update: my boss is being a jerk about my gym time

Here’s an update from the letter-writer earlier this month whose boss was giving her a hard time about scheduling company-encouraged gym time on her calendar:

I don’t know if readers caught my mini update in the comments of my letter, but it appears Remus is a reader of this site and recognized the situation (and made a comment as well). He and I had an informal chat this helped me gain a little bit of a better understanding to Severus’ behavior.

I do want to thank the commenters for their support and insight. They were right about two things. I shouldn’t have automatically assumed it was OK to start putting the gym time back on my calendar, apparently in doing so I accidently embroiled myself in a tiff between Remus and Severus. The second is that it probably would have been better to mark the time as “Private” from the get go, as that is the standard for everyone else in the group when they plan to go to lunch or have appointments.

For the commenters who seemed to be incredulous that my behavior was within company norms, I did check the Teapot Insurance’s official wellness initiative. I wasn’t previously aware, but it actually notes that management is “strongly encouraged” to allow employees time to take advantage of the onsite fitness programs offered during lunch hours, and suggests allowing associates to flex their time to take up to 90 minutes for lunch if needed (all standard caveats about “if work allows”). That said, if Severus had ever approached me stating that my lunch workouts were too long or disruptive, I wouldn’t have been happy, but I would have accepted that as manager’s discretion. A manager passively aggressively scheduling meetings over someone’s lunch hour is a poor way to address that problem, and the length of time I was taking for my lunch was never brought up in any conversation.

So on to the pretty happy update – After he cooled down a little, it appeared that Severus realized that he didn’t want to have a standing lunch meeting 2x a week any more than I did. He cancelled half of them. The one he kept on the schedule ended up being 10 minute “standup” meetings at my desk to check in. He sent me a cancellation notice yesterday because he’s on PTO today. I took the opportunity to respond be email as such:

“Let me know if there are any tasks that require particular focus, tomorrow I plan working on the Teapot Transfigurations report. That should take most of the day. Thank you for the advance notice so I can better plan my day. Somewhat related, I’ve taken your feedback to heart on how I note my lunchtime appointments on the calendar. I agree more professional to simply mark as “private” rather than announce how I spend my time, and will conforming to the team’s standard from now on”

He responded back stating that the Transfiguration report is top priority. Then a few minutes later canceled the remaining repeating meetings, with a note saying we’ll just do informal weekly check ins as needed.

I don’t know if he felt as though he “won” or if he realized that he was being a little over the top, but this particular matter appears to be resolved for now.

{ 98 comments… read them below }

    1. Specialk9*

      I love this update!

      Though… Eep about a coworker recognizing you here.

      OP, good on you for how you’re handling this.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I too it as Remus is the reader–the boss’s boss. OP –> Severus –> Remus.

      1. Kate*

        Remus was the reader, but he’s not Severus’s boss. The OP said that the reason for the restructuring was that Remus had more direct reports than Severus, but a more junior title, and they both report to Albus. So I think it’s good that he stepped aside and let the OP deal with Severus on her own. It seems kind of undermining to both Severus and the OP for a lateral manager to interject on a minor conflict like this. But it’s also nice to know OP had someone in her corner if the situation had escalated. I think she handled it really well, and that Severus just needed some cooling off time.

    2. cleo*

      No. Current boss (Severus) doesn’t read AAM. Old boss (Remus) does and commented on the other thread (see below for link).

  1. Hills to Die on*

    Good Update! Remus, keep an eye on Severus. He’s not a grown up and will hurt morale and drive away employees if he’s left unchecked at all. I’ve met too many of him. Good for you both for standing up for the right thing and being professional and accomodating!

    1. TardyTardis*

      But interfering with someone else’s direct report may someday bite Remus, especially if Albus is no longer there to cover for him. Remus would do well to work on a better relationship with Severus, and not always depend on Albus to support his position.

  2. The Tin Man*

    Satisfying update, it seems like an “all’s well that ends well” situation. I am glad you got Remus’ thoughts on everything, it sounds like he gave you good insight about Severus’ mindset.

    And this was a lot less embarrassing than the other OP who had a coworker notice their question on AAM (the one about a bruise from BDSM that was noticed at work).

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Still slightly embarrassing since OP mentioned being irked at Remus – but clearly he is a kindhearted werewolf and didn’t take it amiss.

  3. Bernadette*

    Can someone link to where Remus commented on the original post? I’d like to see but there are a lot of comments on that thread!

