good employee is angry about bad employee, avoiding cooing over coworkers’ kids, and more

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

1. My good employee is angry about my bad employee

I have two employees who have both worked here for over 20 years. One works days, the other works evenings. The employee on evenings has had many, many, many years of disciplinary issues and is on action plans over and over and over again. He owns his own business during the day and only works our evening shift, so he makes it very clear this is not his primary concern. He is extremely reliable but is not good at his job and has many inconsistencies in his performance and responsibilities. HR is not willing/able to terminate his employment. I can’t exactly tell you why, but there is obviously some reason they won’t. We are asked to continue his action plans and keep great documentation.

I have only been with this organization for 1½ years and he has been on an ongoing action plan with me since January. The daytime employee is a model employee and works hard, is reliable, goes above and beyond, and has not had one bad mark on her file since she began working here. She is fed up with all that the evening employee gets away with. It is eating her up inside. I know she understands that I am doing everything I can to work with the evening employee, but she has seen this for 20 years and cannot get past it any more (can’t say I blame her). What can I do to help her through her anger over the situation? This has become increasingly worse for her and I just don’t know how to channel those feelings into something productive or worthwhile to her.

Her anger is a reasonable reaction! I understand that it would be better for the organization if you could find a way to make her okay with the situation, but would it be better for her? I’d argue that she should be pissed off and disillusioned with her employer — not with you, because this isn’t your fault, but certainly with the broader organization. There are consequences to employers who won’t address performance problems, and one of them is that good employees get frustrated and eventually leave.

The most important things you can do here are to push to be allowed to fire the bad employee, to insist on knowing why — with years of action plans and documentation that hasn’t happened (you’re his manager; you have standing to know that) — and to make sure that whoever is standing in the way of firing your night shift employees knows that you’re likely to lose your good employee over it if they won’t act.

Beyond that, the kindest thing you can do for your good employee is to be honest with her about will and won’t change so that she has all the info she needs to make good decisions for herself: “I understand why you’re frustrated. I would be too. You’re right to think that there’s a disparity between your performance and his. I wish I could tell you that was going to change, but I haven’t seen any signs that it will. I support you in whatever you decide to do.” Don’t try to talk her into being okay with something that isn’t okay.

2. Can I avoid cooing over coworkers’ kids without looking like a jerk?

I don’t dislike children, but I’m also not gaga over them either. It always feels so awkward whenever people parade their very young children around the office to show off. Everyone, and I mean everyone, but me (in my department) stops what they’re doing and coos and plays with the baby for half an hour. I feel so out of place when I don’t join them and yet, it is so forced and unnatural for me to do so. I can’t fake it. Is there a way to not join everyone and not look like an ogre at the same time?

This last time I was so determined to ignore and keep on working, but this coworker from a different department was subtly trying to force me to pay attention and say something. This ended up with the baby on top of my cabinets and a stinky diaper filling the room around me. Sigh. Please help me navigate the politics of this situation.

You’re probably better off saying something even if it feels unnatural and fake than saying nothing at all. But it doesn’t have to be a lengthy interaction and it doesn’t need to involve cooing or baby talk. It can be “she’s adorable” (said while smiling, not grimacing) or “he’s really cute” or “hello! nice to meet you!” and in many cases, that’s probably going to be enough. If anyone gives you crap about not playing for half an hour, you can say, “She’s really cute but I’ve got my hands full over here with trying to get (work project) done. Thanks for introducing me though!” In other words, say something kind because that is basic politeness when it comes to acknowledging someone’s young offspring and that will prevent you from looking strangely chilly, but then — in functional offices, at least — you’re allowed to go back to work.

If someone pushes you to hold a baby or otherwise interact with them, saying that you’re getting over a cold and are afraid of spreading germs is a really good way to get babies whisked away from you.

3. My boss calls out people publicly for making mistakes

I’m two months into a new job at a company that’s currently in the midst of some major growth. The owner/boss is very much a “broad ideas” kind of speaker. We have an open floor plan, and about twice a week he’ll stop everything for an unannounced meeting/speech to talk about broad office matters or problems without diving into any specific directives for how to go about tackling those problems.

Lately, these unannounced pep talks have turned fairly critical. The company’s growing, so new systems for inter-office communication and general workflow and the occasional mistake is made as we all adjust to these new system. Boss has taken to addressing the entire office about errors in work, and then proceeds to call out specific people in the office for recent mistakes they’ve.

I’m all for quality control, but it seems to me like the message he’s trying to get across would be better served in one-on-one conversations with the employees in question. Publicly shaming a colleague, without offering any helpful ideas on how to improve, seems kind of out of line. Am I just being too sensitive in thinking this? Or does this speak to a deeper management problem?

Nope, you’re not being overly sensitive. It’s true that sometimes there can be benefit in discussing mistakes as a team, if there’s a concern that otherwise they’re likely to be repeated or if there’s a need to change procedures or shore up some process. But calling out specific people is rarely necessary (and on the rare occasions where mentioning a name is unavoidable, it should be done with a lot of sensitivity so it doesn’t seem like anyone is being shamed — more like “Jane recently ran into this situation and it made us realize we should clarify how to handle this it if up comes up again”). And it sounds like your boss is doing this in a critical way, not a constructive way, which is indeed crappy management.

And really, if there are so many errors happening that he’s regularly addressing the whole office about them, then the root cause is a higher-level problem — bad training, unclear expectations, impossible tasks, bad hires, or so forth.

4. Is this holiday plan fair?

My office is shortening hours on multiple days that we would typically be open (Black Friday, day after Christmas, New Years Eve, etc.). On all of those days when we would typically be open for nine hours, we will now only open for three hours.

I understand that hourly employees would only receive pay for the hours worked, but I am an exempt salaried employee.

My manager says that if I would like to take any of those days off, I will be charged for a full day of PTO (eight hours), as opposed to just the three hours that I would be required to be here had I not taken the day off. Does that sound like a fair or standard practice to you? I’ve never been in this situation before, so I’m not sure!

It’s not particularly fair, no. Sometimes when an office decides at the last minute to close early (for example, announcing in the morning that everyone can leave at 1 p.m. that day), they still charge people who were on vacation that day for a full day of PTO. The thinking is that if you were on vacation, you had the benefit of planning for the full day off, whereas people who came to work had to plan to be at work the whole day. But your situation is different, because everyone can plan ahead of time for those hours off. I wouldn’t be surprised if their reason is that they want to incentivize people to work on those days, since they’re days that otherwise a lot of people would want to take off.

5. How much notice should I give when I have a lot of flexibility?

I’ve worked with my employer for eight years now. I have an excellent relationship with my boss. There have been a lot of changes underway in our office – both workflow and staff. I’ve decided the time has come to leave the workforce to be a stay-at-home mom. I definitely want to give more than two weeks as a gesture of loyalty and to avoid putting my boss in a lurch, but I also don’t want to give so long of a notice that things get awkward. How long is appropriate in this instance?

It’s up to you! There are some offices and dynamics where you could say, “Hey, I’m planning to do this in a year” and it would be totally fine and the massive amount of notice would be appreciated. There are others where anything more than two weeks will end up being awkward and weird. So it depends on what you know of your boss and your coworkers and your office generally. But if you don’t feel like you have strong indicators in either direction — but know that your boss won’t handle a month or two badly — you could sit down with her and talk it through, framing it as, “I’m planning to do this, ideally by the end of the year, but I’m flexible on the timing. Could we talk about what ending date would make the most sense?” (Keep in mind, of course, that making that offer doesn’t bind you to staying longer than you want to. You can say, “January is too far out, but how about December 1?” or so forth.)

{ 608 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, a warm smile with “well hello there!” to the baby, or a “it’s so lovely to meet [Child’s Name]” with a quick pivot back to work will satisfy the niceties without having to stick around and coo. You don’t have to go gaga; you just have to evince warmth.

    And Alison is right about pleading illness—it’s a great way to avoid babies and comes across as thoughtful instead of avoidant.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah I’ve had coworkers come by with new babies and I made the standard “oh, how cute,” kind of remarks and went on with my day. It helped that I wasn’t really close with the coworker in question and there were plenty of other people cooing over the kid. If anyone felt I was being mean or rude, they didn’t say anything to me about it.

    2. Not Australian*

      My usual strategy is just to address the baby: “Hello, sweetheart, how nice to meet you, sorry I can’t stop to talk,” and then be as busy as I know how to be until the disturbance is over. I personally don’t think babies belong in the workplace at all, although I do concede that there are many reasons why they might be there; it’s very difficult to focus when they’re around, anyway, and – as with anyone else – being forced to share their company when you’d rather not can be extremely disruptive.

      1. valentine*

        OP2, be all business with baby: Where’s your TPS report, Carlisle? Trust you to raise a stink about it.

        1. Princess of Pure Reason*

          I generally resort to “Oh, I see we have a new temp! I’ll find you a copy of the SOPs and you can get started”, smile at kid and parent, turn back to work.

          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            I say, “Whoa, check out the new intern! Reday to start doing X, Y, and Z Mr/Ms. $Babyname”

        2. OP #2*

          Haha! That’s great. It gives me a way to bring adult humor into the situation, but everyone will just think it’s cute.

          1. zora*

            I do this with dogs visiting the office, too: “Oh hello there, ready to get to work? I’ve got some filing you can help with!” Everyone chuckles, and I use that moment to exit. It works great.

          2. AKchic*

            I give the standard “Oh, are you here to help with the shred pile or mailing?”

            Because drooling babies and animals can do both (yep, I’ve used the teething kiddos to help me with holiday cards, and my dog is great for sealing the holiday cards too!) (the now-16 year old’s two year old self was amazing when he went through his “I gotta rip it!” phase).

        3. Jan*

          I feel you OP. I’m not a kid person either. In that situation, I smile and say “Bit young to be working for us, aren’t you mate?” I’ve acknowledged the baby warmly but not wasted my energy I’d rather use with cats.

      2. Zombeyonce*

        I brought my daughter into the office years ago for about 20 minutes to show her around near the end of my maternity leave and I plan to do that with my next kid (due next year) but I am always wary of taking them to people that don’t want to see them. I know that some do since many specifically requested I bring the kid in.

        Do you have any suggestions as to how to manage that? Last time I just sent out a message to the team that I’d be at my cubicle at a certain time w/the kid and if they wanted to come see her, they could, and that seemed to work. Does that seem good, or is even that too much for people that don’t want a kid in the office?

        1. Crystal*

          That is totally fine. “Me and Baby Zombeyonce are coming to visit at ____ time.” This is a very common thing and you’re not going to be there for hours.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          People who don’t want to see your kid will love you for not carrying it around. People who do want to see your kid will be glad to know where they can find you. Now me, I’m a baby-cooer but since other people won’t let me monopolize it, I end up praising the baby and then wandering back to work. Being *able* to get away from the crowd and back to work is a wonderful thing.

          For everyone, everywhere: This is also a really good solution for when you travel to a place where lots of people want to see you: instead of driving all over the place and turning your vacation time into a commute, make them come to you. Tell the whole group “I’ll be at PLACE from TIME to TIME and hope you can join me there.” (And trust me: make that window 2 hours long, 3 hours max.) The place can be the home of a relative or friend who is okay with the open-house aspect, or a cafe or pub that doesn’t mind people coming and going. People may push back and you’ll know pretty quick how legit they are. “I just can’t commit to a time” people don’t care enough to be worth your labor. “The baby’s nap is right during that time” people care enough to be worth you making the drive to them.

    3. Zona the Great*

      I get real weird around babies. Like Robin from How I Met Your Mother. Luckily I can smell one at 50 paces and can usually duck out before offending anyone.

      1. Mbarr*

        A kindred spirit! I usually managed to avoid them (e.g. hide in the kitchen till they left), but it was harder in our open-office environment cause the team would gather in the aisles and I couldn’t run away undetected…

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Honestly me too. I do not like babies and actively avoid them. Fortunately they tend to be easy to smell, and when I do smell them (or hear them), I instantly remember a very important thing I need to do right now. Over there. Far away.

      3. OP #2*

        I’m the same way. I’m awesome with my nieces and nephews and I love them dearly, but when it’s other people’s children, I’m really weird around them.

      4. Aphrodite*

        Agreed. I do not like kids at all. Never have. Not that I am a “get off my lawn, you kids!” kind of person and I would never hurt a child, but do NOT bring them around me, ever. I will run to get away from a parent with a kid in tow at work in order to avoid any contact at all. I am sorry, parents, but your kid is not cute to me and I do not want to interact even for a second. So I will take the initiative because I do not wish to be rude to your child.

      5. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        This is (was?) my husband before our son was born. Even now, while he is AMAZING with our boy, he still is not a “baby person”.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If you’re caught unaware by baby showing up and you were just talking about some subject that makes it clear you’re totally healthy? “My boyfriend’s got strep throat going around his office” will make everyone back away.

    5. EddieSherbert*

      Agreed! In my experience as long as you walk over, say something nice, and give the baby a little wave or finger wiggle, you’ll be okay and no one will realize you’re “avoiding” the baby.

      Honestly, half the time in my experience, I feel like the new parent(s) are more comfortable when you aren’t asking to carry or hold their baby. No one has ever said that to me, but I often get that impression. I mean, most of my coworkers don’t really know me that well! And their spouses typically don’t know me at all!

      1. Just Another Techie*

        OMG yes. I didn’t want anyone holding or even touching my newborn for the first couple of months. Flu season + too young to vaccinate == overwhelming anxiety about strangers giving your baby a virus.

      2. BadWolf*

        Through trial and error, I’ve determined that I only hold the baby when the parent asks more than once or says it as a statement (hold the baby) as they will be insulted if I don’t hold the baby. Everyone else will be happy/not care if I don’t hold the baby.

        1. Janet (not a robot)*

          Seriously. I honestly can’t imagine forcing anyone to hold my baby when they didn’t want to. I was nervous enough with people who DID want to hold her – including my parents, my husband, my friends with kids, and any other willing and expert baby-holders.

          If someone doesn’t want to hold a baby, then they won’t enjoy holding the baby. And I will be nervous, and the baby won’t care either way. So why bother, in that case? Save the experience for people who will actually enjoy it!

        2. EmKay*

          Even if (especially if) they frame it as a statement or an order, I smile sheepishly and say “Oh no thank you, I am the Queen of Klutz and I’ll drop him on his head! Haha!”

        3. Jennifer Juniper*

          Tell them you’re afraid you’ll drop the baby or make her cry because you’ll hold her wrong.

    6. Nyltiak*

      I don’t think most babies are cute, so I usually go with something that people will interpret as positive but is actually neutral so that I don’t sound phony. Like “look how tiny his hands are!” Alternatively I compliment a funny or cute baby outfit or toy. I am also not a fan of workplace surprise babies.

      1. Czhorat*

        All babies are cute to their parents.

        I spoke with your deity, and they told me that “That’s such a cute baby!” will not be held against you as a lie when they weigh your soul in judgement at the end of your mortal life. (If you don’t have a deity or yours isn’t judgmental, then feel free to disregard)

        1. Arielle*

          In Judaism there is a law that all brides are beautiful and all babies are cute, so saying either of those things is never a lie.

          1. Nerfmobile*

            I go with the definition of all babies being adorable, but it’s a close sentiment. Brides are beautiful, babies are adorable, parents of graduates are proud and/or relieved (and the graduates themselves are to be congratulated), kittens/puppies/guinea pigs/etc are cute, new cars/boats/skateboards look fun, and other people’s houses/apartments/gardens are lovely, unless they are horrible in which case “it’s going to be so interesting to see what you do with it.”

            Having these kind of definitional descriptions definitely makes small talk easier.

      2. Catleesi*

        I often resort to something along the lines of, “what a happy little guy” etc (assuming baby is actually smiling and not screaming). It does the trick.

      3. Mimi Me*

        I don’t think all babies are cute either. “She’s so small” “look at how tiny” and “wow, that’s a big noise for a little guy” are my go to expressions. I don’t find other people’s children all that entertaining so I do the “quick look and go”. “I just came by to make sure I saw this little guy. I have to get back to work! Congrats!” or whatever comment would work there. I never wait until the baby is brought to me because it’s harder to get them to leave my space. If I go over to the baby/kid first, make appropriate comments and then walk away I am reasonably sure that nobody is going to come over to me at some point to ask – very Seinfeld-esque- “have you seen the baby? Oh my Gawd, you gotta see the baby!”

        1. Coldfeet*

          Oh man, I read that as “wow, that’s a big NOSE for a little guy” and almost spat coffee on to my screen.

        2. aebhel*

          Yep. I actually have kids, but I am really not interested in hanging out with other people’s babies at work (not that this has ever been an issue where I work now, but still). Taking the initiative to go say hi briefly makes it a lot less likely that someone will chase you down and try to force you to engage.

        3. AKchic*

          “Well, there you are. Fine time to be strolling in, doncha think? Ready to start helping out around here?”

          Hold mock-adult conversations with small children who can’t answer back. If they can gurgle, pretend they are agreeing with you, or telling you to get back to work. If you want out of the interaction, they are telling you to get back to work.
          “Yes, yes, okay, I’ll go back to work and let you chitchat with The Boss. I’m sure The Boss wants to get you to your next appointment for a new round of adoration. Thanks for visiting me!”

          1. Hobbit*

            Oh, yes, absolutely, just like I do with my cat. “How was your day?” “Meow” “Yes, I had a hard day too.” “Meow”. “Do you think it will rain later?” etc… People always think this is funny!

        4. Jennifer Juniper*

          “Wow, that’s a big noise for a little guy” could be interpreted by the parent as a rebuke for letting the kid be too loud.

      4. Lily Rowan*

        I enjoy babies a lot, and still generally just say something like “Hey baby!!!” And then ask the parent how they are doing, because no one has looked them in the face since the baby was born. You don’t have to say much.

        1. Kelsi*

          This! I usually briefly acknowledge the baby and then focus on the parent (especially if a coworker’s spouse has been the one to bring the baby–you can often brighten their day by acknowledging and asking about them when everyone else is all “BABYYYY!!!” without even knowing the spouse’s name)

      5. Liet-Kinda*

        This strikes me as fairly severely overthinking things, but whatever works for you. A new parent is entirely unlikely to be scrutinizing your tone and timbre for signs of potential insincerity if you just say, “S/he’s adorable, thanks for brining her/him to meet me! Sorry, got a print job,” and carry on.

    7. iglwif*

      Yeah, you really don’t have to be effusive–someone else in the office (like me!) will fulfil that role ;) You just have to be … not actively cranky? Some parents are eager for other people to hold and play with their babies, but some aren’t, and either way, a cheerful “Hi there, little one! Aren’t you getting big!!” or similar seems like it should be adequate acknowledgement?

      If you know the person the baby belongs to, you can talk to them like they’re still a grown-up and they’ll probably appreciate that. If you’re super busy today and can’t stop to talk, the baby won’t care and the parent will understand! (And neither has any way of knowing whether the super busy is real or kinda-sorta invented for the occasion.)

      I am the person in the office who will 100% always want to stop work and play with a baby. I love babies and it’s been a decade and a half since I had one of my own. But not everybody loves babies or is comfortable with other people’s babies and THAT IS OKAY! The only requirement is not to be actively rude about it.

      If all else fails, you’re afraid you may have been exposed to strep throat or the flu or chickenpox recently ;)

      1. Quickbeam*

        I flat out hate having babies in the office. But because I am a woman and a nurse, everyone thinks I need to give the QB seal of approval. I tend to say hi to the baby and then ask the mother how she is doing/healing. It seems that is generally appreciated. “You look terrific!” can be a day brightener. Costs me nothing.

    8. AnonEMoose*

      I’m adamantly childfree, but I’m also actually fairly good with babies. When handed to me, they tend to fall asleep about 90% of the time. When a series of my coworkers had babies, it became a bit of an office game to hand the kid to me to see if/how quickly they drifted off. It was all good natured, so I didn’t mind.

      Anyway, I think all you really need to do is make some positive comment about the baby; many of the previously suggested ones will work well. “Aww, such a cutie!” “Look at that little face!” “So adorable!” (that last one can refer to anything from the baby, to the outfit, etc.). Then I’ll often ask the parent something like “Is the little one letting you get any sleep?” That one is usually a safe question, and shows interest without inviting too much detail.

    9. AdminX2*

      YES! I’m a big player on the “Oh wow you are soooo cute! You guys look like you’re doing great!” flash big smile, then casually walk back to the desk.
      I’ve seen it take HOURs going from one area of a building to another to hold baby court. I don’t get it, but they enjoy it.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Yep. Much of the time you will save time, energy, and (potentially) social capital by simply saying a quick nicety, giving a little wave, and going about your business.

    10. NotAnotherManager!*

      Exactly – this is an exchange of social niceties not unlike, “Hi, how are you?” when the only correct answer is, “Fine, thanks, and you?” Acknowledge the coworker and kid, say something vague but nice (“Aren’t you cute!”, “You look great, how’s he/she sleeping?”, etc.), go about your day (“Gosh, I’ve got to get Bob that TPS report, but it was good seeing you!”).

    11. Vicky Austin*

      Just say in a high pitched voice, “Well, HELLO there! Aren’t YOU a little cutie!” Baby smiles, parent smiles, then you go back to work.

    12. KC without the sunshine band*

      I have a coworker near me who just adores kids of all ages. She knows I don’t, so she makes over them to the point that my lack of interaction isn’t that noticeable. It has worked well thus far.

    13. Confused*

      No one actually cares if you don’t want to hold their baby. Like you said, just saying the baby is cute, and saying hi is really enough for any reasonable person.

  2. LarsTheRealGirl*

    #5 – I’ve given extended notice a couple of times (2-4 months when 1 month was standard), and while a little bit of extra time was nice, after a while I started to really check out, and it was hard to keep up high productivity when I was (rightly) being pulled off of projects, transferring the “easy” items first, etc.

    You don’t want to stay so long that you start to hurt your own reputation by being checked out or frustrated at the speed of your replacement or being held to unreasonable close-out standards.

    I’ve also found that companies will use how much time they have to find a replacement. If you give them 3 months, they’ll take 3 months to find a replacement. The sense of urgency just won’t be there at the beginning of your notice – even if the purpose of the extended notice is for overlap with a replacement.

    1. Nox*

      Yeah this was something I’ve learned in my own recent notice period. I gave them 3 weeks and instead have ended up more stressed out and annoyed then before [even caught a cold] so it resulted in me pulling back my notice period to end this week.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Bingo. They’ll take the time you give them. I gave ~two months’ notice many years ago to a long-time employer, spent six weeks cross-training a temporary colleague and handing over everything I could. That person (for reasons I never found out) was never brought on permanently. On my very last day (shortened day because why not?), I got a call from the dean’s office saying they’d hired the dean’s graduate assistant for the role “because she needed a job” and could I train her?

