4 updates from letter-writers (the office supplies, the delayed honeymoon, and more)

Here are four updates from people who had their letters answered here in the past.

1. Will my taste in office supplies seem weird or unprofessional?

I’ve spent a lot of hours now going through the responses on your post about my unique supplies, and wow!!! They all made me smile!!! I’m so happy that everyone thought my taste is (at least somewhat) acceptable, and I’m frankly amazed that we got the sloth pencil case to sell out! (At least, there’s a correlation there!)

I’d like to clear up a couple things I saw repeatedly in the comments:

1. Dad doesn’t work in a really stuffy office. He actually doesn’t work in any office; he’s a railroad engineer! I knew from the beginning that his advice was out of touch at minimum, but I wanted to get a perspective from someone who knew for sure about this sort of thing.

2. The reason he called my school “weird” is because… well, it’s a little weird. It’s a tiny women’s college in the middle of nowhere that has an insane amount of direct faculty support for students, has a ton of formerly stray cats who live on campus (who are neutered and vaccinated!), and they do things like have potted herb gardens in dining areas so people can put fresh flavor on their meals. It’s certainly different, but it’s perfect for me!

3. Everyone seems to be saying the acceptability is based on profession, and luckily for me, everything I’m considering has been stated as perfectly fine with this sort of thing! My hope is to go into either academia, counseling psychology, or creative writing, but since I’m just starting out I’m leaving my options open a bit.

Thank you all so much for weighing in, and thank you especially for all the kind messages!

2. I’m about to go on medical leave, but I’m also hoping to take my long-delayed honeymoon (first update here)

I have a sad update to this tale. Just over a week before I was scheduled to leave I got my leave form back, and it was denied. I was given the excuse that it was “policy,” but I was told unofficially by another department head that I’m close to that there is no such policy at the org and it’s at the discretion of the supervisor, so I’m not sure why she gave that excuse, but either way I’m now not going to be taking the trip. It’s extremely disappointing because all unofficial indications pointed to me being allowed to go, and my previous talk with my supervisor had been positive, but I knew this was a possibility. I am frustrated that they waited so late to let me know since if I’d known a month ago I might have been able to get some money back on our lodging, but after the responses to the first letter were so strong about not booking until you have signed leave forms I realized I’d fudged up there and I just have to suck it up and take the hit. Thankfully no activities were booked yet so the financial damage is relatively minimal, and we are going to keep what we had scraped together in a separate account for whenever we are able to take the trip.

3. The lazy coworker (featured on this episode of the Ask a Manager podcast)

I decided–against the advice of many of my coworkers–to engage with Jack on a small, low-stakes project that I could have done myself. It was an experiment. I figured if he could do well working with me, someone who is actually rooting for him to get his shit together, that I would feel more motivated to talk with him about his reputation. If he blew it off, I would be more justified to go to my boss or just let the situation play out.

In the end, the project went okay but he was a bit difficult to work with. I was sort of on the fence about the results of this experiment until the very end. We have a solid finished product, and my team often runs our deliverables by a certain director, “Jill.” Jill sort of has a supervisory role over Jack (our organizational structure is a mess, bear with me). I explained to Jack that Jill always signs off on my team’s final products, and that I usually send them to her, but I recommend that he send it to her so that he can really showcase all the hard work he put in. Hew argued with me that he didn’t see the point of looping Jill in (essentially: “What if she makes me do work on this?”), then said he would do it if I insisted, then passive aggressively didn’t do it. It probably sounds stupid, but this was the sign I needed to make like Elsa and let it go.

Separately, the coworker who wanted me to talk to my boss has now been quietly deputized as Jack’s manager, so she’s more actively standardizing and tracking his work. My hope is that this will result in him being transitioned to part-time, which will either convince him to quit or step up his game to get back to full-time. She and I have been strategizing on this together, affirming Matt’s comment about strength in numbers.

4. My boss is a notorious liar, and he yells too

Thank you so much for your advice, and to the amazing readers who took the time to write comments. I think I knew how unhealthy and unprofessional the situation, and my workplace in general, was, but my sense of self and what’s normal have been shaken by being here. I felt validated by your response and those of your readers, which I really needed. The advice that you and the readers gave has helped me to focus on moving on professionally from this toxic environment.

Very soon after you published my question and your response, I gave my boss notice. I did so without any other job lined up, though I had multiple successful phone interviews that ended in me being asked to come in in person. I told my boss that I would not be seeking a new contract when the fiscal year ends, as I was looking for a job with a shorter commute (mine is over an hour) and shorter hours (we work 9.5 hour days) so that I could spend more time with my family (my partner and I recently had a baby). I’m the past, my boss has been mostly grateful to know that people plan to leave, so he took it well and thanked me for letting him know. Since then, there have been no major incidents like the one I wrote about… well, not any involving myself. He has done some petty things like repeatedly ordering lunch for the 3 people I share an office with but not me, and leaving me off of text/email chains but then publicly referencing them. I think this is an attempt to wield some power over me or show what I’m missing by leaving, because while he appreciates knowing peoples plans so that he can plan accordingly and says as much, he also ALWAYS takes it personally when people leave, even if the person quitting cites reasons like moving out of state or going into another field. I think that’s insecurity on his part. Anyway, there pettiness is annoying, but if anything it shows me that I’m doing the right thing by leaving. I have felt mentally and emotionally free since giving notice.

About two weeks after letting him know that I’d be leaving, I found myself with 3 jobs offers and several more inquires for interviews. I was cautious with my questions and evaluating the potential employers. Two of the jobs were ideal in terms of hours, salary, benefits, and work environment. I’ve accepted one, and I’ll begin in a few months when the new fiscal year starts. I’m so excited!

And I just have to say: Ask A Manager has been a super valuable resource for me ever since I discovered it. I’m so thankful to you for publishing people’s questions and responding to them thoughtfully, as well as to all the readers who add their thoughts and stories to the comments section. I’ll still be reading, even after I leave my current terrible job!

{ 183 comments… read them below }

  1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

    I had included this in my letter but Alison suggested I post it in the comments so here we go:

    I was hoping that you or the comments might have some suggestions for dealing with the resulting emotions and how they will likely affect me at work. I’m usually someone who goes above and beyond for my job because I enjoy it and I am eager to please. Knowing that the org/people in charge won’t do the same for me is obviously not a great feeling (even if I know there may be larger things at play that they haven’t told me, that’s still how it feels), especially as we’re going into a new fiscal year with a nearly doubled workload from last year(no pay increase), so I’m really taking some hits from the increased workload and the general disillusionment and decreased morale from being refused the leave, even if I knew there was a chance for it to be denied. All that being said, how can I reframe it in my mind? What can I do to try to keep a lid on my disappointment? I know rationally that I was never promised this so it’s not like they broke something set in stone, but it’s hard to control how I feel about this since it is such a big thing in my life and I’m still struggling with the insomnia which makes it really hard for me to keep my emotions under control. I don’t want to be that person who pouts because they didn’t get their way, but all initiative and excitement for my work has vanished for me right now. It will probably come back as I have a hard time “holding grudges” as it were, but until then I’m not sure how to keep a straight face about it all, especially when coworkers who knew about the trip start to ask questions.

    1. CuriousCat*

      I honestly would have a hard time letting this go, especially after your last update where your manager knew the specific timing of the trip and the fact that it was already booked.

      Did you ever directly ask your manager why the leave was denied or what specific “policy” required it to be denied? How soon before the trip did you request leave for it to be denied just the week before you were supposed to be out?

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        I have not asked her why it was denied or what policy required it to be denied. In the moment, I was trying to hold back tears and didn’t wanna start bawling while asking specifics. Since then I’ve not asked her as I don’t really wanna bring it up. The attitude towards staff from management(her and above) hasn’t been great lately so I’m hoping to fly under the radar for a while. I turned in the actual leave form about a month out, which was as I understood the unofficial “standard” time to turn in leave. She sat on it for three weeks or thereabouts.

