor in the OP needs to cut that out, and I agree with Alison that the OP doesn’t have the standing to do so. I think her best bet is to just say no whenever she’s asked for food, and maybe ask her own boss for help navigating it (specifics will depend on the culture of her institution) if it keeps up.

      1. TychaBrahe*

        The story is that Isaac Newton would forget to go for meals so often that someone arranged to have his meals sent to his office.

        And then he’d still forget to eat them, and his cat grew quite fat.

    14. bluephone*

      My first thought was, “someone needs a refresher on diabetes management from Stacey McGill”

    15. Anon.*

      I’d be tempted to stock up on snack size healthy stuff from Costco, and start selling it out of my desk for everyone with a “food emergency”. Profits to go to a great charity of my choice.

    16. LBK*

      Personally, my take is that she’s being threatened by an unpredictable but impatient squirrel.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        “Nice jar of nuts you got there. It’d be a pity if something… happened to it.”

        1. LBK*

          Suddenly, the lights in my office went out. And then I heard it – the scratch, scratch, scratching overhead. But alas! I had finished my backup bag of almonds in a fit of afternoon boredom yesterday! What was I to offer this glirine devil? In a panic I sprang from my seat, glancing back as I opened my office door to see those beady eyes peering down from a gap in the ceiling tiles, momentarily aglow in the light from the hallway. I sprinted to my nearest neighbor’s cube begging her for food, any food, that might buy me another day of freedom from that furry-tailed fiend.

    17. Not Tom, just Petty*

      I worked as admin staff in a university. I was eating lunch at my desk outside the department dean’s office. Tenured faculty member stopped over and while talking to my supervisor, picked up my individual bag of pretzels and poured some into his hand. I was 22, and had been working there a month. I kept eating my sandwich. Later I was told, yeah, his admin keeps snacks on her desk for him.
      Well, bully for her. My sister keeps snacks for her dog on the counter because hey, he’s not a tenured professor but he’s well trained, too.
      She’s doing it because she can get away with it. Remove the location, and stick to the facts. Senior staff member doesn’t want to be responsible for her own snacking.
      If you aren’t 22 and a month into the job, I’d tell her you’d be happy to be her snack monitor. She can buy hundred calorie packs of whatever she likes. You will keep them locked in your desk and give her one a day if that’s what she wants. Other wise, there’s a vending machine down the hall.

      1. Anon for this one*

        I’m a librarian at a research university. Although we’re faculty, teaching faculty tend to view us as support staff. One day years ago, I met with a researcher. I had a water bottle in the nylon pocket of what was clearly my insulated lunch bag. Without asking me, she helped herself to the water. Then when my boss came by and asked me a question, she rifled through my the packet of photographs that were still in the envelope from the photo place.

  4. Junior Dev*

    For 4, I wonder if people are feeling nervous about the audit and making ill-advised “jokes” (“hope they don’t find out about all the insider trading we did today, haha!”) to deal with the tension. I notice a lot of people make “jokes” about sexual harassment during or after harassment training, and it makes me feel really disrespected and unsafe, but I can kind of see how they feel awkward and are dealing with it in an immature way.

    1. Detached Elemental*

      Yeah. Sometimes when I am shredding documents I’ll joke to colleagues that I’m “getting rid of the evidence”. I can see how a flop comment like that could be misconstrued if it was overheard.

      1. Lumen*

        It’s sort of like joking about a bomb when you’re in an airport. There’s just going to be a heightened reaction to things that in other contexts wouldn’t raise eyebrows as much.

        Also, if coworkers are complaining about clients or something, that could be a red flag for external auditors (especially if they are currently looking at how that particular client has been invoiced recently).

        1. Dan*

          Heightened reaction? It’s actually a crime to make a false bomb threat, and subsequent declaration that the threat was a joke is not a defense.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            It’s perfectly possible (if not a good idea, for the reason stated above) to make a joke about a bomb without there even being a hint of a threat: “Hey, look at that suitcase over there — I hope there isn’t a bomb in it, ha ha!”.

            (Not all jokes are funny. ;-)

          2. Merida Ann*

            A legitimate bomb threat, of course, isn’t acceptable anywhere. But at home or at an arcade, I can shout about blowing my friend up in Mario Kart, for example, without a problem, whereas if I took a portable game system to the airport to kill time with my siblings while waiting for my flight, we probably shouldn’t play Mario Kart because any mention of bombs or Blue Shell explosions or “I’m going to blast you out of the way!” or whatever gets a very different reaction because of where we are playing.

            1. Lumen*

              Correct. I was talking about jokes or colloquialisms. I remember being warned as a kid not to say “That’s the bomb!” in an airport because it could put people needlessly on edge.

              Bomb threats are not a joke (though yes, some idiots think they are), and not remotely what I was referring to.

        2. One of the Sarahs*

          Every year there are stories about UK people going to the USA, and being asked the question about whether they’re coming into the country to commit acts of terrorism, and they get a bit British-sarcastic and say “of course I am” and then get deported. That combo of being taken by surprise by the Q (because who’d say yes??) + finding it funny + jet lag and suddenly their once-in-a-lifetime holiday is ruined.

    2. Bea*

      That’s part of it for sure. Auditors have to take things they hear at face value so dumb jokes can be costly.

      I had to drug test a couple guys for joking about doing drugs at work years ago. I knew they were being idiots but a temp didn’t and reported it to me.

      1. Dan*

        Along those lines, when my last job was getting certified as CMMI and ISO compliant, the woman we hired to do that would put all sorts of Dilbert comics in her powerpoint briefings. I thanked her later for understanding how dry the material comes across to the rest of us.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Auditors have to take things they hear at face value.

        Yup. No one wants to be the one saying “Well yeah they said there was financial fraud involving the receptionist and the water guy, but I just figured they were joking.”

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The CFO’s wording is weirdly hostile, though. It sounds like she wants folks to be mindful, but saying auditors use overheard information against the organization is a bit extreme (and if this is a religious institution, it’s probably subject to annual or biannual audits, anyway, so it’s in eveyone’s best interest to understand how to work with the auditors).

      I wonder if the organization had a bad audit report in the past or if the CFO worked someplace that faced a bad audit report?

      But no, OP, they’re not spies. Audits are opportunities to catch problems before they become disasters, or to get a clean bill of health if everything is fine. For most organizations, the annual audit is like getting your annual physical—in most cases, most people are fine, but sometimes it will provide early detection of a more concerning problem. Bad audit reports (or less than glowing ones) can of course affect an organization’s reputation, but they’re also necessary.

      1. JamieS*

        To be fair we’re hearing what the CFO said secondhand from OP based on OP’s interpretation. We don’t know if that was the exact phrasing, what else she said which could’ve added context, her tone, etc. It’s very plausible she was trying to convey something like “don’t joke around when auditors are here because they have to take nearly everything seriously even if it’s clearly a joke and we don’t want to waste their or our time.” and either something got lost in translation or it was poorly phrased.

      2. Jesca*

        Even if it is, it is really not outside the norms. I have been a certified auditor for various business management type systems for years, and it is not uncommon for people to totally freak. The only people who tend not to freak are other trained auditors. And yes, there were people at every job you did not want in front of an auditor simply because they would say things that were not necessarily true (not on purpose) but would in turn cause all kinds of turmoil. The last thing a company wants to have to do is answer a finding that never really existed in the first place. Also, there is a certain level of decorum and “mum” type atmosphere you do tend to expect as an auditor. If people seem less restrained and cavalier, it can send up some warning bells as well. So I don’t think the CEO is being “hostile” and even if she is coming across that way. It is likely because of some level of panic. It is not uncommon at all.

      3. Beatrice*

        I think it’s also important, where you have issues that you know will come up in an audit, to control how that information reaches auditors and how it’s portrayed. For example, I did a site audit on a supplier once years ago. We would have had grave concerns about their employees’ safety no matter what – their safety equipment was shockingly bad – but the employee who actually showed us, laughingly, how he could circumvent the flimsy safety measure that was designed to keep him from getting his fingers cut off …now that really gave us something to talk about on the drive home. It would have been a different visit if they’d acknowledged the safety issues up front and had been open to discussing plans for improving it…we probably would have even been open to discussing how we could absorb some of the cost in the form of a modest price increase. Instead, they used their barely-adequate safety record to justify their position that their safety equipment wasn’t as bad as it looked, and let us see someone trying to get his fingers chopped off on a site tour.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          “the employee who actually showed us, laughingly, how he could circumvent the flimsy safety measure that was designed to keep him from getting his fingers cut off…”


          And again as someone who once worked in a factory with machines that could cut off your fingers: WHY WHY WHY

      4. OP #4*

        The hostility/what seemed like borderline paranoia of the wording was why I wrote in, actually! It may be that there have been inappropriate or weird jokes in the past, but I was struck by the language that my CFO used. She literally said “Auditors are trained to listen in on your conversations” and “idle chatter could get us in trouble.” Most of our idle chatter is on the lines of our favorite sans serif typefaces and skin care regimens. We literally don’t know anything that could be compromising.

