my coworkers won’t speak up about problems

A reader writes:

I’ve noticed that my coworkers are reluctant to report or complain about workplace problems.

Two things have happened lately that have made me realize this.

A few weeks ago, our internet went down due to a severed network cable. Per company policy, all of our work is conducted online, so there’s very little we can do without internet. I suggested we ask our supervisor if there were offline projects to do, or if we could get special permission to work from home, or if we should leave for the day. My coworkers said we shouldn’t “make a fuss” and should just “deal with it.” We ended up sitting around doing nothing until 3 p.m. when our supervisor (who often works from another location) came to the office, asked why we didn’t contact her sooner, and sent us all home.

The most senior coworker told her that we didn’t contact her because we didn’t want to interrupt her meetings. She assured us that this was a totally valid reason to interrupt and said we shouldn’t hesitate to do so in the future. When she told us to go home, two people —of our team of six — protested and said it wasn’t necessary and they didn’t mind staying until 5. She reminded them that this wouldn’t count against their PTO and insisted that they leave since there was nothing that they could possibly accomplish at work.

This week, a water main break left us without water. We were told it would be 24 hours before it was back on, so I immediately contacted our supervisor to request that we work from a different office. My coworkers said I was overreacting and that they didn’t mind going to restrooms in the other building (approximately one mile away). I argued that it was illegal to have us a mile away from the closest restroom regardless of how much they minded. We were relocated for the day, and my coworkers were mad at me for making a “big deal” out of the lack of water.

I’m the most junior person in my office, so it feels awkward to be the one reporting these things and insisting that they be addressed. However, my coworkers are so averse to reporting anything that I’m afraid if I don’t report things, no one higher up will know they’re happening. Am I overreacting to these things? If not, how can I keep from alienating my coworkers by being the person who reports them?

You are not overreacting. You are reacting exactly appropriately.

I’m curious to know what your coworkers’ history is. If they’ve all been working there a while, it’s possible that they’ve picked up signals from your company that they shouldn’t speak up. It seems like your manager is responding reasonably, but who knows, maybe a previous manager trained them all to never raise problems.

Or maybe they arrived that way. Some people are pathologically averse to raising problems — figuring that they’ll be seen as rocking the boat, or that no one will care, or so forth. Sometimes that’s learned behavior from childhood (especially if they’ve never had good models of how to do it effectively), and sometimes it stems from a previous dysfunctional job. It’s possible that they all arrived with varying degrees of that and then inadvertently reinforced the tendency in each other until it became what you’re seeing now.

But yes, they’re being weird. And unfortunately, you’re right that it’s awkward to be the only one willing to speak up when you’re also the most junior person there.

If you generally have good rapport with them, it might be interesting to ask them about this. You could say something like, “I noticed there were a couple of times recently where people seemed shocked that I wanted to contact Jane — the day we had no internet and the day our water was off. Those seemed like really normal things to contact her about, and her response seemed to confirm that she was glad I did. Is there some context I’m missing that makes people hesitant to do that, or concerned about me doing it?”

Have this conversation with just one or two people rather than with all five of them, so that you’re less likely to encounter group-think and maybe more likely to get more candid responses.

But some people are just this way, and it takes a concerted effort from a manager to train them out of it. It’s sad, because it’s rarely good for someone’s career to operate this way, at least in a healthy environment. People who won’t speak up about the internet being out are usually the same people who won’t speak up about a deadline being unrealistic or a better way to manage a project, and that resistance can hold them back professionally. (Obviously there are also environments where speaking up does get penalized, but those aren’t the places you want to work in; they’re the places you want to escape from.)

{ 182 comments… read them below }

  1. mark132

    Unfortunately some managers (actually people in general) have a shoot the messenger MO. And it makes it difficult to raise issues.

    1. Anon Accountant

      Exactly. Or some had prior managers who reacted badly to hearing workplace problems and a few other employees picked up on their cues. Then problems stopped being reported.

  2. Wannabe Disney Princess

    Before the LW explained how her manager reacted, I was expecting some sort of ToxicBoss. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. There’s definitely a missing piece here because five grown adults being fine with walking a mile to use the bathroom and being upset that someone spoke up to prevent this inconvenience is odd. I can understand one or two not wanting to rock the boat (I have a best friend like this). But all FIVE? There’s definitely, hopefully, a story somewhere that explains this.

    1. fposte

      Sometimes the culture can be set by a veteran employee and everybody goes along with her.

      1. OP here

        The senior coworker I referenced is supposed to be the one responsible for reporting things, but she clearly doesn’t. I guess it’s possible that everyone else here is just following her lead and I missed the memo.

        1. neverjaunty

          Aha. Sounds like she is weirdly passive or conflict avoidant and everyone else is just acclimated to that.

        2. Wannabe Disney Princess

          Oooohhhh.

          Okay.

          If she’s the Queen Bee (or Queen Bee adjacent), it’s not so much that you made a “big deal” about the lack of water but that you went around her. Which should have been done because, ahem, LACK OF WATER.

          I have someone similar to this in my office. And if you do a totally reasonable thing, she will pout and everyone will rally around her because it’s less emotionally taxing than dealing with whatever her problem is. (I’m totally guessing and projecting here.)

          1. OP here

            I do think it’s more that she’s very passive than she’s a control freak. She has a little bit more power and responsibility than the other people at her level and she never uses it. I guess it’s possible that it’s a combination of what you and @neverjaunty said where she doesn’t like people going around her because she doesn’t want people to figure out how passive she is with this responsibility.

            1. fposte

              Yeah, this sounds like Jane setting the culture where it’s a nerve-racking and terrible thing to need to tell the boss anything and where it’s worth doing anything to avoid it.

            2. Engineer Girl

              Except that she got angry at you when you reported the issue. You exposed the fact that she isn’t doing her job.
              I’d be really worried about other passive agressive antics: “forgetting” to tell you things, telling you “everybody” or “most” people don’t like you, gossip behind your back, or even the infamous anonymous note.
              This could be a bad culture fit. I’d continue to work closely with boss on this.

            3. Maddie

              And your coworkers could be on the lazy side. Not wanting to notify manager the Internet is off?

            4. OhBehave

              I think the supervisor figured out she’s passive due to the internet outage she didn’t report. What on earth did people DO for 6 hours without internet?

        3. MLB

          I’ve never worked in an environment where a major issue was occurring and nobody wanted to say anything – seems super odd. In addition to what Alison said, I’d suggest mentioning it to your manager when she’s in the office. And I’d also keep reporting things like you mentioned if everyone else is unwilling. I’ve had similar situations, and the managers were always kept in the loop.

          1. Artemesia

            This. I think the OP should sit down with the boss and explore ways to fix this that do not leave her (the OP) hanging out there. If a previous boss created this atmosphere then current boss needs to be more aggressive in fixing it. Given two incidents like this, having the boss bring it up and push for more immediate contact at the next meeting would make sense. (it doesn’t have to reference the OP) e.g. I am concerned that it took so long to contact me when the internet went down and when there was no water; as the person in charge I need to know immediately when something like that happens; I don’t want to be caught not knowing what is going on with my department or allowing an illegal work situation as was the case with the water outage. In the future I would like you to let Eunice know if there is an issue like this and Eunice I want you to contact me immediately about it. Any situation that prevents work getting done or presents health hazard like the water outage needs to be reported immediately so I can do MY job.

            1. myswtghst

              Agreed. Given the manager seems reasonable in these situations, it makes sense for the OP to mention to her all the hemming and hawing that’s happening in the office, so the manager can decide how best to address it going forward to make sure these situations are handled appropriately. And given that there have been two relevant situations recently, it shouldn’t be too hard for the manager to bring it up without directly mentioning OP.