        1. ket*

          I’m surprised that more people aren’t picking up on the “sat on it for three weeks” part. I understand that your question was about getting over it, and one key way of getting over it is considering what of your own behaviors could have contributed to the denial of leave or what external events you have no control over could have contributed… but… it is surprising to me that it took your supervisor three weeks. And I think you should look at other positions.

        2. Elle*

          I would definitely ask her about this. Right now you are upset about the perceived reasons she may have denied it, when she could have very valid reasons that could help you with perspective. Or, she could have denied it just to be difficult in which case you will know you are justified in your feelings and to anticipate these kinds of actions moving forward. Either way, this is a problem to address directly, not wallow in quietly.
          Its ok if you cry – I know you don’t want to – but her actions have directly impacted something very important in your life and sometimes that makes us emotional. Just stick to your talking points and the facts, and don’t be accusatory. “I heard that my leave was denied on policy, but I know there is no such policy. Can you please walk me through your decision so I can avoid a denial and disappointment when I attempt to reschedule in the future?”

        3. LeRainDrop*

          Is is possible she didn’t “sit on it” for three weeks, but instead was pushing to get approval for you and finally had to give up with her supervisors instructing her to deny?

    2. EventPlanner32*

      Depending on your relationship with your supervisor, I wonder whether it would help you to have a conversation with her. Since you had talked about your situation, the ways you are working on your medical issues, etc., and she seemed so positive, can you not circle back with her? The key I think would be to keep emotion out of it (I like to practice such things before hand to try to keep my voice level and clear), and frame it as a request to understand the “policy” for future reference.

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        I have thought about this, but I’m still pretty emotional and not sure I could control it right now, plus management in general seems really terse right now so I don’t wanna pop my head up. Perhaps next month I might try to visit with her and phrase it as now that I’ve had time to think about it I would like to talk about the why behind it. But I definitely need to get a handle on the emotions attached before I have that conversation.

        1. EventPlanner32*

          I totally understand that. It really sucks to be denied a week out – that’s super frustrating. Virtual hugs, if you want them!

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, are they being terse with you specifically, or in general/with everyone? If it’s mainly with you, that might be a sign that there are larger things going on and the vacation denial is just part of that. I don’t want to freak you out, but if the terseness is specific to you, there might be some tea leaves to read here. (I hope it’s with everyone though, in which case this is moot.)

          1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            In general with everyone. We have some large events going on that have put a lot of stress on everyone and in particular us lower-totem people since we have zero support from up high, which has resulted in reduced morale all around, which seems to be upsetting management. It’s not a great situation, and it’s not being handled well and it’s coming back to bite the people in charge.

            1. uranus wars*

              With the large events going on, could that be the policy she is referring to? Is there a “no one can have pre-approved leave while a major event is going on” type of policy. Maybe the supervisor sitting on it for 3 weeks was her working to try to circumvent the policy with her higher ups or HR?

              Ideally she would have communicated that with you at the beginning, but I know I have been in a situation where time of is generally not granted during a specific season but my boss tried to get an exception on my behalf.

              1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

                No such thing exists in any of our policy manuals (of which there are many, but I had time since I wasn’t on vacation lol), I checked after my insider department head said there was so such policy about leave and department heads have unilateral power over leave. So if there is a policy it’s unwritten and unpublished.

              2. Kittymommy*

                This is what I’m wondering as well. “Policy” may, in this case, mean some things going on behind the scenes that out her in a situation where what she thought would be fine (the leave in this scenario) no longer is. And while it may be her discretion on paper, it’s different in practice, especially if the environment has changed in the office. I suspect that there may be quite a bit happening behind the scenes that are playing into this a lot.

                1. Jen*

                  I have so been there before – not allowed to talk about the specifics of an issue but getting pressure to drive certain behaviors. It sucks and is part of why I got out of middle management as quickly as I could by becoming a trainer.

                2. AKchic*

                  I have *so* been there.

                  There was an unwritten rule that nobody could take time off during specific events for our industry, and then during grant-writing time specific people weren’t allowed to take more than an extra day at a time and during our recertification periods nobody was allowed leave. It wasn’t written, but it was *known* by the long-timers and management.

                  Holidays were generally easier to handle until we got one receptionist who didn’t understand the concept of “rotate” let alone “get your leave approved first”.
                  Her first Christmas with the company, she told us a week before Christmas that her mother bought her and her daughter tickets out of state so she’d be leaving in three days and would be gone for two weeks. It caused a lot of problems because both the other PA and I had scheduled a few days off during those two weeks for our own personal leave since neither of us had taken time off during Christmas in the last few years. Me being senior and having more family support, I elected to cancel my days off.
                  As soon as the receptionist returned from her two weeks off, she put in for two weeks leave for the following Christmas. She apparently had gotten chewed out for not following the “first come first served” rule of leave and they only granted the leave because the tickets were a (supposed) surprise from her mother and non-refundable.
                  She tried to pull it the year after too, but was shut down. She ended up quitting.

              3. Observer*

                It doesn’t have to be in the manual for it to be a policy, especially if it’s relating to things that are happening now that are new or not typical.

    3. Angela's Back*

      I mean… they might not have promised it but A) based on your other update, your supervisor seemed like she was okay with it, so you had no reason to think it would be denied and B) denying someone leave A WEEK before they leave for a trip is really shitty. Like if you have to deny the request, that’s fine and it sucks but them’s the breaks, but don’t wait until the last second when the request had been lodged a while back. As far as handling the disappointment at work, that’s a tough one. I would try to practice saying very matter of factly that unfortunately, your leave request was denied and you’re really disappointed, and then make a conscious effort not to get pulled into a cathartic bitching spiral with your coworkers. It might feel great in the moment but it will just make the resentment pile up. I’m so sorry this was the outcome, that’s really, really cruddy :(

      1. Nicole*

        I was under the assumption that the denial was a week before the medical leave, not the vacation.

      2. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        Yeah, it felt very much like the rug got pulled out from underneath me at the last minute, which has made the whole thing harder. I’ve tried to be as much matter of fact as I can but a couple of people have gotten pretty upset on my behalf and I have indulged in a little bit of a pity part with them, which is really hard to coral, but by now everyone knows and has thankfully not brought it up any more.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It sounds like, based on your comment about overall terseness, that something changed at a higher business level that may have changed her ability to grant you leave. For example, if all the supervisors are on thin ice or morale is low, going to bat for your vacation leave might have been an expenditure of political capital that she can’t make right now.

          Which is all to say, maybe it truly had nothing to do with you as an individual, and maybe she wasn’t trying to screw you over or put you in this position? She didn’t handle the denial gracefully (and I think it’s worth talking to her when you feel emotionally more even-keeled), but is it possible that there’s some cluster going on above her level that may have trickled down to you?

          1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            From what my insider department head told me, decisions to grant leave are entirely up to the department head and they don’t have to justify or explain it to anyone; they have a lot of autonomy with their decisions. This head told me that they had multiple times allowed staff in similar situations (e.g. staff who had just had a baby) to take unpaid vacations with no issues.

            (I swear I’m not trying to be combative with just you!! Just that this is more insight into how things are done here)

            1. Anonymeece*

              I do want to caution you that it seems that you’re putting a lot of stock into what the insider department head told you. I’m not saying that he/she is being untruthful, but their situation may be very different from your own supervisor’s. If your supervisor is on thin ice, for instance, than maybe their decisions are being scrutinized and he/she needs to justify them, while your inside man (so to speak) is enjoying more freedom.

              It just may be something to think about.