        The answer and comments are really helpful, though. And as I said before–I’m not pushing back on this just because I think it’s a bit silly.

        1. Kjtrue*

          It is very normal for bosses to freak about audits. Every year at my last job, we were audited and every year, the two months before the audit were spent getting frantic emails and lectures from the boss about documentation. Most of which we knew and did the stuff we didn’t do, we didn’t do because it was not needed. I’d assume your boss is somewhqt anxous and trying to control as many variables as possible. Take her seriously of course, but don’t let it make you paranoid too. In all the years of audits, not one of my charts was pulled and my department had maybe 2-3 charts total pulled for audit- all of which passed with flying colors.

        2. Drago Cucina*

          I’ve had to deal with gossiping auditors before. The auditor was taking partially heard conversations (not even in the room, but in an adjacent office, and part of the information from the audit and talking about it with another person over lunch. That person started talking about how the library was using funds with the city council. We started getting phone calls about how we were misusing public funds. “Oh the pizza party last month. That was part of teen volunteer program. No we don’t use public funds to throw the staff pizza parties every Friday. Wine? No we aren’t buying alcohol with public money. That was donated by a private citizen for the library foundation’s fund raiser/art exhibit.”

          We became very careful about conversations that took place in front of the auditor because of his behavior.

        3. nonegiven*

          IRS auditors are trained to ask questions in a way to elicit more information than people meant to convey.

    4. Woodswoman*

      I recognize #4, because I worked at an organization where the CFO gave us the very same admonition every year when the auditors were visiting for a couple weeks. He wanted to make sure we weren’t making jokes that they would take seriously. To the letter writer, I don’t see how your CFO’s request is anything other than being cautious. I wouldn’t take it to mean anything other than being professional around auditors whose job it is to take their financial review seriously.

      1. SoSo*

        Yep, it’s better to be cautious and careful around auditors than not. Every year during our audits, we send out emails and reminders to everyone to make sure that they keep their desks clean and tidy, and don’t have any sensitive documents out in the open. This stems from one incident years ago where someone had a system/database password written on a whiteboard in their cube. We were lucky it was an internal audit and not a government one, but the repercussions were not good.

        Plus, our internal audits make for 12-15 hour days sometimes, and no one on the team wants to hang around until 10 PM on a Wednesday night because Susie said something offhand that made the auditor start searching for additional problems.

    5. Pam Beasley*

      “Usually the day we talk about sexual harassment, is the day everyone harasses me as a joke.”

    6. Jen S. 2.0*

      I was coming to say something similar. I mean, for example, 9/11 is now a major part of the fabric of the US, we all get wildly inconvenienced while traveling, and idiots STILL think it’ll be just hilarious to make loud comments about bombs and terrorism in the security line at the airport. People have a genius for saying just the wrong thing and thinking it’ll be funny, or worse yet, saying something that hits just the wrong nerve and trying later to call it a joke. People express frustration by over sharing with the wrong person, or manage to make just the wrong comment in the bathroom without noticing that someone in a stall can hear them. I feel like OP 4 is not really the audience for this directive, but there are a lot of people who DO need to be told to really watch their step.

    7. JSPA*

      When we had an audit–or a review from a granting agency–we were instructed to take personal comics / jokes off the doors, tidy our areas, focus on our work, and restrict our conversations to well-modulated discussion of that work. Not because there was anything to hide; because it reduced the risk of putting someone’s nose out of joint or being seen as distracted, frivolous, abrasive, or in any way problematic.

      The presumption was not that all auditors / reviewers are humorless, but some are. Further, that auditors / reviewers might, or might not, understand that bursts of laughter and overt camaraderie in a workplace are (for many people) conducive to good work and a willingness to work long hours.

      Nobody is ever penalized in a review or audit for being sensible, serious, and focused on the job at hand.

      1. OP #4*

        I suspect part of why we’re having a hard time with this directive is that we’re a design team, and a sense of play is an intrinsic part of what makes us able to be successful. Many of our best ideas come when we’re joking around together. it’s sometimes difficult to explain to others in the organization how a commitment to goofing off regularly is *part of* why we’re good at our jobs, not detracting from it. So I guess we can get a little defensive.

    8. Anion*

      I wonder if perhaps the previous year there was a situation of which the OP is unaware, where a lot of time *was* wasted investigating a joke, and the Big Boss(es) don’t want to see it happen again this year?

  5. Jane D'oh*

    Re: letter #1, I’m surprised that in the year 2018 so many industries and companies still don’t allow working from home/checking email from home/taking work outside of the workplace. Allowing this flexibility is a huge perk that improves morale. It amazes me how much resistance there is to it still.

    1. Marie B.*

      It’s not a perk for everyone. I purposely chose a field where working from home or accessing work outside of my office is not allowed or possible. It’s a Monday to Friday job with standard hours across the field. I like that my work is separate from my non-work life. That clear boundary is a perk for me. I would hate having to bring work home or not having that boundary.

      1. LouiseM*

        Good point. I feel very much the same–I love leaving my work in the office (especially because I’m in an industry where it is really impossible to bring almost any work home with me for practical reasons).

        Anyway, in this case, I’m guessing the OP is in some sort of financial services/banking industry, so it makes a lot of sense that she wouldn’t be able to work from home. In plenty of industries it still makes sense to keep work in the workplace, and I personally don’t view the push for “WFH for all!” in a completely positive light.

      2. Tau*

        +1. I’ve gone from a job where WFH was not possible, end of story, to one where it is and a bunch of people do seem to do work in the evenings from home. I’m keeping a wary eye out for pressure to do the same, and miss having that well-defined boundary. I’m not sure the perk of not having to take PTO if I need to be at home for something makes up for it, especially because I really don’t like trying to work at home and prefer to be in the office.

      3. soon 2 be former fed*

        I have a separate office in my h ome. It is a clear boundary…in the office working, not in the office, not working. I don’t work on the bed or in the living room. Its takes discipline, and I appreciate that not everyone has the space that I do, but it is possible to work at home and have work be separate from the rest of your life. I wouldn’t trade my commute across the hall for anything.

    2. Someone else*

      It sounds like that LW works in a highly regulated industry such that no work content can leave the secured premises, so while I don’t disagree with your general sentiment, there will still always be some industries where it’s simply impractical.

      1. Sam*

        This. It sounds like she is working with confidential financial and/or personal information (hence the required 2-week break to ensure that employees aren’t embezzling or perpetuating identity theft). This type of work can’t be done from home for information security purposes.

      1. PB*

        Yep. I work with rare books. For some reason, my employer gets tetchy if I try to take them home…

      2. Grad Student*

        Yeah, this. “Work” can be SO many different things, not all of which are cloud-compatible.

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      If Microsoft can’t even make remote working a seamless part of its operations, I don’t expect it to be easy for anyone else.

      1. Dan*

        We use Microsoft’s Skype product at work; I find it to be a god send for remote work/teleconferencing. Sometimes I find it easier than being in a conference room — I feel it’s a little clunky working on my laptop screen & conference room projector, whereas working from desk and typical workstation and hitting “share screen” is so much more easy and comfortable.

          1. Nanani*

            IKR. Stop trying to be What’s App., Skype. Your main users are business users and THATS OK.

      2. soon 2 be former fed*

        Any job requiring manning a post cannot be done from home. That is obvious. There are other occupations, such as those that see patients, that cannot be done from home. Security onsite may seem easier when dealing with confidential information, but often organizations don’t want to spend on measure that are available to allow remote work.

    4. Graciosa*

      I definitely don’t regard checking email anywhere I am as a perk – I wish that expectation would go away.

      However, I do understand why this requirement remains in certain industries. If everyone needs to be away from the office for two consecutive weeks a year (to provide an opportunity to uncover ongoing fraud in certain industries like banking and finance) it would completely defeat the purpose if the evildoer could just log in from home to keep hiding it while he or she was out of the office.

      But I would regard a *lack* of an expectation to be always available and checking my email no matter where I happen to be a huge perk.

      1. E.*

        It’s really a double-edges sword. The flexibility to work from home on occasion almost always (in my experience) comes with the expectation of checking email during nights/weekends.

      2. Just Employed Here*

        I’m pretty lucky on this regard: I can work from home if need be, but my bosses pretty much never expect me to do so unless I’ve specifically arranged to stay at home during core hours for some reason.

        But when I do work from home in the evenings of my own accord during a particularly busy project, I feel pretty virtous about it, and know that my bosses take note of it, too.

    5. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Well, working from home would be a really bad thing for me.

      Due to mental health issues I need to keep my living space and my work space completely separate.

      Shutting my front door signals to me that the work day is over and that I can stop thinking about work issues.

      And this ritual is extremely important for me.

      For me it’s the only way to stop really distressing intrusive thoughts.

      1. Airy*

        Same for me, although since my home situation right now isn’t what I need it to be it’s only partially effective. Even so I don’t want home tainted by work.

      2. soon 2 be former fed*

        That never worked for me, I found myself thinking about work in the shower.

    6. Observer*

      Well, if you are making people take off for fraud prevention / detection purposes, letting people continue to work defeats the purpose.