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Remus does indeed sound like a great boss, and I’m glad that it sounds like things are working out for the OP.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Same here. Do you by any chance have a few hundred open positions on your team, Remus?

      1. PB*

        Thank you for linking this! I hadn’t read down that far. Remus, if you’re reading, you sound like a great boss! I’m happy to see you stand up for “M”, but at work and here.

          1. ThisIsRemus*

            What can I say? I’m a Potter fan too.

            I mean my kids are totally into Harry Potter. That’s it.

            1. Jules the Third*

              waaaaaaiiiiiittt a minit – Are you my exboss who’s totally into HP and really good music? I’d be the employee who got stealth-married on her first Friday.

              Because except for the ‘more junior’ part, I do have an exboss that sounds like you, and our company’s got a gym / lunch classes… (he was a great boss)

      2. I think this is the job I'm hiring for*

        Though there was the open thread where Moonlight Doughnut was asking about the application process for the vacancy in my office. Sadly, none of the applications that made it through HR looked like they were from MD (based on the advice I’d given).

          1. I think this is the job I'm hiring for*

            An archivist position. Our new archivist starts in a week and a half!

      3. ThisIsRemus*

        Look at me! I’m breaking new ground!

        Really enjoy your blog. Come here sometimes when I’m at a crossroads on how to handle a situation. Hoping I never have to deal with some of the things I read here though, hooooooo boy.

    1. Lurker for now....*

      This actually is my very worst nightmare and one reason I’m more typically a lurker than a responder. :)

      I once shared this site with a newer employee as she was struggling with some things and she sent it on to the entire company, ED on down. And of course, the general response, particularly from the HR peeps was “Oh, we LOVE that blog”.. soo.. heading back into my shell, TYVM.

      Lurker I shall be…

  4. eplawyer*

    Sounds like Severus just wanted you to be more professional on the calendar. And took a poor way of handling it. He treated you as an employee with a performance problem that was “fixed” when you agreed to mark your gym time as private. Which could have been handled in a simple email. THEN if you refused to do it, it’s a performance problem.

    1. TardyTardis*

      But Remus should have not butt in. Granted, he has Albus to cover for him now, but this may not always be the case. Remus should learn not to undercut Severus on an employee that reports to Severus.

  5. DrPeteLoomis*

    This is a very happy ending, but Severus is still such a jerk. A power-tripping, passive aggressive jerk.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Yes, this isn’t the last time Remus has to deal with Severus’s nonsense. He will act out in other petty ways. Guaranteed.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah I couldn’t tell if it was 100% resolved or not, to be honest. If there is a power struggle between Remus and Severus, this was just one shot in it and it’s probably not over even if S never mentions the gym specifically to this employee again.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Remus, so far, has Albus’ backing and Severus perhaps not. But Albus might not be there forever, and Remus should try to establish a relationship with Severus that doesn’t depend on Albus backstopping him. I’d take it wrong if someone else told me how to deal with a report. No doubt Severus has been taken to the woodshed by Albus over this, but of course that’s a wonderful way to make Severus love Remus.

        1. Lehigh*

          Hmm. You’re saying this a lot in this thread, but from the letter it looks to me like Remus had a private chat with the OP to help mentor/guide her, not that he went to Severus or Albus about it. So I don’t see that he did anything to make things worse, now or in the future.

  6. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    That was quite a dance. I’m glad it worked out. I’m sure you are, too. I think overall, it was a low stakes way to learn a new skill, or rather hone your skills at communication: reading between the lines, recognizing people’s own mini dramas, how to compromise. Well done.

    1. oranges & lemons*

      Yeah, it does seem like it was a good opportunity to gain some insight into how Severus operates. Sounds pretty irritating to have to coddle your boss’s fragile ego though.

      1. TardyTardis*

        If I worked at a place where people not my supervisor could tell me how to deal with my reports, I wouldn’t be that happy either. So far Albus is backing Remus, and so Remus gets away with it. Albus may not always be there.

  7. SoCalHR*

    Kind of awkward! But less awkward that it was Remus that read the post and not Severus (although if Severus read the blog he probably wouldn’t be as prickly a boss).

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I disagree. I think if Severus read this he would go into orbit and make it his mission to never let OP work out again. Remus reading this was the best possible outcome. Unless Albus and Remus both read it.

      1. SoCalHR*

        I meant, if Severus was a regular reader of the blog, he probably would be a less prickly manager (implying he would learn something from it). But yes, I agree if this was the only post he saw and recognized the situation it would have been not-good.