            2. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

              Sometimes though even if you have unilateral decision making power about a situation, the behind the scenes politics play a larger role in the decision.

              For example, I can approve or deny my direct reports requests for paid time off, unpaid time off, extended leave, etc., but you better believe I’m not going to approve anything that might cause my boss to raise her eyebrows at me (although to be fair, I’m not going to deny a request that came in months ago, a week before the intended trip).

              And to be honest, I don’t think this other department head is doing you any favors. They can’t read your bosses mind, and I think it’s not really allowing you to process and move on.

            3. animaniactoo*

              Yes, but you’re now also describing a current situation which involves a lot of turmoil. Which might mean that things that were doable before are not doable now.

              Her decisions may be being scrutinized – because even if she doesn’t have to officially justify it, unofficially this is the kind of thing that people look at when they start examining how people are doing in their roles.

              I agree that she’s handled this badly in terms of sitting on and then denying your leave with little to no communication. She may have been in wait-and-see mode with everything that’s going on and then ultimately decided that this was just something that couldn’t happen without creating an issue large enough that it would have just created more problems – of course, the issue with that is that she’s know created a morale issue for you and everybody else who feels burnt by the extra workload and sees the “leave denied a week prior to vacation” situation.

              For yourself – I would hit the “wait and see” mode myself because if she’s got battles that you know nothing about (and should know nothing about at this point, and hopefully may never know anything about on some of them if they go in your (the employees in general) favor), then she needs to pick and choose her battles. In the sense that while your honeymoon is HUGE to you, getting bonuses or keeping the same amount of PTO is huge to everyone. If her assessment is that she can’t do your vacation without weakening her position for things like that, then the vacation is going to be the thing that gives.

              GL, and have you given some thought to at least trying to do a 2-3 day weekend away somewhere close by? Minimal cost comparative to big trip, but something outside of your usual home environment? Being able to do SOMETHING might help you roll with this better until you see how everything shakes out.

              1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

                We are in fact doing something small over a weekend to get away and just be, and since we planned it it has helped somewhat.

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I understand that it’s entirely discretionary, but I don’t think that changes my suggestion that something may have changed, recently, at a higher level that makes your supervisor feel like it would be hard for her to justify your leave. There also just may be a difference between how the department head you spoke to treats leave requests and how your supervisor approaches leave requests.

              I don’t think you’re being combative—I just think you’re making this more personal/nefarious than it may be. (It’s totally possible that it’s nefarious! But I think a focus on bad faith will make it harder for you to feel like you can move on.)

              1. Kathleen_A*

                My supervisor has total autonomy over leave, too, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t circumstances under which she’d get some flak if she approved it.

                On what little we know here, I’m agreeing with BCBH and Not Myself Today. It really does sound to me as though something – and that something might have little or nothing to do with you, OP – has happened that makes it difficult for her to justify your leave. What that might be, who can say? There are lots of possibilities. And I do think it’s also possible that this other department head is providing you with information that, however accurate it is generally, is not applicable in this particular case.

            5. Not myself today*

              I have total autonomy over leave approvals for my team, but recently I’ve been getting flack from my boss about how much I approve working from home. Even though all the applications I approve are ok under our written policies, and even though my boss is normally great. The written policies aren’t all that matters.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Give yourself [X] amount of time to sulk (outside of work) and then when you hit your deadline, make a list of things that you appreciate about your job and try to focus on those. (There’s an episode of How I Met Your Mother were Marshall decides he’s not going to say anything negative about his job and it’s amusing some of the things he comes up with).

      During your sulk time, do whatever you need to do to express your feelings. Rant at your spouse, your friends, your family (just no coworkers). Write scathing journal entries. Scream.

      1. Curious Cat*

        I second this suggestion!
        Also – if you do end up asking your manager why you were denied the vacation, could you phrase it in a way that makes it sound you’re asking matter-of-factly if there was anything you did wrong in filling out paperwork/formally asking for time-off/etc. that you need to do differently in the future?

        1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

          I think that’s the tack I’m going to take to try to stay unemotional, rather than addressing what happened this time, I wanna come at it as a “next time” thing.

      2. Not A Morning Person*

        Those are great suggestions! Also, OP, find some fun things to do with your spouse. I expect he/she is also disappointed and would benefit from something to look forward to doing. Are there activities you both would enjoy that you could plan? Plan them! Even something as simple as cooking a new dish together, planning a movie night, (in or out of the house), visiting some place in your area that you haven’t been before. It can be helpful to have some activities outside of work that you can look forward to enjoying to help bring some of the light and joy back into your life while you are coming to terms with your disappointment. It can take awhile but with some effort you will through it (not necessarily over it, but through it).
        As for talking with your manager, do wait until you feel more confident and like you are back on top of your work. That can help with your confidence in approaching your manager to ask if there are better options/ways/times to request future time off. I agree with the comments that just because it is not a written and published policy does not mean that she can’t deny a request for any number of reasons. As Alison says often in response to questions about “is this legal?”, it’s only illegal if there is a law stating that it’s illegal. The same thing applies to “policies”. If it isn’t directly spelled out what must or must not be done, then the manager’s discretion applies. And sometimes managers make decisions that are disappointing. Sometimes we find out why and sometimes we don’t. I wish you luck and success in planning and going on your future trip!

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Do you know why it was denied? I know in the last update, she hadn’t given you a firm yes or no but said that if you kept up a similar level of absences that you were at then, she thought it would be fine. If you ended up being out more, that could explain it — but if that’s not the case, did you get any other context on why?

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        I think I might have had a slight uptick in absences, but not a lot and by the time she denied it I was already starting to show improvement, so I don’t know why. I haven’t gotten any more context aside from what’s in the update; she’s been very busy and short with people so I’m just keeping my head down for a little while. When I have my emotions under control better I want to broach it with her but it’ll have to be a little while.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, so that really could be the reason. If your absences did go up, it’s not necessarily unreasonable that she couldn’t grant the time off (although she should have told you sooner).

          1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            Yep, it could be! I would have expected her to say so if it was though since she hadn’t previously hesitated at telling me she was unhappy with my absences.

            1. NLMC*

              Could it have anything to do with the increased work load on top of the minor uptick in absences?

          2. Dust Bunny*

            If this is the case, I would encourage you to reframe the thought that your company is not willing to go above and beyond for you. I know you can’t help this, but it sounds as though they have accommodated *a lot* of lateness and absenteeism, and at some point, as AAM pointed out in the first response, they need people there to work. I do wish they had handled this better but I would not assume that they aren’t reaching the end of what they can give you without putting too much of a burden on other employees.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, I think this is important — they actually did go above and beyond what they had to do, and that’s important to remember, even though they handled this part of it badly.

              1. McWhadden*

                She has protected FMLA leave though. And FMLA may be taken in broken up blocks or include part-time work. I doubt she’s accumulated 12 weeks total, yet.

                They are doing what they are legally required to do and being petulant about it.

                1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

                  Nope, nowhere near 12 weeks of leave. I wasn’t quite sure what Alison was referencing about them actually going above and beyond since they are doing the bare minimum required and that was after rejecting my FMLA forms twice for different reasons. But that’s a different group of people handling that and my boss has no contact with the FMLA stuff (that I know of).

                2. Kathleen_A*

                  But you got some accommodation even before your FMLA was approved, didn’t you? I think the first time you wrote, it hadn’t been approved yet.

        2. Holly*

          OP, if I were you I really wouldn’t be keeping my head down about this – you’re at least owed an explanation

    6. Office sweater lady*

      I can totally understand how you feel and your disappointment, and also relate to not wanting to be a pouter. My recommendation would be to find a close non-work friend, someone who wasn’t emotionally invested in the trip (ideally not your husband), and ask him/her to just let you vent. Really wallow in it and explore every hurt feeling, sense of disappointment and anger at your work. Don’t try to be fair minded, just let it rip! Then, once you are done, try to acknowledge it all neutrally, without judging your feelings. Let your friend validate how you feel.