      I told them I was leaving in an hour and I’d be happy to talk about what I could in that time. Unsurprisingly, this person did not show up, but she did proceed to call/email me asking for help on a regular basis for most of the next six months (I was young and didn’t put an end to it). When they hired that person’s replacement a year later, I negotiated a consulting fee to return and do proper training.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Sounds even worse than what University did when my husband went back to academia — he gave them 4 weeks notice and they squandered it. They neither posted his position nor made anyone available to get a walkthrough of the systems he maintained until his last week. He also wasn’t given new projects so he shrugged and documented the bejeezus out of his systems. Friendly former co-workers passed along thanks from the next hire as well as her frustration that they hadn’t moved fast enough to let her overlap at least a day.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Happened to me as well – I was transitioning within the institution and gave 4 weeks’ notice. During the 3rd week, someone externally asked me for a link to the posting so they could forward it on, and I discovered it hadn’t been posted. I had to go tell my soon-to-be-former manager this, as it was news to her. The person they hired was awful and poorly supervised, and they’re still cleaning up her messes a few years later.

    3. Meg*

      My dad gave over 6 months notice when he retired, and his boss STILL didn’t start the promotion process to replace him until after he was gone (he was a cop, so there’s a fairly standard testing/interview process for promotions). It was ridiculous…he was wrapping things up and had no one to hand them off to.

    4. Nita*

      I’ve had that experience with extended notice. I once left a job where I was being pretty badly underpaid for what I did, and gave them about two months’ notice. They interviewed one person while I was still there. And then gave me a sob story about how they cannot find anyone, and can I put off my plans to finish my degree so I can bail them out. And then, when I walked out the door anyway, tried to double my salary. And then, when I didn’t go back anyway (because college deadlines), tried to hire my dad. Thankfully he only lasted about two weeks – I say thankfully because the commute was awful, and parts of the work were very depressing. That was years ago, and I’m surprised the business still exists… hopefully they’ve gotten a little better about management.

      But that was a business with all sorts of problems. At a very different company now, and quite a few people have given fairly long notice when leaving, and management did the reasonable thing of planning for a replacement, and treating the employees like part of the team until the very last day.

    5. CanCan*

      It doesn’t have to be awkward, really depends on your office. I gave 6 months’ notice when I was pregnant – so going on a 1-year mat leave, as is standard, and wasn’t planning to come back after the mat leave (moving back to my hometown). Not sure when I told my boss about the latter part, but he knew my family structure/dynamics, so it was an easy guess for him that I could only confirm. No awkwardness happened at all, and no change in workload, etc. I just made sure I transferred all unfinished files to my boss or a coworker before starting my leave.

    6. nonymous*

      In one job HR required a minimum of one month to process a candidate (background check, formal interviews, new hire paperwork), followed by a formal training lasting another month. So a 2 – 3 month notice was very reasonable. In my current org, we can’t advertise for a replacement unless the position is vacant, so a shorter notice period is fine, although here we tend to lose staff to retirement and the benefits team needs a three month lead time, which the supervisor is part of.

    7. Beth*

      Wow, so it’s not that unusual?!? Wow, I thought it was just me!

      I left an increasingly dysfunctional firm where I wore far too many hats and had grown tired of fighting for my value to be acknowledged. I gave two full months notice (two weeks was the norm, and the last person to leave had given no notice at all), figuring that it would give them enough time to hire a replacement (or two) and allow me to train them. They didn’t even start the hiring process untill after I had left, although they did do a bit of work towards outsourcing some of my functions. I had exactly one afternoon with the woman who was going to take over the bookkeeping — she said herself at the end of the session that it wasn’t nearly half what she needed.

      In the end, they did hire a new person — but not for my job, which was left unfilled. Then they hired another person. Then another. Plus two part-time people to cover the outsourced functions. That made four people added to replace me, without actually managing to do so . . .

    8. ThankYouRoman*

      Oh man…I’ve never experienced this. I just have had nightmare replacements to try to train prior to my exit.

      I always list openings immediately no matter the notice because it gives you time to be pickier on who to hire.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, I’m convinced three weeks is the maximum amount of time when you’re leaving an employer you like. I’ve seen folks stay 4–6 weeks to ease transitions, and it’s always been awkward (but I have also worked at dysfunctional places, so I suspect there are many other jobs where this would not be awkward at all).

    1. TL -*

      I gave like 6-7 months’ notice at my last job (in academia, was leaving for grad school) and it was all fine. It didn’t get awkward, people were excited for me, and I was pretty motivated the whole time – I liked my lab and the projects I was on.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, three months is normal in my country (although there are jobs where it’s only one) and the only few times I’ve seen it be awkward was in situations where even three extra days would’ve been awkward.

        1. TechWorker*

          Agreed – three months is normal for me too – I literally don’t know how we’d meet project deadlines if we had two weeks notice that someone key was leaving. It takes at least that time to ramp up a new experienced person, and months to ramp up someone new to the company.

      2. pleaset*

        Yeah, I’ve seen time frames like that for school, and a couple months in other cases. With no problems.

      3. Liet-Kinda*

        That strikes me as reasonable for lab work – often you’re handing off lab/field work that you’ve been on for a while to a new person who needs to get all the background and your particular protocols and so on. But that strikes me as the exception that proves the rule.

      4. No Name Yet*

        Agreed – it feels like academia, research, and strongly related fields tend to be the exception that prove the rule. My supervisor was a reference when I applied to grad school, I told him once I was accepted in the spring, then we made plans for when I left in late summer. I was absolutely ready to go by then, but how much notice I gave wasn’t really a part of that.

        I think the hard part can be when you get the unreasonable supervisors in these fields, so long notices are relatively common but the individual supervisor doesn’t handle it well.

        1. Nerfmobile*

          Yes, this was how it happened for me when I went to grad school. My manager was a reference on my application, and I told her when I was accepted and planned to attend. We set my end date for the end of summer, without it being HR official. It actually turned out that they announced midsummer that there would be a bunch of layoffs forthcoming in August, and people laid off would be offered packages. (They were actually trying to entice people to retire, but it was not restricted to long-time employees.) I IMMEDIATELY went to my manager and “volunteered” to be laid off, which allowed her to save another position and got me two months of salary to take with me to grad school.

          That was a much better layoff outcome than the next one I got hit with, alas.

    2. Woodswoman*

      I had a specialized job working with a terrific team, and I gave a month’s notice. There was nothing awkward about it. They appreciated getting a head start on what would inevitably be an extended hiring process, and I had time to put together a transition plan that was helpful to them. They gave me a nice party when I left.

    3. Anon From Here*

      You know what, I’d be interested to see an open thread on Friday about notice: where people are, what industry/role, how long they were at the job, and whether the situation was positive or negative when they gave notice.

      1. Smithy*

        I used to work in a country where the norm was to give 4 weeks. I was a department of 1 and relocated to the US without a job lined up (and with the aim of still taking my previously planned three week vacation in July to the states to help with moving stuff back). I could have gone on that vacation and given one month – but I opted to give three months notice and still take my three week vacation.

        It was a little awkward but nothing overly intense. It was also very clear that they were not close to replacing me after three months, and I was able to stay on as a consultant until I ended up getting a new job in the US. I built incredible good will with my employer, and while some of it was strange – I also a brilliant reference and networking source of support. And this was from an employer who was hardly perfect in 101 other ways.

    4. Half-Caf Latte*

      My former employer had a policy that stated your notice needed to be equal to the amount of PTO you got in a year. Since it was vacation/holiday/sick combined, it was something like 4 weeks for more junior folks, and 6+ for more senior.

      On what planet asking low wage hourly employees for a months notice seemed reasonable, I don’t know. ExBoss enforced the policy, though.

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          Usually it’s to remain eligible for rehire. It won’t be lying if you state ex-worker is not eligible for rehire which sounds like you stole from the company or something in a reference check.

        2. Half-Caf Latte*

          What Phoenix said. Resignations tendered with less-than-required notice were first met with a conversation “You are required to give X notice, therefore your last day actually needs to be Y.” Sometimes, people acquiesced.

          If not, consequences included cancelling ALL planned days off remaining*, and marking as ineligible for rehire.

          *Understand the business case for this, and in the case of a vacation I’d argue it’s on the employee to arrange their start/end dates to make this work, but this included taking a half day for Drs appointments, kid things, etc.

        3. Elsie432*

          I work in a place (in the US) that requires notice to be equal to a year’s worth of PTO (5 weeks for me). I’m under the impression that they wouldn’t pay you for unused PTO if you gave shorter notice. (Although I never specifically asked that question.)

    5. Kenneth*

      I’ve always been under the presumption that it’s dependent on the role. Two (2) weeks is typical if you’re not management, while 4 tends to be a de-facto upper limit and the expectation if you’re higher-level management and not executive-level. Executives, however, are expected to give at least one month, with up to three months (more more!) expected if you’re C-level.

    6. Random Commenter*

      The one time I resigned, I gave about over a month in total I think and it worked out, and I didn’t have a good relationship with my supervisor, just minimal respect.

      I had always been an excellent employee until my differences with my supervisor and with the overall company wore me out and I started to underperform, typical mistakes of not paying enough attention. So one day my supervisor and my manager sat me down on a meeting and told me that they’d been noticing performance issues that weren’t there before and I seemed off and was I going through something personal, was there something they could do (etc). I broke down and told them I was job hunting because I couldn’t do this job anymore, it was too draining.

      I have to give it to them, they were gracious and supportive. It took me 3 weeks to get confirmation on my new job, at which point I handed the formal 2 week notice, so in total the notice was 5 weeks. (I couldn’t hand in the formal 2 week notice earlier because I didn’t know how long it’d take to find a new job, and per policy they couldn’t formally look for a replacement until I did send it).

      In my case it was good because they were marginally more patient with me during that time. Sure there were some rough moments. But they appreciated that I was upfront about wanting to leave, which in turn I did because I appreciated that they reached out to me when they noticed problems.

      Just sharing my experience that longer notices CAN work out. It really does depend.

    7. beth*

      I think it really depends on the place and the job. I gave 2 months notice the last time I left a position (I was leaving to go to grad school, so I knew months in advance that I’d be leaving) and it was just fine; in fact, it was nice on all sides, because it gave enough time to fully transition my projects and let me devote time to creating some really thorough documentation around my role. But I knew it would be OK because I’d seen others do the exact same thing and be fine–I wouldn’t have done more than maybe 3 weeks if I hadn’t had that proof.

    8. H.C.*

      I’ve given 4 weeks notice, and it went fine. Was able to close out most of my ongoing projects and easily hand off the rest, and my employer was able to bring in a replacement a week after my last day.

    9. rogue axolotl*

      Work at my employer is project-based, so it’s pretty common for people to give a few months’ notice to finish off some projects and pass others over. Obviously there are some situations where that doesn’t work out, but it’s not awkward or anything. It helps that we get a lot of (paid) interns so we’re pretty used to people coming and going.

  4. Greg NY*

    #4: It’s a horrible plan. First off, no office should be open on Black Friday, and while it’s really not going to become a national holiday, it’s cruel to have anyone come in for one day at the end of the week immediately following a major holiday that the vast majority of Americans celebrate. In my opinion, New Year’s Eve should never be more than a half day, and because commuting and getting dressed is nearly, if not totally, the same time expenditure and financial expense for a half day vs. a full day, I’d go for a total closing on New Year’s Eve as well. No meaningful work is going to be done on either of those days. The day after Christmas is more iffy, because many people’s observances take place earlier in the day, not in the evening, but it’s still difficult for those who travel for the holiday. To open for *three hours* on each of those days is pointless. Let your valued employees not have to get dressed and commute for that. Why open at all, what’s so pressing to get done?

    That all aside, the PTO plan is arguably even worse. It’s definitely not a standard practice, and it would be laughable to say it’s fair. The most anyone should have to use for that day, if accounting in a system is tough, is a half day (one additional hour). If your organization nickels and dimes PTO to the hour, it should be just the three hours (and nickling and diming is unfair as well given the nature of an exempt position). If your organization insists on a half day if taking off between a half and a whole day and nothing if it’s less than a half day, I would charge nothing because the absence would be for less than half the hours in a standard work day. Have some holiday spirit! As far as any hourly colleagues, I’d pay them the 5 hours difference in the spirit of the season and not be a Scrooge.

    Disclaimer: Offices that MUST be open, such as social services offices, they should be open on those days, but employees in those offices should be offered something else instead.

    I realize this one is a little lengthy, but this subject area, as some of you can tell, is the one I’m most passionate about.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s really not true that no office should be open on Black Friday. There are loads of offices that need to be open on Black Friday! People who do critical IT support … health care … I’m stopping here because I’m tired but I’m sure we could come up with 20 examples pretty easily. Black Friday isn’t a holiday. It’s nice if offices choose to close for it, but it’s not an outrage if they don’t. Many, many people have offices open that day and if they want the day off, they use vacation time for it. It’s not that odd and I don’t think you do people any favors by encouraging them to think it’s outrageous.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        The company I work at now closes on Black Friday, but the last one didn’t (although a lot of people took off anyway). We are retail support (corporate office support for stores) and a lot of the holidays people take off for are also our busiest season. Although my current company is officially closed that day, there will be people working then, and on Thanksgiving, just as there are weekends, because our stores are open and need support.

        Thanksgiving and other religious holidays are understandable, but Black Friday is not an official holiday, so it’s by no means expected that all or most companies will have that time off.

        1. TootsNYC*

          And it might be a big favor to your customers if the cable company is open for a short time, so people can do business with you without having to take days off from their weekday jobs.

        1. Mike C.*

          Saying that you’re “lucky” to get Christmas off shouldn’t be used as a defense against arguments for better working conditions.

          1. Observer*

            Yeah, but on the other hand complaining that people are being expected to show up to work on what is nothing more than a shopping holiday isn’t a really sympathetic argument.

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              This is a perfect example of racing to the bottom that Americans are so conditioned to do. Our PTO on the country generally sucks. Yes it’s OK to complain and even be frustrated at how outrageously few Holidays anyone gets in this country anymore. Also black Friday to me is less about shopping – which I don’t do – and more about resting with the family enjoying yummy leftovers.

            2. KHB*

              If your Thanksgiving celebration involves travel to see family (as many people do), then being scheduled to work on Black Friday really puts a wrench in the works. It’s not just about shopping.

              Nothing my employer does is so time sensitive that we need to be open on Black Friday, so we always close on that day. That’s the way it should be, I think. It sounds like OP4’s employer doesn’t do anything so time sensitive, either: If they can afford to be open for three hours instead of nine, it seems likely that they could afford to be open for zero hours instead of three.

            3. Bee*

              It’s not about having the day off to go shopping (I never do, I hate crowds); it’s about not having to leave immediately after Thanksgiving dinner so I can be at work the next morning. It’s about having a long weekend to spend with my extended family instead of a single random day off in the middle of the week. And my family is only two hours away!

        2. AnonNurse*

          I’m with you, Mommy MD. I work in healthcare so holidays really aren’t set dates/times in my family. I work the big holidays, as well as the underrated ones, such as Black Friday. I get that I chose this line of work but it definitely keeps me from having sympathy for people who just want a 4-day weekend.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Not only is it fair to assume that, he specifically put in a disclaimer for offices that provide critical services.

          1. Winterfire*

            But it’s NOT just critical services. There are LOTS of businesses that have good reason to be open on that day that wouldn’t be considered “critical services”. That’s the issue.

            I completely agree that the US holiday provision is woefully inadequate. But sweeping generalisations, such as those Greg is alarmingly fond of in so many of his comments on this sire, do not advance the cause.

            1. Colette*

              Agreed. There are valid reasons for travel agents, IT services, defense companies, banking companies (someone has to make sure the credit card system doesn’t fall apart – like it or not, people are shopping), shipping companies, manufacturers, telecoms, … – it’s not just health care and other critical services.

      2. Smarty Boots*

        Eh, I’m with Greg on this one. Sure, there are some offices that *need* to be open, **as Greg notes**. Many of those need to be open on the actual holiday itself, too. But many many many places do not. And I agree that not much work is getting done at places that don’t have to be open but are.

        Employers: show some goodwill to your employees and close up. (And don’t make them use leave for it, either.)

        1. Observer*

          And I agree that not much work is getting done at places that don’t have to be open but are.

          That’s actually not true. For lots if of places it’s just another day. The day after a holiday, the same like the day after any other holiday.

          If there is one day I think we should NOT be giving off is a day that has only become a “thing” because it’s dedicated to shopping. I don’t think that shopping is a bad thing per se, but the glorification of the activity is a bit much. I think that as a culture it’s not a terribly healthy thing – ESPECIALLY since it’s accompanied by really poor treatment of the people who actually do the work.

          1. SignalLost*

            So, you’d rather people travel twice on Thanksgiving? It’s not being given off because it’s a shopping holiday, it’s traditionally a day off to spend with family and have actual time with them. The notion of Thanksgiving being a four-day weekend vastly predates it being a shopping holiday.

            1. Observer*

              Let’s be real. While there are some places that give off because it’s the Friday after a major holiday, it wasn’t till the whole shopping frenzy became a “thing” that closing shop on that day became a “thing”.

              Wanting to take an extra day or two around a major holiday is not a new phenomenon. You don’t need to shut the business because some portion of your staff is going to take a day off around then.

              1. SignalLost*

                Wow. Well, the fact I’ve never worked in a corporate environment that was open on Black Friday is obviously a freakish anomaly that invalidates my point!

                For your edification, Black Friday as a shopping holiday in its current form was developed in 2005. The Friday holiday has been around a touch longer.

                1. Teapot Tester*

                  Agreed, I’ve been working in corporate environments for close to 25 years and have always had the day after Thanksgiving off.

                2. Observer*

                  So, you’ve worked in corporate environments that gave off. Thus it follows that it has been common practice across the board to give off on that day. Never mind all of the people who actually do NOT get that day off and all the businesses and other organizations that do not close. Because the corporate environments you have worked in are the way all employers worked.

                  That seems to be what you are saying. As it happens, your corporate environments are not the sum total of employers.

          2. Fact & Fiction*

            I think most people who value that day off value it to spend time with family, especially if they have to travel, rather than for shopping. Of course there are those diehards who love to shop on that day but most of the people I know who get that day off avoid Black Friday shopping like the plague. Except maybe online.

            But yeah I don’t think it’s completely outrageous that many offices are open that day. I DO side-eye those who open on Thanksgiving if it’s not necessary.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          Agreed. I don’t get ANY paid holidays. If I want to take off Thanksgiving or Christmas, then I just lose eight hours’ worth of pay. Otherwise, I’m stuck working. And there is NEVER any justification for having the office open. I sit there all day stewing about how I could be having fun with my family while I twiddle my thumbs and wait for the hours to tick by. If there was a reason to be there, I wouldn’t care. But every time I work on a holiday, it’s slow as molasses, and there is no point to having anybody there.

      3. McWhadden*

        He made a point of saying some offices need to be open. But he’s right. Most don’t. And having people come in for three hours the day after a major holiday is completely unproductive.

        If anything the policy is intended to prevent people from visiting family since they have to waste a whole day.

        And the day after Thanksgiving should be off unless completely unfeasible.

      4. boop the first*

        Especially black friday, since it’s going to be such a big day where every retail/hospitality worker on staff is crammed in, and it gets so tiring to be part of this tier system where white collar workers get to stay in bed longer and be with their families, but minimum wage workers get stuck serving them.

      5. addiez*

        When the markets are open, we’re open – because we do work with the markets. I wish they were closed on Black Friday though, it’s a day all my loved ones have off.

      6. Quickbeam*

        The government offices in my state are all open on Black Friday; the logic is that so many residents have the day off they’ll use that day to conduct whatever gov’t business they have. My business is open (insurance) as well as my husband’s (prison). I think far more people work Black Friday than is generally assumed.

      7. aebhel*

        Yeah, that’s a bit odd. I work in a library and we’re open Black Friday; I don’t really care, and people who do take PTO.

        1. aebhel*

          ETA, also, as someone who’s spent a lot of time working in retail, it seems a bit precious to insist that offices simply MUST be closed on Black Friday and it’s a travesty if they’re not. This isn’t a consideration that’s ever extended to the service industry.

      8. mrs__peel*

        I don’t think I know a single person who actually goes out shopping at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday. It’s definitely not so universal that everybody needs the day off. Many people do their holiday shopping online now (often well in advance of the actual holidays).

        In my family, we mostly just buy each other snacks from Trader Joe’s.

    2. BeenThere OG*

      To give an example of large quantities of people that work Black Friday. I worked in investment banking, in IT in a previous career path. The financial markets are open on Black Friday so we are all at work. If you are lucky you might be able to take PTO if your team has enough coverage however good luck getting any of the other days close to holidays off or doing it the next year.

      Also not everyone that works in America is from America or has strong ties to this particular holiday. As it stands now my current employer gives a large chunk of time off for Thanksgiving. I always plan a vacation around it as it’s one of the few times I can travel without being expected to check email and be responsive. Given a choice I’d happily swap out the days for a time of year with better weather for the things I like to vacation for.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This seems like an extreme reaction to working on Eves and Black Friday? Black Friday isn’t a holiday (unless you’re celebrating the God of Hyper-Consumerist Capitalism), and reduced hours sound like a nice compromise. There are a lot of agencies and companies that have to be open on that day, and I don’t think employers open unless there’s a business reason that offsets the cost of doing business.

      Additionally, some folks—including infidels like me—are totally fine working on holiday eves. There’s certainly a lack of vacation days for American workers, but I don’t think it’s “cruel” to require people to work on the day after a holiday.

      1. valentine*

        Black Friday isn’t a holiday It can be an unnecessary disruption between days off. All federal holidays should be Mondays.

          1. Lynn*

            When you consider the hoops many Jews have to jump through just to get permission to use PTO/vacation for their high holidays, it is frustrating that Christmas is just a given.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        The day after Thanksgiving was a common day off way before Black Friday was a thing. I’m not saying everyone deserves to have a holiday that day, just that it’s not based on shopping.

        1. Ophelia*

          Yeah, to me it’s a way for people to get a small vacation around Thanksgiving, which, particularly since so many Americans travel for the holiday, makes a 1-day event into a long weekend. I get that some places need to be open, but honestly if you’re not doing critical work, it can wait until Monday, and more US employers could offer their employees reasonable PTO that includes thoughtful gestures like taking of the Friday after a major Thursday holiday.

        2. LizB*

          Agreed. I feel like Black Friday may have become a big shopping thing in part because it’s a day lots of people took off, probably. People with time on their hands + beginning of the winter holidays = retailers see an opportunity to get everyone in the store by having big sales.

        3. Autumnheart*

          How far back does one have to go to remember Black Friday not being a thing, though? I worked my first retail job in the late ’80s and Black Friday was definitely a thing then. If we have to go back more than 30 years to find a cultural differentiation, I would say that it’s not a factor.