            2. RUKiddingMe

              Agreed. I also like the script a lot. I do think that OP’s boss needs to make it crystal clear that reporting is mandatory though. No guessing if she wants to know the internet is out/water is off/fire alarm keeps randomly going off/whatever…report it, every.single.time.

              I’m wondering if Eunice did have a ToxicBoss™ at some point in her career (here or elsewhere) that makes her super passive/uncertain about when to do what.

              Or if given her slight amount of authority above her coworkers if it’s some sort of power play kind of thing. What I mean by that is she’s thinking “I’m ‘in charge’ (even if she actually isn’t) because I have authority/responsibility/seniority that others don’t ergo I am the decider here…I decide what will be reported…” or thoughts to that effect.

              Maybe not even a ‘power play’ per se. Maybe more like a way to assuage her own ego. I don’t mean that maliciously. Just maybe she has a whole life history where this one thing is all the power she has…

          2. AMPG

            I’m dealing with a bit of that right now. I started supervising one of our main office support positions, and found out that people were regularly not reporting issues (especially at branch offices) due to a cultural expectation that the problem wouldn’t be addressed. I found I had to work on it from two angles – first, with the office support person, who had to be told directly to prioritize issues and keep following up until they were resolved; and second with the other managers to get their people to report problems in the first place. Whenever I would hear about an issue that had gone unreported for more than 24 hours, I’d ask the person who should have reported it for an explanation (not in a threatening way, plus I usually didn’t have authority over them), which helped reinforce that they should be making these reports. This has helped, although it’s not fully resolved yet.

            1. Jean Lamb

              My son learned not to report maintenance issues at his apartment because they would never be taken care of. (He’s at a different place now).

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            So much this. I’m a big fan of using the “I’m sorry, I’m new and clueless” approach when faced with obviously bizarre situations like the ones OP is describing. I’ve found that being “assertive” about problems (i.e., being direct) often comes with a heavy dose of backlash, whereas faking ignorance will usually get me what I want—it just takes a bit longer.

          2. OP here

            Can I still play that card if I’ve been here a year? I’m still the most junior person, but I’ve been here for a year so I feel like I’ve passed the point of “oops, I didn’t know!” being acceptable.

            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

              I wouldn’t bother with the newbie card. If challenged by your coworkers just state the obvious.

              “Yeah… I’m not working in a building without toilet facilities and sprinklers”

              “So… you’d rather sit here and twiddle your thumbs all day vs. telling the boss and getting the rest of the day off paid? That’s weird”

              1. Antilles

                That’d be more or less my strategy. I’d personally say that with one of the following looks/tones:
                1.) Utter confusion. “But the boss was really reasonable and offered to let us take a free paid day off. I’m not sure I understand why you’d want to sit here staring at the wall rather than getting to sit at home and relax?”
                2.) Complete self-assurance and normalcy. Basically a tone that says *of course* I called the boss because it’s just so incredibly normal and reasonable to expect working fire sprinklers, restrooms, and running water that anybody would have done the same.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago

              Mmm, yeah, you might be a little past that now. Although if something comes up that you’ve never seen before, you could say “I wasn’t sure how to handle this since it’s never come up”.

        4. Higher Ed Database Dork

          One of my friends has a coworker who is the “team lead” and is a control freak. Friend recently had an issue where her main database was down, and Lead was out on vacation, so Friend contacted IT to get her database back up. Lead freaked out and said all things MUST go through her, despite the fact that she was on vacation, and it would have meant Friend couldn’t get any work done for several days if she hadn’t reported it herself. So it could be one of those situations going on.

          As for how to deal with it, I’d do what Alison suggests and talk to a couple people you are closer to – but keep on reporting stuff as needed. It’s totally reasonable to report lack of water and internet! If it was something like “Fergus chews too loudly,” then perhaps not, but these are things that dramatically impact your ability to work. I’m thinking if you start doing it regularly, maybe others will too.

          1. Ellex

            I worked with a person like that. If she wasn’t in the office, nothing was supposed to go out to the clients because she hadn’t approved it. She even berated the General Manager (who was most definitely her boss) when *he* approved several things so they could get out to the client (and were already overdue) while she was on vacation.

            Happily, I didn’t work directly for her, I just had to liaise with her. People called her “The Dragon Lady” behind her back.

            When the admin assistant who typed up letters (basically a form with different terms to fill in at the appropriate spot, which I had to mock up for the admin) had too much on her plate to do a letter, I just went ahead and typed the letter and forwarded a copy to the admin to “log” in the correct place. Dragon Lady chewed me out for doing someone else’s job. My own supervisor and the GM praised me for taking initiative and “helping out”. I felt like I had whiplash that day.

    2. A Username

      The LW is the newest employee, so it might be a Toxic Previous Boss that trained them to behave that way. LW, being new and only having worked with Reasonable Boss, has no knowledge of the history behind this behavior.

      Or Jane is one of those people who likes to play with the newest and shiniest toy, and once LW isn’t, things will change.

      1. WellRed

        I can think of no reason why even the most toxic boss wouldn’t want to know they literally couldn’t do any work when the internet was down and just sat there on their thumbs.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          Right??? I feel like a ToxicBoss would be angry that they couldn’t do anything. Not to mention, weren’t they bored?!

            1. Clorinda

              No internet means no AAM.
              They’ll have to play Solitaire, maybe even with actual cards.

              1. Marion Ravenwood

                Maybe they’d be using the 3G on their phones? (I have to admit this is what I’d do, albeit to access my emails and do whatever I could work-wise.)

          1. medium of ballpoint

            I can see my old boss doing something like his. His management style was primarily focused on not being bothered by his staff/not having to do anything for him and I could absolutely see him just ignoring a problem like this. It’s more frustrating to report a problem and no there won’t be a solution than to not to report it, save yourself that frustration, and just suck it up because reporting it won’t get anything solved anyway. If the group had a previous boss like this, the learned helplessness makes a lot more sense.

        2. Antilles

          +1
          Even if your boss IS toxic and awful to deal with, the 45-second complaint about “ugh why do you bother me, great now something else to deal with” is going to be far less than the raw fury you’ll get when the boss finds out that you intentionally covered up the problem so you could sleep at your desk for 5 hours.

        3. Turquoisecow

          I mean, at the least I assume she’d want to know why certain things weren’t getting done. Even if nothing was due that day, surely having a half a day without internet would push projects backward.

          When boss later says “why wasn’t X task done on Thursday?” do you reply with a shrug or do you confess then?

          1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

            At that point it’s too late. Some people take the attitude that it’s better to sit there for a day twiddling their thumbs vs. a maybe more inconvenient option.

            One of my teams theoretically can work from home, but there are key pieces of their job that can only be done in the office because of specialized equipment. So they could work up to a point then would have to stop. I know that if this group were to be affected by an internet/network outage they’d be really annoyed to go home and work and to be fair it would be putzy and not terribly productive for them.

            I could see people in that situation not wanting to say anything because a less than ideal option may be forced on them. I could easily see someone in that situation not saying anything until after the event. Yes they might get in trouble for not saying something but it’s not likely to be a big deal to them or less of a big deal than if they said something during the event.

            To be clear my team doesn’t have this attitude (they are usually the ones that are most upset when they can’t work) but I could easily see people with a lesser work ethic do what the OPs coworkers did.

          2. Luna

            With the internet I can understand that there’s no way of knowing how long it will be out, so maybe you wait at first to see if it will only be a minor glitch. But once it’s been out for more than an hour (especially since the boss is in another office, presumably with internet, and might be trying to contact the team over email) then yeah, say something. And the no restrooms situation is definitely one to speak up about right away! No way am I walking a mile and back just to go to the bathroom.