      In the long run, you will have many beautiful times ahead to enjoy with your husband. In the short term, it’s ok to just show up and do your work for a while, even if you aren’t feeling jazzed about it. Remember, you are a strong professional lady! I would try to stay neutral about the event with your co-workers so it doesn’t get back to your supervisor that you are bad-mouthing her decision. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us to go on the honeymoon this August, but we are still looking forward to going to X location next year!”

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        It’s been really hard to stay neutral and I’ve slipped a few times and indulged in a pity party but I’m trying to get back on track and just focus on come to work, do my work, act normal, and go home. Thankfully now most people know and aren’t asking questions out of politeness.

    7. Celeste*

      I honestly do think her decision was workload-related. I don’t think she denied you to make an example of you or as a punishment. I think she was just too worried about accommodating the work flow to approve the leave. If your department couldn’t keep up in your absence, it would reflect on her.

      It’s a hard thing, but I would try to be professional and excel right now. As to how to get through it when you have no motivation, create some motivation. Set up a series of rewards for yourself. Only you know the things that can lift you up. For some it would be a trip to a great restaurant, to others it might a Saturday trip to a salon. You decide. But do something nice for yourself. If you do end up deciding to leave, let it be over an unbalanced work load rather than because of the leave denial.

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        I had already made a really effective plan and was already working ahead when I got the denial; the week I was supposed to have been gone I spent a large majority of it twiddling my thumbs and doing “if you ever have random spare time look this up for me” kind of work. So I don’t think it was a workload issue, because I had laid out my plan to her when we first met about it and was already following that plan when it got denied. But who knows. Maybe she wasn’t confident in my ability to follow that plan.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But didn’t you say that workload will double in the new fiscal year? Could it be that she’s trying to prepare for a bigger hit in the future, and that the changing forecast also meant that all of a sudden she didn’t have the political cache to grant your vacation leave?

          1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            Workload is already doubling, but yes. It’s possible she might have been trying to prepare for something in the future, but I’m not sure what political spending she would have had to have done to grant my leave.

            1. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

              Sometimes going to bat for one your reports costs you political capital. Either with your other direct reports and/or your own boss.

              So you in your case, you don’t necessarily know what sort of political pressure is being placed on your boss. It may be that, as someone else noted above, skating on ice herself. Or she might be dealing with other direct reports who are unhappy about the state of things, and who want the same opportunity to take unpaid leave. You never know with these things. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t suck, but sometimes you just don’t know what the political atmosphere is like in other places in the organization.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Even when managers don’t have to justify their leave decisions, they’re still scrutinized by their bosses for those decisions.

              I have an employee who wanted an additional 2 weeks of unpaid leave for a trip that was less emotionally-wrought than a honeymoon, on top of 2 weeks of already-used sick leave and 3 weeks of paid vacation leave. Although it was entirely within my discretion to grant unpaid leave, I had to deny it that year. I spoke to her about it personally as soon as it became clear I couldn’t say yes, and I explained why it had nothing to do with her performance or excellence. But that explanation is the one thing missing from your supervisor’s approach.

              That year, my employer was hit with a massive 10% budget cut. Hiring was frozen, and workload increased for everyone who was left. Because we were relatively lean as an organization (although my division had the same number of staff), it was very hard to make requests for extended leave for my reports without jeopardizing my staffing levels (i.e., avoiding lay-offs), as well as PTO for everyone on my team. I try to be very generous with leave and PD, but I would have used up my bargaining power, that year, to benefit one staff person instead of the team as a whole. So even in situations where it may look like it doesn’t require your manager to use political capital, there may be an unspoken set of norms that her managers use to review her.

        2. uranus wars*

          Didn’t you also say in a comment here that you think you may have had an uptick in absences, but then back on track again closer to receiving the denial? Any variance in 4 weeks might have been enough to make her think twice, or it could be in the upcoming workload increase, the pressure on her or (as I mentioned above) ended up being out of her control in the end anyways.

          1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            Anything is possible, I just would have appreciated if she’d told me that since she had no trouble telling me she wasn’t happy with my absences before.

            1. WellRed*

              Once somebody says they are not happy about your absences, assume they will remain unhappy with your absences, even if they don’t specifically say it.
              I think it really sucks they denied vacation one week prior.

    8. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

      First, I just wanna say, this really sucks and I’m so sorry this didn’t end well. I’ve had mistakes blow up in my face because I didn’t think everything through and even if I knew rationally that it’s my fault and I just need to push through and learn from my mistakes, it can still sting for a while.

      I’d definitely suggest having some kind of outlet to vent. if you have a therapist, that could be helpful, or keep a private journal. Don’t vent in a way that just energizes your negativity (so venting to unqualified, non-therapist people over and over again) but it’s good practice to have somewhere or someone to sort of organize your feelings to. (And not just about the vacation or the insomnia but just anything, good and bad.)

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        I have to admit, I have a therapy session coming up soon and I’m looking forward to venting and getting everything out there with her instead of directing it at coworkers/roomate/husband.

        1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

          Oh, I’m glad for that then. Hopefully she’ll be able to give you tips and support while you’re processing how you feel and the workload right now. I hope one day (sooner vs. later) you’ll be able to take the vacation you want while improving your insomnia issues.

          1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            I actually have an update below on my sleep problems! It’s, in contrast, really good news.

            1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

              Oh yay! I’m so glad that’s been going better. I hope your treatment plan keeps working out in the long-term and good luck on your new routine.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes! A vent session with a neutral, safe, confidential third party will be so cathartic and helpful (and necessary). Everything OP is feeling is valid, and it’s ok to feel crappy and upset… but it’s harder to mask that upset at work without having the chance to let off steam in a safe place/context.

    9. KWu*

      I think it will help you get on a more even keel emotionally if you can pull back a bit and think of your job as a business relationship. It’s not like in personal relationships where the parties are more equal and going above and beyond is usually expected to be reciprocated. Also, not that you have to leave this job over this point, but it could be worth exploring other options just so that you don’t feel trapped, and are able to remind yourself about the good parts. I know you mentioned in your original letter that you’d left a previous job because of feeling like they broke a commitment to you, so that path isn’t new to you, but could be good to remind yourself of it even if you don’t choose to act on it right now. Reminding yourself of your agency just helps a lot when you’re unhappy, imo.

      It’s also ok to accept your feelings of disappointment right now. If it’s a big part of your self-image to always be going above and beyond, that might be something to question and examine a little. There is room between “no change at all” and “whiny pouter” where you can carve out “disappointed, but still professional.” Probably coming up with some neutral statements in response to the anticipated questions from coworkers would be helpful, as would a conversation about it with your supervisor that denied the leave. You can approach it from a “what can I do differently next time that would increase the chances that the leave would be approved” so that it doesn’t seem like you’re trying to reverse the decision.

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        Yeah, my husband is encouraging me to think about looking at other jobs, because he’s seen this hit me rather hard. I just know I won’t find a job I like as much for the same pay, so it seems pointless. But it might have some positive benefit for me to just look and see. I like the point about reminding yourself of your own agency; that can be really hard to do but is valuable.

        1. Lance*

          If not for the pay, then consider other factors. Quality of life, benefits, commute, possible advancement opportunities… if the pay’s not prohibitively lower (even if it is lower), it would be worth looking into other possible jobs all the same.

        2. Observer*

          It’s worth looking for another reason as well. It might make you realize that, as disappointing as this situation is, perhaps your employer isn’t treating you as badly as you feel right now.

        3. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

          I think it’s always worth looking. You don’t know what your options are like until you check. Perhaps you are right, and there isn’t anything better. But, perhaps there is something a million times better. You don’t know until you look.