      1. Mom MD*

        Exactly. And fighting against it will raise suspicion. Especially since most people would welcome it. The vehement objection to it is confusing.

        1. Scarlet*

          Yeah, I’m really puzzled by the thought that *anyone* would refuse to take 2 weeks off. Is your life so empty that you cannot imagine spending 2 weeks off work without having a trip lined up? Don’t get me wrong, I love trips, but going from working to trips and back to work means you never have time to just relax.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Im imagining how clean my apartment would be after such a holiday… I mean, I hate cleaning, but just doing one hour per day every day, with the rest of the time planned for fun stuff, would do wonders!

          2. Parenthetically*

            There’s some good discussion in the top thread about introverts/extroverts and just people who prefer to spend their free time with their friends or SO or whatever. I certainly wouldn’t have a hard time finding a way to fill two weeks off (mostly with nothing if I had my druthers), but I can understand being bummed about my husband still having to work and not getting to spend that time with him.

            1. Iris Eyes*

              I can appreciate that but there a dozens of easy ways to connect with people who you know or who you don’t know. One of the ideas about volunteering for a few hours every day would generally be a pretty great way.

              Hopefully once the OP realizes that this is indeed happening she can open up her mind to all of the possibilities both productive and relaxing.

    7. Dan*

      I can work from home (and consequently, check my email) but our company email policy forbids getting work email on your personal phone. The company only issues company phones to a limited set of people, which is either senior technical staff or management.

      I love it — I get the benefit of working from home when I need to, but without the obligation that comes with your phone beeping with company email after hours. We can work/send email all night long, but there is absolutely no expectation that rank and file technical staff be responding to emails after hours.

    8. attie*

      As someone vaguely familiar with computer security issues, working from home for any organization involving either large amounts of money or something that can be turned into large amounts of money, or things of political interest == A Bad Idea.

      The only reason most of us aren’t hacked is because no one cares enough about what we do.

    9. Czhorat*

      I declined more than one positions because they wouldn’t let me work remotely a few days a week to have more time with my kids. The irony is that I’m an AV system designer, expected by some to always show up in person to help other businesses set up their video conference infrastructure.

    10. blabla*

      Depends on the type of work. If you handle sensitive information, or if you handle physical stuff (printed documents etc.) you can’t work remotely

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I remember one such letter. Along the lines “My former roommate left boxes of confidential patient files behind when she moved out, what should I do with them?”

          1. Annie Moose*

            Yes! Link in reply, but here’s what the update said:

            A brief update:

            A few aspects that the commenters mentioned that I hadn’t thought of but really helped inform my decision!
            1) These charts might have handwritten notes on them that could be important for the patient’s treatment (there were markings on the charts, but again, I didn’t look deeply at them).
            2) The patients have a legal right to know that their privacy has been breached.

            Taking that into account, I emailed the organization’s HIPAA office after trying to contact her supervisor (the supervisor was out/didn’t answer). They got back to me in 10 minutes, and sent me a Fedex envelope to return all the documents. The supervisor contacted me the next day, and basically asked for the same thing, so I informed them the documents would be going through the HIPAA office.

            Thanks so much for everyone’s advice! They have been mailed and are, luckily, no longer even remotely my problem!

    11. eplawyer*

      Highly regulated industry. They can’t have information floating around on the cloud that can be hacked.

      Also the no phone calls/emails is during the two week mandatory vacation. If the idea is to uncover fraud, having the person able to get to their emails/call their buddy to help cover up, defeats the purpose. If there is no contact, any financial fudges will show up naturally. If the idea is to avoid burnout, well, you are working if you are calling and emailing, so you aren’t getting the time off to recharge.

      It’s not they are against teleworking, it’s how you achieve the whole purpose of the 2 weeks off. You are OFF. No work.

    12. Falling Diphthong*

      The main point of the regulation is to make it hard to perpetrate ongoing fraud. Allowing people to take their work home would completely defeat the purpose.

      Not to even get into the problem of data on laptops etc that get left on bars. If you want the secure data not to leave the premises, then “It doesn’t leave the premises–no, not even if you promise to be suuuuuuuuuuper careful” is a reasonable constraint.

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        This is definitely a data security issue in the OP’s case. Not all data breeches — or even most of them — are the result of outside hackers. They are often caused by employees, either accidentally (left a laptop unsecured) or intentionally (copied the database and sold it).

        When I worked for a financial processor, the computers could not be configured in any way, no programs installed without specific permission (and a written justification), all access to web email systems was cut off, all internet content was filtered, and all data export capabilities were disabled (no writing to a USB or CD/DVD). All in the name of keeping the data secure. This is the reality of working in a regulated industry.

    13. Dust Bunny*

      I can’t. Literally. I work with historical items and they do not leave the institution, period. And since most of the writing I do is based on the artifacts, or requires special software, there is very little I can do from home.

      I don’t see why so many people find it so hard to grasp that there are still lots of jobs, even office-type jobs, that aren’t portable.

    14. audio video disco*

      Unfortunately, it’s just not an option for everyone, even in upper-level positions. I work in immigration and all of my paperwork has to be locked in secure storage at the end of each workday because it contains sensitive personal information. There are absolutely no circumstances where I could bring applications out of the office and I need the applications in front of me for 90% of my job. I can think of plenty of other jobs that would have similar restrictions.

  6. Engineer Girl*

    #5 – One of my best engineers had the worst resume. He didn’t need it – his reputation was such that people were fighting for him as soon as he was available.
    The resume didn’t have odd spellings though.

    1. The Original K.*

      I have a friend who doesn’t even HAVE a resume, and would likely have no idea how to create one. He’s an accountant who owns his small firm (maybe 15 people total). He hasn’t needed a resume for a long time, and if he ever needed one he’d likely have to ask his college-aged daughter to help him.

    2. BenAdminGeek*

      I was wondering if it was something similar- this person’s got some oddities but is incredibly talented.

      Alternatively, an ESL person and the temp agency doesn’t want to prejudice things by calling that out.

    3. Snazzy Hat*

      My S.O. recently finished machining school, and the school had a job assistance coordinator or something. Basically, a guy who got your resume info and turned it into a resume, and sent that resume out to places looking for beginner machinists. The resume they made for my S.O. looked absolutely despicable. It listed cities (one incorrectly, to boot!) and years instead of no location (because who cares) and months. His last job was from March 2016 through the end of December 2017, and it was listed as “2016 – 2017”. They put down his high school even though he graduated over ten years ago!

      I encouraged him to take better (accurate) copies of his resume to interviews so he could say something like, “here’s an updated version of my resume”.

    1. Sherm*

      I know, right? I’m feeling a little naughty for not checking work e-mail this weekend, so I’d be ecstatic if my workplace said “Don’t even think about work for 2 weeks.”

    2. Gazebo Slayer*


      (I’m always mystified by people who can’t find anything to do with time off. Like, don’t you have housecleaning/maintenance to do? And don’t you read/teach yourself things/explore your area/volunteer /craft/watch Netflix/play video games/binge the AAM archives/something?

      1. CMart*

        If they’re brand new to the workforce, chances are fairly high they either live with parents or with roommates in a rented apartment where things are generally maintained around you to a certain degree.

        I know even until I was 30 and had my first child* there really wasn’t too much resembling housecleaning/maintenance to be done, again because I rent. A deep clean of the apartment is a day? Reorganizing my closet is another half day? No gardens to plant, no random maintenance projects because that’s what the management company is for etc… Two weeks of “uh, I guess I’ll play video games?” can certainly feel demotivating and like a waste of my perfectly good time.

        I love the suggestions for the OP to volunteer, or teach themselves a new skill, or explore their local area. Even though they seem obvious, I would have needed someone to point those options out to me as something people actually do before I remembered they existed.

        *I still rent, but now that I have said child my home is much messier and the to-do list of random errands like oil changes and haircuts keeps piling up so two weeks just to get my act together again would be a godsend.

    3. MLB*

      She doesn’t realize how lucky she is! I had a job at a bank once and we got 2 weeks of vacation, and one of those weeks had to be taken as a full week for similar reasons that the LW mentioned. I get it – she’s fresh out of college and most likely doesn’t have a family yet, and said she doesn’t have money for a vacation, but I’m sure she can find fun things to do where she lives.

    4. Lynn Whitehat*

      I get it. When I was younger and did not have a mountain of backed-up personal business, continuous learning, and family obligations piled up, I could have written the letter. Some of us have a lot of crap in our past that catches up with us if we stop moving. But there’s no way to tell your boss, “my personal demons will eat me for breakfast without the structure of coming to the office”.

      LW, if this sounds like you, create your own structure for those two weeks. Plan out the days, like “9-11 work through Swift book. 11-12 exercise. 12-1 try local restaurant. Etc.” I had two maternity leaves. The first was hell on earth. The second was pretty ok. Structure made the difference.

      For everyone getting ready to suggest, “OR you could GET HELP! :-)”, I am not against the getting of help. But a) it doesn’t always end with you getting to function exactly like a “normal” person and b) it sounds like they need a solution pretty quickly.