        4. Gen

          In the case of the awful boss I worked for the problem would be dealt with through swearing, blaming the messenger and immediately sending everyone home without pay for the day even if IT gave a half hour estimate on fixing it. Once one person has been blamed for losing everyone a full day of pay you can bet no one else wants to be that person.

        5. Ellex

          I am currently sitting here in that exact situation. I can’t do any work because I can’t get the access and permissions I need. The boss doesn’t seem to care, and the older employees tell me it’s SOP.

        6. Ashley

          My experience is people don’t want to be forced to organize their offices / do the filing they kept putting off when the internet is temporarily down. Also some places would send you home with no pay so if you are hourly I could see someone resisting calling. If I had an employee who wouldn’t call to report an issue of the magnitude discussed, I would seriously start questioning their judgement.

          1. Doreen

            I’ve had coworkers who wouldn’t report issues to offsite supervisors because the solution might not be their preferred one. For example , they might not report that the restrooms/internet aren’t working because they might be given the option of taking leave for the rest of the day or working out of another office – and they prefer to stay in the same office and be paid to use their personal cell phone or turn every restroom trip into an hour long break as they walk a couple of blocks to and from the closest restrooms we can use

        7. SS Express

          At my old job they sent the entire staff (hundreds of people) home because there was a major power outage across the whole suburb – not only could we not do any meaningful work without computers and phones working, it also wasn’t safe to stay in the building because the security systems and fire alarms etc might fail. HR literally walked through every department telling people to leave ASAP. My super toxic manager told me to stay behind alone and do some filing.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        This was what I wondered, as well. Or Toxic veteran employee who has been delegated the responsibility of reporting. The only time I’ve seen people behave as OP has described is when folks had worked for an abusive, Toxic Previous Boss who had been at the organization for 6-7 years before I arrived. They all behaved like abused children, and it was really uncomfortable and bizarre. They wouldn’t report problems, but they would also seethe about them. It was maddening.

      3. Anonycat

        I’ve seen this dynamic in action. I was hired at a job for a QA sort of role, but my supervisor had been intimidated into not making suggested changes if the client was a big one and might complain. I got the “fun” of worrying whether I’d lose my job over her decisions, but she was so beaten down by *her* supervisor, I couldn’t even be mad.

        (It was a terrible cycle: her boss would tell her she was incompetent, which would make her afraid to take any initiative, which then resulted in more mistakes as outdated procedures were used.)

        1. henrietta

          I’ve seen it from the other direction. A previous supplier failed to tell us about a ginormous error that occurred. We found out about it a couple of months later, when our customers complained about seeing the effects. When we flew in to find out why we weren’t told by the supplier, their response was, “We knew you’d be mad.” Literally those were the words they used. And as if we weren’t furious not to be able to correct it in a timely way, and had to eat crow (and so much money) making it up to customers. Suffice to say, this is why they’re a previous supplier.

          1. Akcipitrokulo

            Arg! No!

            QA here… and if something gets through, the FIRST thing you do is tell people to mitigate damage.

            OK, might be mad… but… not as mad as they will be…

            But more importantly, it’s a basic part of the job.

            (Will note that I rarely let stuff through ;) but had been in current job a few months when I did. First thing… tell big boss (manager wasn’t about). Which scared me! But he basically went ok, fix it… right, how can we make sure doesn’t happen again? OK, you’ve got plan for that. All sorted.)

      4. SierraSkiing

        It’s possible that if it is scarring from a previous boss and LW just keeps reporting reasonable things, everyone will mellow out when they see that the manager keeps responding like a sane person to reasonable requests. It might help the whole team be healthier, honestly.

        1. rldk

          But it’s not the OP’s job to heal the team – she should definitely have a conversation with the manager, who has more ability to make deliberate changes and assurances.

    3. Naomi

      That makes me wonder if it’s really all five. Maybe there are one or two ringleaders and the others are either cowed by them or just going along with the group. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody in that group was secretly relieved they wouldn’t be walking a mile to the bathroom.

  3. Jill

    Or, OP, your coworkers have established a system that works for them. Not elevating issues that impact their ability to do work also means that they have a reason for not doing work. Some folks believe that work is a place you go, not something you do. If they’re in the office, they’re working.

    1. Guacamole Bob

      Except when the internet was down they were all sent home for the day after the boss came in. And some of them objected!

      1. Nita

        That sticks out as slightly odd to me, but I wonder if they’re hourly employees and lost a couple of hours’ pay when they were sent home. The manager did say leaving early won’t affect their PTO. Does that mean they were paid for a full day regardless, or could they be getting docked for the missing two hours if they’re not full-timers? If they do lose pay over this sort of thing, I can see why they didn’t want to complain about the water main break either – I guess they figured they’d be sent home again if relocation isn’t an option.

        1. OP here

          One was an hourly employee, the other wasn’t. But I’m also hourly and we were all paid for a full day, which our manager made clear when she was sending us home. Generally our company is really good about making sure we’re paid for time when we can’t work due to some kind of weather issue or closure or anything else going on, so I didn’t think there was a real reason to be concerned there.

          1. Akcipitrokulo

            Maybe they weren’t confident of that and weighed up inconvenience vs being able to pay bills. Still agree should tell, but could understand that motivation if they had been used to toxic place.

        1. Marion Ravenwood

          Yep. I think for a lot of people there’s a mindset that during office hours you should be in the office, regardless of how much (or little) work you have to do.

    2. JokeyJules

      your comment reminds me of that episode of the Office where they are supposed to load paper into a delivery truck and Ryan tries to come up with an efficient way to do so and Stanley stops him.

    3. Perse's Mom

      This is the way I lean on it – probably because I know a few people in my office who would be *thrilled* to have a reason to sit around and get paid for doing nothing. Even the bathroom thing wouldn’t phase them – that means more time out of the office and doing nothing, and if they had a vehicle, that would mean at least also stopping to get coffee somewhere.

    4. Snark

      It can also be kind of a self-abegnating, “I’m not the sort that’s going to go home because of a little bit of trouble” or “I can’t be seen as the type that would cause a fuss” kind of mindset that’s common in the Midwest.

      1. Workerbee

        The ol’ “Work ’til you drop!” mindset that I wish weren’t still so prevalent around here, especially when companies will drop you as you work. :/

    5. CM

      Yeah, to me this situation reads as a red flag for a toxic work environment, involving elements of “don’t involve the boss because, 8/10, involving the boss will make something bad happen” (maybe based on previous experience) and “we keep our activities secret so that we have the option of slacking off when we want to and/or don’t get in trouble for taking breaks that would be normal in any other place” (often a response to bad management when it’s widespread across a whole group like this).

      In all seriousness, the OP is right that a workplace shouldn’t be this way, but I’d urge them to tread with caution until they can figure out WHY the workplace is like this. It’s kind of like the start of a horror movie where something’s off and you don’t know why. Investigate carefully and keep yourself safe.

  4. strawberries and raspberries

    TBH, it sounds like both of the events you describe interfered with your workflow, and that you were trying to resolve the problem so that you could continue working, but they were perfectly content to say nothing so that they could stay at work but not work. If the culture of your office is such that that’s tolerated, as a manager I would be very concerned (both for the quality of the work itself and for what would happen if they got so used to minimizing the only person bringing emergencies to my attention that they didn’t respond appropriately to an actual emergency).

    1. JokeyJules

      I agree! It might just be that somehow it doesn’t matter the pace at which the work gets done. You clock in, you clock out, and that’s it. Drawing attention to resolutions to become more efficient might mess that system up, and big changes would be on the way.
      Not condoning/condemning, just pointing out.

      1. Alternative Person

        There are a couple of long timers at my workplace that basically have this mentality and a manager that desperately doesn’t want to upset them because they’ve been there so long. It is exhausting and does such a disservice to everyone involved.