      2. Gloucesterina*

        A related theme came up in the comments to the letter about a job-hopping spouse: that it isn’t necessarily a good idea to put 110% into a job if it impacts the person’s ability to entertain other options (and/or creates stress that endangers their health, of course!)

        Pulling for you, OP!

    10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      (Please imagine the following advice being shared in a very gentle and kind/empathetic tone:)

      OP, it sounds like you’re facing the same problem as in your original letter—you’re taking this very personally when the decision may not have been personal at all. It sounds extremely likely that there could be valid, work-related reasons for your supervisor to have denied your leave request.

      As others noted in your original letter, requesting the amount of leave you wanted, when combined with her comments about your attendance and your medical leave, adds up to a lot of time out of office. Of course, you shouldn’t be penalized for needing FMLA leave, but your employer also needs a certain level of attendance and production from you. Unfortunately, that might mean limiting additional, non-FMLA leave if she feels she needs you to be there to meet other productivity or coverage needs. Even though you feel you’re going above and beyond, it could be that you’re doing so when you’re in office, but the lack of work generation when you’re out on leave means that overall, your productivity does not appear “above and beyond” from the employer’s perspective.

      There’s not enough information in your letter and update to reach the conclusion that the denial of your leave request means that your employer does not value you or go the extra mile for you. Even though they’re legally required to grant you accommodation and medical leave, it sounds like they’ve really tried to make this work for you and for them (which is not the case for a huge variety of employers).

      It sounds like you’re taking this as a personal rejection because this trip meant so much to you, and I think you have to reframe. This wasn’t about your boss punishing you or screwing you over—this may have been about competing needs and priorities. I think you’ll be less upset and more capable of letting your grudge go if you try to see the situation from your supervisor’s perspective with a business focus.

      And with respect to your coworkers asking about the trip, you can breezily say that it turned out that the timing didn’t work this year, but you’re still hoping to take the trip when the timing is right.

      1. CuriousCat*

        I would have a very different take on the situation if OPs manager had a conversation with her using this language when the leave request was put in. The simple “denied, because of….policy” answer a WEEK before she was to leave on her trip, which she requested a month out with heads up given before that request, is really unkind.

      2. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        Obviously, there are things I can’t see, but the way we’re structured, my manager really doesn’t know if my work is or isn’t being completed unless one of my specialists tells her. My job really only is to do work for them, and I have had no issues with completing what they’ve asked me in a timely manner and no issues with falling behind or being less productive. If I wasn’t required to let her know each day I was out(which I have no issue with doing!), she would not have even known I was not at work the vast majority of days. That’s why I feel so strongly it was not related to productivity but instead (seemingly) arbitrary attendance standards that don’t line up with the actual work we do.

        I say all this to not be combative and not because I don’t appreciate the advice, I understand the core of what you’re saying, but because of our structure my ostensible supervisor has no direct knowledge of my productivity unless someone else tells her something, and I know that everything I was instructed to do was getting done, so I’m not sure where productivity doubts would be coming from, and if there were any I would have thought it would be addressed with me instead of abruptly citing a non-existent policy as a reason to deny the leave.

        1. Curious Cat*

          Truly just trying to poke at all possible things that could have happened, is there aaaaany possibility a coworker may have complained to your manager about your slight uptick in absences? I’m not saying that happened (every office culture is different and obviously you know your coworkers better than myself, a stranger on the internet), but honestly just curious if that’s a possibility for why it was suddenly denied?

          I feel for you, OP! That’s really tough, especially losing some of the money along with it. I wish your manager had been able to give you more of a warning.

          1. Curious Cat*

            (also I see there is another curious cat commenting on this thread, but unless i am confused and living in an alternate dimension, we are two separate people fyi!)

          2. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            It’s possible, and one of the few things I can’t rule out completely. Of course, it would require someone I have a good working relationship (as they’re the only ones who would know the details) telling me to my face that they were sympathetic to my troubles and excited for me to have time off and then turning around and complaining to the boss. But it’s possible because I can’t know everything. It wouldn’t be too terribly surprising either, because boss has been known to make (occasionally unwise, but that’s irrelevant) unilateral decisions based entirely on staff complaints.

            1. Observer*

              Well, maybe not complaining but commenting? In many context a comment that someone would think of as neutral or even complimentary might be taken differently by supervisor.

              1. Angela Ziegler*

                That, or the manager was trying to keep an eye on missed time and asked one of the co-workers if OP had an increase.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I guess the real underlying issue is if you want to get over this, emotionally, OP. There’s a universe in which your boss was being arbitrary, callous, and thoughtless by allowing you to think leave would be granted and then denying it without explanation only a week before your trip. But there’s also a universe in which the decision was ill-timed, ill-communicated, but entirely non-personal and not intended to disappoint you or make your life more difficult. I think you have to decide which narrative you’re going to focus upon.

          The narrative you choose may not affect what you do next. For example, you may still want to talk to your supervisor to ask what happened, or you may decide you’re not adequately appreciated and that you need to find a new job. But I do think changing your frame will change your levels of resilience and how you approach your next steps.

          1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            I do! I just normally get over things by understanding them, and I just can’t understand this. I don’t actively think it was arbitrary and callous and thoughtless, but I have a burning desire to know the real reason why, because it IS personally affecting me. The trite “policy” excuse is frustrating, especially because this manager has made a big deal about people coming to her and honestly talking to her about how we feel and how things are working and aren’t working etc. I don’t want it to be personal and malicious, I just haven’t found a reason why that makes sense, and I fixate on things that don’t make sense to me…especially like I said when it’s something that’s so important to me. If I had been told “hey, we can’t do this because you’ve just missed too much work” it would be so much easier to get over. But now I’m stuck second guessing everything because I know absences are the only place I’ve struggled and that wasn’t even mentioned.

            I know it’s not personal and the odds are high it was just a collision of circumstances, but I feel like I deserve more than a BS excuse for something this important.

            Unfortunately, it seems like this is a trend happening right now with management in general refusing to communicate and being prickly about sharing information, because there’s been a lot of talk among support staff how nobody knows anything about what’s going on in other departments or in general in the organization.

            1. Indie*

              I think the lack of explanation may be a deal breaker? Even if the reason is assumed to be quite understandable, it sounds like you need more back and forth, or approachabilty than you’re getting. Now you could frame it as they merely made a mistake with communication, or even that they’re temporarily uncommunicative because of big picture stuff. But I think that with time that will either cease to matter or you’ll job hunt for what you want.

              1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

                I do really like back and forth, as anyone might be able to deduce from the number of comments I’ve made here! I hope it isn’t a deal breaker though because I have good communication with the people I interact with the most, and usually good communication with this particular supervisor (which is part of why it’s so darn confusing and frustrating!).

            2. animaniactoo*

              OP, when companies have that kind of sudden trend, something HUGE is going on upstairs. Like affect the entire company huge.

              You’re not going to understand this until it’s over and I think you are best off taking it as granted that the reason you were denied has something to do with the bigger issues going on until you find out what those issues were. Whatever they are, the trend that you’re describing strongly suggests that your vacation was simply collateral damage.

              In your shoes, I would be actively looking around because what you’re talking about are likely to be more changes that may change your job and pay and commute and people that you currently like into something that’s much less happy to deal with. At which point, even if you think you have a handle on what else is out there, it pays to have a fresher look and know what your options are.

              1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

                This is advice I have gotten elsewhere on AAM while commenting under my regular username :( I hope it isn’t so but…signs say yes. I just want to hold out a little longer if I can.

              2. Angela Ziegler*

                This is most likely the explanation. If some big shift in duties/company structure/employment numbers is due to come up, I can see why the manager may not want OP to be away for it. It’s possible there was a memo relating to granting vacation time during the coming weeks due to the pending changes and OP’s manager was waiting to see if things would be sorted out in time.