        1. TardyTardis*

          And Remus should learn to let Severus run his own department. But since he won on this issue, I’m sure he’ll be telling Severus other things, likely with Albus’ backing. I’m thinking that if Remus continues to undercut Severus, that Severus should leave to find a company where he’s actually respected as a supervisor.

  8. Amber Rose*

    It’s good that it was resolved, and Remus seems like a good boss. Severus is probably capable of being a decent boss as well, I think. He’s got his quirks and annoying things like many bosses, but at least it seems it’s possible to talk to/compromise with him.

    That’s more than a lot of LW’s can say, so I’d call this a solid good news update.

  9. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Once it was settled that Severus’ head is higher, seems like everything settled down. That’s good!

    *I used to have guinea pigs growing up. Periodically, two of them would get into a tiff and assert dominance by who’s head was higher. This has now become a phrase I use when I see some sort of petty dominance.

    1. Specialk9*

      What’s that quote from GLOW by the goth wolf lady? She’s advising the lead to be physically submissive when the wronged wife comes storming in.

    2. Book Badger*

      I’m reminded of that scene in *The King and I.* “No head must be higher than the king’s!”

    3. TardyTardis*

      Remus is asking for trouble, though–he won on this issue, and may take this result as a signal that he can interfere in Severus’ department even more if he sees something he thinks is wrong. Albus may not always be there to backstop Remus.

  10. ArtK*

    Good update!
    One lesson from this: Don’t be specific on your calendar unless it’s absolutely necessary. It’s far better to give too little information than too much. People can use that extra information in a bad way. We see this a lot here. “Private” is much safer than “getting my shoes polished.” Unless it’s relevant to the company, I use “Art OOO” (Out Of Office) on my calendar when it’s personal stuff.

    1. Canarian*

      I disagree. Minerva mentioned in her previous comments that others appreciated her for being transparent with her schedule because it made her easier to access and schedule around. She also said she blocked it off as “gym” so others would know they could assume work tasks would take a priority over those meetings.

      Previously, Remus could see “gym” on Minerva’s calendar and could make the call about scheduling over it if he needed to. Now, if Severus sees a block of time marked private at lunch, but is considering scheduling a meeting then, he has to have a conversation with Minverva to see if that private time is a gym class he can schedule over or a doctor’s appointment/funeral/lunch with her long-lost twin sister that really can’t be moved.

      One alternative is to block off private time and mark it as tentative, but several people in my office keep tentative appointments on their calendars for meetings they absolutely don’t intend to go to, but want to know are happening. So even then, you still have to have the conversation: “hey, I see you have a tentative meeting on Wednesday at lunch, is that something I can schedule over?”

      1. MeowThai*

        Same here. This adds some extra back-and-forth that was previously unnecessary. Although, given how lunch is combined with gym time for Minerva, it’s probably an unusual situation anyway.

      2. Jules the Third*

        My calendar doesn’t allow tentative bookings.

        OTOH, my calendar doesn’t show meeting details with anyone unless I specifically share my calendar with them, in a ‘can make updates to my calendar’ kinda share. It just shows the time blocked.

    2. The Original K.*

      Yep. If I’m going to be out for company-related stuff like an offsite training or meeting, I’m specific. Otherwise it’s just “out of office.”

    3. JerryLarryTerryGarry*

      Disagree. I’ve had to schedule a lot of last minute meetings for groups- to the point of asking people to cancel or shift existing items on their calendar. Illustrating flexibility like this can eliminate the need for several rounds of emails.

      1. ArtK*

        Why does it matter what they have on the calendar? If you need to schedule at a particular time, schedule and they can decline or accept as needed. Otherwise, you are making prioritization decisions for them. Your information is going to be incomplete whether they say “OOO” or “Doctor” or “Gym.” You don’t know their context.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          When you need all 8 of the people in the room, you often have to start calling around. “The four busiest people can make 2pm on Thursday — is your conflict flexible at all?”

    4. McWhadden*

      This is a situation where choosing optics makes things worse for everyone. Yeah, I see how it might look better. But being candid about your time is in everyone’s best interest. If you are going to the gym your boss can ask you to cancel that if something really pressing came up. If you are going to the doctor not so much.

        1. Kate 2*

          But if your doctor is booked out for 2 months, like every single gen practitioner in my city is, and if they charge a cancellation fee, like ours do, that causes HUGE problems for the worker. Plus Boss can just automatically schedule over gym time, but has to take time to ask about “private” time and wait for a reply.