        1. Nanani

          I’ve seen this too, often coupled with a strange resentment of people who actually solve problems. (Resentment may not quite me the right word, but it ends up coming out like “I suffered with this problem so you should too”)

          1. Alternative Person

            The strange resentment is real. I swear the long timers at my workplace have never in nearly two and a half years given me a direct compliment for dealing with some of the issues that they consider(ed) intractable. If anything, they reinforce bad habits and keep the problems coming back.

    2. Birch

      Yeah, this. The coworkers are not actually concerned with doing work or using time efficiently, just about being warm bodies. That would concern me that they 1. don’t actually care about work quality, 2. can’t identify illegal working conditions for themselves and therefore also won’t stick up for other people or identify other hazards, and 3. show poor judgment about practical matters (it’s common sense that if you have nothing to do at work, you should notify your manager!)

      1. Birch

        Also, some people have this…. I hesitate to call it a martyr complex, but this idea that you aren’t a good employee unless you’re somehow suffering (it goes along with the “cult of busy” idea). They volunteer to do things that disrupt their personal lives when there is no reason to, they avoid making any kind of comment about efficiency or workload, and they just live with issues instead of trying to solve them, which causes problems for people on the team who are trying to improve things. It’s really hard to break people out of that idea of being a “good employee,” but you can definitely continue to model reasonable relationships with management and workplace regulations.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat

          Yes, I’ve met that model of employee. I feel like they think the effort and energy they generate with their “hard work” is the chief measure of their value as an employee, rather than results. And I’m sure there are places that reward that, though it doesn’t seem like a great business practice to me unless quality is no concern.

    3. KimberlyR

      But it sounds like they were still going to work as usual without water, except for longer bathroom breaks (because of the mile walk). So I don’t think they were getting out of working that time…

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Exactly. I would agree except for the working without water. That’s just a basic health and safety issue, and it’s bizarre that they would prefer not to raise the issue instead of getting access to running water.

        1. Antilles

          Yeah, not having the ability to use the restroom absolutely is a big deal. In many jurisdictions, it’s actually a legal responsibility of an employer.
          Especially with the 1-mile walk involved and the fact it’s July. That’s a serious safety and health concern and opens the company to some serious liability if someone needed water and passed out during the walk to get it.

        2. SusanIvanova

          I’ve seen a lot of “bosses from hell” stories on notalwaysworking dot com where the BFH thinks working without functioning restrooms or a one mile hike is totally fine until someone points out OSHA regs.

      2. strawberries and raspberries

        Walking a mile to the nearest bathroom, in additional to being potentially a violation of OSHA, would absolutely interfere with my workflow. Instead of complaining, you’d think they’d be happy to have a manager who advocates for their basic freaking needs like bathroom access while they work.

      3. Ali G

        Except if you have to walk a mile each way to use a bathroom, really that is 40 min-hour of being gone. So maybe they saw it as an opportunity to get paid for not really doing anything. 2-3 bathroom breaks and it’s time to go home!

      4. Kristin (Germany)

        Where are people seeing that it was a mile *walk* to the nearest bathrooms? I don’t see that in the post. Not that it changes the unreasonability of the situation that they would have to drive a mile to get to the bathrooms; that’s obviously not all right and the OP did exactly the right thing in reporting it to their boss.

        1. OP here

          I don’t think I included this initially, but because of our parking limits, the choice was walk a mile or drive and risk a ticket for parking in an unapproved lot. Not a great set of options.

          1. No Green No Haze

            the choice was walk a mile or drive and risk a ticket for parking in an unapproved lot.

            And I bet the same people who were OK with working without water are the ones who’d be unwilling to speak up about getting temporary permission to park there?

          2. Triplestep

            It wasn’t an option to go in pairs (or more) and let people out to go to the bathroom while the others drive around the block? That sounds a lot more fun than working!

            1. Jean (just Jean)

              LOL. This is starting to sound like the Keystone Kops–so inept it’s weirdly brilliant.

    4. Triplestep

      Yup. Except for wanting to stay after being told it wouldn’t impact their PTO (I am guessing they did not believe that) this is what jumped out at me. These are people who would rather sit around than get the internet fixed, and who would rather take long bathroom breaks (a car ride away) instead of being relocated right next to a working bathroom.

      OP, keep doing what you’re doing. These are not the kind of people whose vote you want in a popularity contest. If that’s not clear now, it will become so after your work ethic takes you far, far away from them!

  5. Ann

    Just a comment about the water main incident – depending what happened, it’s possible it took down your building’s sprinkler system as well, in which case you should’ve worked from the other building for that reason. When something similar happened at my work, they sent us all home for safety reasons.

    1. michelenyc

      In 2016 when a huge crane collapsed down the street from my office in TriBeCa. We were all sent immediately home and not allowed back into the building until the following Tuesday or Wednesday due to lack of heat and no water.

  6. Myrin

    This is really curious!

    I’d be interested in their reasoning but like Alison, I’m really only seeing two possibilites – either they’ve been burned and penalised for “making a fuss” before (probably even at this very company, since it’s all of them who react this way), or you’ve managed to find a way to work with five generally… timid* people, which I honestly don’t find particularly unlikely, either.

    In an case, OP, you sound very reasonable (as does your supervisor) and you were being a serious badass with pointing out the legalities and how you’re not willing to walk a mile (!!) to use the restroom. I understand you might feel awkward since you’re the most junior person but I really think this is a situation where it’s worth pushing past the awkward and keep doing The Right Thing.

    * I wouldn’t even necessarily call that “conflict-avoidant”. The second example, maybe, but it’s hardly searching for conflict when you literally can’t do any work and approach your supervisor to ask what to do now; that sounds more like people who prefer to keep their heads down at all cost.

  7. AnotherJill

    I’d be wondering what the heck they were doing that made them so adverse to being noticed.

  8. Bea

    Do you get paid hourly?

    I know that’s usually why I’ve seen people not want to confirm that they cannot work.

    Or it’s possible they welcome a day of downtime to get caught up on paperwork or something they’re bad at doing during full work flow.

    I’ve often had people just not like to speak up and feel like a nuisance. Which makes me think it could be similar here with the “we don’t want to bother you!” line.

    I once took over an office who had crappy management before and they tried tiptoing around me until they realized my reaction wasn’t negative or stressful to them.

    You aren’t doing anything wrong and you have good work ethic and instincts. You’ll go far with that. Let them chirp at you, you’ll be fine.

    1. OP here

      I get paid hourly, but the group is a mix of hourly and salaried employees. There’s not a correlation I can see between people who are paid hourly and people who are avoiding reporting the issues. If there were, that at least would make sense!

      1. Bea

        The fact your post also mentioned the idea they’d dock PTO makes me wonder if that was an issue before as well. Or they got rode for having one too many shorter days.

        The water issue is still weird AF though.

        I come from a background that even after a not insignificant fire everyone quickly assembled and started working around it. And lack of internet means I got tossed an ipad with a data package and just did housekeeping crap for a day. So I’m struggling to think of why they’re so weird but a remote manager in general can cause this stuff too.

  9. BadWolf

    I think there are a lot of reasons people avoid reporting problems, big and small.

    -As mentioned, squeaky wheel gets blamed directly
    -SW gets blamed/burdened indirectly as they’re asked to do a bunch of troubleshooting or field questions from others about status (and getting the irritation on non-resolution directed at them)
    -The reporting system is assumed to be complicated
    -The reporting system isn’t well known — so people don’t know what link/number/etc to use
    -The reporting system is “global” so you need to know how to tell them where to go/account/whatever
    -Bystander effect, Someone must know already, let’s not pepper them with requests
    -Don’t care that much, happy to do other things to work around
    -Someone always did it before so everyone gets lazy about taking up the reporting slack
    -In the past, collateral damage happens after reporting a problem (new annoying rules, things taken away)

    OPs events definitely seem like things that people should report.