          As for me, I work for Major Retailer in e-commerce, so Black Friday for us is like April 15th for tax professionals–you WILL be working. We technically have Thanksgiving day off (the office is closed) but we have an on-call team prepared to handle issues remotely, or come in if it’s necessary.

          The Web doesn’t close and people expect their shopping and browsing experiences to work. That takes real humans.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I remember when it wasn’t a Thing.

            But the Friday after Thanksgiving as a family day or travel day WAS a Thing even then.
            In my small hometown, the only people working were nurses and sheriffs. (Doctors were on call.)

      3. Arielle*

        I absolutely love coming into work on Christmas Eve. The office is always empty, there’s no traffic, and we usually get dismissed early without having to take a vacation day. If I had the kind of work that could be done without the presence of others, I’d work on Christmas too and take the holiday some other time.

        1. Proud Bad Wife and Mom*

          Yes, even more so the day after christmas is an amazing day to work. I can get so much done on those days with no meetings, no phone calls, no instant messenger, no reply emails and all the annoying co-workers gone and a great parking spot. No feeling bad for spending extra on starbucks because I am working while everyone else is home. Icing on the cake my husband is stuck at home with my MIL and FIL putting toys together that you really need a phd in toy crap to assemble. MIL feels bad for me and takes back any returns, and will make dinner and clean up because she is awesome. Also all the new battery operated noise toys are full force, and my kids are all cracked out on christmas treats and new toys. I love working the day after christmas. Its my husband, family, and annoying co-worker holiday

    4. Jasnah*

      Black Friday is only a big deal because it’s the day everyone goes out shopping. If everyone is out shopping, there are tons of people needed to work retail stores, security, restaurants, IT, call centers, building managers, convenience stores and supermarkets, delivery trucks, and all the behind-the-scenes people who arrange these things. Plus plenty of people work Feb 15, July 5, Nov 1…

      In principle, I’m with you–I think we should set up universal basic income worldwide and radically reevaluate how and where people make money. But I also realize that as a 9-5 office worker, there is a whole swath of people who make their living catering to my leisure time. There are restaurants that are busiest on nights and weekends. Coffee shops are slammed 6am-9am. Train conductors on first train at 4:30 and last train at 1:30. Movie theaters and shopping malls with special sales and deals only on national holidays when people have time to shop. People in back offices processing payroll for all those workers.

      I think it’s really sad that people have to work those hours, but it’d be pretty hypocritical of me to demand businesses close…while patronizing those places. Maybe you don’t go out or buy anything online on Black Friday?

      1. HannaSpanna*

        Universal basic income is so fascinating. Was sceptical when I first heard of it, but it has really grown on me.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I feel like American capitalists would just raise the prices of everything so that all the money was gone before they got it.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I don’t go out or buy anything (out of the ordinary) online on Black Friday. I do however sometimes travel, and I have kids out of school–even if you hate shopping (and I do) it’s a pretty normal time to have off.

        I think people are a bit thrown by the fact that we’re referring to it by its shopping holiday name, rather than as “The Day After Thanksgiving, when you sit around and digest.”

          1. Queen Anon*

            IIRC, they called it “Family Day” when I lived in Nevada and the courts and state offices were closed. Since I worked for lawyers, we were closed. It was lovely! (And I don’t go out on Black Friday except possibly to the movies – but it was still lovely.)

            1. HannaSpanna*

              This is awesome, and think it should be done more.
              In the UK, the day after Christmas is also a bank holiday (i.e. federal holiday.) I am a bit surprised that as Thanksgiving is always on the Thursday, and a big ‘get together with your family’ holiday, that there isn’t more push to make Friday a federal day off too.

              1. TootsNYC*

                I always thought that it was called Boxing Day, and that it was the day off for the servants, so they THEY got to have a Christmas as well. And that The Family in the manor house had to fend for themselves. It was a holiday for the working folks.

                So to make it a shopping day, requiring lower-paid workers to actually work, seems a bit of a betrayal (though they may have Christmas off, which servants didn’t get)

                Maybe I’ve misunderstood this

                1. HannaSpanna*

                  I don’t think you’ve misunderstood. Yes, it is called boxing day, and I think your right it started as a day of for servants.
                  Now it’s a bank holiday for everyone, but often shops and service industry are still open.
                  Yes, I agree it sucks that often the lowest paid workers have to still work on (pretty much all) bank holidays, to provide services for the people with the day off, which I agree sounds a bit unfair.
                  I think they get a day in lieu, or time and a half for bank holiday working, but still.

                2. whingedrinking*

                  In my province you get time and a half if you work on a holiday. When I was in retail, any holiday I wasn’t actually out of town I would try to be on the schedule for the extra pay. It seems like a reasonable thing to provide – if a place is going to be doing extra business because “everybody’s off work”, then they can afford to give the employees more money.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          There would be an outcry if government offices closed on Black Friday and the like. Never mind that often extra holidays were given in lieu of raises for city workers in my area.

          I’m also a childless spinster with no family obligations, so I assume I’m working Black Friday. Crowdhating me wouldn’t shop on Black Friday for love nor money.

          1. HannaSpanna*

            Was thinking of it less as a shopping day (I never ever go shopping on a bank holiday, it is hell.) More thinking isn’t thanksgiving a big thing in the US, why have it so difficult to spend time with family or friends?

          2. Miss Wels*

            I work at a government office and it is closed on Black Friday. Not sure if that’s only in my state or not though.

      3. Professional Merchandiser*

        I do merchandising at a Big Retailer, and we are not allowed to work on Black Friday or the day after Christmas. If you are full-time, you get Black Friday as a paid holiday, Dec. 26 has to be taken as a vacation or personal day. If you’re part-time you (like me) you don’t get paid holidays, you just have to try to save some PTO to use. When I say “not allowed” I’m not kidding. The store manager will literally stop you at the door and tell you if you’re here to shop, they’re glad to have you. If you’re here to work, turn around and leave. This is why our company decided to make it a paid holiday a few years ago.

          1. Autumnheart*

            Store workers. Merchandisers aren’t manning the floor, they’re planning inventory and displays before the day itself. By the time Black Friday rolls around, they’re supposed to be done. You don’t want extraneous employees on the floor when you’re trying to get customers in and out the door.

      4. Jam Today*

        Its a big deal because Thanksgiving is the biggest travel holiday of the year. People are driving or flying long distances to be with family, so working the next day either means they travel home on Thanksgiving evening, or they miss dinner with their family.

    5. Pumpkin*

      Lots of us do jobs that mean people need us on those days and we can’t just close every five minutes.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Because the pool of people who can’t just take non-holidays off, even if the fall at an inconvenient time, is not this small minority population that Greg seems to think it is. Substantial swaths of public servants (essential services like police, fire, EMT but also clerks, treasurer’s offices, etc.), utility workers (particularly during the winter holidays), healthcare workers, people who work for companies that do not observe American holidays, etc. It is essentially white collar office workers, maybe manufacturing/factory workers who can reliably take these quasi-holidays off.

            Frankly, I think a pool of floating holidays for people to use for whatever their family traditions or religious holidays require would be more ideal than just shutting down on Black Friday specifically.

      1. McWhadden*

        He clearly meant except for those. Whatever happened to not nitpicking people’s words? It used to be a rule.

        1. Dweali*

          I kind of feel with this thread that everyone is so used to disagreeing with Greg that some are prepared to jump down his throat instead of giving the benefit of the doubt that others get. Also there’s varying definitions of “critical services” where people don’t think that IT, credit cards/banking, defense companies, prisons, etc…all of these could fall under the umbrella of a critical service not just the first responders, police, healthcare, fire dept that people are assuming.

          1. McWhadden*

            “I kind of feel with this thread that everyone is so used to disagreeing with Greg that some are prepared to jump down his throat instead of giving the benefit of the doubt that others get.”

            I think that’s exactly what is happening and I don’t think it’s OK.

      1. Jenn*

        I have worked multiple New Years Eves and gone to fancy parties. It does not take that long to get ready. I suppose I could choose to get my hair and nails done day of, which would take a lot of time, but that’s a choice.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Now THERE’S a holiday I can get behind–Jammie Day. On the day after Thanksgiving we all wear our jammies and think about yard work, but don’t do any. Late morning we wander into the kitchen looking for pie.

        1. I Love Thrawn*

          I am thirding this. How do we get it on the calendar?? **lemon meringue with graham cracker crust – can’t be pie dough.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Personal calendar…done. My family’s going to LOVE it, possibly as much as Jolabokaflod — Icelandic “Christmas Book Flood” we picked up after some Icelandic friends told us about it.

            National calendar…tricky. But “Talk Like a Pirate Day” took off, so anything’s possible.
            Start posting to Social Media. Just keep the idea away from those mail-order matching PJs companies or they’ll make it so annoying we won’t want it when we get it.

      3. Izzy*

        I think when he says people shouldn’t be made to “get dressed”, he obviously means that they shouldn’t be expected to get into full work mode and come into the office just for the sake of three hours. It’s not about literally putting on clothing.

    6. Kc89*

      I’ll never forget a year or two ago when hr sent out an email being like hey just a reminder that we are open Black Friday and you are expected to be in the office, Black Friday rolls around and only four people showed up (out of about 100) and they were the four people who were hourly so didn’t have the choice to “work from home”

      1. addiez*

        Ugh, I hate when hourly workers are punished in that way – like oh, the office is closed! But now you can’t get paid. Or no one is coming in but if you want money you have to and the decision-makers are salaried so they don’t think about it.

      2. SignalLost*

        Yeah, I had a temp gig years ago before so many of the rules about temps changed, and because I was hourly, I could either come in the week the office was closed or I could just not get paid. Since I was only working half time, not getting paid wasn’t an option; I didn’t work enough hours in a month to qualify for benefits through my agency. It was a lonely two days, since everyone else in the building was salary. There were a couple other people in, but that was it, out of a company of 500.

    7. HannaSpanna*

      I’ve said this below, but feel that (as Alison said) this is more an incentive for people to work, rather than a punishment or lack of holiday spirit.
      Preferably they would be incentivising people to work, rather than de-incentivising then to take the time off, but oh well. I just hope hourly workers who are coming in get extra.

      1. Asenath*

        I’ve never heard of closing for Black Friday, but in spite of the efforts of the stores to popularize it, it isn’t as big a deal in Canada as in the US.

        We are supposed to work Christmas Eve – but we always get a “surprise” announcement that we can leave halfway through the day – technically, after a Christmas singalong around 11 AM – but if we aren’t going to show up at all, we have to use a full day’s annual leave to cover the day. So almost everyone shows up, and leaves after a couple of hours. It’s a big enough place that no one notices if you don’t go to the singalong – in fact, if everyone did turn up, there wouldn’t be nearly enough space. It’s also a place that slows down a lot over the Christmas holidays, so there’s no objection to having minimal staff (or none, depending on the department) working through the Christmas-New Year’s season

        1. Jayn*

          Black Friday also isn’t the day after a holiday in Canada. We usually travel out of town for Thanksgiving, and the MTW-F workweek is incredibly annoying, especially as it means we have to leave while people are still socializing.

          1. Lissa*

            Wait, Thanksgiving is always a Thursday in the USA? This makes the whole Black Friday off thing make SO much more sense now.

            1. Greg NY*

              Yup, it’s the 4th Thursday in November. Monday holidays work the same way, they are always a certain Monday of a given month and the date changes year to year. Martin Luther King Day: 3rd Monday in January; Presidents’ Day: 3rd Monday in February; Memorial Day: last Monday in May; Labor Day: first Monday in September; Columbus Day: 2nd Monday in October.

              1. Greg NY*

                Also, for those interested in US politics, Election Day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (it can be November 2-8), and the actual day changes year to year, and the presidential election won’t take place on the same calendar date every time.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        This was my thought too. I’d be very tempted to take 3 hrs of PTO to get the whole day off, and if a lot of coworkers felt the same way the employer could have a coverage problem. The employer is trying to incentivize the people willing to work that day.

    8. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I’ve worked both essential (seniors’ home) and non-essential (corporate office) workplaces and over the years holidays are the most fraught. It was frustrating to come into work and discover that 95% of the work force was absent/or on leave. The office tradition was to give people a half day on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. However, with the seniors there could be no exceptions, like health care, full coverage will still necessary. Getting extra time off was a treat but was also the exception to the rule.
      Ironically, where I live a “Family Day” holiday was introduced. Schools, local govt etc. were closed. In order for these people to have family time, I had to work. By my best guess 50% of people didn’t get the day off.

    9. Black Aliss*

      This is a really weirdly OTT reaction to what are quite normal business practices. Are you speaking from any actual experience of how things are (perhaps only in your own industry)? Or is this just a “how I think it ought to be” rant? Because it very much comes across as the latter being treated as the former, and that is unhelpful at best. Your own personal opinion on how thing should be done does not help the OP navigate reality! Especially as your opinions seem pretty far removed from said reality.

      1. Smarty Boots*


        I’m rather taken aback at how much argument there is about getting these days off.

        1. Greg SAID some offices need to be open. If you don’t like Greg, fine, but no need to whack at him for ignoring something he did in fact note.
        2. “Black Friday” is now a gigantic shopping day in the US, but it used to be a day off for many places. Not all, but many.
        3. It is a holiday weekend when a lot of people travel, or would like to.
        4. It’s nice to have a four day weekend, especially after what for many people is a rather busy and tiring holiday.
        5. Are we really arguing against giving employees a day off? Really?? Really???? Why are folks so het up about this?

        1. SignalLost*

          Re your fifth point: terrifying, ain’t it? Like, seriously, as Greg said, if it is feasible to give people the day off, give them the day off! And let’s not argue for LESS time off!

        2. Izzy*

          I agree. I’m not American but I understand that Thanksgiving is one of these all-about-family holidays, yes? And people travel? Often long-distance? Barring non-essential services – which Greg mentioned – it seems insane and absurd to have a day off then insist on people coming into work for one day and then having the weekend unless it’s absolutely necessary, and having to do that for three hours work seems more like rubbing salt in the wound than any kind of favour.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s not what it’s about. It’s that it’s not helpful to people to encourage them to think something is widely accepted to be outrageous when it’s not.

    10. Ragazzoverde*

      Not from the US here so maybe I’m missing the point but isn’t Black Friday just a day with big sales? Is there any other significance to the day or is that it?

      1. Dulcinea*

        It’s the day after a major holiday, and it’s always a Friday, so for many people it’s the difference between having four consecutive days off vs. one Thursday and a normal weekend. I read once hat more people travel out of town for thanksgiving than any other holiday; having to work on Friday could make that impractical.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah, it’s this. The shopping deals are cool if that’s your thing, but when it comes to work logistics, people are usually talking about wanting it as a travel day.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think the Canadians were far wiser, putting their Thanksgiving in October when the weather is nice and it’s more than a month before the end of year holidays.

            It’s the tradition we’re stuck with, though, and this is definitely a holiday people are expected to travel–either Wed or Sun is the biggest travel day of the year–and couples often split it with one set of parents getting them on Thanksgiving and one on Easter. As sheer logistics go, it’s a day it makes sense to have off.

            1. Washi*

              Yeah, I work in social services and haven’t always gotten it off, so I know I can’t expect it, but why isn’t Thanksgiving earlier in the year? Or on a Monday? I don’t want Black Friday off to shop, I want it so I can actually see my family, who don’t live within day trip distance.

              1. Smarty Boots*

                Federal holiday, proclaimed by Lincoln in 1863. It replaced an unofficial late November holiday celebrating the withdrawal of British troops at the end of the American Revolution. That’s why it’s on the 4th Thursday of November — that’s what Lincoln. I don’t know why Thursday.

                The end of November can be dreary, so perhaps that makes it a good choice for a celebration. October would nice for us in the 21st century but no doubt many people could not take a day off in October in the 19th century and much of the 20th too because it’s peak harvest time.

            2. Detective Amy Santiago*

              They were also smarter by putting their Thanksgiving on a Monday so it’s automatically a long weekend.

            3. iglwif*

              AND it’s on a Monday, which means that (a) for the M-to-F-working folks, it’s an easy long weekend with no possibility of having to work a day in between days off, and (b) if you’re gonna make a big dinner, you have at least Saturday and possibly also Sunday to do it. (Many people who do Thanksgiving dinner do it on Sunday, so they have Saturday for prep work and Monday to recover.)

          2. OxfordComma*

            I like it off because I usually host Thanksgiving and I’m exhausted the next day, but I have had to work it.

        2. The Original K.*

          That’s what it is to me. I deliberately avoid shopping on that day so I don’t care about the sales. But having four straight days off vs. breaking that up makes a big difference, especially if you travel.

        3. Quinalla*

          Yes, before black friday shopping was a thing, most people wanted that day off to travel. Thanksgiving is the holiday in the US that more people travel for, so having the Friday after Thanksgiving off is really nice, but certainly not required. It is one of the more common vacation days given in the US that isn’t an actual holiday and when not given as a holiday, a lot of folks use PTO, etc. to take that day off.

        4. TootsNYC*

          It’s also a day that your kids (if you have them) are not in school, so it’s a good “time with family” day. It’s the only one between August/September and December.

          The long weekend is really nice (if you can get it).

      2. Overeducated*

        Well, Thanksgiving is always in a Thursday every single year, and it’s one of the two big family holidays in mainstream American culture. So for those of us whose family isn’t local, it’s the difference between seeing them over a long weekend or having a random day off in the middle of a week. I wouldn’t be caught dead shopping on the most crowded day of the year, but since I left academia, I’ve had to save a PTO or comp day every year to see my family (two jobs ago needed coverage, my current one doesn’t). I think it would be better to move Thanksgiving to Friday.

      3. Jenn*

        If you travel for Thanksgiving, you will probably have to take it off (and the Wednesday before). Like December 26, but actually a holiday, just usually a travel day. But if you are at home it isn’t a big deal at all. I actually like working it because it’s quiet and I get a lot done.

      4. Thursday Next*

        Most kids have both Thanksgiving and the Friday after as holidays from school, which is a consideration for working parents.

      5. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Every office I’ve worked in has closed for Black Friday, but that’s only because Thanksgiving is on a Thursday and it just makes more sense to give the extra day off. Half of the company– and I’ve only worked in corporate offices, in non-essential functions– will take the day off anyway because they’re traveling, so a lot of businesses just decide to close.

        In short? Yup, no significance besides being the day after Thanksgiving. “Black Friday” is a relatively recent term, as far as I know, and refers only to the sales. Which a lot of people don’t do anyway.

      6. Rusty Shackelford*

        The day after Thanksgiving has been a school holiday for decades, long before anybody coined the phrase “Black Friday.”

        1. sb51*

          Yeah, and most offices have given it off for much longer, so that people can travel for Thanksgiving dinner. I remember a lot of family gatherings where tons of people would be arriving in the wee hours of Wednesday night because they absolutely couldn’t get Wednesday off and thus joined the hordes on the roads driving that night, but everyone had Friday, so they’d travel back on Sunday.

          This was well before Black Friday — we’d often go antiquing since there was a bunch of neat places to do it near my relative’s house, and the stores were pretty empty because it *wasn’t* seen as a shopping day.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            In fact, the shopping phenomenon happened because people had the day off, not the other way around.

          2. TootsNYC*

            When I was a kid, most stores were actually closed on that Friday. They’d open again on Saturday to light traffic.

      7. McWhadden*

        Thanksgiving is a day of indulgence (lot of food, wine, arguing with your family) and so it can be very difficult to get up and go to work the next day.

        I love working the day after Thanksgiving. I would never take a vacation day for it. But if I had it off I’d be more than OK with that too.

        1. Blue Bird*

          I love that you included ‘arguing with your family’ as if it’s an official item on the agenda, haha!

        2. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

          I host Thanksgiving, so having the next day off is quite valuable, even though we don’t have to do any travel and none of my guests need to stay overnight at my house. I cannot stand shopping on that day, but I need a day of rest after the whirlwind of cooking and entertaining (which includes trying to keep my mom the hell out of my tiny kitchen because she is messing with my routine and getting in my way; that takes a lot of energy).

      8. Namerson*

        Recovering from too much cooking, eating, drinking and football watching day! I never shop, I’m too exhausted from hosting. But, I also think Super Bowl Monday should be a holiday.

      9. Jam Today*

        The significance is that Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday and its the biggest travel holiday of the year, everyone gathers with family. Having to work on Friday means that you either miss the biggest family holiday of the year, or you go home after Thanksgiving dinner. Our country is 3000 miles East to West, and 1200 miles North to South, so travelling isn’t a trivial matter.

        1. Swordspoint*

          Canadian here. I hadn’t realized until now that American Thanksgiving is on a Thursday every year. That SUCKS. I love our Monday Thanksgiving, with its automatic long weekend.

          1. SignalLost*

            I don’t see why it’s so hard for people to grasp that yes, there are essential services that require coverage 24/7/365, but for a lot of employers, not giving the day after Thanksgiving off is … a choice. It could (and should!) also be an automatic long weekend in America! Acting as though it can’t be is a strange choice, at best. (And I am not specifically calling you out, Swordspoint, your comment just crystallized my thought.)

          2. ThatGirl*

            yep, most of our holidays are fixed-date, and the ones that aren’t tend to be on Mondays, but good ole Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday of November.

          3. TootsNYC*

            well, once upon a time, our Thursday Thanksgiving meant an automatic long weekend for everyone but nurses, cops, etc.

            Stores were closed on Friday or ran with skeleton staff (whom, we all presumed, got a bit of a bonus for working that day).

            But then, I’m realizing that I’m getting pretty old.
            (I also grew up in a small town; I don’t actually know for sure what they did in Des Moines during the 1960s and early 1970s.)

        2. ACDC*

          Thank you! Came here to say this! I feel like the vast majority of this comment thread really missed the point of the original comment. They aren’t saying that Black Friday is a holiday, they’re saying that having a Thursday off and then being expected to work Friday is disruptive and prevents a lot of people from being able to travel and visit family.

      10. Seacalliope*

        Thanksgiving is actually the most travel heavy of all US holidays, in large part because the typical amount of time off people get is so short. People do a lot of shopping on Black Friday, but having it available to relax or travel, instead of being forced to rush to the airport immediately after dinner would be very good — and literally save lives, since there are always significant traffic deaths.

        But I also think that retail should be closed and that a lot of “essential” services aren’t as essential as people think, since plenty of other countries do just fine with closures for 24 hours.

    11. Its a Mascara Monday*

      Nope, you are wrong on every aspect on this one.

      All companies can’t close on the largest shopping day in the US especially credit card companies, IT support, insurance companies, and what about the international side that doesn’t follow the american holiday system, and so so many more. Nor should they close for the day after an american holiday, they are a business (shocker I know).