      1. k.k*

        The idea of making a schedule for those days is great. Some people just really don’t do well with a lot of free time, start feeling lost or stressed to fill the time. It can take the fun out of any activity if you’re thinking, “This movie will kill two hours, but what then??” If you have a plan and don’t have to worry about what’s coming next, you are more able to enjoy the moment. And that might not mean planing out every moment. Having a few scheduled activities mixed in with free time can help to feel less aimless.

    5. Murphy*

      For real. Especially if I could keep my daughter in daycare for some of the time, and get some actual adult time.

  7. Sitting Here Beside Myself*

    Regarding #1, another way it might be perceived as odd to push back on this as it seems to imply – or declare outright – that the OP can’t think of *anything* to do with her time if not working!

    No volunteering, no visits to the library or the park or the gym or a local museum – nothing to do at all.

    There is something to be said for having some interest in life other than work – even if only as a source of conversation at business-social events.

    When choosing between 1) convincing her manager that she is utterly unable to occupy herself for two weeks without visiting the office and 2) possibly being bored to be deprived of access to her work computer, she should risk the boredom (and hope to find something to do that she can share when she returns). The alternative perception will not be helpful.

    1. LouiseM*

      That’s a good point. Truthfully, I would feel concerned about somebody if they said that to me, and might worry that they were isolated or struggling in some other way.

    2. Detached Elemental*


      If I had two weeks off like this, I can think of a million and one non-travel things to do… have a sleep in, Netflix binge, declutter, take care of some personal appointments that are hard to do during work hours…

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I once took five days off around my birthday at OldExjob and I spent the time making a flower garden (it later croaked due to unforeseen circumstances). It was lovely just to putter around.

    3. Lumen*

      My first thought upon reading #1 was a flash of white-hot irritation. However: commenting rules, so I won’t get into that.

      But my second thought was: OP really needs to spend that time volunteering. I understand not being able to afford to travel for a vacation, but is that seriously the only thing OP can think of to do with 2 weeks off? LIVE YOUR LIFE. And if your life can’t fill 2 weeks, go help some other people live their lives!

      And just to put on my Cranky Old Lady hat: I think taking that chunk of time and volunteering to help people would give the letter writer some much-needed perspective.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        I don’t think OP lacks perspective. Wanting to lay low and just keep going to work is the least of all the nutty stuff people get up to. I don’t think she’s failing to recognize her privilege or anything like that. She’s just new to the workforce and still excited by the idea of having her first professional job.

        1. Tim Tam Girl*

          Agreed again, Stellaaaaa. I think this is a really unkind view of the letter: the LW is new to the working world, enjoys their job, and doesn’t yet feel the desire or need for time off. That doesn’t mean they’re selfish or doesn’t have enough ‘life’ to fill two weeks.

          Mandatory time off really *isn’t* always great. I had mandatory close-down at the end of the year in a couple of past jobs, and as someone whose family was local and didn’t have children, this was a super-annoying time to have off: holiday hours meant it was harder to do things I wanted or needed to do; travel was prohibitively expensive; and the weather was s**thouse. I’d have much preferred to work that week when no one was around and take the time later in the year, but that wasn’t an option.

          And that’s not to mention the wide range of people who find it extremely difficult to function without a schedule or otherwise struggle with extended periods of unstructured time. Those are real things too, and may be real for the LW.

          As with so many letters, the bottom line here is, ‘you can feel how you feel, but you shouldn’t make your feelings a Work Issue’. I hope the LW ends up enjoying the time more than they expect to, but either way I don’t reckon that commanding them to volunteer as a way of dealing with a lack of perspective (that I’m not convinced is evident from the letter) is going to be particularly helpful.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            I hate false truisms along the lines of “Volunteering is a foolproof universal way to feel better about yourself and your place in the universe.” It’s right up there with “Everyone should be forced to work in the service industry at some point.” Because every bartender you’ve ever met was a perfect person, and every white collar worker was scum, right?

            1. LS*

              …that’s not why people say everyone should work in the service industry at some point. It’s to develop empathy for other people in the service industry, not make “scum” into “a perfect person”. Many of the worst people I’ve encountered as customers hadn’t had a job in years, if ever, so it’s not about comparing different kinds of work at all.

              1. Amandine*

                That’s making the assumption that working in service industry will automatically induce empathy, which is something of a leap.

                It’s at least as likely to make some people think “I’ll treat them the way I was treated when I worked that job, I had to put up with it so they should too.”

                1. On a pale mouse*

                  “I worked as a ____ for 5 years so I know how it should be done and you’re doing it wrong .” Followed by varying levels of complaints that are either unjustified or disproportionate to the problem.

                2. Myrin*

                  I think this is one of these things that can go both ways. Jerks be jerkin’, and people who are empathic in general aren’t going to leave that empathy at a grocery store’s doorstep, but OTOH, I’ve met a surprising amount of people who are just so… removed (?) from life (especially life of the “mundanes”) that a few weeks doing that kind of work might just help them readjust their lens a little.

              2. Observer*

                This makes two unfounded assumptions. One is that the only way to develop empathy is to work such a job. The other is that working such a job si a sure fire way to develop that kind of empathy. Neither one is true.

          2. Birch*

            IMO your first paragraph is an even bigger reason OP needs to learn to deal with this. Life is unpredictable, many workplaces have skewed ideas of what work-life balance looks like, and being new to the workforce is the best time to learn to create a life outside work and set boundaries. It’s that idea of, if you keep exceeding expectations, people will start to expect that from you, and it never ends. Boundaries are important. You also never know when you’re going to be laid off or fired or have to move or something terrible happens in your personal life–it’s just good in general to take advantage of less than ideal situations to take stock and learn things about how to live in the world adaptively (e.g. if you need structured time, you have to learn to structure your time yourself rather than depending on your employer to do it for you).

            1. Lumen*


              Honestly, some of the resistance to my post (which I get; I was irritated and it came across clearly) would still be answered by volunteerism. If the LW lives in a cold, crappy place and needs somewhere to go: a lot of volunteering happens indoors. If the LW needs structure: volunteering can provide a daily schedule. If the LW just enjoys working: that’s what volunteering is. If the LW just needs something to do because they can’t afford to travel: …well, you guessed it. And honestly, if the LW DOESN’T have much of a life or interests outside of work (it happens), then volunteering can become a new interest, as well as providing an opportunity for friendships.

              I do think the LW lacks perspective; your mileage may vary on whether you agree, and I think we have different ideas of what ‘perspective’ even means, and that’s fine. But I wasn’t at all suggesting that volunteering magically makes scummy people perfect, nor was I implying that the LW is a scummy person. Or selfish. Or failing to address their privilege. Or lacking in empathy.

              Birch’s post is actually what I meant by ‘perspective’: “you never know when you are going to be laid off or fired or have to move or something terrible happens in your personal life” and “take advantage of less than ideal situations to take stock and learn things about how to live in the world adaptively”. Also, gaining the perspective that as time goes on, it usually becomes harder to take that time away from work, and it’s important to set boundaries now to prevent future burnout. Which is exactly what the company’s policy seems set up to help employees do.

              There are many ways to volunteer. Many, many nonprofits need white-collar skills donated, which means you spend your time doing exactly what you usually get paid for, but you do it for free to help a cause you care about. It’s help that is often desperately needed but seldom offered because many people only want to volunteer in highly visible direct action with the recipients of nonprofit aid. But foundations need IT and auditing help too, y’know?

              I think the general impression of my post was “LW is a terrible person, they need to go to a soup kitchen and learn to be grateful!” which… wasn’t what I said. Or what I meant. I can see why that was the interpretation, but I wanted to clarify.

          3. Alton*

            I get time off between Christmas and New Year’s, and I definitely like having the time off, but like you the timing of it doesn’t do me much good. I don’t really celebrate Christmas, and I don’t like going out when the stores, movie theaters, etc. are really busy. A lot of my friends do celebrate Christmas, so I don’t get to see them and end up feeling lonely. On the other hand, it’s nice to have the whole office closed, because then I don’t have to be as anxious about what’s happening in my absence.

        2. soon 2 be former fed*

          Yeah, i a few years she will be enthusiastically looking forward to that two weeks.

        3. Pommette!*


          I agree that the two weeks off are not something that the OP can push back against without risking making a negative attention on her employer. She will have to find some way to fill her time. But there is nothing wrong with her for wanting to work those two weeks, or for feeling frustrated about the mandatory time off!

          Some people feel better when their time is filled with structured, scheduled activities – like work. There is nothing wrong with that. OP is still young and has already figured this about herself. Good for her; next year, she will have time to plan something good for her mandatory two weeks off.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Lecturing the OP for not having the same attitude about work and leisure time as you do is pretty uncalled for.

    4. Daisy Steiner*

      I was actually in almost the exact same situation once. My work required a lot of overtime but because it was public sector, they couldn’t pay us in money but instead in extra time off. One year there was a lot of mandatory overtime so all our leave balances skyrocketed and I was told I had to use up 2 weeks of leave ASAP.