  10. Les G

    Why, why, why do folks not realize that talking to others directly like an adult is the only thing to do in 100% of situations? Since your coworkers are acting more like teenagers, I wouldn’t bother talking to them and would just go straight to facilities, IT, whatever. But I’m a busy guy and don’t have time scheduled in my day for bullsh!t.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      Because people are stupid.

      I’m not going to sit around doing nothing because of a system being down and I’m certainly not walking a mile to go to the bathroom. LW’s coworkers are ridiculous.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          The older I get, the less patience I have for these kind of shenanigans.

          1. soon 2 be former fed

            And the less I can hold my pee. Let’s not forget handicapped folks or those with heart conditions and the like who cannot walk a mile. Ridiculous.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      I think this is the most sensible thread of posts on the subject.

      1. grace

        I hope you aren’t being serious. I think we can all agree that it’s not as if teenagers are known for their emotional maturity and ability to communicate effectively.

        1. Nanani

          I am absolutely serious. Making blanket generalisations about an age group, especially in a context that -isn’t about anyone that age- is gross and stupid and this is me pushing back on it.

          1. Stormfeather

            Enh, wouldn’t it be more gross and unfair to just go in expecting (young at least) teenagers to act completely like adults? We’re not brought out of the womb knowing how to act like an adult, and it’s a learning process from the time we’re little. It’s unfair to expect teenagers to be quite there yet.

            I don’t mean we should just completely shut them down if they ARE acting like adults, because yeah there are exceptions, especially if they’re older teens and almost adult. But it’s not fair to just expect it out of the gate and then act all disappointed or make them feel like they’re doing something wrong by being young.

            SORRY, that was a bit of a tangent. But I actually did have something to say on-topic as well:

            I’m wondering if it’s possible that the reasoning behind this reluctance could be frankly a desire to kinda chill out and not have to Do Stuff. Which seems counter-productive given the first example, but think of how it also might have ended up: the people higher-up are notified that “oh hey yeah, this is a problem” and maybe it’s something that was fixable and they just didn’t know about (or didn’t realize it was such an issue), and oh hey, back to work for all of us. And if someone said something about the low productivity, hey, not our fault, systems were down and of course we assumed you knew. And the second instance gives everyone the excuse that hey, of course we didn’t get much done, we had to walk a mile each way just to go to the bathroom multiple times a day, which takes a lot of time.

            That being said, I’m leaning more toward stuff already mentioned. Like they had a really poor manager before and are afraid to bring up stuff like this. Or the people who are hourly (in the first case at least) didn’t want to lose pay by going home, and the other people didn’t want to make them do it by bringing it up. Or the senior person is in fact a control freak and the others don’t know if they can go outside that chain of command, or even end up ostracized or something if they piss her off.

        2. Observer

          No, actually, I don’t think we can all agree that all teenagers lack sufficient “emotional maturity and ability to communicate effectively” about these types of situations.

          That’s a fairly ridiculous and fact free assumption.

    3. Jennifer

      Because some folks are batshit insane and you canNOT “just work it out by talking.” Not if you’re dealing with folks that aren’t rational or reasonable.

      I strongly suspect this team is used to dealing with someone so awful they’d rather hike a mile to pee and/or dehydrate than say something.

  11. Snubble

    Some people deeply, viciously resent anything that is not their job coming their way. They’ll stack paperwork that is clearly urgent in a bottom tray and ignore it, because “nobody ever told them” they would have to deal with it or how – so even if they just need to put it back in the internal post, they’ll refuse to figure that out or ask anyone, because it should never have been their problem. If something breaks, mending it is not their job, and the department whose job it is shouldn’t expect them to report it. If it’s an Estates problem, Estates should jolly well know about it and not expect anyone else to do their job for them. This feels like that. We won’t report that we have no power – but it’s not that we fear the conversation, it’s that we resent the need for it enough that we’d rather martyr ourselves and blame the electricians for the whole delay.
    I don’t know. But it doesn’t sound like avoiding conflict, so much as digging in their heels.

    1. No Green No Haze

      ^I’ve seen this.

      In my experience this can come from individuals who would be like that regardless, but it can also be a symptom of a dysfunctional workplace where job descriptions are fluid-to-ad-hoc and management doesn’t defend areas of responsibility from mission creep. As a llama wrangler, you might find yourself assisting the alpaca groomers in a sudden grooming crisis, but if they start using you all the time and your manager doesn’t push back on its impact on your llama wrangling, it can breed an atmosphere of defensiveness/territoriality that left unchecked will extend to *everything*. Small resentments, if unaddressed, can really balloon.

      It’s petty, it’s irrational, especially by the time it escalates to ignoring plumbing crises! but there’s a part me that thinks this extreme a manifestation of head-down syndrome is the symptom of an office culture gone horribly awry. I hope OP keeps her head on a swivel, because this Ain’t Right.

    2. Sue

      At my first real job as a word processing operator in a department of operators, we had one lady who would just sit with her hands folded in her cubicle when she ran out of work, waiting for the supervisor to bring her some. She wouldn’t notify anyone – just sit there. I think she had mental issues, since she rarely spoke to others. She was finally laid off in the 80’s when the economy started going down hill. I felt kind of sorry for her, but how can you just sit & do nothing? I’d be so bored!

  12. MissCPA

    At my old job I was one of the first people in the office every day, and also the most junior. We actually had a water main break and internet going out was frequent in our office because the provider was horrible. Not really the same situation, because nobody gave me a hard time about calling IT or talking with the building manager to get the inside scoop, but as the most junior employee I always felt like it made more sense for me to waste my time dealing with IT than for my managers or directors to do so. And I think they always appreciated it. I’d keep doing what you’re doing as it seems your supervisor appreciates the notifications.

  13. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

    Well the good news here is the OP is setting themselves up to be a valued employee and leader in the team. Keep it up OP and don’t be afraid to continue to bring things like this to your manager’s attention (or as others have said, facilities, IT, etc.).

    Your coworkers are weird but please do update us if you find out what’s going on, I’m dead curious. Maybe your manager knows? I suspect it may be the case of misplaced hierarchy… meaning that there is a person designated (or in charge) who is supposed to be the one to bring this kind of thing to light and they for some strange reason won’t, and nobody else feels empowered to do so (or thinks the designated person already has?).

    1. ExcelJedi

      This is what I was thinking. OP is the only one on this team showing good judgement in these situations.

  14. Sarah

    5 people going along with this there is something wrong, people just don’t agree to walk a mile to use the bathroom. OP you are missing something either before you came to work there or haven’t felt what is coming yet. I would be very leary if I were you and tread lightly, an entire team of 5 not wanting to report anything is a huge red flag about management. There is so much more to this 5 people wouldn’t have the same reaction like the one your describing unless there was a reason.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      I disagree… group think is a very real thing in work teams.

      Here’s my example… in one of the offices in my company they hold seasonal potlucks and game type days spread over the full day. You know the kind, bring some food, play cornhole or bingo for a while kind of events no set time, just take a break and stop down.

      I managed one team out of 3 in my group, most of the employees work out of the location that has the above described events. The managers (myself included) all encouraged our teams to take a break and go down for awhile during the day. My team went, a second team went, but nobody in the 3rd team went. After a little digging it was determined that the most senior peer on the team didn’t go, so the rest of the team didn’t think that they could go.

      It was truly a weird spectacle… even though the manager of the group, the grandboss, and all of the other dept managers and groups went, because one person (who wasn’t in the reporting structure at all) decided not to go, the rest of the team didn’t go. I think we finally decided there was a bit of a martyr thing going on as well as a strange deference dynamic.

      So in other words I wouldn’t paint this situation with a doom and gloom paintbrush without any evidence that there is something going on.