      The full day PTO for salaried workers is standard for most large companies, the partial day is gift hours and they are not putting it in the accounting system that they are gifting the hours. Having the Salaried workers when they take off only use partial hours screws with that. Some companies for salaried workers don’t allow for partial days off anyway so a day off is a full day. In theory as salaried you are working to finish the work not necessarily a true 8-5.

      1. Lawgurl06*

        Agreed. I work for a language services company who provides interpreting services. If hospitals are open, we are open. Surprisingly, a lot of smaller doctors offices are open on Black Friday as well. I attribute that to the fact that it’s the beginning of flu season and people are starting to come down with things and can actually get into the doctor because a lot of them are not working. We do close our office mainly but still have 5 people that have to work or be available on-call that day to fill any emergency appointments that come in. For our company, we close for the reasons stated above – 1) Because it’s a Friday after a holiday, 2) to provide travel time for employees, and 3) it’s an insanely busy time for us … buuuuuuut if #3 changes EVERYONE will either have to be at work or take the day off.

      2. McWhadden*

        He made a clear disclaimer that some offices need to be open.

        The international argument is clearly wrong. International factions of companies manage just fine on Thanksgiving, July 4, Memorial day, and the various other US only holidays. Just as the US manages on Boxing day or Canadian Thanksgiving. The idea that they couldn’t stand this additional holiday is just absurd.

        I do think retail stores should be closed on the day after Thanksgiving too.

        That the full PTO day is standard does not make it a good practice.

        1. Its a Mascara Monday*

          the disclaimer is for social services and its not just social services there are so many other offices that need to be open for those offices to function. Yes international companies can withstand the normal holidays and one holiday would most likely not break them, but they are a business not a lemonade stand its not that they cant its that they shouldn’t have to. The day after thanksgiving is not a holiday, it’s not a special day it would be a convenience that’s all.

          The full PTO day no one is complaining about not having to take 1/2 a day off to go to the doctor or leave early during the year but getting 4 hours off 1 day a year and people like you are shook. Get a grip its a perk, its on the line of if you come in on the day we give out free doughnuts you get a doughnut, if you stay home you dont get a doughnut.
          Disclaimer: that the 1/2 day is worth more than a doughnut.

          1. McWhadden*

            No, he said “such as” which clearly meant it was an example of the kinds of offices that stay open not an exclusive list.

            So you are saying Canada and other countries are 100% wrong for celebrating Boxing Day? That’s your official stance. It should be a holiday even if it’s not.

            “The full PTO day no one is complaining about not having to take 1/2 a day off to go to the doctor or leave early during the year but getting 4 hours off 1 day a year and people like you are shook.”

            I’ve never worked anywhere where I’d have to take a full have day to go to a doctor. That’s ridiculous.

            1. Its a Mascara Monday*

              Most salaried people don’t take any time off to go to the doctor or for other half day things, they are salaried so they don’t need to. Salaried means you are paid an amount not based on hours you work. Which is what I meant that salaried people have 1/2 days they are not taking PTO for all year, so not getting this should not be an issue.

              In the US we do not observe boxing day so that is a ridiculous remark. It is their holiday not the US, the day after Thanksgiving is not a holiday here.

              1. McWhadden*

                Most salaried people absolutely have to take time if they go to the doctor. I don’t know where you get your statistics.

                We accommodate Boxing Day and other holidays. Why, specifically, would that be impossible for the day after Thanksgiving?

                1. Its a Mascara Monday*

                  No you are very wrong I have been salaried for 20 years now, between 5 larger companies and have never taken PTO for anytime other than a full day. I have never in all this time heard of any salaried person taking PTO to go to a doctors appt, or anything like that.

                2. Psyche*

                  @Its a Mascara Monday: It may vary by field or depend on how the company’s payroll system works. I am salaried and I am expected to take time off for things like doctor’s appointments unless I am using flex time to make up the hours.

                3. McWhadden*

                  So you happen to be lucky. Just read any comment thread here on PTO and you’ll see most salaried people have to take time if they are out.

                  I always take an hour or two for appointments. And I consider myself lucky for that. Because most people have to take a full day or a half-day if they have an appointment.

              2. Psyche*

                I don’t think it is true that “most salaried people don’t take any time off to go to the doctor”. Maybe that is true at your company, but many companies can and do expect salaried employees to take time off to go to the doctor.

                1. Czhorat*

                  It’s probably industry- and employer-dependent.

                  I’m salaried, and would absolutely take an hour or two for a doctor’s appointment without using PTO. I’d probably pick up the “missed” work in the evening or early morning, though.

                  Different roles afford differing levels of flexibility.

              3. Non-Prophet*

                This likely varies by company/organization/manager/etc. I am salaried and generally have a flexible schedule. However, I am very much expected to take PTO for doctors appointments that occur during the work day. This fiscal year already I have taken four half days for doctors appointments that could not be scheduled before or after work. Luckily, I can use my PTO in half day increments.

                1. Coconut Oil*

                  This is most likely Industry related, but I have not used PTO for anything other than a full day. In fact in our Time off system we dont have an option for anything other than a full day.

      3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I’m with you on this one. It seems like a strange gripe. If you don’t want to use PTO for the day, go to work until they let you go. If you do want to take the day off use PTO. I will generally take PTO for those days, because I want to not have to worry about going in to the office. It’s never occurred to me to be mad at my company because of this.

        The difference with a company letting everyone go early is that it’s not a guaranteed thing. My company does it but there is always a caveat to the email dismissing everyone “Please check with your supervisor as there may be a business reason for you to continue working” or something like that. Essentially, yes you can leave early but you may not be able to depending on what’s going on.

    12. London Calling*

      In my opinion, New Year’s Eve should never be more than a half day, and because commuting and getting dressed is nearly, if not totally, the same time expenditure and financial expense for a half day vs. a full day,

      You’d love working in finance then. That’s our year end and we are doing very well if we get out by 3pm, NYE or not.

      * The day after Christmas is more iffy, because many people’s observances take place earlier in the day, not in the evening, but it’s still difficult for those who travel for the holiday. To open for *three hours* on each of those days is pointless. Let your valued employees not have to get dressed and commute for that. Why open at all, what’s so pressing to get done?*

      I LOVE working between Christmas and New Year. Train is empty, office is empty, phones don’t ring and I skip out early afternoon. And like I said, for many people in finance it’s year end. Just because YOU have nothing to do between the holidays doesn’t mean the rest of us are twiddling our thumbs.

    13. Labradoodle Daddy*

      I understand that this is a huge wish, but I wish it were more culturally acceptable to have that Friday off (excluding doctors, etc obviously). People travel with their families, it’s disruptive, it’s OK to want a day to yourself/family/not busting your butt for a company or shopping, etc.

      1. ACDC*


        I’m in a situation where I get that Friday off, but my husband doesn’t (healthcare industry). So I basically use the Friday as a personal mental health day since I personally wouldn’t want to go out of town for a long weekend and leave my husband by himself on Thanksgiving. Not much can be done about that though since his facility is open 24/7, so multiple someones need to be there all the time.

    14. Shop Girl*

      well if we closed stores on Black Friday and gave people who work retail off what would people with “real jobs” do.

      1. McWhadden*

        It’d be pretty sad if the only thing people did on their days off was shop. But we know that isn’t the case given the poor state of malls and the retail industry.

      2. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        My current office job is no more “real” than my job when I worked at the mall, but the answer to your question is that I, as an office worker, would sleep in and take a walk around the lake near my house and make soup from the leftover turkey carcass and watch the DVR’d parade that I missed because I was cooking all morning on Thanksgiving.

      3. Sacred Ground*

        Spend time with their families, maybe? Like we did for generations before Black Friday became a national celebration of consumption?

        I know. The very idea of Americans just relaxing with their loved ones when they could/should be SPENDING or BEING PRODUCTIVE, it seems downright un-American.

    15. A tester, not a developer*

      I’m Canadian, and you can pry Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) from my cold dead eggnog covered hands.

      1. London Calling*

        UK here and Boxing Day is much better than Christmas Day. Eat random selections of food when you like, catch up on films, go for a walk, no hassle over cooking, tuck yourself away to read those books your relatives so kindly gave you yesterday…and no guilt* over not doing stuff like housework or laundry because it’s a HOLIDAY.

        *Not that I have any guilt over loafing at any time of year

        1. Ciara Amberlie*

          Boxing Day is, hands down, my favourite day of the year! All of the delicious food and none of the effort of cooking it. I am so thankful it’s a bank holiday here.

      2. rogue axolotl*

        Sadly Boxing Day isn’t a statutory holiday everywhere in Canada–I think it varies by province.

    16. Jubilance*

      I work at HQ for a large retailer – you can bet your ass our office is open on Black Friday, even the functions that have nothing to do with stores or e-commerce. People can take vacation if their workload will allow it, but most of the company is in the office and it’s just another day.

      1. Autumnheart*

        I too work at HQ for a large retailer (I wonder if we work for the same company?), in e-commerce. I’ve always found Black Friday (the whole week, really) to be a heck of an adrenaline rush. How many jobs are there where I can realistically say that tens of millions of people will be looking at my work, and that the decisions we make will have a measurable impact on the U.S. economy? It’s pretty awesome. It’s like start-up energy without the job insecurity of a start-up.

        Sometimes it’s a drag when everyone you know has one or more days off that week while you’re working your ass off, but on the other hand, if the holidays aren’t exactly a time of pleasant family togetherness, then working in retail gives you an automatic out. “Oh, darn, I can’t come to Uncle Trump’s barbecue on Labor Day, I have to work!” (For an hour, from home in your pajamas, but they don’t have to know that.)

    17. Collarbone High*

      I do agree with Greg that opening for three hours is inconvenient for the staff, unless it’s an area where commutes are in the 15-20 minute range.

      If the nature of the business requires three hours of work on those days, I wonder if the company wouldn’t be better off just officially closing, and offering a PTO day or other perk to people willing to come in for three hours.

      1. Smithy*

        I actually used to work in a country (with far more state holidays than the US) that had a number of 4 and 5 hour days before or during holiday periods. And from that time, I would have far more appreciated either a 3 or 5 hour day. 4 hours ran into lunch into a very odd way that I was never a fan of.

        We also happened to be required to use full PTO days for either 4 or 5 hour days. No matter what business you have – the chance for “emergencies” can crop up. And someone’s “easy” 3 hour day can easily become 5,7, 9, or whatever hour day. Especially if other businesses are working and there’s a higher likelihood of more staff being out than usual.

        Irritating – sure – but for someone not traveling on Thanksgiving – going into work for three hours might sound far better than blowing a full day of PTO. Which then gives greater opportunity for those who are traveling to be allowed while still having coverage.

    18. BurnOutCandidate*

      While I’d like to have Black Friday off, either because the office is closed or I take a vacation day, so I can see family that I rarely see, losing two days in my publishing cycle instead of just one would be horrible. So, I’ll be here the day after Thanksgiving, in an office that’s a ghost town because other people can (and do) take a vacation day, working on time-critical projects.

    19. Just Another Techie*

      Enh. I enjoy working on Black Friday. We get it as an official company holiday, but I usually come in anyway and bank the time for a flex day off when it’s more meaningful to me. I get a ton of work done too since the office is so quiet and there are no distractions!

    20. OP #4*

      OP #4 here! Thanks everyone for your thoughts! I really do understand it from all perspectives, I was just really curious what Alison’s thoughts were on it.

      To give a little more information – I work in hospitality (hotels) so we are actually open 24/7/365. I work in the sales office though, so typically we guarantee clients (or potential clients) that someone will be available between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. The shortened hours on holidays are meant to be a nice gesture to our team. We’ll still have someone here and available to assist potential customers if needed, however we aren’t going to keep our office staffed for 9 hours on a day that we know that a majority of our clients wouldn’t expect anyone to be available at all.

      My husband and I’s families are 2 hours and 9 hours away from us, so we are almost always planning to travel over the holidays, and I had it planned already to take PTO time. I just got thrown off when the shortened hours were announced, so I expected I would only be charged for as many hours as we would be open, and that was not the case.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, and keep sharing – it’s interesting to hear what everyone thinks!

      1. Kes*

        I get the frustration of having to use more PTO when you know the hours actually worked that day are shorter, but I think it’s pretty typical to have to use a full day of PTO if you take it off, even if in practice the workers who are there are let off early – it’s meant to be a nice gesture for the employees who do come in that day.

      2. Smithy*

        Also totally get the frustration – but having working in a similar PTO dynamic before – your colleagues going into work may very well end up staying for longer than three hours, get sucked into some assorted emergency, etc. Without fail that has always happened, especially when you’re in an industry where some staff truly are working “full time”.

      3. TootsNYC*

        If I were your manager, I’d be more likely to say, “Let’s just have one person all day, instead of most of the team for a half day.”

        And I’d offer some incentive for someone to sign up for it (maybe Joe likes the quiet), and have everyone brainstorm to figure out how to handle the situation where Joe needs info/help/tasks from someone who isn’t there for the day.

    21. Lia*

      Not everyone has a family or someone to spend Thanksgiving with, fyi. For many years, it’s been myself plus my now-grown kids, at most: and sometimes they go see their father, so I’ve come up with my own things to do, but if I had the chance to work and get additional time off, like time and a half? I’d sign up in a hurry.

      I grew up with a parent working retail and IF we went anywhere for Thanksgiving, we had to be back home by 9 p.m. because my parent was always at work by 7 a.m. on Black Friday. My other parent was a government employee and usually had the day off, but sometimes circumstances dictated work there too! This was 80’s to early 90’s.

    22. HannaSpanna*

      I assume that they are opening for only 3 hours on these days as that’s the time needed to get the vital stuff completed. Perhaps they are not being mean spirited to their employees, but actually trying to give them the most amount of time off without impacting necessary tasks.
      Really depends on what the office actually does.

    23. TootsNYC*

      I don’t think this policy is actually all that uncommon.

      In EVERY job I have had, there have been planned half-day holidays, and the corporate policy is that you must use a full day of PTO to take that day off.

      Because if you only had to burn a half-day to get the full Wednesday before Thanksgiving off, nobody would want to work on that day.

      I guess managers could just say, “sorry, no, only X numbers may be off that day, and those slots are filled,” but it’s never worked that way.

      As for the idea of whether an office should be open for three hours instead of a full day, or instead of having the full day off–in my small hometown, the grocery store was always open for a half day on Thanksgiving itself, and on Christmas. It was skeleton crew, and usually the manager(s), but it was open. Because people needed it.

    24. TardyTardis*

      We were open some years for Black Friday (I remember picking up a cheap printer for my dad at 7 am at Staples that year) and to be honest, there were few complaints because everyone brought in leftovers, and we all ate like kings. In more recent years, they weren’t open formally–except for the people who knew Month End Was Coming, which was a lot of people in our company anyway. (*See* eating like kings).

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, it’s a sucky situation. You can’t make this better for your good employee. Trying to “channel” her anger is only going to increase her frustration, and it could feel gaslight-y or invalidating.

    1. Jasnah*

      Maybe you can channel her anger towards HR, showing them that if they don’t DO something about the night slacker, they’re going to lose a good employee.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Big assumption. If she got hired at 30 she’s only 50. Perfect time to get herself a job managing a group like the one she’s worked in so long. If I were her I’d have feelers out for just that at another less dysfunctional company.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Ok my bad. I was talking about the bad employee not the good one but didn’t elaborate well.

            It was late…there were cats everywhere…

      1. valentine*

        These situations always amaze me because, if Day or OP1 tried to pull the same stuff, suddenly, firing and real consequences would be possible. OP1, if you’re commiserating, stop. Don’t gossip about Night. Be need-to-know. Don’t tell Day you’re sticking her with his slack. Address the impact on her work, not on her principles. Tell her to focus on her sphere of influence. If you’ve been us-vs-them/him, dial it all the way back. That doesn’t serve her. Ask her what would serve her and see if you can provide it.

        1. Ren*

          Thank you. I was concerned about AAM’s advice re: “You’re right to see a disparity between the jobs” and I’m with you but don’t see things changing, etc. Aside from everything else, this will get OP fired right fast. (Don’t commiserate, don’t gossip.)

          1. I'm A Little Teapot*

            There’s a fine line between being sympathetic and gossiping. If you have a valuable employee who’s being driven nuts by something, it may be in everyone’s best interest for them to know that others see it too. It’s dysfunctional for everyone to deny that something’s a problem when it clearly is a problem, and everyone knows it.

          2. Sloan Kittering*

            I was hoping to god that employee #1 was paid more, rewarded with an increased job title, given more perks / benefits SOMETHING that OP could point to to show that her hard work is paying off for her. Otherwise, from her perspective, she might as well screw around like bad employee. Also, is the night shift harder to fill maybe?

            1. TootsNYC*

              yeah, this is the fine line–you don’t want to foment her resentment.

              But you want her to see that there’s something real she gets because she’s such a good employee. Even if you don’t explicitly talk about it.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I agree. (this may be in contrast to what I said elsewhere on this thread, the idea that if she feels she’s being treated better, it might help her. So maybe just make sure she knows she’s being treated well. And still give her first pick of vacation days)

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I’m hoping that at least good employee makes more money than bad employee. If she does, I know OP’s employer probably wants her to keep salaries close to the chest, but if I were OP and I trusted good employee not to reveal her source, I’d tell her “unfortunately I don’t have the power to change this situation, but I would like you to know that your salaries do reflect the difference in your performance, at least.” Still not as good as getting rid of the problem child, but the employee might be more willing to accept the situation if she knows she’s being valued more financially, not just in words.

      1. Rezia*

        This! You can make it up to your good employee with raises and if possible, extra PTO. Let her know she’s valued.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Or just, “you can go to the doctor without taking PTO” or “If you ever need to leave early for your kid’s thing, we’ll make that happen”

            Or, pull her into some decision-making, which can make her feel almost as though she’s in a different category of employee.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          +100 if this is an option for you, OP. If you can do something meaningful to show her how much she is appreciated, that could help. If either a raise OR extra PTO is an option, you could even ask what she prefers.

        2. But you don't have an accent...*

          This so much. I’m in a similar situation. I recently became aware that the low performer makes more than me. While I’m not sure of the total amount, it’s looking like it’s at least $10,000 more. It makes me feel very taken advantage of to be quite honest.

          1. Em*

            That’s terrible! What do you even say? “Hey manager, what do I have to do to bring my performance closer in line to X’s in order to qualify for the same salary?”

            1. JB*

              This is something Allison should really address (maybe she has already?). Everyone I’ve ever heard from recommends you avoid comparing salaries because it just ends with people being pissed off and frustrated. The usual advice is to wait for your normal performance review or renegotiation and then make the argument for why you deserve more money based on your own value / performance. It’s usually NOT recommended for people to actually say, “I want as much as X is making.” (Unless you are really, really indispensable)

              The part that confuses me is that this is EXACTLY what executives do. This country has seen rampant inflation of executive level salaries precisely because every executive demands to make equal-to-or-greater-than their peers. I’m confused as to why the E-level gets to compete for salaries but the lower-level employees do not.

            2. But you don't have an accent...*

              This is where I’m struggling. I know I deserve more – and at least it’s not a gender thing since we’re the same gender. But how do I say – if you can afford to pay them that, you can more than afford to pay me that?

              Then again maybe I should say “What do I have to do to bring my performance closer in line to X’s in order to qualify for the same salary?” that because it would be hilarious and my bosses appreciate a good joke :D (I wouldn’t really do it, but I think my boss would laugh and then try and get me a higher raise.)

      2. Psyche*

        Yes. If the OP is unable to fire the problem employee, they should advocate hard for giving the good employee a raise or promotion. If good work is rewarded, then it is likely to rankle a little less when the problem employee is not fired because at least they are not being treated equally.

        1. DaffyDuck*

          Yes! Get good employee as many raises, PTO, perks, etc. as possible and continue to tell her how awesome she is! Definitely be her advocate, just pats on the head with no raise, perk, increased PTO goes stale after a while and makes the good employee feel used. And let HR quietly know bad employee is a hit to moral.

      3. Sacred Ground*

        I think it’s often the case where there are round-the-clock shifts, that night shifts typically pay a bit more because the schedule is so disruptive to a normal life. I would not be at all surprised if Dayshift model employee is actually earning less than the Nightshift slacker.

    3. Izzy*

      Agreed. The employee’s emotions are her own; if the OP wants them to change she should channel THAT into something productive, like advocating for a raise or promotion for the good employee.

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      Agreed. There’s nothing you can do. Just be honest with her about what’s going on and don’t let her labor under any delusions that this situation is going to improve. You may lose her, and that’s the consequences of poor management (not yours, but the company’s). I know you want to make her okay with it, but why exactly? To make her life easier? Or to make your life easier? It’s no fun watching someone you value be frustrated and upset, but really take a minute to think. Do you want to smooth this over for her sake, or for your own so you don’t have to deal with it anymore.

    5. beth*

      Agreed. This is a bad situation created by mismanagement. What’s more, since you can’t fix the situation or stop the mismanagement, it’s going to continue to be bad. Those are legitimate reasons to be upset! Of course she’s angry–any reasonable person would be.

      The only way to ‘fix’ this would be to fix the underlying problems. Without that, you can’t reasonably help her through her feelings on it, because the feelings are in fact reasonable and proportionate to the situation at hand. Any ‘solution’ that involves you trying to change her feelings without changing the underlying situation is likely to come across as dismissive and invalidating rather than helpful.

      If your hands are really completely tied here, I think all you can do is acknowledge her feelings and be honest with her about your lack of power here. That honesty would at least give her room to decide for herself if this situation is something she can tolerate or if it’s time for her to move on. That’s probably the most supportive, productive outcome you can hope for here.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I wonder if one option is to figure out a way to treat her better than him, and for that to be visible. Maybe she gets first pick of vacation days always, and he never does.

      Of course she should get bigger raises; maybe she gets free time off to see the doctor.
      It might be hard to let her know some of those things (but I think you could say, “I’ve argued for [i]you[/i] to receive the largest possible raise” without naming other people’s numbers).

      Maybe there are other ways you can treat her as a favored employee; maybe you consult more w/ her on management decisions, so that she starts to think of herself as being in a different category from him.

      But really, especially if ANY of her job includes mopping up after him, she’s never really going to respect the company itself.
      And I think that’s the core of it.

      Who cares about compliments and being valued if you don’t trust the judgment of the person doing the complimenting?

      1. Anon Because Grumpy Today*

        Who cares about compliments and being valued if you don’t trust the judgment of the person doing the complimenting?

        ^This right here. I’ll go even further and say that compliments without practical benefit are empty placating gestures that irritate me even more than does total ignorance of any fine qualities I may possess. A boss who ignores me completely is preferable to pretty words without actions.