        2. Canarian*

          Yeah, of course they can. But a boss who asks you to cancel a single workout to is a Reasonable Remus, while a boss who asks you to cancel a chemotherapy session is a liability to the company and a contender for AAM’s worst boss of the year award.

  11. Sally*

    Cheesus! If he just wanted you to mark the appointment as “private,” it would have been a hell of a lot easier if he had just said that!

  12. The Original K.*

    “After he cooled down a little, it appeared that Severus realized that he didn’t want to have a standing lunch meeting 2x a week any more than I did.”

    I remember thinking, “Way to cut off your nose to spite your face, Severus” when I read the original letter because twice-weekly lunch meetings would suck no matter what role you played in them. He doesn’t get to eat lunch during that time either, you know? Glad he came to his senses.

  13. Another Sarah*

    So strange! It sounds like he really just wanted you to mark them as “private” instead of as gym time, but he never just said, “I’d prefer that you, and all staff, just mark your blocked off time as private, whether it’s for doctor’s appointments or the gym etc.” Smh. People.

    1. TardyTardis*

      It probably didn’t help to have Remus get involved–this may not be the first time Remus has decided he knows more about how to work with Severus’ reports than Severus does.

  14. Storie*

    To me, having blocks of “private” time on my calendar could be taken differently than “gym”—a specific activity sanctioned and encouraged by the company. Since it’s in the handbook, I’d rather have people know that’s what I’m doing than wonder or worse—assume I’m shopping, have an ongoing medical issue, or constantly at therapy etc.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I don’t think most people read that much into appointments marked “private” on an outlook calendar.

      1. Storie*

        I guess I’m my industry, having too much “private” activity during a workday (even at lunch) is looked down upon. Sad but true! So for me, being able to point to the gym as my destination would be helpful.

        But, if that’s what Severus wants, it makes sense.

  15. Robin Sparkles*

    Glad it worked out! And just as commenters thought – Severus was being ridiculous about this.

  16. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Great ending! OP, I am now somewhere with lunchtime work classes and a restructuring …are your company’s initials T.R.?

    Physical health, at least to the extent you can control it with food and exercise, is SO important. It’s well worth spending the capital and influence to be able to exercise! Aside from social connections, a basic level of fitness is a huge determinant in lifespan, and exercise classes can also provide the former!

    1. Minerva*

      No they aren’t, and this restructure happened a few months back :-)

      And I agree! A little lunchtime yoga not only makes me feel better after a stressful morning, it makes me feel energized and ready to attack the afternoon workload. It’s really amazing what exercise does for physical and mental health.

  17. Moonlight Elantra*

    I just wanted to shout out to OP from her original letter… I thought that lunchtime workout thing sounded pretty great so I took another look at our building’s gym and signed up last week! There aren’t that many offerings, but it looks like morning workouts and lunchtime yoga classes are definitely going to be a thing in my future! Thanks for the motivation.
    –Still trying to lose the baby weight

    1. Minerva*

      You can do it! And remember it’s not just about weight, it’s about making a stronger and healthier you. I am a comfortable dress size 8/10, am healthy by any standards and don’t plan on getting any smaller.

    2. TardyTardis*

      Weights will help with the trimming–you may not lose all the weight, but you will look better (even if you have to work *up* to five pound weights like I did).

  18. Adorbradoodle*

    I’m so glad this is a happy update! My workplace offers a certain amount of comp time each week to go to the gym and I’m the only person in my office who takes advantage of it. A certain supervisor (not my direct boss) has started making snarky comments about it being on the calendar and I was dreading there having to be some kind of reckoning about using my (company encouraged!) gym time. I’ll use OP’s calendar solution for the time being and hope for a similarly good result!

    1. Lil Fidget*

      It’s a shame that there are often company perks that are not really part of the company culture – we’ve definitely discussed on these boards places where you’re not actually expected to take all your sick leave or PTO, for example, or parental leave, or whatever – like, yes its technically offered, but you may be dinged/looked down on slightly for using it. In some cases it’s probably the best call to just go ahead and use it, in others it may be better to go along with the culture to get ahead. And sometimes there’s a sneaky third option where you can use it with out the optics of using it, lol.

  19. Coach Laura*

    Of course it would be Remus who reads AAM not Severus, who seriously needs AAM.

    I wonder how often letter writers recognize themselves?

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