      I know, I know! It sounds like bliss and it sounds so churlish to complain. But I was new to the workforce so didn’t have any extra money, it was winter (rain, damp, cold), my house was badly insulated and cold, ALL my friends were at work, and I was already struggling a bit with depression which was exacerbated by inactivity. Not to mention I really liked my job! I made the best of it but that was a HARD two weeks and by the end of it I was climbing the walls ready to get back to work.

      So OP, I understand.

      1. MissDissplaced*

        I get the no money thing, but still one should have no problem filling their days. Exercise, read, museums, etc., or if you must, make a faux-work day by catching up on industry journals, research, webinars or trainings.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          This assumes that you don’t have a problem getting going without external structure. When my SAD kicks in on top of my depression, it’s ROUGH. I can do things if I’ve already got the momentum from other required activities, but without an external requirement, it’s so hard to get started. Sure, I technically end up filling my days: they’re filled with unproductive rumination, spending five hours meaning to get out of bed, and feeling guilty about why I’m not functional enough to just do things like a normal person.

        2. CMart*

          13-year-old me would perish at the thought of 32-year-old me saying this but… there are really only so many hours in the day one can spend reading/watching TV, even (especially!) if those things are educational.

          I can sit still and enjoy a book for an hour or so, but if I lived someplace where the only thing to do within an hour’s drive is wander around Walmart and the weather was medium-crappy I think it’s pretty unfair to say “one should have no problem filling their days”. I’d certainly have a problem filling two weeks’ worth of time if I didn’t have a backlog of appointments and cleaning/organizing to tend to. And if I wasn’t a parent with limited off-work free time I wouldn’t even have that backlog.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Gosh yes, this is a good and kind and valuable perspective, particularly the winter/depression element. My time off as a teacher is obviously mostly in summer so I’m always thinking, “Go to the pool! or the park! or the zoo! or meet your friends for a picnic lunch! sit outside at a cafe and read!” And maybe those things are possible for OP, but maybe not.

    5. EmilyG*

      Am I the only one who’s a little bit worried that OP1 is going to look, not like someone unable to occupy herself, but like someone running exactly the kind of scam or fraud that this policy is designed to reveal? (Even though to us, based on the letter, it’s pretty obvious that she isn’t…) I definitely would not talk to the boss about it whatsoever.

      1. Observer*

        That is one of the main reasons that they should most definitely not push back. All of the moralizing about how they SHOULD want to take off and they SHOULD have what to do etc. is neither relevant, useful nor kind.

        The potential effects of trying to push back any more are all that the OP really needs to consider in this context. Although some of the suggestions may be worthwhile for the OP to consider.

      2. Pommette!*

        Yes! There is nothing wrong with the OP’s feelings. It’s reasonable to be unhappy about the forced time off. That said, pushing back is a bad idea, for the reasons you outline. This is just one of those policies that need to be applied uniformly, both because that is the only way for them to do what they are intended to do (allow auditors to detect fraud), and because applying the rule in a completely fair and uniform way is necessary in order to avoid offending individual employees (“Don’t take it personally – we don’t think that you are committing fraud, we just need EVERYONE to take two weeks off every year. It’s not about you, or about what we think of you – it’s about this rule”).

        Asking for an exception could make the OP look suspicious. It could also give others the impression that she thinks she deserves special treatment, or is above suspicion where her colleagues aren’t. We read the letter and know that that isn’t the case. Her employer and colleagues don’t have this information, and could misinterpret her requests/complaints.

  8. bunniferous*

    My thought is perhaps she is diabetic AND a poor planner. But in any case I am wondering if there is a medical issue here, not just a bad case of munchies. Without getting into her personal business I would be tempted to buy a bag of almonds and gift her once and see what happened.

    1. Bea*

      This reminded me of a former employee who used to walk into my office and eat sugar out of her hand to deal with her poorly controlled diabetes. I would have preferred her ask for a snack, I would always offer actual food but “nah this is fine tho.”

            1. Lily*

              Well, in case that she is on insuline and goes into hypoglycemia, this is actually a pretty good idea (though most people in this situation have some pieces of dextrose in their pockets^^).

                1. soon 2 be former fed*

                  There are glucose tablets that all insulin dependent diabetics should keep handy when out and about.

            1. MyBossSaidWhat*

              Wow. As a diabetic I assure you – avoiding a hypoglycemic crash is way higher priority than keeping a clean floor. Also the panic and disorientation she’s probably experiencing; that may not be in her line of thought.
              The high-control atmosphere of many American workplaces makes diabetes tough to manage. I personally prefer to carry gummy bears, but had a boss tell me I was not allowed to do that due to concerns about ants. And of course two damn weeks of bitching and snark every time I needed a teeth cleaning.

              1. Julia*

                I don’t think anyone debates that medical conditions are hard, but if you sprinkle sugar on the floor every week, it’s not your medical condition that’s causing issues, it’s the lack of planning. Bea doesn’t indicate that her co-worker wasn’t allowed to have anything else.

                Why would your boss not allow gummy bears because of ants?

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  All you have to do is pocket some sugar packets at a restaurant or coffee shop. Possibly they sell them like that in grocery stores. Pour the packet into your mouth.

                  I agree that as counters to diabetic shock go, it might be a good one. But she’s counting on other people to monitor the level of sugar in the coffee room and keep it supplied in case she needs it, where keeping her own sugar on hand would be a better, safer, less intrusive plan.

                2. Iris Eyes*

                  In just about every office kitchen I’ve witnessed a few sugar crystals would be the least of it.

                1. JSPA*

                  You may know what diabetes is, but not know how it manifests. Or you may not know what panic is (medically speaking). Or the specific person or people whom you know, with diabetes, may have a well-controlled form, and you may not know that this is not achievable by all diabetics. (Even those with implanted pumps can have dangerous fluctuations.)

                  Because if you know all those things, it’d be very hard to make that statement.

                  First: the symptoms of a panic attack and those of hypoglycemia can be so similar that they are fairly frequently misdiagnosed, one for the other. That is, the “panic” is not (necessarily) caused by experiencing hypoglycemia as something unexpected. The panic-like symptoms can be part of the hypoglycemia.

                  Secondly: severe hypoglycemia, especially stemming when stemming from too much administered insulin, can quickly lead to coma and then death. Unless you have nerves of steel, or you know you’re being medically monitored, if you’re slipping into hypoglycemia, an abrupt, corner-cutting response is not only normal but wise to “over-react.”

                  Thirdly: there’s a whole industry and literature directed at helping diabetics monitor and control their blood sugar. That doesn’t happen when the answer for something is simple and easy. (There’s also still ongoing argument about ideal target levels and long term prognosis.)

                  As to the original topic: Someone who wants nuts is not looking desperately for an immediate fix for dangerous, coma-inducing hypoglycemia. Or if she is, she’s going about it all wrong.

                2. JSPA*

                  Of the 6 diabetic people I know (or knew) best, only one has these sorts of issues regularly. Another had them infrequently. Another one tended to slide quietly into a coma, and end up in the hospital when someone found her slumped in her chair or passed out on the ground. The other three? No clue what the fuss is about. Just because yours doesn’t manifest this way doesn’t make it not a real thing.

                3. Mookie*

                  Again, I ask, what panic are you referring to? Bea mentioned no panic. Extrapolating from your anecdata is not helpful.

              2. Bea*

                Omg I can’t imagine telling someone their medical issue and health came after the worry for pests. They’re gummy bears not like you’re smearing syrup on yourself!

                I consistently kept candy around and asked her every time if she would like a piece when she would duck in for sugar but no the sugar was just fine.

                1. essEss*

                  And if you are keeping the gummy bears in your purse, how would your boss even know you have them?

            2. Bea*

              Mess was a non-issue for me because I had a swiffer to run over the floor every afternoon anyways.

              It was a wood floor at least!

    2. LilySparrow*

      Yes, I’d be tempted to buy her a big vat of almonds from Costco and leave it on her desk with the receipt taped to the top.

      Maybe with the address and hours highlighted.

      Forcing your junior colleagues to be your mommy is Bad. If you can manage to make tenure, you can manage to feed yourself.

      1. Academic Admin*

        I’ve found a lot of people who made tenure are missing some basic life skills. I agree with you that they should be able to feed themselves but it would not shock me to find out this person is just bad at planning and fails at basic life skills despite being tenured.

      1. MyBossSaidWhat*

        No, the specific request for almonds is weird. I remember an Urban legend floating around a few years ago about their alleged blood sugar lowering properties.
        To answer the question, ExBoss saw me eating the gummy bears & flipped her stuff. The way labor laws work where I live, if The Boss tells you “you’re not diabetic”… you aren’t diabetic. Unemployment is so high and self-respect is so low that many people would rather go into a diabetic coma than be insubordinate.

      2. Mephyle*

        The point is, though, that almonds is what she’s constantly asking for. We don’t know that she’s looking for something to regulate her blood sugar (although there’s been lots of speculation on this line). We do know that she asks for almonds.

  9. Bea*

    The 2 weeks off isn’t about you, it’s about the company that has rules in place for a reason. You will look out of touch by even bothering to bring it up.

    I say this as someone who is a workaholic and is wrapped up in business. It’s a mandatory closing, just like the places that close a week or two for Christmas. It’s a closure and you’re being paid, there is nothing to be discussed.