  6. nnn*

    Two strategies for meeting babies when you’re not into babies:

    1. Shake the baby’s hand and introduce yourself like you would to an adult. “Pleased to meet you, I’m Englebert Humperdinck from Teapot Development.” It comes across to onlookers as entertaining, as though you’re playing with the baby. Even if you keep a straight face that betrays no sign that you think the baby is cute, that enhances the comedic effect for those who will see it as comedic. And it doesn’t require any skills or faking any emotions that you don’t already have.

    2. If you feel like some kind of admiring of the baby is expected and you don’t feel any admiration, comment on how little the baby’s hands are. Any statement of fact will do. “His hands are so little!” “Look at those tiny hands!” “His hands are only this big!” “It’s amazing that hands that small can be functional!” People who love babies are always admiring their itty bitty baby hands, so it comes across as admiration, but doesn’t require lying or faking any emotion.

      1. SignalLost*

        I like to tell babies and animals (that are not obviously in distress) that they’re interrogating the text from the wrong perspective.

      2. iglwif*

        Totally. I love babies but I’m not super good at baby talk, so I tend to talk to babies (including my own, back when I had one) as if they were very small adults.

        1. The Original K.*

          I hate baby talk with a fiery passion and never use it – it just feels wrong coming out of my mouth and I loathe the way it sounds. (When adults use it with each other, oh my God, forget it.) I use small age-appropriate words and sentences when I talk to kids but never baby talk. I’ve spent a lot of time with kids and this manner of speaking goes over very well with them because they appreciate not being talked down-to. That’s how my parents raised us.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          I treat babies the way I (would have) liked to be treated. I talk with them like they’re a person. They seem to appreciate it. :)

    1. Eliza*

      There’s an anecdote from How to Win Friends and Influence People about a politician with a reputation for being great with babies. Dale Carnegie took some time to observe what the politician was actually saying and doing during these interactions, and every time, word for word, in a warm and enthusiastic tone, what he said was: “Oh my, that is a baby, isn’t it!”

      1. jen is a beaurocrat*

        Brilliant! This reminds me of Selena Meyer (of VEEP) – “I see you. I see you,” whenever she’s in a crowd.

        For the OP, I’m a mom of a baby, and it’s totally fine to say ”Hi BABYNAME, hope you’re enjoying the office…I gotta go do boring stuff now,” end of.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It’s common around here to introduce a small child as “the newest Teapot employee”. .

      1. Parenthetically*

        Seriously, though, this is actually awesome for babies and kids. If you’re not much of a kids person, the only downside to talking to them as though they’re adults is that you might end up being the Kid Magnet. I think kids can sense people who will take them seriously and treat them like humans.

        I don’t like “babies” as a broad concept, though I really do like my kid most of the time and think he’s very funny and delightful and cute, and I DETEST baby talk. I hate when people coo over my kid, and absolutely love it when they just treat him like… a person.

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          Can confirm. If you treat kids like they’re fully functioning people and not like little kids, they often adore you. I’ve worked a lot with children, and this is always my approach. I speak in complete sentences, use polite manners, and while I may choose simpler words depending on the age of the child, I don’t dumb down my language or alter the tone of my voice. Kids really appreciate this and often respond positively.

          1. Parenthetically*

            My husband is amazing with kids because of this approach. His way of connecting with kids is just to speak and listen to them like equals — he doesn’t do it consciously, he’s just a bone-deep egalitarian and the idea of treating someone differently because they’re small or immature is completely foreign to him. I joke that he has a kid tractor beam — I genuinely think they can sense when someone is taking them seriously.

            1. Dr. Pepper*

              I could sense that as a child. My favorite adults were the ones who treated me like my thoughts and feelings were just as valid as theirs, and while I may still have had a lot to learn about the world, I wasn’t inferior simply because I was a child.

          2. Oranges*

            I do actually pitch my voice higher when I talk to babies, otherwise yeah, talk to them like they’re small humans. Well, small humans with atypical brains (since their brains aren’t “done” yet).

        2. Michaela Westen*

          “I think kids can sense people who will take them seriously and treat them like humans.”
          When I was a child it was very, very obvious.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        I like babies and I do this. It’s sort of fun. If the baby is babbling or crying or otherwise making noise I go “mm-hmm, mm-hmm, I hear what you’re saying.” Or like that. It seems to amuse the parents too.

    2. The Original K.*

      Hands, feet, or if the baby has a full head of hair, I comment on that. “Look at all that hair!” I love kids (but would not stop to play with them for half an hour at work) but don’t really care for infants, so this is my go-to.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Commenting on cute outfits or their ‘itty bitty shoes’ also goes over well! And then you can just shake their little foot that is inside the shoe and not even actually touch them (especially good if you haven’t washed your hands recently)!

        1. Oranges*

          Which will go down excellently with only some parents I know. And cause every other parent to look at you with the “what is wrong with you” face. It would make me laugh though. Extra points if the baby is dressed up as a pig or has a pig on their outfit.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      This is what I do. I do not like babies. I either address them like I would any other person (this also works *really* well with small children, as you are likely one of the only people to treat them like… people) or I make some kind of obvious statement. “Aw, look at his/her little hands/nose/bit of hair/whatever.” It’s a ridiculous thing to say, but very acceptable and generally taken as admiration.

    4. Matilda Jefferies*

      Another option, assuming the baby is the biological child of the parent, is “Oh, s/he looks just like you!”

      It doesn’t have to be literally true, and in most cases babies don’t look like anything other than babies anyway. But most parents like to hear it, and it’s generally accepted as a nice thing to say to a new parent.

      Or you can often visit with the parent without acknowledging the baby at all! Just come out from your desk for a few minutes, and chat with them the same way you would if they weren’t holding a baby. You can ask how they’re feeling, talk about the weather, ask if they heard about the Sportsball game the other day – it doesn’t have to be anything special or even necessarily baby-related, the point is to make conversation and maintain the social connection.

  7. Knitting Cat Lady*


    Is good employee of an age where she can easily find new employment? With 20 years under her belt she could be anywhere between late 30ies and 60ies after all.

    Because the way things are I’d bet good employee will leave sooner rather than later.

    1. Snickerdoodle*

      I know I would. Good employees have options. She has an impressive record and is seeing that hard work go thankless while the bad employee’s misbehavior is met with excuses. That kind of thing has driven me out of jobs several times over.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I wonder if OP’s predecessor left because of this, or because of the underlying problem.

      2. TardyTardis*

        It depends on how old she is and how small the town is. When someone is in their late 50’s or early 60’s, the options are somewhat limited, especially if she wants a job with benefits. In a small town, the job she has may be the highest paid one she can get. (which I’m sure that HR may well be aware of).

  8. Greg NY*

    #1: There isn’t any easy answer here. My first question upon reading the letter is why you are in a managerial position instead of this woman. Why has someone who has gone above and beyond for 20 years not been promoted into your role? After that long, she should have what it takes to succeed.

    That being said, if she was in your role, she would be managing this employee instead of you, and she might still be pulling her hair out. What I would do is tell her how valued she is, explain (as she might well already know) that HR seems to rule the roost in this organization and that your hands are tied. I’d do everything I can to facilitate her leaving the organization for a better opportunity if she so desired. Sometimes those that make the decisions need to lose a good employee to see the error in their ways and finally make changes.

    1. Greg NY*

      I would also take a good look at your future there. In all likelihood, your hands are going to be tied with other problem employees as well. This organization seems like more stress than it’s worth.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not everyone wants to manage people, and not everyone who’s good at their individual contributor job would be good at managing, which is usually a completely different skill set.

      1. Artemesia*

        my sense is that that is finally being recognized too; I know people in the tech industry that have moved by choice from management to individual contributor roles and they are a lot happier and make a lot more money than they did and in at least one case, a lot more than their own manager does.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          I work at one of the rare tech companies that’s been around long enough that some of the code is old enough to vote, and one of the things they’ve learned is there needs to be a career path that stays technical.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            My dad worked at IBM, and last century they certainly had this–a career path for people who just want to think about technical problems and not manage humans.

            1. Less Bread More Taxes*

              I worked at IBM also and can confirm – at least in my department, the managers were often new-ish and simply managed workload while the people under them were considered the experts with the experience to back that up.

        2. Dance-y Reagan*

          Product management is a large aspect of tech in my industry. “People managing stuff that can’t talk back” is usually step two after “people managing people who can’t stand them”.

        3. A tester, not a developer*

          My company has just acknowledged that not everyone wants to manage a team, and is putting in a technical career path. I’m especially pleased – I was getting close to maxing out my ‘techie’ opportunities.

        4. TootsNYC*

          and make a lot more money than they did and in at least one case, a lot more than their own manager does.

          I remember a company I worked at where the HR folks were tied in knots because a reporter made more money than his editor.
          But he was more important! He was finding the stories, and that was a highly specialized skill, and he was GOOD at it.
          Sure, his editor managed him, and his editor directed him, and his editor changed the words in his stories. But he was more important.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah. I don’t understand why tenure and good performance in the good employee’s current role connotes “she should be a manager.”

        1. Lance*

          Or, even more so than that, the seeming suggestion that ‘she should have OP’s job (with, I feel an undertone of, ‘because OP’s bad at it’).

          1. Greg NY*

            I had meant that that the manager role should’ve been filled by the woman currently working the day shift (if she wanted it), even before the LW arrived. I did fail to mention, even though it was in the back of my mind and all of you are right, that she might not have wanted to be a manager.

            1. Autumnheart*

              For all we know, she did apply for it, but didn’t get it because “we really need you in your current role (because we refuse to fire the dead weight on the night shift, but still need his work done)”. Then hired an outside person to manage because that was an easier position to fill.

              1. TardyTardis*

                Plus, they might have to pay her more, and sadly, in some companies, that still matters (can’t tell you how many managers my mom had to train back in the olden days).

        2. Lawgurl06*

          This. My company regularly promotes people after proof that they are good individual contributors. Most of them are not good managers which makes my HR job much more difficult. Many of them don’t have the right skillset or mindset to manage others. They may be great at the day-to-day work but managing all aspects of their departments and people is very difficult for them. Ultimately, it increases work for all senior management and has resulted in more turnover for the rank-and-file employees. Sometimes outside hires or internal hires that show aptitude for management who aren’t as senior are the best decisions for the company and other employees.

          1. samiratou*

            The problem is most companies don’t have good long-term individual contributor career paths, so in order to make more money or get more responsibility, etc. management is the only way to do that.

            1. MassMatt*

              There is also an unfortunate perception that someone who does well in an individual role (say, sales) and continues to do it is stagnating because they are not showing “career progression”.

              Sometimes people fit their role and are happy staying in it and they can be extremely valuable employees.

              1. An anonymous librarian*

                I’ve noticed this in libraries as well. People who don’t have any interest in supervising employees and really enjoy their librarian jobs tend to get some side-eye from top level administrators. There’s this mindset that people who don’t want to go into management must lack motivation, as opposed to just not wanting to be a supervisor over other employees.

                1. Librarians Anonymous*

                  That has been my experience as well. My boss is leaving at my library and asked me whether I was looking to moving into administration. My perspective that I got the job that I wanted seem very foreign to him. Almost as foreign as his perspective of moving to chase promotions was to me. Fortunately he was able to laugh when I told him that i didn’t like supervision in either direction.

      3. Everdene*

        Totally agree! My partner has been getting excellent annual reviews and bonuses for 20 years now, he thrives on the technical details of his job snd has worked up to higest performer in thr office (I’m proud of him!). However a few years back he went for a team leader post, which thankfully he did not get. If he had and all went well, yhen he would be bringing home less money now. If it didn’t go well, more likely since he has no management skills whatsoever, he would likely have been made redundant 3 years ago – or worse.

      4. Poldark Lite*

        I was promoted to a management role once when I was much younger. I hated it with the intensity of a thousand suns and would have quit if they hadn’t let me create a completely new position for myself. Having to manage people and deal with petty nonsense turned me into a curmudgeon.

        1. Artemesia*

          I remember the week I became department chair somewhat unexpectedly after the person we expected to take over died. It was like picking up rocks in the woods. There were icky slimy creatures under every rock. I suddenly had to deal with the alcoholic who didn’t show up for morning classes, the grad student who had molested someone in their internship site, the insubordinate AA and the married professor who was having the affair with the student (he had married a previous student so it should not have been a shock) . I had been blissfully unaware of most of the ickiness previously.

          1. the gold digger*

            This. I am an individual contributor, but my boss has hired two people to join our team. I thought they were working in parallel to me and that I could just keep doing my job with an occasional “hello” to the new guys.

            But it appears my boss thinks I am supposed to mentor and train the new guys, which would be fine for Guy #1, who is fabulous and amazing and a great addition to our team, but which is not so fine for Guy #2, whom I told Boss not to hire because Guy #2 appears to be incompetent.

            I would be delighted to manage a team of many Guy #1, but Guy #2 has me seething at home so much that even my husband has noticed and has commented that, “But you are not like this! You don’t vent about work and the people at work!”

          2. An anonymous librarian*

            The worst thing about going into management/supervision is that I can no longer say “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Because it IS my circus now, and those are in fact my monkeys, whether or not I want them to be.

      5. SS Express*

        At my previous workplace the only options were to stay in an entry-level role forever or manage a team. Would you believe they had a lot of managers who were great at designing teapots but sucked butt when it came to managing staff?

      6. Jenn*

        One of the most experienced guys I work with has repeatedly fought off being recruited for that reason. He tried it out on a temporary basis and was good at it, but he didn’t enjoy it. It is a very different skill set.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          My corporate overlord may have many shortcomings, but they do have a technical-expertise track for advancement. Senior specialists do lead team projects, but they’re for the duration of the project, not direct-report relationships with all the management bells&whistles.

      7. kittymommy*

        Exactly this. In my position the only way I can move up is to a director position and I have ZERO desire to manage anyone.

      8. iglwif*


        I left a job after 20+ years because being a people manager–which I had never really wanted to do in the first place, but I needed the money and promotion into managing people was the only way to get it? I know, I know, bad choices–was stressing me out to the point of pathology. Now I have a job that pays almost as well for fewer hours AND does not require me to manage people, and holy shit is it a great feeling to be back in a job that I can actually do well.

      9. Kathenus*

        Early in my management career I was in a training class and someone said something I’ve never forgotten – management is what you get to do when you’re good at something else entirely.

        For many, many years that’s been the case – good at a technical skill, get promoted to management – often without training in those skills.

        The tide is definitely starting to change in realizing that those promoted to management need support and training, and that sometimes people with strong management skill/ability/experience can succeed in a job without being an expert in the technical skills of the staff they work with.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      And thus the Peter Principle stays with us. Promoting people just because they’re good at the jobs they’re in and have been there a while means that eventually you move workers out of the jobs they’re excellent at and into jobs they don’t necessarily have the talent and skills for.

    4. triplehiccup*

      I think it’s a fair question, but I don’t know how you’d find out more without asking the good employee and possibly inflaming her frustration further. Maybe something to keep in mind if you initiate a larger conversation about her work goals in order to find out more about what you can do to lessen her irritation.

    5. Hobbert*

      Personally, I’m glad tenure doesn’t mean promotion to a management role in my workplace. I’ve been here 14 years (and plan to stay 20) and have zero desire to manage others. I love my job but that’s just not something that appeals to me. I also work with 2 people who’ve been promoted to managaement and took voluntary demotions after 6 months or so when they realized they hated it. Talking to them reinforces my decision to stay at my “level”.

      1. Jenn*

        I have worked management projects (6 months to a year if the job) but have always turned the permanent roles down. Managing is exhausting and I hate doing stuff like counselling people on time sheets and monitoring PIPs, while I absolutely love my base job. There are some aspects that are fun and the occasional 6 months of management helps keep me engaged, but I.would never want it full time.

    6. Oryx*

      “She should have what it takes to succeed.”

      And maybe her definition of success does not include management. I know mine doesn’t and when the idea has been floated by higher ups in my company, I’ve said no. I for one have managed before and know I don’t have the right skill set for it. But I DO have the right skill set for the job I’m currently doing, I’m happy in my position, and have no desire to move into another manager role.

      1. SarahKay*

        Seconded hard.
        As far as I’m concerned I am successful. I’m in a job I enjoy and am good at, and that pays me enough to live comfortably. I have absolutely no desire to manage people; I have done it, and can do an okay job at it, but nothing about it matches my core skills and inclinations.

      2. Jam Today*

        LOL definitely. If I was made someone’s manager I would take that as a sign that I had done something very wrong in my career trajectory.

      3. Decima Dewey*

        I was briefly a manager and hated it. I’d turned 40 and was having “things would be different if I were in charge” thoughts. I was right about things being different, wrong about the implication that things would be better.

        I’ve also been Acting Manager on occasion, and TPTB were disappointed when I declined to take the test for the real position. But the reason they wanted me to take it is that I care about meeting deadlines. Being an Acting is different from being the real thing. As long as the branch doesn’t burn down or I don’t end up being escorted from the branch by Security, I’m doing a fine job.

    7. ENFP in Texas*

      “Why has someone who has gone above and beyond for 20 years not been promoted into your role?”

      Maybe she doesn’t want to be a manager. I’ve been in my role for 10 years, and the next level up includes managing other people so it’s not a position I have any interest in.

    8. Liet-Kinda*

      “My first question upon reading the letter is why you are in a managerial position instead of this woman.”

      In what possible way is asking that question, even rhetorically, helpful or illuminating to OP?

    9. Genny*

      She may not want to be a manager, but I do think you raise a good point here. She could be frustrated about a number of things, including a stagnated career path, and she’s lashing out at the most obvious/most annoying thing – the night shift guy’s poor performance. I like Allison’s recommendation to talk to her and be realistic about what can change and what can’t. You may also want to use that conversation to talk about her broader goals. You may not be able to do anything about night shift guy, but you may be able to help her find the next career step (or address other issues she hasn’t been able to vocalize yet).

  9. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – so many questions?

    Is the day employee expected to compensate for the night employee? Stop it. Make the night employee redo their work until it’s correct.

    Are you paying them the same in spite of the drastic difference in performance? Stop it. Give the day employee perks and pay.

    Definitely talk with HR. Unless the night employee is the owners son, there is no need to keep him on forever. If HR won’t listen it’s time to go over their head to the higher ups. No competent HR person should put up with this kind of performance. If you have a legal department then involve them. Many times HR people are overly cautious about firing people they deem “protected”.

    1. Tau*

      I was definitely wondering if there are any perks or other rewards you might be able to give day employee. Raises, more flexibility, a promotion, more PTO, etc. It’s frustrating enough if you have an incompetent employee around, it’s so much worse if there doesn’t seem to be *any* difference between how good and bad work gets rewarded.

      1. TootsNYC*

        don’t forget some autonomy, or some involvement in decision-making.

        (and yes, make the Night Guy redo his own work–you may need to stand over him and make it really unpleasant with his boss looking over his shoulder. More work for you–welcome to management)

        Which makes me think–are you there all day w/ the Day Lady, and the Night Guy tends to work alone? So she feels “managed” and “overseen,” even though she does great work and is trustworthy? That would chafe, especially if he isn’t “overseen” and he’s screwing up.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, I’d go to HR and mention that they may soon lose a better employee than the one they refuse to fire. “(Day Employee) is really fed up and I’m concerned that we’re at risk of losing her if we keep treating her this way.” If they reply that Night Employee is not fireable or it turns out they have to keep him for whatever reason, maybe you can present it as a problem to solve, and find some way to give Day Employee some kind of benefit, whether it’s a part-time Employee or assistant to help her or some kind of monetary compensation. But I’m guessing HR doesn’t know how pissed she is.

      1. TardyTardis*

        In my experience, a company only told me how well I was doing once I announced I was on my way out. (sighs)

    3. Lance*

      The biggest question to me is: what does the OP mean in saying the nighttime employee is ‘extremely reliable’? Does that just mean their butt’s consistently in their chair when it’s supposed to be? Alright, fine… that’s one, partial measure of reliability in working the hours they’re supposed to… but then in the same breath OP’s saying they’re very bad at their job. How does that equate to ‘extremely reliable’? I’m confused here.

        1. irene adler*

          Yep. And since when does reliable outweigh doing the job well? That in and of itself has to be galling to the day employee.

          1. all the candycorn*

            It does in a lot of fields. I worked for a nonprofit community-based fitness organization, and if you were the kind of person who consistently showed up to unlock the front door at the designated time, avoided calling in sick at the last minute unless it was impossible, and rarely asked for days off unless they were planned weeks in advance, that would be enough to keep someone in the job despite sub-par job performance. We couldn’t afford to pay for excellence and excellent employees typically left for higher-paying jobs, but we would put up with someone’s annoying personality quirks or poor performance that other places wouldn’t, in exchange for them consistently showing up at the designated time.

      1. Shop Girl*

        If day person can’t leave until night person comes in his showing up on time every day would make him seem very reliable.

      2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        My definition of “reliable” is more along the lines of “predictable” something can be reliably good, or reliably bad. This employee is reliable… he shows up, and the manager knows that he’s not going to work hard… so he is reliably mediocre.

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        I would imagine they show up on time for every shift and the essential work gets done. Maybe it doesn’t get done well and maybe there’s a mess to clean up after, but it gets done. I wouldn’t be surprised if the company has a hard time getting people to work the night shift and show up reliably. I worked at a place like that. It was absolutely critical that certain work got gone on night shift, and it was also difficult to find people willing to do it, so we had some less than stellar employees on night shift who did the bare minimum but they showed up and the critical, cannot be left undone work got done.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah, when I worked in retail/food I always got “reliable” from my bosses. I was very mediocre at all that work, but always on time, never missed shifts and would pick up extra shifts when possible. That was A LOT in that environment even though I was never better than average at most of the rest of the job!

    4. WellRed*

      Yes, is there any harm in going over HR? Also, you may not be able to fire him, but, in addition to extra pay/perks for the daytime employee, maybe manage night guy out of his job? By, holding him *accountable? Which is, part of your job?

      *I have no idea what sort of role someone can be reliable and horrible at at the same time.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        “Reliable and horrible” : How about a security guard who is always there on time, correctly monitors incoming/outgoing people, performs required spot-checks, and properly locks up at end of the night shift…but mucks up the administrative parts of the job.
        I’m thinking misfiled paperwork, can’t remember that the lost&found was moved 15 years ago so tells CEO that nope no one turned in her lost item, “helpfully” turns off equipment that’s supposed to be left on overnight, shares someone’s direct email/phone# instead of a departmental one, directs questions to the dayshift…

        1. TootsNYC*

          I wonder if Day Person would actually be less disgruntled if the Night Guy was NOT given so much work to do–that he was only asked to do the stuff that HAD to get done.

          It rewards his crappiness, but having standards he can meet, even if they’re lower, might be less frustrating. Less to clean up after.