      1. Marion Ravenwood

        I agree. I’ve talked about this on here before, but that type of team/workplace culture can have a massive impact. Even if the senior person says ‘I have stuff to do, but you guys go’, their not going can make people feel very uncomfortable about going because they don’t want it to look bad. In my (albeit limited) experience I’ve found this is more common in places where flexible working culture is not a thing and working to set hours is though.

        1. Lora

          Yeah, this is a real thing in the world.

          True story: At one job where I was the site manager whenever my boss was out of town (which was frequent), we had a fire. An actual fire, due to the landlord doing a shoddy renovation job with the HVAC, a blower relay was under-sized and caught on fire and set other stuff around it on fire. Smoke all through the building, the works.

          Fire alarm went off appropriately. People just kept their heads down and kept working until I yelled at them to get out of the building and go out in the parking lot. All these people had been through drills at this particular site, it’s not as if they didn’t know how to do. I had to tell them, repeatedly, to go out in the parking lot, wait for the fire department, reassure people that I would call senior management and let them know when they could go back into the building. No, you can’t help the fire department, they know what to do by themselves. No, I know you were in the middle of something, but this is important because I’d prefer that nobody dies of smoke inhalation on my watch. Yes, I just spoke to the company president, he is aware and he will be here shortly. Yes, I just did the head count and everyone is fine. Yes, the building maintenance guy knows too.

          It was a nice spring day, it wasn’t horrible to be standing outside or anything, but they really did not want to go. I was later told in a training class about hazardous materials handling that people were very reluctant to leave their desks in the WTC on 9/11, too, despite, you know, planes crashing into the buildings and all the alarms going off. People tend to assume that if it’s a real emergency as opposed to a drill, they’ll be told by someone wearing either a suit or some kind of first responder uniform to evacuate. You can’t rely on mere sirens and flashing lights to indicate to people that they should run away, you have to go around telling them and you need to look fairly authoritative when you do so.

          1. Xarcady

            I was in church, a Catholic Mass, when the fire alarms went off. I got up and walked out. The rest of the congregation did nothing until the priest told them to leave–as he himself was running down the aisle. It was not a false alarm–the room where they stored all the candles caught fire somehow.

            I have no desire to be caught in a fire. I’ll leave when I hear the alarm, and make excuses later if necessary. But really, if “I abandoned my desk and my work and left the building because the fire alarm went off,” isn’t enough of an excuse, I don’t know what is.

            1. soon 2 be former fed

              People died on 911 because they went back to their offices after getting down and almost out the building (second tower). When it comes to my health and safety, I’m not waiting for or listening to someone on “authority” telling me to do something stupid. I’m OUT!

          2. LQ

            This makes a lot of sense, and sort of relates to we had a big (and several smaller) emergency recently, and just telling people what to do while sounding authoritative basically meant they did it. I’m pretty sure they would have done whatever I told them to do. (I have no actual organizational authority, I’m just tall and have a big voice.)

          3. Fiennes

            +1

            In crisis situations, people generally become more hierarchical. Instinctively we want someone senior/in authority to tell us what to do. It’s dangerous, not least because that’s not the way most people *think* they’d react. But apparently pretty much every fire department can tell you stories of people working or just sitting in proximity to a fire, behaving normally but really almost in shock. One of the risks after a (survivable) plane crash is that people will *remain in their seats* rather than evacuate.

            1. Fiennes

              Granted, the water going out isn’t a true emergency. But OP may be running into a low-key version of this.

    2. Former Retail Manager

      I see what Randomusername is saying and while I think group think could be a possibility, I initially thought the same as you. I could see 1 or 2 people being like this……but 5…..that tells me that either they’ve all been scarred by bad past experiences/mgmt. or they may know something you don’t know and don’t yet know you well enough to decide if they want to loop you in or not. I do hope that OP updates us if she ever gets to the bottom of the behavior.

      As a random aside….the only time I’ve ever dealt with such inaction was when I worked with a bunch of stoners…literally…they smoked before work, after work, heck…probably on breaks too. Anytime anything out of the ordinary happened, they just froze, like they had no idea what to do and thus did nothing. Do you work with a bunch of stoners? :)

    3. DCompliance

      I have also seen situations where managers specifically hired people they perceive as passive so not to get pushback on certain projects and ideas. It doesn’t always mean the manager wants them to be passive about all things.

    4. LittleNeck

      I agree completely. People want to blame this on groupthink but this is completely different from not going on a break or assuming alarms are just a drill. They are willing to walk a mile to go to the bathroom.

      These people are scared to speak up. There is a reason for it. And it’s plain foolish for everyone to assume they are all just being dumb and there happens to be only one smart person there.

  15. wheee

    I’ll bet you anything that they’ve been punished in the past for reporting. This is so common.

  16. anonita

    I worked for a super dysfunctional office years ago – very small and the CEO was extremely paranoid. One separate occasions the internet went out, the water was shut off, and once the power was down. He made us stay in the office every time, and acted annoyed if anyone came close to suggesting we just leave and WFH for the rest of the day.

    He also made us all come to work in the middle of a blizzard once, but he stayed home.

    These people, unfortunately, do exist…

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      Right, but the OP clearly states that they have a reasonable manager. So I’m not sure how this relates to the OP?

      1. EvilQueenRegina

        It might if the coworkers had had someone like this guy managing them in the past and still act on that even though the current manager would happily let then go home.

        1. Marion Ravenwood

          Or even if they’ve just worked in places where they had that type of boss before they came to this company (though I have to admit that, given that it’s all of them, it’s more likely to have been one previous boss they all worked under).

      2. Former Retail Manager

        I realize that OP says her manager is reasonable, but I’d be interested to know how long she’s worked with this manager and how frequent their interactions are considering that she mentions the manager often works from another location. I’ve worked with (not for) several managers in a limited capacity and primarily remotely and thought they were fabulous, only to learn that they were indeed not fabulous in person or on a long-term basis. Their true colors eventually showed. Maybe that could be happening here? Hope not, but just a possible explanation.

      3. LittleNeck

        She also happens to be the junior person there. It’s very possible they all know something she doesn’t. If not about the manager than about their manager’s manager.

  17. KR

    One of my pet peeves is when my coworkers are talking about something that’s bothering them and won’t talk to our manager about it. You’re doing everything right OP, just continue being awesome and proactive. Your manager will remember it when it’s time for promotions.

  18. Bea

    This is making me think of ToxicAFjob though. The Dude started working there and noted “this set up isn’t good, I adjusted my work space to avoid back strain.” Then he was asked to go to another building where he was given a station like the one he had to adjust but didn’t have the options to make it work for him the same way.

    He reported the issue. I explained the issue to the powers that be. I was told it was fine the way it was…he powered through the day with the shhty set up. He strained his back. Then hell broke loose and he was fired for reporting an injury that he tried to avoid FFS. TOXIC AF I said.

    I didn’t know it was that insane until that happened to us. I left as soon as I locked down a new job quickly.

    I went to hangout with an old co-worker who then could unleash all the past dirt. Turns out the bosses were some Jekyll and Hyde nutcases who flipped on people who rocked the boat even a little.

    We then realized why the entire department was so screwy and I had to coax my team out of their rabbit holes to know they really could trust me. Once bitten, twice shy.

  19. Madeleine Matilda

    OP – Is your manager relative new? Since she seemed to handle the problems well, I wonder if there is a previous manager who instilled this “don’t tell” mentality in the team.

  20. EvilQueenRegina

    It might if the coworkers had had someone like this guy managing them in the past and still act on that even though the current manager would happily let then go home.

  21. TootsNYC

    I think our OP shouldn’t worry in the least about appearing awkward as a junior person reporting this.