    1. Willis*

      This is a great point. The OP’s reasons for not wanting to take the break (boredom, no money for a vacation, etc.) aren’t going to make a difference if this is a mandatory, industry-wide regulation. It would look really weird to lobby the company to break a rule, and presumably risk some consequence, because you can’t find something to do for two weeks without work. I could see opting for the later timeslot, but that’s as far as I would push this, and I would plan not to argue about it in the future, since you already brought it up this year.

  10. TheNotoriousMCG*

    I was in OP1’s spot in my first job after college! I worked for an arts nonprofit that offered comp time (I was legally salaried and exempt) because we had to work an extra very long day or two per week due to performances. I didn’t know what to do with myself since my fiancée didn’t live in the same city and most of my friends were still in school. I didn’t take the several first offers of comp time until they absolutely insisted that I did in a staff meeting about three months after I was hired. Now that I’ve been working full time for several years I would just love to have two forced weeks off where I’m explicitly told not to answer work emails.

    Right now work is the interesting new thing and is fulfilling and awesome compared to the rest of life. But that’ll change and you will be grateful for the breaks you have. Take time to do the things you enjoy or foster interests you haven’t had time to dedicate yourself to before. The two weeks will fly by.

  11. ENFP in Texas*

    I would not be surprised if OP#1 worked in the financial industry. A mandatory hiatus with no contact with work systems is not unusual, and is used to look for system irregularities that may be indicative of fraud.

    It does not matter what position you hold in the company, you are not going to get a pass on this. Just be glad It is not being taken out of your PTO.

    Use the time to find a new hobby, or maybe some online classes that will further your career.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Yes, I thought finance too, although at my company, most people take their fortnight (or 3 weeks) off in July-August.

      The company handbook sets it out quite clearly. All of us have to take a fortnight at some point during the year and HR monitors it.

      1. masha masha*

        I also thought it is something finance or banking related.

        The LW mentioned a schedule for the two weeks so it looks like they set it up so not everyone is off at the same time, which is why the LW has to be off now instead of the summer. If coverage is needed I could see why not everyone is off in the summer.

    2. Glitterycake*

      My guess was finance too, because I have the same rule. Every bank year you must take 10 consecutive days off – and if you don’t have the leave it’s either Leave Without Pay or Leave With Pay and your annual leave balance goes into deficit. I’m going to America for a month and that’s my compliance leave for the bank year 2018-2019.

    3. Yvette*

      Many financial institutions provide for four weeks paid vacation from the start (rather than the normal two) because of the stipulation that two weeks must be taken consecutively and they realize that many people prefer to take their vacation time in days.

    4. Margo the Destroyer*

      Same, but here we only need to take a mandatory 5 days. :People have been fired for not scheduling it, thinking they can get away with not taking. Especially newer employees who only get 2 weeks vacation and the 5 days counts towards that. We can work from home, I do 3 times a week, but that week you cannot sign on, call or email.

    5. spocklady*

      I really want to second this (despite being an INTJ myself, so pretty different personality-wise). I was also in a similar spot in my early career. Once I was supporting myself from work — read, not still living with my generous parents — I went through a period where I had time off that I would not know what to do with. Fiancee and family were in a different city, college friends all over the place, and I would honestly get super lonely just at the end of a weekend by myself.

      I would gently and respectfully urge OP to consider beginning to cultivate some hobbies now, to the extent you feel able. What happened to me a couple of years ago, once I moved to a better-paying job with more vacation and didn’t feel like all my mental and emotional energy was going toward betting out of my job, was that I was kind of at loose ends in the evenings. To be honest this is still intermittently an issue, although it’s getting better. But now I have a bunch of options when I am not doing, like, basic-to-intermediate adulting, so at least I have some fallbacks.

      Tl;dr — I have been surprised at how easy it was for me to develop beginner workaholic tendencies, and how hard it is to hold that line (in some ways). However, I was beginning to worry that if the worst happened and I found myself in my 40s or 50s without a job, I would be bereft because I hadn’t given my time and attention to anything else to give my life meaning (which…sounds super dramatic to write out, but that’s what I was worried about). Luckily, I have some hobbies I adore, and I’m working on a few more! It can be kind of a struggle but it’s worth it.

      Good luck, OP #1, and please disregard if this doesn’t sound relevant to you.

      1. spocklady*

        Argh and I put this in the wrong place, it was supposed to be a reply to @ENFP in Texas! Sorry y’all.

  12. Rob*

    In a prior position, I was tasked with a few others to go around to a few executives, at random times of the year, and tell them to head out of the office for a week. They were paid for this time, and they were never given a heads up about it, but their work would then be taken over by others in the office.

    Everyone knew about this, and everyone who was impacted knew it was coming, but they never knew when. Every so often, it would happen to people more than once per year.

    The whole point of this was to prevent fraud. It was a problem that happened to other similar organizations, so this was our best effort to avoid this. We viewed this as a cost that would be less than the cost of fraud.

    I’m guessing that something similar is happening to OP #1. S/he seems to actually be given a heads up about it, but if I were them, I’d just roll with it and not worry about it. Consider it a part of the job, don’t take it personally, and enjoy the time off!

    1. WonderingHowIGotHere*

      I’m curious about how that works. Is it a case of “it’s 5pm, don’t come back tomorrow or for a week it’s fraud prevention time”, or Do you just make them go immediately before they can finish their email senten

    2. OtterB*

      Wow. That would be an incentive to keep good notes for someone to take over your work without notice. Better than “might get hit by a bus” since it’s guaranteed to happen.

      It is nice that OP#1 has some warning since that allows making plans.

  13. Mike C.*

    OP3: Just stop going to these meetings and tell your coworker that you’re not going to be doing whatever work they assign you. Being “polite and professional” doesn’t mean you have to sit through endless meetings and do random assignments assigned to you from coworkers.

    1. Zona the Great*

      I was going to say something similar. In my office, we’d all just stop showing up after we realized what was happening. I have a colleague who sends out calendar reminders for me to sit next to him while he works on his spreadsheets and disguises it as collaboration.

    2. Artemesia*

      I was surprised at how indirect Alison was here. This is either a poor manager who has tasked someone with shaping up the OP and her peer but hasn’t told THEM this authority has been given or, more likely, an attempted coup by the new employee. Keep letting her be in charge and the OP will have ceded her own authority.

      I would first ask my manager if Fergus had been charged with running X and assigning work such as (example) to you. If not then I would let Fergus know that you don’t have time for these meetings and that you take work assignments from Manager.

      1. Dan*

        I used to have an inexperienced manager whose style was to always tell Person X to tell Person Y to do something (X and Y rotated, they weren’t always the same) but then never tell Y that she told X to tell Y to do it. It was usually phrased such as “I want you, X, to take point on this. This will involve coordinating with Y on blah blah..” That style drove me nuts. After a few rounds of that, I started telling boss that if I am to take point on something, and am responsible for Y’s lack of follow through, you need to put me and Y in the same room and tell Y that I’m responsible for it.

        Likewise, when someone else was X and I was Y, they’d often misunderstand what the boss was asking for, or not communicating that boss was the one asking for it. Or, not communicating where on the priority list something was, and if it was high priority, which parts of my current workload I would need to drop/push back to take care of New Thing. (Not like someone else who was Not Boss knew what my workload was anyway.) That type of thing just wastes time and frustrates people.

        And if y’all found that hard to follow, try working in that environment.

      2. Tardigrade*

        I doubt a new and part-time employee would be given some kind of authority over the rest of the team, so I suspect this is more of a power struggle than anything else. But stranger things have happened, and I think talking to the boss is the best way to clear things up.

        1. Willis*

          Agreed, although I wonder if Boss told her to check in with OP and Coworker to stay up-to-date on what happened the days she wasn’t working or something like that and that led her to hold these meetings. They sound pointless and I would totally push back on them, but I could see the part-timer might have somehow thought she was supposed to be doing them. I think checking with Boss or directly asking the co-worker why she set up these meetings would both be valid ways to proceed.

      3. Legal Beagle*

        Yes, I wonder why Alison even included the option on not going directly to the new person’s boss. It’s pretty clearly a power play, and needs to be definitively shut down. I don’t think LW is going to help themselves by letting this ride and trying to gently deflect.

      4. Mephyle*

        I am wondering about this, too. Is there some reason why the first approach should not be to ask the manager whether the co-worker has been tasked with distributing the assignments?
        Anecdotes here speak to whether it might be likely or unlikely that this is the case (and it surely depends on the particular workplace and the manager’s style), but why would it be bad form to ask and remove the doubt, instead of speculating, assuming or guessing?

    3. essEss*

      I agree. From the description, I’m confused if the coworker has any supervisory authority to be assigning work to others. If so, then the coworker is doing their job of delegating work and I don’t see that there is room for complaint. If not, then everyone can easily say “I’ll be willing to give you a hand on some of your outstanding tasks after I complete the work currently on my plate. I’ll let you know when I have some available time to help.”