      2. Izzy*

        If it’s night-shift work, maybe 24-hour tech support? Like, he’s there and picking up the phone and answering questions but is rude, slow, unhelpful etc.

  10. Cathie from Canada*

    I will never forget the day when I took my baby into my office to show her off to everyone — as we parked outside, I looked back at the car seat just in time to see her throw up all over her cute little outfit! I had a few wipes with me but it wasn’t nearly enough. So the first glimpse everyone had was of me carrying her at arms length into the washroom to clean her off. Needless to say, the introductions afterwards were fairly quick and I didn’t expect anyone else to hole her or to play with her either!

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        When a friend brought her baby in for viewing, it was like the scene from The Lion King. She held the stinky baby up in the air so everyone got a look and then rushed to the washroom for a head to toe cleanup.

    1. J.B.*

      Babies sure are messy :) I bet all the parents had a mix of sympathy and happiness they weren’t the ones dealing with the mess.

  11. Auntie Social*

    #2: The minute an infant appears, start blowing your nose noisily. Make a point of being seen blowing it by infant’s mother. Keep saying that you can’t shake this cold, you woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat and today it’s *so* much worse, etc. What a shame that you can’t hold the baby, it’s such a nice little guy. . . .

    1. Artemesia*

      I must radiate child aversion or something although I raised two of my own and love my grandkids because I have NEVER in my long career and life ever had anyone thrust an infant at me to hold. I have volunteered a few times in family settings, but not at work.

      1. Overeducated*

        I’ve never seen anyone do this! Walk around showing off the infant for everyone to say “so cute,” yeah; actually pass it around to all, no way! Most new parents are too protective.

        1. JustaTech*

          The only time I’ve had non-parents holding a baby at work was when the mom had to come in on leave because she was one of two people who knew how to do Very Important and Time Critical Thing and the other person had a terrible personal emergency. So the mom came in to do the Thing and half the lab cheerfully played with the baby until she was done.
          (Yes, people shouldn’t come in on leave, but this was academia.)

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        In my office, there are always so many people who want to hold the baby, even people who *want* baby time don’t necessarily get it.

      3. Dragoning*

        I’m not sure what gender you’re perceived as, but I will say this happens a lot more to people perceived as women rather than men. My brothers have never had a baby forced on them. I, however, always have this happen despite my utter lack of interest, but the option becomes “take the baby” or “baby splat on floor” and they never take their child back quickly enough (aka, immediately).

        1. Dragoning*

          Also, someone, despite the blatant fear on my face when holding a child, I’m told I “look so natural!” holding Baby, but my brothers who are perfectly happy and comfortable holding them get “He looks terrified!!!”

        2. Bunny Girl*

          I think it must be my personality or something because I’m a woman and very, very few people try to hand their babies off to me. Most of my friends know that babies aren’t my thing so they never try, but I’ve had very few coworkers try to show their babies off to me. It works for me! Especially because people also seem to know that if they bring their new puppy into the office that they should make a bee-line for me because I’m so happy to get puppy kisses.

    2. BananaPants*

      I brought both of my babies into the office during maternity leave and have had many colleagues (or their wives) bring babies in for a quick show-off visit. Maybe it’s just the nature of my workplace, but no one ever really asks or expects to hold babies or spends a ton of time with them. It’s usually a quick “hello, little one” and asking the new parent(s) how they’re doing, and then people get back to work.

      1. the gold digger*

        I don’t expect to spend a lot of time with the new babies, but I sure want to see them. :) I like my co-workers (except Guy #2) and am happy they want to share important life events.

  12. jman4l*

    #4: You are salaried so I think the policy is fair. If you want the day off, use a day of leave. You are paid for getting the job done, not the hours that you work. Any hourly employees will be losing pay for those days but you will get full pay either way

    1. HannaSpanna*

      Yeah, I think I agree with this. View it from the other side. Employees who choose to work get paid for a full day for 3 hours, as compensation for working on a holiday-adjacent day.
      A few of my friends work in offices that close at lunch at Christmas eve, but would have to take the whole day off as PTO. It may sound unfair, but it’s designed as a perk for those choosing to work, not a punishment for those not.

    2. HannaSpanna*

      Also, imagine people only got docked
      3 hrs of PTO. I can’t imagine a single person not trying to take that day off.

        1. Almond Butter and Jelly*

          I’m not sure how long you have been in the workforce or from your past remarks most likely at what level, but what you are saying really isn’t in line with how companies work or how they need to work to stay afloat. “Just Close” isn’t really an option for real companies, no matter how much you wish for it.

          Our company does this, we actually need people to come in and run things and get things out but its compliance things. So giving people half a day off is great and we can pick our 4 hours to work. Like I would guess a lot of other companies do as well and cant “Just close”.

          1. McWhadden*

            Many many companies close on the Friday after Thanksgiving. To pretend that doesn’t happen is just ignorance.

            1. HannaSpanna*

              Whose pretending it’s not happening?
              Lots of companies can close and do, some can but won’t, and some just can’t.

          2. McWhadden*

            And I’ve been in the workforce for over twenty years. We don’t need to just accept the way corporations justify bad decisions.

                1. HannaSpanna*

                  Doubt it. Almond Butter was probably disagreeing with the suggestion that she was supporting ‘bad decisons’ made by corporate America, by pointing out that some workplaces don’t have the ability to ‘just close’ (for a non federal holiday, no less.)
                  Feel these two have had very different careers.

          3. Yorick*

            Yeah, there are some tasks that need to be completed every business day, or even every actual day.

    3. bottomless pit*


      I am salaried and can only take PTO in full day increments. If I work 1 hour in a day, I’m paid for the whole day so for me if we did have partial days scheduled and I took it off, I’d expect to use 1 full day of PTO.

      I’m guessing if you worked that 3 hour day you’d be paid as full day, so it seems fair.

    4. Roscoe*

      I guess for me it comes down to the PTO policy. Everywhere I’ve worked, its been that you can take either a half or a full day of PTO. So in that case, you are still somewhat paid for the hours you worked that day. If this particular company doesn’t have half day PTO, then I agree with you. However, if they do have a half day policy, then you should be able to take that for the day.

      1. Liz*

        Yes, this is my experience, too. At the companies where I have worked in the past 15 years, PTO can be reported in hourly increments, and it would not be weird at all for LW4 to report 3 hours of time on a day where everyone else is only working 3 hours.

        Unless the organization has a policy that PTO can only be taken in full day increments (which I’m guessing it doesn’t, otherwise why would this be a question?), forcing someone to take a full day of PTO when no one else has to actually work a full day seems punitive and unnecessary.

    5. Alfonzo Mango*

      I would be so upset if I were hourly and suddenly had to lose a majority of a day’s work because the office was going to close. It would dock your paycheck.

  13. Pumpkin*

    #1 I would be careful not to discuss too much about the situation. Yes, it’s frustrating – but it’s not appropriate to discuss someone else’s performance issues with their peers. I would ask her to just trust that you are doing all you can.

    1. Ciara Amberlie*

      “I would ask her to just trust that you are doing all you can.”

      I don’t think that’s going to be enough. The company has been asking the good employee to “trust them” for twenty years and nothing has happened. Actions speak louder than words and the company’s actions for the past two decades have show that the good employee CAN’T trust them to fix this. This is no disrespect to the letter writer, I know she desperately wants to help, but it’s highly likely that past managers have said similar things, and nothing has come of it.

      You’re right that it’s not appropriate to discuss someones performance issues with another employee, but the good employee needs to be given concrete information about the timeline on which changes will be made, and ideally the increase in compensation/benefits that she should be getting to reflect her higher performance.

    2. Roscoe*

      Yes, this is exactly my thought. Even if night shift guy is bad, no manager should be discussing that with other employees

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      In many types of job, if NightShift makes a mistake, DayShift has to clean up the mess. And vice-versa. But irate customers are more likely to call during the day than the night so… DayShift could be getting the short end of the stick in two ways.

      1. A Non E. Mouse*

        Yeah, we have one night guy on staff and OH MAN do I know if he had a rough night the moment I walk in of a morning.

        In defense of the “reliable” part of the description of the night guy, I can tell you that the most important part of our night guy’s job is him showing up. When he’s on vacation or out sick I pull a day shift and a night shift and it’s terrible.

        Then, second to showing up, is doing the job in order, and quite frankly if he did the first 20% of his job schedule I could do the rest during the day without the rest of the company coming to a screeching halt.

        Would I bitch? You bet, loudly, all day. In the morning after something, even a thing representing only 5% of his night, is messed up I’m scrambling pretty hard – but only about the first 20% is time sensitive enough that if it wasn’t done, the world would crumble.

        So it IS possible to have a Night Guy who only shows up on time and does part or most of his job qualify as “reliable enough” – in this context, reliable enough so that day shift doesn’t have to stay until midnight.

        BUT if this particular Night Guy is messing up consistently enough that Day Shift is doing all the work, you need a new Night Guy.

    4. Leela*

      I would take “trust that I’m doing all I can” as a total blowoff. Imagine a manager asking an employee about their performance, what steps they were taking to improve if something was wrong, and they refused to say anything other than “trust that I’m doing all I can” while the manager saw no improvement.

      While I understand that it’s expected management can’t have full transparency all the time, this would come off to me like nothing more than lip service and a means to shut me up without actually fixing anything, even if that’s not true. As an employee I would be incredibly dissatisfied and frustrated with this answer and I’d be looking elsewhere immediately.

    5. Yorick*

      I think the solution is really to do as much as you can to show that you really appreciate Day’s good work, rather than discussing Night’s problems with her.

  14. This Daydreamer*

    OP #1 why this HR demanding action plans and documentation when they’re not going to make this guy face any consequences? They might as well tell you to ignore him and save you the work. I find it mind boggling that he’s been able to get away with this for years.

    Good luck to you and your day employee. The situation really sucks for both of you.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I’m not getting the “strategy” here. Either he has free rein so they just leave him be, or he’s put on PIPs and they fire him, but it certainly doesn’t make sense to do both! If they aren’t going to do anything about him anyway, OP could really spend her time better than putting together years (!) worth of action plans.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it’s the expectations-management philosophy of creating the appearance that Authority is on the case and taking action.

      1. MassMatt*

        Good guess! HR is likely trying to assure the appearance of action while taking none; exactly the kind of thing that gives HR a bad reputation.

        I have long wondered how people got these positions where they were unfireable despite demonstrable incompetence. Given how often the subject comes up here there must be lots of them out there, why haven’t I found one? Perhaps in my next job search I should try to find a place dedicated to retaining dead wood.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Right? Heck, I’d like to get one of those jobs where I get paid several million dollars to drive the whole company into the ground. Then they pay me a few more millions if I agree to leave. That seems like a great deal.

    3. Pomona Sprout*

      I also find it mindboggling that HR hasn’t told Crappy Employee’s MANAGER why he can’t be fired. That’s completely banana crackers! O.P., as his manager, you have the right to know! If they’re going to insist that you put up with this useless pita, the least they do is tell why.

      1. Antilles*

        My guess is that the explanation is something stupid – HR won’t give the reason because they know that OP would refuse to accept it and push back against it.
        If it was something understandable like “his union contract makes him essentially unfireable”, they would have just said that with a resigned shrug “yeah, it sucks but our CEO didn’t ask my advice during union negotiations”.

      2. Noodle Oodle Oodle*

        I once worked at a place where a manager quit because he wasn’t allowed to actually manage one of his employees, who was terrible but a favorite of the big boss. It’s possible that the reason is something like that and that’s why they won’t tell the OP why the problem employee can’t be fired.

    4. irene adler*

      I’m wondering if the prior management never actually assembled all the documentation needed to fire the Night employee. So they are asking this manager to generate all of this documentation so that they can -eventually- fire him. Not fair to ask. But necessary to take action.

      We’ve had ‘difficult’ employees before. Had to remind managers to create the documentation from the start -so there’s no delay in getting a bad employee out.

      Or this is just a stalling tactic in the hopes manager will just drop the issue.

      1. Kathenus*

        This is a great point. I used to work in an organization where there were a handful of truly atrocious employees. Everyone knew it, but it was time consuming and onerous to do the work to document things, and managers hadn’t done it. A new person was promoted to the role and although it took years they did the work and those people were eventually gone (they had a chance to improve and stay, but didn’t choose to). So if as you mention OP starts doing all of the documentation that might/should justify termination, maybe it’ll happen this time.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        My mother had an assistant who didn’t do much, who was protected by a strict procedure to fire. I don’t remember if it was union or the institution’s rules.
        Whenever my mother started doing the process to get the assistant fired, the assistant would improve just enough to get out of danger. Then when the paperwork period had passed she’d slack off again.
        Luckily she left on her own after about 2 years.

    5. ACDC*

      My dad would always say the same thing in these types of situations, “Does (bad employee) have some scathing pictures of (HR person) doing inappropriate things with barn animals that they don’t want getting out?”

    6. TootsNYC*

      I think that might be a question I would ask:

      “This is a lot of work for me, to monitor and pressure him. What is your goal? Are you genuinely going to fire him, ever?
      “Or are you trying to make this unpleasant enough that he’ll quit? And what happens when he decides he doesn’t care, he’ll just stay–making his job unpleasant is a lot of work FOR ME. And it’s unpleasant FOR ME.
      “Because if neither of those are possible to happen, then a better use of my time is to figure out how to work around him, how to buffer him, how to grow nacre around him to protect everyone else, how to rearrange work. THAT is work as well.
      “I want to do the work that is the most effective and that will actually result in something, anything.”

      (Also–CAN you find anyone to replace Night Guy? It’s evening, so not overnight, but it’s not a shift lots of people love. But have a plan for whether you think you could actually find someone. Maybe propose hiring a part-timer with an eye toward whether they want a full-time job, and see what they do.)

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I’ve seen ads for part-time evening jobs at, say, a hotel desk – “ideal for student”

      2. Bulbasaur*

        Well put. I was trying to find a way to express this.

        I think the problem here is bigger than just a bad employee at this point – it’s that the organization’s performance management process is ineffective. That, rather than the bad employee, is the problem I would be focused on at this stage. Solve that one and you’ll have the tools you need to deal with the bad employee situation.

        “It seems like we have invested a lot of time and effort in a performance management process that has accomplished nothing. There’s been no actual improvement in performance, and person X still has a job and looks set to keep it. Can we agree on some changes to the process that will allow it to actually achieve an outcome? Because if we can’t, I don’t see any point in continuing with it.”

        The risk here is that you could be tilting at a very large windmill (for example, if bad employee is being protected by someone senior) and might fall off your horse as a result. But if the alternative is to persist with the current ineffectual process for the sake of appearances, then you’re part of the problem (and nothing you might say to good employee will change that). If you care about being a good manager, I think you need to take this stand. If your personal situation makes this too much of a risk, then I’d be looking for another job ASAP.

      3. TardyTardis*

        I adored swing shift when I was a student (and wouldn’t turn it down today, either). I could come home, watch Johnny Carson, sleep till whenever I wanted (during summers, other terms were more exciting), run errands with nobody in my way, go to work…some of us are just evening people (though I’m married to a vampire, and both the children ended up that way as well. I’m actually the day person of the family).

  15. RUKiddingMe*

    OP2: You have my sympathy. I don’t have any answers for you…just solidarity. IME Alison’s suggestions though are about the only (polite) way to get out of being around/holding them much, unfortunately. I hate this.

    I have found that the best answer to “do you want to hold her/him/the baby” is simply “no thank you” followed by turning/walking far enough away that they can’t thrust it at you. Keep your arms crossed at all times!

    I actually do dislike children. **

    Ok go on hit me with all the “she’s a terrible person because she isn’t all gaga over children” stuff. I can take it.

    I really and I mean reeeaaalllyyy dislike the forced interaction with other peoples’ offspring thing. I do not want to talk to them or hold them, or really be wherever they are at 99.99999% of the time.

    I wish people would just understand that while they think that their kids are thee best people ever born (they are wrong, my so was the best person ever born) that not everyone will think this way and that some people, even women (shocking I know) might just not want to interact.

    ** As a group. I do like individual children on a case by case basis.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      As a parent, you won’t get any trouble from me about not liking kids! I DO like kids but I have limits how much I enjoy my own, let alone other people’s. And I hate the attitude that everyone should like kids. As long as you’re not actively mean to them you should be allowed to have as much or as little contact as you want.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Thank you for this. I get so much hate for this most of the time. Especially since I’m a woman and a mother. Yes, I like my child, that doesn’t mean I like children as a whole. Some people can not wrap their heads around that…apparently.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      Most likely nobody cares if you do or don’t like kids, dogs, giraffes, milk, baseball, violin, marble tiling, etc.

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        oh. people definitely have Opinions about people who don’t like dogs. Saying “I’m not a dog person” is more likely to result in “You’d like my poochumwoochums, she will be THE DOGGO to change your mind” than “oh, no worries.”

        I imagine the same thing happens with kids.

        1. CM*

          People are like that with brussels sprouts too! “But have you tried them roasted with bacon??”

          Anyway, I don’t think it’s asking too much to say one polite sentence to/about somebody’s baby, like, “Hey, little guy!” or “He kinda looks like you,” or “Hey, your kid is here,” or whatever your style is, before you walk away. But then, I’ve only seen voluntary baby-holding/cooing in an office. My guess is that this OP feels awkward but that the pressure to interact more with the baby is mostly in her head, not coming from her coworkers.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Oh I’m betting it’s not in her head. The pressure to interact and looooovvvvveeeee babies and children is real. Especially for women.

            1. Nessun*

              Agreed. And it’s a slippery slope – pressure to love babies, followed with pressure to have your own (if you don’t already). I can love ’em, I can leave ’em, I don’t want ’em. Deal with it.

      2. starsaphire*

        Sadly, no. You can hate accordion music, brussels sprouts, and hang-gliding all you like, but a whisper of not liking kids can get you all manner of side-eye and a lot of people on the Internet saying, “There’s something fundamentally wrong with people who don’t like children*.”

        (* That is an actual quote from a message board I used to belong to.)

        1. Parenthetically*

          I mean… accordion music, brussels sprouts, and hang-gliding aren’t human beings.

          I don’t have any problem with people who are ambivalent about kids or who don’t enjoy interacting with them, or who find little kids’ habits and interests annoying or boring or whatever, but active hatred/antipathy toward any human because of things that are a) beyond their control and b) temporary is pretty uncool. (Of course, I also get why people who are pushed and pushed and pushed to looooooove baaaaaaabiessss react against that. I just think we need to treat humans like humans, not gods or monsters.)

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Not liking them and not treating them like hunans aren’t the same thing.

            But I get judgements for my dislike/antipathy (I only *hate* having them shoved in my face/being assumed I will like them…not hate *them*) because their condition of being children is something they can’t help.

            I can’t help how I feel either.

            1. Parenthetically*

              “Not liking them and not treating them like hunans aren’t the same thing.”

              Yes, that’s what I’m saying. It’s ok not to like them. It’s not ok to treat them like diseases or monsters.

              And I suppose people can’t help how they feel about lots of things, but they can control how they choose to interact. A little kindness goes a long way.

            2. TootsNYC*

              Good points. But I think a smart strategy would be to smile at the baby, mention tiny fingers, smile at the parent and say, “I hope this time is treating you well,” and then go back to work. And then you can say, “Oh, I’m not much of a baby person.” (get that “much of a”? That’s useful)

      3. beth*

        People definitely have opinions on women who don’t like kids. (I think men get a lot more leeway in this area, as a general cultural norm.) Heck, I like kids just fine, and people still have all sorts of opinions on my lack of desire to have my own. It’s not like giraffes or marble tiling.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Oh it’s perfectly acceptable fir males to not like kids. A woman however is “naturally” programmed to be maternal. Ick.

      4. RUKiddingMe*

        Actually people have all kinds if opinions about those of us who don’t like kids. Or at least those of us who are willing to say it. Especially if we are women.

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          Can confirm. Usually I keep my dislike of babies and children to myself, but if it does come up people will definitely say something and occasionally have flat out argued with me. As if I don’t know my own mind. It’s ludicrous.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      I like kids but I HAAATE baby talk with a passion. The kids are fine but the incessant cooing over them annoys me.

    4. MLB*

      For me it depends on who had the baby. If I’m close to the person at work, I will talk to and hold the baby, play with the toddler, etc. But if the person bringing in the baby is only an acquaintance, I might say hi and then continue to work. I hate being fake, have mastered RBF, and don’t really care how I appear to others. If someone wants to say I’m an asshole because I didn’t stop my work to fawn over a baby that was brought into the office, so be it. I’m there to do a job, not run for mayor.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      It’s okay. I’m right here with you. Definitely second the keeping your arms folded and in no way make any movement that would allow someone to hand you the baby. I use the same move for people who hand out leaflets on the street. If you insist on handing it to me, it’s going to drop on the ground. Fortunately people take care with babies and don’t let things get that far. I dislike babies and hate the smell of them, even when they’re clean. I have no issues with other people cooing and passing around a baby, but I do not wish to be included. I like children just fine when they get old enough to talk to like a rational human and function moderately independently. But babies? No. It’s lovely you made that, I’m so happy for you, I DO NOT want to hold it, please take it away. Maybe that makes me a “bad” woman, and I don’t care.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Yay! Glad I’m not the only one here that feels this way.

        I have a niece (she’s 40 now) who was my living breathing doll when she was a little kid…back when I was young and still believed there was something wrong if I didn’t like kids.

        Consequently I spent a lot of tume with/money on her and we became close. If course this was after she could hold a sembelance of a real conversation so even back then my natural dislike for interacting with kids was there in the background.

        Anyway she grew up to be just like we are. “Yup adorable. No don’t want to hold it. Don’t care about gender/name/ your labor and delivery experience. Don’t try to hand it to me unless tou want it to drop.”

        I couldnt be more proud of her. (•.•)

    6. Oranges*

      I’m the person who gushes and plays with the baby for as long as I think I can get away with it. It’s totally fine that you are like “What, no. That small human is in no way my cup of tea/adorable/something I want to hold”. I totally agree that the thing where woman = baby nurturer must die in a fire somehow.

    7. Bunny Girl*

      I’m not a baby/child person either. They actually send my anxiety through the roof. I will not hold babies, and I’ve always found a polite “no thank you” and having your arms unavailable to work well.

      My brother is also not fond of children and he was going to be over with one of his friends who recently had a baby. He asked my mom, “I don’t have to hold it do I?” and my mother said of course not. After she told me about this conversation, I texted him and told him to always have a drink in his hand and no one would try to push the baby on him.

      The next day I asked my mom how dinner went and she said “Fine but your brother drank literally all night! Never would put his drink down!” I laughed for about 45 minutes.