    Sure, sure–mention “maybe we should call the boss” to the people who outrank you. Give them a little time to do so.

    Then call yourself, and don’t feel awkward.
    This is the kind of evidence people look for when they’re trying to decide whom to promote, or whom to hand a large or complicated project to.

  22. Jay

    Honestly?
    It sounds like you stepped on your coworkers ‘work staycations’ there.
    Situation one, no internet: you cost them a full day of hanging around, reading, gossiping, and enjoying free coffee.
    Situation two, no water: it would not surprise me at ALL if there just happened to be a little cafe a whole lot less than a mile away where you could order a beverage, maybe a snack, sit in a comfy chair, and enjoy free WiFi for a good hour or even two, if they were older/in poor physical condition and could play it off as just taking that long because of it.
    I’ve had jobs where it was quite common to show up for work, only to have the day canceled due to environmental factors. We often stayed for most of the day, just hanging around and messing with the internet. Of course, in those cases, the management a level or so above us was well aware of things and just considered that paying us for a wasted day was better than sending us home only to find out that things cleared up later and we could have actually done a days work.

  23. Argh!

    Greetings from Lake Woebegone! I work in a similar situation, and I wind up being the complainer. My supervisor is more concerned with keeping the “peace” than in getting things done, and her pets follow her lead. That means the rest of us are faced with the choice of pleasing the boss or pleasing our customers. It sucks, and if the whole culture is like this, I think LW should get out of there. People who will tolerate things not being fixed will also tolerate mediocrity and drag LW down.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      I’m so confused why all the comments about bad bosses in this situation. The OP clearly states that their manager acted totally reasonable in both situations.

      1. Bea

        Because the older employees know the boss better.

        I thought my last boss was awesome until he unravelled. Then I quit. Then I heard all the stories and got why everyone else acted the way they did.

        I have to imagine he’s not rare but sure the hell was the first I came across that flipped on me.

  24. Blue Cupcake

    This is just so weird. The OP is not suggesting the make demands on the boss. She just wants to let the boss know the situation and let them decide what to do next. There’s not making waves…..and there’s this.
    As for the bathroom situation, why are posters here saying they’ll walk a mile? I assume they’ll drive or get a ride from a coworker. Not that I’m saying they should work in these conditions but I’m just wondering where the walking scenario came from. Might as well do it in the bushes since walking a mile will be “too late” for me. LOL

    1. Myrin

      Yeah, that’s what I can’t wrap my head around – this is not even conflict, unless you define “conflict” as “talking to higher-ups about literally anything that isn’t positive”. (I suppose there are people who define it exactly like that, though.)

      As for your second paragraph, I personally only jumped to “walk” in my mind because there’s not a huge driving culture where I am, especially not in places where people do office work (that’s in the city, where most people commute to anyway), but OP also clarified above that “because of our parking limits, the choice was walk a mile or drive and risk a ticket for parking in an unapproved lot”.

      1. allrighty

        “conflict” as “talking to higher-ups about literally anything that isn’t positive”

        Some workplaces are exactly like this. Ask me how I know.

  25. DrWombat

    I admit my first thought re the walking a mile to the bathroom thing is that it’s an ADA violation waiting to happen – lots of people have gut or mobility issues (or both) that would make this undue hardship.

    1. Blue Cupcake

      And it’s not the company wanting to violate policies. It’s the employees! They can cause the company a boat load of trouble just because they won’t speak up.

  26. voyager1

    LW, your coworkers are just lazy, period. I can’t believe AAM was able to string that many paragraphs around your letter when just one sentence would do.

    1. ArtsNerd

      I strongly disagree with you on that point. Five workers don’t behave this way without something else going on. Walking a mile to a restroom is the opposite of lazy. Refusing to go home when the manager insists on it? How is that laziness? I’m a pretty lazy person when I can get away with it, and both of those reactions are horrifying to me.

      The coworkers’ behavior is baffling, and Alison’s response is great.

      1. voyager1

        Is isn’t baffling at all. They didn’t tell the manager because they knew her response to the internet being out would be to send them home, if they are hourly then they may not get paid for time not worked. Also the LW mentioned that they might be able to do offline stuff, which also got shot down. The bathroom thing is weird I will give you that, but people can goof off a lot on a mile walk/drive to the bathroom while on the clock

        The manager was totally reasonable to the LW.

        I work in finance, and people don’t report things all the time because it is makes more work and they are lazy.

        x

        1. NextStop

          OP mentioned in the comments that the manager said ahead of time that they would be paid for the rest of the day, and that it’s a mix of hourly and salaried employees.

  27. obleighvious

    Honestly, that’s what it is like where I work. I am still the only person that will report system-wide problems and I’m “new” (been here 10 years). Other people on my team have been here YEARS — 20, 30 years– and when our system goes down, they’ll wait for me (or my manager) to arrive to report it. One day last week I was an hour late (car broke down) and I had three people approach me in person when I arrived to tell me the system was down, and had been for two hours. When I asked if anyone wrote IT about it– the answer was no. I think they told me because I have visibly asked for & then had things fixed for me in the past, and I get in before Manager (who would be the other person they’d tell). I think it is because they don’t want to take responsibility–in part, due to historical ToxicWorkplace; although toxic environment has been changing for at least 10 years since I’ve been here, with a lot greater transparency and “you can do this yourself!” attitudes being encouraged. But when I, and Manager, have both said to them “look, this is the SUPER EASY thing to do–send even a very short email!” they just don’t. It’s infuriating, but also looks really good on my performance review, when I can say I’m a default problem-solver for the office.

    1. pleaset

      People like your coworkers are lame and annoying. I’ve seen it at work, in my apartment building, in a big club I belong to, and other domains.

      In general, if the outage/issue doesn’t hurt me, when someone like this reports it to me I tell them straight-up “I assume you’ve told IT/managment company/whoever”

      If they so “No” I say some version of “Do it.”

    2. Bea

      At least in your case they do tell someone and don’t freak out when it’s addressed!
      Your situation sounds more like they’re lazy and acting like you’re their mom. “Mom, the light went out.” “did you replace the light bulb?” “no. I was waiting here in the dark for you to do it.”
      Like the aholes who don’t replace the TP or paper towels when they’re out. Oh I’lljust drip dry and mention it to Mom.

  28. m

    Anyone else feel like maybe they didn’t want to work? Having to walk/drive a mile back & forth every time you need the restroom eats up time. Not having internet & not being able to work is similar.

    I’ve had internet go out and have had varying reactions from higher ups at that company. Though I’m pretty sure they would’ve tried to not pay us if we left early. Like clockwork, any time they’d say “if it’s not back by X:00 we’re sending you home” it would magically come back before the deadline.

    1. LQ

      A lot of times that deadline is the deadline for the power/whatever company to tell them it will be fixed by x time or we’ll have additional information for you. (Sometimes depending that’s also part of an SLA of some kind.) So if you’re supposed to go home if it’s still off at 1 pm then power company said that they’d either have it back on by 1 or have more information by then. (We recently had a few power outages so I now know more than I expected to.)

      All that said if they didn’t want to work why wouldn’t they have gone home when the boss told them to go home and they’d get paid…I was with you except for that part which adds a level of that’s really odd to it and makes me think it’s more than just not wanting to work.

  29. ArtsNerd

    From the headline, I assumed it was a bunch of coworkers who liked to complain without doing anything about it. I’ve had one of those – “These clients never XYZ” “Do you ask them to XYZ?” (No.) “You should tell the sales person to emphasize that more when it’s booked.” “Oh I couldn’t! I don’t want to get her in trouble; she’s doing a great job.” And the cycle continues…

    But this. This!? I’m flummoxed.

  30. That Would Be a Good Band Name

    My first reaction was they were happy with having a day to sit with no work. The bathroom thing was weirder, but it still cuts down on work time when you have to travel a mile every time you have to go.