              3. Mad Baggins*

                +1 OP, I think you’re the equivalent of a polar bear cub who doesn’t understand why we can’t go swimming today. Mama bear can see the cracks in the ice and feel the air getting warmer, and she’s getting ready to move. But when you ask to go swimming, she just says, “Not today.”

                I think if you need an explanation in order to reframe this and move on, by the time you get one it will be too late. I think you should take the information you do have, dial back your emotional investment in the company/your work, and look at what else is out there (either to jump ship before things actually affect you, or to recalibrate your expectations and get yourself in a better position to ride things out).

        3. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

          Is there any chance that perhaps the specialists aren’t giving you work because you are out more regularly? I’ve seen that happen in a few places where I’ve worked, where the person who would typically delegate the work does it themselves in an attempt not to burden the person who should be doing the work.

          1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            Considering most of the work is stuff they don’t even know how to do…I doubt it? The level of work hasn’t decreased and I haven’t seen any sign that there’s work someone else is doing instead of me doing it. And really, I just have a hard time wrapping my brain around how two hours a week less time in the office(at most!) is severely impacting my productivity when we’ve been known in the past to work flexible summer schedules where people work only 36 hours a week and everyone still gets their work done.

      3. McWhadden*

        But none of this was communicated to the OP. She’s left guessing and making an assumption that it’s workload related or anything else is just as valid as taking it personally. Because all they have said is a vague policy reference. If they have issues or concerns or worries those need to be communicated.

        And refusing a week before the leave is absolutely unprofessional and callous.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It was certainly not handled well by OP’s supervisor and was poorly communicated. And the close timing is extremely problematic unless there’s an extenuating reason for why the denial was so delayed. The situation 100% sucks for OP, and I am very sorry she’s going through it.

          She asked how to move on, emotionally, and I’m trying to offer different things for her to focus upon so that she doesn’t get hung up on the denial. She’s totally allowed to be hung up and upset—I certainly would be if I were in her shoes. I’m just trying to give her ways to reframe what happened so that it doesn’t feel like such a strong personal slight.

      4. Washi*

        +1 Mental health stuff is tricky because it’s so obvious to you that you’re making this huge effort, it’s all really stressful, you’re still probably not sleeping much, there are a million doctor’s appointments and you’re still showing up at work as much as is humanly possible and yet from the outside this just looks like an employee meeting basic expectations. And I get that it’s hard to step back and see this (I say this as someone who struggles with depression and anxiety) and it DEFINITELY sucks that they only told you a week before your vacation, but what felt like a slight uptick in absences to you may have been a much bigger deal to your supervisor. It’s not about whether they will or won’t “go the extra mile,” it’s a business decision, one that wasn’t communicated in a super timely manner, but still a business decision.

    11. Nita*

      I’m sorry. It kind of seems like you got caught in some larger office stuff. Maybe the denial was more to do with the increased workload being piled on everyone, than your absences. I know exactly how you feel. I also gave up a much hoped-for vacation recently, and I’m surprised how intense the feelings are. It’s like this was the one thing that kept me going through some really bad times, and now it’s gone, and the feelings that built up from everything before are crushing me. I know you’ve had a rough few months too, so that’s got to be contributing to how you feel now. Maybe try finding something small to look forward to every day, or every week, and take it one step at a time.

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        You hit the nail on the head; I’ve been looking forward to this so much it was definitely one thing that was keeping me going through a lot of these personal issues. Losing it is definitely playing a large role in why it’s so crushing.

        1. Annie*

          My thought reading the original story and the update was that the manager may have had to recently deny someone else time off and thought that giving you the time off would be seen as snubbing the other employee. In the end, I don’t think it was something that was intended to punish you personally as much as not wanting to create a culture at work in which people take off too much time off of work, if that makes sense. I don’t know if an employee complained or commented to her about your time off, but I wonder if that’s a possibility.

          I’m glad that the new treatment is going well!! In the future, I would ask for time off as far in advance as possible, especially if you know the precise dates you will need off. And don’t book until you have confirmation you have the time off. I’m sure you know that now.

    12. MicroManagered*

      I can totally understand feeling like “how the hell do I work with this person who stung me so badly?” (Even if you played a part in it by booking before you had approval, even if your boss denied your request for lame nonreasons… doesn’t matter. This stings and I get that.)

      One thing I do is give myself a limited amount of time to express my feelings. Like maybe I’ll ask my partner if I can set a timer on the stove and complain for 5 minutes. Or I’ll get my journal out and start writing out my feelings until I run out of steam. I think if you try to deny your hurt feelings, they’ll fester and turn into resentment. Allow yourself an outlet for your feelings. When the initial wave of feelings passes, begin to remind yourself that this wasn’t like a targeted decision to be mean. Your employer has to consider the needs of the business. Right now your medical situation is at odds with your trip and unfortunately, to take care of you, you have to be absent from work more than you’d like right now.

      Then rinse and repeat. Outlet for feelings, then gently remind yourself it’s not personal. Outlet for feelings, then gently remind yourself it’s not personal. Rinse and repeat.

      1. Thursday Next*

        Timed sessions are great for things like this. It’s good to have a “container” for these feelings so they don’t eat away at you, OP.

        I’m glad your doctor was able to recommend some helpful lifestyle modifications!

    13. Bea*

      Having never seen a request denied before, I’m still in shock for you and can’t blame you for being so crushed.

      Is there a reason you say you’ll never find a job with the same pay? What is it that you love so much about this place?

      She’s being short and standoffish with everyone. You got a weak excuse that’s not the norm. She sounds like she hit a rough patch either personally or screws tightening at work. I’m concerned about that more than the denial.

      If you can remind yourself why you love it and it’s seemingly irreplaceable perhaps that’ll help ride it out easier.

      But do yourself a favor and entertain a casual search to back up your idea you’re being paid well enough. There may be listings that will surprise you.

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        It’s not a never thing, it’s just that it’s a support staff position so it’s not exactly well paid to begin with, and I live in a location where there’s no shortage of people who would gladly take it from me. When I applied to this job I was told later that there had been over two hundred applicants…and that’s in a city with (at the time) just over 50k people!

        I love the people I work with; it’s a good mix of personalities and everyone is very dedicated to the work. I like the pay, I like the commute(walking distance!!), I like the benefits, even though the time off is on the low end of the scale. I have a lot of reasons to like this place, but it does seem like the past year or so it’s been getting worse, which is why husband is suggesting the job search as he thinks I’ve been getting more and more unhappy with things.

        1. Bea*

          I’ll tell you a secret about hiring and” we had 200 applicants!”, often that’s 180 applicants who are sooooooo far out of the spectrum, you’re still really only up against maybe 20 in the right ballpark.

          I got about 60 recently enough and only 3 were good enough to interview. Lots of applicant pools are diluted by resume spammers needless to say.

          But these are all strong reasons to like the place! So I’m hoping despite a crappy manager, you’ll brush off the funk soon. I bet you just need distance from the letdown and something else will take over your mind soon enough.

        2. Someone Else*

          I wouldn’t read too much into the number of applicants. In my experiences with hiring, 90% of the applications we get are from people not remotely qualified and are just spamming applications everywhere indiscriminately. The last position we hired for we received over 400 applications. Only 12 had anything in there that made it make sense why they’d chosen to apply for that specific role.

    14. Happy Temp*

      As someone who does tend to take things personally, I am taking a lot of notes on the great suggestions people are giving!