  16. Jenny*

    #2 I have always disliked babies in the office and once upon a time it made me super uncomfortable because I forced myself to interact. I just don’t like babies. I’m 37, in a happy relationship, I don’t have any, I won’t have any, and I am an entirely non-maternal human female. We exist! Honestly, I just tell the truth. “Congrats! Yay! Happy baby time! I am -not- a baby person but yay you!” and then back to work.

    1. Jenn*

      I will come out and say that I like kids, but babies in the office should be saved for quiet days. Half an hour is just too much (and a stinky diaper? No way. Change the kiddo first.) The idea that someone is obligated to disrupt their work to play with a baby is 100% silly. You can love kids and definitely not have time for that.

  17. Blue Bird*

    Op#2, I feel your pain. I’m also not a person who’s super thrilled to be around babies. I usually say something like, “oh, what a cutie”, “hi there” etc. when a baby is presented, and then go about my work day as usual. It might come across as a little cold (?), but no one has ever stopped me or said anything.

  18. Blue Bird*

    OP#5, one of my co-workers gave five months notice when he was ready to leave (it made sense for sense for planning purposes). Because I work in a very functional workplace and my bosses are great, that was an ok thing to do! It definitively depends on the workplace though.

    1. TardyTardis*

      I gave several months’ notice since I was taking early retirement, and the paperwork for that is um, interesting at the ExCorporation. But then, that last year was interspersed with Exciting Personal Emergencies (like my husband being airlifted to another city) and everyone thought it was probably just as well. (and I only had to train one and a half people for my job instead of the usual two and a half).

  19. Asenath*

    I’ve never found that anything more than “Oh, how cute!” followed by a return to the desk/turning to the computer is needed when a new child or grandchild visits the office.

    1. WS*

      I agree, but that initial acknowledgement is very important, otherwise the new parent and/or doting co-workers will push and push and push for a reaction! (One of my co-workers has just become a grandmother for the first time and this my day every day right now!)

      1. Asenath*

        The grandmothers in my office are more restrained – a single visit by one grandchild (and I don’t think the young mother was too eager to let her mother’s workmates hold the new baby!), none by the other, and an occasional and quite restrained sharing of the latest photo! I don’t count desk photos, since I’m not called on to admire them.

        I don’t think I’ve been much bothered by people showing me or talking about babies, though. A situation that did boggle me a bit belongs in another thread – a temp asked us all a bit nervously “I love this outfit, but I wasn’t sure it was suitable for work. What do you think?” (Honest answer: “Not really, and it’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen”. Actual answer ” Errr, yes, very nice” Lying through my teeth – it’s not my job, thank God, to monitor office clothing.)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Speaking as a former temp… do please address the “suitable for work” part. It can be as simple as “If the agency didn’t give you a copy of the company dress code I can print it out for you.”

          Bumpty-bump years later, I remain grateful to the admin who gently told me my skirt was too short and helped me figure out the difference between college & that industry’s style. I’m firmly convinced that if she hadn’t said something in my second week on that temp job, I wouldn’t have been hired full-time after my second month.

          (If Alison wants to pull it into another thread, I can repost it there.)

        2. Half-Caf Latte*

          Yeah. Taking a new baby to any workplace other than the parents’…wouldn’t… occur to me to do?

        3. Anon for this 2*

          At least in my family, it’s the grandparents and great grandparents i.e. the ones who can choose when they want to be around the kids who are worse than the parents themselves. One of my aunts got really offended when her sister whom she semi-estranged through her own actions didn’t congratulate her about being a great grandmother when they made polite small talk at a recent family gathering.

          The other aunt likes her grandkids but unlike her sisters, is interested in them at all ages. Her sisters on the other hand prefer the baby stage and lose interest in them once they hit toddlerhood. My dad has more of his one sister’s mindset where he likes being around kids once they’re out of the baby and toddler stages and have a personality.

          The overly proud great grandmother asked him if he’d come to her oldest great grandkid’s first birthday party after thanksgiving. He gave her a polite maybe and after she wasn’t around, his reaction was that the whole idea was absurd. He wanted confirmation from me, a woman in my 30s with only a cat, that this was odd and I had to disabuse him of that notion. His comment was that you only have birthday parties for your kids when they can actually remember and participate in them.

        4. Michaela Westen*

          I think when someone asks, they are looking for an honest answer. So maybe “it’s nice, but for work maybe these changes” put it as nicely as possible, but do give honest feedback. Since she asked.

    2. Oranges*

      It can also vary widely upon how much the surrounding co-workers have bought into the woman = baby nurturer narrative.

  20. casinoLF*

    I am not a baby person, so I just take a break when I’ve heard news of impending baby visits and hear cooing or baby noises coming down the line. Go get coffee or tea or nick off to another floor or the bathroom for five minutes. People assumed a few times that I’d want to hold a baby which I very much didn’t, so I just skedaddle now. My experience of this is also very skewed between genders and how they are expected to react to babies which I resent so I find it easier to just skip rather than feign interest.

    I like when my neighbors at work who I actually know have their middle schoolers in though tbh.

    1. OP #2*

      The gender thing…yes. I definitely know that plays into my annoyances. There is so much more of an expectation for women to want to go nuts over babies.

  21. The Doctor*


    “Oh, good, my new assistant is here. She can start working on the Tardis Enterprises audit right now because I’m swamped.”

    This lets you acknowledge the baby while still conveying that you don’t have time to fuss over her.

  22. The Doctor*


    The company is clearly prioritizing Bad Employee over all else, and proper karma dictates that both Good Employee and OP should give notice at the same time.

    1. Mazzy*

      I know! This letter is my life right now. I’m so sick of it. I’m dreading a meeting tomorrow because I know I’ll be leaving with all the complicated work. And for what, in the long term?

    2. TootsNYC*

      and why care about having the good opinion of this Company? Because they’ve shown that they don’t REALLY have any discernment.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Because most employees want to qualify for unemployment and some companies can make that difficult if they’re really miffed off at you?

  23. triplehiccup*

    OP 2: What if you thought about babies like they’re any other difficult accomplishment that you have no interest in doing yourself? “Oh wow, what a healthy/happy/ little guy/girl/one! You must be so pleased.” That’s basically how I respond when someone’s done a marathon, rebuilt a car, etc.

    OP 3: That is maddening! Is there anyone the boss takes advice from, and would that person be receptive to your concerns, or better yet, a group of you expressing the same concern? If not, I would focus on making sure that I and anyone else I manage or otherwise have influence over don’t act any differently towards the people who get called out.

  24. Bookwormish51*

    The length of notice can also respond to when a big project will be over. At our office, some admin people will give two weeks, but three or four is more common. For people in other roles, it’s between one and four months, and very senior people do a year. It works out well for us, but those are people with very long-term projects.

  25. drpuma*

    OP2, rather than saying “I don’t hold babies,” when a visiting baby is offered to me by a non-parent coworker I’ve had luck with saying, “oh that’s okay, you can keep holding her.” Coworkers who are excited about babies have never pushed back. As long as I’m not first in line to get the baby from the parent, it’s been pretty easy just to wave and say hello at the baby and let others hold it.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Heh– I am not a parent and I love babies and most kids, so I would happily take on allll the holding duties. I offer my baby-holding services to new parents regularly. I also completely get why people aren’t into babies. So maybe that’s the solution, find the baby lovers in the office and encourage them.

  26. Lily*

    When I once was at a family gathering, a distant male relative approached me with a small child in his arms and I (talking to someone else at this moment) more or less reflexively said “I can’t take the child.” Which, apparently, made me seem strange as he just wanted to talk to me (didn’t look like that to me but who knows). I’m fine with looking strange to relatives, though, and also in my family you never know if you really made a strange impression to anyone involved or if an uninvolved family member just decided you looked strange. I’m fine with it either way.

    I have nothing against children per se – they exist, it’s nice, they have all personalities, I can talk to them for a while, etc. It’s just that they’re also very fragile and possibly droppable and I don’t want to be responsible for them.

    1. Lily*

      On the job: Working in the medical field, I make a point of saying one nice thing about the babies of patients in an enthusiastic/warm tone and then carrying on. It’s just good manners to do so.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I get worried about holding babies too.

      When I was a teenager, I didn’t think much of babies, but as an adult, I’ve noticed how aware many babies are (when fully awake) – sometimes they’re just watching everything, trying to take it all in.

  27. Roscoe*

    For #1 this seems to me like your daytime employee needs to worry about herself. From what I can gather (and maybe I’m reading it wrong) they don’t even work together. So its not like his screwups are making her job more difficult. She is just mad because he is continuing to get away with bad performance. I guess I’ve just never been one of those people to care, unless it is actually impacting me. You can’t control others, just your reaction. But her reaction seems to be too concerned with him.

    #4 I agree, that is BS. This isn’t a last minute thing. There is no reason you should have to take a full day of PTO for 3 hours of work. I’d see if I can push back on it somehow.

    1. Perse's Mom*

      I’m not sure that determination can be made on #1 – I could make a very similar complaint about a few people at work and most of them do impact me. I either spend (waste) time re-re-re-re-re-explaining things to them or have to clean up after them. The ones that don’t immediately impact me certainly impact other coworkers.

      It’s terrible for morale. There’s a very real feeling of ‘why bother to bust my ass to do excellent work when I could just flounder around accomplishing next to nothing for no additional benefit?’

  28. Sara without an H*

    OP#2: Think of this as another form of Social Contract Upkeep. You maintain social bonds in the office by demonstrating at least a cursory interest in your co-workers activities, including reproduction. So you say things like “How was your weekend?”, take a quick look at vacation pictures, and smile broadly at babies, maybe with some remark like “Ooo, how cute!” (See upstream comments for wittier versions.)

    This really isn’t a referendum on whether you like children. It’s just a (hopefully brief) ritual to validate an important event in your co-worker’s life. So smile broadly, wave at the little face, say something innocuous, such as “Isn’t she adorable!”, and go back to work.

    A brief display of sniffling/nose-blowing will usually head off any insistence that you hold the child. No sane parent wants to risk their kid getting a cold and having to sit up all night.

    1. Boredatwork*

      +1 it’s just something you do. With small babies, I refuse to hold/touch them out of precaution. Most parents are very thankful if you acknowledge that you have new germs, and that might get their kid sick.

    2. Czhorat*

      I should read the comments before opining; this is the same thing I said in a far more wordy and meandingering way. (I was wordier, not you)

  29. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, my experience with this is that unless the employee does something insanely egregious that could lead to the company being sued nothing will happen. You have several options here some of which you can combine:

    1) Keep doing what HR asks knowing that nothing will happen.
    2) Push back with HR and try and get a clear answer on why this guy cannot be let go with the current documentation you have.
    3) Do what you can as a manager to minimize the impact on your good employee and hold the bad employee accountable.
    4) Be clear with good employee that her work is good, that you are also frustrated with this situation, and that it is unlikely to change so she needs to do what is best for her.

    Question, what does your manager have to say about all this?

  30. Guy Incognito*

    I think a good way to think about how the good day employee should react to the bad night employee, OP 1, would be to think about how the bad night employee is affecting good day employee. Is he like, affecting her work, or messing something up that she’s working on? What does she have to fix during the day now because of what he does? Start from there and build your case.

    1. Roscoe*

      This was exactly the point I made somewhere else. Based on the letter, it doesn’t seem like they ever actually interact or that his bad work affects the other person’s good work. Just that she doesn’t think he should be there. But frankly, in my opinion, thats not her call.

      I can’t see wasting that much emotional energy on someone whose job has no affect on mine. I mean where do you draw the line. Do you get mad that you are in marketing but Jan in accounting sucks and you just think she should be fired, even though her job has absolutely no affect on you?

    2. TootsNYC*

      but think of this:

      She’s been there 20 years, and she’s very good. Yet she has no trust in the idea that her employer values her. Because her employer has shown that they have no discernment.

      It’s like, if you know someone eats McDonald’s only, and then you cook them a fancy meal, and they say, “this is good,” and they continue to only eat McDonald’s. Do you ever really want to cook for them again? Do you think that compliment has any value?

  31. Gdub*

    I won’t refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving as Black Friday. I think all businesses that can close should close, so that people can have a four-day break and spend time with people they love, but I won’t bow to the rampant consumerism that says we should spend that day shopping.

    1. ACDC*

      Agreed. I’ve used that day to go shopping once (new tv majorly on sale, we couldn’t resist). If people want to go shopping that day, good for them. But the rest of us would just like an extra day off to visit with family, travel, mental health day, whatever.

  32. Boredatwork*

    OP #2 – we must work in the same office. I find the best way is to actively engage and then retreat. Try to interact with the parent/child when there are more people around. Get the fake “cooing” over with, you can get convincing at this, trust me.

    I usually interact for no more than 2-3 mins. But this way the parent in question won’t stop by and force the baby/toddler on me. I already said hi/bye.

  33. ElmyraDuff*

    Ugh. OP 2, I feel you. I dislike kids, though. I’ll do the “Nice to meet you!” thing at them if they’re being brought around the office, but that’s really it. You can always eye roll all you want once the kid leaves!

  34. CupcakeCounter*

    Being open on those days isn’t abnormal – my office is closed Black Friday but open the other 2 – but only opening for 3 hours is just odd. I could see closing early on NYE but if you are going to make employees come in just stay open. Its pretty shitty of the company and I wonder if their Salaried PTO accrual is larger than they are comfortable with (financial liability) and they are hoping the salaried employees take those days off and reduce that carrying cost.

  35. T*

    I’ve been the pissed off emoyee in letter #1. I’ve watched people accept collect phone calls at work from people in prison, get caught and not even get disciplined. I’ve seen people get blatantly called out for not doing their job repeatedly by A level execs and not get fired or even spoken to. You can’t fix bad management above you, all you can do is save your sanity and get a better job.

    1. TootsNYC*

      for me, part of enjoying my job is feeling that I’m working on a common “cause” (even if it’s only a task) with people who are good at their jobs, who care about getting it done well.

  36. Hiring Mgr*

    I realize this isn’t directly related to OP 1’s question, but OP, can you ask your boss or someone directly what’s up with the pointless PIPs ? Unless the night employee is a good friend or relative of someone high up, this makes no sense. And even then, why bother with the discipline if it’s just a charade?

    1. fposte*

      That’s what I was thinking. Never mind the other employee’s demoralization, I’d be pretty demoralized at spending time crafting PIPs and doing extra supervision that never leads anywhere. Much as I hate to say it, if night employee is unfireable, it’s more practical to accept that and spend your time on other things.

      It occurred to me also that there’s a slender possibility the night job is super-hard to get somebody to show up for reliably–that in addition to the shift being bad, the location and/or pay is crappy, so the employer has decided somebody who sucks at stuff but shows up is the best they can get. But there’s no reason not to say that outright to the OP if so.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Much as I hate to say it, if night employee is unfireable, it’s more practical to accept that and spend your time on other things.


        I worked at a place where stuff always came to us late. It was SO FRUSTRATING when my boss would insist that I plan for it to come to us on time.

        I can live in a less-than-perfect world. I can buffer my people from the overtime; I can pep-talk them through the tough spots. I can manipulate my staffing, my filing system, my procedures, the assignments of tasks, etc., to create the best outcome using shitty input.

        But that takes time, and I need to know that I can focus on that, instead of always trying to live in, and plan on, a non-existent world.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Yes! Gosh, poor OP1, talk about throwing good money after bad! How much of her time is wasted — and how much company time over the years has been wasted!? — trying to reform someone who’s apparently made a career out of recalcitrance?

  37. ..Kat..*

    LW1 – is your good employee paid more than your bad employee? Given that the good employee is female and the bad employee is male, I seriously wonder about how fairly the good employee (compared with the bad) is paid in this situation.

    1. TootsNYC*

      evening work might also pay more, which might explain why this guy hasn’t gotten fed up and quit.

      1. Autumnheart*

        It occurs to me that one way to get the guy to quit is to start cutting his pay. Oops, PIP, poor review…pay’s being cut 1%. Unless he’s on a contract, there’s no reason the company has to keep paying him at his current level for subpar performance.

  38. Czhorat*

    OP#2 : I talk sometimes here about social rituals – things we do not because there’s particular meaning behind them (though there can be!) but because they’re things one says and does to reduce social friction. Little things like asking how someone’s weekend was (when you don’t really care), accepting an apology (even if you’re still seething), wishing them luck on an upcoming task. The Greeting of the New Baby is one of these rituals. Babies are important to people, and the arrival of a new one is quite likely the most important ongoing event in the parents’ lives.

    I agree with Allison that saying something positive is filling your part of the ritual.
    “Oh, what an adorable baby!”
    “They have your eyes/nose/mouth/hairline”
    “They’re SO cute. We’re all so happy for you!”
    “This must be such an exciting time, getting to know little Nameless. Thanks so much for bringing them!”

    You aren’t REALLY saying that you think the baby is adorable or that you’re happy to see them; you’re sharing in the parents’ joy and acknowledging that, as a fellow human, you care about what is important to them. That’s it.

    The second part, of course, is that NOT engaging in the ritual creates a separation between you and the rest of the office, and robs you of a chance to bond with your officemates over something positive. This will hurt how people see you, if only a little bit and for a short time.

    Five minutes of sincere-seaming engagement will probably fill your obligation and let the parents and baby move on to others who are more firmly engaged.

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      Yup. This is like the letter awhile back about accepting or not accepting condolences for a death in the family when you aren’t actually sad the person has died. The greeting of a new baby is another event where we have a socially agreed upon interaction because like a death, a new life is an important thing that is socially acknowledged, regardless of how you truly feel about it. By making the customary comments, you are not saying that you personally like the baby or babies in general, you are completing the social ritual of acknowledging the baby’s existence and the parents’ joy. Think of it that way, and you should feel no qualms about the situation. We have the social scripts for a reason.

    2. OP #2*

      Wow, you really hit on an issue that I struggle with. There is a lot of truth in what you’re saying and I am that person who has struggled (especially as more of an introvert in a somewhat extroverted department) to see the importance of social rituals, but I have learned and am learning just how important they are. It really is true that people will change the way they look at you if you don’t engage in certain activities that seem unimportant on the surface, but they are important. I have improved and become better at these rituals, but I have a very long way to go. :) Thank you for your comments!

      1. Turtle Candle*

        So I’m an introvert too, and I have come to embrace these small social rituals because, perhaps counterintuitively, they actually often reduce social interaction. Thirty seconds of “Hi, little guy!” buys you a lot of goodwill for a small investment of time—and frees you from a potentially larger and more energy-intense/fraught discussion of The Baby Is Here Why Don’t You Want To See The Baby. Learning these rituals and participating in them voluntarily has actually been a boon to this introvert.

    3. Parenthetically*

      This is a very excellent comment — particularly combined with fposte’s observation that it’s like celebrating with someone who got an Olympic medal, even if you don’t care one bit about curling.

  39. Goya de la Mancha*

    #1 – I was the “good employee” in a situation like this for over 4 years. It was EXTREMELY frustrating and my supervisor was part of the problem. I was stuck in the job because of financial reasons at the time, but I truly did enjoy my work…other then that one co-worker. While I wish my supervisor would have been more forceful in taking action against the bad employee, one of the good things she did for me was advocate for a re-classification (raise) for myself. That raise ended up back-firing on me after bad employee finally left (of her own choice, nothing was ever done), but that’s more about the company that I worked for then my bosses decision to advocate for me.

    1. Leela*

      Curious how the raise back-fired on you after bad employee left? It sounds like you got a raise and bad employee was gone, am I missing something here?

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        As watered down as I can get it…

        Old coworker was an “A”, when I started with the department at a “C” and got bumped up to a “B” because I was doing a lot of extra types of work. A whole bunch of bureaucratic double talk bullshit as to the reasons they did what they did, but basically they re-classified the whole office when she left. So even though I replaced her, I was left at my “B” level instead of being bumped up to “A” level she was at and the person who replaced me started at my “B” classification even though they are only doing the work of “C” level personnel.

  40. Boo Hoo*

    I think manager needs to frankly as HR why the employee wont be let go. Assuming she has not. I think for sure they should be upfront about this. It may help manager to understand (he has some issue health or mental that causes this) or perhaps he constantly threatens legal action? Who knows but manager should be in the fold.

  41. Technical_Kitty*

    OP#1, I’ve been where your good employee is. Not that long term, but I had someone brought into my department of two with the same title, higher pay and who could maybe do 1 quarter of the job. If it hadn’t been dealt with I would have quit. My boss sorted it out eventually, I got a significant raise/bonus and the new person in the group is has been told his position won’t continue past the end of the year. But if these things hadn’t happened I would have quit.

    For the sake of your good employee, consider the damage if she quits because of the inequitable treatment. Is it worth it to the company to keep bad employee on if good employee leaves?

  42. Mmppgh*

    #5 There have been several people at my workplace who have given long notices, anywhere from 6 months to a year or better. In each instance it’s been very awkward for everyone involved. The person generally starts to lose motivation and is not really part of the team toward the end of the tenure. I know of a couple people who did this and really regretted such a long notice. Anywhere from 1 to 3 months would be appropriate in my opinion, given the situations I’ve observed.

  43. Elizabeth*

    Get ready for me to be called a curmudgeon.

    OP #2, I have to say I completely feel you.

    One of our bosses brought his newborn daughter to work not too long ago (well, it was really his wife who brought her, along with their two young kids), and the entire staff marched out to ooh and ahh over her for hours (okay, not really hours, but still). I do NOT get it.

    Babies are cute. But I tend to think once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. And I’ve seen plenty of babies already.

    I just kind of awkwardly stood there and smiled every few moments, waiting for the right time to dash back to my office.

    1. Mary*

      I’m sure there are some people who feel terribly offended if everyone in the world doesn’t coo over their baby, but most of the time I don’t really think anyone cares that much. I wasn’t particularly good at interacting with people’s babies before I had my own, and whilst I think that my babies are pretty marvellous, I don’t judge anyone else for not being interested in them!

      I definitely understand the thing where it feels like “everyone is doing X, so I have to as well”, but sometimes that’s a pressure we put on ourselves rather than anything that’s coming from other people.

    2. OP #2*

      Yes, thank you. I don’t think you’re a curmudgeon, but I get it, because I feel like one too. I didn’t bring this up, but it’s also annoying that there is more of an expectation for women to coo over children too and if you don’t, you’re a curmudgeon.

    3. Parenthetically*

      I’m sure there are people who are level 1000 about demanding that everyone worship at the altar of their newborns, but I don’t personally know anyone who would be offended by, “Aw, a tiny little fresh one! Congratulations!” and then “Back to work for me *big smile*”

      I know there’s weird social pressure around this, but honestly, “You must be so thrilled and so tired, bless your heart” is absolutely enough for 99.9% of new parents, and “Little sugar, what a head of hair she’s got!” is absolutely enough for 99.9% of confronted-with-a-baby circumstances.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I don’t think you have to get the baby love–you just get that this is really important to your coworker, utter a phrase that acknowledges that, and move on. Same as if they medalled in the Olympics–you don’t have to care about curling, but you can get that this is a big deal to them and acknowledge that.