    4. The OG Anonsie*

      I think the LW needs to talk to this coworker and then probably the manager to make sure everyone is on the same page, because I was recently the coworker in this situation and uh… I was doing the job the manager had asked me to do, he just hadn’t communicated that in a way that got through to the rest of the team. There’s no reason not to just ask what’s going on before jumping to conclusions and taking action.

      Both the manager and I told everyone my title and that I was dealing with the requests that came into the department, but everyone else still interpreted the whole thing as “this is a junior staffer who is way the hell outside her lane” largely because I’m younger than them and my position was not a regular FT gig like theirs. I was actually a pseudo-consultant doing exactly what was asked. I see where they were coming from, their perspective made sense, but it was also dramatically wrong and based on incorrect interpretations and assumptions.

      This lead to me doing my requested job and me getting some really unpleasant responses from the folks who, like the bulk of the comments here, assumed they were valiantly pushing back against some little shit who was throwing her weight around. Even after we hashed it out, it lead to some lingering bad energy because it had already gone off the rails before the manager listened to my request to talk to them about it more directly. Clarify what’s up before doing anything.

  14. epi*

    As a new grad it took me longer than OP 1 has been in their job yet to appreciate the time off, understand how much was normal, and internalize that it was for my personal life in general and not literally for vacations. No other season of break was ever coming, no week absolutely everyone is gone. Plan it, or it doesn’t happen.

    By this time next year, I would be surprised if OP 1 still has an issue with this.

    1. BadWolf*

      It was also weird to take time off that wasn’t at traditional school vacation times. It was also weird to not be going back home. Or going somewhere with family (to visit other family, not necessarily vacation spots). To not have homework to do before going back to school. To not have assigned family chores. To not have dental/hair appointments prescheduled. To not have friends that were back in town at the same time.

      In addition to the suggestions already offered, this might be a good time to go through all your old school stuff. Toss/recycle notes/books you won’t need. Make a scrap book of things you’d like to keep. Maybe frame your diploma.

      If you haven’t nailed down a budget/finances/debt, take a day and review all of that. Are you doing the company match on a 401K? When will your school debt (if you have it) be paid off? If you have credit card debt, are you attacking that as fast as you can?

  15. Sam the Man (ager)*

    #5 Would really love a update as to why the resume is that bad. I am almost thinking they did it on purpose to catch your attention? Can it be?

      1. Margo the Destroyer*

        I don’t get that at all. I know someone who would take the effort to write her facebook messages like that. It takes more effort than doing it correctly. And it is really horrible to read, so I had to unfollow her. Mind you, she was also in high school at the time.

    1. fposte*

      Or it’s related to the fact that 72% of high school seniors can’t read at grade level.

    2. Seriously?*

      I find that unlikely. If it was just the capitalization then maybe, but leaving off work experience, being vague about what is there and misspelling the city she lives in points more to her just being sloppy.

  16. Bea*

    #5 Is making me twitch a bit, why hasn’t the temp program fixed this persons resume? Perhaps since its internally based they just don’t bother but others will at least proof read and help format them.

    1. M_Lynn_K*

      Right? Or even say something like “I won’t pass your resume along until you fix it and make it acceptable.” Because obviously it’s making the temp program’s staff look suspicious that they’re even recommending this person!

  17. Quake Johnson*

    A bonus two weeks off is a problem I’d love to have!

    On a more serious note, whenever I take a vacation – whether I go anywhere during it or not – I find I enjoy going to work a lot more the following week. I always look at time off as healthy time away that ultimately makes me a better employee in the long run. Any chance you could look at things that way, OP?

  18. E.*

    OP 1: This is an AMAZING policy, seriously most people (all people?) would kill to have this! Please, please just enjoy your time off and do whatever you like doing. You can even use the time to read books/blogs, watch YouTube tutorials, etc that are relevant to your job and sector.

    1. Dan*

      When I have extra long weekends, I usually cook a more involved dish. I don’t usually have the desire to cook a more complicated recipe and do the subsequent cleanup on a normal week, so with extra time off, I like to pick something that looks good but requires a bit of effort.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Stuff has a way of coming to light if the fraudster isn’t there to keep it in check.

      On a much smaller scale, we didn’t find out that an employee was being dishonest to a valued customer (about warehouse stock, of all things) until she was out for a week and unable to fend off the emails.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ugh, this was how one of my clients found travel fraud. An employee was billing for non-work travel and logging hours when she wasn’t working, to the tune of $19,000 before she was caught. When she was forced to take time off, client calls made it to her supervisor, and it became clear she hadn’t visited them in weeks (despite claiming weekly visits).

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          This employee also had 400 other customer emails that she simply never opened. All it took was a coworker checking this employee’s email to uncover a whole slew of nonsense, and that wouldn’t have happened if the woman hadn’t taken the time off.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      There are some helpful links upthread that explain how leave serves as a fraud deterrent in the finance context.

      Generally speaking, it’s helpful (from an anti-fraud perspective) to be able to spot-check activity by removing someone’s authority over a specific set of activities. I’ve seen nonprofits, coops, etc., use mandatory paid leave as a fraud control, although often only with respect to the finance people.

    3. Bea*

      If someone is now covering for someone else by doing their tasks, you find things.

      My old boss found out a former employee was pocketing cash sales when she took a day off and a customer came in to return something. No documentation on our end, the employee had deleted the transaction when he handed her cash.

      To commit fraud you have to be in full control most of the time. Most cons will need constant access to their work to shuffle things around to keep the scheme going.

      1. LNZ*

        Welp this confirms i am way to lazy to commit fraud. Having to keep constant controle like that sounds utterly exhausting.

      2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        A former workplace found child porn this way. The employee got sick and a co-worker had to look for a file on the absent co-worker’s computer. Long story short, there were charges and a well deserved conviction.

    4. Sarahnova*

      Most of the “rogue trader” scandals in FS, the trader in question hadn’t taken any time off specifically because he has had to keep fiddling the figures constantly to hide his massive losses, which requires constant presence and control. See: Nick Leeson and the collapse of Barings on down.

      1. LNZ*

        I just had to google a bunch cause i didn’t actual know any of those terms or that name (I’m not from the UK and was a toddler when it happened). I’m assuming FS means Financial Sector?
        But I just read that guys Wikipedia entry in horror.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I just read it too and feel genuinely sick. How many people without his privilege are rotting in jail for the rest of their lives for far less?

          1. LNZ*

            The part that left me flabergasted was he couldn’t get his UK license because he was caught committing fraud on the application and his employer just sent him to a country he could get a license in. Like what employer does that.

    5. Harper the Other One*

      Yeah, I had a lesser version of this as the cash office person in retail: once every so often (average every four weeks, but more frequently sometimes) my day off would be deliberately scheduled so that someone else qualified to process the previous day’s sales was in, and that person and a manager would also audit the whole safe – count all the spare change, open/count any deposits that hadn’t gone to the bank yet, etc. – as well as go through my filing cabinet to make sure all the filing procedures were being followed. I’d come back the day after and get a little thing to sign to say that the audit had been done, no discrepancies. And that was for very straightforward “count the cash, leave a float, write up a deposit form” kind of work. I can easily see more complex finance work needing a similar check/audit process, but taking longer.

    6. CMart*

      For another fun example: The Dixon, IL fraud perpetrated by their comptroller to the tune of $54M (million!!!!) over several decades.

      There’s a good write-up about it in the link if you click on my name, but the salient point in the timeline of the fraud is right at the end:

      “2011: A Dixon city clerk opens the mail while Crundwell is on vacation, discovers the RSCDA account [secret, fraudulent account the comptroller set up] and immediately alerts the mayor, who then contacts the FBI.”

      It was only caught because she went on vacation and someone else was doing the routine, day-to-day work that otherwise would have been missed. It’s really an amazing, informative object lesson.

    7. essEss*

      By having someone else do the duties for 2 weeks, you can catch irregularities. If the daily/weekly cash deposits are suddenly much higher for those 2 weeks then it is a sign that investigation is needed to find out if cash has been getting pocketed. If clients start saying “but I always get a x% discount when [regular employee] helps me” then you start seeing signs of kickbacks. If the person is responsible for supplies and ordering and the office suddenly doesn’t need to purchase as many items (especially expensive items) then there is a check to see if the person has been over-ordering in order to take items home (or re-selling them on ebay). The idea is to check whether patterns of business remain the same while that person is out for 2 weeks or whether there is a significant change. Sometimes the spike might make sense but it helps avoid some serious scenarios.

      Also, during those 2 weeks an auditor or IT person might get assigned to scan the employee’s computer for illegal documents or software or for any unknown backdoor applications that allow remote access to the computer.