    Another thought is that they either had a boss in the past that made them wary of reporting anything or they know something that the OP doesn’t. I’ve definitely had a boss that reacted reasonably at the time, but then held it against me that I was the one who gave her a heads up on a problem. (Example: why do you need a vacation day, you were just off (with pay!) when the internet was down)

    1. Jennifer

      The bathroom just reminded me of Hidden Figures.

      I am wondering about this with the OP too, if she’s going to run into surprise problems for speaking up.

  31. Delta Delta

    I’m guessing a number of things could be at play here:

    1. Current manager is currently reasonable, but did/said something to this team in the past that has made them incredibly hesitant to talk to her.
    2. Current manager is currently reasonable, but former manager was a walking stew of toxicity and created bad vibes from which there is no return.
    3. Team members are oddly highly conflict avoidant. Alternatively, they are also so set in their ways/schedules that they are unable to function with changes.

    Regardless, neither of the things mentioned by OP seem at all like “conflicts.” They seem like legitimate facilities problems that need attention so it makes little sense not to raise the issues. I’m curious to see an update on this one.

  32. Nicole

    If I were the manager I would have been pretty ticked off that my employees sat around getting paid to do nothing all day because the internet was down. I don’t think that’s the co-workers’ intent, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s what’s happened.

    1. The Other Dawn

      I agree. As a manager, I’d be really annoyed that people would rather sit around all day than speak up about a problem that isn’t under their control. OP showed the best judgment out of all of them. Her coworkers? Not so much.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      “I don’t think that’s the co-workers’ intent”

      How could it be anything but their intent? I mean, there’s no way that 6 people accidentally sat around for 5 hours not working.

      But yeah, to your other point I’d be more than ticked about this as a manager.

  33. LQ

    I think as far as doing the actual reporting it’s not at all strange for you to grab hold of that and just. “Oh, the power’s out, I’ll get a hold of Penelope and let her know what’s going on.” It’s not about seniority at all, just about the person who is going to take the initiative to do it. The person who notices first. That kind of thing. I don’t even think you have to ask others about it. Power goes out, you pipe up, “I’ll give Penelope a call.” If they are lazy, you’re taking that work off them. If they are scared, you’re being the messenger who could get shot (though it sounds real unlikely you would).

    And if you keep speaking up as though speaking up is perfectly ordinary and an attempt to solve a problem at the office (which is it and it is!) and your boss supports that (which is sounds like she does), you might find a shifting in your peers if it was from a prior bad boss.

  34. NoLongerSleepDeprived

    Not having internet and water is a very valid reason for talking to a manager. As an employee, I wouldn’t want to work in a building without running water. If I want non-flushing toilets, I’ll go camping. I don’t even have to walk a mile to get to the non-flushing toilets when camping.

    Maybe OP’s coworkers had a previous manager that didn’t want to hear about problems or was never available.

    At my previous position that I recently left, not reporting issues to our manager was a problem. Coworkers would come to me about things that were bothering them. I would ask if they had talked to our manger. Usually the response was no. Part of the issue was our manager was never around and didn’t even know that something was going on most of the time.

  35. Massmatt

    Maybe it’s nothing but I think it’s odd that the supervisor/manager was out of the office/loop when major problems arose. Is this a coincidence or an absentee manager?

    If the manager needs to be off-site frequently then there needs to be a clear next-in-charge who can take responsibility for things like this, whoever the current senior employee is clearly lacks the judgment and/or spine to fill that role.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      I have worked remote from my team for the past 5 years. I am always in the loop when things like this would happen.

      Ok I take that back… not always. For some reason the HR dept at that location keeps forgetting to let me know things (like early closings, building lunches and events, etc.) Once my team found out that HR wasn’t letting me know they now make it a point to forward information to me.

  36. Logan

    I’m assuming this is a really small office? Anyplace I’ve worked you call/email IT or facilities to fix the network or something with water.

    As for their reaction, it does sound like kids in grade school trying to get the school closed for the day aka Simpsons. I could even understand a reaction like ooh, the internet is fixed. Boo hoo, have to get back to work, in a joking manner, but not doing anything is kinda bizarre.

    My reaction to some of these stories or my experiences at work: they must be psychologists doing an experiment to see how coworkers/bosses react, possibly scripted. So if it seems even mildly freakish I just think, gee another script. OK….

  37. lazuli

    RadioLab just aired a piece about Bystander Inhibition. Basically, if there’s more than one person in a situation, each of us is more likely to do nothing when something weird/upsetting/out-of-the-ordinary happens, because we each look around, see that no one else is really reacting, and so we assume we’d be overreacting if we reacted at all. (They mentioned a study in which researchers had participants in a classroom and then had smoke pouring out of the ceiling. If one participant was in the room, they’d go get help. If more than one participant was in the room, no one would do anything.) That’s why they counsel people in an emergency to directly ask one person to call 911, rather than saying, “Someone call 911!”

    So if the team lead is hesitating and acting like nothing should be done in these situations, especially if she’s been that way for a while, it would make sense that the other staff members would easily talk themselves out of doing anything either. (“If she doesn’t think it’s a big deal, it must not be a big deal.”) OP, I think it’s good to keep that in mind, so that you don’t end up falling into that trap, too.

    It does remind me of a former secretary we had. Any time there was a building problem (examples I remember: toilets not working, door handle to the toilets fell off so you couldn’t get into the women’s room, no heat in the middle of winter — like, fairly major things!), I’d ask him if he contacted the building management. And he’d always reply, “Oh, I’m sure somebody already did.” I would have to tell him to do it anyway. It was so frustrating.

  38. Russian in Texas

    This is so totally my office.
    Right now, at this exact moment, we don’t have running water. The city shut off the water main for emergency repairs, for the next 4-5 hours.
    The owners are “thinking about it”. Sure, think about it until the fire marshal closes you down.
    Last week we had no internet for severed cable (I swear, I did not write this letter!), and even after I said I can do a lot of things from home, it was decided that it would better if we just sit here and twiddle our thumbs.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      But at least they know about the problem. Then it’s on them to make decisions for next steps (although the running water thing is not one that I agree with). The LW boss wasn’t even going to be informed if not for the LW.

      1. Russian in Texas

        They know, but they really don’t want to send us home, AND pay for our hours, which they must, given we are all salaried.
        Last summer, when the power went out for the rest of the day, and they had to send us home, the only reason they paid is our payroll/HR colleague pointed out it would be illegal not to.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

          Yeah, that’s what I was getting at. The OP’s problem is different than yours in that regard, it is a little funny (in that wow.. what are the odds kind of way) that you experienced the same things as the OP but from a different vantage point (bosses knew but didn’t do anything).

    2. Les Cargot

      > The owners are “thinking about it”. Sure, think about it until the fire marshal closes you down.

      I used to work for a major corporation at one of their branch offices. A water main broke one day. They didn’t send us home until the fire department made them. No water -> fire hazard.
      Some years later, a major snowstorm resulted in a state of emergency. My team of system administrators was asked to come in (illegally — only people the state deemed “essential” should have been driving) the day before the building was to reopen, so that we could get the computers up and running. Our manager claimed he nearly died a couple of times on the way in because of impossible road conditions, trees and power lines down, the works. He promised us that if anything like that ever happened again, he would push back if we were asked to go in before the state of emergency was lifted.

  39. BananaRama

    Could be some kind of culture conditioning. One person says don’t bother boss, so it gets passed that no one bothers the boss, even when it’s a needed thing.

    I was recently promoted to a new position and I was told by my peer in the position, ‘we don’t bother boss about anything.’ I plan to ignore most of the advice since boss is who I directly report to, she can give me my marching orders, so to speak.

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