      I want to add that maybe a little bit of introspection of your own behavior might be something to dig into, too–or perhaps, the way your own behavior might be perceived by others.
      I was taken aback by you saying “That’s why I feel so strongly it was not related to productivity but instead (seemingly) arbitrary attendance standards”–based on your own previous updates, it’s pretty clear that the standards for *your* attendance have been made very clear to you. You even state that you have been absent more. Is it truly surprising that your manager might not feel your absences are meeting a standard that the two of you worked on? That the attendance standard for *you* is not at all “arbitrary”?

      In another comment, you mention “I’ve slipped a few times and indulged in a pity party”–it’s not clear to me what you mean by that, or if you mean specifically at work. But I think you’ve hinted here and there that you’ve made your unhappiness about being denied the time off extremely explicit at work. Is it possible that your explicit unhappiness about being denied something that you were truly never promised, and, that your recent “uptick” in absences would affect, only hurts you more? Might it make you look like you feel entitled? Might it make you look like you actually don’t think your absences are a problem when they’ve been clearly stated as such?
      I think people are being very kind and sympathetic to your distress. I am concerned that on some level you don’t think you have contributed at all to the denial of your request for time off.

      1. McWhadden*

        I do think it’s always helpful to examine your own behavior in a situation and how it appears.

        However, I find it disturbing how many people are suggesting taking legally allowed FMLA leave is something the LW should feel guilty about or reflect on. It’s FMLA leave! They have to give it. She has a medical reason for it.

      2. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        They’re seemingly arbitrary to me, but I understand that they might be the problem because like you said it has been made clear to me. I think it’s arbitrary but I recognize that’s not how my boss sees it. I just said that as a way to explain that productivity at least for me has not been affected by my absences.

        By pity party, I mean things like saying “yeah, I had really wanted to go, we had stuff planned, I’m sad about it”, not, “omg boss is so mean I can’t believe they’re doing this!”. Denying leave is so against the culture here just saying the words “my leave wasn’t approved” has had people aghast and pestering me about why, but I’ve avoided getting into the weeds too much because I don’t want to be bad-mouthing, but I am sad and I really can’t hide that, especially since I’ve been exuberant and people have known about it for months. And honestly, a lot of my coworkers contributed cash for this trip at my at-work surprise wedding shower, so they feel invested in it. It’s hard to say “I took your money for my trip and now I won’t explain why it’s not happening”, so I’m trying to just say “I would have had to take the time unpaid and it wasn’t approved”, which still leads to more questions because it just is shocking to most people that time wouldn’t be approved. That’s the culture. So I don’t know how to juggle the very fine line of explaining what happened and not seeming entitled.

        And as for the uptick, it was more like steady, and then a slight uptick, like for two weeks it was two 1hr days instead of one 1h day, and then it dropped off completely because I got to see the specialist and I haven’t had any issues since then. That was about a week before it was denied. So I don’t know. Maybe people are seeing it that way, but everyone I’ve told has been literally jaw-droppingly surprised.

  2. Foreign Octopus*

    I would just like to express how much I have loved all the updates this week. I really, really love when updates come in so thank you for posting them, Alison!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I thank whoever encouraged me last week to clear out my queue of some of them! It’s such a nice break for me. I actually have enough stored up to do like a month of them, but I’ll space them out a bit (although still plan also to do our annual updates extravaganza in December).

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        If you end up with a queue next year, maybe you can do a “Christmas in July” type thing and feature them.

          1. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

            Oh, I don’t work in education but I bet there are scads of stories out there. That would be fun Alison!

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This makes me so happy—updates are truly my favorite, and if they also give you a well-deserved break, all the better!

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          When I first found this site, I absolutely went through and read every single post in the “Updates” category (and the original letters they were about).

      3. Gdub*

        I love your updates so much that I’ve begun to resent other advice columnists because they rarely have them.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I always feel I should give credit to my BFF, who came up with the idea for updates many years ago. Now I’m trying to convince her to guest-host some podcasts with me as I think she’d be excellent at it.

    2. The Cleaner*

      I also love updates so, so much!

      Every day, I hope it will be the day we get an update from the person whose coworker’s husband might be dead, or might be on Facebook. When there is no update, the sun appears dark in my eyes.

      But I still hope!

  3. CBH*

    OP2 I’m sorry this happened to you. I agree your company should not have waited so long to tell you but also glad to see you know going forward to get official approval first. Perhaps look at the bright side in that now with your money in a special fund for a future trip, you can add additional monies to it and enjoy something even more extravagant.

    1. The Babiest Babyface*

      Haha! I was actually just packing mine with my school things today! It’s amazing how many pens I was able to shove in there. I think I ended up with a pen, two sharpies, my highlighters, and my mini stapler! Not bad for a bag meant for kids!

  4. Your Weird Uncle*

    OP1 – my dad is also a railroad engineer (or was….he’s long retired). I usually just roll my eyes at his workplace suggestions or advice. He means well but is….out of touch with what happens in my own office. Good luck with your studies and future career! :)

      1. I Love Thrawn*

        I especially loved the part about the cats! I wish more institutions showed this kind of empathy and care. Plus the whole sloth pencil case situation was just awesome.

  5. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

    I also meant to add that while I had posted an update on the insomnia stuff in a friday thread at one point but I’m proud to say that since I’ve sat down with this new doctor I haven’t missed a minute of work. It’s been just under a month now and while I’m still struggling with getting into a new routine and having some personal issues from changing everything up so much, the most important goal for me has been solved. He completely reframed my idea of my illness from primary insomnia to a circadian rhythm disorder instead. The treatment has been altered medications and a drastic and strict lifestyle change, but it seems to be working as far as being able to be functional in the morning when I need to be heading to work. I feel so much better knowing this might be the solution, even if it’s really daunting to potentially spend the rest of my life following such a rigid and restrictive routine.

    1. Lilac*

      Routine has a way of becoming habit, so hopefully as time goes on it won’t seem so bad anymore, especially if it means your health.

      I wish you all the best in the future. OP! You deserve it. :)

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        I really hope this is how it happens! It’s just frustrating because it’s so limiting for me (shutting down my life at 8:30pm is hard, man!) and I’ve already seen that just one day of not following it strictly will ripple into two more days of having to drag myself back to the right spot.

        1. Lauren*

          Due to early morning awakening insommnia I go to bed at 8 pm and wake up at 4 am. For me it’s just life. I am not able to sleep past 4 am (sometimes it’s 2 am or sometimes it’s midnight) no matter what. I’ve tried everything. This is the only way I can function and get a decent night’s sleep. Everything else can wait because I no longer care. Sleep is more important.

          1. Your Weird Uncle*

            OMG me too! I thought I was the only one who went through that. I’ve just come to the conclusion that I am an extreme early morning riser, and now I’ve come to (sometimes) enjoy being up so early.

            One odd tip that I read in a Family Circle magazine, which seems to help, is to eat a spoonful of raw honey before going to bed. Apparently the thought behind this is that you wake up early (or in the middle of the night) due to hunger signals from your body, but raw honey takes long enough to digest that your body doesn’t give off those signals and you can actually stay asleep. It doesn’t work every night but it really does seem to help.

            1. Lauren*

              I’m definitely not hungry. And honey is sugar. It takes no time at all for honey to digest. Even “raw” (which all honey is)

              It runs in my family. My mom has trouble staying asleep in the morning as well.

          2. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            Sounds like you might have a circadian rhythm disorder too! There’s one that relates to an advanced cycle like what you’re talking about! But yeah, sleep tends to be #1…and everything else goes by the wayside. But it’s a balance because then if you’re like me it can get depressing focusing on just getting sleep instead of anything else.

            1. Lauren*

              I don’t find it depressing at all. I’d rather get enough sleep than anything else. I can’t function being sleep deprived.

            2. Lauren*

              Yeah I was reading about that. I’ve always been an early riser but the not being able to stay asleep is new. I managed it by going to bed early so that helped. It seems to have been fixed now I think for some reason. Of course my cat is used to me getting up early…..