  19. HannahS*

    OP1, I (possibly) see where you’re coming from. I get why some people are grumping at you for not wanting that vacation, but you shouldn’t have to feel grateful for things you don’t want just because other people want them. If I had two weeks off and couldn’t afford to Do Something Fun or head back home to visit with my family, I’d be MISERABLE. Yeah, I could deep-clean my apartment and go to the dentist, and I really should close that one empty bank account. But that would take, what, two days at the most? I live in a small city with very little to do that interests me, and since I moved recently, I only really have about two friends I’d call to hang out with. I’m also single and live alone, and my hobbies are solitary in nature–it’s a lot of alone time, even just on weekends. During my regular weeks, I make time for my hobbies, for exercise (built into my commute), my reading, and my time-wasting on the computer. I enjoy the occasional extra day off for cleaning and errands; I’m not someone who does well with long stretches of unstructured time at home. I mean, I might fantasize about all the fabulous things I’d do if had scads and scads of time, but I know from experience that I’m happier when my days have more shape. So, I hear you. In your situation, I might try to set goals for myself, or a daily schedule. If you’re feeling like your life is well-balanced without the extra vacation, awesome! You’re in a great position, and try not to let this get you down too much.

    1. Agent Diane*

      +1 on this.

      Also, if you’re planning to continue in this field, then you’re going to need to think about how you can adapt to this mandatory time off. Use this first one to suss out what you can do with it next year.

      I did not get in the habit of a fortnight’s leave when I started my career. There were no studies saying that was the best amount of time to take, I enjoyed my job so why take long breaks except for travelling? Fast forward 25 years, and I wish I had got that habit fixed early on as I know my working habits are unhealthy and a long break does me the world of good – but I struggle to put it into practice because of those early years.

    2. Alternative Person*

      A previous workplace had a limited rota over Christmas/New Year so we all had a mandatory two weeks off. I filled about half my time with contracting/cover work, a quarter procrastinating about cleaning my flat and the remainder was a mini break which was all that I could afford at the time.

      I’d say do something nice if you can (afford to), but you could look for cover/temp jobs if you’re really desperate for something to do.

    3. Liz*

      Are there any online course/classes/trainings you’ve been wanting? Either for work or for fun? That might help fill up the time.

    4. EddieSherbert*

      I also love Alison’s suggestion of doing volunteer work as well – there’s pretty much every kind of volunteer work imaginable out there! You could fill a chunk of time, add some structure to your day, and keep “working.”

      1. essEss*

        I’d be checking out online classes on udemy and coursera.org to work on more skills and certifications. Or taking seminar at a community college or library (they often have 1-day or 1-week activities) or attending some visiting lectures that are open to the public. Or taking classes at the local knitting/sewing store. Or taking tours around my town. Or having fun getting on the local trains (el, subway, suburb rail) to random stops to see what’s there. Or going out and trying my hand at photography around town.

    5. Anxa*

      I have frequent week long or 2 week long vacations, without pay, without input on the timing (academic calendar, hourly employee). It is absolutely awful and I hate it. Everyone’s always telling me about how lucky I am, but even if it was paid, I would hate it.

      Disruptions to my routine can me weeks to recover from. I am a hardcore night owl, but I can get onto a regular schedule if I really, really force it. There is no amount of morning social plans or volunteer work that could subsistute to for the fear of losing my job if I oversleep or don’t get out of bed. Every other month I have to spend a few weeks sleep deprived as I try to readjust. Also, it’s a lot of work to have to find a volunteer position and is just adding more to your plate. I’d rather just go to work without having to find a new job for just 2 weeks.

      I would love the time off, just not in such large chunks.

    6. Fiennes*

      If OP needs daily structure, this might be an ideal time to sign up for, say, guided tours at a museum—a fitness boot camp—an organized hike and/or social bike ride, etc. Then OP will have places she needs to be and times she needs to be there, which will give her something to organize the rest of her time around. And it will still be fun!

      Well, maybe not the boot camp. But you’d still feel productive, which is more the point.

    7. [insert witty user name here]*

      I find this thread to be super constructive to what OP#1 was actually asking.

      I also wanted to add to OP#1, think of it this way: you know taking 2 consecutive weeks off is just part of life in the industry you’ve chosen so keep in mind that your company is just doing what’s regulated. Ultimately, ***it’s not their problem you think you’ll be bored.*** I do not mean that harshly – I honestly think it might help frame your thinking. Part of the reason you wanted to push back is because you’ll be bored so keep in mind, that’s not something you can bring up to your boss! What can you ask for is advice on how other people who don’t take an actual vacation use their time or if there is a skill she thinks you could work on while you’re out of the office (could your writing use work? Excel skills? etc – something that is not specific to your industry and therefore wouldn’t violate the terms of the two week leave, but something that could still help you professionally and give your time off some structure).

      1. [insert witty user name here]*

        Oops – also wanted to add, OP#1, I hope you end up enjoying your two weeks off, whatever you end up doing. You are entitled to your feelings and if you feel you’re going to be bored, you know yourself best. There’s nothing wrong with that (I mean, being bored is no fun, but I feel like some comments have piled on a little). Hopefully you’ll find some helpful suggestions in the comments. But even if at the end of the two weeks, you’re like, “THAT SUCKED!” Just know that’s OK! But that ultimately, we’re all rooting for you to enjoy yourself.

      2. smoke tree*

        Yeah, it might be helpful for the LW to think about the two weeks as a required work task, rather than an unwanted perk.

  20. Close Bracket*

    I have been on the receiving end of ISO audits and the giving end of internal audits. Auditors are not spies, but anything they see is fair game for them to pull strings. Before our ISO audits, we would coach people on how not to say anything extra or have things out in the open that an auditor could catch a glimpse of. Even I, the head of internal audit, who knows how this stuff goes, would turn over all the piles of paper on my desk just in case there was an unfilled out blank or something that the auditor might notice. Really, uncovering problems so that they can be fixed before they turn into a huge issue is the mark of a good auditor, although it does feel like spying to the auditee.

    1. Semantic games*

      “Auditors are not spies, but anything they see is fair game for them to pull strings”

      That’s pretty much the definition of “spy.”

      1. Myrin*

        IDK, maybe it’s just because English isn’t my native language but the “spy” verbiage seems like such dramatic phrasing to me. I’m extremely observant and apparently also weirdly unremarkable enough that people have sometimes-just-private-sometimes-truly-confidential conversations right next to me without so much as lowering their voices on the regular; I could also technically “pull strings” in all manner of ways because of that. But I still don’t think that makes me a spy.

      2. hbc*

        If a spy relies on finding things that are out in the open, she’s a pretty lousy spy. Also, I think very few spies start off with an announcement that there will be a spy on the premises.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, to me the key of spying is stealth. This isn’t spying, this is clear and transparent oversight, same as when your boss checks on what you’re doing.

      3. Parenthetically*

        “We are here to check up on anything suspicious, so if you say anything that sounds suspicious we will have to check up on it.”

        That’s pretty much the opposite of the definition of “spy.”

      4. Emilia Bedelia*

        That’s not the definition of a spy.

        Auditors are not using the information maliciously; they are not the the bad guy, they’re there to do their job. They have a responsibility to follow the trail and pull the strings.

        On the auditee side, it’s not okay to deliberately obstruct the auditor from doing their job. But it’s wise to not bring issues to their attention if you don’t have to. Be honest when asked, but make them ask the questions (I work in a regulated industry – the saying goes, “if the auditor asks ‘Do you know what time it is?’, you say ‘Yes.'”)

      5. Runner*

        And Alison’s mom’s response also looked flat-out like she was saying yes, I deliberately went to where employees were smoking specifically to hear their casual conversation and use it for leads, even if it took us off on wild audit goose chases.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          I had a auditor come into my office once and request to go through every one of my file cabinets. I told them I was very confused since they were there to audit one thing. Why would they felt the need to look at anything over and above what they were there for.
          That was also the only auditor I have personally seen come in without a laptop. They had a pencil, graph paper and a calculator. I still shiver at the memory. It was a long and tiring day.

    2. SoSo*

      “Before our ISO audits, we would coach people on how not to say anything extra or have things out in the open that an auditor could catch a glimpse of.”

      Oh yeah, we do the same. I wrote in another comment above that we send out reminders during audits not to keep potentially sensitive documents out in the open- all because one person (several years ago) left a system/database password written on a whiteboard in their cube. On our last major internal audit it was stressed by our directors and VP that if you’re talking to an auditor, you only answer the question they asked, end of story. No extra details, no explanations. You give them only the information they asked for and that’s it.

    3. Emmie*

      Audits were preparation for a regular visit at one of my former employers. We had to coach employees similarly because we needed that behavior ingrained for an actual regular visit. Regulators may overhear conversation and further their investigatory path.

  21. Sheralania*

    I got in trouble once in an old job for saying something inappropriate in front of auditors.
    It made me realise that anything I say whilst at work impacts back on the company I work for.
    I’m very careful now to keep my remarks and jokes to myself until I know who everyone around who could hear me are. It has saved my swearing bum more times than I can count.

    1. Arjay*

      I am fascinated by the things people I don’t know will say in front of me in an elevator. If I don’t know them, they don’t know me, yet they will say the most inappropriate, yet still work-related, things to their friends right out loud.

  22. Tex*

    OP1 – If you really have nothing to do, then look into industry certifications that you will need to advance in your field or extra reading. Brush up to the next level on excel or database skills via online courses. Check out grad school requirements if you’re within a 2 year horizon.

    Also, prep for work so your weekends once you’re back in the office can be free: if you started in the fall, you might need summer work clo