  44. Dust Bunny*

    #3 this is infuriating. I’m hourly, and there are few meaner things to do to hourly employees than to make them do a full commute and disrupt their day for a couple of hours’ measly pay. Either let them work the full day at full wages, or give them the whole thing off so they don’t waste time and money driving in.

    1. DaffyDuck*

      This! I had a temporary retail job one summer, during the interview I made it clear I could not commute into work for a 1-3 hour shift. Slow days with bad weather they would tell us we could go home an hour after we came in (only paid for the time we were actually on the floor). These tend to be jobs that pay poorly and the employees who need the $ the most are hurt.

  45. Dr. Pepper*

    #1: I’ve worked at a place where there was a similar situation, though not quite as bad. We had a critical process that happened twice daily, day shift and night shift, something that HAD to be done with ZERO exceptions. Finding someone to work the night shift reliably was very difficult, and thus we had to put up with all kinds of stuff from annoying to infuriating. The day shift worker would constantly complain about all the stuff left undone from night shift that he would have to clean up, in addition to his regular duties. And he had every right to complain. It was ridiculous sometimes the amount of non-critical work that was left undone by the night shift guy. The manager was very clear on the fact that this was part of day shift’s job, however, and did not sugarcoat anything or try to soothe anyone’s frustrations because those frustrations were valid. He did what he could to correct the night shift workers, and it was one of those situations where little things went a long way. So night shift never cleaned up their act entirely, but if they did certain non-critical duties (like cleaning up a certain area, or putting certain equipment away), the day shift guy was a lot happier. It was not an ideal situation, but sometimes you work with what you have.

  46. Erin*

    #2 – My thoughts as a parent: I get that not everyone likes kids and that’s fine. I do appreciate it very much when someone says hello or hi to my toddler and acknowledges him as a fellow human being. That’s it. Just say hi. No need to hold him or get into a big play fest.

    With this particular coworker, it does sound a little boundary violating. I’d be mortified if my kid was parading around the office in need of a diaper change. And I’d be definitely be attuned to cues that people need to get back to work.

    But again, just say hi, don’t ignore them completely. I’d echo Alison’s “say something kind because that is basic politeness” bit. If you then say you need to get back to work and someone gets pissy about that that’s on them, not you.

  47. dorothy zbornak*

    #1 – “There are consequences to employers who won’t address performance problems, and one of them is that good employees get frustrated and eventually leave.” Alison is so spot on here. I was the good employee who got fed up and left because HR would not discipline the bad employee, she got away with mediocrity for 10+ years, etc. She was not the only reason I left but was in the top 3, I’d say. I’m surprised your good employee has not left yet. I couldn’t even manage four years, let alone 20.

    1. BeenThereDoneThat*

      This, 100%. It took me many years – not as long as the good employee but long enough – to finally see that nothing would ever, ever change. Surprisingly, my managers were shocked when I handed in my resignation which just reaffirmed my decision to leave – they were so blinded to the issues at hand that they, despite my repeated complaints, were “blindsided” when I’d had enough.

      Your employee will one day have enough and you’re going to be stuck with the bad employee and having to replace your good one. At least you recognize the issues at hand and I hope you can start to push your management forward in order to keep the one that is doing the most good for your organization.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “I’m surprised your good employee has not left yet. ”

      I’m wondering if this is a pretty stagnant labor and job pool. I’m thinking of my small hometown.

  48. Observer*

    #1 Don’t try to “channel” her feelings. Instead, do what others have suggested and make sure that she gets some perks and pay that BadEmployee doesn’t get.

    Also, let her know that as much as you want to keep her – of course! She’s a model employee! – you will understand if she chooses to look elsewhere and will both give her a good reference and NOT push her out if she gives you good notice.

  49. OP #2*

    Thank you so much for posting my question/dilemma, Alison, and for your great reply (and all the comments and posters here for your insight)! I failed to mention that I do get really weird and strange acting/feeling around children who are not connected to me, but I think this is a great opportunity to stretch my comfort zone and give a warm acknowledgement to the child before returning back to work. I can do that.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know if this is relevant for you, but I think knowing how to be a Good Ender when it comes to social interactions can be hugely valuable and reassuring. You’re not starting to talk to the parent/baby without knowing how you can ever leave; you’ve got your one preplanned line and you’re getting out.

      1. OP #2*

        I am a terrible Ender. I can’t ever seem to get off the phone even with my own brother, haha! Maybe this is where some of my anxiety and stress over this issue comes from. I need to pre-plan my line for getting out. You brought up a very good point and great advice. Thanks!

  50. NicoleK*

    #1-I’ve been and currently am the “good” employee. My coworker is incompetent at 50% of her job and she’s been with the company for 6 years. There’s no accountability, no consequences so the team continues to carry her dead weight. I really struggled with my frustration, but I’ve come to some peace with the fact that nothing will change.

  51. stitchinthyme*

    Everyone who knows me at the office knows I’m not a kid person, and they wouldn’t even think of expecting me to coo or fuss over their babies. It’s just never been an issue. I know kids are most parents’ center of the universe, but the sane ones are smart enough to realize that other people aren’t necessarily interested in making a fuss over someone else’s kids. (It does help that I am a woman working in a field that’s nearly all-male, so my male coworkers rarely bring in their kids, and when they do they seem way more understanding of the fact that not everyone is interested than many women seem to.)

    That said, I do occasionally have a coworker’s kid stop to admire the Harry Potter poster I have on my office wall. In that case, I’ll smile and acknowledge them, and agree that HP is pretty great, then get on with my day.

  52. Shay*

    1. OP, the very real, possible consequence in this situation is that Good Employee will leave (been there, done that). It is unclear from your letter if you’ve demanded (yes, demanded) your supervisor explain to you why Bad Employee has received such lenient treatment for so long – you are owed an explanation. It is very fair for you to say to your manager, “I’d like to fire Bad Employee because . I’m surprised is hasn’t happened already and now I fear Good Employee is at risk of leaving us. Can you explain what is going on?” After that, prepare for Good Employee’s departure and consider your own – you’re not being enabled to manage your employees (so you can’t really do your job).
    2. Nothing to add here … just tolerate those seeking attention and affirmation and try to get back to work.

    1. fposte*

      I really wouldn’t recommend anybody demand of their supervisor in general, let alone on something like “why hasn’t Fergus been fired?” It’s fair to ask, but you really can’t require your boss answer to you.

      1. MassMatt*

        I agree that “demanding” is putting it too strongly, but HR is not the OP’s boss. Why the bos isn’t involved/aware of the situation is a good question though.

  53. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP#1: Your situation has a lot of moving parts. Here goes:
    1. Several commenters have dumped on HR and suggested you go to those higher in the organization for action. My take on this is that Bad Employee has political protection from someone higher in the organization. HR is insisting on documentation in the hope that, one fine day, the Protector will leave and they can fire Bad Employee.
    2. There’s obviously a reason why Bad Employee enjoys immunity from the consequences of his actions. Find out why. Your own supervisor may have information, and you should definitely talk with HR. BTW, do not dump on the nice HR people. They might be itching to fire Bad Employee, but can’t because he’s Under Someone’s Protection.
    3. Continue to document Bad Employee’s bad performance. It is always better to have documentation than not.
    4. In so far as it lies in your power, make Bad Employee clean up his own messes.
    5. How much face time do you get with Bad Employee? Since this is shift work, you may have to adjust your own schedule to overlap with his. Does he understand the impact his performance has on others? He may not care, but you might as well find out more about what makes him tick.

    Now with regard to Good Employee:
    5. While I think you can and should validate her feelings of frustration, be careful not to get into a duet trashing Bad Employee. That will do no good and reduces your authority as a manager.
    6. Instead, try to find out what Good Employee would value. Training opportunities? A more flexible schedule? Being nominated for Employee of the Month? Find out what would make her feel acknowledged and appreciated and see what you can do toward meeting those needs.
    7. If she decides she wants to look for work elsewhere, accommodate her need to take time for interviews, and give her a stellar reference.

    Other than this, there isn’t much you can do if, indeed, Bad Employee is unfireable because Reasons. But find out what those reasons are, reward Good Employee as much as you can, and clean up your own resume. This organization doesn’t sound like a good place to build a career.

    1. Leela*

      You bring up a good point with number six, which is that OP’s authority as a manager will come into question by not taking action on this. Unfortunately my guess would be that it already has. She likely feels that OP either won’t manage properly and therefore isn’t a great manager for incompetence, or feels that OP would manage this employee but can’t and therefore is so bound by upper management that OP can’t really get management done even if they know the right calls, which also calls their authority into question here. I do think that advocating for perks, raises, etc is a way to offset that.

      Also thank you for your points about HR! Former HR person here, and we were blamed for *everything* that didn’t go someone’s way, because we were the news-breakers. It was many, many times the situation that we wanted someone out, or promoted, or given a raise, but we weren’t allowed to do those things. In fact we even once had to insist on documentation against a favored employee with the promise that “if we document it, we can show if it’s not really as bad as people are saying!” knowing full well that the documentation would show that it was exactly as bad as people were saying, because it had to be phrased in such a way to a higher-up that they’d think favored employee was protected by documentation or we weren’t going to get what we needed to move forward. HR’s a rough gig that gets a lot of crap. People take the attitude that it’s “just HR” so they don’t invest in it, or that HR is scummy (company thinks HR is going to throw them under the bus when employees have problems, employees think that HR is just there to protect the company against employees and doesn’t care about them) so what tends to happen is good people leave and you’re left with crap HR, then wonder why HR is crap.

  54. TotesMaGoats*

    Chiming in late to the game
    #1-You need to be prepared to lose a good employee if you can’t convince HR to do something. And even if she doesn’t leave, productivity may drop because why should she bust her butt if night guy gets away with it.
    #2-There are lots of good lines in the above comments. I think being able to say “cute baby” and turn back to work is all that is really required. Let the people who want to play with the baby play, you’ve done your duty and didn’t cost your more than 30 sections.
    #4-I worked in Higher Ed and always will (if I can help it) because the holiday leave is amazing. I never have to worry about Thanksgiving or Black Friday (a high holy day in my family). I get off from xmas eve to new years. But I’ve seen other situations that suck in the way this does. For example, annual service awards/holiday party. Every one is invited. Nice luncheon. Awards. Party time. EXCEPT, I have to keep all my remote sites open. and EXCEPT that people are told to go home after the luncheon. I always went back to work because it wasn’t fair. I think businesses should find a way where one particular class of employee doesn’t have to get the short end of the stick. In this case, I’d say that closing on black friday, if it doesn’t impact business and giving everyone the day without PTO impact would be a nice gesture.

  55. Childfree*

    “This last time I was so determined to ignore and keep on working, but this coworker from a different department was subtly trying to force me to pay attention and say something.”

    There’s a term for this kind of behavior – baby stalking.

  56. Kathenus*

    #4 – there’s obviously a lot of conversation around whether or not this type of thing is fair. I’m not going to speak to that part. But as someone who has spent their entire career in a visitor-related industry where people work weekends and holidays regularly, it is very common in my experience at multiple organizations.

    My current workplace has a few days a year that they close early (holidays or days before a holiday), and some where they are closed but certain departments that need to work a partial day (these people get paid for the full day). In all of these cases if you take one of those holidays/pre-holidays off you use a full day of PTO. The rationale is that the benefit is you are getting the holiday off when others have to work it. I’ve made a decision at times to work some of these days to take advantage of getting credit for working a full day when I only work a short one – so I see the cost/benefit balancing out, personally.

  57. AnonGoodNurse*

    OP#1 — I was in the good employees shoes once. It didn’t matter what the other employee did, HR wouldn’t let us terminate her unless she’d been given an explicit warning about something. Of course, she would change the specific behavior, but continue with other similar behaviors. (I.e., the client specifically instructed to paint the entire tea pot blue and she thought the handle looked better in red, so she painted the handle red. After a warning about this, in the exact same situation, she painted the lid red. Even though the issue was that she kept failing to follow the client’s instructions, we were told our previous warning only covered handles…?) In this case though, I wasn’t her peer, she reported to me and was supporting my work on my clients. My clients were getting angry with me and the company following several issues, at least two of which were “fire on the spot” worthy. Because of this and other issues with the company (because, of course there were other issues), I began to look for a new job.
    After she’d been on the PIP for six months, I had a long scheduled family vacation overseas. A few days before I left, I told my director that if she continued to be assigned to my clients when I returned, that I would quit. (I said something like, “I don’t care if you fire her or not, but I can’t have her working for me anymore. It will come to an end one way or the other.”) It was a semi-bluff. At this point, I’d been offered a job conditionally on a background check. (It was for the government, so I’d been warned that the background check could take 6-8 weeks.)
    When I came back, she was gone. My boss acknowledged that my threat to leave had given him the leverage with HR to finally budge. A few weeks later, when I gave him my notice, I told him (and HR when I left) that the delay in terminating her had been a big factor in my decision to leave. I think I even pointed out that a culture which tolerated such poor behavior was surely going to have other problems. My boss was disappointed to see me go (he even made a pretty good counter offer, but it didn’t come close to being what I would have needed to stay), but he also said he completely understood why I would leave following that debacle.

    1. Tiffany Aching*

      My SO just went through something similar. He talked to management about bad performer behaviors when asked, tried to explain that the things these people were doing were why turnover was crazy high, provided documentation for these things when asked, etc. etc. They just kept throwing money at him in the hopes that he would shut up because they were desperate to not lose him and too lazy to actually put forth the effort, and then finally did the “you can’t quit! You’re fired!” when he’d had enough.

      LW #1, sometimes all the money and benefits in the world won’t help. Don’t get me wrong, please do those things! She might not have reached the point my SO did, but don’t be surprised or react poorly if she decides to go somewhere where she’ll be better appreciated. It is extremely grating to have to make up for a bad performance for no reason other than incompetent management. (Not you I mean, just in general with the whole “you can’t fire this guy” nonsense)

  58. peachie*

    I’m so lucky my last employer was willing to keep me on as long as they did (and that my new employer gave me a generous lead time before starting). I think in the end it was a full two months, and it made things so much easier for me (and probably my work). I was moving far away quite suddenly, and the time to get a subletter/new apartment/pack/actually move was great. I was happy with it for actual work reasons, too–although I wasn’t management, I had a lot of independent reponsibilities that didn’t overlap with anyone. I was also in crunch time planning a conference by myself that I was also supposed to run solo. I had a good relationship with my work and especially my boss, and I was glad to have the time to really wrap things up and make sure everything would keep on going smoothly without me. Plus, I had a two week overlap with my replacement, which was also good.

    That said, I can see how this is probably far from the norm. And even if I do a large job move again, I’ll hopefully have more planning time so I actually COULD leave more quickly than that. (In this case, I tossed my hat in the ring for a job I didn’t think I had a sliver of a chance at; when I got it, I was two months in to a shared lease and had no savings account. Whoops!)

  59. EH*

    OP #2, I feel you. I have a straight-up phobia of infants and toddlers, to the point that I think I’d rather hold a tarantula than a baby. Thankfully I’ve never been in an office where someone brought the baby in! If I did find myself in that situation I’d probably go hide in the bathroom and play games on my phone for half an hour or something. (At parties, I have been known to hide in the kitchen if someone with a baby shows up.)

    I *have* been subjected to baby photos (also not something I like) at work. I tend to say something like “haha, babies all look like a little Winston Churchill!” and then “I gotta get back to [thing I’m working on], byeeee.” If it comes up later, I say I’m “*really* not a kid person” and, if I know the coworker well enough, I confess that babies give me horrible anxiety. If I pitch it as something embarrassing (which, as a female under 45, it apparently is), they generally are sympathetic.

    As a long-term measure, if it seems like babies might be in the offing (people discussing IVF or pregnancy, having coworkers who are pregnant or always talking about it, etc) I find ways to mention that I have the maternal instincts of a rock when it comes to human and primate babies. Give me a kitten or puppy or baby snake and I am 100% in the “OMG SO CUTE WHAT IS THEIR NAME TELL ME EVERYTHING CAN I HOLD THEM???” camp, but human babies… NO THANKS. It can be kind of a joking thing, but then when the baby or baby does arrive, people aren’t super surprised when I don’t want to see photos or talk about them.

    1. OP #2*

      Thank you for your comments. I feel less alone and oddball. :) Also, yes, please pass me the puppies and keep the babies away (except for my niece and nephew, I’ll shower them with kisses all day).

  60. Aphrodite*

    Alison, thank you for running the letter about the day after Thanksgiving and than you, Greg, for posting your thoughts that gathered a lot of replies. I had some jolly good belly laughs this morning over three of the comments: Digestion Day, Jammies Day, and the remark about prying Boxing Day “from my cold, dead, eggnog-covered hands.”

  61. Shawn*

    OP#4… previous job never allowed half days of PTO. You either had to take off the entire day or, make up the hours. No one liked that policy.

  62. Anon for this*

    #5 – Consider how it was received when others left the company. I’ve learned the hard way that leave a job is occasionally viewed as an act of disloyalty. At LastJob, a colleague gave at least 6 months notice before her retirement. The news was received very well, and it gave our boss the ability to hire her replacement while she was still present to train the new person.

    However, also at LastJob, those who left for other jobs were suddenly treated as “not one of us anymore.” I gave longer notice when I left for another job because I was afraid 2 weeks would leave them in a bind. It was a mistake. My last few weeks were very cold and isolated. Extra notice is a nice courtesy if your company is reasonable and understands that employees eventually will have to do what is in their own best interest – even when that means moving on.

  63. LCL*

    OP #1, I obviously don’t know how your workplace is structured. But I know something about shiftworkers.
    First, how many people work evening shift? Is evening slacker the only employee? Are the shifts 8s or 12s? By evening do you mean works overnight, or afternoon to midnight-ish? And the most important question-what would happen to your workplace if he stopped working evenings?

    Slacker should have more supervision. If you can do it by moving him to dayshift, do so. Tell him you are concerned he is missing out on training, etc, and you want him to work 3 months of dayshifts for his professional development. Or, and this will be seen as punitive to day employee, start having them alternate shifts, a month at a time. Or stagger your or some other manager’s hours, so he has some supervision. (Try 11-7 or 12-8 restaurant hours, some of us found that a great set-up.) In my job I couldn’t move someone from nights to days unless there were serious documented performance concerns, because of our labor agreement.

    1. ThankYouRoman*

      It appears that he can’t be moved to days, since he has a day-job. He’s moonlighting as their night-shift dude.

      So perhaps threatening to change his shift will just make it so he has to quit. I side eye anyone who has a “business” and states they don’t “need” their night job for 20 years. Riiiiiiiiiight. They need the night job but have been treated like they can do whatever they want with only minor consequences. It sounds like a hard to fill spot and nobody wants to pull that trigger. Sigh.

  64. Annoyed*

    While I agree that there are some industries that will never close for holidays (and therefore not really fair to say that no one should ever have to work), what I’m about to share is specific to my industry. I work in higher ed at an institution that for some reason is open December 26th-28th (we only close on Christmas eve, Christmas day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Let me tell you… virtually no one is trying to reach out to our offices on those days. I worked those three days last year and it was miserable. However, we have to have some type of “coverage” and anyone who wants those days off has to use PTO. It’s a huge waste of everyone’s time (and probably university resources considering the utilities used to heat and power all of those buildings for three days just to close down for another two days). The only “fun” thing about it is hearing my boss defend this policy relentlessly (they’ve never worked anywhere else, so everything our university does must be right).

  65. Kenneth*

    One way to get people to forever leave you alone with regard to infants is to, under your breath, make a mention of needing a sacrifice in an upcoming ritual. Under your breath, but just loud enough you know they’ll hear it. “Oh he/she’ll make a worthy sacrifice.” (Obviously, I’m being sarcastic!)

    But I’ll be the jerk on this one, #2…

    “This last time I was so determined to ignore and keep on working, but this coworker from a different department was subtly trying to force me to pay attention and say something.”

    That coworker has a major entitlement problem and, as someone else also mentioned, boundary issues.

    To parade the child around means they are seeking attention and validation of their feelings about their infant. Because no one is going to tell you that your child is ugly (or as Bill Engvall once said, “You can’t drink this baby cute”), since that’s… “impolite”, even if it’s true.

    At the same time, that seeking of attention and validation means they have an entitlement problem. Since to parade your child around the office means you feel entitled to that attention and validation, with a ready nearly-captive audience. It’s one thing if others *volunteer* their time and attention, provided the parent is not actively seeking it out. It’s a whole other matter when the parent is demanding it from you, such as in the quoted example.

    And you don’t have to capitulate. And to be forced to capitulate, in one way or another, means they feel their desire for attention and validation is more important or more valuable than your time. Which speaks volumes about them.

    Harsh? Absolutely. And unapologetically.

    So don’t in any way feel obligated to participate. If they’re deliberately trying to draw your attention and you don’t want to give it, again referencing the quoted example, just give a cursory smile or grin and move on. You don’t owe them your attention, nor an explanation for why you’re unwilling to give it. And if someone tries to give you crap for it, just… keep calm and carry on.

    No need to feel awkward about not participating. No one likes to be in a minority with making a decision, even when it’s something as innocuous as this, so as to avoid the need to question whether they made the right decision. So it’s perfectly understandable why you’d feel awkward. But when it comes to worshiping children like this, if you don’t feel like participating, don’t.

    But then, since I’m a guy, I largely don’t have to worry about that. Seems new mothers only push their infants on other women. Even with the customary family gathering game of “pass the baby”, it seems only the women are on the conscription list. Not that I’m complaining. So long as passing the baby, whether at the office or family gatherings, isn’t followed up with, in regard to women who are childless (whether by choice or not), something along the lines of “Babies look good on you.” My wife, who has fertility issues, has heard that one quite a few times.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      I’ll just get on my soapbox for a minute…
      I’m sorry you and your wife are being pressured to have children. It’s unfortunately much too common in our culture.
      IMO the pressure to get married and have children causes many problems in our society. Women feel pressured to find someone to have children with before their biological clock runs out. Both women and and men get pressure to “find a nice person and settle down”.
      All this leads to people marrying the wrong person and having children when they don’t really want to either marry or have children – they feel they *HAVE* to.
      This does not create happy healthy families.
      My parents married and had children because of this pressure, and because my mother believed the myth that marriage would solve her problems. It was a nightmare for all of us.
      So I want to say to you and everyone who is not having children, stand firm! Be true to yourself. Marry the right person at the right time. Don’t have children at all if you don’t want to, or aren’t able to. Don’t let anyone pressure you!
      If you do want children, have them when you’re ready and have the right partner.
      Thank you. :)

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