        2. Bea*

          Just like developing an allergy or finding out you’re diabetic and must change your routine. It’s torture starting out then it’s second nature.

          I have started enjoying early bed times and more time functioning in the mornings. It took time but sunrises are way more gorgeous than sunsets imo :)

          1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

            Yep, what helped me reframe it in my mind was telling myself “well, this is an illness, just like any other, if I found out I had diabetes I would be in a lot worse boat for lifestyle changes, so this isn’t that big of a deal”.

            I’m still very much in the phase where I would give up a million dollars if it meant I could stay in bed longer in the mornings, but I’m physically able to get up and that’s the most important part of all.

        3. Observer*

          Another way to re-frame is training for an event. People who are in a sport, for instance, are very strict about their diets, exercise routines, etc. Yes, it’s restrictive, but it’s also empowering and gets them to a goal. For you, the lifestyle changes are much the same, if they work. Restrictive but empowering and enabling as well.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is really fantastic, and I suspect the routine will become easier (and more of a habit) with time. Honestly, just being able to sleep is so huge, and I’m glad this approach has been working… even if it’s jarring in the short-term.

    3. The Ginger Ginger*

      I had to do something similar to get a handle on an anxiety/migraine/insomnia spiral, and while it’s hard at the beginning, 5-6 years later -it’s the best thing I ever did. In time, I’ve been able to be slightly less rigid, but I’m still packing it in and laying down around 9 pm every night. And honestly, feeling good is 1000% worth it.

      1. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

        Thankfully I’ve never been a social butterfly so most days I’m home at 8:30 anyways, but the very very few nights I’m not…that will be hard to break!

    4. MsCende*

      I have free-running circadian rhythm disorder (non-24), and it’s incredibly hard to deal with. We’re hoping that I can find a doc that can help with medication, because pure routine doesn’t work for me.

      I wish you much, much luck in fighting this foul beast, and just hope you know that if the medication & routine you’ve found is right for you, it’ll make an enormous difference in your life.

    1. Hope*

      Having worked at several universities, many, many of them have some population of “campus cats” that vary in how friendly or feral the cats are as well as how much the university does to care for said cats. Most start out as kittens that students try to keep in their dorms as pets and turn into “outside” cats once the students are caught with them, or they’re the progeny of those former pets. The university I work at does regular TNR (trap neuter release) to keep the population under control, and there are a few hidden food/water stations around campus maintained by volunteers. In return, the cats keep the rodent population down and add a little purrsonality to the campus.

      1. Jennifer*

        There is a cat that has an outside house and feeding area in the courtyard in the building next to me. I think that’s adorable.

      2. vonlowe*

        Some honey isn’t raw, mainly because because it isn’t really honey, where it’s had sugar syrup added for example.

        But as it’s sugar it’ll still take no time to digest compared to more complex things

        1. vonlowe*

          Ah replying on mobile it’s so annoying!

          Anyway, we had several campus cats as it was in a residential area. Also cathedral cars as well!

    2. uranus wars*

      I rescued a stray from a college I worked at. A constructor worker actually found her and she was so scared, but so loveable. She’d hide when I’d walk in the room but after about 10 minutes she’d be perched on my shoulder like a parrot. Its one of my favorite memories from that job.

    3. Arya Parya*

      Me too!
      My high school had chickens and one year there was a family of ducks living in the courtyard (the school used to be a monestary). But cats would have made it even more fun.

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        My university has a group of foxes that live in one of the buildings near a lake! They even have their own tumblr.

  6. she was a fast machine*

    OP1, your school sounds amazing…I don’t suppose they have an engineering program, do they??

    1. The Babiest Babyface*

      There’s actually a really amazing engineering program!! Are you a student still??

      1. she was a fast machine*

        I am! I just finished an associates program and am on the hunt for a place to attend for my BEng now that I know that’s what I want.

        1. The Babiest Babyface*

          My email is rdavis45891 at gmail. I can get you information about my school!

  7. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

    LW #4, congratulations! It seems like you’re escaping a truly toxic boss at the right time. Good luck with whatever new job you go with!

  8. deets*

    OP4, I’m so glad you’ve found a new position you’re excited about! I currently have a similarly petty/angry boss and can’t wait to escape.

  9. honeymoon/insomnia OP*

    OP4, I’m so so glad you’re landing on your feet after escaping a toxic place! AAM was my key to getting out of my last toxic job and it makes me happy to see it happening for others too.

  10. Social Twerker*

    Question/Update 1:
    JSYK, I like a lot of “weird” stuff to decorate my office with, and I am a social worker. That is another profession with a more lax environment as far as social rules go. I also am not expected to wear make up every day to work. YAY!

  11. Plague of frogs*


    “I think this is an attempt to wield some power over me or show what I’m missing by leaving”

    LOL! He’s showing you what you’re missing alright. Congrats on getting out of there.

    1. DataGirl*

      Me too! My small women’s college was also in the middle of nowhere, although we didn’t have cats (that was in the 90’s). It was mostly a great experience.

      1. aNon*

        I know you didn’t mean it that way but when I first read your comment, my first thought was “Were there no cats in the 90’s?”

      2. ThisIsMyNewUserName*

        SUPER late, but what school???
        I’m a Cottey alum – 2 hours south of KC in Missouri.

  12. uranus wars*

    #1 some of my wildest career advice came from my coal-miner grandfather. I am completely envious of you school situation.

  13. Q*

    LW#4 this sounds like my old boss. I gave notice and she retaliated by getting in my face and yelling at me. She then proceeded to hold meetings in her office with everyone but me with her door open, and then proceeded to talk about me. She also resorted to petty tactics such as taking everyone out to lunch but me. My company also would buy a cake for the last day, but I heard her tell them not to bother. These types of bosses are horrible human beings and time does not lessen how awful they are. In fact in retrospect I can’t believe I stuck out a year with this horrible woman.

  14. Goya de la Mancha*

    Updates are my favorite! Thank you to all the letter writers who take time to send us new information on those. I know it’s not always easy, as some writers have hinted toward less then stellar treatment from the commentators.

  15. Indie*

    Op1, I’m all done with schooling, but can I come to your school anyway? It sounds fantastic!

  16. cat owner*

    Ha ha, I didn’t comment last time, OP1, but my dad is so similar – I can totally see him being very disapproving of my Wild West theme I have going on my desk including a cow stress ball and a cactus pencil holder.

  17. Alica*

    My work is next to my boss’s house, which is a farmhouse – they have a dog, 2 cats, and a herd of chickens, ducks and geese. I love that I get to occasionally stroke a kitty, and get fresh eggs from my boss’s partner! (not so keen on the rather territorial geese, but they usually behave….)

    I also love that most of my colleagues have become accustomed to my geekiness, and so nothing is said about my Harry Potter calendar, my 3D dodecahedron calendar or the fact that I’m wearing a Captain America tshirt. Little workplace comforts :)

  18. Ladyphoenix*

    #1: Like I said, my office has a ton of Funko pops and even some stuffed animals. I have a cute Poplio (from Pokemon) plus I got for Christmas that I like to cuddle when I need a detressor.

  19. The Doctor*

    OP #4…

    If boss “ALWAYS takes it personally when people leave” regardless of their stated reasons, maybe it’s because he has read articles with titles like “People Leave Managers, Not Companies.”

  20. Kit-Kat*

    OP1-My dad is similar too. I’m a short female who has quirky interests/tastes. Luckily I work at a children’s hospital so fun office stuff, clothes etc are the norm. Because it’s all to entertain the kids right?? ;) I honestly picked my area of work in some part because expressing my individuality is really important to me and I wanted to be in a field that felt really welcoming. Not necessarily of the “kid” stuff just room to be a little more unique! (Eg I know some people who think my light pink work pants are “daring” haha.)

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